Friday, June 17, 2016

Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway tour


(copyright 2016 paula joy welter, all rights reserved)

Wow, I am turning 65 this year!  I haven’t pedaled out on a bike tour since 2014 — when I got my butt kicked by a group of memorable Oregon cyclists, some of whom were in their 70’s and 80’s!  (I was the turtle, throughout my ride with them.)  

So what if I'm almost 65!  During the first week of June, 2016, newly retired and ready to "refire," I embarked on a short-lived but rewarding fully-loaded self-supported bicycle tour on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.  

A Sacramento friend, Jeane (66) agreed to join me. This was Jeane’s very first bicycle touring effort, and she was excited.  The last bicycle tour I did was in 2014, so I too was looking forward to a pedaling adventure.  Picture me, 5’8”, sturdy build, thanks to Dutch ancestry…towering above Jeane, several inches shorter and decidedly petite — so much so that she has a hard time finding a bike to ride that is a good fit for her half-pint size.  

We researched the route and printed out the routeslips and maps provided at:  
We found the turn-by-turns posted here accurate and easy to follow — at least, as far as we pedaled. 

Some background:  

Jeane and I regularly do recreational cycling in Sacramento, CA on the beloved American River Parkway’s bicycle trail, typically pedaling 12-20 miles per ride.  Sacramento is flat!  We decided to try the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway (“WVSB” from here on out) because it is advertised as relatively flat for most of it’s 134-mile length.  

Neither of us is a competitive-driven cyclist, and we wanted to do a tour that was mellow and relaxing, rather than daunting and exhausting.  We both agreed that 20-25 miles a day, max, would be a distance to aim on, especially being Jeane’s first tour.  

On the few tours I’ve done in the past (starting in my mid-50’s), the most I biked in one day was 40 miles, when touring.   For me, that was a long day. I like to stop and enjoy the sights along the way, and I love to take photos of what catches my eye’s interest.  Hurrying through the miles is the antithesis of why I like to ride a bicycle, especially when exploring new places!  Happily, Jeane feels the same way.

On to the tour itself: 

“Be prepared,” something I learned as a Brownie, is the game plan, when packing for a bicycle tour.  I had provided Jeane a list of essentials to help prepare her for camping and biking comfortably in fair weather.  She did a good job of acquiring lightweight equipment, based on my suggestions.  

Me on "Amelia," my 2006 Bike Friday New World Tourist

Jeane on her 2014 Bike Friday 

We both own Bike Fridays — and they are great little workhorses when it comes to carrying gear — easy to handle, easy to transport, since the fold into a suitcase!  Mine is a New World Tourist model, and Jeane has a newer Bike Friday — with a Gates carbon belt system, no less.  

DAY 1:  I was already visiting my son’s family in Portland.  Jeane drove up from Sacramento to meet me.  My son then drove us from Portland down to Champoeg State Park, so we could camp the night before we started pedaling.  Once there, arriving in the late afternoon, we each pitched a tent in Champoeg SP’s hiker/biker camping area.  

Sweet dreams at Champoeg State Park, bikes locked together and under cover!

Panniers to load onto bikes in the morning

We were impressed with the fact that there was plenty of shade, thanks to several tall trees in that part of the park.  Even more impressive, wonder of wonders, this hiker/biker camp is outfitted with a set of stainless steel lockers, including electric outlets in each locker!   Cyclists can recharge their electronics in a secure way!  Brilliant!  There were picnic tables, a fire pit, and grass on which to pitch the tents.  All this for $5.  Oh….and hot showers a quick walk away!  Yes!

We were nervous about the timing of our tour coinciding with a nasty heat wave in Portland.  I was shocked to see a forecast of 98 degrees on Day 1, 100 degrees on Day 2,  99 degrees on Day 3…and mid to high 90’s for several days beyond that.  What????  We thought we were escaping the infamous Sacramento summer heat for milder weather!!!  AAAAHHHHH!   

In Sacramento, we only cycle in the early mornings, back to our homes by noon, since the summer heat gets brutal, after that.  We knew we were in for some early rising to beat this heat to reach each day’s planned destination. 

Some other bike tourists pedaled in and set up tents in the biker/hiker campground.  Pleasant, all of them.  They had bike 40-50 miles, that day — or more!  

After a simple dinner of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole-grain bread, and fruit and nuts, we turned in once it got dark.  In the morning, we awoke at 6 a.m., packed up, and were pedaling by 7:30 a.m.  

