Columbia Gorgeous (USA Day 101)
Every inch of Washington explored, it was time to return to Oregon. We re-joined the old Highway 30, which took on even more character this morning with awesome views of the gorge and its surrounding forested hills amongst low, sultry cloud that hung over the summits like a bad mood.
At one point in the creation of this cycle path, the route-makers clearly had an aneurysm. First, we dutifully followed the bike symbol, only to descend around a corner to find ourselves riding the wrong way up the exit ramp of the Interstate. Terrified, we lifted our bikes over a large fence, only to discover that we were now required to get our bikes up a not inconsiderable staircase. Neither of these are too hard for your average Sunday rider, but with our fully-loaded juggercycles this demanded a twenty-minute break/haul/rebuild with a mandatory break in the middle for leftover rice pudding.
The road passed multiple waterfalls, then switched back and forth up Crown Point, where we found a stone observatory covered in uniformed cyclists, all taking part in a coast-to-coast ride for cancer. Fresh-faced and barely a hundred miles into the eastbound ride, as well as being in possession of a catering and luggage-carrying van that followed them around, they seemed in excellent spirits. We waved them off, then wondered where our van had got to.
Ten miles from Portland, I got a puncture on my un-punctureable back wheel, but felt less bad when I discovered a half-inch, demonically sharp roofing tack embedded in the tyre. I’m not sure a Kevlar-clad armadillo would survive that assault. Anyhow, we’ve had more than our fair share of punctures on this trip so by law of averages it looks like we’ll be fine from now on. This was great news, given that the bike lanes between Troutvale and Portland had been helpfully scattered with glass, to give a nice shiny effect.
Portland is famous for its bike lanes. I’ll tell you what: we found some. Unfortunately, without fail they dragged us away from the road we wanted before dumping us back out at a junction where we had to patiently wait for every car in the world to pass before we could re-join the road we’d just left. It added a good hour to our day, and wasn’t helped by an aggressive cloud of grit that slipped underneath my contact lenses and consequently ruined my life. I’m being needlessly negative. No, hang on, I’m not. It was awful.
Things cheered up as we approached suburbia and happened upon a road arranged for cyclists, with no stop signs and barely any traffic. Sticking to this like glue, we found our way to our host’s beautiful house for cold beer and another very great old dog. Did I tell you how much I love old dogs?
We never even planned to come to Portland, yet arriving here this evening feels massively significant. It’s still two days ride from the Pacific, but we’re resting here for a while, getting a few spare parts for the bike, repairing all sorts of wear and tear and doing a bit of sightseeing. Also, I keep hearing about these Voodoo Donuts. Can’t leave Portland without that lip-licking experience.