Mouse over any Image to see a larger view.
PROLOGUE: Many of our travel adventures include bicycling; the heart of this trip was a 7 day cycling tour along the Columbia and Snake Rivers in Oregon and Washington. We decided to drive from Fredericksburg to Portland which would afford us the chance to visit some of the National Parks in Utah. Our route took us to Roswell NM and then to Moab, Utah where we visited Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. From Moab we continued to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. From Bryce Canyon we had only 2 more days of driving to reach Portland. We met friends (Lee and Beckie Wilson) in Portland and began to visit as many of the local breweries we could in a one day period. Following one night in Portland we moved to the Vancouver Hilton in Washington to join the Santana Columbia River Gorge Tandem Tour.
Sunday, August 21, 2016: Vancouver Washington – Portland Oregon:
We began the morning with a breakfast buffet in the Hilton. Bill McCready (our tour organizer for Santana) gave his route talk explaining that we have a very easy urban ride into Portland and a day to kill in the city. The ride included the Interstate 5 bridge over the Columbia and along residential streets and bike paths into the city. We joined Lee and Beckie and managed with just a few corrections to find the bike shop in downtown Portland. There we met Jeff and Darla Hollansworth from Hot Springs Village. Beckie had wanted to visit the flagship Columbia Store which was only a few blocks away. Of course the girls found something on the sale rack which they absolutely had to have and even though we were on a bicycle they were determined to buy these newly found treasures. From the Columbia store we found the Chinese Garden and took a one hour tour of the grounds. Next we found the Pints Brew Pub for lunch and a cold beer. By now we had killed enough time that we could return to Vancouver and board the American Empress which would be our home for the next 7 days. We found our accommodations on the upper deck in a spacious suite. We met our cabin steward and then proceeded to the River Grill lounge for a Welcome on Board party on the aft deck. There were plenty of wine and beer (if you consider ImBev products beer?) and snacks for everyone. Later we had a chance to clean up and prepare for the evening activities which included a program in the show lounge to meet the crew and learn about the schedule for the coming week. The Empress pulled away from the dock and we started to cruise down the Columbia to the Willamette River and turn in towards Portland. We had a twilight dinner cruise through Portland causing many drawbridges to open to accommodate the taller paddle wheeler ship. The lounge show started at 9:00pm; we were they to enjoy after dinner drinks and listen and dance to the music provided by Ted…a lot of fun, but soon time to retire for the day. Only 25 miles of riding today with virtually no climbing
Monday, August 22, 2016: Vancouver, WA – Astoria, OR
Breakfast on the American Empress began at 6:00am…very nice buffet plus omelet chef in the River Grill. We had a little time to kill before boarding the busses at 8:00 for the 40 mile ride to the starting point of the ride. We started the ride at the highest point of the day with a 4 mile, 40MPH descent, the air was cool and damp from a recent drizzle. The route took us through back country roads and over the last remaining covered bridge in Washington. For the first 24 miles we rode with Lee & Becky, and Jeff & Darla, but at Naselle our group broke apart and we were on our own for the last half of the ride. We rode along some wetlands before reaching the Pacific Coast Highway (101) which then took us into Astoria and over the 4.5 mile long bridge over the Columbia River. We found our way back to the Empress and immediately went to the Show Lounge for afternoon snacks. The evening show began at 6:00PM featuring music from the movies with Lindy and Greg (cruise directors and entertainers) Dinner started at 7:30; we started to tell of our adventures from earlier in the day which turned into a laugh in which resonated through the dining room. I’m sure the unlimited wine had something to do with the raucous behavior. Following dinner, we moved to the Paddle Wheel lounge for an hour of Tunes with Ted. We sang and danced to the music until the bar closed at 10. With no place else to go, we returned to our suite for the night. Total miles today 54 with 1900 feet of climbing.