DAY 2:  Woohoo, we were on our way!  We were unsure of which direction to turn, once we reached the exit of Champoeg State Park, but then we saw the soon-to-become-familiar WVSB signage pointing us on our way.  (The route is well posted with these signs at each turning juncture.)  

The WVSB puts cyclists on quiet back roads that travel through beautiful, bucolic farmlands.  It felt wonderful to be pedaling along with the road pretty much to ourselves, admiring the crops and the meticulously landscaped yards of the farmhouses along the way.  The air was perfect, that early in the morning.  Not too cold, not too hot — yet!   

 A river covered in algae made a strangely beautiful sight!  

Hopyards are common along the WVSB route.

The few cars or trucks that passed us were extra considerate, consistently giving us a wider berth than most Californian drivers, when passing us.  It helped that we were visible, due to the bright colors of our panniers.  We had about 19 miles to pedal to arrive at our next night’s camping spot, Mission Willamette State Park.  We took our time, knowing we’d get there easily before noon and the upcoming heat.  

I had read comments online about Mission Willamette State Park’s biker/hiker camp being preferable to Champoeg.  We were disappointed when we arrived, though, and neither of us felt that it compared to Champoeg in amenities or in how it was situated.  

As we rolled into the park and then into the hiker/biker camping area, we quickly realized why it fell short of our expectations:  a)  very little shade, since most of the trees were not overbranching; b) no showers!!!  What???  That’s the first thing cyclists dream about once they’re reached the end of a day’s pedaling, and more especially in this very hot weather!  c) no bathrooms conveniently nearby, though available about a 5-to-6-minute walk away.  d)  mostly brown grass that hadn’t been mowed for a while, and therefore not comfortable for camping purposes; 3) poison oak warning signs.  

Each campsite did have a fire pit, a weathered picnic table, and a metal bike rack on which to secure our bikes.  We were the only bike campers there — until later in the evening, when two experienced bike tourists rolled in.  We enjoyed talking with them.  

One of them was on the committee that helps plan out the scenic bikeways in Oregon.  We asked him some questions about our future routing.  We were planning to bike to Salem the next day and get a motel that night, since it was going to be hot again. Then we wanted to bike to another hiker/biker campsite that is newly available in the small town of Independence, named River View Park.  We were told by one of these two men that that park, being new, doesn’t have shade!  We started rethinking our reality, about then.  

We slept peacefully that night, since this hiker/biker camp area feels quite removed from the other campsites in Mission Willamette State Park.  I enjoyed looking up at the stars, sans rainfly on my Big Agnes three-pound Fly Creek UL3 tent.  

Jeane told me in the morning that the ranger came by her tent about 9 pm to inform her that we could stay the next night in the park for free.  I slept through that moment…  We both think that this offer was made because the state park appeared to be mostly empty.  The heat must have dissuaded campers from using it.

We had already decided, however, to wake up at 5 a.m. and quietly pack up so as not to disturb our two other bike touring campmates. Again, we found ourselves pedaling down beautiful country roads in the cooler morning air, heading for Salem, which was only about 13 miles away.  This was to be our shortest day, we figured. 

We pedaled past hopyards and vineyards and cherry orchards — and best of all, flower farms!  Some fields were in full bloom, as my photos document.  The green, verdant valley of farms seems to stretch forever.  We stopped now and then to rehydrate and eat some healthy snacks.  

For those who appreciate:  At one point, just when we were wondering if we’d each have to find a discreet spot off the road to tinkle…lo and behold, we found a bicycle tourist’s dream come true — a porta potty!!!  (see photo)  Yes!  A new house was under construction, and it was set up for the workers’ use, evidently.  It was quite decent, all things considered!  (One of the challenges of bicycle touring is finding bathrooms along roads that are out in the middle of nowhere, between towns.  Just sayin’…)

Life works out!  A "real" pitstop!

At one point, we laid my tent’s footprint out on a shaded area in a grassy field and I stretched out to rest for 10-15 minutes, no one else in sight.  

The country roads took us gradually through the outskirts of Keizer and then into the small town’s commerce area.  We stopped there to get some breakfast food at a market, and then continued on to Salem.  

Eventually, we started rolling through well-established older residential neighborhoods in Salem. A friendly woman offered help, noticing we were pulled over and mulling over our map to determine where the best proximity of motels might be, once we reached Salem proper.  She was very helpful with ideas.  We thanked her and pedaled further, until voila, we reached Oregon's State Capitol!  Note our fully loaded bikes, tents laid out to dry on top of panniers; morning dew, even in a heat wave, happens!

