Today was one of those magnificent mid-March days in Portland that makes you realize that spring is just right around the corner.
It's not, of course, and we still have two to three more months of soul-crushing rain and dismal cloud cover before we really get to enjoy nice weather...
Nevertheless all this sunshine has me thinking of one of my favorite after-work motorcycle rides out of Portland.
The "St. Helens" loop as I like to call it has some of the more exciting and beautiful hill climbs (paved) that you can hit up in the wee hours between clocking out and nightfall on a summer night in the northwest. Best done in a "clockwise" fashion the route leaves from Portland northbound on I-5. I'm sorry, I hate freeways too, but if you time it right you'll miss the traffic entirely. Once you hit Woodland get off I-5 and head East on WA-503.
After you pass the reservoir be on the lookout for the right-hand turns onto NF-90 and again onto Curly-Creek Rd (towards Carson, WA). As soon as you turn onto Curly-Creek you're on the second climb. It's one of those sections of road that makes me hate the fact that my KLR tops out at 85. Not that I condone "wreckless" riding or "speeding" (whatever that means) but I will say I was crazy jealous of my friend who blew past me on his Triumph Daytona on this particular section of road a few years back. It has the potential to be a damn fast bit of road. As hard as it is to stop when you've got a good climb like this I do encourage you to keep an eye out for the "Scenic Overlook" signs as you're rounding the long right curve on the uphill. It affords a stellar view of Mt St. Helens on clear day.
From the scenic overlook it's easy to continue following signage back into Carson, and then stick to the North side of the Columbia river back in to Portland. There isn't an dirt on the ride of course, but it's meant to be a high-satisfaction quick loop to unwind after a hard day, and you and your buddys can enjoy it regardless of the type of bike everyone is on.