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Fossil/Shaniko Road Ride

Searching for signs of life

Some riders just can’t get enough. You can pretty much work your way back and forth across Eastern Oregon along a myriad of state routes and never repeat the same road twice. And that’s good, of course, considering the endless amount of vacation time you’ve built up toiling at your day job all these years.

For this one, we grab a little gas and maybe a snack in Fossil and ride west to Shaniko. Along the way there are plenty of sweepers and twisties and if you’re a fossil nut, you could check out the Fossil Museum before leaving. There’s also a worthy pullout at the John Day Clarno unit which is stunning if it’s early morning or mid-day when the colors of strata light up in the full sun.

Up next, Antelope. It’s a small town, but big enough to have a post office. No restaurant, no fuel, but they’ve got a post office.

The best is yet to come as you turn right and continue north on SR 218. A few miles out of town, you’ll ascend through a series of switch backs. You really need to plan about an extra hour in this area for several reasons. At the top of the hill is the most stunning view of the Cascades range looking south to Mt. Bachelor and north to Mt. Adams. No wide-angle lens is wide enough to suck this fantastic 200-degree view in, so switch your camera to panorama mode.

But hey, those twisties you just came up on are awesome. Take your photos, then turn the bike around and replay your way through them, several times if you can.

Don’t expect much in the way of services when you hit Shaniko. Hours on the restaurant are tight, if it’s open at all. There’s a hotel and a post office, but there’s no gas here. For that you’ll need to continue north to Madras or Grass Valley.

This is a popular road with motorcyclists, so if it’s a weekend you may see a few. The most important thing to know is that the topography of the road changes abruptly several times. You can be relaxing through some wide corners, when all of the sudden a tighty shows up, especially as you ascend out of Fossil. Keep your eyes scanning well ahead so you’re ready when that happens.


This ride comes from the Sound RIDER! Guide to Motorcycling in Central and Eastern Oregon , available online through theSound RIDER! store. Optional GPS tracks are available with purchase.


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