Paula and Jeane in front of the State Capitol in Salem, OR

It was starting to get hot, by then, and we wanted to find a motel before it got hotter, so we pedaled another couple miles towards Howard Johnson.  

We had considered the Travelodge motel, but the reviews on Trip Advisor were pathetic, so we decided Howard Johnson was a better choice, at $75 a night.  There wasn’t much under that, in choices that sounded decent.  We decided to book TWO nights at the motel.  We were hoping to bike next to Corvalis, but we didn’t want to camp in the ongoing heat at River View Park if there was no shade!  NOT!!!!  

We arrived at Howard Johnson and when we entered the lobby, the two Chinese clerks behind the desk happened to be watching the BMX play-off competition on the big-screen TV that lit up the lobby.  They were very cordial to us, though we must have looked pretty funky, loaded down with all our gear (see photo), our bike helmets, and just a bit sweaty!  They turned out to be what I call “bike angels”!!!  Though check-in wasn’t until 2 pm, they allowed us to check in 3 hours early, scurrying to coordinate readying a room. Sweet!!!!

Soon we were in a nice cool room, two double beds, a TV, and…. HOT SHOWERS!  And yes, a laundry room!  

Bikes make a handy "drying rack" for undies, once laundry washed!

Simple pleasures are doubly so, even after only two days of bike touring.  Everything is put in fine perspective when you are used to getting by with just what you have in four bike panniers.  Once we unpacked and each showered and relaxed for a while, we locked our bikes together, and then walked a couple blocks down the road to Sparky’s Taphouse for some pizza and cold beer!  More simple pleasures!  

Once we returned to our motel, I emailed a “bike angel” I know in Corvalis a status update. 

Some history about him:  Skip had “appeared” out of nowhere, it seemed, on my very first bike tour, in 2010.  I had biked from Eugene to Corvalis on that tour, and he and his wife, Kelly, had given me a night’s safe haven at that time.  We’ve kept in touch ever since, via email.  

Skip and Kelly are, seriously, two of the NICEST people I’ve ever met!  They are passionate about touring by bicycle.  They’ve crossed the country, ridden in Canada, etc., etc.  Skip figures he’s pedaled 33,000 miles!!!  (Drill down to read more about that adventure and my meeting up with them then.)  

Skip, our bike angel tour guide through Silver Falls State Park!

A few weeks before I headed up to the NW to do this tour, I had let Skip and Kelly know we’d be pedaling in their area again.  They then invited us to stay with them again, promising us a good meal and comaraderie for a night.  So… in the update I emailed from the motel, I informed them that we’d decided NOT to bike further due to the heat.  Salem and Corvalis are 35 miles apart.  We had decided that the thought of no shade at the River View Park campground, the next day’s stopping point enroute to Corvalis, had killed our ambition to do any more biking.  The heat wave had not abated!!!  We had, we decided, just picked the wrong week to be pedaling through it each day!  

This is the best part of what bike touring is all about:  Random acts of kindness extended to people on the bikes — us!!!  Skip came up with a Plan B:  He offered to drive the 35 miles to Salem in his Jeep to then drive us to Silver Falls State Park for an easy hike in shade.  

A meadow view along the drive to Silver Falls State Park

This would enable us to view a beautiful waterfall, even walking behind the water’s cascade! 

Then Skip proposed we eat a simple lunch at his house, after which he would drive us to the top of Mary’s Peak, 4,000 feet up, and thus a cooler reality.  He promised a spectacular 360-degree view of the coastal range, the ocean beyond that, and the Willamette Valley, all from the top of that peak!  

After that, we could have dinner with him and Kelly and their daughter, at their home.  Then he would drive us back to the motel for our second night’s stay there.  Then we could have my son drive down to pick us up in Salem, tour over!  How could we say no to such an offer?  We got to do all of the above, and saw some gorgeous landscapes!  Definitely a highlight of our short-lived tour!  

Skip also dragged out at least five of his bicycles, each one more eclectic and interesting than the next, demonstrating how each one works!  One is basically a rowing machine, but on two wheels, and you “pedal” it by rowing it!!!

The bike he and his wife rode across the country on is a tandem but unusually so, since the second passenger rides at the very front in a semi-recumbent seat.  They actually pulled a trailer so their cockapoo could accompany them on this grand adventure.  The bike and the trailer measure out to 13 feet in length!  What a sight they must have made, rolling down the roads, gear, trailer, and the two of them on one bike!  

