Bivouac 2 – “Bivo-whoops”

Why would anyone want to go camping?

This was a question asked to me by a good friend Jim. Until that point I had never actually thought about why I went, and liked camping. For me, camping was just something I grew up doing with my family. It’s as second nature as swimming or running. A past time developed by my adventure-seeking gene pool. Admittedly, Jim is a city slicker, a man who lives in high rise apartments and avoids any contact with dirt if at all possible.
My answer at the time was short, something like, “its just fun, weirdo.” But in a way I saw his point. Camping is cold, dirty, dangerous, uncomfortable, and really not that easy to do, and how these adjectives translate to having “fun” is a question I can’t really answer.

I can say this: there are a million reasons not to do something. It’s much easier to say “no” and to play it safe.

However, a good story never starts with “no.”

For me and the crew of almost 40 friends, “no” was not the answer to the question, “Do you want to go camping?” And for the sheer fact of saying “yes” all in attendance had a tying bind, a commonality that was unspoken and easily understood. A bunch of fun-having gypsies ready for whatever, unfazed by the great wide unknown, or at very least, some dirt on our jeans.

Bivouac–or “Bivo-whoops!” as coined by Fran O’connor, the voice of reason and wife to photographer Ray Gordon–is an annual motorcycle ride / camping adventure in the great Pacific Northwest, better known as Oregon. Just another reason to escape work by doing a little extra work with people we work with and their good pals etc. etc. The idea is: everyone on the trip brings a smile, the companies invited and involved provide the provisions; food, water, coffee, lanterns, booze and so on. Sprinkle a little free spirit on the top of it all and whatever happens gets rehashed and relived amongst new friends, old friends, and future friends. Dare I say, a bonding experience.

Finally our September Saturday morning rolls around, the set date for our departure and the sun is shining!! As per usual I’m running around changing tires, loading coolers, trying to find the ride maps, basically doing my best impersonation of a chicken with its head cut off, and it’s successful. All of which is observed with a smile by Mr. Ray Gordon and the many other characters arriving.

One would think after years of planning campouts and events I would have some sense of time. Not the case, when getting ready, 5 minutes is just as sufficient as 60 minutes, or at least I have myself fooled to think so. Fortunately I had some good help from Sean and Nean of Motofactory, a local motorcycle shop here in Portland, who had sorted out a destination on the coast for our huge group of rowdies. My little brother Bjorn had handmade an indestructible piñata in the shape of a pesky house fly complete with giant size fly swatter. The George sisters of See See helped organize and distract the gathering crowd whilst I was still running around. Drake McElroy of Smoking Seagulls, in his usual mellow mood, swapped mini-bikes in and out of the shop and vans. Frosty, Kagen, Heather and the rest of See See’s all star team and amazing employees helped smooth the whole deal through.

Close buddies Kharma and Nicole Vella from Poler Stuff, blessed us with some “Camp Vibes” and a gigantic skillet, New Deal Distillery provided some extra tasty spirits, and we can’t forget the lifesaving breakfast treats Mr. Duane Sorenson, owner of Stumptown Coffee and Roman Candle Bakery provided for our hangovers the next morning.

All told we where about 25 bikes deep, three or four full cars ,two normal vans and three mega vans: about 40 plus good folks in tow.

We set off sending the cars with a direct route to our destination while all the bikes headed the opposite direction for some twisty road adventures. First lone ranger to break off in his own direction was Jud Nicholsen of Jud Corporations on his “least likely to make it” CB400f. I say “least” because Jud’s rear sprocket was smoother than the circumference of the wheel surrounding it, clearly maximizing the lifespan of vintage mc parts. Along the first stretch of twisty roads northwest of Portland and finally out of the city, Zane Gunderson aboard a newer Yamaha R1 decided he wasn’t going to turn right with the road and ended off in the jungle, and by some magical maneuvering managed to keep ‘er upright and unscathed. We chugged along waiting ever so often to make sure everyone kept up, and upright. Our planned route took us up and over the west hills into the west planes, past a bunch of cool farms, just a few boring highway miles later we landed at the top of Highway 53. For those who are not familiar with 53, its a 35-mile road with banked corners, switchbacks, even a swooping corner section, lots of 20mph turns, all strangely void of any cars and potholes. From there its an easy scenic cruise along the pacific Coast landing us at Sand Lake.

As we set off down 53 we paired off with like model bikes or similar cruising speeds (which meant battle speed). Tori George and New Church Moto Ginger McCabe (long time buddies, but first actual ride together!) jumped out front with all the 400cc bikes. Danger Aaron of Jackass, The Vella crew, Lori D., Josh, Joe, Sean, Nehani Wagner and the rest of the folk all took off somewhere in the middle?? Bringing up the rear was Mathew Foster on a Triumph Tiger 800, Kagen Young on an older BMW, and myself on Grimace, the purple 73′ HD Electroglide. We were in the “hard bag” class. Mathew was pushing the triumph way over, almost scraping his bags, I was leaning hard on my floorboards scraping through every corner. Kagen got tired of the sparks and flew past me and was out of sight not long after. We reconvened at the end of 53 all sharing laughter and competitive smiles.

Nothing like some fast corners with your friends!

