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Adventure Touring Blog

Clancy Ride Crosses State of Jefferson

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Last week Contributing Editor Dr. Gregory Frazier paid a visit to MotoUSA HQ in Medford, Oregon. The good doctor was stopping by on the American leg of his Clancy Centennial Ride, which retraces the route of the first documented ‘Round the World motorcycle rider – Carl Stearns Clancy.


Frazier had already embarked with riding partner Richard Livermore, aboard their ‘80s era Honda GL650s. They had met up with Irish riders Gary Walker and Geoff Hill, both of the Belfast natives equipped with R1200GS Adventures and also tracing the route of Clancy (himself of Irish decent). I was honored to tag along for the morning, aboard MotoUSA’s KLR650 Project Bike.

The route was slated to follow Clancy’s original course, which more or less follows the path of Highway 99 and I-5. Dr. Frazier noted that Clancy deemed this section of the route the worst he encountered on the entire journey. The good Dr. expected me to be shocked, but bad roads are a source of historical note in our neck of the woods…

A digression now, as I bore all with the history lesson I told Dr. G about the state of Jefferson. MotoUSA’s Medford HQ resides in Oregon, but also within the borders of the mythical state of Jefferson, a region comprised of rural counties in Northern California and Southern Oregon. The regional association finds itself in cultural institutions (for example the NPR affiliate is Jefferson Public Radio), but has gained little attention away from our small corner of the nation. Back in the 1930’s and early ‘40s, the movement gained steam, including a Proclamation of Independence in November 27, 1941. Of course, a couple weeks later with the attack on Pearl Harbor, the country had more pressing concerns than the efforts of some counties to secede from California and Oregon.

But what does this all have to do with Mr. Carl Stearns Clancy? The roads. The deplorable local road conditions and deaf ears of state legislatures to fix them are what stoked the Jeffersonians to secession.

Or at least that’s how the story goes… Dr. Frazier seemed to get a kick out of it, as it added some possible insight to Clancy’s woes 100 years ago.

Nowadays the roads are pristine by comparison. But the notion of droning on I-5 when so much of our local backroads were begging for some action was discouraging. Thankfully, Richard (the fellow with the GPS) asked if I knew of Cow Creek Road connecting from Glendale to Riddle. While I hadn’t ridden the entire way, I faked enough expertise to serve as local guide.

But Dr. Frazier and company must have had their faith shaken in that role after my insistence we hang a right at an unmarked junction. The road surface progressively worsened, and I chuckled when a rotten log stretched across the road. It had been there quite a while by the looks of things… so this right way, was definitely not the right way!

Our group accordioned back together when the paved road terminated into gravel, with several side roads tempting me on the KLR. Richard’s GPS promised an eventual return to Cow Creek if we pressed on – via a long series of junctions with “unnamed gravel road”. Wandering aimlessly on dirt roads, while tempting, was not conducive to keeping a schedule as lunchtime was already past due. And considering the thousands of miles of logging roads that labyrinth MotoUSA’s home confines, I suggested we backtrack a couple miles and take the left instead.

The remainder of Cow Creek made up for the navigation error. It was an unexpected discovery, and my first time on the backside of the near 50-mile route. We certainly made better progress than Clancy did a century ago, who reportedly had trouble tackling 20 miles a day through the mountainous hinterlands of the American West.

So my wrong turn/dead end track only enhanced the authenticity of the Clancy Ride – and I was happy to lend my assistance!

The day half gone, I bid the Clancy quartet farewell as they headed north on I-5 and I headed south. One of the great unspoiled pleasures of riding is the discovering a new road – all the better when it’s close to home.

Follow Dr. Frazier’s progress in the Clancy Centennial Ride here at Motorcycle USA, and on Horizons Unlimited



Post Tags: Clancy Ride, Dr. Frazier, Carl Stearns Clancy
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