Day 15 – Portland OR to Horsethief State Park, WA – May 23

Daily miles – 100. Total miles – 947.
To clarify, we are on the Washington side of the Columbia just accross from The Dalles, Oregon.

I am writing as we lie dry and full in our tent with rain pounding down. Pounding rain is the mascot for the day. We got up early at Mich’s apartment, ate some final pastries from Pearl, and packed up in record time. We said goodbye to Mich at 8:15 and started off into a drizzling rain. She was driving beside us when her husband Toru called from Japan. Part of our motivation for visiting Portland was to see both of them but he is on tour with Warabi-Za. We said a quick hello, and then the sky totally opened up. So, we rode a few more blocks and then ducked into a cafe for coffee and a little more fuel and wait out the rain. It stopped, around the time we sat down, and started promptly as we finished our second breakfast. So Earl (the weather god) – this is how it’s going to be, eh? Fine…we wore all our rain gear and made our way across town to Troutdale where the Historic Columbia River Highway begins.

There are two ways to get through the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side – you can either take Interstate 84, or the HCRH. Hwy 30 swaps between the two. The HCRH was created back in the early 1900s and is generally very scenic with pretty gradual grades and lots of nice overlooks. 84, on the other hand, is pretty as Interstates go, but just ploughs up the shore of the river and remains quite flat. Most of the HCRH is open to auto traffic, but a few spots are only open to bicycles. We planned to take the HCRH pretty much the whole way to The Dalles. From Troutdale, it started out with a gradual climb which we did almost entirely in pouring rain. It wasn’t too cold though, but our boot covers failed (as they always do) after a couple hours leaving us with very squishy feet. We got a pinch flat – arghhh – near the top, but it happened right next to a abandoned wall-less garage. It was dry under the roof, so we ducked in to deal with the flat and also adjust the derailleur. I bought Mr. Tuffy liners in Portland yesterday (note to Sam – originally planned to get them but shop told me they aren’t made small enough for our tires, which was not quite the case since I found them in Portland). We had decide we would wait until getting a flat before bothering to put them in, so we did it then.

After the top of the climb, we went down these amazing figure 8 switchbacks. The engineer who designed the road was commited to maintaining a maximum grade of 5% requiring these swooping curves. Very beautiful, but with our very worn brake pads all wet, we kept it slow through the descent. We passed beautiful waterfalls, and vistas out into the gorge to the north. There was a light headwind but no howling wind in or out as there often is.

IMG_0157.jpgwet gorgewhen the sun comes out, yard sale!  Still in the gorge
We got a short respite from the rain so pulled into a picnic area to have lunch. Once we got everything out to eat, the rain started again. So we ate with hoods up, rain falling all around,and once we finished, the sun came out and we were able to stow our rain gear for a while! Earl was making us pay for the beautiful weather we had all up the coast. Thascool. Fair enough.

We had sun for a couple hours and dried out – except for our socks! – and ended up on a massively steep but short climb on a side road. We both went anaerobic we think but made it up. After the side road we were relegated to the Interstate for a few miles before the HRCH started again. Just as the clouds moved in, we got another rear flat! This time, we were brought down by office supplies – a staple was sticking straight out of the tire and it had pierced the Tuffy. Sweet. Then the rain really started again. We decided to blast up the freeway to Hood River and duck in for coffee and a pastry. Checked email and saw Scout’s message – no worries on the Ice Cream, and I’m glad the symbolism resonated with you about turning from 101. Thought of you and Sankars and coach a lot today since last time I was out in lots of rain was Alaska with y’alls!

The locals were all marvelling at how strong it was coming down and we were again fully soaked. We decided to stay on the freeway for efficiency and blast for The Dalles – if i looked clear, we would go for the campground, if rainy, get a motel. The last 20 miles from Hood River to The Dalles went really quickly and I asked Chandra to make the final call on what to do. She pushed for camping which I concurred with. I was being tempted by the candy of a dry motel room, but knew we didn’t really need it. We got into camp after crossing the river and getting a nice cloud-shrouded view of Mt. Hood. It was a little late, but we had just enough daylight for me to lube the chains and change the brake pads and Chandra made a kickin’ couscous curry with fresh carrots and peppers we brought from Portland. Right as we started to eat, it started to rain again, but our camp spot was already buttoned down and the tent set up. We donned the gear, ate, and jumped in the tent. Chandra went right to sleep and here I lay, typing with the sound of rain on the tent. We bought this Bibler tent for assurance of dry nights like this – satisfied so far! So happy to be right here and ready to join Chandra in sleeping.

I have to give a shout out to Brady first though – for teaching me the patience to analyze derailleur behavior and diagnose it while riding. I’ve never been good with derailleurs, but riding with Brady a few months back I learned how to really reason through what needs to be done. Today, I couldn’t shift into biggest cog, but the Flight Deck told me I was on it, an also could click past smallest. It took me a couple miles of riding and thinking through it to realize it had to mean the cable was loose. Sure enough, I stopped to find the cable had come out of its little track and a quick reinsertion solved the problem. It’s knowing how to analyze the problem combined with a full realization of self-reliance that had been allowing me to troubleshoot and handle maintenance on the bike this trip. This is a new set of skills for me, but the are developing. Brady got me on the path. Thanks broh!

So the rain is lightening up and it’s almost 11, so I’m off to slumber. Tomorrow we ride along the Columbia on the Washington side. Hoping for tailwinds and clear skies! Signing off . . .

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