I had two days free before some bad weather was due to roll in as well as the upcoming short road trip I am planning with sexy wife. The quickly formed; ride somewhere, spend the night and ride back.
In an effort to pack in as many good roads as possible, I decided to head south to Hood River. The route would take me over NF-25 and then down to Carson, WA. Next I'd head east on Hwy 14 and then take a little detour up Canyon Road and back down to 14 before heading to the bridge across the Columbia River at The Dalles, OR. Finally I wanted to ride up to the Rowena Crest viewpoint before taking Hwy 30 down to Hwy 84 and into Hood River, OR.
South into the Wind
I left mid morning after doing a little work. The weather was nice enough and would be getting warmer the whole way down. The one caveat being the trip over NF-25 which skirts Mt St Helens. It can get cold up there.
I've done a video review of NF-25 so won't take up your time writing about other than to say that it's in average shape. The road is rough as usual but nothing worse than I've come to expect. Treat it with respect and you'll be fine.
I did take a few mile detour and rode along the road that would go all the way out to windy ridge past Spirit lake. I only went up to the first viewpoint but it was enough. This stretch of road is in perfect condition and is nothing but fantastic corners strung together. I can't recommend it enough, but make sure you aren't stuck behind any cars. You'll want free reign to lean deep into the corners pushing as hard as you dare.
Next Up - Wind River
Continuing along NF-25 after my fun corner carving jaunt I came upon the Ranger station. This gives the opportunity for a break, a rest room and also is the connection with NF-90 that connects with Curly Creek and then Wind River.
It had been a while since I've ridden Wind River road and I can now say this is one of the best roads around. Why haven't I been back more often? The new pavement is perfect and the corners just keep coming. Lots of left right left combinations keep you focused and they just keep coming. There are a couple of straight sections and you think, Ok, that was fun, and then your thrown back into it. It's fantastic.
Heading south the road also heads down hill so while we tend to think of south as down, this road takes it literally. My telelever equipped BMW Rockster is way better on downhill corners than my other bikes that I've owned (though maybe it's just that I have more confidence/skill) so it's a ton of fun up or down hill.
You eventually pop out of the trees just north of Carson National Fish Hatchery. The road is mostly straight with a few curves here and there. When you get to Carson you can get gas if you need, but there is plenty along Hwy 14 if you're not desperate.
Follow the East to 14 Truck Route signs. You'll end up on a sweet curvy little section shortly before connecting with Hwy 14. It's like a dollop of icing on the first slice of cake.
Ok, it's windy
Washington Hwy 14 runs along, and I mean directly next to, the Columbia river. Because of this, there is wind. It's why the "gorge" (Columbia river gorge) is world famous for wind surfing and parasailing. That said, today was a whole new level.
East of Carson on 14 is gorgeous. There's the river, shimmering blue and huge. You look across to Oregon and see the travelers on Hwy 84. 14 is smaller (2 lanes) and everything is closer in which gives it a much more intimate/close feeling. There are exposed rock formations popping up out of the landscape, little bodies of water here and there where people fish and go hiking and there are a number of tunnels which by there nature of being rare make them like a carnival ride (I guess I'm easily amused).
Yeah, Ok - This road kicks ass
Next up I was venturing onto a road I've not done before. It's Canyon Road at Lyle, WA not to be confused with Canyon that runs near Hwy 82 down to Yakima. At the junction with Hwy 14 it's something like Old Hwy 8 and serves as a staging area for more wind surfers.
You turn left and immediately cut back another 90 degrees and head up hill. Giving it some gas I was thrown into a fun set of corners and then another all the while gaining altitude. The big stuck hard as them pavement is perfect. There was, however, a few strong wind gusts that upset the bike. Leaning over then being blasted, the bike being pushed into a new line. I found myself attacking the road and then quickly getting up behind someone not looking to have quite as much fun as I was. With the road so tight and straights non existent I was not going to get past. I stopped instead and gave that small pickup a couple minute head start.
