|Jul 27th 2016, 10:07 PM||#1|
Columbia Gorge Tour 2016
Gorge Tour 2016 – July 22, 23
THE canyon has been calling my name for some time now, and the last time I was up in the gorge with the Daytona, I had to muzzle the whimpers to go play as the guys in the coffee group had opted to head south for the day instead. (This was largely due in part to their very recent encounter with some rambunctious locals north of the border.) Anywhoo… I promised them I’d make every effort to come back up again this summer and do some more riding. As soon as I returned home, I started digging through my calendar to find a decent weekend. That one wound up getting changed, but in the mean time I’d been chatting with JB several times about the roads up there, she said that she’d love to go check them out as well, so it only made sense to find a weekend that worked for both of us and drag her up there along with me.
Dates were set, and all the roads I wanted to show her started swimming in my head. Usually, I’d just slab it up there, but she’d mentioned how much she really enjoyed the Hood River Valley last time she and Bob were there, so I decided that we’d take the scenic way up there as well… which was a nice challenge for me to dust off the Mt. Hood National Forest road cobwebs while planning. Thanks to the winter season mapping restrictions, it lead to a conversation with Eli The Ice Man which gave me a nice option to the general route I was looking at. Huge thanks Eli, as it turned out to be a beautiful little part of the journey (I’ll cover more of that later), and added a hint of adventure.
Friday – Day 1, 198 miles – Route: Albany/Detroit/Ripplebrook/Clear Lake/Govt Camp/Hood River/The Dalles.
After meeting up in Albany, JB and I started our voyage on Hwy 20 heading east for a short stint to Hwy 226 up to Scio and Lyons. As it was still the workweek for most, there were plenty of log trucks out, but most of them were headed the other direction. There were a couple that got a little cozy with the center line, but didn’t stray too far over. In Lyons, we opted for Lyons Mill City Drive, over Hwy 22, but eventually had to join the line of traveling boxes for the 10 mile stretch between Mill City and Detroit. We took our first break and topped off our tanks for the next portion while we were in Detroit. As we were chatting about the next section, a BMW ADV biked pulled alongside us and inquired about our trip. He was on a slightly longer adventure – traveling from New Mexico to Canada. He had just recently ventured “a little” off path to go visit a friend out in Hermiston, and was exploring some of our amazing roads. His trip through the Mt Hood National Forest included a few unpaved roads, as well as some that we would soon be traveling (no mom, we didn’t share our path with him…. very general, just noted the comparison as he listed where he’d traversed).
Ready to roll
Soon enough, we were on our way again, heading up NF-46/Breitenbush, which pleasantly had almost no traffic. Just before the Ripplebrook Ranger Station, we stopped for our second break at the intersection for NF-57, and chatted with a nice couple that was pouring over a map, trying to figure out where their group was likely camping at, as they hadn’t been where they were expected. This was the start of the section that Eli had suggested, and assured me it was paved all the way through, but this couple was certain that we’d be traversing over about 4 miles of gravel. JB and I both said it would be fine if that was the case, we’d just take it easy. They were only aware of where we were starting out (there at the intersection) and that we were joining up with Hwy 26 eventually… there’s loads of options, and the most direct one did have gravel (which I was already aware of, thanks Google!).
