By Tom Niemela
[For pictures, click here]
As usual, we had been preparing for the Rat Dog event months prior, but there just never seems to be too much planning. If it weren’t for the last minute, we wouldn’t get anything accomplished! For the second time, the Rat Dog was held at the famous and historic Flying M Ranch, where since the early 70’s the Trask Mountain Motorcycle Club had held the Trask ISDE Qualifier – the oldest ISDE Qualifier in the USA. This year the event would be held on Saturday, instead of the usual Sunday ride. Why? So that everyone could hang out at the Flying M Ranch restaurant and bar on Saturday night!
This year we had a new addition, Scott Adams, who was a major help. Scott rounded up some of his ham radio friends and offered to lend a hand with communication throughout the event. The “Hamsters” proved invaluable. Plus Scott was always more than happy to fire up his KLR650 and go exploring with us. With Scott and his Wife having a baby on the way, I think he figured he better ride while he can!
We also had the dedicated help of Walt Koch and Frank Noe from Beaverton Honda-Yamaha, the event sponsor. These guys make this event fun and worthwhile.
Friday night prior to the ride, the Flying M Ranch campground started filling up with bike haulers of all kinds. Walt and Frank were of course in the bar; the sweep crews were prepping their bikes and then a little surprise showed up. A gentleman, Vernon Wade and his significant other, Amy, showed up from Hood River in their Triumph Tiger and sidecar. Everyone had to ogle the rig as they were setting up tent. The Q & A’s went late into the evening about the incredible machine.
Saturday morning the weather was beautiful. Gotta love the good days in Oregon! The signup area was getting prepped as the early risers started lurking around. Jim Allison always seems to be one of the first up and the first out on the ride and he was, in typical form, one of the first ones up. Signup commenced and everyone was cattle’d through. After a brief rider’s meeting, it was time for everyone to start their journey. Tyler Maddox Photography was on hand again, as they were from the earlier Black Dog event, to take action shots of the riders. With the Ranch as a backdrop and the sun peeking over the horizon from the East, a Kodak Moment was created.
The course had some similarities from last year’s ride, but as usual NW Tour & Trail fashion, there is always something new thrown in. From the Ranch, it took gravel road winding through the serene farmland and made its way up to the Nestucca River Road, which was the first checkpoint. Then it took a pavement jaunt up past the reservoir and Meadow Lake to the start of Cedar Creek. This was a reset where the A and B courses split. This was the first year that the Rat Dog had four different ride options: C, B, A and AA, where AA was the most challenging. The B and C courses went up Cedar Creek to the start of Gooseneck Trail. This is where the C riders branched off, bypassed Gooseneck, and both B and C met up again at the other end of Gooseneck, which was another reset.
From the previous reset the A & AA riders went up Cedar Creek, turned left up Teddy Bear Trail, wound around to some great old classic Trask ISDE sections, went through a huge meadow, over GTO Trail and many others, and ended up on a road, where the AA trail branched off. The AA section went up Goat Trail, dropped steeply down Brake Check (It’s called that for a reason!), and climaxed with a new trail created by Dennis Craig called Kickstarter Trail. This AA section was no easy venture and required extreme trailriding finesse. The A and AA routes then met up with the B and C course on the other end of Gooseneck.
From there the B & C courses were the same to lunch. Some bodacious gravel road winding up, down and around to a new locale called Grindstone Summit. This panoramic point has a stunning view of the Tillamook Valley and the single, remaining, massive WWII blimp hanger. Meanwhile the A and AA routes also combined as one after the Gooseneck trail and commenced to direct the riders through some serious trail, such as Bultaco Hill, the NORA Trail, Autobahn, and once again used the Leap Of Faith Trail to make everyone’s eyes bug out. The endless miles of trail eventually descended onto some gravel road and a chance for the advanced riders to catch their breath on their way to Grindstone Summit.
From Grindstone Summit it was an easy unimproved dirt road ride back down to Nestucca River Road and to gas/lunch at the town of Beaver. We always try to have everyone eat at the Beaver Deli. There was one tricky spot for Vernon and his third wheel to navigate coming down from Grindstone Summit. The road was washed out, so everyone had to ride in the ditch. Not a problem for two wheel, but add a third and let’s just say Vernon was glad to have some help through this section.
