Naturally, it was raining on Washougal River Road. I think it must always be raining there. They were out of Atomic Fireballs at the Washougal Merchantile. They no longer sell them at the Corbett Store. And they've been out of stock at the Troutdale General Store since last summer. So, it was a cinnamon-less climb up the hill to meet back up with SR-014 and continue our eastbound plod into the gorge.
They taped a bracelet on my wrist at the Bonneville Spa, which has a mall-like culture. There are many rules, many signs and many officials there to enforce them. I tried to relax anyway, sinking into the outdoor jacuzzi in my cute new red polka dot swimsuit. Drying off and putting wet clothes back on is a heartbreaker. I tossed my suit at the valet and asked them to mail it home for me. We'll see if it arrives.
Now, on to Stevenson and the Walking Man Brew Pub. Dozens of the tour riders were enjoying beer there. Yes, beer. Before the riding for the day was even done. One wonders if an activity loses its scandalous status if everyone does it. We counted the hills to Home Valley Camp and arrived to learn of an "assigned camping area" for me and the so-called "party-ers". Everyone else, including those who had stopped for beer, got to choose their own sites.
Instead of organic chaos and going with the flow and folks mingling and chatting, we were herded to a mandatory meeting and told what's what. They even suggested that newer riders try their hand at pacelining for the very first time, especially if they had no experience! What better venue to learn this dangerous skill than with strangers on loaded bikes riding a narrow wet freeway shoulder while semi trucks blaze by?
Rain continued to haunt us the morning of day two. We rose and packed and ate and departed camp. The lack of tailwind foretold the future lack of headwind, since we'd be heading back westbound late that day. This was the best weather day of the tour. Rolling hills, sweeping views, waterfalls, rock faces that knock your socks off. Brown barren land with a lot of heat and climbing and finally, Mary Hill Winery. Again, there was a crowd of tour riders there. We danced, drank wine and enjoyed the sunshine. Down the hill to Stonehenge, over the bridge and west to camp.
The Kid is quite a character and a personal favorite of mine. Here's a man who knows how to ride bikes. His bad-assness is surpassed only by his storytelling and raucous party attitude. People like this reassure me I am not the most extreme person on earth. Nowhere near. We left him behind, as he was too sick to continue, and rode up Rowena Crest and the Mosier Tunnels. Dropping down into Mosier, we were surprised to find the traditional ice cream stop closed for business. This led me to notice a little store next door I'd never seen before, which had the elusive Atomic Fireballs in stock. I bought a big bag full.
We picked up a new rider at Hood River, who experienced no less than six flats during his short stint with us. Some tires are simply not tires. The various tire discussions made me painfully aware of my over-opinionated, or at least over-expressed opinions, on these round rubbery things. On to camp and another assigned spot. Bowling balls and beers and s'mores by the fireside. Laughs and reminisces. Plans and dreams for a future tour of our own.
The adage "better is the enemy of good enough" was repeated many times by a good friend who joined the group for her first ever loaded tour. She was a constant spot of sunshine for me, and many others. Her cheery attitude, especially as she struggled to learn how to assemble her tent and load, kept me afloat. It reminds me to accept things as they are.