Taking a break at the 57 intersection
From here, it was a little sketchy inside my helmet, having not been up there in the forest for many years, as well as the signs notoriously being set back from the corners (and sometimes facing the opposite direction), I was having to pay a great deal of attention to every intersection in the direction we were needing (that would be “right” or “left”, in case anyone needed a little giggle). Overall though, the road was fabulous. Despite the occasional sawed tree, and some other debris here and there, the pavement was in pretty decent condition. We did hit one little bit of gravel, just a couple miles from where we’d stopped, but it was very short. However, the drop from the pavement to the gravel was pretty significant, and took on a vision of a cartoon cliff stretching further down the closer I got. It was enough to make me swear loudly, with my eyes scrambling for options. We wound up hugging the jersey barrier that was dividing the detour from the lane. There was all of about 8” of somewhat level transition along the edge. From 57, we shifted onto NF-58 out to NF-2660, which I’d spent the last 3 miles wondering if I’d read the little map numbers correctly, or maybe had a typo, as we’d gone by a 5880 road which was also paved, and on the side we needed, which could totally have been maybe misread on the map – we kept going though and soon enough we came across the 2660 I was looking for. Luckily I spent several years of my youth wandering around up in that forest, so I’m still somewhat familiar with how the trail systems link, giving at least a little confidence that I won’t get us totally lost if we did miss a road or get turned around. I’d also loaded the maps to be used offline, just in case I did get to a point of needing to reference a visual (I just realized though, that a hard copy map was one thing I failed to pack). The following road was simply stated as “the next road to the right”, as there was nothing listed on the map for it (and there’s no sign posted either…since there’s no name). Turns out, there’s a gravel one just before it, that wasn’t on the map, which again made me question whether I’d researched every inch of the map while routing it. Nothing like turning onto a road that you’re uncertain whether it’s the right one or not, and not having any way to confirm it. It was fairly short though, and soon enough we came up on NF-42, which is right where we needed to be. Somewhere to the immediate north had been Clear Lake, although I didn’t see any of it. 42 was a quick little jog over to Hwy 26, which we took northbound to meet up with Hwy 35. This entire 40 mile section, we saw 2 vehicles…. TWO! One was parked at a split in the road, the other was pulling out from crossing and headed the other direction after we went by. Since the road was a single lane most of the way, it was hard to feel secure that there wouldn’t be someone barreling at us, so it was good that we didn’t have any encounters, but man… we sure could have had some fun! Despite the cut tree debris, rocks, occasional critter, and pot holes – the scenery and general ambiance was beautiful and serene.
We’d been climbing in elevation quite a bit through there, and by the time we got to Hwy 35, it was getting pretty chilly with some angry dark clouds overhead. Mother nature decided to play nice though, and there was only a little mist in the air – enough to feel a chill and see wet spots on the road, but not enough to hamper our spirits. Shortly after getting onto Hwy 35, we pulled off for a view at the White River crossing, which has suffered some pretty brutal beatings from the mountain in the past years – it’s quite a sight when realizing that the swath of open land was due to heavy flooding. Hwy 35 was pretty uneventful, the paving they’ve done over the last decade was appreciated, and traffic wasn’t too bad either. As we started dropping into the Hood River Valley, the clouds started thinning out and making way for the sun.
White River Pass
After stopping for gas in Hood River, we ventured onto the I-84 and received the traditional “welcome home” from the wind – which was especially brutal, as JB wasn’t used to it, and I was still suffering from a kink in my neck that I’d been dealing with all week. As we approached Rowena, I decided to tuck in closer to the hillside and take Hwy 30 into The Dalles. That would not only block some of the wind, but also a little more fun than the freeway. JB had really enjoyed that little 7 mile stretch, and was delighted when I told her we’d be doing it again in reverse the next morning.
Once we were checked into our room at Cousin’s Inn, we buzzed over to Casa El Mirador for some amazing food. After dinner, we changed into our suits for some pool and hot tub time, then strolled over to the lounge for a nice evening drink before turning in for the night.
Saturday - Day 2, 332 miles – Route: The Dalles/Rowena/Mosier/Hood River/Lyle/Klickitat/Glenwood/White Salmon/Carson/Cougar/Vancouver/Albany (whew!!!)
The day started with coffee and breakfast at the Riverenza, and somehow we were the first to arrive (I’m traditionally late to coffee). Quixote was the first to pull in, just before JB and I headed inside. Next to arrive was Jackal’s eldest, Flaming Beans – with a permagrin still attached from his recent track day adventure. Sugar Kitten joined us a bit later, and then unexpectedly, Buffalo357 came in with his ever beaming smile. Everyone else seemed to be tied up with chores or vacations, but at least I got to see some of the old gang. The usual conversations about where they’ve been, what trips they’re planning, and what bikes they’re currently oogling over continued for about an hour before everyone started to get the throttle itch. The guys were wanting to jump right over to Washington and hit Wind Mountain Rd, so they headed out, while JB and I initially stayed closer to town.
