Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Throttle Jockey: High desert getaway

throttle jockey way off the beaten path se oregon main940
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Some pals and I are heading to Southeast Oregon this weekend to do some riding, a trip we look forward to taking at least once and sometimes twice each year.

Southeast Oregon is known locally by several names, most notably as The Big Empty and the Oregon Outback, and those are fitting monikers for this vast, dry, seemingly barren corner of the state. As such, the off-road riding opportunities are just about as vast, which is great, but you can get very and possibly fatally lost unless you have a knowledgeable guide along on the ride. A cell phone won’t save you here.

This is an area where it can hit 110 today and snow tomorrow. In June. It is one of the last remnants of the American Frontier that’s pretty much the same now as it was when the (truly) brave Pioneers pushed their wagons across the wide desert floor and finally through soaring mountain passes. Average elevation is about 4,000 above sea level, and it’s quite possible to roll through the open high desert areas thinking all is well and then suddenly drop into a 70-foot volcanic crevasse. Signs? There ain’t many signs.

Fortunately, our group includes Dave, whose well-kept outpost in a literal one-stoplight town out yonder serves as a launching point for our journeys into the forbidden zone (or the really just-nobody-there-zone). Where we ride may as well be the deserts of Mauritania on the fringes of the Sahara. It’s one of the little pockets of land on Earth still largely unoccupied. And Dave knows the area inside and out.

Dave’s itinerary includes hot springs, rocks covered in ancient Native American hieroglyphics, speeding across dry lake beds, eating at well-loved restaurants in the middle of cattle country (don’t even bother trying to follow your regular diet), and trail riding on jeep track, single track and even some no track as we pick our way across miles of high desert. Good times.

Our mounts for the offroad excursion range from my somewhat portly but competent Suzuki DR650 (up top) to Dave’s burly 1970s Honda XL500R (below) to our friend Bryan’s tip-top KTM 500 EXC that we all not-so-secretly lust after. A few other dirt-capable bikes are in the mix as well.

SE-Oregon-DaveWheelie
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Off-road riding requires a different set of skills from road riding. It’s a workout, for one, as you spend a lot of the time out of the seat, soaking up bumps with your legs and arms. There will be some sore quads at night, but it’s worth it. And Dave’s home-stilled whiskey helps take the edge off (because: Oregon).

To really enjoy a dirt session like this, learning to slide the bike (back wheel, typically) is a skill worth acquiring, as is a bit of wheeling to pop over a small obstacle. I admit I am no off-road master, but with some tips from some of the guys on this ride who do a lot of dirt riding, I can keep up, usually. And it is great fun.

Being prepared for this kind of riding is important, both in technique and gear. Leg guards, gloves, boots and a sturdy jacket are mandatory. It’s a good idea to pack tools beyond what came with the bike as well. And maybe a signaling mirror as well. You never know.

But between the group, most any breakdown can be dealt with, and we’re all pretty careful. Usually.

It’s always a great trip, and I’ll be back next week with some photos of this year’s offroad fun.

SE-Oregon-main940full
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Bill Roberson
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Please reach out to The Manual editorial staff with any questions or comments about Bill’s work.
From Alien 3 to The Killer, these are the best David Fincher movies ranked
If you're a Fincher fan, add all these films to your must-watch list
Alien 3

Since he emerged on the scene with his own Alien sequel, David Fincher has gained a reputation for being exacting, precise, and brilliant. Whether he's making an unconventional thriller or a throwback to Hollywood's golden age, Fincher's movies are always distinctive, imaginative, and hugely engaging.

Over the course of his career as a director, Fincher has made more than a couple of genuine masterpieces. While he's yet to win any major Oscars, Fincher has always seemed most interested in following his own muse, and is less concerned about how his decisions will be viewed by those around him. You may think of Fincher as a thriller guy, but anyone who's followed his career closely knows that thrillers aren't the only thing he makes.

Read more
The 11 best Ryan Reynolds movies – Deadpool, Buried, and more
As a Ryan Reynolds fan, you must see all of his top films listed here
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in Deadpool and Wolverine.

"I don’t expect success. I prepare for it." Wise and self-fulfilling words from our guy, Ryan Reynolds, one of Canada’s sweethearts. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Reynolds dreamed of getting out of there early in his life, not to abandon his family or hometown, but to act. True to his words, he and a fellow Vancouver actor impulsively took to the road one night with one destination: Los Angeles. After taking the first step in following his dreams, his car was stripped and robbed on his first night in L.A. Did that stop our fearless protagonist? Indeed not. After just a few months, Reynolds was landing roles all over town, working whenever he could. Five years later, he finally got a leading role with a recognizable name, a college comedy called Van Wilder: Party Liaison. That movie didn’t make our list today, but it's only because Reynolds has been busy making an array of better movies ever since.
Most would agree that Ryan Reynolds brings a familiar presence in both appearance and demeanor to most of his films, but when you get a frame that fits just right, you get some great Ryan Reynolds features. That is why we’ve compiled a list of the best Ryan Reynolds movies. It should also be known that these movies were chosen for the movie quality and watchability, not just for the most Ryan of the Reynolds’ performances.

Just Friends (2005)

Read more
Is AT&T down? What you need to know about the outage
Woman looking at cell phone with network issues -- is AT&T down

Starting Thursday morning (February 22), AT&T's network went down for many U.S. customers, with over 70,000 affected, according to DownDetector. Customers are reporting they're unable to place calls, send text messages, or access the internet in various capacities. It also appears that AT&T is not the only network experiencing these issues, as some Verizon and T-Mobile customers have also indicated outage and connection issues.

AT&T has not provided the reason why the network is down, and for now, it recommends that all customers take advantage of Wi-Fi calling, if necessary, until services are restored.

Read more