I was weirdly scared about this ride. The route I drew up was intended as a midnight start 400k, into the area between Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams. Here’s the file. This was going to be my first solo all night ride. There was something else too, a lonely unease. Too many UFO shows, I guess, Then there was the memory of that bear encounter a few weeks ago, that had me sensing danger around every corner. Ironically, the night stage went just fine. The rest of the ride was the hard part, and I wound up taking an early bailout. Here’s what I actually wound up riding.
I like a midnight start because you get “the darkest hour” out of the way at the beginning, while you’re still fresh; but, it’s hard to find the will to leave home just as everybody else is putting on their pajamas. Luckily my girlfriend managed to get me out the door.
Things started off a little rough, with a shouting match breaking out on the MAX, and some trouble with my GPS device. I had never actually ridden the historic highway at night before. It’s different. I recognized the familiar roadside waterfalls only by their sounds. Multnomah Falls lodge was eerily empty. No roasted pecans at this hour. This route would really be something on a full moon.
I had been counting on coffee and a warm break in Cascade Locks. Unfortunately, only the pumps were open at the 24/7 gas station. I tried the hotel lobby, but they turned me away. So I ate my muffin in the public bathroom by the bridge and popped a caffeine pill. The dark sentiment about American hospitality notwithstanding, my spirits were high once I got to highway 14. I say this to everybody: highway 14 is awesome, but only if you ride it at night. The call from passing trains will hit you like a ton of bricks. I wave to the conductor every time. Passing through one of many tunnels out past Carson, I sang along to the music in my headphones (the Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory).
When the sky began to lighten around 4:30, I was struck by the feeling of not being where I was before. The hills here were more barren. Soon the light revealed Mount Adams, looming coldly ahead. This area is much more remote feeling than the Hood area. Due to a tail wind in the gorge, I arrived in Trout Lake quite a bit before I had planned. A longer break, coffee, or warm food might have saved me here; but, the market was not open yet. And it was cold just sitting around. So I pumped some water from a rusty spigot in the city park (I suspect this was a bad choice) and pressed on to the real climbing.
The climb up to Babyshoe Pass from Trout Lake was pretty discouraging. Up until the gravel section, you don’t get many views because the tree cover is so thick. A heavy fog (clouds?) had rolled in, and the air had the feeling you get near an indoor swimming pool. When I reached the junction with NF-8810, I thought of taking an early turn toward Cougar, but didn’t. I reached the top feeling lousy. My hands numb from the gloves I didn’t bring. Calorie depleted from not using the numb hands to eat my granola. Depressed at the thought of a whole day of riding in grey cloudy weather. Even the Babyshoe Pass sign failed to cheer me up.
The gravel part of the descent was pretty washboarded and I had to go slow. The views were great, however, even on this cloudy day. When I got down to the Cispus river, I noticed some well used pull-offs for dispersed camping, and decided it was time for a nap. I brought my SOL bivy, which worked perfect in this situation. I woke up from the sound of a nearby tree creaking. I then noticed that I was sleeping under a partly sawn tree, that was being held from falling by some rope tied to another tree. After that I couldn’t get back to sleep.
The diner in Randle really cheered me up, but I could tell that the rest of the ride was going to be rough. The original route had me returning south over another major mountain pass. I called my girlfriend and she drew up the route I wound up taking, which used roads I had recently ridden on the SIR Tahuya Hills route. It’s nice to have fond memories attached to a place. I knew that I could get a vegan milkshake in Centralia, and so that was my motivation for the last half of the day.
My strawberry milkshake was very very good. The train station in Centralia was unstaffed in the evening, but I had my ticket on my phone. I lay down for another nap, but was awoken by a man in a Hawaiian shirt. He told me that he had been watching Godzilla. He asked me if I was familiar with the Book of Revelations. Something about the number three. I thought he was crazy, but then he told a seemingly sane story about a buddy of his crashing on STP. I think there was some logic to it all that was escaping me. I don’t think he was a ghost or an alien, just a strange man who got bored in the middle of Godzilla. I think there was a movie theater across the street.