Motorcycling Through Lava Beds National Monument

The longest day’s ride of my birthday motorcycle trip was 280 miles, traveling from Bend, Oregon, to Fall River Mills, California. This stretch of our trip not only set a record for the most mileage I’ve put on my bike in one day, it was the first time we’ve had our bikes in California!

It was also our entry into a series of volcanic elements and lava beds throughout this region of southern Oregon/northern California that we hadn’t experienced before. Originally, we planned to visit Newberry National Volcanic Monument and the Lava Lands visitor center in Deschutes National Forest just south of Bend, but we were on the road early before things were really opening up and opted instead to get some miles under our belts.

We traveled south on route 97 – while highway riding is not ideal, it does eat up the miles – and before we knew it, we were south of Crater Lake National Park. Crater Lake was as far south as I had traveled in Oregon so this was uncharted territory for me.

After a few hours of riding, we stopped for brunch at a place Brian found in Klamath Falls called the Waffle Hut & Eatery. We had a bit of an adventure navigating the one-way streets to park outside this spot, which is attached to a small hotel, only to discover people in folding chairs along the road. It was Independence Day morning, and we were parked along a street that was part of the town’s parade route!

It sounded like we had a little time before the parade was set to begin so we headed inside, were quickly seated, and began perusing the extensive list of specialty liege waffle dishes this place it known for serving. Brian ordered the chicken and waffles, while I went for the Three B’s (bacon, brie and fresh basil).

Liege waffles, as we learned for the first time when we were in Vancouver, Washington, are made with pockets of sugar that crystalize and give the waffles their own sweetness that doesn’t require syrup (although you can certainly add it, if you like!). These were very good, and if you find yourself in this small town and happen to spot this unassuming breakfast spot, I’d recommend popping in.

Refreshed and ready for the next leg of our ride, we continued south, hoping our rural route into California would have a roadside sign where we could take a picture of our new milestone.

Happily, it did – we had made it to California!

We cut over to Hill Road north of Tule Lake, planning to drive south along the lake to enter our primary sight-seeing destination of the day’s ride, Lava Beds National Monument. We kept driving and driving, finally seeing a sign to pull over for a viewpoint over the lake.

Except there was no lake. Not even a drop of water. The 13,000-acre intermittent lake was gone.

I knew it was hot and dry in this area. We saw signs about water shortages impacting local farmers and were tracking several wildfires in the area in case they spread and impacted our planned route. But I was not prepared to see an entire lake completely dried up.

The arid conditions continued as we rode into the national monument. It was the heat of the day, and we didn’t stop long at the pull-offs leading up to the visitor center. The lava beds were interesting, but we were a little distracted thinking through how much water we had on hand and how much farther we needed to ride in the heat.

The visitor center was nice but much of it was closed because of COVID-19. We decided not to hike given the heat, although we did see some people getting permits to enter the 700+ caves throughout the area. Maybe another (cooler!) time.

Our ride through the rest of the national monument would have been better tackled on dirt bikes – the road was in terrible condition with gigantic potholes strewn across the road for miles on end. There was a car behind us that did not seem to appreciate our pace or need to carefully navigate the holes, but damaging a wheel this far out in the middle of nowhere, in the heat, in the early days of our motorcycle trip was the last thing we wanted to do. I like to think we saved them from a similar fate – had they tried to fly down this road, I think they would have been dealing with some damage too.

As it stood, they blew by us once we turned onto normal pavement, and we continued south to our destination – Fall River Mills. We checked into our motel, walked into the sleepy town, tried to enjoy a drink at the Fall River Hotel (it was very clear we were not from there and not terribly welcome, so we quickly moved on) and ended up at the only other place open in town, Uptown Pizza.

The woman working was extremely nice and quickly had us sitting in the front window with a steaming hot pizza and generously poured beverages. It was a long, hot ride, but we were thrilled to make it to California and to end our Independence Day on such a high note! Cheers!

4 thoughts on “Motorcycling Through Lava Beds National Monument

  1. Pingback: U.S. National Parks: Top Picks from 2021 – Heather's Compass

  2. Carrie

    We were planning on Madsen Valcanic as part of a 2019 trip that was cancelled due to covid.
    We have been to Newberry National Monument twice now. We have really enjoyed the park. The campground we stayed at was at the very back of the park in a large lake (not the best for swimming), but my kids lived serching for obsidian and pumice on the beach and a great hike up from the campground. There is a huge obsidian flow that is a must see and it has detailed signage telling about the flow and obsidian in general. We visited first in 2020 and the lava caves and visitors center were closed. We returned this past summer in conjunction with a trip to Crater Lake. We were able to do 2 things closed the year before due to covid: the lava tubes (very cool) and the kids git their Junior ranger badges. We will definitely return on any trip to central Oregon as there is so much more to see.

  3. Pingback: Morning at Burney Falls – Heather's Compass

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