Before continuing on I made the mistake of answering a phone call from the car drivers up ahead, only to find out we had been kicked out of our original camp spot due to an alcohol ban?!?! (Bivo-Whoops!) Not exactly good news. With fifty miles remaining down the coast and a handful of tired but hopeful motorists behind me, I decided to stress out trying to figure out an alternative destination. It didn’t help that it was late afternoon. I pictured everyone turning around and heading home out of frustration.

Little did I know that a Plan B had already taken affect. Nean from Motofactory and Ray Gordon had sorted out a new campsite with our own circle cul-de-sac just 3 miles down the road, but not before Fran happily came up with the new name of our camp trip… “Bivo-Whoops!”

Upon arrival we where greeted by the camp hosts, a retired couple. By no surprise they rolled up as Danger Aaron was unloading his beer bong, I was unloading a huge stack of beer, and multiple bikes roared into the sleepy campground. The first thing the nice older lady said was, “Looks like you guys are going to party tonight!?” Her husband quickly chimed in, “Thats ok, this is our last weekend as camp host, you guys have fun, we will just turn the TV up tonight.”

I guess our load of Camp Vibes had a good tune, and the camp gods shined their glory down upon us.

We continued to unload the mischief, a couple of z50 mini bikes, a home-made fly shaped piñata, a mountain of firewood, and the party spirits from New Deal Distillery. Not even 15 minutes into our stay mini bike races broke out bringing the hooting, hollering, photos and crashing. Kharma vs. Andy Forgash, Drake vs. Drake, Tori vs. Nico of Ornamental Conifer, Kharma with Nichole on his lap vs. Travis and Jared of Holiday Customs, Mathew vs Josh Porter (who illustrated the maps for our pocket bandanna) … the list goes on. The neighbors 20 feet away gave us a glancing look as to say, “This is going to be a long night.” And they were right, it’s exactly what we had planned. Mini bike session came to an end after the dark flew in and Mathew’s hand had been burned by the exhaust of a jumping mini bike.

See See’s adventure man Kagan Young fired up the grill and turned a mountain of beef circles into one hell of a dinner and some much needed food. This just reset us for more party to come. We had planned a surprise birthday celebration for our special guest Steph, (the better half of Nico “Oriental Cauliflower”) both visiting from Australia, and Nico’s first time in America. (Bivo-Whoops!) My brother Bjorn, the crafty fella who built the giant-sized indestructible piñata fly and swatter swung the craft up into a tree making sure it was free to fly up and down with every victim’s swat. Steph the birthday girl, was the first victim to have at it, making sure not to hurt the fly she tenderly smacked the bottom a few times before she was over it. Man after man, woman after woman, we tried our best to destroy the fly for, no joke, 45 minutes before the damn thing was cut apart with knifes by some completely emasculated men. (Myself included.) Damn house flies always win.

We partied and threw wood into the fire way into the night, sharing stories, letting our real lives slip out of view and letting the sand in our shoes. The outside world was scaled down to as far as we could stumble away from it and towards the ocean. We didn’t get too far ’cause just then Johnny Law pulled up. I can only imagine his surprise. The piñata had been light afire in the middle of the campsite, burning in vengeance, the mini bikes with no lights were zipping up and down the road, booze was flowing every which way, and we were so unfazed by his presence that I think we caught HIM off guard. He basically got out of his car said, “This is too much to deal with … not worth the trouble, too many tickets to start giving out he didn’t even want to start with even just one…”

“Clean it completely up by morning and take it down a notch and if I have to make a second trip it would be another story.”

Those of us who felt motivated enough, moved the party further down the beach just a few hundred feet away with candlelight. Co-0wner of See See Motorcycles George Kassipakas and Emily booked it for the “distant” waves but ended up head high in the inlet water right in front of them, completely clothed, proving candlelight wasn’t doing much for us, but what a sight to see. A bit inspired by the impromptu swimming a few of us friends stripped down and quickly followed suit. We kept the fun up until the wee hours. 40 plus good people in a good place made for an astonishingly drama free, fun havin’ group. Erica Price, in righteous Erica fashion, stayed up last making sure all the time was spent hanging with good friends and keeping the good party going until daylight.

The next morning was a rough and tumble one, we had squeezed what we could out of the night and if it weren’t for the delicious Roman Candle pastries and Stumptown Cold Brew some of us would still be out there in fetal position. Everyone helped with cleaning up and packing out the night’s fun. During the clean-up another camp security guard pulled up and cheerfully told us most people that rowdy end up with huge fines and kicked out but said the camp host owed him a favor and told him to be easy on us. Obviously the Camp Vibes were still on our side.

Thanks Debbie and Harry (the camp host couple of the year) for the good hospitality, who knows–maybe you saved us from some jail time and more than likely some expensive tickets.

We finished packing up, we loaded our bikes and headed south. The remaining group ended up being Tori, Bjorn, Truen Pence, Drake, Sean, Jud, and myself. We found a route that made a great loop back to Portland through some super fun winding roads that overthrew our expectations.
So what is it about Camping? I’m here to say… it’s not just about pitching a tent, its about illuminating the distractions, enjoying your immediate life and the unknown future. Forcing yourself out of a comfort zone. Relying on friends for a small period of time, and bonding with new ones. Most importantly, having fun and building stories together. Camping is humans, acting like humans. No over-thinking it, just like the details of “Bivo-whoops.”

I’m already excited for next year.

– Thor Drake