The idea began during discussion with my wife about what to do on a scooter adventure maximizing the fun during several business trips and vacations all over the states and around the world. Since scooterists do many things beyond just sitting on a bike, the intention of these submissions is to offer a brief idea for a travel adventure that mixes things to do beyond just scootin’. There may be ideas for sights to see, things to do, shopping tips, or just plain tourist-trap fun. Travelogue provides ideas for what to do before, during, after, and between scooter runs.
There is no fancy name for the gorge that was cut by the Columbia River that divides Oregon and Washington State. It is just called The Gorge. There is no need to call it any other name. Regardless of the bland name, it is beautiful and majestic.
The Gorge empties the Columbia into the greater Portland/Vancouver (WA) area by first spilling past the suburb of Troutdale. While Troutdale may not be the roots of the rich and famous, it IS the gateway to several scooter escapades.
From the east side of Portland, there are several day and weekend trips that take you around one of the greatest scoot adventures ever. Bring your smartphone and your riding gloves because the sights are eye-popping and the ride is a rush. (Portland is an amazing city in its own right and worth spending some time in. Ride the Max, and hit the waterfront.)
Before you embark for Troutdale, your scooter journey should begin with a visit with the local scooter scene. A quick web search for “scooter clubs in Portland, OR” will reveal several options. Make contact and see if your new friends want to come along. Stop in to see the gang at Vespa or Portland to add even more contacts. And, of course, you can check out Facebook for the scooterheads in town and consider a meet-up at Pine State Biscuits. If you are hoteling, stay in the Troutdale area or near Mt. Hood Community College.
OK, now for the ride… there are a few major East/West roads on the East side of Portland… Halsey Street is the one you want. Just go west! Just when you think you’re about to run out of city… ta da!
Load up on fuel here, for it may be a while before you see another station. (If your scooter has a small tank, then travel with a little more.) Continue east into what seems like you are heading for a crevasse that separates a town from the foothills of the Cascade Range. Once you cross the Sandy River, Halsey Street will come to an end. Turn right and head up river.
Whatever you do, you HAVE to stop at Tad’s Chicken and Dumplin’s. At least, that’s what it is called during the day. But at night, the neon sign is broken, so it transforms into Tad’s Chick Dump. It does not matter if you are full, jam your finger down your throat if you have to… but you GOTTA eat there. Dumplin’s the size of a cat’s head… and they taste WAY better.
Buy the frinkin’ T-shirt on the way out! However, you may need a bigger size.
Ok, now that YOUR tank is full… continue up river…
You’ll pass Dabney and putt into Springdale.
You can start to feel the corners come to life on your scooter. Your throttle hand should start to begin to twitch with the adrenalin rush that will last all day.
If you were stupid enough to skip Tad’s, there’s a little sandwich joint in town so ask a local for help finding it if you want to stop. At the end of town, turn left on Bell Road. You head uphill into the little community of Corbett. At the other end of Corbett is an intersection of Corbett Hill Road and Evans Road. Pull off here and take a 360 look around the mountains. If it is a clear day, you can see Mount St. Helens due north. She blew her top in 1980 and is still active today. You should also be looking closely at Mt. Hood to the east. The hill to the left in the foreground with the notch is Larch Mountain.
You now have a couple tough choices to make. Time and cc’s will be your guide here.
The Gordon Creek/Dodge Park Run: Turn right on Evans Road and cross over to Gordon Creek Road… you may want to avoid to see if your scooter can fly (over the barriers)… there are some AMAZING corners with chicanes and switch-backs. Cross into Clackamas County and work your way back to Sandy… But don’t miss the turn (right) at Ten Eyck Road right after the Bull Run River… follow this to Dodge Park.
Pull off. Take a rest, and maybe skinny dip, if you’re brave. You’ve earned this.
Refreshed and clothed? Continue up the hill and follow that until you return to Lusted Road. You will notice civilization beginning to come back to life… you’ll find yourself back to the south side of Troutdale. Whew!
The Multnomah Falls Run: Instead of turning south onto Evans, continue East. This takes you up the Gorge on the Historic Columbia River Highway. This route was built by FDR and the CCC. While I doubt if FDR set any of the stones himself, it is still a majestic route.
Skipping the civics lesson, strap your helmet back on and let’s head to the river. Be sure to NOT miss the sign to Crown Point or Vista House… it’s all the same. (Same highway, but the signs seem to disappear, probably as a souvenir in a scooter shop of an author. Hypothetical speculation, of course.)
Once you get to the Vista House at Crown Point you will know why the fuss. Stop and soak it all in. Rooster Rock is right below you. Beacon Rock, the second largest rock in the world, second only to the Rock of Gibraltar, is off in the distance on the Washington side.
Every major car manufacturer has taken pictures here; so why not you? Be sure to get your selfie. If the gift shop is open, buy a trinket and a soda. Back on the bike, head down the hill and get ready for some fun turns. Watch out for what the locals call “Sunday Drivers” – these are the knuckleheads that just drive too slowly. You’ll pass many small waterfalls. Each one is a great photo stop.
