All day long, while cycling I worked on composing a title for this blog post. The only problem was that it kept changing as frequently as the scenery. So why choose? Instead, I bring you my collection. After all, that was part of the journey.
False Start – We had great aspirations for taking local roads to avoid the interstate highway. It started out well enough, but when the road turned inland, it also got very steep. And it became a dirt road. A rough one. It was no longer fun. At the rate we were going, it would take all day just to reach The Dalles. Surrendering to the circumstances, we retreated and joined the freeway traffic for 12 miles. Surprisingly, it wasn't bad. There is a lot to be said for eight-foot shoulders and a flat road that never left the water's edge. But you didn't hear that from me.
Battered by the Wind – After 13 straight days of tailwinds – an unprecedented string of luck – we finally had to face the music… er, wind. Right in the face, blowing straight through the gorge. We'd heard about this wind, and now we've experienced it. Cycling directly into it, there were times when I thought I wasn't moving. And it didn't seem fair to have to pedal going downhill. But what was worse were the gusts. Coming around a corner after being sheltered from the wind, we were suddenly slammed by the wind at unexpected moments. I learned to be very wary of its unpredictability.
The Best Winding Road – Although I was happy to be back on a quiet two-lane road, when Rich pointed up into the hills to show me cars scaling the heights, I doubted the wisdom of our choice of route once again. But my fears soon turned to wonder and admiration for the man who engineered this road back in the days of Model-T Fords. Instructed that the grade could never exceed 5%, he designed a series of switchbacks that were infinitely cyclable and commanded amazing views. Historic Highway 30 from The Dalles to Hood River is not to be missed.
We continue to be grateful that we chose this time of year to cycle, as traffic is so light. We probably met fewer that a dozen cars all the way along this road. The twists and turns that we found so delightful would have been a nightmare if we had to contend with heavy traffic.
The last five miles of the road were closed to cars, so we had the luxury of enjoying the nascent fall colors and completing our descent with the road to ourselves. This section also included the Mosier Twin Tunnels, which had become too small for newer larger cars, but were restored for use by bicycles. The fascinating thing is that the two tunnels are end-to-end with just a short gap in between.
At the Pinnacle – I considered cycling the heart of the Columbia River Gorge to be one of the pinnacles of this trip. I couldn't help being excited when we set out this morning, knowing we were finally going to do it. With each mile it only got better, fulfilling all my hopes and expectations. And reaching Rowena Crest at the top of that windy road was certainly a high point – in more ways than one!
For today the joy was truly in the journey.