Cycling is better with a friend

July 21, 2019

I stopped at breadwinner coffee again and sipped a cappuccino while waiting for Nick to stop by. I met Nick about a week ago on the way out of Mossyrock. We’re both riding south, and decided to attempt the Hood section of the Oregon Timber Trail. This won’t be an easy feat.

Nick and I discussed logistics and made a run to REI for supplies. I rode back to Young’s place, packed my panniers up, and headed to Fedex where I shipped 23 lbs (!!!) of gear to Bend.

I was feeling super antsy to get on the bike again. Time was ticking. I made my way through East Portland toward the town of Troutdale. I hopped on the Historic Columbia River Highway and started one of the best joyrides of my trip.

I stopped at a roadside farm stand and bought some marionberries. The berries were so sweet and ripe that they burst in my fingers. Another stop at a lavender farm and I picked up a vial of lavender essential oil to treat myself. A sweeping downhill gave me gorgeous views of the Columbia River Gorge, then captivating waterfalls. The road turned into a paved bike trail that led me to Cascade Locks.

At Cascade Locks, I stopped by a brewery and swallowed a big plate of nachos with a cherry mint cider. I pitched camp among the tents of 30 PCT hikers and fell asleep.

July 22, 2019

Turns out the campsite last night was nestled in between two train tracks, and I was jumping out of my skin all night from the sounds of train horns blaring into the darkness. I packed up and rode along highway 84 into Hood River, cranky because of the fast moving traffic and hills (but really from lack of sleep).

I rolled into town and found a bike shop to upgrade Daisy to tubeless tires. I’m expecting more pointy plants throughout Oregon and California, and going tubeless should help with getting less flats. The guys at the bike shop were happy to help. I left the bike and started wandering around Hood River on foot, stopping at a Scandinavian cafe for breakfast. I walked down to the beach and treated myself to a cup of hazelnut gelato. The heat was building quickly, and I swam in the Columbia River, happy for a chance to cool off.

I picked up my bike and grabbed a late lunch at Kickstand Kitchen. I was chatting with some bike people at the shop next door and a local cyclist, Tim, offered me a spare bedroom for the night. Nick rolled into town and we headed over to Tim and Jenni’s house. We chatted about bikes for a while and shared a bag of cherries.

July 23, 2019

Nick and I headed to Pine Street Bakery for breakfast and gorged our faces on pastries for breakfast. Today we were going to attempt the Oregon Timber Trail, a pretty challenging bikepacking route that goes all the way down Oregon. The route is a mix of singletrack, paved, and dirt roads. We made a quick grocery stop in anticipation for a few days of being out into the middle of nowhere.

The route started up Post Canyon, and we took an alternate start up a horribly steep dirt road. Even my granny gear wasn’t easy enough, and I found myself walking the bike. The road was so loose and rocky that I could barely keep the bike upright. We turned onto a soft, shaded single track trail that was actually rideable on my bike. Unfortunately, the trees thinned out after a quarter mile and the single track turned into ball bearings and we couldn’t walk our bikes without falling over. We bailed onto another steep dirt road and it stayed steep for a while. I pushed my bike up the steepest grade I’ve seen on this tour with heavy effort, stumbling on the loose dirt. Eventually, we took a turn and found a paved road and took an epic downhill. The downhill was contagious and we missed a key turn that was supposed to take us south, and the road spit us out a mere 4 miles south of Hood River, even though we’re already ridden close to 20 miles with thousands of feet of vertical gain. I laughed at how things happen sometimes and we stopped at a roadside shop for huckleberry milkshakes.

Nick and I hopped on my Sierra Cascades route from there. We cycled passed orchards, Mt. Hood hovering above us. I passed a man riding a horse on the side of the road. I was so happy riding along this road. Views of Mt. Hood followed us the whole way. We rode through Parkdale and stopped at a restaurant for dinner and beers. Clouds and wind were building, so we enjoyed a few beers in hopes that the weather would pass over. It did, and we biked a few miles over to a campsite and cowboy camped. This was the first time on tour I’d slept without a tent, just out underneath the stars. I fell asleep immediately after our big 5000’ day.

