We were just about halfway done with our tour and we already had one slightly amusing anecdote about how our group was described along with a less fortunate experience that almost marred our trip. Despite the highs and woes, the waters of Lake Takhlakh had purified and rejuvenated us, so we felt ready to complete the remainder of the tour.
We stopped by Takhlakh Lake one last time before departing and it was a pleasant start to the morning. We spent the early morning on FR-23, which was an amazing forest road where Brian had an educational moment amidst all the rad riding:
As we rode out of Lake Takhlakh, I was happy to get onto the ‘famous’ Baby Shoe pass, popularized by that one 650b tire. As my Grand Bois Hetres (Full Disclosure: Boyz on the Hoods does not receive any commission for shilling for companies) rumbled through the washboards, I looked around for a nearby person to complain to. Fortunately the wise Dave was nearby and I muttered “damn washboards, why do they even exist?”
Much to surprise, Dave new exactly why they exist and proceeded to educate me on the physics on how they are created. While the reason behind washboard creations isn’t particularly interesting, it did make me remember some things I enjoy about bike touring and long bike rides: riding in the middle of nowhere, hanging out with friends, and talking about nothing.
So the next time your boss walks behind you and spies you reading a Boyz on the Hoods ride report, you can talk about the educational merits of this blog and how it makes you a more complete and well-rounded employee!
After getting a full forearm workout from the washboardy roads, we were back on solid pavement and cruising along. The group stuck together (i.e. Topher decided to ride with us “slowpokes” because he was out of tubes) and we looked back to get one last gorgeous view of Mount Adams. The group had agreed that seeing Mount Rainier on our second day was impressive in its own right but it was the slightly smaller Mount Adams that seemed to make a more lasting impression. The remote roads and the unobstructed views of nature seemed to make this portion of the ride a much more enjoyable segment.
We stopped by a nice little cafe in Trout Lake, WA and it was a nice little oasis. The backyard of the cafe was spacious and had a tetherball court, a badminton net, some game boards and multiple patio chairs. The group spread out and basked in the sun before enjoying our meal.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful, and it wasn’t until we were nearing the Washington/Oregon border that things began to ramp up in excitement. I’ll let Nick take the role of storyteller for this next portion:
It all started with a small green “CARSON” town line sign in the distance. Downhill and into a strong headwind, the group pushed hard in a single-file formation similar to those fast lead-out trains seen at the end of a pro tour stage. Topher was on the front, just as in the several days prior, setting a rapid pace and gunning for another of his many “wins” for town/city/county line sprints.
“He’s been winning these all along…” I thought to myself while sitting fifth wheel “..and he’s not getting this one!”
So off I went, poked my nose into the wind and laid the hammer down, rocketing off the front and catching the peloton by surprise. Three hundred yards, two hundred yards, the pavement on Wind River Highway was moving rapidly under my tires, and I briefly peeked down to see 32.2mph on my Garmin. I realize my 70lb, fully-bagged, dirt tire touring bike just doesn’t move like a skinny tire bike does.
Soon the length of a football field is all that exists between me and success but Topher is gaining fast and Brian is joining in on the party as well. I give it one more big push, endure a little more pain, ignore the wind, then all of a sudden I hear a “zoooom” and the Topher-Train steams right on by me at full tilt. I sit up, conceding defeat, thinking about how much better an upcoming snack could have tasted with a win.
We regroup and pull into the Wind River Market across from a wood mill operation. The location is clean and well merchandised, with the girl behind the counter engaging many of us in conversation. As with other previous stops, nine guys with bikes and gear tend to consume the curbside, and we were on full display, some removing clothing that earned stern stares and comments from the locals. I’m not sure we all felt it at the time, but the vibe at the stop made us feel unwelcome.
Maybe it was the lack of blood from the sprint, or the headwind, or the toll of long days in the saddle. Maybe the glare from the gruff mill workers in the patchwork pickup truck or the group of young guys packed into the sedan. It wasn’t the warm welcome we were used to but it was a good preamble to the seven remaining miles that existed between Carson and our campsite.
After consuming various sugar-filled treats, we headed back out into the stiff headwind on the aptly named Wind River Highway en route to downtown Carson. The bad vibes continued as we soon encountered several motorists who yelled out their interpretation of our sexual orientation and several large trucks that squeezed us onto the curbs and into open parking spots through town. What happened to our open roads and kind greetings? We keep the pedals turning, single-file simply for our safety, and not nearly as playful as before. Soon we find ourselves spread out, riding in several small groups, and merging into the Lewis and Clark Highway. Motorists increase their speed, the shoulder gets narrower, and our anxiety increases which quickly snuffs out any conversation between us. We all sense the danger and work to get through it as quickly as possible.
Soon we drop into the Hood River area of the highway where we’re treated to beautiful mountains with water surrounding us on all sides. An old rusted train bridge sits in stark contrast to the green and blue, just as we bike in contrast to the two-lane highway. The imminent danger of speeding cars and trucks void any enjoyment and the headwinds start to hit gale force levels. Nathan, one of the most positive and genuinely unselfish people I’ve ever met, pops around our group and gets on the front. It’s obvious that his time in the Bay Area wind has paid off as he taps out a solid tempo. He rides with confidence and as if the wind is non-existent which brings a new calm to the group. The last few miles of highway go by quickly and we soon find ourselves regrouping at the entrance to the Bridge of the Gods. Only 1,854ft of steel truss cantilever bridge exist between our current location and the taste of beer on our lips.
The Bridge of the Gods connects Washington and Oregon and our trip across it reminded of the scene from Stand By Me. Sure there wasn’t a train or anything behind us but it was simply terrifying to look down while riding over the bridge and see the Columbia River peeking back at you. As I looked around at my peers nervously travering the bridge, I couldn’t help but notice Carlin had a big fat stupid grin on his face as he was waving his camera around to capture the photo above.
After crossing the bridge and only wetting ourselves a little bit in the process, we came to the toll booth on the other end and realized we owed a $0.50 toll fee per cyclist (or pedestrian). We begrudgingly paid and rode another half mile in Oregon before being immediately greeted by bike lanes welcoming us into the city and directing us to our location. It was a nice contrast from the stares and heckling we had just experienced on the Washington border by Carson.
After arriving in Cascade Locks, we quickly set up at a campground which only had slightly better ambiance than the RV park that we stayed at in Packwood. Why were we all stupidly excited to be in Cascade Locks? Well, months prior to my route planning, I had come across this video by The Path Less Pedaled:
The owners at Thunder Island Brewing greeted us as we rolled in and were really stoked for us to make the trip out to check them out. They had ample outdoor seating had a gorgeous view of the Columbia River and the Bridge of the Gods that we had just escaped. It was an amazing way to end the day and it’s an experience that I would highly recommend.