The 1998 Black Dog AMA National Dualsport Ride

By Tom Niemela

                 This year’s Black Dog was another killer ride!  It was once again held in the panoramic Mt. Hood National Forest about 40 miles East of Portland and hosted by Northwest Tour and Trail.  This year’s weather couldn’t have been better for the Northwest’s biggest dualsport ride. 

                For those of you that may not be aware of how a dualsport ride works, it’s basically an on/off-road tour where the course uses as little pavement as possible.  The riders follow the course using a roll-chart map that describes turns using odometer settings.  This way if the course markers are missing, the riders can still follow the course via their roll chart.  Points are accrued at checkpoints along the way offering games of skill and chance.  Since this is a national AMA dualsport ride, it is a two-day event, per the AMA guidelines.  This event offers advanced, average and beginner options, so that all facets of riders can enjoy themselves. The staging area was again located at the Mt. Hood Village in the town of Zig Zag, Oregon, which offers full amenities including showers, Jacuzzi, sauna, restaurant, etc.  Friday night before the event had the usual carousing, bench racing, and scurrying to get roll charts ready, which went well into the evening. 

Saturday morning started off with a beautiful Oregon day. After the initial rider’s meeting, the riders trickled their way out.  Saturday’s course started South over Lolo Pass and dropped into the Hood River Valley.  Along this section were three advanced sections that included everything from rocky uphills  and downhills, to trials, to log hopping and one big creek crossing. Then the course turned up towards the scenic vista of the Mt. Defiance radar tower where riders could see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams across the majestic Columbia River.  To the South, they could practically touch Mt. Hood along with the view of the Hood River Valley.  The course then returned back whence they came for 1.2 miles and veered left where the classic Rick Higgins advanced trail section separated from the main route. Everyone kept their nose to the rollcharts that guided them down to Hood River and towards the lunch stop at the town of Mt. Hood.  This was the first checkpoint and lunch provided by the kind and generous folks at Beaverton Honda/Yamaha. This check had the usual bizarre, but fun, game for the riders to attempt in competing for points.

                From there the course split with an advanced section again that took riders up the Stairway To Heaven section, over the breathtaking top of Bald Butte, around a number of downed logs that eventually led them to a multi-use trail and on to the next checkpoint at High Prairie.  This check was manned by the infamous Joe & Julie Barrell.  The route then led the riders over the pristine Gumjuac Ridge route and by the Old Pioneer Woman’s Grave.  This then led the riders to an easy putsy towards the finish. 

                That evening is when the fun really got started hearing about all the augers, jokes, breakdowns and other lies from all the riders.  The further the evening progressed, the bigger the stories got.  Later in the evening, everyone got a chuckle from Ron Sun’s snoring that radiated from his tent like a Kenwood loudspeaker. 

                Sunday was another bodacious day with a big smile again from the weather gods.  Sunday was a completely new route that had never been used before.  This route ran the riders up by the scenic Trillium Lake, by Frog Lake, where the riders had an opportunity to ride the advanced level trail called Blue Box Canyon Trail.  After a few skidplate bashings, the route snaked its way through an old Jeep trail, across a creek, through more new single track trails and made it’s way up to a beautiful location called High Rock.  With a full 360 degree view, you are certainly on top of the world! 

                Then it was down from High Rock, through an old, rocky two-track, through Allison’s Tunnel of Love, more single track and then into another advanced option in the Mcubbin’s OHV Area.  From this tight and twisty route, the riders had an easy ride into Pine Grove for gas and a great lunch again provided by Beaverton Honda/Yamaha.  After a hearty lunch, the course went along the White River, through Mcubbin’s again and down into, what some riders say is the highlight of this annual ride: the original Oregon Trail.  This fantastic final piece of the Oregon Trail is called the Old Barlow Road.  Though it may be a two-track, it bristles with scenery, history and thrills.  You can even see where the old cabins were located and where the covered wagons tied fallen logs on the back of their wagons to help lower themselves down some of the step descents. 

                The final section of Still Creek Road brought everyone back to the finish with refreshments waiting for them.  This year also had a new treat for the weary riders in the form of a soothing massage therapy by Ilse!  What a way to end an exhilarating ride!  This year once again had a $200 cash prize for one lucky rider, along with trophies for hard luck, oldest rider, oldest bike, etc.  Since this is such a big event, riders called from as far away as Canada, Nevada and California.  A pleasant surprise this year was the appearance of ex-Honda factory motocrosser Darrel Schultz, who showed up late on Sunday’s ride.  After helping him get set up, he went in chase of Ron and Chuck Sun.  Evidently, Darrell fixed a flat for Chuck Sun part way through the day while they were having a big dice in the Mcubbin’s OHV trail area. 

There are people and organizations that must be thanked: Dennis Beechler of the US Forest Service, the Mt. Hood Village, Bonneville Power Administration, Richard Dodge, Steve Doane, Bill Johnston, Gunny Claypoole,  the Hatcher Family, Pat and Blake Curtis, the Barrell family, Jerry Morrell, Rick Higgins, Tami Buedefeldt, Chuck & Ron Sun, and once again an extreme thanks to troopers John Hughes, Dan Hatcher and Randy Beadle.  I’d also like to personally thank and urge everyone to support the following excellent sponsors.  The event couldn’t have succeeded without their support: Husqvarna/KTM of Gresham, Beaverton Honda/Yamaha, Massage Therapy by Ilse, Portland Off-Road Center, Hillsboro Motorcycles, Aloha BMW, D&S Cycle, Affordable Trophies, Motorsports News, Clarke Plastic Products, Steahly Off-Road, CycoActive Products, Dirt Rider Magazine, Dirt Bike Magazine, White Brothers, Maier Plastics, Motion Pro, A-Loop Off-road, Answer Racing, Off-Road Specialties, Acerbis, IMS Products,  Smith Goggles, KTM Sportmotorcycles and Suzuki Motorcycles. 

Be sure and take a flea bath before next year’s Dawg!