Monday, July 23, 2007

Day 1: Portland to The Dalles, Oregon

Sunday evening in Portland was punctuated by the arrival of our rental bikes courtesy of Doug Cushing, the sole proprietor of Northwest Motorcycle Adventures, a start up motorcycle rental business in Portland. He delivered 2 virtually new Suzuki 650 cc V-Stroms, each equipped with a full complement of required touring accessories, such as premium caliber touring bags, tire repair kits, first aid kits and battery jumper cables etc. Doug is both personable and professional. After some probing questions we discovered his day job is supervising the upkeep of aircraft for Hawaiian Airlines at the Portland airport. We were extremely impressed with the quality of his operation and very reassured that we were on well-prepped bikes. For the non-riders in our audience, the caliber of the equipment you use on a trip like this can mean the difference between a great trip and a miserable one. Doug clearly understands his customers.

We started out under overcast skies (a recurring first day theme on all our trips) and headed southeast on a back woods route around the southern part of Mount Hood. This quickly led us into deeply forested parts of the Mt Hood National Forrest where we found ourselves on a one-lane asphalt road following the rushing Clackamas River. The roadside campsites we passed often gave off the smell of cooking fires from the family groups we saw outside their tents. Tall, old growth Northwestern forests of evergreens and panoramic mountain vistas were the stuff of the morning ride as we came closer to the base of Mt Hood. The morning skies cleared and lovely Mt Hood came into view. As we reached the road’s summit we were amazed to find a large number of skiers unpacking for a day on the summits. Many came in vehicles like the curiously named “Bustache”.

In the afternoon we descended to the Columbia River gorge by driving through the Hood Valley, an agricultural area notable for it’s abundant fruit orchards. Just as we discovered in New England, coffee is king in the Northwest. We got gas and lattes in a “no name” service station and continued onward into the rushing wind. That’s a literal reference since the river gorge gets a heady 30 MPH blast from the West every afternoon due to the warm air that rises off the land and pulls in cooler air from the Pacific. We encountered a half-mile square area of river where at least 100 windsurfers were tearing it up on the white-capped river. We ended the day by riding 30 miles of Oregon Highway 30 alongside the southern bank of the Columbia from the striking Rowena Overlook to our destination for the night, The Dalles, a farming town located on the river below one of the massive dams that both irrigate and power this area.

We rode about 230 miles today and were very pleased with our gear and our destination for this trip. It was a day of non-stop visual treats and demanding curvy roads. It doesn’t get much better than that when you are touring on a motorcycle!