Monday, July 10, 2017

Revisiting the Columbia River Gorge

I can't remember the last time I rode in the Columbia River Gorge.  March 2014, when I finished my own perm out of time?

This month's ORR 200k was the Hollywood-Wind River 200 (this version matches the cue sheet).  I'd ridden it before, back in September 2011, when I was in MUCH more fit.  But as I'd survived Dayton-Beaver, I figured I'd finish in time, if not in style.

Recruited Michal to ride with me; he and Cyndi showed up the night before, in time for dinner.  Given that the ride was starting at 6am, we'd need to get up at 4am, so early bedtime all around.  The plan was for me to drive to the start with them, and Fitz would show up at the finish (McMenamin's Kennedy School) to join us for dinner and take me home.

(There are no pictures, although it was a gorgeous day.  Sorry.)

We all met at Wilshire Park.  I was the only woman riding.  Hmph.  Checked out the park's facilities, but it was too early and they weren't open.  We'd find something suitable along the way.

Off at 6am, headed north to the Columbia River.  We had a brief confusion at the NE33rd/Columbia Blvd overpass (cue was hidden in the discussion rather than on it's own line), but quickly resolved it and found ourselves at the west boundary of the airport.  I suggested we ride on the bike path, rather than Marine Drive, and we did that whenever possible.  Best of course when the path is on the river side of the road :-)

Into Troutdale, with a brief stop at the McD's (not for food :-) ), and out the Historic Columbia River Hwy (US-30).  It is up for about 26 miles, but not oppressively so.  Michal wanted to turn onto Bell Rd, but I hauled him back.  The mist/clouds got very thick at this point, almost to "drizzle".  I knew it wouldn't last long, and hadn't even packed a rain jacket.

Popped out at the top and dropped down to Vista House, our first control.  From there, we had the fun descent down to Latourell Falls, and kept dropping for awhile, eventually arriving at the gentle rollers heading east to Warrendale, then the less gentle rollers to the end of the road (unless one wants to get on I-84) and the start of the new part of the path to Cascade Locks.  I love riding the path, but prefer it in the other direction.

Hefting the bike down the (50+, with landings every 10) stairs was a bit painful, but we got there.

Ruckel Creek was a shadow of its former self, but still pretty.

We paused very briefly to refill bottles at the park in Cascade Locks and headed over the bridge ($1 toll for bicycles now).  The crosswinds were pretty spectacular, but I got a few chances to look down and watch the bridge deck vanish as I rode along.  The fast boys were heading west just as we arrived at SR-14 on the Washington side.

We continued east to Stevenson, for a food stop at the grocery.  Terrible sandwich - too much bread, and the turkey and cheese were completely without flavor.  Ick.  Then again eastward to the turn onto Wind River Rd, passing through Carson after the turn.

Wind River Rd climbs almost 1000 feet in 8+ miles.  The tailwind wasn't really there.  Passed the RBA lurking in Carson on the way up; she said she got a ride in after we had all finished that part of the route.  We saw 4 or 5 riders headed back, including Kevin L.

Now, I have ridden this route twice before, and knew where the info control would be.  By this point, our bike computers were not agreeing with the cue sheet; I used the road mile markers, and started looking for the control after we passed by mile marker 8.  Ah, there it was (zipties on the road sign).  Saw Michal further down the road, but I was too wiped to yell.  I figured he'd see me and come back, and eventually he did.  Talking with Kevin later, he said he couldn't find the info control either.  Ate a little something, and headed back down.

Now, THAT was fun!  We could see the Oregon side of the river, and the road stair-stepping down back to SR-14.  Then we hit the Headwind.

We paused again in Stevenson for more water.  I think I drank a quart just standing there, and ate a few more things.  We'd have that headwind all the way back.  It was weird, though - it would blow really hard, and then not much; probably mitigated by the trees, and the road curves following the river's edge.  I had been worried about time when we got to the Wind River Rd control, but not so much after the return.  And, indeed, the headwind wasn't delaying us nearly as much as I thought it might.  Another brief pause at Beacon Rock (Michal was ahead and waiting for me.  There was definitely some of that today), then onward.

Lots of wildflowers in bloom on both sides of the river - sweetpeas, lupines, batchelors button, foxglove, and many I didn't know the names of.

At mile 91, the last big climb of the day appeared.  We chugged up SR-14.  Michal, of course was ahead.  I may have walked a bit.  The turn was onto Krogstad Rd, which is unsigned, and probably doesn't even rise to the level of "driveway".  Like I said, I have been here before, and knew what I was looking for.  As it turned out, the fence is gone, and the house is repainted, but the road sign on the other side did say "Riverside", and it was a bit past where the climbing lane went away.

So I was there, but no Michal.  Ok, maybe he'd gone on and would be found further along.  Krogstad is very quiet and very shaded, but no less climby :-)  A bit more walking, while eating a Payday bar, more riding, finally at the intersection with Canyon Creek.  No Michal.  At this point, our texts crossed in the mail.  He'd overshot the turn and waited for me after the turn, then came back.  Didn't find me, but found Kevin, who'd stopped in Carson.  So I texted that we'd meet up at the next control (Washougal Mercantile), and continued on.  And finally, downhill.  A slow downhill to start, but then it dropped a bit more.  After a few miles of this, I found myself at the store, and bought an ice cream bar and a Coke.  The staff hadn't seen any other riders since 2:20 (they were well-trained in the signing of the cards by now).  Halfway through the ice cream bar, Michal appeared, and a time after that, Kevin.  We all had a good sit and eat before heading on.

Michal: "what's it like now?  No more climbs?"  Nope.  Downhill to Washougal, rolling westward, a bit of a short pitch at Ellsworth, and that's about it. (He rode this with me the last time.  You'd think he'd remember.)

Washougal River Road was a gentle descent, only needed a bit of pedaling to keep up a good pace.  Drivers would stack up behind us and then pass with little difficulty; only one yeller.  And the motorcycle that almost side-swiped me in Washougal; you'd think they'd know better.

Though Washougal, through Camas.  The new roundabout after Camas onto 6th/Old Evergreen Hwy is a very welcome addition.  Old Evergreen Hwy has terrible pavement, but it does look like some parts have been replaced.  About 12 miles out, we stopped and texted our respective spouses, and then slogged on.  I should have eaten something here.

Eventually we saw the I-205 Bridge high above us and knew the turn onto Ellsworth wouldn't be far.  Up Ellsworth, up onto the bridge (that was easier), and then, once on the bridge, downhill all the way to Oregon.  Other than riding on the bridge is really noisy (bike path is in the middle of all the lanes), way fun.

We then navigated south of the airport, crossed over Lombard and Columbia, wandered the neighborhoods a bit and finished.  Cyndi was out front looking for us, but we didn't see the RBA, so she watched our bikes while we got our cards signed at the desk (and in my case, stamped; all McMenamin places have delightful rubber stamps).

Fitz appeared, and my bike was secured in the car.  Michal, Cyndi, and Kevin also went off to secure bikes.  We got a table and waited for them to come back in.  The RBA came by and got my card.  After Michal and Cyndi came in, she got Michal's card, and also Kevin's (he elected to just go home).

Beverages were ordered, and eventually food.  Cyndi kept trying to get Michal to split something with her, but he thought he could eat an entire meal himself.  Fitz usually also tries to get me to split something, but he knew better than to try that after I had just finished a big ride. :-)

12:47 elapsed time.  I lost 3 lbs, but they mostly returned.  It will be nice when I am more fit and can finish this ride in less time.  Working on it.