This is an event that I have been trying to attend for a couple of years now but there was always something that conflicted and denied me the opportunity. This year however seems to be a different story and I decided that good weather or bad, I am there! The resulting post is long winded and photo heavy, because well, I really liked this ride! 81-dalles-mountain-60   The route is a 60 mile jaunt around the upper Columbia River Gorge, about a third or more is on dirt roads. It is an annual event but one which has no entry fee and is totally unsupported. I generally like these kinds of “rogue” events and am always willing to take care of myself on a ride. I wish there were more events out there that just said “screw the regulations, let’s go ride!”

The bike I am riding is my L’Eroica veteran 1974 Legnano Gran Premio . It is essentially still just as I rode it at L’Eroica in Italy in 2012. It has a 2 x 5 Campy Gran Sport drive with a bottom gear of 36/28 which is good enough for all but the steepest hills. If that is not enough in the low end the fault lies with my legs and not my gears! The forecast for the area was initially for heavy rain and I began to despair a bit about the conditions that morning. With the dirt road sections on the route it could be quite unpleasant if wet. It was raining in Portland when I left in the A.M. and poured pretty much during the whole drive, but when I pulled into the Dalles the rain had let up quite a bit. The roads were still wet but it was raining only lightly at the start. dalles01 There seemed to be less than a hundred riders hovering at the designated coffee shop, waiting for the 10 am start time, but all around the local streets other riders were waiting for their own groups to be ready. It is my guess that there were about 200 riders to actually start the event although there is no way to be sure since it is all very unofficial (wink, wink).

dalles02 I was off in the first wave of riders and the roads were still quite wet. We headed out of town and across the Columbia River into Washington State, where after about 5 miles we turned onto Dalles Mountain Rd. and onto our first section of gravel for the day. This is also where the climbing started and there was about 5 miles of it ahead in this 10 mile section of dirt.   dalles04 There were all kinds of bike types on the ride, anything from road, cyclo-cross, MTB and commuters were seen. My Legnano seemed to be the only vintage machine out there. dalles03 The gravel roads were mostly firm and had at least one good line to ride, but in some places it was soft and loose across the whole road which made the climb a bit harder.

dalles08dalles05Finishing the climb we had a fast and sometimes sketchy descent on loose gravel down the backside of Dalles Mountain Road, then with a great tailwind we fast cruised some welcome pavement. I thought that by now we had probably descended about as much as we had climbed earlier, which meant that soon we would likely be headed uphill again! dalles09 I was pleasantly surprised when after our next right turn on Hwy 97 we were headed what appeared to be a long downhill. I was surprised again when after just 1/4 mile on this highway the whole group turned left onto a dirt road blocked by a fence. As we were lifting our bikes over I was assured that the “No Trespassing” sign did not apply to us! dalles10 The old Maryhill road was actually in pretty good shape but you just had to stay on your toes for potholes and washouts camouflaged by the shrubbery. This may have been the old main road but apparently the county forgot to install the “road not maintained” sign! dalles11 The Maryhill Loops Road is one of the most amazing roads I have seen! We connected with it on our descent and enjoyed a fast and twisty descent for several miles. At the bottom end the road is blocked by a gate and car traffic is not allowed. It is beautiful smooth  pavement the whole way and totally car free!

dalles12dalles13Descending further we joined State Hwy 14 briefly before turning off to visit Stonehenge. Yes, you heard me correctly, Stonehenge! This version however is a monument to honor fallen soldiers from WW1. It was built by the effort of Samuel Hill a patron of the region and completed in May of 1929. I couldn’t believe that we were still descending but the river was still well below us. As we left the memorial we turned steeply down again. It seemed to me that we had already descended much more than we had climbed. All I could say was bring it on! dalles15 Finally we did hit bottom, in the little hamlet of Maryhill. As we turned back to the west I became aware of something that I had been ignoring for some time, there would be a headwind all the way home!

dalles20A couple of miles later we crossed the Columbia River again back to the Oregon side. We were just over halfway into the ride and it was time to eat! With a serious headwind to fight and unknown hills to conquer I wanted to be well fueled. Luckily, a McDonalds appeared just when it was needed and many of the riders stopped along with me. The old Legnano looked a bit out of place among the other carbon and disc brake equipped bikes.

dalles21I have learned a few survival skills over the years on these longer rides. I knew that in fighting the headwinds back to finish I would want some allies for the battle. I stalked a few of the departing groups and found one that looked promising and joined in. They seemed to be happy for the help!

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After several miles of battling the headwind we crossed the Deschutes River and turned up Moody Canyon Road. I had no clue what was coming next but I was happy to be out of the wind, or so I thought. The relief was short lived and in a half mile or so Moody Canyon Road turned to dirt and then steeply up. In fact these were the steepest climbs of the day, with of the some sections probably in excess of an 18% grade!

My poor Legnano just didn’t have the gears for these climbs. If I stood to pedal my wheel would spin, and my low gear was not low enough to sit and spin. I had to walk a couple of these pitches and I wasn’t the only one. The walk of shame loves company!

dalles23The climbing did level out and 5 or 6 miles later we dropped back to the pavement into the village of Fairbanks. From there it was a very favorable 8 or 10 mile run back into The Dalles, even with the headwinds! I arrived at the finish just before 3:00 pm, which is about 5 hours elapsed time for the event.   Even though it was a hard ride I was feeling pretty good at the finish.

This was one of the most enjoyable events I have ridden in quite some time. I will definitely be back to ride it again, next year perhaps! dalles24 The old Legnano took a beating throughout the day but held up well! It wasn’t bothered by the mud and dirt and shifted great all day. It handles the rough roads well and is very stable at speed. My only complaint is the brakes which offer more of a suggestion of braking than any real stopping power. dalles29   After a ride like this the bike certainly needs a good cleaning but then again so did I! dalles25dalles26 dalles27dalles28