Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bike Trip Summary--You Too Can Ride the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.

We rode from Portland to Eugene over six days using the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. We generally rode about 35 miles each day and we stayed in motels. This was our first bike trip and we wanted it to be fun and relaxing, not grim and challenging. In addition, though we are both fairly fit people, and one of us (Patricia) is a pretty regular bike commuter, we do not often go on long rides. We're also busy, and didn't have a ton of extra hours to devote to training. Slow and steady was our mantra.

In reading about the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway during the summer of 2010, I realized that the mileage between cities and towns was about 35 miles per day. That was also the approximate mileage from our house to Champoeg State Park, where the trail begins. I spent about two hours planning the itinerary including what towns to stay in, mileage between, interesting things to do, places to eat on each day. In November we looked up places to stay and made note of them. That was also the time we reserved the yurt at Champoeg and bought the train tickets, including the bike tickets. Both yurt reservations and train reservations are best made early. The state parks opens reservations nine months and two weeks before the date. That is the time to reserve to ensure availability, especially in the summer months. We reserved our motels about two months prior.

We also planned to have our bikes tuned up a week or two before we left and the week before we refined our packing lists. All total, we spent probably about five hours planning.

The Route:
The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway has very detailed maps with mileage, cue sheets and water, restrooms, camping and wi-fi marked. We followed the route faithfully.

The route to Champoeg took a lot of research. We ended up combining a route suggestion (through Oregon City) on a forum and Google's bike directions (which are in beta.) There was also a brief flirtation with a route that included the Canby Ferry. All in all, we ended up getting there just fine. Patricia had ridden to Champoeg before. She took the 99W route to Newberg, which was not very pleasant (many, many cars.)

We both belong to Edge Performance Fitness. We workout several times a week there, Matt usually attending 4-6 classes, and Patricia attending 1-3 classes, although lately it's just been one. Patricia also stepped up her bike commute to work (30 minutes each way) as we got closer to trip. She also walks in the morning for 30 minutes 5-6 days per week.

Our plan for training was as follows:
January: Patricia to ride one day per week to work. Both to do a long ride of one hour twice during the month.
February: Patricia to ride one day per week to work. Both to do a long ride of two hours twice during the month.
March: Patricia to ride two days per week to work. Both to do a long ride of three hours twice during the month. We also planned a two night stay at Stub State Park, to do two or three long rides.
April-June: Patricia to ride three days per week to work. Both to do a long ride of four hours twice during the month.

What we actually did:
We only did two long rides together, either because the weather was awful or we couldn't coordinate our schedules. We did no long rides in January, Patricia did two long rides in February, we did a long ride together in March (not the two to three we had planned for Stub State Park,) Patricia did two long rides in April, four in May and none in June. She was more successful at sticking to her official "ride to work" schedule. Matt did a few long rides in April-June.

So training was pretty minimal, something Patricia was incredibly worried about before we left, but turned out to be fine once we were on the trip.

The weather was awful during the spring, incredibly rainy and cold through mid-June. This interfered with our training as we are not so gung-ho to ride when it is 38 degrees and pouring. Lesson learned: plan bike trip at the end of the summer so the long ride days are more pleasant.

Approximate daily mileage:
We tended to ride around 35 miles per day, with our biggest day being 44. We kept track of mileage on Patricia's circa-2005 Garmin Forerunner GPS unit, although we sometimes shut it off when deviating from the path (a la the Wheatland Ferry)

We were both sore the entire trip, but the days we stretched in the evenings benefited us greatly the next day. Despite this fact, we spend more evenings not stretching than stretching. Patricia felt like it took about a week after returning for her "sit bones" not to feel sore. Overall, the mileage was quite doable, taking 3-4 hours of riding (and 4-5 hours of actual time spent) per day.

