The ‘95 Black Dog AMA/Suzuki National Dualsport Ride

By Tom Niemela

                 OK, I’ll be up front: this is my event.  Which presents a paradox - how do you write an article about your own event without making it too biased?  Well here goes...

                I’ve been working on this thing since last year.  There’s a ton of background work that goes into setting up an event, which people don’t see.  I wanted to put in more trail for this year’s event, so I bought, begged and borrowed every conceivable map of the entire Mt. Hood, Oregon area.  By popular demand from last year’s Black Dog, I decided to have “The Dog” in the Mt. Hood National Forest again.  The start/finish location was at a location called the Mt. Hood RV Village, which has every conceivable amenity available including swimming pool, Jacuzzi, hot tub, weight room, store, restaurant and a partridge in a pear tree.  The challenge was to create a course that the riders would enjoy, but not be the same thing as last year.  After copious amounts of coffee, map peering and countless days of exploration, I had two different routes that would satisfy most every rider.  This was NOT an easy task and I must add that I couldn’t have done it without the tireless help from two particular US Forest Service Rangers, Betty Daniels and Kent Kalsch.  I had scenery, history, trails and appropriate gas station stops.  So all I had to do was record  info for creating the roll charts.  After doing all that, I had spent over 1,000 miles in the saddle during the week before the event and contracted a raging case of monkey butt. 

                Laying out the course went as usual (for those that have laid out event courses).  In other words, I had to do reroutes due to land closures and conflicts.  Some off-road sections on the first day were shut down by Longview Fibre “not wanting to get involved.”  This created a last minute frenzy of rerouting and late nights in front of the computer screen.  The entire course mileage was recorded from a Moose Racing Enduro Computer and the mileages were recorded down to 1/100th of a mile.  We’re talking exact.  The roll charts were created on a computer with bold fonts so the riders could easily read the data as they were  bouncing along the routes.

Day One-Dog Day Afternoon

                July 8 started with fellow NORA Club members and I waking up everyone at 6:30AM setting up the club trailer for sign-up.  The line formed, coffee was poured, names got signed, poop sheets and roll charts were handed out and the rider’s meeting ensued.  This year, Suzuki’s National Dual Sport Representative and all-around, nice guy, Mark Hyde showed up again from Ohio.  Mark always seems to bring another element of fun to the rides that he appears at.  One rider, Don Wagoner, came all the way  from Texas to ride The Dog and was looking forward to the mountainous terrain.  Two other sleepy looking riders, Greg DeMuth and Dick Susan drove all night after finishing a dual sport ride the day before in California to ride The Dog.

                Then everyone was off.  The course, due to the reroutes, went mostly over single lane pavement to the top of Lolo Pass.  Then it caught a steep powerline section, which caught a few riders off guard with the challenge.  Then the riders went down another single-lane paved road (again due to the reroutes) to the quaint community of Parkdale and the first gas stop.  From there the riders followed an old powerline road that headed East up Surveyor Ridge.  At the summit was a panoramic view of Mt. Hood that was breathtaking.  Then the course headed along the top of the ridge eventually ending at the first checkpoint.  The course then went East onto the more arid side of the mountains, guiding the riders through sections of waterbars, for catching BIG air time, and tight trails.  Then the course meandered down the valleys eventually culminating to the thriving metropolis of Dufur and the next gas stop.  This was the also the lunch stop with a delectable array of sandwiches from Kramer’s Market, which was generously funded by Beaverton Honda/Yamaha.  From there the riders rode a short ways to the local city park, wherein they ate and had a heaping helping of bench racing. 

                After chow, it was back to the adventure heading back West into the mountains out of Dufur.  The course wound through many miles of challenging, unimproved two-track and ended up at the next checkpoint at High Prairie, which is another stunning vista of Mt. Hood.  There the course went over the old Gumjuac Ridge Road, which was an exhilarating section, complete with snow.  In fact, it was impassable just a week before.  So this was a last minute treat.  Then the riders dropped down to the next checkpoint at the Old Pioneer Woman’s Grave parking lot.  This is an actual historic grave site of a pioneer woman who’s fate ended on the Oregon Trail.  From there, it was a leisurely putsy down Drift Creek Road to the finish, where the many prizes were handed out for the Saturday only riders.  Beaverton Honda/Yamaha then provided a tasty dinner for the riders and they also had parts and accessories available for the riders to purchase.

                That’s when the rain started.

