EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was written by Urban Adventure League’s agent on the Dry Side, Aaron aka Dr. Squirrel. I could have written my own report of this trip, but Aaron got to it first, and honestly, I don’t have much to add. Notes and addenda by me, Shawn, are in italics. Everything not in italics is by Aaron. Got that? So if you ask me what it was like growing up Mormon, I’ll know you aren’t paying attention!
Dennis and Shawn (that be me!) drove out to my place on Friday night. They wisely stopped at Double Mountain for pizza before arriving at the zoo at my house. I poorly balanced being the hostess with the mostess with being the father without the bother as I encouraged Shawn and Dennis to keep drinking beers between bouts of shouting at my kids, bathing them, and getting them to bed. One thing about parenting; it’s glamorous.
After a fine night’s sleep we had some morning coffee and I made my breakfast standby sweet potato hash. I loaded bikes into my car for myself and my brother Devin who is visiting from Utah and we all drove to Petite Provence to meet the rest of the gang. There we met Bruce, Chris, Vince, and Holger, a really nice guy who was on his first The Dalles ride with our group. We had pastries and coffees and bathroom breaks and then set out by car to the start of the ride.
We parked at the take off of McCoy Road from Fifteen Mile Road with high hopes for no rain and mild temperatures. (The weather forecast was iffy, to put it lightly.) Immediately we began climbing McCoy Road which is nice gravely warm up climb followed by a great little descent. They had recently graded the road and the shoulders were nice and smooth. It was a great way to start the day.
We continued on happily and uneventfully until about mile 10 at the crossing of Fifteenmile Creek where we encountered an elderly man wearing a bright orange hunting vest and holding a shotgun standing on the side of the road. We passed by waving politely. As most of us began the climb up the other side we heard two shots fired. Chris was hit. Well, not really, but apparently the guy shot right over Chris’ head to hit the birds he was hunting. Chris seemed to be okay, but his remarks to me the rest of the day were a bit more cutting than usual. It remains unclear if these events are related. 🙂 (I was right there as well when the shots were fired. Not cool. It’s common sense that the guy should have waited for us to pass before firing. And legally one is not allowed to hunt in Oregon right on a public road.)
At the top of Robert Markets Road there is an abandoned school house and we stopped for a short rest and snack break knowing the longest climb of the day was just a small distance up ahead. The view from here is pretty spectacular, but there were clouds to the west blocking Mt. Hood, but Mt. Adams was still visible. After a short break and short descent we arrived at the beginning of our long climb. It was about 8 miles and climbed about 1500 ft. It was long, but the grades were manageable and we actually had some sunshine on the way up.
At the top of we took our lunch break and enjoyed the view, which included more dark cloud cover blowing in from the west. Also notable there is a cattle chute up there with a warning sign for proper fish cleaning protocol. ??? Lunch ended abruptly with no coffee being made (Sorry Shawn) but plenty of whiskey being shared (Thanks Shawn) as a few rain drops began to fall. We put on more layers and I was very careful to say “no” when asked if we were going to climb that really steep-looking section of road up on the next hill. I said there was a little more climbing, but we were at the start of the the long descent.
A couple hundred yards down the road I realized my mistake and turned onto that really steep looking road which turned out to be really quite steep after the long climb earlier, but thankfully, pretty short. However, I was also wrong about being at the start of the descent. There was still plenty of up and down riding along the top of the plateau before we hit Hastings Road and really began descending.
Hastings road is a dream to descend and everyone had a lot of fun jumping off little rocks and bumps and watching Devin appear to explode in a cloud of dust when he hit a patch or really deep sand at speed. Luckily, he’s a nimble younger brother and jumped off avoiding any real catastrophe.
The Hastings Hill Gang continued on down the road at an invigorating clip until finally power sliding onto Fax Road. Fax Road continues the descent and passes a Rice Elevator structure as well as other interesting and old looking farming buildings. Pretty cool. As Fax road begins its climb out Shawn, Chris, and I heard a dump truck coming up from behind. As it got closer he honked a couple of times and we made sure to get all the way to the shoulder. Chris stopped and half dismounted his bike to let the truck pass. Even with the honk-warning the truck sped by passing within a couple feet of Shawn and me speeding up around the corner. After the truck flew out of sight a pick up truck coming the other way stopped to talk to Chris. The driver was a woman saying the truck driver was her employee and she apologized for his poor and dangerous driving. We really appreciated her concern and happily no one was hurt. It’s always irritating when motorists do dangerous things though.
After making our way up Fax Road we found ourselves back on paving and this was the end of our gravel adventures for the day. We followed Emerson Loop Road to Eightmile Road and then cruised back to our starting point. Eightmile is an amazing road and was brilliant after the tiring ride we had been on so far. The overcast afternoon sunlight was gorgeous on the recently rained on trees with their bright autumn colors. The temperature was still perfect and the winding, slightly down hill Eightmile road was the perfect ending to a great gravel ride.
After packing the bikes into the cars we met in “bustling” downtown The Dalles for Mexican food at Ixtapa. Sixteen oz XX lagers were $3 and many were had. Chris’s chile con carne was super spicy. My chile verde was good. Bruce’s buritto was enchilada style by default (no tin foil wrapping). Vince’s mole was okay (but hey, it’s no Red Iguana). I don’t know how good the other food was but I saw enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos. (I had spinach enchiladas, they were okay.) The super nice employees know me well and I’ll be damned if they didn’t give me a 20 oz. beer on the house. So cool to get free beer! We surmised it was a thank you gesture for finally going to their restaurant without my four kids, but we aren’t totally sure. Over dinner we had great conversations about Judaism and Mormonism and baptizing dead people (ask me later if you want to know how it works; I used to be Mormon).
Then it was time to get the hell out of Teh Dallez until the next dry side ride, which hopefully will be in a few months. Or another year. We’ll figure it out.
My addendum: It was indeed a great ride, and about the maximum level of gravel on one ride I think I’ve done. As it was, even though the grades were not horrendous (max 7%) it definitely wore me out. Only the last section along Eightmile was paved (with a little paved in the middle of the ride) and it was a welcome relief, I don’t think I would have enjoyed more gravel at that point. The views were great, but I wished it was clear when we got to the top. The Bantam Rambleneur did well on paved and unpaved, but as tradition, I was in the back for the most part.
It was 43 miles, and maybe 6 hours of riding.