Phillips: We're older, grayer but still riding motorcycles

rphillips@idahostatesman.comAugust 22, 2013 

I dug through boxes at my mom's house searching for a photo of my oldest brother, Richard, and I holding trophies.

It was my first trophy for motorcycle racing, but probably not his, judging by his annoyed look about having to pose for a photo with it.

My brothers and I were living in the golden age of motorcycle riding.

We were kids of the "On Any Sunday" generation - a classic 1971 movie that did for dirt biking what "Endless Summer" did for surfing.

Motorcycles have been a constant thread for me since then. I've bounced between dirt bikes, street bikes, and now dual-sport bikes that allow me to ride on and off road.

Rich hadn't owned a motorcycle since the '70s. He had long talked about getting another one, but that's as far as it had gotten until this summer.

He went whole hog and bought a new Harley Davidson Super Glide Custom.

I was nearly as excited as he was. I've been doing multiday motorcycle trips for several years now, and they're a highlight of my summer. I pitched the idea of a road trip, and he agreed.

Being brothers, we share a lot of similarities, and also like brothers, have our distinct differences.

He likes to plan, I like to fly by the seat of my pants. This road trip would be interesting.

I had the upper hand for experience at traveling on a motorcycle, but he's still the big brother.

In the natural order of things, older brothers don't listen to younger brothers. Also in the natural order of things, little brothers always compete against older brothers.

But that didn't matter when we met earlier this month on a lonesome, two-lane road in Oregon.

I checked out his new bike. It was big and shiny, like Harleys are supposed to be. It has that unmistakable Harley rumble.

He had reserved a room for our first night near the small town of Chiloquin, Ore., but from there, we had only a general route in mind and no timeline other then when we would arrive at his house in Phoenix, Ore.

We rode north from Chiloquin to Crater Lake, an ironic destination for both of us.

We grew up in the tourist town of Newport, Ore., and we consider ourselves the anti-tourists.

We don't visit cutesy places. We don't care about roadside attractions or tourist traps. When we're traveling, the only acceptable stops are to eat, get gas or take a bathroom break, and sometimes, we do all three at the same place.

But that changed on this trip. We were unabashed tourists cruising along the back roads of Oregon and stopping whenever we felt like it.

We gawked at Crater Lake and took photos of ourselves like proper tourists, then followed the headwaters of the North Umpqua River down to its confluence with the South Umpqua and continued toward the Oregon Coast.

We stopped to see the famous Dean Creek elk herd near Reedsport, Ore., and watched 18 branch-antlered bulls grazing as casually as cattle right next to road.

The Oregon Coast was a homecoming for us, but also new territory. When you live on the coast, you don't typically vacation there. There were several stops on the coast I had never seen.

Rich was concerned about finding a motel room on the Oregon Coast during summer, but instead we got an invite from our friend from the coast to spend the night in his camp trailer parked in his driveway.

We traded bikes, and despite our usual tendency to bicker over whose is better, we agreed they are both fun to ride, just different from each other.

He liked mine in the tight corners, and I liked his for highway cruising.

We headed south down the coast and detoured up the Rogue River, where Rich and I have fished for trout and steelhead and done whitewater trips.

We occasionally rekindled the old sibling rivalry, which was inevitable, on a very twisty and very lightly traveled road.

We saw five vehicles going in either direction for about 20 miles, fortunately, none of them had lights on top.

We continued south on the famous Highway 101 into California and the redwoods. We stopped and took more photos of ourselves standing next to giant trees.

Richard committed the ultimate tourist move by buying a T-shirt at a Harley dealership. Not to be outdone, I bought one at a Triumph dealership.

We turned northeast and headed through Northern California and Southern Oregon's wine country and ended up at Mom's house near Rich's house.

I dug through boxes and sorted through hundreds of old photos until I finally found the one that put our trip into proper perspective.

It was taken in 1973, a mind-boggling 40 years ago. The years can sail by like a picket fence next to a country road, but riding motorcycles with your brother erases them just as quickly.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Thursday. Look for Zimo next week.

A road trip with my brother erased decades.

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