You won’t find a Hyatt, a Hilton or even a Marriott in Pendleton, but we did stay in a nice little Travelodge in the center of town. Although the hotel was older, it was clean, the bed was comfortable and was consistent with what you’d expect to find in a small Oregon town (any small town for that matter). After enjoying a continental breakfast, we loaded up the bikes and mounted up for the much-anticipated run down the Columbia River gorge. Unfortunately, the battery on my trusty steed was dead. With the nearest Harley dealer a couple hundred miles away in Portland, we did what anyone would do—gave the bike a push and compression started her.
We were on our way.
The 1,243 mile long Columbia River has changed a lot since Lewis and Clark made their way to the Pacific Ocean. Since 1902, 14 dams have turned the wild Columbia into a series of lakes making river passage more convenient all the way from the Pacific Ocean to Lewiston, Idaho. Next to the Mississippi River, the Columbia is the biggest river I’ve ever seen.
We made a stop at Cascade Locks and spent a couple of hours exploring. Humans have been living along the Columbia River for an estimated 14,000 years—we just happen to be the most recent inhabitants. One of the old lock keeper homes has been turned into a quaint little museum (worth a few minutes, in my opinion) that provides a glimpse into what it must of been like to have lived along the river in the early days, before the dams changed the face of the river, and when travelers depended on the locks to get around the rapids.
A prominent feature at Cascade Locks is the Bridge of the Gods. Of course when most of us refer to it, we’re talking about the third oldest man-made bridge on the river, but the native Americans have a different definition. The Klickitats tell of the sons of Tyhee Saghalie (the chief of all the gods) who traveled down the Columbia River from the far north to find a place to settle.
They came upon what is now called The Dalles and thought they had never seen a land so beautiful. The sons quarreled over the land and to solve the dispute their father shot two arrows from his mighty bow; one to the north and the other to the south. He then built Tanmahawis, the Bridge of the Gods, so his family could meet periodically.
When the two sons of Saghalie both fell in love with a beautiful maiden named Loowit, she could not choose between them. The two young chiefs fought over her, burying villages and forests in the process. The area was devastated and the earth shook so violently that the huge bridge fell into the river, creating the Cascades Rapids of the Columbia River Gorge.
For punishment, Saghalie struck down each of the lovers and transformed them into great mountains where they fell. One, became the volcano known today as Mount Hood and the other, Mount Adams. Their love became Mount St. Helens, known to the Klickitats as Louwala-Clough which means “smoking or fire mountain”.
We tend to believe that a landslide that occurred some time around 1100 CE is the culprit. I like the Klickitat version.
Nevertheless, we crossed the bridge over into Washington (so we could say we did) and headed on down to Portland and a new battery for the bike. After a stop at Latus Harley-Davidson and the purchase of the new battery, I unloaded the bike and made the replacement. We were on the road again.
Instead of following the river the rest of the way into Astoria, we opted to head over Highway 26 to Seaside. It was a great ride over the mountain pass and a beautiful view of the forests of Oregon. I thought I knew what a forest was, but there are actually spaces between the trees in Utah.
We arrived in Astoria after dark, but three motorcycles make a pretty good headlamp, so setting up camp was a breeze. I don’t remember how long it actually took me to pass out, but I did pass out. Sleeping on the ground never felt so good.