What we brought:
Our plan was to only pack two days worth of bike things to wear, with the idea that we would do laundry each night after the first night in Champoeg, which had no laundry facilities. We also brought the equivalent of two "civilian" outfits. This plan worked well, although we would have done well to bring a roll of quarters for the laundry. Most hotels don't have change. Matt packed his sleep sack, for the first night at Champoeg, and Patricia would have done well with one too. We both brought small amounts of toiletries, our swimsuits and we each had a travel towel. We each chose one book for a read aloud (Patricia: Pride and Prejudice. Matt: Order of the Stick Volume 1: Dungeon Crawling Fools.) We brought two card games: Guillotine & Fluxx, although the only time we played them was on the train back home. Patricia brought a personal reading book, Anne of Green Gables. We also each had two tubes, three locks between us, a cable, a simple bike maintenance kit, a hand pump (this was joined by a CO2 charger and cartridges during the trip) water bottles (those were joined by daily purchase of PowerAid or GatorAid) helmets and mirrors.

All of these things fit in two roomy panniers and two bike buckets. We neglected to test ride with the panniers and the bike buckets on the racks. The panniers would not clip to Matt's thicker bike rack so Patricia ended up hauling Matt's heavier panniers while Matt got Patricia's comparably light bike buckets. Matt repaid Patricia by riding lead, so Patricia could draft off of him.

Where we stayed:
Champoeg State Park Yurt
Travelodge Salem
Quality Inn Albany
Travelodge Halsey
Courtesy Inn Eugene

All of our accommodations were clean, comfortable and affordable and none blinked twice when we rolled our bikes into the room. We can recommend them without reservation, though be warned that they are not fancy.

What we ate:
For the most part we ate at restaurants when we came to a town. Dinner the first night was packaged salad with hard boiled eggs brought from home. Our biggest problem was forgetting to pack breakfast for the next morning, although in hindsight we should have stopped at the Butteville Store before we left the Champoeg area. We always had snacks with us. In the beginning snacks consisted of nuts and dried fruit and chocolate chips. Nearer the end some good junk food crept in, like Cheetos. We always had nuts of some kind and chocolate of some kind. As far as I was concerned, chocolate was required on this trip. Dessert was a big deal too. I feel like we failed at eating ice cream. There should have been more ice cream consumed.Link
What we did for entertainment:
While riding we looked at scenery, played 20 questions (Matt thought "Catwoman" was a good choice, Patricia disagreed, Patricia stumped Matt with "cabbage") We also just rode. Patricia thought she would get bored and end up reciting all her memorized poems to herself, but the riding itself was entertaining enough.

We agreed before we left that we would not watch TV and spent a lot of our free time reading from our read aloud books. Sometimes we would go for a walk, and one day we went to a movie. Patricia visited the Kitchen Garden at Champoeg and we both toured Thompson's Mill. It was a pretty low-key relaxing trip.

How much did it cost?
We already had bikes, panniers/buckets, bike gear, locks etc. so there was no new cost there. We each paid about $100.00 to have our bikes tuned up before we left. North Portland Bike Works did a great job. We counted that as routine maintenance, and not part of the trip expenses.

The trip itself--motels, food, entertainment, train reservations--cost us a total of approximately $600 for two people for six days. That's about $50.00 per day per person.

Could I do this?
We say yes. It's not a lot of daily mileage with an easy to follow route. It's also inexpensive and fun. If you do ride the Willamette Scenic Bikeway, tell us about your trip in the comments.

To read about our bike trip from the beginning, start by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Back in no time at all.

We found our accommodations, the Courtesy Inn, delightful. Our small room had fabulous 50's wood paneling and was clean, quiet and tucked away in a corner. It even had this charming informative plaque by the door.

The Courtesy Inn is very close to the train station and it has the Matt and Patricia seal of approval.

We got to the train station very early, so we could scope things out and eat at the Morning Glory Cafe, which was within a stone's throw of the station.

I ate like the locals and had a tofu-stuffed potato pancake with roasted vegetables, tofu sour cream and whole wheat bread with a pat of organic butter. The whole concoction was delicious, but honestly, the butter stole the show.

Matt had a coconut soup from the lunch special list which he also enjoyed.

As the station informed us, we were 123 miles from Portland and only 610 miles from San Francisco. If we rode for 18 more days at our current pace, we would arrive in San Francisco. As it was, we took the train back to Portland.

Train travel being awesome, you can buy a "bike ticket" and for $5.00, you can hang your bike in the baggage car. It's best to buy your bike ticket early, as there are a limited number of bike hangers, and they go quickly.

My bike being hung.

And our gear stuffed above our seats.

On the train!

The train trip retraced our bike trip, but in a much more timely fashion. We left Eugene at 9:00, and by 9:45 we were in...

