Team Slow
…because speed kills. Pass with care. Makes frequent stops.

The Dalles Mountain 60

The front seat of Johns truck fits three, provided two passengers are dating. Three bikes can fit in the bed, as long as none of them are fragile. Fortunately both conditions are met.

We show up to the start about an hour and a half early, and camp out in the coffee shop checking out their eclectic book shelf, including a cowboy-themed new testament and a bunch of historical books from the area.

The organizers hand out cue sheets, pre-packaged in ziplock bags. Awesome.

We head out across the Dalles bridge and begin a gentle climb out of the Gorge. The group slowly separates into smaller groups of 5-10. Theo is off with the lead group and I will see him next at the end. John, David and I are at about the same pace and remain together for the rest of the ride.

A half mile after a right onto SR-14, we take a left onto Dalles Mountain Road, where the road turns unpaved. The fog grows more dense and visibility drops to about 30 yards. We slowly reel in some folks on mountain bikes, we will see them again when they fly by us on the gravel descent. The fixed gear is absolutely perfect for this section. The road gets steeper. Not quite so perfect, but OK if I stand up and aim for the spots with more traction. David’s form becomes ghostly as he drifts away into the fog. I imagine there is a fantastic view here but visibility has dropped to 20 yards and sounds become muffled. We pass a number of discarded couches and furniture on the side of the road.

The GPS shows our elevation at 1800 feet. We’re trying to remember how high the hill goes. 2000 feet? 2500 feet? Finally we see sky at 2200, and we are following gentle rollers along the ridge. We are above the cloud, and we can see farm land to the north.

The road turns left and begins a rad twisty descent. I ride the brakes, going about 20, memories of flying though barrier tape in cross. Mountain bikes fly by going about 30, I show them the horns and they wave. John passes.

Now we’re heading east through farm country. We see the first car in about an hour, a truck loaded high with bales of hay. Like everyone else, they give us an entire lane when passing. I’d really like to write rural America a thank you card.

The road alternates between pavement and gravel. We eventually reach Highway 97, and then turn onto the abandoned section of maryhill loops road. We hop the gate, passing bikes over. Entire sections of the roadway are missing, large enough to swallow a car. Now we pass a stone water fountain with builtin horse trough, and we’re at the race course. There is a solid white starting line, and then a perfectly executed series of semi-circular turns down immaculate pavement. It turns out I can spin at exactly 24.5 miles per hour.

A car is driving up the opposite way on the road, honking. We all wave. They say something like “slow down”. Ok, its not like this is a high traffic corridor, but we keep our eyes open. At the bottom, there are photographers and a number of other cars. It looks like they’re setting up a car commercial or something. Sorry. I guess they had rented the road at the last minute, when the organizers had checked last night the loops road was not reserved. Although they eventually think to post a sign at the top so that other riders end up using 97 instead (after heading back up hill through the unmaintained section, of course).

We head right on 14, and David and I decide we want to detour and see Stonehenge. So we take the left, and everyone follows us! Oh shit! But it turns out this _is_ the route. Never mind.

Stonehenge is a memorial, for the soldiers from Klikitat county who died in the Great War. The pillars have a name and dates. Most of these families lost a son or brother at 24. Some things never change. It is a beautiful spot though.

Another twisty road down to the columbia from Stonehenge, and we pass through the small town of Maryhill, then over the Biggs bridge into Oregon. We stop at a mini mart for gatorade, a bean burrito, and Davids potato-tofu-pasta leftovers.

We head out of town on a road paralleling highway 84, which is most likely a old section of highway 30. We go over a bridge, then take a left on Old Moody Road through a camp site.

The road goes to gravel and tilts steeply upward, I manage to make it up the first switchback, under the rail bridge. I have to stop and remove a layer, and walk for a bit. David continues powering up the climb. Another switchback. I’m completely wrung out. This is a stupid idea. Why am I doing this? I start walking, my GPS shows that we’re moving about 3 miles per hour. John passes me, spinning along with a gentle smile and imperturbable mustache. Jerk. I start running and pass him back. Then give up and go back to walking.

A dude on a cross bike comes from nowhere and says something like “you can make it, don’t give up!”. Ok fine. I hop back on and weave side to side on the road looking for patches of traction. My lower back is tired from stabilizing. I’m seriously tired. The curse of a GPS is that you can see exactly how much more climbing you have to do, in this case two more switchbacks. Somehow we make it up, and the road levels off. We’re still going uphill but only a few percent grade so it feels like coasting.

Now the road is fun. We ride over a number of cattle guards and pass small farms and ranches. I see a bull with one horn. Trying to remember what to do if a bull charges you.

We take a right on 15-mile, and 8-mile roads. I’m keeping track of the turns on my cue sheet but its unnecessary, they both have signs pointing toward the Dalles.

There is a long gentle descent by a river, with a head wind. We’re pacelining with a couple folks from Georgia who moved here recently. We see four people on bikes heading the opposite way, they wave. One of them is a 14-year-old, going pretty fast. He must have awesome parents.

Eventually we reach the Dalles and get to Holsteins coffee shop, and Theo tells us to go sign in with our times. He was riding with a pack of locals, and had finished an hour before us!

In short, this is the best ride ever.

See Matt’s pics and John’s pics and Theo’s pics

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One Response to “The Dalles Mountain 60”

  1. Epic ride, by some of Team Slow’s hardiest. Well done!


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