My son was another bike angel, rescuing us the next day.  Soon we were back in Portland, laughing about and sharing our pedaling adventure.  Even two or three days of bike touring is a memory worth smiling about for years after it is over.  That’s what I love about bicycle touring:  it’s an EXPERIENCE, moment by moment, and the challenges make it all the more memorable, looking back.  

Here’s to another one, down the road! Back to researching the multitude of choices, since the road is never-ending! 

Monday, March 07, 2016

Route 66 by bike!!

I saw this news and thought it worthy of a post!  Thank you,  Adventure Cycling Association for mapping this most historic Route 66 for bicyclists to enjoy!!! 

Read More:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A bicycle RV -- just the coolest thing ever, surely!

This is positively too good NOT to post for others to see!   This bicyclist evidently rides this BIKE RV all over the country.  Read some of the comments underneath the story.  My helmet is off to him!!!!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Banks-Vernonia Trail -- starting from Champoeg State Park, Oregon

Copyrighted 2014 Paula Joy Welter
Probably my favorite of the Banks-Vernonia Trail photos posted here.

A vista along the Banks-Vernonia Trail

Amelia, my Bike Friday New World Tourist 2006

In August of 2014, Phil, a dedicated cyclist based in Ashland, OR -- only a mere 80 years old -- read one of my postings on and enjoyed it.  He contacted me and invited me to join a few other cyclists on a bike tour.   He coordinates several each summer.

I was most appreciative and made plans to join 4 other cyclists on a tour in Oregon.  The route basically would loop around the greater Portland area, going through towns such as Newberg, Hillsboro, Scappoose, and eventually back to the starting point, Champoeg State Park, which is about 40 minutes south of Portland.

Several things amazed me on the three days of the 6-day tour that I pedaled with this group:

a)  I survived 90 miles of the 159-mile tour;
b)  Two of the cyclists were over 70, one maybe closer than further to 80.
c)  One of the cyclists had ridden the infamous DEATH RIDE three times.  Whoa.....    

As it turned out, I was joining some very capable and steady-on cyclists who are evidently more used to CLIMBING HILLS than am I, based in Sacramento -- think flat!

Looking back down the winding hill I was climbing on Mt. Chelalem

I should point out that I am not naturally inclined to push myself to my physical limits.  I don't bike for speed, for daring, for competitive reasons, or to break some endurance record.  I have always loved bicycling because it allows me to enjoy the freedom of the open road and to explore beautiful places.  I pedal steadily, but at a moderate pace.  That's how I'm wired.  I pedal on a loaded tour bike, at 6 to 10 mph, average, typically.  On my road bike in Sacramento, I pedal at 11-13 mph, average.  

So...let's just say this ride didn't follow that idyllic script for Day 1.  Early on, it became clear to me that I was the turtle, and the other 4 cyclists were hares!  Somehow, the overall route I had previewed on online maps showed elevation profiles that looked relatively flat, except for Day 1 and 3.  Day 1 looked the hardest:  picture a sharp point, as in an upside down carrot, as the elevation profile for that day.   But heck, it was only 4 miles, I  assured myself, and I could walk up it.

On Day 1, I was doomed to do just that! 

DAY 1:  Newberg to Hillboro, OR

Rising at dawn, we broke camp and began our 28 miles of biking, from Champoeg State Park to Hillsboro.  I've biked 40 miles in one day a few times on a fully loaded bike.  This 28 miles seemed longer, thanks to the climb AND 90-degrees-plus weather!  My luck!  I thought Oregon was cool!  My stamina halves when it gets above 85-90 degrees.  In Sacramento, I'm off the bike before 11 a.m. during the summer because of that.  No escape this time!

Barely 9 or 10 miles out of Champoeg, after breakfast at a cafe in Newburg, the mountain loomed.  (Okay, I realize this 1271 feet is a comparatively small mountain...but it IS called MT. Chelalem, so it is a mountain!)

I gamely started pedaling it on my Bike Friday NWT, fully loaded.  (I'd say I had about 30-40 pounds of gear, including food, tent, clothing, etc., all as ultralight-friendly as possible.  And then, of course, there's me -- proud to be of sturdy Dutch-Belgian-German ancestry, so not a lightweight cyclist.)  The rest of my group pedaled the 4 miles of climbing...but I, the turtle, was very soon off of my bike, pushing my bike, Amelia, up the twisting roads that ascend to the summit.  There was little shade, and it was mid-day heat.  Ugh.