Since it was just the two of us, and I hadn’t received any confirmations that we needed to meet anyone in Carson later, I decided to add in a short detour up and around Scenic Drive to get us started. We made a quick stop at the top for a pic from the viewpoint at Sorosis Park, and JB was already having fun. Down the other side of the hill, I gave a quick “beep-beep-brap-brap-brap” as I went past Black Dog’s place. Back into town, we next headed west a couple miles to Cherry Heights, which turns into Brown’s Creek Rd. Being on familiar roads that I grew up driving felt so great – no wondering what was around the next corner, and whether I had the right speed or position to be ready for the unfamiliar. Aside from the full size pickup with trailer in tow that decided to pull a u-turn at the hairpin where the two roads merge (my first swear of the day), there were a couple of turkey vultures that waited till the last minute to skedaddle, and of course the token suicidal squirrels. It was a good start to the day though.
Coming back into the west end of town again, I REALLY wanted to squeeze 7-Mile Hill Rd in, but with the other desired roads, it would cause doubling back, and we were going to be logging quite a few miles already. So, instead, we made our way to the historic Hwy 30 and headed out to Rowena. The day had started off breezy first thing in the morning, so it was nice to take this stretch again, instead of the more exposed (and boring) freeway. Approaching the notorious curves, I wondered how many bicyclists we would encounter on the short trip up to the top, fortunately we saw very few and they were conveniently not in any of our lines for the corners. JB was grinning when we stopped at the lookout for the scenery – it’s a very tight road, but super fun…and we managed to hit an extremely rare day that there was no gravel in any of the corners. And then there’s the views from up there… always gorgeous. It was clear and windy, but warm enough to be comfortable. After several pics and pointing out the Lyle area across the river, where we’d soon be playing, we hopped back on and continued down Hwy 30 into Mosier.
Views from Rowena Crest
I-84 with a head wind of 35mph or so can be a bit daunting, but we only had to endure it for 5 miles, and while she didn’t exactly enjoy it - JB took it like a champ. A quick stop for some gas in Hood River, and we were setting back out… next up, another first for JB – a long steel bridge over a windy river. As with all the other challenges faced, she did great. Receiving a thumbs up that she was doing good at the end of it, we turned east for a bit on SR-14 (now in Washington). The wind was noticeable, but at our backs – so not as bad. Opting to get off the standard highway, we veered away from the river a little and took Old Hwy 8 at Rowland Lake leading us to what is still my favorite road. I almost forgot to look for it, as I was enjoying myself and just toodling along, but as I came up to the intersection, there was a bit of unbridled giddiness. When I came up in the spring, I didn’t get to visit this road, so it had been nearly two years since I’d been to my happy place. JB watched me do a silly little seat dance before jetting off on the road that feels like it was made for my bike. Whoever designed it, was an avid driver or rider – that’s for sure. Anyway…. enough fawning over this place. Following a long straight stretch at the top, we turned east on Klickitat Appleton Road which leads down into the old logging town of Klickitat. Just before town, there is a gravel pullout with some astonishing views of the Klickitat River and valley. After finding decent spots to nestle the bikes in where the kickstands would be happy, JB took off her helmet and immediately requested whether we could do that again, with gleeful delight. Had we not had a couple hundred more miles in front of us, it would have been a very easy “YES, LET’S GO!!!” of We spent some time chatting and taking in the views and discussing the next couple legs of the route.
Here? Nope. Here? Nope. Ok…maybe this will do….
JB’s Canyon Road Happy Face
Onward we must. A few more miles down the hill, we merged in with SR-142, meandering through Klickitat and Wahkiaous along the Klickitat River. Climbing in elevation on the single lane (two direction) portion of Klickitat Canyon (still 142) can be fun, as the corners are all rated right around 25mph and linked together beautifully…. But that ever-present nagging issue of the possibility of an oncoming car kinda stifles the fun some. This day, there was a little more traffic than I usually see as well, so either way we were going to be taking it pretty easy. I appreciated the pickup in front of us, partially as a buffer and warning to other cars, but his passenger was also nice enough to have pointed out some turkeys hiding along the side of the road.
