The drive over to Hood River is pretty easy with zero traffic: a little over an hour, giving Susan and myself plenty of time to un-pack her awesome bike hauling truck and get prepared at the startpoint. There were more than a few familiar Portland rando faces who'd also made the trip west -- Joshua on his frame which was just glowingly reviewed in BQ, Theo on a brand-new MAP randonneur project bike, and other rando fixtures like Michal, Bill, and Ray... plus more than a few unfamiliar faces, the types of riders who usually finish a brevet two or three hours before me then leave with minimal chit-chat.
A brush fire unfortunately closed the off-interstate path between Hood River and the Dalles, so our day started with five miles on the I-84 shoulder. Not fun by any means, but clean and safe enough. As is often my approach on shitty roads, I pushed hard and fast so I could get off as soon as possible, and I even wound up leading the whole pack for most of that stretch.
That, of course, wouldn't last -- we left the freeway in Mosier, then I eased up for the first climb of the day, up Rowena.
Having never spent any bike time in this part of the Gorge, I took five minutes to use a viewpoint at the top of the climb.
Gorgeous! But also fairly cold -- especially on the winding descent back down to water level. My $1 sparkly gloves did a good job on my hands; can't really say the same about my toes, though, which were quite numb for the first few hours of the ride.
Anyway, we rolled east towards The Dalles, and I reveled in the great scenery.
Every last KM on the day was brand-new to me -- a rare pleasure compared to my well-worn routes through the likes of Ripplebrook, Scio, Birkenfeld, and La Center.
We took a long backroads approach into Dufur, avoiding Hwy 197 for a more scenic approach.
Dufur provided a corn dog and some jojos, but it also heralded an impending bigass climb on NF-44. We'd gained about 3K miles in the first 57 miles, and would do another 3K in about a 16-mile stretch out of Dufur. Ouch.
Susan and Joshua and I slogged up it, but the suffering was over sooner than I had expected. We rolled down the other side of 44 before turning onto Hwy 35, then over Cloud Gap road for a short spur up towards the old lodge.
I had a huge bacon burger in Parkdale at mile 100, then a mostly downhill final stretch got us into Hood River right around 5pm. The burger was just a little bit too huge, though, since we wound up finishing in eight minutes over ten hours.
Then there was delicious end control refreshments:
And even further refreshments at the Double Mountain brewpub, then it was home.
Gotta find a way to use those Dufur/Parkdale roads on a Portland-start ride... but probably not in 2012.