bike touring

Blast from the Past:Gorge-Dalles-East Tour 2017 Wrap-up

35038335842_080ea3ef2d_oNote: Blog housecleaning! I had a few unfinished posts in the Drafts that for some reason or another I never completed. Here’s a post about my only week-long tour of 2017, the Gorge Dalles and East adventure. The tour had its good moments and its bad moments, but overall I’d say it was okay. And it’s nice to read about a summer tour in mid-winter, eh? 🙂

Overview: This tour happened from June 4 through 11th, 2017. I took a bus out to Multnomah Falls first, then rode east through the Columbia Gorge to past The Dalles. After crossing the Deschutes River, I turned southeast, crossing the John Day River at Cottonwood Canyon State Park. I made it as far south as Condon. Daunted by a damp forecast and more climbing, I ditched my original plans and decided to head north to Arlington, Oregon. From there I headed west along the Columbia River to Stevenson, Washington, where I caught a bus home.

35139121125_dca0226ed9_o.jpgLet’s get the bad out of the way: The biggest bummer was not completing the more ambitious loop on the Columbia Plateau as planned. The 30 mile slow grind of a climb out of the John Day River canyon on Day 4 sapped any enthusiasm for more climbing, which is what the rest of the ride promised. I feel a bit foolish, as I could have looked closer at the cumulative elevation figures for my plotted route. But somehow I thought I was ready for that adventure despite a winter of not much riding.

And this was the first short tour that I thought about scuttling not once, not twice, but three times en route! The first time I thought about it was on Day 3, when the climbing, heat (90F), and sun made me concerned for my health. But I pushed on, to got beaten up by Day 4’s climb. I put in a call to my friend Aaron in The Dalles, asking if he’d be willing to pick me up in Condon and bring me to The Dalles where I could figure out a way home. He was willing but hesitant, and I decided to stick it out. Then while battling the wall of wind heading west through the Gorge, thoughts of sticking my thumb in the air to hitch a ride tempted me. I persevered, but it really was close.

Speaking about the rerouting: My biggest screw-up was the attempt to ride “Rattlesnake Road” in order to avoid several miles of I-84 west of Arlington. It looked like a through route on my Delorme Atlas. The road started out good, with beautiful scenery, but then it simply petered out by a wind turbine.  I had to turn back and ride every inch of 84 I hoped to avoid. And to add salt into the wounds, the I-84 riding was into a fierce headwind.

35039788581_990408a129_oThe so-so: The camping and lodging was a mixed bag. I ended up staying in a hotel twice, which was not planned but appreciated since it got me out of some wet and/or windy weather. The hiker/biker campsite in Cascade Locks was nothing to look at (and very close to the UP tracks), but it had a great view of the Columbia River and was stumbling distance from Thunder Island Brewery. I finally got to stay at Cottonwood Canyon State Park on the John Day River. This was decent, though the hiker/biker site was so sad and forlorn I opted to spend an extra five bucks for a regular site. LePage Park at the confluence of the John Day and Columbia was a nice surprise, especially after battling a fierce headwind for much of that day. But the last night of camping in Bingen at an RV park behind a minimart and real close to the train tracks was not fun, esp. since it was so expensive!

35199052965_b7d8c095db_oAnd now the good: It was my first week-long tour in a long time, and it felt to get out for that long. While it’s no real long tour, it gave me a taste of being on the road for a long stretch of time. After about five days I get into the “I’m living on the road” mentality. But because of the mishaps outlined above, I definitely wasn’t that interested in staying on the road any longer than I needed to this time out.

And as always, the scenery is great out this way. The first part was through the Columbia Gorge, always nice. The scenery on the Columbia Plateau was also beautiful, especially if a big mountain like Mount Hood or Adams was in the backdrop.

If there was any big benefit to this tour, it was that I got to see a part of Oregon I hadn’t explored much. The riding around Gilliam County (between Condon and Arlington) was great: wide open scenery, quiet roads. I need to explore this area at some point!

When you have a moment, you should check out the full set of photos from this trip on flickr!

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