Cresting the top of the hill, we would be turning off onto the Glenwood Hwy, and made a quick stop for a picture of Mt. Adams before heading back down yet another canyon. This one though has open views, two lanes, and a decent line of sight through most of the corners. I remembered about half way down that this was the very first road that I’d ventured out on my own when I first started riding and took a second to acknowledge how much more comfortable I am now (that road scared the pee out of me back then with my big, heavy, lumbering Katana… but it was a very good one to learn on and keep working at). Up the other side of the canyon and back into the trees, we enjoyed the lack of traffic, beautiful views of the farms, Mt Adams and Mill Pond, before turning off onto Lakeside Road, just before Glenwood. Now… for years I’ve looked at doing this road and have included it on my routes, but never managed to see it zip by, opting to just continue on into Glenwood where the signs point out the direction. I did see the sign, set back off the road, this time though and well… we discovered possibly why none of the other rides have included it in the past, haha. More adventure!! Ok, it wasn’t much to write home about, but we did encounter a few miles of gravel, with some heavy washboard in a few places. JB managed to pick a few better lines than I did and stay out of the sloshy stuff. What I did encounter wasn’t all that bad… just a little squirley was all.
At the intersection where it meets back up with the Glenwood Hwy, I looked at the miles we had to go till our next stop and we opted to take a break there in the shade, as we had about another hour to go. I hadn’t really built in the general rest and photo op spots on my list, as I was wanting to leave that open for us to decide along the way. Since I also hadn’t made any formal plans for lunch, and it was somewhere around 2 in the afternoon, we opted for a snack while we were there as well. Lunch was kinda penciled in for either Glenwood or Cougar or somewhere in between. We were still really enjoying ourselves, but the ambitious route, and knowing how far we still had to go till home was starting to set in a little. Plus… we both needed to pee. I couldn’t remember off the top of my head whether we’d tie into the SR-141 at the right place, but there were some minimarts and rafting companies along the road that we could stop at. Sure enough, BZ Corner was right there at the intersection and we made another quick stop before turning south and heading down toward White Salmon.
Getting back onto SR-14 and heading west this time was a bit brutal. The usual gorge winds pick up right around 1 in the afternoon. Since it had already been windy early in the day, that meant that it just intensified it that much more as the afternoon wore on. By the time we were down there, it was ripping at a good 35-45mph, and the activity on the river flaunted it. The whitecaps are a good indication, but there were hundreds of windsurfers and kite boarders out there shredding it up. It was amazing that they weren’t running each other over. I’ve grown up seeing busy windy days (my previous boss used to cut out early if the right conditions presented themselves), but I’ve honestly never seen so many people out on the river all at one time and in the same location. We both wanted to stop and watch them, but we were running about an hour and a half over my loose time estimates as it was, and still had another loop to go, plus getting home, so we had to settle for quick glances from tightly tucked positions.
By the time we got to Carson, we were both a bit wiped out, and after discussing our options while refueling, we decided to double back into town for a bite to eat and a decent recouping rest before setting off on the last leg. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and we’d only had a couple quick snacks since breakfast. JB spotted the Blue Collar Café just a few blocks back, so we pulled in and enjoyed a nice meal and some iced tea. It was the perfect pick-me-up. Service was friendly and quick as well. There was some discussion as to whether to head up the hill as planned, or start cutting down to the south, but the only way to cut down was to fight more of that wind all the way into the Vancouver area. We opted to continue on, feeling more energized after eating.
Sailing up Wind River Hwy, that damn nagging feeling occurred again (and plagued me till I got home and could check the map). It’s been a bit since I’ve done this loop and I not only had the right turn listed on my directions cue, but I remember it from the other times I’ve been up here. Right about where it felt like we usually turn, there was road that was reminiscent of the one I was watching for but only said “Old Highway”… um, ok? I slowed for a bit, looking over my directions and scrambling in my vague memories, while wondering if we should turn around. Instead, I continued on, thinking if I recognize something or not, it will tell me whether we went the right way. We were still on the main highway, so the only loss would be time. These thoughts continued to hamper my brain until we came upon the Carson National Fish Hatchery…nearly 10 miles later. Finally!! Something telling me we were on the right path. Good thing too, because the next turn was right after that... although, nothing on the signs matched up to what I was looking for. Nothing about NF-30, nor Meadow Creek Rd, which added to my ever grinding wonder where I missed something. The only thing helping was that the sign that was posted said something about Wind River. Crossing my fingers (two or three mistakes in a row can be hard to fix when there’s no signal, and you were silly enough to leave the maps at home), we zipped up the sweeping curves, gracefully swinging left to right and back again. Soon enough, the tension and questions eased, as the scenery started looking familiar… confirmation that I hadn’t gone astray. Curly Creek came up on our left much sooner than I remembered (just means I was having fun) and we turned off for the last 2 miles before McClellan Overlook – a great viewpoint to see Mt. Saint Helens from. As we pulled in, I recognized the bikes in the parking lot as the other folks that had been getting ready to leave the café we had lunch at down in Carson. They were again getting ready to leave, and a couple other cars came in for quick pictures. Within about 5 minutes, a familiar Tiger and some followers pulled in – it was Quixote, Beans and J!!! I figured they’d have been home by then, but apparently they’d been playing all over in the forest, and had lunch in Randall – so they were on their way back to The Dalles by then. We all sat around chatting and relaying where we’d been for the day, and what fun we were all having.