July 24, 2019

I was tired after our huge day yesterday, but felt excited because I was gaining confidence and fitness. Today was also going to be huge. We had two passes and one giant hill ahead of us. The day started with 16 miles of uphill to the top of Bennett Pass. We grinded through, fueled by a block of cheese and triscuits. One big downhill, then we rode up Blue Box Pass. Phew. We stopped by the only gas station we’d seen in two days and I wolfed down a bag of Kettle chips, a kombucha, and an ice cream sandwich.

The next hill didn’t look all that huge, but we grossly underestimated how beat down we were. I struggled to the top of the hill and almost passed out from the effort. I shoved some food in my face and turned on the dirt road that was supposed to take us to camp. It was another hill, this one uneven and rocky. Utter heartbreak. I walked my bike for the first time that day and rode the wobbly, bumpy downhill to camp.

Summit Lake came into view and we were the only ones there. I rehydrated Cuban black beans and rice for dinner and hid in my tent away from mosquitos. I passed out quickly after another 5000’ day.

July 25, 2019

Nick and I lounged around camp for a while and finally made it out by 11am. We had 13 miles of hard earned downhill first thing through narrow forest service roads. The road was a thin, smooth ribbon through miles of forest. Every now and then we would spot a volcano out in the distance. The downhill ended too fast and we started riding uphill again in the heat of the day. We put our heads down and suffered through the steepest parts, legs exhausted from the last two days. Another insanely steep, fun downhill came around the bend and I topped out at 42 mph, fastest speed yet.

We coasted parallel to the Breitenbush River and I couldn’t stop looking down into the clear, turquoise water. We pulled over and hopped into the river. The water temperature was perfect and I felt relief from the past intense days. A perfect moment. We swam for a while, totally blissed out. Eventually, hunger hit and we coasted down to Detroit, where we swallowed a ton of food and shared beers.

Two beers later, the heat of the day subsided and we started biking uphill to camp. We checked out a few different sites and forest service roads, but the highway noise was obnoxiously loud and we kept riding in hopes of finding a better site. It was getting dark, and we made a decision to pitch a tent behind a diner a bit up the road. It looked like the diner had been closed for over a year, and lights flickered on an off. Not a soul to be seen. It was pretty creepy. I looked into the windows, expecting to see a face looking back. Thankfully, there was not. We fell asleep in my tent, both creeped out by this bizarre spot.

July 26, 2019

Today we were up against Santiam Pass and the eastern Oregon heat. We bounced out of our creepy camp early and spotted an awesome campsite half a mile up the road… whoops. We joked about how nice that would have been last night.

Heads down, we cranked to the top of the first big hill. It was still cool outside, thank goodness. We took a break to brew up some coffee and refuel with snacks. Our weary bodies didn’t feel all that motivated to get back up, and by the time we were back on the bikes, it was hot again. We cranked halfway up Santiam Pass, expecting to see a lake where we would refill on water. The lake was dry. The next several miles involved us stopping frequently to find a water source. Nick scrambled into a ravine uphill from the road and filled our bottles up with filtered water. We painfully cranked to the top of the pass and shared a snack at the top. The traffic became heavier and cars were passing by quickly on a narrow shoulder. I took the massive downhill from the top of the pass, but the shoulder debris and heavy traffic kept me on edge. The traffic didn’t let up, and we had a few big rolling hills ahead. I got hangry and started pedaling uphill like a madwoman.

We turned off on a quiet road that took us into the town of Sisters. I ate a whole calzone and couldn’t move for a bit.

We waited out the heat of the day and biked over to Tumalo. What a total joyride! A tailwind kept me moving quick, and familiar sagebrush lined the road. I felt at peace being in the desert again. It reminded me of Salt Lake. Golden fields and Cascade volcanoes lined the horizon.

At Tumalo, we stopped at a cidery. I bought a flight of 5 different ciders and we chatted with all sorts of people. Before we knew it, the cidery closed and it was dark outside. We biked to a campground, only to find out it was full. Nick suggested we throw a tarp down in between some bushes, and we cowboy camped under the stars.

July 27, 2019

We packed up our bush camp this morning and headed to the actual campground for a glorious shower. I brushed by hair with my fingers and changed into my last clean pair of clothes. Nick and I had been talking about brunch for days, so we headed straight for a brunch joint in Bend, just a few miles away. After brunch we stopped by a laundromat and the post office. I picked up all the mountaineering gear I’d mailed ahead and stopped by a hostel to book a bed for the night. I left all my bags at the hostel and we indulged in the spoils of town: espresso, beer, Nepalese food and cookies.