Thursday, March 14, 2013

Velodirt's Dalles Mt 60

Took the day off and rode out to The Dalles from Portland Friday.  After some experimentation with the new not-quite-finished bike path, we caught up with the rest of the gang in Cascade Locks for lunch.  Just riding the route eastbound past Crown Point and into the gorge makes me salivate for summer.

Wyeth hill, Mosier tunnels, up Rowena and back down into the Dalles.  Motel Six.  Dinner with beer.  Beer with dinner?  Every decision in a group of eight is by consencus and begins to wear on my easy-to-unravel patience.  But, alas, these fall in the category of white person problems.  All in all, the group I'm with is super-fun and considerate and ready for anything.
Saturday morning we dine at Mama Jane's.  Eggs and toast and fruit.  Then to the meet up cafe, where 100 other riders are milling about.  Things feel chaotic and I'm glad I brought my own cue sheet.  Off we go, over the bridge to Washington.  This is one of the best parts of the event, riding off with the peleton into the day.
Turning onto the gravel hill called The Dalles Mountain Road, I wow at my progress since last year.  Climbing isn't fast, but not so slow either.  I hang on to the main group for the first several rises.  I pass other riders as often as others pass me.  The descent feels much less scary this year.  My odometer reads 20mph and I feel fine and in control on the rocks.
I miss the turn onto the Mary Hill loops.  Like, really miss it.  I ride all the way down the highway to SR-14.  Ticked off, I stubbornly decide I must go back up and get to the loops.  Trying to text and ride - not smart.  Riding back up the hill - dumb.  Every other text fails, which I don't learn until later.  I end up forcing my riding partner to wait much longer than he should ever wait.

But, all's well that ends well.  We scream by stonehenge, over the bridge to Biggs, quick water stop at McD's and into the headwind, taking turns pulling.  Working hard for almost ten miles, it's finally time to turn south onto good old Old Moody Road.  This road was my first ever gravel experience a couple of years ago.  The first quarter mile is steep.  Really steep.  I still haven't managed to ride that stretch.
Alone for a bit, huffing up the hill, I am thrilled with my fitness level and gravel handling.  So much growth since last year!  Now, if I can just halve my beer consumption between now and the 2014 Dalles ride, I'll be stylin'. 

Teammate "Fool" catches up with me mid-Moody.  We hang out and ride and chat and say hello to the cows in the road. Back to pavement.  It almost feels anticlimactic knowing the ride's near its end.  The valley is calm and the bucolic views peaceful and pretty.  There's barely a car.  So much so that I decide to let loose on the double-yellow.  Line, that is.

Meeting up with everyone at the start-cafe is pleasant.  There's a dude from California giving everyone cans of beer.  People share their snacks.  We start devising a plan for evening food and drink.  We share stories of the ride as if it were last week or last month instead of just now.  The evening is a blur of fun at the brew pub and The Dalles' dark streets and our hotel rooms.  Face masks and toy cockroaches, zombie games, laughing at everything and nothing, our group feels cemented.
The next morning, an hour short on sleep due to the time change, we head back to Mama Jane's for a big delicious breakfast.  A small posse of five endeavors to ride back up the hills, westbound to home.  I keep thinking of us as "our gang" with each personality represented. We take plenty of breaks, sight-see, eat and eat and eat, fly kites and arrive back in Portland just in time for dusk. 

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