Road Riding the Historic Highway

Our first day camping was focused on road riding and a dip in the Columbia River, before checking out some breweries and relaxing at the camp site. 

Monday morning we were awaken quite early - between the sun, the Steller Jays and the other birds, 6:30 came very quickly. We managed to get back to sleep and slept in until close to 9:00. Given that we had planned to ride today, that was a bit of a late start.  We had some breakfast at the campsite, then loaded up the car and drive to the other side of Hood River to the start of the Historic Highway. 

Views like this are why we come to Hood River. 

Justine heading into the tunnel.

When we come to Hood River it’s always about cycling - either road riding or mountain biking. Sadly, we can only bring one set of bikes, so we have to choose before we leave. The last couple of trips we have mountain biked (for various reasons), so this trip we decided to bring the road bikes. We have two routes that we normally do, and we started this trip with the Historic Highway and Rowena Loops.  

The Historic Highway is exactly that - the old, original highway that was first designed for cars as automobiles were becoming popular. It was a feat of engineering at the time, figuring out how to get a highway that cars of the time could traverse, going up and down the huge elevation changes that the landscape demands. More recently, they’ve turned stretched of it in pedestrian/cyclist only and it makes for a good ride.  

The view out across the river.

The ride starts at a park not far from town and immediately heads out on the closed highway. The road follows the course of the old highway, and eventually goes through an old tunnel (very cool) and through to the end of the park. At that point, the route heads back out onto country roads or a number of miles. We’ve done this route many times, and it’s always different.

Last time I almost got hit by a deer as it got spooked and ran across the road. This time, there was a grass/forest fire that had been burning for a little less than a week that had come right up to the road, along our route. As one point, the fire department was out in the fields still trying to completely contain it.  

The view from the top of Rowena Loops.

The view up to the top of Rowena Loops after riding all the way down.

Time to start the ride back up...

The route ends at a place called Rowena Loops, an overlook at the top of the crest that then descends about 700 meters to the river below. Depending on how we’re feeling, we either ride down and back up, or just turn around at the top. I’ve been riding a lot more than Justine has recently, so I was still feeling pretty good, but she was not quite up for it. I did the extra 4 km down the loops, then climbed back up while Justine chatted with a local woman that was out for a ride herself.  

At the end of the ride, we stopped at the bridge and took a shot of the view across the canyon, and out to the river.

I made pretty good time, then we headed back and completed the ride back to the parking lot, coming back the way we came. It’s a great ride - the fire was a bit disturbing - but the day didn’t get too hot, and we had a nice ride. It was just over 46km in total for me, and we did it in just over 2:20. We were pretty wiped, and hot and sweaty, so we decided to head down to the beach for a swim. 

The full Google Earth view of our ride.

The Rowena Loops portion. You can't really get an appreciation for the elevation change...

Hood River is right on the Columbia River, and they’ve done a lot of work in recent years to turn the river front into a great area to hang out. Hood River has always been a windsurfing/kiteboarding destination, and the river front most days is alive with people out on their boards. They recently built a little beach as well, and we had never been down to swim. As it turned out, it was really built for small kids, and was very shallow. We jumped in just to get cleaned up a bit, but weren’t able to really enjoy the water. 

After showering and getting changed, we headed over to one of the breweries on the waterfront and had a beer. We didn’t stay long - they had a huge line up for food - so we headed into town and went to our favourite pizza place for lunch. 

This little guys was hanging out around the campsite. From what I can tell, its a juvenile Western Fence lizard. He (?) made an appearance many times throughout the days at the campground.

After lunch we stopped by the grocery store to grab food for dinner, then headed black to the campsite. We got sorted out, they went down to the river and found a spot we could sit on the shore in a quiet stretch of the river and chilled out reading. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. We poked around in the river for a bit, then went back and got things sorted for dinner. 

A view of the river near the campsite.

We spent a nice evening making dinner, playing cards and relaxing before calling it a day.