Once I was off my bike, I told the group to go ahead.  They said they'd wait for me at the first turn at the bottom of the hill, once I descended.   I was fine with that.  I had my cell phone and good turn-by-turn directions.  I trudged and trudged, stopping when necessary to guzzle more water, eat some carbs, catch my breath...step by step...WHATEVER I had to do to get to the top of that dang carrot -- I mean, mountain!  I drank the most water I've ever downed in one day, at least a gallon!  Finally, I reached the top and then carefully descended so that I was visible to cars coming around the curves. 

Why do I feel like I climbed Mt. Everest?
At the bottom of the hill, my group was waiting on benches outside a charming cafe  -- sadly, closed for the day!  A few of my pedaling friends told me they had even managed to take a nap while waiting for me.  Most humbling!  They had resourcefully found a hose along one side of the building to refill water bottles.

Once they congratulated me for surviving thus far and determined I was okay, they said they were going to keep going, which I agreed made sense.  I didn't want to feel like a rat on a treadmill keeping up with their faster pace, and of course, I didn't want them to have to pedal the speed of a turtle, after all!  We agreed to meet up at the Hillsboro campsite.

I sat outside on that cafe bench by myself, gratefully eating my peanut butter and whole wheat sandwich, banana, and drinking MORE WATER.  At some point while sitting there, a man in his 40's unexpectedly poked his head out of the cafe's door and inquired in a most empathetic voice:

Man:  "Hi, are you the one the group was waiting for?"

Me:   "Yes, I am."

Man:  "Do you need anything, say some ice water?"

I asked if he had a bathroom I could use, and he ushered me in, thankfully.  I was then able to refill my water bottles for the 18 miles still ahead.  We talked briefly as he worked on some baking he was doing for the cafe he helps manage.  He told me, interestingly, that he used to travel and bike a lot all over the world, writing travel guides for Frommers, including one about Nepal!  Very nice gentleman, maybe an angel in disguise.  I thanked him profusely and decided I better pedal on after that 30-minute rest.

Looking back, I should have rested and recovered LONGER.  However, I started out on the remaining 18 miles through country roads that would take me to Hillsboro.  It was getting even hotter, now that it was mid-afternoon, and I was definitely not feeling "recovered" fully.  I settled on a rhythm of pedaling a mile or two and then stopping to rest and drink water.

At one point, I sat along a dusty bank of dirt under a lone tree, feeling as though I might be close to bonking.  Much of the route was in full sun, so that shade was needed respite.  Then, back on my bike, I pedaled as long as I could keep going before needing another rest!  I did my best to pay attention to nutrition and hydration, but I couldn't shake that "bonking" feeling.  (Note:  I was not imagining the difficulty of getting from Champoeg to Newburg, it turns out.  After the tour, Ken told me he was 74 when he started the ride from Champoeg State Park on Day 1, 79 by the time he got to Hillsboro at the end of Day 1, and then after a good night's sleep, 74 again.  :>)

Finally, I spotted a Norman Rockwell-reminiscent farmhouse and yard, complete with a tractor,  a garden in the front,  and a harmless looking dog.  Even more comforting, it had a spot of green grass out in front along the driveway area, in full SHADE.  A farmer was standing in the yard, so I asked him if I could rest on the grass for a while.  He was very nice and told me to do just that.  It was glorious to lay flat on my back, my hat over my eyes, and doze off a bit...eventually I heard the farmer addressing me:  "Ma'am, are you okay?  I just want to be sure you don't have heat stroke!"

I opened my eyes, sat up, and assured him I was okay, that I'd been drinking a lot of water.  He told me to come up to the house if I needed anything and headed back to his chores.  I rested a bit longer and then got back on the bike, somewhat more fortified to pedal further.

Eventually, Hillsboro loomed.  I wended my way through the town's busy streets.  It's a modern town, lots of wide streets with lots of traffic.  Felt like San Jose, just smaller.  Intel and Nike are based there.  No place to camp in Hillsboro, officially.  However, Phil had cleverly arranged through the Mayor's office for a make-do place where we could safely camp for the night.  I was looking for it in, of all places, a warehouse section of the town.  There was evidently an adequate area of grass and trees somewhat hidden behind one of the warehouses to pitch our tents.  Also,  a key to the city's maintenance facility would be made available to us, for access to nice hot showers!

As the sun slipped lower in the sky, I finally found this little oasis in suburbia.  "My people" again greeted me with hugs and enthusiastic "you made its" all around!  After setting up my camp and eating the dinner I'd brought along in a pannier, I retired early, knowing we needed to be up at dawn for Day 2.  I felt like I'd biked 100 miles... and slept like a baby!

