Braaping at China Hat OHV
Recently I took a vacation- ditched the computer and responsibilities for four days out in the Eastern Oregon desert. My best friend Chris decided to have a birthday celebration at China Hat OHV- an off highway vehicle park near Bend… and I just had to go.
The time I spent in China Hat was sort of magical, really. A giant OHV playground where you could get lost… but not at all. I headed out without many plans, and no bike of my own… planning simply to fail to plan. I packed my UglyBROS usa riding pants, Icon 1000 Elsinore boots, and a street jacket just in case. Chris had a spare Icon helmet for me, which saved a lot of space on the plane. We loaded up and headed out with Angel in the back seat, and their bikes in the trailer. Tom Young and John Clemens had arrived the day before and set up camp, complete with a fire at least 5′ tall. We arrived pretty late in the evening the first night, unloaded the food and ate by the awesomely huge fire. Whiskey, Tequila, and Beers were passed around, and we retired pretty late.
The next day we all awoke rather early, eager to go hit some dirt. I asked Tom if he happened to have a ‘spare’ motorcycle laying around I could ride, and he kindly allowed me the use of his 2 stroke Kawasaki. They told me the long story about this bike later over fire chat, but the jist is this- it’s a 1993 Team Green Splitfire KX125 chassis with a KDX200 motor. Tom told me they built three that they know of- and he is sort of a pro in that area. Tom owns the Rose City Motorcycle Museum in Portland, which has over 100 bikes and opens every first Tuesday. (If you don’t know where it is, ask one of your friends.) Anywho, I was sort of nervous to hop on that bad boy, as it was pretty tall and I hadn’t been off road on two wheels since the little XR80 in McCain Valley. Tom gave me the step-by-step process to how he wanted it started, mounted and dismounted (do not leave that kickstand down), and I threw a leg over and zipped off to get a feel for it. The powerband was nice and smooth with the familiar 2stroke zip, and it was super comfortable.
When we were getting ready to go hit the trails, Tom saw me putting on my street jacket, shook his head and gave me his spare dirt armor. I can’t even say how thankful I am for this, as I probably would have fainted in about ten minutes otherwise. (I think it’s time for some real off road gear, eh?) Chris, Angel, Amber, and I, all took off into the woods. The first few miles I faired alright, the single track trails were somewhat technical but the ground was rather packed. Then we turned off onto the 74, and I almost lost the front end a handful of times in a span of a quarter mile. At this point, I decided the best thing for me was to pull off the trail a little and drink some water. When Amber came around the corner, she joined me to make sure I was alright, and wait for a while. Chris came rushing back about four minutes later, and I informed him I was horribly out of shape and needed to relax. After some rehydration, we went a few more miles, swapped pulling over for one reason or another, I fell down a handful of times (but yay no ‘wrecks’), and we turned around and headed back to camp.
Realizing my limits, I stayed off the bike for the rest of the day and let my body recover from the jolt of activity. I did wander around taking some photos of everyone, though. Chris and Dustin were playing around on the trials bikes- which are absolutely incredible machines. Wheelies all day long… going a walking speed if you so choose. So cool.
Angel and Amber re-heated their pre-prepared [amazing] dinner while we all hung out around the fire and bonded. Awww. But I mean, remember how I mentioned it was a really big fire? I meant it. This one wasn’t even done getting wood stacked on it, and it was almost as tall as me.
The next morning Q and Dan doing were doing side-by-side pre-ride yoga outside the trailer-mahal while Chris and I ate breakfast burritos.
Now, instead of going and hitting super technical single track with lava rocky pummace sort of stones deep and washed all over trails, I opted this time for some wider stuff. Now, my experience on dirt is very limited. Like some random dirtbike stuff in fields, the Touratech ADV Moto rally, McCain Valley, and now this. So I wanted, for once, to be able to just kind of blast around and get the feel for things. And I’m very, very happy I did.
After a little ways, shifting into third gear, I felt the rear tire start to wobble, and the bike seemed to lose power. I downshifted to try to regain some traction, but just kept losing speed. So, I started to brake with the rear, a little front- oh, snap… that’s when I realized the front brake had seized. So, I came to a sliding stop and waited for Joel to roll up on me.
When he pulled up, he immediately noticed the smoking front brake and asked, “Did you go down?” to which I was happy to say, “Nope!” and high fives were exchanged. We tried to pour some water on the caliper while we waited for Chris to come back so we weren’t just disappearing on the group.
I was kickin’ back for a few minutes when I heard Chris on his Kawasaki 125 blasting back to see what was up. He always comes back twice as fast, which makes me laugh, even though I know it’s fueled by a bit of worry.
At this point, we pulled the bike over to the side and I hopped on the back of his 250, doing my best to wrap my legs around Joel so I could hold on like a Koala and head back to camp. Every bump sent my butt flying off the seat- which was actually sort of fun- and we made it back to camp in no time. After chatting with Tom, he informed us that it’s done this before (awesome) and to just “let some air into the lines”. So, we grabbed a 10mm box end wrench and headed back the same way we came. A few minutes later, ta da, the bike was going again… but I really needed to leave the front brake alone. Okay, cool. No front brake… I don’t need a front brake, right?
Chris decided to split off with the rest of the group to do some single track while Joel and I continued to haul down the jeep trails. I was really enjoying getting to play with traction (or lack thereof) and finally getting a feel for the different position on dirtbikes than street (or track). My favorite moments were when I came into a corner a little hot- downshifted twice from fifth gear, feathered clutch and hit back brake, feeling the back end wobble as I backed it into the corner, got slideways, cracked the throttle, and gassed out of it. I mean, perfection. It was the first time I was doing it on purpose, and it felt so gooooood!
After we “got out of the woods” as it were, and back toward camp, my throttle hand was used to giving it the juice… so when I came into the loosely packed (and familiar) S turn by camp at about twice the speed I had previously, I overcorrected and came off the seat in a high side. Somehow, the slow motion moment kicked in, and I let off gas, regained traction, and then throttled right out of it… all with Joel right behind me. I heard him yell, “F*** YEAH!!!” and I did the same, with a fist pumping motion. It was glorious. There are few things better than totally saving your butt at the very edge of crashing.
When we got back to camp, my face was bright red, my smile was huuuge, and I couldn’t stop giggling.
After coming down from the adrenaline rush, I took more photos.
By the way, I’ve totally adopted wearing the old-lady style spectacle leash… and I love it.
Sundown brought us all back around the fire for warmth, booze, food, and fun times.
After dinner, we were all sitting back enjoying the sore feeling in all the muscles of our body, when John decided he needed to kick it up a notch. That’s when he jumped his Trials bike over the fire. Yup, right the hell over it. It was amazing.
The next morning it was sadly time to go, so we packed up, cleaned up camp, and headed out. There was even beauty in heading home, with many mountain views and beautiful stretches of road. It reminded me why I was so fortunate to grow up in the Pacific Northwest.
Huge thanks to Tom for letting me ride the KDX, Chris for making it possible for me to come along, and Angel and Amber for cooking delicious food. What a great weekend.
Photographs by Alicia Mariah Elfving, copyright themotolady.com 2015.