Day Two - The Soggy Dawg

                The Sunday morning rider’s meeting had a steady mist of rain mixed with mist descend onto the riders.  The hot tip of the day was to run Scotch tape along the back of the roll charts so they wouldn’t tear if they got wet.  Donning any possible rain gear available was mandatory if you wanted to try to stay water tight.  These riders were hearty and scoffed at the rain, though.  Spirits were high and so was the enthusiasm.  I had also taunted the riders onward by saying that they would probably get out of the rain once they crossed the summit.  They didn’t notice that I had my fingers crossed.

                Out of the campground they went, up Drift Creek Road to Trillium Lake and the first checkpoint.  Now it started to REALLY rain like a cow uh... well, you know.  The route then took the riders to the summit and the start of the historic Barlow Road.  The Barlow Road was the first road over the cascades and was the final leg of the original Oregon Trail.  When I laid out the course, the Barlow Road was a complete hoot, but sprinkle, no, flood it with gallons of H2O and you have a sloppy, gloppy, floppy, muddy, cruddy and downright slick ride.  The rains continued even harder.  The riders who didn’t have good bumpy tires started to hate life on this section.  Their stock dual sport tires packed up with mud tighter than seeds in a grape and they started to surf their way down the road. 

                After about 25 miles of this excitement, they caught some easier sections and then followed an old irrigation ditch through the wide open sections of Eastern Oregon.  Rumor has it that no one fell in, or at least no one admitted to it.  Then it was onward over the White River, through an old two-track that had the riders keeping their outriggers (aka: feet) out the entire way.  This led them to the warm and dry halfway gas check/lunch stop at Kimmel’s Country Store in Pine Grove.  Lunch was again generously funded by Beaverton Honda/Yamaha and many wet riders were thankful as they took off their boots and wrung out their socks.

                This is the point I decided to scrub the event.  I started to run riders back to the finish via the pavement.  It was just raining too hard, though I didn’t have to twist too many arms.  There were a few hardcores like Mark Hyde and ISDE veteran Darrin Williams who pushed farther through the trail section, which ended at McCubbin’s Gulch.  Then they too pounded the pavement back to the finish in the pelting rain.  How hard did it rain?  According to the weather guesser, a new record was set in the Portland area, it rained more in one day than it has EVER for the month of July!  Get me a snorkel!

                At the finish, the riders huddled under the canopies and eagerly snagged their deserved trophies and prizes.  In fact, there were so many prizes that all riders went home with at least three!  Then the stories started and got as big and as wide as some of the mudpuddles of the day.

                Dual sport aficionado and president of Dual Star Products, Mike Walburn said, “It was killer.  Tom Niemela puts together an excellent two-day ride.  [Mike, you’re just kissing up]  The campground was excellent, good people here, lots of room and a good organization.  I think it had a mixture of good two-track that wasn’t ultra aggressive, but it was great for people to whip it up a little bit and have room without having to be handlebar to handlebar and be intimidating to the middle class or beginner riders.  Lunch both days was great.  Out of all the years that I’ve had the KLR, it’s been in 12 states, from the top of Pike’s Peak to you name it, I’ve never once laid it down.  This morning I did with Carrie on the back.  And we just missed a monster log.  We almost hit it with our shoulders and it caught my shifter and bent it back.  We slid crossed up in a two-wheel drift for about 20 feet then slid the other way.  I was totally out of control and I have no clue how I got out of that.  Then 500 feet later after I’d calmed down - I crashed.  It threw Carrie off one side and me on the other and it made me so mad! (he laughs)  I would also like to say that we need more Oregon license plates in the Washington dual sport events!”  Mike had a display of his dual sport products at the event and they are incredibly well thought out.  They are looking for input from the riders on their products and what the riders want in the future.  They carry a complete line of products for the dual sport rider, so be sure to check them out or call 1-800-GO’N’RIDE for a catalogue.  Support the people that support the sport.

                Mike’s lovely wife, Carrie said, “I had my gear all ready to ride and we did some riding in Washington and Idaho and I did a little tip over and bruised my leg, so instead of riding the Black Dog like I’d planned, I got to ride two up on the KLR.  Day one, a total blast.  We did every section, all the difficult stuff and I did close my eyes for a second, but powered right up that steep section and got a good round of applause at the top!  The view was worth every minute and we had a total ball.  The course was nicely laid out, the roll charts were great as were the views.  Lots of swoopy whoops that were a blast.  We listened to it rain last night, got up this morning and put on our GorTex and neoprene and our smiles and hit the road.  We got into the mud and watched our rear end come up a few times.  We had a real close call with the end of a log.  That spooked us both, so we slowed a bit.  We came around a turn and suddenly we were in the mud.  There was one spot where Greg Demuth and us were playing around and we came around a turn and there was a log down.  We barely had time to brake and Greg gassed it and flew over the log.  It was great!  An A+ or a 10!  We had a couple women riders and passengers at the event, but I want to send out a challenge - I challenge more women to do every dual sport event they can and add it to their list of successes.  We need more women in the sport!”