DAY 2:  Hillsboro, to Banks, to Vernonia, Oregon 

At dawn, all of us woke up and I felt resonably revived -- more than I would have expected.  We broke camps, loaded our gear back on our bikes, and headed a couple blocks over to a strip mall with a market, Starbucks, Subway, etc.  (The group actually wanted to eat at Wendy's, so maybe that's their secret for endurance! I think they need to all donate their bodies to science!)

I explained to them that fast food wouldn't do it for me on this trip, and I headed to the market close by to get fresh fruit, yogurt, whole grain bread, nuts...figuring I needed the best nutrition I could get for this new day of pedaling -- 37 miles, some more climbing ahead.

Once we all were ready to roll, off we rode at a 12-mph clip for the first 4 miles through Hillsboro's morning commuter traffic.  Finally, we were out in the country, and at that point, I told the group I would need to go at a slower pace than they were comfortably pedaling.   I assured them I'd be fine and would meet them at the end of the day or somewhere along the Banks-Vernonia Rails-to-Trail route that we were all very much looking forward to pedaling.

Wishing me well, off they pedaled towards Banks, OR.  I pedaled the ensuing miles to Banks at about 9-10 mph an hour, happily drinking in the lovely farmlands along the route.  At one point, a man who I'd estimate was in his early 70's rode up alongside me on his road bike and said, "Hey, a Bike Friday loaded for tour!  Good for you!  I own a Bike Friday Tikit, and I love it!"  We yakked for a couple of miles, and then we reached a fork in the road, him heading in a different direction.  He made me smile when he said that he admired me for my pluck, that it took a lot of guts to be pedaling the roads alone on a bike tour, wishing me well.

With my spirits buoyed,  I kept pedaling.  Though I felt more energetic overall, I was still feeling the effects of Day 1's climbing and heat.   Overall, though, the route to Banks was not hard pedaling, so once I arrived, I stopped at a market for supplies -- and an ice cream sandwich!  Then I headed to the trailhead of this lush converted rail trail that is 21 miles long.  It climbs a 3-5% grade for about 15 miles, and then descends to the tiny town of Vernonia. 

Briefly stopping at a conveniently placed bike shop at the trailhead, I started pedaling towards distant hills, comforting myself with the fact that rails-to-trails conversions are GRADUAL climbs.  Trains don't climb hills easily, otherwise.  Gradual climbs are okay!  It's steep climbs that do my flatlander legs in.

I enjoyed ascending the 15 miles to the highest point of the Banks-Vernonia Trail.  It is beautifully laid out and most of it is BLISSFULLY SHADY, a canopy of trees overhead much of the way!  I took my time, enjoyed the natural beauty, stopped occasionally at a beckoning picnic table, enjoyed taking photographs of the various vistas...and eventually arrived at the point on the trail where I could glide downhill for the last 7 miles or so to Vernonia.  Right where the trail dumps onto the streets of Vernonia,  I found Anderson RV Park, where Phil had reserved us camping -- and hot showers!  My pedaling friends were again the light at the end of the day!

On one of the trestles I traversed on the trail
Though Anderson Park is a small RV park, there is a huge play structure for children in the center of it, and a creek and plenty of grass on one side of it.   We were quite happy spreading out there, instead of having to pitch tents amongst the RV's.  We had picnic tables to cook on, too, so I used my Trangia alcohol-burning stove to heat up a Mountain High backpacker's dinner of Teriyaki chicken and rice.  I had never eaten a dehydrated dinner before, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted, once rehydrated! 

Another good night of sleep, we again rose early, walking a short distance to a cafe on the main street of Vernonia for a hearty breakfast.  After breakfast, as the others headed back to camp, I thought to ask one of the waitresses what she knew about the route we were taking, and she informed me that she lived out in the isolated area where we'd be heading.  She told me we should be aware of the fact that there is no cell phone coverage for about 13 miles, 4 miles out of Vernonia.  Ummmm, this fact and another day of climbing -- evidently not as daunting as Day 1's climbing but definitely more daunting than Day 2's gradual climbing -- got me to thinking hard.  Another fork in the road...

Did I really want to be out in the middle of nowhere, alone on my bike, with no cell-phone coverage and more climbing than I might be up for -- and back to back with the first two days of climbing?  I decided that it was not in my comfort zone, realistically.   I returned to camp and informed my group that I had made a decision:  I was going to bike back along the 21 miles of the Banks-Vernonia Trail to Banks.  My son had agreed to meet me on the trail, pedaling his cargo bike and two young boys for a bit of recreation until meeting up with me.  We'd head back to his Portland house in his truck then.