Follow the Appleton Sign
Turning right at the Appleton sign is where Canyon officially begins. Most of the homes along here are well off the road. Whether by necessity or choice it means the road, while not complete remote, isn't stuck in a residential neighborhood. You may, however, find yourself behind SUVs, cars and trucks and nobody seemed interested in going fast or getting out of the way. There are a few spots that are just long enough...my bike lurched past without much effort and I gave a wave as if they were being nice. Who knows maybe they'll be nice to the next guy.
Canyon Road Carving
The pavement is perfect with a few tar snakes here and there. The corners are most just perfect. You pitch in and get a couple of seconds to settle in before popping back up. There are two very tight switchback style corners so stay awake. As I approached I could see it cutting back on itself quite a bit more than the previous ones so braking hard, clenching my buttocks, downshifting and deciding I'd have to toss the bike over anyway got me through with a touch more adrenaline but there was no "come into the light" moment. The road is landlocked so you're not staring off into the abyss and the surface gives you the meh, lean some more, it'll be fine kind of confidence.
Originally I was going to ride up to Glenwood then loop back down to Hwy 14 via Hwy 142. However, the road was closed up ahead so I had to turn around and ride back down Canyon....darn.
The Cherry on Top
I crossed into Oregon at The Dalles and took a work break at the first McD's right off the bridge. It gave me a chance to relax and get something to drink. I was into the final stretch of today's ride, but there was still a few more amazing miles to come...but only after enduring the wind tunnel treatment.
I hopped onto I-84 and headed West. The wind that was strong on the Washington side was a gale forced wind on the Oregon side because now it was a head wind. I tucked down hard against my tank and craned my neck so I could see where I was going. The wind was enjoying the game and tried to throw me off the road repeatedly. I knew there were only a couple miles of this before the exit so I hunkered down and took it.
Exit 76 came mercifully and I knew I would be mostly gust free for a little while. You head under 84 and turn left which at first is very counter intuitive. A few yards and you turn right onto historic Hwy 30.
The first section begins to climb gently, the road surface is good and trees aplenty. Before long there are wooden guardrails and the corners begin in earnest. Tight and twisty the section up toward the Rowena Viewpoint is amazing. Did I say it was tight and twisty? You're not getting up to massive speeds and then swinging into long sweepers. Here it's about scrubbing speed and guessing the corner's radius and you lean and lean some more trying not to look at the guardrail. Absolute must do if you're ever in the Hood River, The Dalles area of Northern Oregon. It's not a destination road only because it's not long enough, but if you're out here anyway, take whatever detour is necessary.
The view at the top is stunning and depending upon the time of day can be heavenly.
I continued on Hwy 30 West toward Mosier. This section is more country road than the east side up to the viewpoint just done. This means you get to carry more speed and fly through the corners with abandon. It's different but I'd say as good in it's own way. I came upon a car that was struggling to carry speed and they through on their hazards letting me know I could fly by. Thank you very much, here's a friendly wave and see ya!
I rolled into Hood River and trundled through town. The place was crawling with people and intersections had streams of cars and pedestrians moving in some kind of orchestrated well honed dance. Clearly this was normal. It turns out this was something called First Friday with lots of live music and other events going on.
Hood River, OR is a bit like The Dalles. It has done it's best to hold onto being a cool older town but succumbing to the desires of the modern traveler. Hordes of people come to play and work on the river and they bring money but only want to exchange it for nicer things. The upside is there is plenty of good food and drink and the downtown area is pretty. The surrounding homes (close to the down town are at least) are all quite nice (from a classic viewpoint).
A few miles down the road and I found the hostel where I would spend the night. After settling in and meeting the neighbors (I stayed in the men's dorm), I walked the mile and a half to get a burger. It was a good day.
Day 2 Back Again
The plan today was to follow some of the same route with a couple of exceptions especially with the road closure requiring I make an adjustment.
