Rose City '500'

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Saturday, May 7, 2005, Jackson Armory, Portland, OR. Bleary eyed but enlivened by early morning air and the prospect of a long day in the saddle, participants in this year's Rose City 500 pulled into the Armory's parking lot.

Organized by Rose City Motorcycle Club, the region's oldest, the '500' is just that, a 500 mile, checkpointed route through some of the finest motorcycling country SW Washington and Oregon have to offer. Around 200 bikes took part. For exact figures and a list of prizewinners, consult the Club itself.

'You'll be in awe of the organization that goes before such events'

If you haven't taken part in one of RCMC's organized rides, you'll be in awe of the organization that goes before such events. On arrival at the departure point, traffic is directed into the general parking area. A short walk into the Armory Building takes you to the registration hall where you visit a series of booths with cheery helpers who will solicit your money ($14.00 for pre-entry, $19.00 on the day), a few personal details and a raft of disclaimer signatures. Registration is computerized. Last stop before you get back on your bike is for the ride package consisting of a route sheet with details of the outbound leg and a 'top of the line' event pin. With a long, threaded post and serrated keeper, this good looking badge isn't going anywhere but with you once affixed.

Back on two wheels and ready for the road, you ride around to the first checkpoint to have your ride card filled out with start time and odometer reading. Then you are on your way, in this case over the Columbia River to WA Hwy 14 and ever sunnier skies. First checkpoint was Goldendale. Only one minor mishap was noted on the way, caused by a shortage of gas just before pulling into town. A discarded pop bottle, an easily accessible petcock and 'a little help from my friends' soon got the unfortunate victim back on track.

In Goldendale, most folks got gas, then teamed and 'synched' up with others who had left at different times. The word went around that Goldendale's finest would be checking the speed of our progress as we headed south toward Biggs and indeed they were, enjoying the view from the crest of the hill just before the gorgeous curves that descend into the valley.

Back in Oregon, the route, whose midway checkpoint was Service Creek, ran for some 40 miles of I-84 superslab to Exit 147 and OR Hwy 74 to Ione and Heppner. For several participants, there was a notable increase in pace as the empty spaces swallowed the troupe of motorcycles disturbing their quiet canyons and breezy open country.

'Dozing off at the bars would not have been appropriate'

On the way to the midway checkpoint, some stopped in Lexington, some in Heppner to gas up. Around midday, bikes collected quickly in Service Creek downtown, easily missed if you blink passing through on any other day. Everyone was made welcome by the management of the Cafe. Outside wholesome staple foods such as dogs, chili and potato salad were offered. The pie looked like dynamite, but dozing off at the bars would not have been appropriate for the road to follow. Some took advantage of the few available horizontal surfaces and got their nap in anyway.

North of Service Creek on Hwy 19 in the shadow of Muleshoe Ridge, the road surface was changeable with gravel in some of the sharper curves. Wings, Harleys and others wound their way down through the canyons to the open spaces beyond. OR Hwy 19 took them into Fossil and Condon. From Condon northwards to Wasco, the big skies of Hwy 206 and the eerie wind farms that dot the hills dominated the landscape.

The standard of riding, from a personal perspective, was safe and civilized. Everybody's own tempo was taken into account and the author saw no unreasonable manoeuvers despite a marked difference in pace between groups of riders. The organizers were at pains to stress that the event is not a race and whatever your personal riding style, there was nothing to be gained from looking at it that way.

Conclusion: If you don't mind large groups and you expect good organization to handle the masses, the Rose City 500 is to be recommended. Rose City MC's Western States '1000' ride is coming up June 4 & 5 this year. The $19.00 paid for the '500' event was worth it. Kudos to the dedicated folks who were obviously up all night at the Armory or headed to Goldendale and Service Creek at '0 dark thirty' to set up for the day.

Nice badge, nice ride...
Riders assemble in the parking lot prior to registration
Sign up and sign on with the data processing department
Riding the curves high above the Klickitat River
Reach for that tube of UV screen in sunny Service Creek
Riders chow down on chili dogs and potato salad
North of these still gray-green hills, the road drops into verdant canyons

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© 2005 Open Road Rider: Ride photographs and article