So the intrepid group pushed on.  They promised they'd let me know once they reached Scappoose RV Park, their next destination.  I promised I'd let them know I'd reached Banks.  When they called me to confirm their safe arrival in Scappoose, they told me they all agreed I'd made the right decisions...that they'd encountered some tough climbs, parts of which they had to walk, and that it had been a long 40-mile day.

I was most impressed, again, about this group's endurance!

The day following that one didn't sound a lot easier for them either...but for me, once I head back from Vernonia long the Banks-Vernonia Trail, it was just 7 miles of climbing the railroad-friendly grade, and then a smooth-cruise sail down the next 14 miles of the trail.  I met up with my son -- and my two grandsons, sitting on the back of his fancy cargo bike -- in Banks.  Talk about back-pedaling!

It was definitely a day of rest, once I was finally back in Portland -- if you call babysitting a 6-year-old and a 3-1/2 year old restful.  Heck, that is almost as wild as climbing a mountain!  LOL!

Heading back, last couple miles of the flat part of trail, near Banks, OR

What would moms do without a son and grandsons?

Looking back, this was 90 miles of touring I'll remember well, and even with some pride that I got as far as I did. To date, it's the longest tour I've done.   I was very inspired by my pedaling mates to do MORE touring down the road!  I will, without guilt, avoid hills when possible, and I will likely walk up them if needed....but I will look forward to more touring adventures on my bike.

I couldn't have asked for better pedaling mates!  We plan to keep in touch.  Who knows...maybe I'll even try to keep up with all of them again on a future tour...but I'll likely still be the turtle.  That is okay, as long as I keep moving!

On my long ride home from Portland (via my Honda Element), I stopped in Ashland and was delighted to meet Phil and his wife over a lovely lunch.  I gave them one of my bicycle mandalas in gratitude for including me on this adventure just survived!  if you are interested in ordering one as a greeting card, a cell phone case, a photo, a canvas, et.

Notes on the group, more amazing facts:

(Sadly, Phil, last minute, had to bow out of the tour -- after doing all the coordination!  He was waylaid by mechanical problems on his recumbent trike, which are soon to be behind him.  He lamented missing several weeks of touring opportunities he'd worked so hard on planning.)

Two of the cyclists, Ken and Leslie are over 70.  Ken is 74, and I think Leslie might be closer to 80?  She rode a recumbent trike, and the Ken rode an upright bike.  Leslie told me she loves her trike.  She explained that its gears allow it be pedaled as slow as 1 mile an hour up a hill, if needed.   It has a parking brake if the trike needs to stop while ascending a hill!  She also mentioned that she'll be riding an upright steel-framed bike on an upcoming trip to WI and MN:  50-70 mile days, 3700 miles of cumulative climbing.  OMG!  Both Ken and Leslie live in retirement centers.  This definitely breaks some stereotypes in awesomely refreshing ways!

Two other cyclists, Frank (think Death Ride) and Linda, were on Cannondale touring bikes -- and to my amazement, they had a 20-pound DOG along for the tour, Boomer.  This dog sat in a contraption that mounted to the rear rack of one of the Cannondales, complete with a canopy and water on hand to spray him as needed if he needed some air-conditioning along the way.  He was absolutely the sweetest, most uncomplaining dog I've ever encountered.   Frank and Linda said he's been on century rides and other tours numerous times. All three of them traveled like pros!

Ken, the pacesetter!

 Leslie, on her fancy trike!

Linda, Boomer and Frank, ready to roll!

Boomer on guard!
May the road keep going, may I keep pedaling, and may the hills NOT rise up to meet me!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

MONTANA -- Kalispell and Whitefish day rides

I had a chance to visit Whitefish, MT, a real treat.  Taking the train from Portland, OR right in to Whitefish, MT was an overnight trip.  Considering that I didn't book the trip earlier than a few weeks out, I felt that $202 round trip was a decent price.  Each way, you have about 4-5 hours of daylight, so though you don't get to see Idaho or Montana much, since it is dark when traveling through those two states, the views of the Columbia River and the Gorge it runs through are wonderful, coming and going!  

Here are some photographs of Whitefish, MT (train station and scenics from the bike ride I took from Whitefish up and around one side of Whitefish Lake. 





 I highly recommend Glacier Cyclery, in Whitefish.  They can give you ideas for road bike or mountain bike rides in this stunningly scenic area.  

