The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Gal by Bike: My ride on the new Columbia Gorge Express

Posted by on June 1st, 2016 at 8:57 am

My bike and my ride to the Gorge – all ready to roll!
(Photos by Kiel Johnson and Kate Laudermilk)

Our Gal by Bike columnist Kate Laudermilk was one of the first people to ride the Columbia Gorge Express — a new transit option with service between Portland and Multnomah Falls.

One of the arguments I made as I desperately tried to convince myself that I needed to buy a new car after parting ways with my partner (and our car) four years ago was that I needed a car to fully experience all of the natural wonders surrounding Portland.

I felt like I was going to be trapped in Portland until the end of my days.

Little did I know that, when you don’t have a car, you get creative. You use the old noggin. I no longer feel trapped in any way.

The new Columbia Gorge Express is great! Kiel and I tried it out this past weekend and combined it with a ride on the Historic Highway State Trail all the way to Cascade Locks where we enjoyed some of the local flavors (beer and ice cream).

Here are a few photos from our wonderful journey…

The bus itself held about 20 people and had room for strollers and extra baggage in the back.  It has a ramp that can come down to accommodate folks with walkers or wheel chairs, and has room for three bikes on the front of the vehicle.  The bike racks are extremely similar to those on the Trimet bus.

There was a really great energy in the bus — folks were really excited!  I overheard a lot of conversations between complete strangers.  You don’t get that when you drive in your car alone.

Forgot to buy your ticket online ahead of time?  No problem!  You can pay with your card right on the bus!

In this picture neither of us could believe how easy it was to get to that point.  We were already at Multnomah Falls and hadn’t even broken a sweat!


Had I ridden all the way from Portland to this point at Cascade Locks, I would have been passed out in this photo. Thanks to the Columbia Gorge Express, this slightly out of shape gal could make it no problem!

In the end, it’s all about the ice cream, the beer, and the comfort of knowing that I don’t have to find my car in the labyrinth that is the Multnomah Falls parking lot.  Cheers!

For more on the Columbia Gorge Express check out the official website and watch the new video:

— Kate Laudermilk, @katelaudermilk

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Looks like a great trip! I definitely plan on using this service this summer. Do you know if there is room to bring a folding bike on the bus (as opposed to the front rack)?

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    • Kate Laudermilk (Contributor) June 1, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      I would say 1-2 folding bikes could feasibly fit on board so long as there are no individuals with wheel chairs or walkers that need to be placed in the back.

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  • Tad June 1, 2016 at 9:28 am

    That looks like a fantastic trip! I’d love to do that if there were enough room for me AND my kids’ bikes too. That’d be a fantastic way to get them out & about in the gorge without having to do the drive.

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    • Kate Laudermilk (Contributor) June 1, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      Even without bikes this would be a blast for you and your family! There are so many great hikes that start from that area.

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  • Adam June 1, 2016 at 9:31 am


    Were the stops easy to find at either end?

    Was payment easy to make with a card?

    What sort of people do you think were taking it? Tourists or locals?

    Looking forward to doing this. Especially afterwards reading on the news about that trio of thieves that were videoed at Fred Meyer this week racking up thousands of dollars on cards stolen during trailhead breakins around Portland.

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    • Kate Laudermilk (Contributor) June 1, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      The stop at Gateway Transit Center was a bit tricky — it’s set back from the rest of the bus stops — it’s closer to the Fred Meyer parking lot! Payment is easy with a card but I think it’s a tad faster just to get the ticket online if you know you’re going ahead of time (you don’t have to designate certain times — the ticket is good all day). It was hard to tell if folks were tourists or not — I did notice a few people who had friends or family in town that wanted to see the Gorge.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 12:20 pm

        Hopefully TriMet can put up some clearer signage pointing the the bus and maybe even get a dedicated bus stop closer to the rest of the buses.

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        • Active June 1, 2016 at 3:46 pm

          It’s an ODOT service so I’m not sure if TriMet would be involved in signing or not.

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 3:49 pm

            Well yes, but I assumed that TriMet has jurisdiction over Gateway TC, so they’d be the one to install signs.

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  • KristenT June 1, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Lovely shots!

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  • Bill June 1, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Only 3 bike racks for a 20 person or so bus? That could be an issue.

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    • anna June 1, 2016 at 11:32 am

      not for the Brompton mafia 😛

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      • Kate Laudermilk (Contributor) June 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

        There is space in the back for a brompton or two so long as there is not an individual with a wheel chair on board.

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      • Pete June 3, 2016 at 11:02 pm

        There is a coat rack for the tweed jacket as well.

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    • Spiffy June 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      it’s 50% more than a TriMet bus, and looks to be illegally blocking the driver’s view with the bike seats in the way…

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  • David June 1, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Can you reserve a bike rack spot ahead of time or is it first come, first served?

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    • Kate Laudermilk (Contributor) June 1, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      As far as I can tell, it is first come first serve. Thankfully the bus comes fairly frequently — giving you multiple chances!

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  • Cory P June 1, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    This weekend I’m going to try skating out to Multnomah Falls and take the bus back. I’ve wanted to skate to the falls for years now but the round trip distance was a bit daunting.

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    • Dan A June 1, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Boosted board 🙂

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    • Pete June 3, 2016 at 11:04 pm

      East or west winds in the forecast? 😉

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  • dachines June 1, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    As an alternate option to shouldering your bike on those stairs, you could have used the built in wheel gutters and rolled your bike down.

    I’ve used those wheel gutters to get my bike up those stairs, but I have also shouldered the bike there too. 🙂

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    • gl. June 1, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      I hate those stairs so much! Can’t wait until they replace them with a ramp!

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      • K'Tesh June 2, 2016 at 5:37 am

        There is a place already there for you. On each side of the stairs, there’s an area where your wheels can be placed (that little trough) as you push your bike up, or steady it coming down. No need to carry the bike.

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  • Charles Ross June 2, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I’ve ridden this route several times, the last being from Portland – Maryhill and back on the Washington side. It is an enjoyable ride between PDX and the first set of Falls; really not to be missed.

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  • Craig Harlow June 2, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    This is so cool. I’m hoping that the demand will be such that they increase the frequency. I might pack a meal and a book, in case there’s already a queue of people waiting with bikes, and my bike and I have to wait for the next bus(es).

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  • Christopher Sanderson June 2, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    No dogs allowed… bummer.

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    • Pete June 3, 2016 at 11:09 pm

      We take our two Chorkies on the CAT bus, just fyi, but usually leave them in their flight bags with heads out. Not sure about bigger dogs on it, though. Bummer about this one, but understandable.

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