Friday, August 7, 2015

Through the Cascades to the Columbia River

Friday, August 7   Day 6  Packwood, WA to Hood River, OR    127 miles, 7500' of climbing

A highlight today was this magnificent view of Mt St. Helens. As I rounded a bend on the mountain road, there it was! We had a rest stop there, so lots of opportunities for photos. The roadway through the mountains was excellent and beautiful, if hilly (but I like the hills).
I did not take many photos during our 85-mile ride through the Cascades. I did take this one, just to show how nice and empty the road was, and how tree-lined it was. As opposed to the other mornings so far, I was with the initial riders when we departed. Riding fast at the front was a factor in not stopping to take photos. It also meant that after the initial 17 miles when the route turned upward, I pulled away and reached the 26-mile rest stop first. The staff was surprised to see me arriving first, since I hadn't before. A number of the strong riders left the rest stop together, but we immediately ascended steep, long climbs and again I pulled away until I saw no one behind me.
Around one bend, I could see Mt Hood, way off in the distance. I'm not sure it's visible in this photo - barely. Interesting to think that tomorrow night we will near the summit of Mt Hood, at Timberline Lodge.
Reaching the 46-mile rest stop ahead of the others, Susan asked if I just wore the PowerBar kit, or did I actually consume their products. I immediately pulled from my pockets a bar and gel, and they just HAD to take this photo!

Lunch was at Mile 73, and it came after 6260 feet of climbing. That amount of climbing again allowed me to reach it ahead of the others due to my strength on the hills. My saddle sore was still a major pain, but somehow I was able to push it to the back of my mind. The remaining 40 miles were mostly downhill or level, and the strong riders easily pulled away from me. 
Now we jump to another highlight of the day, the Columbia River. At Mile 96 I got to see if for the first time. Wow! Love all those wind surfers out there. I then turned west, into the wind, for six miles to reach the Bridge of the Gods for our crossing. This was my first time on the north side of the Columbia. The strong winds were a challenge, but I just kept thinking that as soon as we crossed to the other side, those winds would be at our back for 22 miles into Hood River.
We had a rest stop just before crossing the bridge, and George took this shot of me with that incredible view behind.
Now I'm on the Oregon side, after just crossing the Bridge of the Gods. It was a thrill to be riding over the Columbia! They charge bicycles 50 cents. I always carry a $20 bill, so I ended up with lots of change.
For a little while, we were on this frontage road next to I-84, with the river behind. Then we turned inland and rode up 16% grades on long climbs to continue east without having to ride on the interstate. By then, my saddle sore was really hurting again and I had to slow down and stand a lot to ease the pain. Eventually the side roads ended, and up we went onto I-84 for 11 miles.
I stopped to take this one photo while on the shoulder of the interstate. I didn't really like riding up there, because the shoulder was full of debris, and for about 3/4 of a mile, it was only 3 feet wide and was pretty scary.
Our motel, as you can see, is right on river's edge with an incredible view. I got to relax out there on the patio as I phoned Janet for the first time in days. We could finally catch up on her last day in Clarkston, and her flight home with Tyson (apparently, he was a little devil child). See that bridge in the picture? It would have been faster and with no I-84 riding if we could have just come across that bridge, but they do not allow bikes on it.

Tomorrow is "only" 55 miles (it sounds good to say 72 fewer miles than today), but there is a lot of uphill to Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood. My kind of riding!

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