                Dick Susan said, “If it would have been a good sunny day today, it wouldn’t have been near as challenging!  I enjoyed it.  I hope it does it again next year.  (he laughs)  I’m an old enduro rider and enjoyed it.  There was several people who were swimming and doing the backstroke and everything.  I did one myself.  It was a real good ride, the best I’ve been on as far as I’m concerned.  If it had been dry, it probably would have been too easy.”

                All the way from Tacoma, Doug Bragg said, “I really liked the scenery down here and the high mileage.  This is the first time we’ve came down to Oregon.  It’s a little bit of a change from Washington.  I didn’t mind the weather, I got a little bit wet, but still had fun.  I definitely want to come back down and do some riding.  The park that we staged from has some really nice facilities and some real friendly people too.”

                Doug’s brother, Jeff Bragg said, “Excellent, excellent, excellent!  I liked the high mileage on it, too.  It was a little wet today, but it made for a more exciting ride.  I did tag the back of a KLR 650 in the middle of a waterhole.  That was pretty crazy.  I wadded my front fender into his back fender, but I don’t think he really noticed.  Oops!  The computerized roll charts were great, much better than hand written ones.  Showing up at the event, I blew my truck transmission about a mile from the campground, so that’s my excuse to stay longer.”

                US ISDE Team Manager, Gunny Claypoole, who was sporting a camouflage helmet, said, “I had a great time!  It started drizzling right out of the start and a steady downpour from there, but all in all it was fun.  Some of the fields and two-track road or rivers I should say, made life a little interesting.  You couldn’t believe how deep they were!  It didn’t look deep until you tried to ride the center.  You’d be up to your hubs or deeper in the water.  It really wasn’t difficult, though.  After you had told us to break it off at the lunch stop, a couple of us kept on through the trails because it was still fun.  I liked the ride!  What was fun was watching some of the other riders with dual sport tires slipping and sliding in the mud, now that was fun!  I’m just glad I had a little bit of knob on my tires.” 

                Past US ISDE Team rider, Darrin Williams said, “Yesterday was very scenic.  It wasn’t too eventful, which was kind of like the calm before the storm.  Because today it was VERY eventful.  Mark Hyde and I took off this morning and neither one of us really expected the amount of rain that we were going to encounter.  By the time we had ridden 17 miles to the first checkpoint, we were drenched to the bone.  Our goggles were fogged up, we couldn’t see and we almost had fish in them!  It kind of cleared off for a little while and we started riding the Oregon Trail, which I liked a lot.  It’s one of my favorite pieces over here in fact.  That’s when things started to change rather quickly.  As we started down that, people started slowing down and we started passing more and more people and pretty soon more and more of them were on the ground.  Pretty soon more of them were in the water (he laughs) and the water kept coming up.  By the time we got over into eastern Oregon, the water was about 12 inches deep anywhere where there was standing water and running down the road.  In fact I expected to encounter flash flood signs at any time, but didn’t see them.  What you did to us was pointed us east towards a big patch of blue sky and Mark and I are giving thumbs up, sunshine, we’re gonna dry out!  Then we went about a mile and you pointed us south right back into the storm.  Then we rode for 15 miles in a torrential downpour that was like marbles hitting us! We had a really good ride today.  Mark and I are more enduro or hare scramble riders, so we were right at home.  It didn’t really bother us.  I did provide the optimum entertainment for Mark at about five miles before the lunch stop.  We were going across your nice grassy two-track where there was lakes every 50 feet and I got crossed up in one about 12 inches deep and came off entirely over the high side and did a body surf for about 20 feet!  It was a full wall of water and when I got up I had a half goggle full of water along with my headlight!  Mark was back there just belly laughing the whole time.  I never did get to see Mark bail.  He has a habit of saying, ‘Why don’t you lead?’ and he likes you out in front and I think it’s mostly so he gets his money’s worth.  We saw a lot of other people doing full-lock slides and the mud was about eight inches thick in places I swear and it would just eat you up.  If you seen any kind of water bar with standing material in front of it, you better figure it was soup.  Kind of like chili!  The most miserable part was coming back on the highway after you rerouted everyone back in.  It was very cold, but there was no way around that.”

