After the awful slog yesterday, I chose to take the secondary highway (26 to 97) down from Portland to Mt Shasta. So far this is my favorite route through Oregon, despite the state’s love of 55 mph speed limits.
Light traffic, some elevation and scenery changes, nice and cool weather since 90% of it is at higher elevation, and most importantly, NO CRAZY WIND.
So despite spending 6 hours on the road, it was the sort of motorcycle day that makes you think you can ride forever.
Tomorrow morning is another 4K ascent up Mt Shasta, which is significantly steeper and more consistent than Mt Hood & Mt Spokane.
Assuming I feel good after that, I may head straight on home via the interstate (punishingly dull, but at least I’ll be home at the end!)
Some days ya eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.
Plan was to motorcycle 400 miles to the foot of Mount Hood, bicycle up, then motorcycle 30 minutes to a cheap(er) motel than those in the area.
First 2 hours were not bad, boring but no traffic and making good time.. until you turn west to head toward Portland.
Relentless, awful wind.. 100s.. if not 1000s of wind mills, so apparently it is awful all the time. My left arm went numb from counter steering to the left for 1.5 hours of this, and then you drop down into the Columbia river gorge.. and this is even worse, by a lot.
Relentless, random buffeting, and heavy tractor trailer traffic. Exhausting and awful – I would never do this route again on a motorcycle.
Thankfully after another hour of this abuse, the Garmin beeped and said hang a left! yay!
Except it took me down some no where backroad.. and then told me to turn into a NF-xxx road. NF means “National Forest” which means.. no pavement.
Optimistically I went for it.. and it was okay for a couple miles.. then it hooked a sharp left straight up the mountain, up STEEP loose switchbacks. Running near slicks, I was roosting up dirt just to get up and around the turns.. I really wanted to turn around after 2 or 3 of them.. but it was so steep and loose I had to keep going for another half a mile before I could turn around. Going down as about as much fun, although at least I remembered to turn off my ABS before I hit the dirt at the start.
So after arguing with Garmin (GRAGE!) I got back on track, for another hour of the horrible gorge, which, if anything, got even worse while I was lost in the hills.
Finally, I was back on the correct road and another hour took me to the start of the climb.
The climb basically goes up a highway, an EXTREMELY busy highway, with tons of tractor trailer and logging trucks. As far as I can tell, Oregon does not believe in a 3 foot rule.. I am pretty sure they think it is 3 inches.
And the wind was here too, relentless buffeting – a few times I thought I had a flat tire. Going up was bad, going down was really awful.
Luckily it was “only” a 2 hour climb and I was happy to get it done. I’d say this was the least fun climb (even ignoring the 450 miles of motorcycle tri
bulations) of the trip. Combined together, I am beat!
Tomorrow off to Mount Shasta, the final climb of my trip!
Running out of mountains to climb! Today I headed up Mt Spokane, which is probably just out of the top 100, but still pretty notable for the area, with a 4000+ foot ascent. [Strava activity here]
Since I knew this was pretty easy, I decided to just ride to the 15 miles to the start of the climb instead of starting at the base. Especially with all the delicious oxygen at 2000 feet above sea level.
The first 15 miles were through the rolling hills off Spokane wheat country, one thing that I found interesting is there are housing developments scattered within the fields – either these are the richest farmers I’ve ever seen, or these are separate houses that just happen to be within the fields – interesting locale to live in.
Once the sun came up, I turned onto the highway that leads into Mt Spokane park, and eventually the climb starts. I say “eventually” because it is pretty gradual for the first 10 miles or so.. and back in the tree tunnels.
When you turn off into the actual park, the grade kicks up to a more reasonable 6 to 8% and it feels like a real climb. Unfortunately the last few miles turn into mega-huge switchbacks and it eases off again, which is the reverse of most climbs – usually they’re steeper at the end.
You really only get vistas starting in the last 2 miles, and unfortunately things were pretty hazy – either due to the fires or just high clouds.
Due to the gradual grades, the descent was pretty non-technical and I just cruised back down for some pancakes!
2 more climbs to go – tomorrow I’m going to do the motorcycle-bicycle double on Mt. Hood, since it is also a gradual climb.
…back to Idaho.. the weather scene today was just not working out, when I checked the forecast last night it was going to be raining in Park City and 96 in Salmon. At some point you just go for it and plow on through.
I got up early to make sure my tire still had air in it (it did) and yeah, it was raining.. I sorta assumed it would only be raining on the mountain, and then it would dry out… nope.
340 miles of nope.. it rained and rained.. and rained some more. Through Utah and into the Boring Valley Of Doom Idaho (aka Interstate 15) all the way up Highway 20 and across Craters of the Moon and the Nuclear Waste Dump. I was also riding ride along the edge of the storm system, so it was super blustery and windy too, yuck.
Finally once I hit Challis (60 miles from Salmon) things dried out and I got to ride the best part in the dry – this stretch of road is twisty and fun and has great scenery as it meanders along the Salmon river. I almost went and rode it again after unloading my luggage and bicycle, but then the storm caught up and it started dumping here too.. so.. nope.
Late posting today due to aforementioned motorcycle excitement.
