2015 Norton Commando 961 SE

Thundering towards Mt. Bachelor, the wild animal beneath me becomes indignant. What the hell? The Beast grudgingly backs down, snarling at the lumbering SUV suddenly blocking our path. The animal becomes more impatient. It pushes, wants, needs to get around this rolling roadblock. Finally, the SUV signals its submission and we lurch forward.

The Beast settles down again as we find the curves on the west side of Mt. Bachelor. Another car appears in front of us and we slow down again, now enjoying the rhythm of the curves until suddenly South Sister appears–a light dusting of snow still clinging to the mountain despite the day’s warmth. I coax The Beast onto a turnout for photos. It’s an exercise in patience–a bicyclists decides now is the perfect time to ride uphill towards us. Eventually the waiting ends and my new companion sings for the camera.

I climb aboard again and push The Button. The Beast roars back to life. The kickstand–the one I fought with earlier, finally giving up and using my hand to deploy–snaps back into position. I blip the throttle to hear, to feel it, then launch back out into the curves. A car appears behind us but it doesn’t matter, we’re already gone. The acceleration forces me back into the seat and I’m thankful for the bum stop. We’re taking it easier now, though, lots of tourists up here and this animal belongs to someone else.

Past the trail heads, lava flows and Cascade lakes, we’re back up to speed. Just the other side of 70 and the right peg begins to slow dance. Another couple notches on the speedometer and the slow dance becomes a full-on hoe down–my foot begins to tingle so we back off. There’s the sweet spot.

Up over another rise, around another bend, we charge forward until I notice the sign for Elk Lake Lodge. The brakes engage and it feels like the earth just stopped rotating. Easing up on the pressure,  we make the turn. Jerking, grunting our way towards the lodge–The Beast hasn’t had its ECU mapped  for the free-flowing exhaust–I can see there are too many tourists. Too many cars. The Beast doesn’t want to stop. Back on the road we find freedom, release, speed and all is right again.

The turn comes up before I realize it–NF40 back towards Sunriver–and  the Brembos up front do their best to stop time again. It’s enough and we make the turn. A mile, two down the road. Summer is running on fumes now. Sunlight  hangs low in the sky, shadows from the pine trees cross both lanes. The strobe effect makes the road…interesting. The Beast doesn’t care. Cruising is not The Point. The Beast relents, though, and we enjoy the scenery.

At a slower pace, I notice the legroom–not quite dirt bike, but really generous, comfortable even. The reach to the handlebars is good, not too far forward…nearly perfect–just a little  long when my bum hits the stop. The Ohlins suspension soaks up the worst of the frost heaves but I notice the twinge in my neck–time to shift positions. I notice my stomach. Sunriver Brewery it is, then.

The Beast makes its annoyance known, jerking and surging through the roundabout as we motor into Central Oregon’s favorite tourist trap…err, destination. Traffic is also not The Point. A close spot, an empty back patio, a bacon cheeseburger. Lunch with a view. I pass on the beer. No need. I don’t buzz much more than this without Consequences. Besides, The Beast is eager to hit the Paulina-East Lake Road after lunch and I need to be present for that.

Strapping back into my gear, the tension, the impatience wash over me. I slide into the saddle and press The Button again. The Beast roars back to life. Mr. Shiny New BMW GS waiting in the next parking space looks right down its pointy beak. “How quaint,” the Wasserboxer mocks over it’s round-rimmed glasses, electronic suspension and fancy water-cooled motor. The throttle twists unconsciously in my hand and we nearly scare the Bimmer off its sidestand. Grinning, The Beast and I herky jerk our way out of the parking lot, away from the tourists, twice ’round the big roundabout and turn south, towards our destiny: the Paulina-East Lake Road.

The beast nearly rears up on its hind legs as we dart onto highway 97, running down traffic. Soon we’ve made the turn and a car and a small supermoto are all that stand between us and glory. We follow for a while and I manage to coax The Beast onto the shoulder instead of giving in to The Beasts urge to pass. You never know what’s just around the next curve up here. Better to let them get ahead.

One minute goes by. The air is electric. Coming up on two minutes now and I push The Button again. Boom and we’re off like we’ve been shot from the catapult of an aircraft carrier. The Beast wants more, begging me to let out more leash, but I pull it back instead. Fun as this is, you don’t belong to me and you’re too special to wad up on the side of a mountain. We carve through the long sweeping curves as if dancing on ice. The Beast knows what I want before I do, moving  telepathically on its carbon fiber wheels. Too soon we’re at the top. More photos. One long last look while  The Beast still belongs to me.

Paulina/East Lake Road Overlook--my last stop for photos with the Commando
Paulina/East Lake Road Overlook–my last stop for photos with the Commando


I’m not ready to go home yet. The Beast is ready for more. But my time is almost up. My body knows it. The odometer knows it–doesn’t take long to rack up the 125 miles my wife paid for. Not on a day this perfect, on a machine like this. We glide back down behind a line of cars. One last dash across the highway and back towards MotoFantasy. I figure out the sidestand this time…it’s all heel. Over beers with Doug I can’t help stealing glances. I know I only scratched the surface but it was enough for me.

Thank you, Doug Watt/MotoFantasy…and special thanks to my wife for arranging it. My ride was a MotoFantasy come true.