Mt. Saint Helens from McClellan Overlook
It was so nice up there that day, it was hard to pull ourselves back onto the bikes, but there was more road to cover, and time waits for no one. As the conversations were winding down, I went over the next let with JB, warning her that it can be pretty rough through the initial section. She laughed and said “you never tell me till right before we’re on it!!” Well… yeah, guilty – but I have my reasons. Continuing down the rest of Curly Creek, we hit NF-90 (melding into Hwy 90) and started into the notoriously jarring path, even with the most careful line picking. As it was getting late in the afternoon, the light dappling through the trees didn’t exactly help matters any, but we managed to make it through unscathed and not too much worse for wear.
In Yale, we veered south on SR-503 through Chelatchie and down into Amboy, where things got a little confusing again, due to poor signage. The road curved to the left, and seemed like that was the main route, but most of the cars were continuing straight (including several other bikes). Without a sign specifying which direction continued the 503, I pulled over at the little store on the corner and pulled my phone out to get our bearings. With about 40 miles left till Vancouver, and some bums starting to hurt, we wound up taking a quick break before getting back on the road. While we were sitting there, a local had walked up to the store and asked in passing who was faster out of the two of us. I shrugged and said, “we don’t really pay much attention”. I’ve been developing a huge pet peeve lately, as people more and more seem to be taking it upon themselves to translate words into shit that’s not said. Rather than chuckling and walking on, he tweaked that peeve with a reply of, “oh, so you’ve never tested it out then…”. Helmet response: No dipshit… I’m just not a douchebag. Actual response: “I didn’t say that”. He finally went on about his way, and we rolled out. (The correct road was the bend to the left, btw)
Battleground came up soon enough, and we were supposed to be stopping for gas somewhere along here before getting to Vancouver. My route had us staying on the 503 until we got down to SR-500, but I was seeing signs for I-5 South to take SR-502. Decisions….decisions. There was gas at the turnoff for the 502, so I figured that was as good of a place as any, and I could compare the routes. With a full tank, I pulled forward out of the way and consulted the map. The 502 went straight over to I-5, which could help us gain a few minutes – IF there wasn’t a bunch of traffic. JB was a little concerned about how late it was getting and how long we’d been on the road (it was 7:30 by then). We decided to hit the 502 and chance I-5. If it was stacked up, we had other options. Originally, we were to take Hwy 99W when we got to the Tigard area, but we decided that if traffic wasn’t bad, we’d just stay on I-5 and slab it the rest of the way to Albany. Traffic was indeed light, and we buzzed through the metro area without any slowing.
Not much to report from I-5. Traffic stayed decent down into Albany, not too many dinks out there that evening. I followed JB into Albany to make sure she got home ok, as well as have a chance to say goodbye and thank her for coming along for the weekend. I wound up hanging out there for about an hour, resting my bum and back, then hoped back on for the remaining 20 miles home, which I arrived at around 10:30. So, we’d been on the road for just over 12 hours, but a glorious 12 hours it was.
Thanks again JB, it was a great time!! And to the TD guys – always great to see you all.
Until next time….
|Aug 3rd 2016, 07:16 PM||#4|
Something tickled my brain earlier, and sure enough.... out of all of that, and making sure to cover all the roads on our route, I managed to leave out the actual name of my favorite road - hahahaha!!! Canyon Road. (Perhaps I was unconsciously trying to keep it low key so it isn't abused or defiled).
|Aug 4th 2016, 12:25 PM||#6|
lascivious on that road.
They're just simply scandalous.
|2016, columbia, columbia gorge, gorge, tour|
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