But to start with the bicycling – Big Cottonwood is another one of the top 50 climbs in the US, combined with Guardsman from Park City, it’s a pretty stiff climb – I had dreams of adding Little Cottonwood, but after the descent took what felt like forever, and pretty gusty tail (ie, headwind the way up) – I declined.
Once more up Guardsman, combining parts of 2 of the climbs I did last time, and then the long descent down the canyon.. it goes on and on!
Finally, after reaching the bottom, the long drag back up – this is a pretty heavily trafficed route, and seems very popular with cyclists too.
So after roughly 4+ hours, I returned back to the hotel and got breakfast. On my way back, I decided to check on the motorcycle annnnd… flat rear tire. Totally flat.
Now normally that’s just annoying. Given I was in a nice, flat, cool enclosed garage.. spending 2 hours to change a tube is not a huge deal.
But in this case, I couldn’t find what made it flat! If there was a nail or screw or something, fine. But.. no.. nothing. I even doused the whole thing with soapy water, and the only bubbles were coming up around the valve stem.
I don’t like mysterious mechanical things several thousand miles from home, so I phoned around and found a shop about 30 minutes away (on a Monday no less, which is a miracle in itself since most motorcycle shops are closed Mondays.)
So, I pumped the tire back up and determined it was losing about 3 PSI per 30 minutes, enough time to get over there.
They took it apart and….. they were stumped too!
Nothing in the tire, the puncture is on the tread side (not the rim strip.) and nothing.
The only odd thing is the tube does feel a bit squishy where the puncture was. Maybe manufacturing defect? Or something speared the tire and then left without leaving a trace?
Oh well. They put in my spare tube, put it back together, and I headed back.
Guardsman Pass from Midway is in the top 20, and Empire is in the top 50 or so, but I’ve a hard time taking any climb seriously after doing Pike’s Peak! Combined it was around 6000 feet of ascent. [Strava activity here]
Both of these have sustained sections of 10% or greater – the granny gear finally got serious usage (excepting that top part of Pike’s, which was more oxygen related than grade related.) The lower part of Guardsman is relentless 10-15% for the first several miles, I saw 22% on one switchback. The average grade was deceptive as there were a few VERY short downhill sections.
I didn’t take many photographs, the mosquitos were out again and I have barely recovered from the last round of Colorado mosquitos – at least Colorado mosquitos didn’t seem to have whatever flesh eating bacteria lives in Wyoming mosquitos, they were more normal level of annoying instead of terrifying red welts the size of quarters.
I’ll be doing parts of this route again on Monday – Empire and the top 2 miles of Guardsman, before descending Big Cottonwood and then climbing back up.
The question is if I will also attempt Little Cottonwood – this is another 4K in-n-out climb at the bottom of Big Cottonwood. That’ll make for a 10.5K day – I’ve purposefully been keeping the bike legs relatively short to ensure enough recovery time between bicycling & motorcycling – but I have no climb (or even destination yet) planned after Monday, so I might just go empty the tank if I’m feeling good.
Tomorrow is a maintenance day (bike, moto, laundry, etc) so I’ll have time to figure out what I’m doing next!
300 miles of motorcycling today through an area I have never been, so I broke out the trusty AAA paper map and looked for secondary highways marked “scenic.”
Conclusion: There weren’t any. Luckily it wasn’t too terrible – the first hour or so leaving Grand Junction was pretty dull, but then you get some big mountains in the distance. Another hour takes you further into Utah mountains, and the terrain gets more alpine-ish instead of craggy desert plateaus and rock formations.
Past Provo, you pretty much ride straight up the mountainside to get into Park City.
Park City’s weather forecast is looking good, so I am going to hang out a few days and bicycle Empire pass, Guardsman pass, and Big Cottonwood.
I had hoped to take the motorcycle-bicycle rig down into the valley and ride Little Cottonwood, but since I have chosen the logistically worst hotel in the world, I think it’s gonna stay parked:
It’s a condo hotel, so everything is enclosed. I’m on the 2nd floor (3rd from the garage.) The elevator is on the opposite end of both the garage and my room. So the 4 or 5 trips to unload/reload takes a good half an hour and a lot of walking! The final issue: The garage has a maximum height of 6 foot, 10 inches. When I measured my moto-bicycle rig, it was a “comfortable” 7 foot. So I have to dismantle it outside! And there’s no easy street parking, either. So yeah, I don’t think I’m doing any day trips with the motorcycle-bicycle rig while I’m at this hotel.
For the same reason, I’ll be riding up 2K and then down to the valley for the climbs, so that’ll make each day a 6-7K ascent, but I figure after Pike’s Peak, that should be easy!
This wasn’t on the big climb list, but on the “scenic optional route” list I had put together if the timing/weather/geography worked out.
It was definitely worth it – really epic scenery and a great route that winds up and over the terrain.
This time the sun was finally in my favor instead of riding directly into the sunrise.
The ride itself was very enjoyable, and I saw more cyclists than cars (at least early morning on a week day.)
After the quasi-summit, the descent is fast and technical – I did not take photos since I felt myself spending too much time staring at the scenery and not paying attention to the switchbacks, so I settled on safely getting back to the valley.
Tomorrow is a long motorcycle day to Park City, UT. Starting in Park City means I’ll be doing some double climbs (front and backsides) but I decided I’d rather be cooler in Park City than roasting in the valleys.