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Kennewick, WA to Portland, OR

posted Oct 19, 2009, 4:13 PM by Paul Gareau   [ updated Oct 20, 2009, 7:36 PM ]
Yes, believe it or not, it's a new journal entry! Let's jump right in...

Friday, September 11th, 2009
Kennewick, WA to Plymouth, WA (Paradise Park)

I wanted to make the most out of my hotel room, so I was up until about 3AM updating this site and researching my route. After 5 hours of sleep I was up to get my "Free Hot Breakfast", which was actually pretty good. The hotel had do-it-yourself waffle makers, along with all the usual continental breakfast stuff. I figured for what I paid for the room, helping myself to some fruit and rolls for later wouldn't hurt anyone, so I stuffed my pockets and headed back to my room. After packing up, I was back online in the lobby taking care of more internet chores and reserving my rental car for my drive around Washington. At around noon I finally finished up and got on my bike, which had a flat rear tire, probably from a shortcut I took to the hotel the night before. I fixed the tire and headed across the street to the supermarket, feeling like I was pulling twice my normal load. A quick inspection revealed that my trailer had a flat tire too! I'm not sure how I missed it before, but as with the bike tire, I pulled out a few thorns, and replaced the inner tube.

At 2:30PM I was finally on the road. It was in the 90s and the road I had to take to get around the interstate might as well have been straight up. Once I made it to the top, I had a downhill all the way to Plymouth on the Columbia River, which is where I decided to camp for the night. Before I had decided to camp there, a ranger at the park I was resting at told me that I could camp there for a fee, or head a few miles down the street to a free campground. Tough decision... The free campground was called Paradise Park and although it didn't have water, it had an outhouse, picnic tables, and was right on the river. 

3 hrs / 11 mph avg / 33 miles

Saturday, September 12th, 2009
Plymouth, WA to Goldendale, WA (Maryhill Park)

It was another hot day, low 90s and I had a tailwind. Tailwinds are normally a good thing, but if you're riding at the same speed as the wind, you don't feel the wind at all and have no breeze to keep cool by. Now that I was riding along the Columbia River, the road was flat and I ended up making great time. I decided this would be a long flat day, to make up for the short hilly day I had the day before. Around mid-day, I spent some time loitering outside the convenience store in Roosevelt to get out of the heat, and eventually pedaled on to Maryhill Park in Goldendale. The road down to the park had a full size stone henge replica. It was concrete and I just wasn't impressed, so I took a picture and quickly left.

I wasn't able to find "The Cliffs" - another free campground between the highway and the river. I later learned that it was down a side road and like Paradise Park, there was no sign. I had mixed feelings about the scenery today. I think there would have been some amazing views throughout the day, but there were power lines and windmills everywhere and they really dominated the landscape. It also seemed like the best views were behind me, so as usual, I made it a point to look back periodically to see what was back there.

6:12 hrs / 13.4 avg / 84 miles

Sunday, September 13th, 2009
Goldendale, WA to The Dalles, OR

This seemed like it would be another hot day, and I was expecting the same tailwind I had the day before, so I took my time in the morning and decided to give myself my second beard-trimming of the trip. When I finally got on the road, I found out that my tailwind had become a headwind, and it was even stronger than before. I crossed the bridge and into Oregon at a town named The Dalles and stopped for some cheap ice cream at the McDonalds in town. I spent some time talking to a retired couple who were driving from the East coast up to Port Angeles Washington where they were considering moving. They were towing a boat and were having their own problems with the wind. I was hoping that if I waited long enough, the wind would die down, but it just continued to get worse. At one point the road curved to the right, making my headwind a crosswind and after nearly being blown off my bike and down the hill at the side of the road, I got off and pushed my bike until the road headed West again. It wasn't much farther that I decided to get off my bike and naively wait for the wind to stop. A few women walked over, thinking I had been hit by a car, and told me that once the wind starts, it tends to hang around for a while. They also told me that the scenic route I intended to follow was narrow and that drivers weren't very patient with cyclists. I finally rode up to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, which was closed for the night, and set up camp behind a facilities building there. I started out sleeping on my tarp to keep a low profile, but after feeling a few drops of rain, I quickly put my tent up and moved into that. Because of my location, I couldn't stake my tent down and the wind threatened to blow me and the tent into the Columbia River all night. I doubt that I slept more than a couple hours total.

3:15 hrs / 8.9 avg / 29 miles

Monday, September 14th, 2009
The Dalles, OR to Herman Creek, OR 

In the morning it was still ridiculously windy, but fortunately it slowly died down throughout the day. I had a flat tire half way through the day, caused by thorns as usual. While I was eating my lunch, an enthusiastic cyclist said he had thought about cycling the Gorge and I told him pretty directly I wouldn't recommend it. I felt bad about discouraging someone, but between the wind, the highway riding, and the hills and lack of shoulders on the alternate roads, I just couldn't find anything good to say about the area. I camped at Herman Creek, which is a nice, small campground up a big, steep hill. The campsites were private and surrounded by big old trees. I liked it. I was originally looking for a KOA that was supposedly in the area, and got some help from a newly married couple who were driving from the East Coast.

4:42 hrs / 8.1 avg / 38.5 mph

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
Herman Creek, OR to Portland, OR

Today was my last day cycling along the Gorge, and also had the best scenery. The first tourist attraction was "The Bridge of the Gods", which was a big, metal and unappealing. On the site though, there was once a natural land bridge which was given the name by local Indians. Today I also came across a set of stairs on the bike path, which they helpfully built with a groove for bicycle tires to make getting up and down the stairs easier. I was able to get my two bike tires part way up using the groove, but there was no way I was going to be able to push my trailer up it. After considering the only other option - riding against traffic through a narrow tunnel - I reluctantly unpacked my trailer, detached it from my bike and made four trips carrying everything up the two flights of stairs. The groove was a clever and considerate idea, but the only thing that would help get a fully loaded touring bike up a 45 degree incline is an escalator. 

Complaints aside, the road was very nice after the stairs. The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed with aesthetics in mind, and was very popular among recreational motorists in the early 1900s. The bridges are stone and have arched guardrails, and there is a layer of moss covering most of them. I stopped at Horsetail Falls and Multnomah Falls, but got off the scenic highway shortly after to avoid a 1000 foot climb. This meant I was back on the highway with cars and trucks wizzing by. Amazingly, I had a tailwind again, but the ride into Portland took longer than I thought, and I was about an hour late picking up my rental car. Once all the paperwork was taken care of, I had the challenge of packing my bike and gear into the trunk of a little Toyota Yaris. I got my dinner at Quiznos, my favorite fast food restaurant, and drove up to Paradise Point campground in Olympia Washington.

4:23 hrs / 12.3 avg / 54.08 miles