After lunch it was a trip up the Coast Highway for a few miles, an option to drive to the blimp hanger, and then a turn up towards Munson Falls Road, over the top to BSR Road, down a new, very cool, two track that brought everyone to Hollywood Camp and then to a checkpoint at Margaret’s Store (location of the historic Trask Site Hotel) and a reset at the base of the Old Toll Road. Before the A and AA riders got to the store, they had a couple surprises in store for them. They had to navigate up some old NORA trails, go up around and above the backside of Hollywood Camp and then another AA option. The A riders continued down some new single track, but this new AA section was called Fugawe Trail, named after the infamous trail on Timber Mountain down out of Medford, Oregon. Fugawe Trail started off on a ridge that wound up and down like a roller coaster and then started to drop – fast, in fact! This trail had so much foliage and ferns that it was often times difficult to even see the trail, but wow, was it worth it.
From Margaret’s Store the B route went on a leisurely climb up Old Toll Road and made it’s way to Murphy’s Camp and another checkpoint. The A riders were greeted with yet more miles and miles of single track. They were directed to a maze of challenging trails, first from the Eagle Hill area, and then wound their way to Blue Bus intersection, where they then went down a killer section called Two Dogs Trail. This exhilarating downhill then wandered up the Steampot section and back up again to Blue Bus. A smattering of more trail finally brought the A riders to Murphy’s Camp checkpoint also.
There was only one major injury of the event. Unfortunately Rob Treichler, on his Kawasaki 650KLR slid down a narrow trail section and his KLR made one with his ankle, therefore breaking it. Ouch! Thanks to the savvy abilities of Scott and the Hamsters, Rob had the Tillamook Ambulance up to rescue him on the Toll Road and then take him to Tillamook Hospital in quick fashion. He did say that he had a wonderful time until then! You’ll be please to know that Rob is healing nicely and bored to death dealing with crutches.
After Murphy’s Camp it was an easy ride back to the finish, taking in the Old Historic Toll Road wagon section. The C riders were routed around this, and the B riders got their thrills by motoring through it. The A riders started into it and were then redirected onto the classic Cowabunga Trail.
At the finish there were the final games such as the tire toss and slow race, after which the final prizes and trophies were handed out. In summary, the riders all got their money’s worth! At the final slow test, ISDE veteran Mike Medick, did a wheelie on his big XR650, spun it around 360 degrees, and then tipped it over for everyone’s entertainment. He was fine and only slightly embarrassed. The Oregon_DSR’s David Butt won the $100. Vernon’s awesome sidecar made it through the slow test too – on two wheels! His time wasn’t very slow, but his presence as he rode through was most impressive! Gravel was flying everywhere as he yelled, “Get out of the way, I’m coming through!” Maddox Photography had all the great rider’s pictures on display for the people to purchase. The total course was around 145 miles and the riders all sounded like they liked all four course options: AA, A, B & C. After all the celebration, the ensuing partying then made its way into the Flying M Ranch for an evening of socializing.
Team Oregon’s Motorcycle Safety Program’s senior specialist, Bill Spencer, said, “That was a good ride! Except when I temporarily get lost. [laughs] I had a couple giggle moments of when I was too hot going into a corner and not enough eyeballs through the corner, but I didn’t have any too exciting momenst. It was a good ride, while it lasted, there just needs to be more rides and longer. I’d like to see more dualsport riders riding with the intent of honing their road riding skills via their dualsport. I’d like to thank Willamette Industry and ODF. It’s really great to be able to get out into the open air and take your mind off things. It’s my only solace. It requires total focus, where you don’t have to think about anything else, till you stop.” Be sure to check out Team Oregon’s website at: www.teamoregon.orst.edu.
“Big Al” Fetterly came into the finish and said, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that much trail! That was great stuff! I haven’t ridden some of those trails since the Trask ISDE.” Al is the past multi-time AA enduro champion from Washington State.
A side note: it appears that the Flying M Ranch is being sold and there is the question of whether the new owners will be motorcycle friendly. Plus with the hostile takeover by Weyerhaeuser of Willamette Industries, there are concerns that Weyerhaeuser may not be as “OHV positive” as Willamette Industries has been for many years. Whether things take a turn for the worse or not, you can be sure that the Rat Dog will once again happen next year, no matter what, so keep that open riding spot reserved for next September!
A special thanks goes out to all that helped out with the event such as: Scott Adams, his wife and Hamster friends. Their service was invaluable. Dan Hatcher for all his vast trail knowledge of the Trask area, Randy Beadle, Gunny and Laura Claypoole and their friend Pat, John Hughes, Jim Dukes and his Dad, Lisa Bierlmeier, Walt Koch, Frank Noe, Bryce and Barbara Mitchell of the Flying M Ranch, Clyde Zeller and Ian Caldwell of ODF, Dan Upton of Willamette Industries, Affordable Trophies, Clarke Plastics, Maddox Photography, Leroy and Lisa White, and Ron "Moose" Collins.