October 8, 2006
I wake on this Sunday morning to the sound of Joe’s boys running around upstairs. They’re playing Legos. I make my way up there, and there’s coffee on the pot for me. We go over my planned route once again – Joe makes some suggestions on how to ride out of Portland, and I’m on my way.
Downtown everything is quiet in the morning. People make eye contact, say hello, good morning, smile… you’d never know I’m in a big city. I ask about nearby places for breakfast, and I’m directed to Roxy’s, “The only place open this early.” It’s trendy with pictures of movie stars on the walls, Princess Di, a Tommy Boy poster, etc.
The first page of the menu is filled with nothing but different coffees, cappuccinos, and teas. I have two biscuits with gravy, and they hit the spot. I hear the song “Flowers on the Wall” from Pulp Fiction, and look up at the big rainbow flag hanging above the doorway.
I ride by plenty of shops and bars on my way out of the city. I pass two large bookstores, one of which is supposed to be the “best bookstore in America,” according to Joe.
While going through various residential districts, it begins to rain. It starts light, but soon becomes steady. The ten day forecast from Eugene called for no rain at all. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the Pacific Northwest, it’s never trust the weatherman – there will be rain.
A woman jogging down the street throws me a smile, and I momentarily feel better about the wet stuff coming down. I remember that the Eagles-Cowboys game is on today. In this flood of recollection, I also recall that today is a four year anniversary. On October 8, 2002, I climbed Mt. Katahdin in Maine, finishing the Appalachian Trail. Well now, here’s two great excuses to duck into a bar for a beer. The rain is a third excuse, but I’m tough and ride on.
A few miles later, I see a bar with large windows (Good for watching parked bicycle), and a sign that says “Best Phillys in Town.” A few minutes later, I’m eating a Philly cheese-steak, sipping a Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and watching football. I see nothing about the Eagles, and figure maybe it’s a night game? Rats.
The rain stops before I leave the pub, but soon starts up again. It will start/stop for the rest of the afternoon. I ride east along the mighty Columbia River, and find the historic highway that runs through the gorge.
This is a sweet ride. The way it’s constructed reminds me of the Blue Ridge Parkway, with arched stone guardrails, turn-offs at dramatic viewpoints, and scenic, winding beauty. It looks like work by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
I meet two young men on horseback – in the rain – who say they’re following the Lewis & Clark trail. My bike is spooking their horses a little, and I ask about riding horses on the shoulder of the road. They say they like it because you see so much more than you would in a car. Sounds familiar.
The damp weather and random encounter with folks on horseback has me feeling adventurous. In my bright white jacket, I fancy myself The White Rider, like a chapter out of a Tolkien book. But my ride is all black – that won’t work. These are some of the silly things I think about all day.
The road climbs to the top of the gorge, with great views over the river. Then it wildly descends until you’re down by the water – big river on my left, big rocky slope on my right. I see amazing waterfall after amazing waterfall. They’re so tall and narrow, like something you’d only see in South American rain forests… like in Colombia, maybe.
Throughout the day I see probably 5 or 10 VW buses. I’ve seen more of these vehicles in the past few days in Oregon than I have in my whole lifetime in Pennsylvania.
The historic highway ends, and becomes a narrow strip parallel to I-84. There’s no more traffic, and it’s suddenly like my own little bike path. A steep hill rears up, and I’m not afraid to admit that I get off and walk, pushing my bike.
The sign at the top validates it – 12% grade. I follow this narrow road/bike path for a few more miles, and reach the town of Cascade Locks. This town is also a stop for Pacific Crest Trail hikers, as the trail winds directly through here.
I set up in the public campground, and cook cajun chicken flavored Ramen with a can of Hormel ham. The combination works pretty well. Now typing in my tent, I play the radio and discover that there is another anniversary – John Lennon’s birthday tomorrow. The local station had a listener’s poll to vote and determine the best Lennon song, drawing from his Beatles and solo material. Tonight they count them down. Would you believe Imagine is the #2 song? Can you guess #1? The answer… in tomorrow’s entry. 😉 Life is good.