You may want to consider topping off the tank in Bridal Veil. The next stop is just ahead, Multnomah Falls. Park there, take pictures, hike up to the bridge at least (it’s even wheel chair accessible), and spend several hours. On a hot day, dipping your feet into the lower pool is a great relief.
In case you need to know, there are several state parks and county parks that offer camping spots, so explore this stretch if you want to spread your adventure out. Search the inner-webs to help you find a stop that fits your needs.
To get home, you’ll have to reverse the route, but now the day is later and the falls you passed on the way have a totally different look. More selfies!
Larch Mountain Run (only worth it on a clear day!): Before you end up at Vista House, turn right onto East Larch Mountain Road. Just stay on this road for a long time. Seemingly forever. You might even qualify for Social Security by the time you reach the end. But the end is breathtaking. Park and let the blood flow back into your butt. Crack open that energy drink you likely don’t need and grab your phone. Lock up your scoot and get ready for a short walk. (I think it’s about 1200 ft.)
When you get to the top, give yourself a full 360 spin and count all of the volcanos… If the crowds are huge, then start talking about the bear you saw in the walk up. The crowds may begin to thin quickly.
With the solitude, selfie your life away, permanently capturing this life-changing moment on the electroni-sphere. Saunter your way back to the empty parking lot and gear up for the second funnest part… the ride downhill. Corners! Corners! Corners! Lean in, baby! It doesn’t get much better than this.
Hideously Insane Route – Timberline!!! (This route requires a few miles on I-84 for the return, unless you backtrack.): Down Evans Road, cross to Gordon Creek Road. Giggle with glee on the corners. Pull off for vista selfies. Glide across the Aims ridge. Cross the Bull Run River, but at the top of that hill, turn left to Sandy instead of doing Dodge Park (to the right).
When you roll into Sandy, refuel. Then head uphill on Hwy 26 (West). Most of this portion is 50 MPH and has lots of hills. Traveling in packs is safer. If the weather is clear, you’ll round a corner and your eyes might pop out at shockingly amazing views of Mt. Hood.
If it is a toasty day, stop by the DQ in Rhododendron on the left, for a refresher and potty stop. Within a few minutes, and a brief stint on the final climb, you’ll roll into Government Camp. Back in the CCC days, this was a major hub of camps for workers developing road and Timberline Lodge. Government Camp is apolitical at this time, but it is the last form of civilization for some time. Refuel. The 2-Star Rest Area on the far end of town is actually at the base of a ski resort… offering some breath-taking unique summer-time views. (And the open sewer smell of the rest area is usually breath-taking, too.)
But the most spectacular views are yet to come…
Just after the pass, take the left and cruise up the steep and winding road to Timberline Lodge. This is one of the few buildings in the world that are built at the proverbial timberline (where the trees stop growing due to the elevation/lack of oxygen). With that, keep in mind the elevation may affect your scoot’s ability to run.
If you have reservations called in ahead, you can stay the night inside the lodge. Walk around and check out the architecture and décor. (Plus, your butt will enjoy the restored circulation.)
Carefully navigate back down the steep/windy road. Translation: Go as fast as you can but stay on the road and avoid hitting any cars or animals. Back to Hwy 26, take a left.
Within just a few miles, turn left onto Hwy 35, heading toward Hood River. Then after a few bends, you’ll come to a bridge crossing the White River. Pull off to the left, park and gasp at the view. Take a drink of the ice-cold glacier water that flows year round. Grab a small piece of black granite as a memento and consider the last 2-star restroom you’ll see for a while. (A 2-star restroom is always better than no restroom.)
Continue around Mt. Hood and roll into Hood River. Refuel right away, for you are likely on fumes. This is where you have to get onto a freeway for 24 miles. Head West.
Pull off at exit 40, at the Bonneville Dam visitor center. The State Park, fish hatchery, and dam tour are spectacular, but whatever you do, find the Sturgeon Pond and stare down a living dinosaur… they are HUGE! Be sure to joke about taking the dam exit, driving on the dam road, walking the dam trails, and seeing the dam big fish.
Refuel and endure just 5 more miles of freeway, getting off at exit 35, as you wind your way to the Historic Columbia River Highway. Within a few more miles, you’ve made the loop back to Multnomah Falls. Then you can do the reverse of the Multnomah Falls Run discussed above.
In a car, this is a long day. On a scooter, this is a major adventure. Find friends to join you, wear the right gear, be ready to have your cheeks hurt – all of them… your face from smiling; and your backside will be numb for days.
No matter what route above you pick, your butt may be sore, but it’s worth it.
Matt Simonis’ first Travelogue was published in American Scooterist, #61. He is a member of the Vespa Club of Seattle, VCOA, and the Vespa Club of Israel. He’s currently saving up money to buy a side-car, already named “Sideshow Bob.” You can email Matt directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and not a direct representation of the Vespa Club of America, it's member base, it's Officers or Board.