Tuesday August 23, 2016: Mount Saint Helens
The morning started with breakfast in the River Grill and then boarding busses for the 90 minute transfer to the Discovery Center at Mount Saint Helens which is run by the National Park Service. We got there just in time to hear a 20 minute Ranger talk about the events of the 1980 eruption. Next we went inside to watch a brief documentary film about the eruption and it’s destruction. Some of the heartier riders began their ride at the Center, but we rode in the bus another 12 mile to begin our ride. We started at the top of the mountain range and continued downhill for almost 30 miles. The road was freshly topped with chip seal so not the most pleasant surface but no cracks or pot holes to contend with. We did stop once at the Weyerhaueser center to learn about the recovery of the devastated forest from a commercial viewpoint. We continued our descent (which did level out and required several miles of pedaling) to a decision point where we could have bailed out for a bus ride back to the boat or continue on another 12 miles to the dock. We chose to ride on and arrived back at the Empress at 4:00. We loaded our bike into the trailer and went immediately to the Show Lounge for snacks and drinks. We had plenty of time to clean up and get ready for the 6:00 show and then for dinner at 7:00 in the River Grill. The Grill is a reservation only venue and offers a different menu selection from the main dining room. Of course the wine is the same and the bottle is never empty. The menu offered Lamb Chops, or Filet Mignon, or Lobster or grilled Salmon. Tough choice but all of us were pleasantly satisfied with our selections. Following dinner we went to the Paddle Wheel Lounge for “Name that Tune”. Most of the music was recognizable but from a period of music in which I had not immersed myself…needless to say I only knew the titles of 5 out of 25 numbers. By this time we were ready to call it a day and get some rest for the next day. Total Miles today 52 with virtually no climbing.
Wednesday August 24, 2016: The Dalles - Stevenson:
Our bicycle adventure began at the port so for the first time we did not have to ride to a remote start. The first leg was on a winding bike path for 5 miles along the Columbia to an Interpretive Center which displayed the history of life along the river. In addition to the exhibits, there was a raptor program where the bird handler presented a red tail hawk, a peregrine falcon and a great horned owl. All of the birds were rescued and were not able to live on their own in the wild. From the center, we started a beautiful 2 mile climb up to the Rowena Overlook. The grade was a gentle 5% and the views of the river were remarkable. After the photo op, we started a wonderful descent down to the coffee / ice cream break on the historic highway 30. Leaving the rest stop, we rode the best bike path ever which was either the old highway or a railroad bed, but it did go through a short tunnel and through a beautiful shaded forest. As we completed the ride along the bike path, we were commenting how this was the best route of the tour so far, we should have waited another mile before we made our assessment. We made a left turn onto a steep incline that was freshly topped with loose gravel. It was a miserable and dangerous climb due to the loose gravel. We did manage to negotiate the short treacherous section of road (with a short walk) and then started to enjoy a route through well groomed orchards with great views of Mt. Hood. The ride ended in a Wal-Mart parking lot where busses were waiting to take us back to the Empress. Bill had a surprise for us at the boat…a stop at the Walking Man Brewery and a ticket for a free half pint. We met Lee and Beckie on the bus and found Jeff and Darla already enjoying beer and pizza. We quaffed our ½ pint and then ordered a pitcher and pizza to cap off the ride. The evening program was a cruise through the Bonneville locks and a deck party on the aft deck. The party ended in time to go to the trivia contest followed by Tunes with Ted and then back to our cabin for the night. 47 Miles of riding with 2900 feet of ascent
Thursday August 25, 2016: Umatilla - Stevenson
Our ride started at 8:00 at the boat dock; within a couple of miles we started up a significant 12 mile climb up to an overlook where we met the rest of the tour who had elected to ride the bus to the top. According to our Garmin, the steepest pitch was 12%, but we managed to negotiate the incline without any consequence. Once we arrived at the top, we started the most wonderful descent back down to the river. We made a brief stop at the Vista House overlooking the river and then continued down the most beautiful stretch of road under a heavy forest canopy. Once down, we followed a bike path parallel to the interstate 84. We stopped briefly to see Multnomah Falls then continued until we arrived at the Bonneville Dam and fish hatchery. We stopped for some time to tour the fish hatchery and the dam visitor’s center. The temperature really increased while we were visiting the dam, but fortunately we only had 6 miles remaining to reach to Empress which was docked in Stevenson. We had been riding on the Oregon side of the river but we had to cross the Bridge of the Gods to get into Washington. We paid our dollar toll and crossed over the Columbia like horses headed home to the barn. We skipped the final stop at another river interpretative center and rode directly to the Walking Man Brewery where we stopped for a pitcher of IPA and an opportunity to visit with other ride finishers. Finally we were back on the Empress by 3:30 with plenty of time to clean up and relax before going to the lounge for some afternoon jazz and then to the show lounge for a champagne reception where the disembarkation procedures were presented. Next we went to dinner in the River Grill with Lee, Beckie, Jeff & Darla. Following dinner we went to the Paddle Wheel Lounge for an evening of Motown music with Ted and the Empress Quartet…lots of fun and dancing, but by 10:00 we were ready to return to our cabin for the evening. Total Miles for the day 40 with 2400 feet of climbing.
