Ya know, some days are just meant for being on your bike - period. You can come up with a bazillion reasons why you should be doing a mess of other things - cleaning the garage, yard work, sitting on your arse watching football, painting something, etc - but bottom line is, you ain't gunna get many days like this in late October. So despite a sore back and only three days on the bike in the past several weeks, Alex, Chris and I piled the trusty rides into the Sube, made a swing by "Barnyard's" (Helen Berhard's Bakery) so Chris could get the proper morning kick start of fried dough and sugar to help soak up his diet coke, and then we were off, headed east on I-84 for Hood River and Joe... and who ever else he could cajole into a Saturday on the roads.
Turns out his cajoling technique is par excellence est sans égale. No sooner had we shivered our way into a well discussed few layers of lyrca than Joe and a contrail of 30 plus arm-warmer clad folks came spinning up out of town. A cloudless deep blue sky over head, a fresh bite in the morning air and a gorgeous flush of fall color launched a perfect day on the bikes.
Seeing a gaggle of 30 or 40 riders pass by is too much temptation for anyone in a good pair of Sidis to resist. Michael Jones just finished a loop of 7 Mile Rd with the local group out of Hood River when "Joe's Grand Day Out" parade swooped through Mosier - 'Ya know, some days are just meant for being on your bike - period.' So he joined on and we rode along as the front of second group for a bit, chatting, talking local races and sharing like no other sport allows; and that's why the other non-impact sport doesn't work, ever try getting to know someone while doing the backstroke?
Joe had advertised this a "A bunch of us will probably ride it a notch or two below tempo cuz of fitness level and to enjoy the scenery." Well, while our roll-out along the Gorge was below tempo enough Joe was definitely le grand patron, riding up and down the ranks (Hmmm... can you say double yellow-line violation?)(see lead photo :")(Joe - next time that will cost you a pitcher at Double Mountain!) keeping the rogue-riders inline, offering up encouragement, reminding stragglers of the end and beer.
Slipping up around the back of The Dalles we crossed over hwy 197 and started a gentle pace up Eight Mile Creek Rd. - one of the nicest little lazy stretches of road anywhere in the state (unless you are popping a lung trying to scorch yourself to a win in the Cherry Blossom TT). Along the way our wildlife highlight of the day when Joe's band of turkeys encountered the local fowl - our pelotons were about the same size, but obviously lycra is more intimidating than feathers, and they surrendered to the convicts of the road.
After a regroup (BTW - nice sprint out for the stop-sign warning sign Bill) we headed into the "lumpy stuff" in the orchards behind (south) The Dalles. If you have never ridden there it's worth a day poking around; see the linked MAP - it's the area around Three Mile and Dry Hollow Roads. The route is on very low traffic roads through oak tree forests, cherry orchards, vineyards, and wheat fields - with some sweet views of Mt Hood.
After the regroup - and loss of Chris who decided to ride the road less traveled (can you say G R A V E L) and disappeared somewhere up Five Mile Rd. - Alex and I decided to give Seven Mile Rd climb a shot - no one else took the bait - so we said goodbyes until beers back in Hood River and road out The Dalles like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, two guys who knew something the rest of Joe's Peloton was oblivious to. What this pair was headed for was not a lovely climb above the Gorge (see "the best day ever" she burst! ), sweeping vistas of late October autumnal hues, but a survival ordeal of gusts and ripping winds to surpass anything Fabian Cancellara attempts at the San Diego Air & Space Technology Center Low Speed Wind tunnel; there was no position, TT or otherwise that was going to make this fun. So with bad back seconding the motion we turned, with wind at out saddlebags and flew back over to the Gorge Scenic Hwy and headed west. The wind was still blowing but at least twists and turns of the road offered occasional reprieves.
Into Mosier we crossed Chris - he didn't get our message and slugged it out over Seven Mile, encountered a baby rattlesnake, and survived the gusting sidewinds downhill. Thinking for certain we were trailing Joe & Co. we "notched" it down even further and pedal west to finish off 80 odd miles and six or so thousand feet of vertical - all the while wishing the Double Mountain folks would send a pizza out to meet us.
Thanks Joe for truly Gorge-ous Grand Day Out!