                Dave Taylor said afterwards, “Well the Black dog is best described as a good time. This was the first time that I’ve ever done a dual sport event.  It got wet and converted some fast dry trail to the one inch deep 40 mile mud bog from hell.  I think the chase riders enjoyed the look on mine and my riding partners’ (Phil Pettit) face way too much when they told us the run was not 80 miles but 160+ and we were at mile 60. (Some peoples sense of humor is warped.) Thanks to them for making sure we were set before they went to clean up the rest of the stragglers.  Weather being what it was and the time of day and my bike being down one rear tire from the boulder filled mud bog, we decided to pack it in and get back to camp in time for the awards. We would have made it too if the tire on the motorcycle trailer had not come off on Phil while he was coming back to pick me up. He thought we were going to end up calling his wife to bring another truck for the bikes, but then ended up finding the tire while answering nature’s call about 50 yards out in the woods.  When my partner was leaving to get our tow rig, I mentioned I might just have to drink a few beers to kill the time. His revenge was he took a hot shower at camp BEFORE he came back for me!”

                Phil Pettit said, “It was a blast!  I’ve never seen so much nasty mud in my life though.  (he laughs) The section that was in the field between the two fences was a little piece of hell.  This was just perfect for us, since we went through parts of the Barlow Trail last year when we were hunting.  In one section we were way up high and puddles were forming that were over a foot deep.  I’m getting brave and figuring out that it’s easier to just tractor through the water than going around.  About the time I get really brave, I found one that was about two or three feet deep and I planted my front wheel in there and came to a screeching halt!  My feet were soaked after that.  It was great.  We’ve been looking forward to this for two weeks.”

                Larry Lake said, “Saturday was too cool!  I had never entered a dualsport event before, so I had no clue what to expect.  The roll chart worked perfectly and the trail selection was four star all the way.  The scenery was beautiful and the lunch was excellent.  If it sounds like I’m raving - I am!  At the end of the day I was stoked.  The day wasn’t flawless, however.  Within the first eight miles, I educated myself on the difference between my Beemer and my DR Suzuki.  I overcooked a paved, decreasing-radius left hander, lost the front end and went down in the ditch.  After a quick damage assessment, I remounted and hit the gas before anyone else got the chance to laugh on the way by.  The next educational experience came after dinner following the rain storm.  Our tent leaks bad on top and not at all on the bottom.  After some late night bench racing, I came home to a floating sleeping bag.  The remainder of the night was spent rolling around in the back of the truck with the tools and gear.  Sunday we will call ‘survival of the wettest’.  The sky looked mean, but we decided it would get better once we were east of the mountain.  We decided to be manly and leave the raingear, have a bran muffin and hit the road.  We were soaked within the first ten miles.  After you become so wet it just doesn’t matter anymore.  We hooked up with Mark Hyde and Darrin Williams and things started getting real fun.  The search for something to catch air off of began.  Yep, things with blinkers fly just fine.  The road got muddy and Mike’s bald dual sport tires gave up.  So much for grace and style - enter velocity.  If you don’t slow down, you can go through anything.  Mark looked at the bald meats in disbelief.  We railed on and the rain got worse.  We encountered lightening once were out of the trees.  One came pretty close.  Things got bright and I think I wet my pants.  After you are so wet it just doesn’t matter.  We made it to the lunch stop much to the amusement of the proprietors.  Hats off to the people at the store.  They went out of their way to accommodate us drowned rats.  After lunch we decided to forge on down the trail.  Once we were into the McCubbin’s Gulch area the pace picked up.  We blew the water off the bushes for the next bunch.  At the checkpoint, Mike hit the pavement back to camp with tires that didn’t have enough tread for a road racer.  The rest of us forged on in search of the new trail section. (Thanx, Ranger Kent!)  After the trail we decided to head for camp.  The look on people’s faces when you pass them on a bike in the middle of a rain storm rates high on the chuckle scale.  We are flying down the road and Mark Hyde notices the truck escape ramp, so he signals and attempts to fake us into a trip through the pea gravel.  Nice try, Mark!  When we arrived at camp, Mike was just getting there.  He had ridden up to Timberline Lodge in the storm.  When you are so wet it just doesn’t matter.  His report was, ‘Damn it’s cold up there!’  We’ll be back next year!”

