Ride Report: Lolo Pass Adventure

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Martin Denny - The Enchanted Sea

We set out early Sunday morning, intending to ride my RAMHOD (Ride Around Mount Hood in One Day) route. The notion was to ride the two main Mount Hood passes in quick succession, making a loop starting at the end of the MAX line in Gresham. Lots of miles, lots of climbing, a bit of gravel.

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After an initial hitch of almost riding the Red Line all the way to the airport, things got off to a good start. The weather was excellent, and we had managed to get on the road reasonably early. I commented that I was most concerned about getting too cold, more so than about getting exhausted. Our route would have us descending from Government Camp around sunset, and I had DNF'ed a similar route a few years back because I got too cold on the way down. Luckily, it wasn't supposed to dip below 45 even at that elevation.

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Like half of these pictures came out all soft focus. Approaching the entrance to Sandy Ridge, we were passed by vehicle after vehicle loaded up with mountain bikes. I stewed a bit about the lack of a good shuttle system from Portland, but it was hard to stay angry with such wonderful scenery. We took a little detour hoping to find a friend of James who owns some property in the area. Unfortunately he wasn't home, but we did stop for a snack on his driveway. Finally, we reached the first climb of the day: Lolo Pass.

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After maybe a half hour of climbing in the trees, we reached the powerline-cut that forms the upper section of the pass. The clearing made for some great views.

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We had some power jams on the stereo.

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There was no summit sign, but somebody had sprayed this on the road. At the top it turns to gravel for a little bit. There were a couple wheel eating pot holes, but overall it was a really nice descent.

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Right after I took the above picture James pulled over because his wheel was feeling weird. It turned out that all his sealant had tried up. Luckily, he had l planned ahead and had a backup tube to throw in. Unfortunately, when he put the wheel back in, he noticed a click coming from somewhere on the bike. We spent quite a while trying to figure it out, but in the end decided it was a task better left for the work stand. Rather than risk descending from Hood on a bike with a mystery problem, we opted to head back via the Gorge. It would be almost the same distance, but with rollers instead of the single face melting bomb down from Government Camp.

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Only after reaching Hood River and stopping for snacks did I remember that much of the Gorge is currently really really hard to get through on bike. Oopsie. With the sun setting fast, and with no other good options, we decided to grit our teeth and power through to Cascade Locks on 84.  And as is so often the case with our rides, we took solace in the fact that, if we did not die, this would make for a good story. I rode for quite a while on the oncoming traffic side shoulder (too afraid to hop the median) scrunched between a rock wall and some traffic cones, with traffic flying by at 70mph. It was harrowing. We explored a few sections of the Historic Highway trail that are currently under construction, but there was nothing that really went anywhere in its current state.

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Somewhere in there we found a side road that lasted us a good 5 or so miles. That was nice.

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There was a magic pony. I put on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. I never get sick of that soundtrack. Takes you to a better world. The damage from last year's fires blends in nicely, and is not at all the gaping scar people seemed to imagine it would be.

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I love mountain silhouettes at night, especially the ones on the cover of Alexander O'Neal's 1985 classic self-titled album (featuring "If You Were Here Tonight". This scene at the Bridge of the Gods made me think of that. If you haven't ridden the Bridge of the Gods, the road surface is see-through grating. You really shouldn't look down, and you definitely shouldn't whip out your phone for a picture.

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After that it was too dark for pictures. Highway 14 in Washington is super sketchy around dinner time, but after 9pm it really is a delight. We took it pretty fast for the final forty miles, as the need for sleep became more of a thing. Though we didn't do the route as intended, it had been a really nice ride. Maybe I'll put together a group run of RAMHOD later in the season.