Make America Bike Again – Day 7
It was the last day of our first week on the road. The Historic Columbia River Highway ended somewhere near The Dalles. There, we left behind the splendor of Oregon’s waterfalls and the serenity of her forests, and crossed the bridge into Washington. Right away, the terrain was different. It was arid with few trees in sight. We had good reasons for crossing the bridge. The road will be safer in Washington, narrower, and less traveled. Still, we were leaving all that generous beauty behind, without so much as a toast, some kind of offering to the Oregon Gods.
As we headed across the bridge into Washington, they watched and shook their heads in disbelief; the more malevolent ones taking control. They were probably watching as we set up camp by a pond, in the shelter of a few stout cottonwood trees. A few train whistles sang out, but otherwise it was a peaceful night. The wind waited until morning before it started to blow.
To the north a high ridge of basalt cliffs rose above the campsite. The road we wanted to take ran along the base of these cliffs, following the course of the river. To get to the highway, we had to cross about three miles of open prairie on a two-land road; one that led into the mouth of the only canyon in sight, the only canyon cutting a path through the massive lava flows. Out of its mouth of that canyon, a fierce headwind blew.
The roadway may have looked like a gentle uphill slope, but the wind turned it into an ever- steepening serpent. Even in the lowest gear it was hard work just to keep the bike moving forward, a struggle to keep it upright. The wind was relentless.
Somewhere ahead a stop sign marked the intersecting roads. After what seemed like hours of climbing the serpent’s back, it became the finish line. Until we ground our way past it, turned east and felt the wind’s force from a more agreeable angle. After twenty miles and a few bends in the river, the town of Biggs, Oregon appeared and another bridge. We crossed it, back into Oregon’s sheltering arms once again.
We camped at the Maryhill State Park, with its warm showers and just 25 miles from where we’d begun. It was the seventh day. We were ready for a rest. We set up our tents with a view of the Columbia River. It wasn’t before the Local Gods welcomed us personally. They were in the form of two young men, trail angels, with handcrafted beer to share and homemade blueberry cobbler. What a fine and memorable day it became!