Day 3: Viento State Park, OR to White Salmon, WA - A quick trip around the Columbia River Gorge - CycleBlaze

August 31, 2013

Day 3: Viento State Park, OR to White Salmon, WA

After a nice breakfast of hot cereal and coffee, it was back to the Interstate to marvel at the variety of roadside debris. I think it was the longest stretch of freeway riding we've done, but in the morning hours the traffic wasn't bad at all.

We stopped at a supermarket in Hood River for a mid-morning snack. I like the recent trend of placing one or two patio tables near the entrance of the grocery store. It's a great place to take a break when there are no parks nearby, and the people-watching is superb. There's something primal about gathering food that brings out our true natures.

Downtown Hood River was nice but a bit annoying to ride in. There was a lot of traffic for a weekend morning. We looked for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Headquarters, but we never found it. It was time to move on to what was touted one of the highlights of the route: a decent length of old highway that has been converted into a multi-use trail.

A volunteer at the trailhead office (since when do trailheads have offices?) struck up a conversation with me. He was asking about various parts of the route, and I was just about to show him our maps when I realized that most of them were already posted on the office wall! I got the impression that while Oregon is working hard to promote bike tourism in the Gorge, it hasn't really taken off yet. Of course, there is still more infrastructure to be built before many people would consider the Gorge to be a biking destination, but I think they are taking the right approach. Get people to come and see for themselves how filling in just a few gaps would make a huge difference in the quality of the route.

The trail is nice, and has one magnificent viewpoint, but to be honest, it was a bit underwhelming. The sections of old highway that are still open to auto traffic just feel grander and more authentic. I was expecting the non-motorized sections of road to still be a road and not just a trail.

Soon enough, we were back on genuine road, and it snaked up the bluff for a few miles. It was slow going, and we were getting hungry. We finally topped out, and while I was snapping a photo of a Highway 30 road sign, a bicyclist going the opposite direction crossed the road and offered to take my picture. His name is Mark and he is involved with the movement to make the Gorge more bikeable. It's great to find that there are so many people in the Hood River area who are bicycling advocates.

By the time we made it to The Dalles, we were famished and could think of nothing more than finding food. We passed up what looks like a fantastic new facility, the Columbia Gorge Discover Center. We'll have to check it out next time we're in the area. We stopped at the first Mexican restaurant we saw and -- dare I say it? -- gorged ourselves on chips, enchiladas, beans, and rice. This restored our spirits and supplied us with the vigor to tackle the remainder of this long, hot day or riding.

We were prepared for the worst with the river crossing, but it was surprisingly easy. We rode the sidewalk, which was serviceable, and there was no wind of any kind. Our arrival on the Washington side marked the halfway point of the trip, and we celebrated the return to our adoptive homeland.

Highway 14 has good shoulders along this stretch of road. Traffic was very manageable. We were hoping for a tailwind to make up for some resistance we encountered earlier in the day while riding east. It never materialized, but we made good time anyway. We stopped in the town of Lyle to see what we could scrounge up for dinner. It was so hot that we decided to buy a large soda and sit down for a little while at a table next to the store's air conditioner. The owners encouraged us to fill our water bottles with ice from the soda fountain. We eagerly accepted their offer, which paid dividends further down the road.

We rolled into White Salmon with enough time to set up camp. There is a hostel in White Salmon, but we called ahead of time to find that it was all booked up. The RV campground we chose as an alternative was also full. However, the manager, once he understood that our "bikes" were bicycles, not motorcycles, realized our predicament and gladly took our $25 in exchange for some space in the tenting area. It was another spot near the railroad tracks, but at least this time there was no crossing that required the engineers to blow their whistles. Being able to take a shower at the end of this day was like heaven on earth.

Our route from Viento State Park, OR to White Salmon, WA
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A fun, loopy climb from Hood River to the trailhead
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Panoramic view of the trailhead
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A lot of day trippers on this trail, not so many thru-riders!
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An historic guard rail and an incredible view
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A rare sliver of agriculture along the old highway
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We jumped at the opportunity to have our picture taken together by the road sign
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Surprisingly easy river crossing at The Dalles
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A view of Mt. Hood and Hood River from the Washington side of the river
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Today's ride: 59 miles (95 km)
Total: 133 miles (214 km)

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