Thursday, September 16, 2010

Portland to Hood River by:

It started off at 10:00 a.m on Tuesday, 14th. Nerves had me up by 7:00 a.m. since this was my first time doing this ride. It was also the longest ride I've done thus far. Oatmeal, coffee, George Carlin stand-up segments on YouTube -- digestin', ampin', laughin.' Decided on a backpack instead of my panniers. I don't know if it was a bad decision or not. I'm used to riding with a heavy backpack; I'm not used to riding with even lightly loaded panniers. As I was pumping up my back tire it deflated -- a rip at the stem. I was briefly thinking "hmmm, this what's to come for my journey?" Not being much for superstition, I just changed the tube and got on my way.

The first leg is one that I'm quite familiar with: my house to Troutdale. I live very close to Marine Drive, which takes you straight to Troutdale. I frequently ride from my house to Troutdale and back, so this was easy enough. Usually, Marine Drive is loaded with cyclists since it is loaded with bike paths off of the road, but this morning there didn't seem to be a anybody out. The weather was a little cold, a little misty, gray-as-shit. In some ways, it was the ideal condition for a long bike ride. However, I had my mind set on 80 degrees and sunny, as all the weather reports indicated. Couldn't see it quite yet, but it was early enough in the day. Arrived in Troutdale where the Historic Columbia Highway starts and made my way into the Gorge.

Though this trip through the Gorge by bike was a first for me, it's not exactly unfamiliar territory. I have taken many car rides through the Gorge with Rich Bachelor, and even the day before we scouted the Historic Hwy and made mental notes of the route. That was possibly the best thing I could've done in terms of guiding my bike route. When you have as poor of a sense of direction as I do, it's nice to have an instructor who has one as fantastic as Rich Bachelor's. Yes, it is a relatively straightforward route along the Historic Hwy, but there are also lots of side roads that could easily confuse unless one was familiar with the landmarks along the Hwy.

Troutdale to Crown Point was a gradual incline. Admittedly, I was having to stop a few times and catch my breath. Sometimes it felt like I was barely moving. I stopped off at the "Womens' Forum." I believe that is what it is called. It does have a pretty fantastic view of the Gorge, so I took a picture:

When I took the picture it seemed like it came out terrible. When downloaded to the computer it seems not so bad. Still, it looks like everybody's Gorge picture. The generic postcard. I continued on up to Crown Point and then started the long descent into the meat-n-potatoes of the Historic Hwy. This was the fun part. Traffic was low-and-slow and there were many sights to see. As mentioned before I have seen these parts before, just not by bike. I took very short stops at each of the main sights: Latourell, Multnomah, Bridal Veil, and Horsetail Falls. I didn't take many good shots of my surroundings, but I found this sign at Multnomah Falls:

The other Prope-Dope? It makes you feel like your head is gonna literally explode, and it burns off all the hair on your face...but it's a sicky high, bro!

Horsetail Falls is almost majestic, and yet I couldn't get a decent photo of it. This is what I got:

The sun was just beginning to break through the gray cloud-cover. And though it can't really be seen in the photograph, it made these falls, in particular, look spectacular. Just beyond Horsetail Falls, the hwy went alongside this amazing little field that was just beginning to get the sun. The forecast was accurate, and now I was beginning to feel it.

After this section of scenic overload, the hwy eventually takes you into Cascade Locks. The 'Locks' is a sleepy little town that connects Oregon and Washington by the "Bridge of the Gods" -- a toll bridge that apparently charges bikes to cross. Underneath the bridge were fresh fish "vendors," who basically had coolers of the catch-of-the-day. Every time I've been through this area I see this patch of fish-pushers. It's probably fantastic. Maybe one day...

After Cascade Locks there are apparently a couple of options for continuing on to Hood River. I took the Herman Creek Hwy route. Unfortunately, I didn't take it all the way because it seemed like it was going in another direction, so I thought that maybe this was the part of the trip where you're forced to get on to I-84 and ride the shoulder for ten miles to Hood River. Well, turns out that I got on the highway prematurely, and I was on it for 16 miles. This was definitely the most unpleasant part of the ride, if not for the trucks riding the white lines, then for the broken glass, ripped tire-casings and other shit lining the shoulder. I briefly stopped off at the exit for Starvation Creek, which is not too far away. Sat at a picnic bench and ate a snack while an older gentleman with a white handlebar mustache stood outside his truck and puffed on a cigar. Got back on the freeway and continued the last five or so miles to Hood River. At this point, I was definitely feeling the weight of my backpack and the way it was forcing my neck into a weird position to support it. I kinda couldn't wait to get off of the fucking freeway.

Got into Hood River at about 3:00 P.M.; the day was just about at its peak temperature. I parked the bike, then had some coffee at a shop that was either called "Fresh Coffee," or "Ground." My friend who works in White Salmon, just across the way on the Washington side, was my ride back to Portland. He got off of work at 4:00 P.M. The perfect amount of time to have some coffee and reflect. The ride took me about 5 hours total, and it was approximately 70 miles. It was fun, glad I did it. I picked the perfect day, too. Yesterday and today decided to rain and it looks like rain from here on till...

In the days before my trip, I had thought that I could maybe just turn around after getting to Hood River and come back to Portland. Well, by the time I got there I was definitely feeling it. I need a few more long bike rides before I attempt to go there and back. Still, I plan on doing it eventually.

Remember: No Smoking Propane.

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