Black Dog 2-Day AMA/Suzuki National
The rain pounded on Rob Ohge’s island sized cycle trailer as we sat inside and benchraced, lied, folded roll charts and sipped his extraordinary barley pop. It was Friday June 17th, the night before the annual Black Dog 2-day AMA/Suzuki National Dualsport Ride and the weather was bleak. Raining cats-and-dogs didn’t even come close to describing it. It was raining more like Goldwings-and-Harleys, but the people who live in Oregon have a different outlook to rain. They just accept it, grow webbed feet and figure that they will eventually rust instead of die.
So it was no surprise to see so many weather-be-damned riders start appearing the next morning for sign-up. The Northwest Off-road Racers Association (NORA) Club had reserved an area within the Mt. Hood Village Campground in Welches, Oregon as the start/finish for the Black Dog. This was a primo location that had all manner of accommodations such as Jacuzzi, swimming pool, exercise room, convenience store, restaurant, grassy areas for camping and heated bathrooms that had showers and even piped in country music. It was a choice location. Bikes of all sizes and flavors started to appear. There were ATKs, Hondas, Suzukis, Kawasakis, Yamahas, KTMs, and BMWs. The sizes ranged from two Canadian gentleman on 200cc 2-stroke Yamaha dualsport bikes, to Donn Remington from the Aloha BMW shop on a brand new, trick-looking GS1100. The sign-up had everyone admiring the different bikes and riding gear.
Once the riders installed their roll charts, most of them started on their adventure by 8:30AM. These roll charts were custom, since they were made entirely by computer. The course had been designed by using a Moose Racing Pacemaker enduro computer that was accurate to within 1/100th of a mile. It doesn’t get much more accurate than that. Then they were printed out via computer on continuous paper, so there was no cutting and splicing. Jart, eat your heart out! This accuracy was new to most riders, but all riders at the end of the day thought it was a most excellent step into the 20th century.
The 156 mile Saturday course started out on a 2-track that wound to the summit of Mt. Hood called Still Creek Road and led the riders to the first checkpoint at scenic Trillium Lake. This checkpoint is where the riders, to accumulate points, had to balance a mason jar lid on their helmet with a Ping-Pong ball inside the lid. Then they had to ride their motorcycle about 50 feet and drop the ball and lid inside a milk crate. Lotsa laughs!
The course then went by a historic old pioneer woman’s grave, Sahalie Falls, and eventually ended up at High Prairie Meadows and check #2. This is where the weather started to turn clear and sunny. It was also a welcome sight, since many riders had cold fingers at this point. Then the course went on the Old High Prairie Road where the riders encountered a few patches of mud and snow. This opened up more than a few eyes and the outriggers came out! High Prairie Road then descended to other old 2-tracks where the riders encountered downed trees, scenic vistas and large mounds of dirt to traverse, which had the larger bikes in granny gear. The route entered a wide and scenic gravel road that descended into the beautiful community of Tygh Valley and the local general store. This was a treat because the riders had lunch opportunities, filled their gas tanks and could talk to the store owners Don & Donna Wallace about the history of the original Oregon Trail that went through this area. Don is an expert on the area and has many stories about the old covered wagons and their travels.
After lunch it was a short road ride to the scenic White River Canyon and then onto an old 2-track that resembled some of the China Hat ISDE course. The hardcores loved this, since concentration had to be at a maximum. It then went onto a more maintained dirt road that rambled up to McCubbin’s Gulch and check #3. This check had the advanced trail option for the riders who wanted some serious dirt action. It consisted of about 12 miles of the Mt. Scott ISDE course from two weeks prior. A special thanks goes to Greg Odle and the Mt. Scott M/C for helping with this. Another 15 miles later was another gas stop and onto the beautiful and historic Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. The view from there (about 6,000 ft.) is awesome and it contains a large amount of history inside. It was also the location for the movie, The Shining, featuring Jack Nicholson. You can almost walk through the building and here him with an axe in his hand saying, “Here’s Johnny!” Yikes!
From there it was a short road ride to the finish where the Saturday only riders were presented their first through third place trophies. Each of the riders went home with two prizes, also. The first rider in on Saturday was a smiling Jim Allison on a Suzuki 350. Then it was time for everyone to hang around and enjoy the facilities of the Mt. Hood Village campground. A tired Rob Ohge hit the feathers early from too much fun the night before.
Day two brought clear sunny skies and even more dualsporters for the 155 mile course. After sign-up the riders took off over Lolo Pass Road, which also had some advanced trail section options for the riders who wanted a couple of bulldog downhills. This section then descended into checkpoint #1 and the quaint valley of Hood River. Onward to Jim’s Market in Parkdale for gas and some chow. The course then went up Cooper Spur Road and caught some tight old roads and then a more improved road with snow towards a pristine point called Cloud Cap. This is an old historic lodge that is maintained by the Crag Rats, which is a climbing club. The summit of Mt. Hood was so close, you could almost reach out and touch it. This was one of the high points of the day, literally, since it is over 5,000 ft. in elevation.
