We know the slog is real at this phase of our lives. Work week, parenting, the stress of it all…whats your relief? For us, we go riding.
On a cool March day the week before daylight savings extended our evenings, I set off for Dixie Mountain. It was about 4:30pm in the afternoon and the goal was to enjoy the sunset but still get done by 6:30pm. Dixie Mountain is a gravel climb outside of North Plains. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to the top where there is the Dixie Mountain Grange (also a quilt square). As I headed out Evergreen Pkwy the experience was symbolic of the work I was leaving behind. It was hectic, but as I turned onto Starr and then Meek road the quiet of the country began to fold in on me and peace followed. Once I made it north of HWY26 on Jackson School road it was even more encompassing.
The road wound through the countryside and began to climb slightly towards the hills. I passed a barn, weathered from years of standing proudly in the country field. Then I found a church, with less regal of an existence. Its door was boarded, siding worn and neglected. The paint glass windows hinted at a previous existence much more beautiful than its current. An outhouse to the rear marred its beauty even more.
It wasn’t too much longer before the roads turned to gravel. I took Dixie Mountain road and almost immediately saw a sign saying the road was closed ahead. I knew this…but also had seen on google maps that a trail seemed to connect through the closure. I was running 38mm gravelkings and figured I’d just ride that trail, no matter how overgrown it might be.
It was quitting time and many truckers were coming down from the mill ahead. Eventually, I came to the closure. It was super wet, overgrown and something I was NOT going to be able to ride through. 6:30pm finish time was in jeopardy.
I doubled back to the bypass road and started my way around. When it passed over a creek bed the temperature dropped dramatically. It felt crisp and fresh all of the sudden and I knew that I probably was going to freeze my butt off once the shadows began to develop. The gravel was well packed though and the gradual incline felt fast. I twisted through the countryside, enjoying the climb and the sights on my way to the top. A dog ran after me, its owners yelling for him to return but in the end relenting with a yell towards me, “He’s friendly”! Yeah, I’m sure he’s friendly but I’m still going to kick him in the face if he gets in range.
At this point I began to wonder if I had time to get to the top before the sunset. I advised myself to keep going regardless and then I began wondering if I would even have a nice view once at the top! Before I had set out I didn’t think I’d ever ridden this road but the further up I got the more convinced I was that I had indeed done this climb. The thoughts you get while riding a bike.
Soon I emerged briefly and had a view of the valley. Further, the sun dropped and began its job of lighting up the sky. I reached the Grange and had a quick snack stop. Sometime in the summer they do a strawberry shortcake thing here and I really want to try and go. The Grange also has a strawberry quilt square but I failed to shoot it. Just before heading on my way I paused at the scene of light spraying through the trees onto the old siding of the Grange. It was remarkable.
I knew I was in trouble with the time but there was nothing I could do about it. This is a problem for me, letting go of the timing, the plan, the future, for a chance to experience the moment, the now. I continued to ride and then realized I was not actually to the top of the climb yet. The snow grew along the side of the road and the cold followed the sun descending upon me. As I looked back over my left shoulder the scene began to take on a breathtaking nature. Indigo, orange, pink. I love this.
I hit pavement again, and my pace increased dramatically. I whipped around skyline panicked I was missing seconds of the beautiful sunset falling to my back. Instead, I faced the glory of Mt Hood, standing tall over the city as the light hit its face and distinct layers of colors visible. NW Moreland Rd. my ticket back to the valley. Toes already cold I turned and descended into the growing darkeness.
The descent was fleeting. I saw a couple sitting on their property, just watching. Another mowing his large field on his green John Deere while the sun dissipated into the coast range. What different lives we live. The road flattened and the dodge cummins that was riding my wheel finally blew by with a puff of black smoke. Rolling coal or just a poorly tuned 5.9L, I don’t know. It quickly brought me back to reality from the magic I had just enjoyed, too quickly.
I turned my lights on, crossed hwy26 and felt the city rise back into me. The noise of cars, the buildings, the threat of glass or nails puncturing my tires. The feeling was pushed away briefly on Starr Rd. when a chorus of frogs filled my ears as I passed through a marsh area but then returned fully. I was back. Cheers to sunset rides after work.
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The grind after the grind… got away from work for Dixie Mountain before sunset and it was totally worth it. Protip: the signs on Dixie mtn road that say road closed ahead are TRUE! Just go around instead of thinking you'll just short cut it 👊 #outside #sunset #whereiride #gravel #dixiemountain #scappoose #oregonexplored #pnwonderland #skratchlabs #haanjogotmethere