Friday, August 23, 2013

Day 54 Daunted Courage, August 22, 2013

Route: The Dalles to Hood River, OR

Since she started riding with us in Walla Walla, my sister Becky has had eight flats on the rear tire of her bike.  We patched some tubes, replaced others, looked for embedded glass or goatheads in the tire, but could not figure out what was going on.  Before leaving The Dalles this morning, we brought her bike to Salmon Cyclery, where the owner Dave (who is a competitive Master’s cyclist and a volcanologist – how cool is he?) injected sealant into the rear tube that would automatically fill any small puncture.  We were only a few miles out of town when the tire got another flat, despite the sealant.  Frustrated, we made our way back to Salmon Cyclery, where Dave diagnosed the problem: with the extra weight of the panniers, the rim tape was not strong enough to protect the tube from the heads of the spokes, which punctured the tube when the wheel when over bumps.  We replaced the rim tape, and finally got under way at 1:30 p.m.   

We only cycled about 25 miles today, but they were among the most beautiful miles of this entire trip.  We followed the Historic Columbia River Highway, which was completed in 1922, the first paved highway in the Pacific Northwest.  The route has been designated a National Scenic Byway, meaning the road itself is considered a destination.  Most motorists take the flat, efficient I-84 that runs beside the Columbia River.  We were passed only occasionally by vehicles as we made our way up the long, winding climb in the shadows of towering basalt cliffs.  The climb was physically taxing, but we were rewarded for our effort with stunning views of the Columbia River Gorge from Rowena Crest.  From this viewpoint, we could easily discern the transition from the rocky, arid countryside we’ve been cycling through for the past week to lush, wet tree-covered landscapes typical of the Pacific Northwest.  It was almost as if someone had drawn a crooked line down the steep slopes to delineate the two radically different climates.  The dry bunchgrass prairies to the east were replaced with lush grasslands, dense fir trees and trickling waterfalls to the west. 

We pedaled through the small town of Mosier with plans to take the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, which is designated for cyclists and pedestrians only.  However, I missed the turnoff for the trail and led our hardy crew up a steep, 2-mile dirt road climb to nowhere.  I finally realized my mistake, and we walked our bikes back down the steep, slippery slope.  Becky, Sho and Saya did not complain about the wasted effort, but I was annoyed at myself for missing the turn -- it was pretty obvious once we found it.  Today was one of those days when you just don’t cover much distance, despite your best efforts.

The views of the Columbia River Gorge from the trail were breathtaking, but Sho and Saya decided that their favorite part of the ride were the Mosier Twin Tunnels.  Near the tunnel entrance, the wall is engraved with the words: “Snowbound: Nov 19 – 27, 1921” next to the names of people trapped in the tunnel by a blizzard and avalanche.  Locals from Mosier eventually rescued the people, arriving with flasks of brandy to lift their spirits.   

I chose to lift my spirits with a Belgian blonde beer in Hood River, where we spent the night, hoping for more efficient travel in the morning.

Here are some pics:
With Dave after diagnosing the flat tire drama



With my sister Becky at Rowena Crest

Sho, Saya, Becky


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