Here is the ride I enjoyed pedaling, described on their website.  (The views of the lake were worth the moderate climbing, and also, my friend and I passed some pristine ranches for the last few miles of the ride before turning around and heading back to Whitefish. Bring water and a snack.  For me, at 62, this was a definite workout, but doable and really gorgeous, as scenery goes.  We passed a few waterfalls, too. )  

"Head of Whitefish via Lakeshore Drive
This 21 mile round trip, out and back ride from town is a great short spin when you don't have a lot of time, but just have to ride. Moderate hills, good road surface and low residential traffic add to the views of Whitefish Lake. Stop by Les Mason Park for a swim on your way back, or head up Big Mountain Road for a fairly steep 5 mile climb to the Whitefish Mountain Resort's base area where you can grab a cold drink and take in some spectacular views. As you sprint along, you may over-take loaded down, trail weary backcountry bike tourers on the Great Divide Route as East Lakeshore Dirve is the route's backdoor entrance into Whitefish."

Also, I had an opportunity to ride the Great Northern Historic Trail from Somers, MT to a point past Kalispell, but not as far as the trail goes to Kila.

Though some of the trail was quite scenic, once I reached the point in the trail where it parallels the highway towards Kalispell, I was a bit disappointed.  The trail itself is nicely paved, and there are benches here and there along the way.  The section paralleling the highway is not as bucolic as I would prefer, however, for a ride in Montana.  That said, it is a valuable route for bicyclists to get from one town to the other, of course, so it is more good infrastructure for cyclists to travel on safely.  Bring WATER.  There is little found in close proximity to the trail itself unless you want to detour from the trail and ride into Kalispell.  There are long stretches with little shade, so in the summer, be advised to wear sunscreen and a good visor, etc.  It can be hot at times if weather inches up in temperature towards 90 degrees.  

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Yaquina Bay pedal near Newport, Oregon

Bringing my bicycle along on my most recent drive to Portland, OR proved a great idea.  I was able to do some cycling in Newport, OR along Yaquina Bay Road, which leads out of the Historic portion of Newport's fishing village.  

First, though, after marathoning up I-5 on a 12-hour drive from Sacramento to Portland, arriving there at 2:30 a.m., I managed to get up and pedal about 5 of 40 miles my son had planned to do as a 40th birthday ride with several of his friends.  I was happy to at least be part of the ride, but too sleep-deprived to do all of it.  Here I am, barely awake, but sharing a "kick-off" moment alongside my amazing, adrenaline-driven son and some of his friends:

 Once my visiting over several days was done with my family, I headed over to drive down the
along the Oregon coastline.  Once I arrived in Newport, OR,  I made it a point to visit  a wonderful bicycle shop there, Bike Newport, which I'd read about in my favorite monthly read, Adventure Cyclist Magazine.  (They are a waystation, of sorts -- offering  use of a wi-fi lounge and access to a hot shower -- to touring cyclists passing through!)  During my visit to this friendly, well-stocked shop,  I learned that they were coordinating a century ride the next day.  I opted to do part of the ride.  First, I had to find a place to camp for the night, though...the state parks and motels in the area were all booked.

Luckily, I was able to find a  place to pitch my tent for the night preceding the century ride  -- behind a country tavern, of all places!   I was right across the street from Sawyer's Landing RV Park.  Since they were fully booked, they suggested I ask the tavern folks for one night of safe haven, assuring me I'd be safe.  It all worked out that this came to pass.

 Directly behind this tavern is this lovely little spot for a tent!

The next morning, I awoke very early, packed up my tent, and headed to the Yaquina Point Lighthouse, where the century ride was to begin.  I planned to do only about 26 miles, so I headed down the well-mapped and signed route from the picturesque lighthouse to 101, and soon was on adjacent roads that were quieter and more bike-friendly.  

Winding my way along the route, I eventually ended up down in the historic section of Newport -- and interesting mix of working fishermen and related industry and as well, boutiques and cafes.  

 In this part of town, the sea lions provide "music" for one's ears, if one stops to listen to them and giggle at their shenanigans: 

 The Yaquina Bay Bridge is a dominant landmark that spans Yaquina Bay. 

Here are some other idyllic sights I saw along Yaquina Bay Road.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the friendliness of Oregon cyclists and would love to do my cycling in this area sometime!  

 A hill I'm proud to say I climbed from Newport's historic section to the more commercial part of the town. 

 Stairs to lug the bike up -- happily, my Specialized Sequoia Comp is light!

Heading back towards the end of the ride towards the lighthouse... 

I definitely want to do more cycling in Oregon someday!  Great folks, great roads, very savvy, considerate drivers that "share the road"!!