                Larry’s cousin, Mike Lake commented, “A great time was had by all!  I have invented a new sport for the upcoming X-Treme games: Two-wheeled surfing!  All contestants will ride equally prepared 1982 XL500R’s, complete with totally bald original equipment dual sport tires.  Of course, the exact location of the games has yet to be determined, but any spot capable of providing the requisite four inches of rain per hour would do.  I went into the event with some apprehension.  I hadn’t ridden in an organized event since my cousin Larry and I rode together 10 or 15 years ago.  I fully expected either my bike, my body, or both to come home on a stretcher.  Luckily, neither turned out to be the case.  I slipped and slid, almost ran into somebody (Sorry, it was my fault!), broke my odometer, rode without a roll chart, crashed twice, ripped my seat, and nearly caught pneumonia, but had a GREAT time doing it!  I braved the climb to Timberline while soaking wet (‘What do you think, Larry?  Should we take rain gear today?  Nah... Didn’t need ‘em yesterday, won’t need ‘em today.  Besides, it looks pretty bright over on the other side of Mt. Hood.’)  The view from the top was cool, but the weather was cooler!  It was @#%^#$%* cold up there!  The only thing wetter was the inside of Larry’s tent.  You see, after predicting it would rain, we bungee corded a tarp over the tent as a rain fly.  Good idea, but the bungee cords proceeded to pull the tent stakes out and the rest is soggy history.  As we neared the first checkpoint on Sunday, we crossed the Trillium Lake dam.  It was absolutely pouring cats, dogs, and other small animals, but there must have been 35 hard-core fisherman standing along the dike braving the weather.  As I idled past (Team Stealth!), I looked at them and thought ‘what a bunch of idiots, don’t they know enough to get in out of the rain?’  Kinda makes you wonder what they were thinking about us as 80+ bikes cruised by.  I thought NORA did a wonderful job of organizing the event.  They are to be congratulated for the time and effort that went into preparing what was certainly one of the best and most enjoyable events I have participated in.  All of the sponsors who donated time and merchandise to make the event a success also deserve a big hand!  I had a great time riding and BSing with Mark Hyde, eating the cool lunches and dinner sponsored by Beaverton Honda/Yamaha, winning the free gas tank from Clarke Mfg., etc.  I am as proud of that fourth place trophy as if it were from the ISDE.  Thank you!  Because of the Black Dog, I plan to attend more dual sport events in the future.”

                Other stories?  Washington dualsporter, Russ Johnson got a BIG ticket for not showing proof of insurance to a less-than-happy officer.  Evidently, in Washington, insurance is not mandatory, but Russ couldn’t quite convince John Law.  Dave Wisdom showed up for his first ever dualsport ride, but his borrowed bike wouldn’t start - ever.  Even after Mike Smith dissected it down to the frame!  Bill Johnston rode a rear flat for about 25 miles without zip tying the tire to the rim!  His XR’s rear end will forever swap side-to-side.

                And finally there are many people that deserve some thanks: Rangers Betty Daniels and Kent Kalsch for putting up with my relentless pursuit of legal riding areas.  Teresa Burgett and Connie Schwartz of Bonneville Power Administration for the use of BPA land.  Bill Johnston, Chuck Steahly, Jim Dukes, Phil Vanderlende and John Hughes for asisting me so I wasn’t preriding by myself.  Roger Sherrill, Mike Smith and the other South Coast Trailriders M/C for helping with sweep.  Suzuki’s Kevin Davis for advertising and his undaunting efforts in promoting dualsporting in the Northwest.  Suzuki’s Mark Hyde for helping riders along the course and keeping Darin Williams entertained.  NORA Club members Melissa Nourigat, Phil Vanderlende, Dave Lund, Dan Hatcher, Randy Beadle, Marty Clough, Kenny Grobe and Kent Seguine for their assistance in keeping me sane during the event.  A BIG thanks to Jerry Lenz and Beaverton Honda/Yamaha for providing the lunches and dinner and keeping the rider’s stomachs from growling.  Steadfast help, laughs and morning coffee from Joe & Julie Barrell of Trailsmen M/C.  Last minute help from Ron Nielson and Dave Wisdom for checkpoint assistance and laughs.  And of course a special thanks to the supportive sponsors who provided services and prizes to keep the riders happy: Beaverton Honda/Yamaha, Hillsboro Honda/Suzuki, Portland Off-Road Center, Cycle Country Salem, Aloha BMW, G&G Cycle, Pro-Caliber KTM, D&S Cycle, Cycle Sports of Salem, MC Events Newspaper, Clarke Plastic Products, Steahly Off-Road Products, Dual Star, Dirt Rider Magazine, Dirt Bike Magazine, Dual Sporter Magazine, Sprocket Specialists, White Brothers, Lockhart/Phillips Racing, Maier Mfg., Race Tech, Answer, Moose Off-Road Racing, Pirelli Tires, Metzler Tires, Acerbis, IMS Products Inc., Motion-Pro, American Suzuki and American Honda.