Afterwards, it was a short road ride towards the Meadows Ski Area and onto an old historic road called Bennett Pass, which was check #2. This road also had patches of snow to keep the riders on their toes, but was worth it for the scenic overlooks. A few miles later and the course dropped the riders onto the original Barlow Road, which is part of the original Oregon Trail. This was a fun, historic ride through history. Along the actual Oregon Trail are wooden posts located on the side about every 1/4 mile with engravings noting the actual route. Fun on a bike, but must have been a bear in a covered wagon! After Barlow Road was a narrow, windy paved road that led to an old and fun, unmaintained 2-track to Frog Creek Road and check #3. This was again the advanced trail option at McCubbin’s Gulch that the riders could elect to ride if they wanted a supreme challenge.
After this the course led the riders towards another beautiful location called Little Crater Lake. Along the way was a fun little rip that had high-speed, hop-and-skip, rolling whoops that were a complete gas! Little Crater Lake involves taking about a 400 foot hike, but is worth every step. The water comes out of the ground crystal clear and is impressive and deserving of its name. From there the course meandered to another gas stop and onto Still Creek Road and descended to the finish. Sunday’s first rider to finish was Bruce Corder, who lost a turn signal off his ATK. I guess that meant he could only make left hand turns from then on.
The consensus was in - everyone loved it! No dust, some of the most beautiful scenery in the Northwest, plenty of history, and a challenging ride.
Allen Ralls, from Sunland, California, got the long distance rider trophy. Dualsport aficionado, Bob Schwarz got the oldest rider award at 69. Portland Off-Road Center owner Tom Young got the hard luck trophy. He fouled a plug on his Gas Gas 250 while riding the advanced trail option and had to walk about 2 miles for a new plug and wrench. He needed a couple of blisters on his feet anyway. The oldest bike award was close and went to a 1975 XL 250 Honda, which was 2 months older than a Yamaha 175. The Sunday only riders went home with 2 items and first through third place trophies. The 2-day riders made two trips through the prize table also and had first through fifth place trophies. ALL riders went home with two prizes. Dualsporter Gunny Claypoole, who is the captain for the US ISDE Team, also donated two beautiful Tulsa ISDE T-shirts for prizes.
Aloha BMW’s Donn Remington did a manly job of riding his GS1100 BMW over the complete course and said, “Hey, if I can make it, then anyone can! The GS was a handful in the snow and I did need some help, but it was excellent. When is the next one? From now on we’ll call Tom Young ‘Sparky’ for fouling a plug on his TM. We used to call him ‘Pogo’ when he rode a Moto Morini 500 on the Three Flags Classic and the oil ran out of his rear shock! He bounced the whole way.”
Most of the comments at the finish were, “How’d you do that? The weather was great once we got over to Tygh Valley” and “ Sunday the weather was awesome on Mt. Hood! You must have planned it that way!” One suggestion was, “Tucks(diapers) at the end, for the end” to cure monkey butt, which was an anonymous idea from the suggestion box. NORA will keep that in mind for next year!
“An excellent ride,” said Mt. Scott club member Steve Simon.
Al Padur said, “I had a good time and loved the course! The wife, who was riding on the back, gave out at about 100 miles, but said afterwards that she had a lot of fun. I was kind of surprised!”
Mike and Carrie Walburn, of Dual Star products, came down from upper Washington to ride the Black Dog. Carrie was quite disappointed that there were no other women dualsport riders besides her and said, “Where’s the other women riders? I’m really disappointed! I had talked to a bunch of other women riders that were going to show up, but didn’t. So come on out, women!”
Bob Schwarz said, “I think it was one of the best prepared runs that I’ve been on and the scenery couldn’t have been better because of the navigation around Mt. Hood. I used to climb Mt. Hood when I was a kid, so it was special to me, especially when I could see climbers on Mt. Hood when we were at Cloud Cap Summit.”
NORA would like to give many thanks to the many NORA club members that helped, the US Forest Service specifically the Bear Springs Ranger Station rangers Dennis Beechler, Betty Daniels and especially Kent Kalsch (couldn’t have done it without you!), Carolyn at Mt. Hood Village, also the Bonneville Power Administration, and the following sponsors that donated prizes and services: MC Events, Beaverton Honda/Yamaha, Aloha BMW, Cycle Country Salem, D&S Cycle(Aloha & Tigard), G&G Cycle(Albany), Portland Off-Road Center, Cycle Sports of Salem, Pro-Caliber KTM(Vancouver), Hillsboro Suzuki/Honda, Clarke Plastics, Steahly Off-Road Products, Dirt Rider Magazine, DeVol Engineering, Dual Star Dualsport Products, CycoActive Products, Sprocket Specialists, White Brothers, Maier Manufacturing, O'Neal USA, Moose Racing, Lockhart Dualsport, Race Tech, Pirelli Tires, American Suzuki and American Honda.
These sponsors support the sport, so be sure to support them!
And finally, many many thanks to NORA Club member Ken “Mad Dog” Murphy for his tenacity and dedication. If you’ve ever met Ken, you would know that the nickname is deserved!See you at next year’s Black Dog!