The Challenge: Ride the premier route called the “Bridge of the Gods” ride from Portland to
Cascade Locks and return.
The other day I took off on a ride that was certainly a challenge. I rode the one of the premier rides of the Great Pacific Northwest the “Bridge of the Gods” ride. It is a very demanding route, depending on which way you start and finish. You can ride it as a century or cut it down at the last moment to 87 miles, as I did. When I first started planning I intended to start by crossing the I205 (Glen Jackson Bridge) travel along Washington State Route 14 to the Bridge of the Gods where I would cross over to Cascade Locks, Oregon, this would then cause me to climb up to Crown Point, a long and steep hill. In discussion with friends it was suggested that I should think about going the other way. This is one time I wish I had not listened to my friends.
The ride started out uneventful, I left the house at 6 am and traveled east towards Troutdale where I picked up the Historic Columbia River Highway. After passing the Stark Street Bridge I started the long and slow climb up to Corbett. Little did I know that this climb was a snap compared to what I found lying ahead, passing through Corbett it felt like they were still sleeping at 7:30am, it seemed too early even for the roosters to be crowing. The sun was just starting to peek over the top of the mountains. It was warm and it felt good. At the top of the hill I stopped and took off the jacket, my first mistake for the day. Not more than a couple hundred meters I again entered into shadow and now an east wind came down the gorge, the jacket went back on.
Starting down the hill my first stop is Vista House situated on the majestic and prominent out cropping of rock called Crown Point. Stopping I took pictures, one cannot seem to have enough pictures of Vista House and views from this vantage point are magnificent. Leaving I started down a long hill, curling around the house I started to gain speed, after the climb to Corbett it felt good to coast my way down the hill. Passing through Bridle Veil the road became a series of long rolling hills.
Arriving at Multnomah Falls I stopped to replenish my water bottles and grabbed an oversized cinnamon roll. Continuing on I passed Ainworth State Park and few small towns that were by-passed by the old highway and the Interstate. I finally ran out of the active part of the historic highway, it now became the abandoned part only accessible to pedestrians and bicycles. Even though the terrain continued a slow uphill grade I was able to maintain a constant speed. Before long I reached a place where I needed to navigate down a series of stairs. With the wheels in the trough, one hand on the brake, the other on the handrail and the seat pressing into my back I slowly descended the steep stairway.
After the stairs it wasn’t long before I was peddling into Cascade Locks it was now 11:00 o’clock and time to look for a place to have lunch. Everywhere I looked I could not find a restaurant that had places to lock up a bike. I ended up at the local burger joint. As I arrived there was a group who had passed me when I had stopped to read one of the historical markers along the way.
As I was waiting for my order a young man and his young son drove up and parked near the place where I was waiting. They got out of the SUV with two mountain bikes on top and went over and ordered. As we waited we started to talk, they had come to Cascade Locks to participate in a cross country ride, as it turned out the ride wasn’t until 4:00 pm. I asked them what they were going to do until then, and man’s son piped up and said that they were going fishing.
I asked the young boy how old he was. He told me very proudly that he was 5 years old and his name was Ethan and his dad’s name is Demetri. Where are you going fishing? I asked. He told me a place that I was not familiar with and his dad told me it was a brewery located near the river and they were going to fish near there.
My order came and I sat down at a picnic table to eat, a few minutes later their number was called and they asked if they could join me. As we ate we got to know each other better. It was a joy to spend time with them and the time passed much too quickly. As I prepared to leave I thanked them for their company and it had been a pleasure to break bread with them. I proceeded to retrace my steps to the bridge where I crossed into Washington.
Crossing into Washington I headed west toward Vancouver. The going was easy for several miles and I was making good time. Then I hit my first hill, as I started to go down the gears my pace got slower and slower. Before long it felt as if I were crawling up the hill, I felt as if I would never reach the top. When the top finally came into view it was a welcome sight. Passing over the top I started to gain speed and race down the hill.
It wasn’t long after the hill when the road started back up again. This time it was for four long miles that took even longer to climb. At one point I stopped to rest and decided to walk the remaining few hundred meters to the top. I realized that I was walking almost as fast as I had been peddling. Again I sped down the hill the wind cool upon my face as I neared my turn off into Washougal. As I got closer to the turn I decided to forgo a portion of my ride and go in a more direct route home.
The map that I was following showed that the route followed the main highway, as it turned out it was more a freeway than just a highway. After passing under the I205 freeway I found my turn directing me to the bike path to cross over the river back into Oregon. As I got nearer to the other side of the river it was like a magnet pulling me closer and closer to home. Now there was only one more hill to overcome and I would be home in less than a half an hour. As I completed my 87 mile trip I arrived home to be greeted by my wife and dog, she directed me straight into the shower. After dinner we watched some TV and then I went to bed concluding a very long day.