I headed east along 84 to Mosier so I could once again race up Hwy 30.
Mosier is a small that does have something to see. This morning it was too early to stop for refreshments, but I vow to come back. What a cool looking place.
Hwy 30 was even better heading up hill as you'd imagine and other than a couple of cyclist I had the road to myself. I skipped the view point and kept going, riding down the twisty ass section below Rowena down to 84. Really love the anti dive characteristics of Telelever 🙂
I rolled to The Dalles but only to take the bridge across. For some reason, the exit you take says nothing about Washington. It's Hwy 197 and says Bend Oregon on it. Fortunately the off ramp t-bones so you can turn left, head over the Columbia into Washington.
I got some gas and headed into Lyle. The adjusted plan was to take Hwy 142 up to the plain on top, then come back down and take Appleton Klickatat over to Canyon road (from yesterday) and down to Hwy 14 to continue on. This change is due to the fact that the road I was going to take up above somewhere was closed.
Hwy 142 is quite scenic. It waves back and forth, but does not really throw up any tight corners so if you're looking to canyon carve you might not find nirvana here. If you're looking for beauty you absolutely will. You roll along a river on your left then your right and you head up hill on a road with no center line that is simply stuck to the side of the hill. I can imagine this road being a lot of fun if you were willing to haul serious ass, but being a one lane-ish road makes that a little sketchy. I encountered many vehicles that had drifted centrally as they tend to do.
On top Mount Rainier assaulted me and I took a minute before heading back down the hill to find the cut over road (Klickitat Appleton).
Turns out the first few miles of this road are some of the best I've done. Pavement is pretty new and corners come thick and fast as you climb up over the valley quickly. I stopped briefly (in the middle of the oncoming lane to take a peek over the edge) and everything down below looked like ants rolling along.
A van hauling a trailer who had no compassion was just in the way. I blew past and slammed through the next few corners and van guy was never seen again in my mirrors. Bikes rock in the corners.
A few miles later and the four way intersection was Canyon Road. I turned left and enjoyed myself all the way down only encountering one car that wasn't doing anything to get out of the way. I only lost a few corners behind him before deciding to pull over and let him get a gap (I'm not passing into blind corners, I'll just take a minute at the side of the road).
What is this all about?
Next up was a little road called Courtney Road at the Coyote Wall hiking area. I knew it was up until gravel and back again, but looking at the map I just had to give it a shot.
Love and hate are what I will say. Road condition is not great. It's not horrible, but you get bounced around. With that, there are quite a few very tight switch backs. Not my favorite type of corner, but in between was a lot of good stuff as well. It's worth doing if you like a challenging bit of road. I'd not recommend it if you're just looking for casual fun. The way down was sketchy as it's steep and my bike built speed quickly the second I released the brakes and hitting rough road into hair pin corners got old quickly.
There was, however a nice surprise view that made me stop and take a minute.
This looks familiar
I road west on Hwy 14 all the way to Carson once again and up Wind River...this road is even better heading up hill...I have got to come here more often.
Once I hit NF-25 I turned left and headed down to Cougar, WA to get gas and take a lunch break. I sat next to a slew of sport bike guys that just got done playing. in the mountains and ate while they got suited back up and on the road.
Hwy 503 west from Cougar has a plethora of very good and mostly open corners. You can get really stuck in to most of them. No need to scrub speed just lean over hard and give it the beans. It's serpentine as it heads up from the lake into the trees and back again a couple of times. Such a great road and as always, if you get stuck behind cars, pull over and let them go.
Too Boring to Talk About
The rest of the trip was I-5 north. I was tired, the clouds were moving in so I decided to just slog it along the freeway back home. Had the two days of riding been not quite and demanding I might have taken 508 to Morton and home through Elbe/Alder lake. But not today.
If you find yourself in Southern Washington/Northern Oregon there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself. Get out there!