Three Speed Camping in the Gorge Report.

This past weekend (June 3-5) was my Three Speed Camping Trip for 2016! We had our first one in 2015, and this year I decided to have it in conjunction with Adventure Cycling Association’s National Bike Travel Weekend.

I’ve gone out to Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia Gorge MANY times for bike camping over the years, on the average of 2 to 3 times a year, so I’m not going to talk that much about the specifics of riding to Ainsworth. But I will talk about what made this particular trip unique:

  • Heat! The last time I was out here in March, it was cool and wet. This time, hot and dry, with a high hitting 100F/38C BOTH days that I was out there! Biking in heat was not fun, but we got going home as early as possible on Sunday, so we beat most of the heat then. Most of.
  • Sickness. I came down with a cold on Thursday. I originally planned on riding out to Ainsworth on Friday night, but decided I should recuperate at home instead, heading out on Saturday morning. That was probably a good call.
  • Bus! One of the sticking points of car-free travel in the Gorge for so long was that there was no practical bus service on the Oregon side.* That all changed on Memorial Day weekend with the inauguration of the Columbia Gorge Express, a bus that runs from Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Rooster Rock State Park and Multnomah Falls. And it has space for three bikes! This service only runs during the summer and only Friday to Sunday (for now), so I wouldn’t normally be able to use it on my typical mid-week excursions, but Saturday I could! Sure, call it cheating, but I wanted to “pace myself” since I was recovering from a cold AND would be riding 20 miles round-trip from Ainsworth to Cascade Locks later in the day. Besides, I have ridden to Multnomah Falls many a time in my life. From the falls it was just a four mile ride to camp. So easy! All that for $5!
  • Beer! Oh sure, there’s always beer with camping. But this time we actually got to go to the fabled Thunder Island Brewing in Cascade Locks, a 20 mile roundtrip ride from camp, 75% of the ride on bike path! Of course, the wisdom of drinking a bunch of beer on the middle of a 100 degree day and then riding bikes is dubious, but when the idea was proposed during cooler months, it sounded great!
  • Bike! I’ve had the Raleigh Superbe “road ready” since March, but this was the first camping trip with it. I’ve done three speed bike camping trips before, but it was with the Raleigh Wayfarer.** I originally thought I’d use two panniers plus my smaller Carradice saddlebag (Nelson), but since I’d be taking the bus (which may be crowded) and ended up camping for only one night, I decided to cram it all into my Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag. It worked, but pushed the limits of the bag. The riding was fine, though I still need to tweak the handlebars and do some other adjustments. The three speed handled the two-and-half mile climb from Latourell Falls to Crown Point, averaging a 5% grade. Here’s to more three speed bike camping!
  • People. Last year, we had only three people: myself, Steve, and Tim. This year, we doubled attendance, adding Vince, Drew, and Kurt (who I never saw because he was only around for Friday night.) As far as I know, everyone had fun, and would do it again!

*There’s a bus that’s been running on the Washington side for a long time, but the only thing until now on the Oregon side is a twice-weekly bus from Portland to Cascade Locks, Hood River, and The Dalles. It skips over all the attractions along the old highway, though.

**And on last year’s Three Speed Bike Camping Trip to the Gorge, I really cheated and took my Bantam, mostly because the Wayfarer had an issue right before the trip, but also so I could test the Bantam for camping, since I’d be on a tour shortly afterward.


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