THE BIKE (part 1):
It sort of felt hard to believe we were now about to bike to Mount Hood, but off we headed.
We took off from Hood River to start the climb up. It’s hard to replicate a climb like this, because unless you’re biking up a mountain it’s rare to have so much uphill and so little downhill. We’re talking 7,300ft of climbing over 46 miles. The elevation profile looks like this:
There’s one 1,000ft descent around Mount Hood Meadows, but it’s a bit disheartening because you then have to make up that loss (and more) to get to Timberline.
The first few miles started strong. I actually commented to Paul that the uphill felt easier than I anticipated. Within about 5-6 miles we got our first good glimpse of Mount Hood, which looked very far away…
But the temperature was excellent, the wind dying down, and the evening was gorgeous. Our legs felt bit tired, but we were taking a relaxing pace and feeling strong.
In fact, I felt so good I was taking a bunch of photos and videos, because I knew we wouldn’t have a chance to once it got dark. Dan had decided he’d get some dinner in Hood River and then drive up to meet us at our first planned rest stop about 12-13 miles up at the Ranger Station. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get that far.
Just after recording a video saying how good things were going, I heard a sudden pop and immediately knew. I had a flat. Thinking we were still about a mile from our stop, we pulled over on the side of the road and got to fixing it.
I had one spare tube with me, and one at the car. I worked on changing the tube while Paul patched the busted one “just in case”. I’ve actually never had a flat on a long ride (just on commutes), so I guess this was just where the luck ran out. Thankfully, it was still warm and light out.
Dan drove by and yelled that he’d meet us at the Ranger Station, so we finished up and hopped back on our bikes. Turns out we were only 1/3 of a mile from the Ranger Station, which was good because as we pulled in I heard the same telltale pop.
Frustrated, I pulled out the repair kit again. I think in my haste to put the tire on the first time, I may have pinched it. I’ve never had that happen either, so you know, always a first time for everything. Paul kindly patched the second tube while I grabbed a snack, and then I wrestled it back on the bike. No sooner had I pumped the tire back up and put it on the frame, “HISSSSSS”.
The patch hadn’t held (the break was in a tricky spot) and we were getting worried. I knew my tires were worn, but this was nuts. I pulled back out the first patched tube, and put it on, crossing fingers it would work. We were quite worried we’d be abandoning our Picnic attempt right here if we couldn’t get it to hold. Thankfully, it seemed to work.
All told, we spent about 90minutes patching and changing flat tires. It was a nice break, but not at a spot we actually needed to rest. Spoiler alert: the tube held, but I spent the entire rest of the ride on edge wondering what we’d do if it blew again (especially in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere).
Finally, now into night time, we were off again. We cruised up the next 20 or so miles feeling relatively strong. It was actually a very neat feeling to be biking up highway 30 in the wee hours of the night. There was almost no traffic, so we rode side by side on the road.
At one stop, we did have a policeman pull over and ask us how we were doing, and if we felt safe on the road. We responded in the affirmative, but I understand it must have been odd to see us.
The goal was to stop at the top just before that downhill to layer up, but about 2miles before then I called a 5minute break. I was so cold I couldn’t feel my fingers. Once warmed up, we continued on to the downhill portion!
The downhill was glorious, if not a bit foggy and damp. It was a really nice break before the last climb. When we finally saw the sign for Timberline Lodge, we definitely celebrated!
However, those last 6 miles were grueling. At this point it was nearly 1:00 AM, we were cold and tired, and things were started to hurt. I had a a super sharp pain in my left shoulder that would explode every time I lowered my head. We were sore, and sleepy, and ready for more food. And the climb felt so steep.
Even still, there was something very, very cool about biking up the road in the middle of the night. We saw cars pass us, no doubt heading up for their own summit attempts, but otherwise it was quiet. We heard frogs and owls, and got a glimpse of the mountain here and there.
But we were going SLOW. Churning bit by bit up the road in our lowest gears, and just trying to hang in there until the parking lot. Honestly, seeing the lights from the lodge nearly brought me to tears. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so happy to get off my bike after a ride.
There’s a small bike rack at the lodge where we locked our bikes, and then we dragged our gear into the climber’s station and set about trying to get something to eat and recharge.
What we really needed was a nap, but it was already after 2:00 AM and we also needed to get going. That time we lost changing flats (let’s call it 60min, as we probably would have taken 20-30min of breaks anyway) really set us back, as we wanted to be starting up no later than 2:00 AM.
But, we knew this was our only shot, and we had come so far. So we finished our sandwiches, drank our cranberry juice, and suited up.