Friday August 26, 2016 Richland - Clarkston
We planned for an easier day of riding mostly because of the heat and intense sunshine in the afternoon. The ride start was a remote start requiring a 13 mile bus ride to arrive at the start. We found our bike and began a pleasant ride along the Umatilla River in the direction of Pendleton. The route was on a low traffic road which paralleled the river. The road surface was a bit rough for the first half, but smoothed out towards the end. We managed the 26.6 miles in just less than 2 hours with a little under 1200 feet of climbing. We found the truck where we loaded our bike and then walked a block for the tour of underground Pendleton. The tour took us under the sidewalks where in an earlier period the underground served as an alternate life experience for much of the population. After the tour we walked to Hamley’s saloon for lunch. The lunch was a nice buffet in a large open room. Following lunch, we were finished riding for the day so we boarded the bus for the ride back to the boat. The first stop was to drop riders who wanted to ride some more in the afternoon. We then continued on for about 20 miles to wait for the riders as they completed their ride. Once our bus was full we rode to the boat which was docked at the Sacagawea Park. By 5:00 all riders were back on the Empress and we were on our way. We had some time for happy hour before dinner at 7:00 in the River Grill and then the great 50’s, 60’s & 70’s Rock and Roll party in the Show Lounge. We danced until the music ended at 10:00 and then to our cabin for the night. 26 miles of riding with 1200 feet of climbing
Saturday August 27, 2016: Clarkston, WA – Lewiston, ID
This is our last day to ride on this tour. We chose to have breakfast in the Astoria Dining Room instead of the River Grill for a change of pace. The start was dependent on when the Empress arrived at the dock and this was determined by how long it took to negotiate the four locks on the Snake River. Fortunately we did not encounter any delays and arrived pretty much on schedule. We were off the boat and on the bike by 8:15. The first 12 miles were flat and fast along the Snake River. But at mile 12 we made a left turn onto the Spiral Highway and began a beautiful 7 mile 1900 foot climb up to elevation 2700 feet. We found a comfortable pace and managed the climb in an hour. The descent was on the highway and we took the right hand lane and negotiated the fast descent in 10 minutes which had required an hour climb…that’s the difference between climbing a 6 mph and descending at 42 mph. We arrived back at the boat around 11:30 with plenty of time to load the bike on the truck for the trip back to Portland and then shower and change for a hamburger lunch in the River Grill. This the only time we were ever on the boat at lunch time. After lunch we boarded a jet boat for a 37 mile ride up the rapids on the Snake River through Hell’s Canyon. Our captain narrated all the sights along the river including wildlife, ranches, rock formation and remote cabins. We arrived at a Nature Conservancy outpost to pause for refreshments and then boarded for the return trip. The entire experience was almost 4 hours duration and by my estimation about 3 hours too long. Back on the Empress we barely had time to get a bottle of Champagne and grab a seat for the 6:00 show. Lindy presented an amazing 45 minute program of Broadway hits, opera and popular songs; the entertainment aboard the boat was extremely good. After the show, we went to dinner in the Astoria Dining Room and then to the Paddle Wheel lounge for Tunes with Ted. By now the activities of the day dictated that we call it a day (we were the last guests in the lounge) and head off for our last night on the American Empress. Total miles for the day 34 with 2500 feet of climbing.
Sunday August 28, 2016: Lewiston, ID – Vancouver, WA
Debarkation is always a hectic and hurried event. We had to leave our suitcases outside the cabin door by 10:00pm the evening before and we would not see them again until we arrived back at the hotel in Vancouver. We had a little time for a quick breakfast and then had to load on the bus for the scheduled 4 hour trip to Vancouver. There was a serious problem with the air conditioning on the bus causing us to stop at least twice to try to correct the issue. It never worked at designed capacity but did finally put out enough cooling to be bearable. The trip of course took a lot longer than planned but by 4:00 in the afternoon we were back in the hotel ready to meet Jeff and Darla for drinks and dinner.
Monday August 29 – Saturday September 3, 2016 Vancouver, WA – Fredericksburg, TX
The return trip provided a brief stop in Crater Lake National Park with an overnight in Lakeview, Oregon. The next night in Price, Utah and eventually to Colorado Springs where we spent 2 nights visiting friends, Larry and Monte Hudson and their little puppy Bailey. From Colorado Springs we drove directly to Fredericksburg with a brief overnight in Abilene. Total Miles driven 5115 with average 27.8 MPG.