Albany. It was two biking days between Albany and Eugene.

To pass the time we played Guillotine and Fluxx.

By 10:23 we were in...

Salem! It took three biking days to get from Salem to Eugene.

Our next stop:

We had five biking days between Oregon City and Eugene, yet only two hours and five minutes had passed on the train. Such a marvel, this modern travel technology.

Soon after that, Matt stood because we were back in Portland!

At 11:32 we were approaching the train station.

Outside our window, the complex where our friends Jan and E'an used to live.

We deboarded the train, retrieved our bikes from the baggage car, and rode the 4 miles home. Three hours after we left Eugene, six days after we left Portland, we posed in front of our front door for the final picture of the trip memorializing our approximate 180 miles ridden.
It was a good trip!

To see the photographic record of our trip Matt posted on Facebook go here:
Don't worry, it's public, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to see it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Brownsville to Eugene

After our delicious free breakfast we headed out for Eugene, hoping to avoid rain. It rained fairly hard all night, but had stopped raining by the time we left around 9:00. We found instead mist. There was also a pretty big hill outside of Brownsville which I chose to walk up. "There's no shame in walkin'," I always say. Near the top of the hill we stopped for water/Gatorade and a man driving by rolled down his window and cheerfully informed us that once we reached the top of the hill, it was a long downward slope to look forward to. Indeed there was, and it was full of pretty scenery such as this.

Coburg Road was nearly at the end of the trail, so we stopped to commemorate one of the last WV Bike Trail signs we would see.

There were a goodly number of cemeteries on the route. This was the only one we stopped at.

Nice and old.

I was interested in the mowing pattern. A walkway had been mowed, and half of the gravestones, but not the other half. I'm not sure why.

Continuing on, we ran into another biking couple, Matt and Erin from Colorado. They had begun in Tillamook and were headed to Eugene and then up over the mountains. After chatting a bit, we bid them good riding and stopped at the official end of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway: Armitage County Park.

Matt taking one last trail picture.

Where we took our "finished with the trail!" picture.

Then we packed up, got back on the bikes and rode another five miles to Eugene.

Where we ran into our friends Matt and Erin again.

We checked into our motel, happy to have ridden the last 33 miles of the trip.

After showering, we found the best meal we ate on the trip and one of the best meals we had eaten in a long time. I had a Cobb-type salad with hazelnut crusted chicken that was amazing and Matt had a burger he couldn't stop exclaiming over.

Should you want to partake, visit the Sixth Street Grill. It's a bar, with interesting drink specials, but also incredibly good food.

To see the photographic record of our trip Matt posted on Facebook go here:
Don't worry, it's public, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to see it.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Brownsville is a small town best known for being the place the movie Stand By Me was filmed. We ate a good meal at the Brownsville Saloon before riding to our motel.

We stayed at the Halsey Travelodge, which was a bit longer ride down a much busier highway than I would have wanted. But once we got there, it was perfect. We were one of only about 4 rooms rented, there was a pool and hot tub, which was wonderful. There was also a restaurant where we had dessert and we got a free breakfast in the morning.

But first, our daily mileage photo. 34 good miles on our last day with sunshine.

When riding on a hot and sweaty day, the hands turn black from the handlebar grips.

To see the photographic record of our trip Matt posted on Facebook go here:
Don't worry, it's public, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to see it.

A stop at Thompson's Mills

We planned to stop at Thompson's Mills because it is a State Heritage Site and because it had a bathroom. However, events transpired about a quarter mile away from the site, which required a stop there for sure.

As reported earlier, my tire needed a lot of air in the morning when stopped to use the Bike n' Hike's pump. I found that a little odd as normally a once-per-week inflation keeps me rolling steadily and it had only been a few days. Indeed, just past Shedd I noticed a bit of wobbling and soon after that the tire deflated with a whoosh. We walked the last quarter mile to Thompson's Mills where I happily unwrapped my brand-new CO2 charger.

I brought along a hand bike pump, but I've used a hand pump to inflate a tire before and it takes a long time. The CO2 charger was quite exiting. With a quick squeeze the tire was inflated in seconds.

The bike repaired, we took in the historical information about the mill.

The displays about grain production and the mills' lifetime were informative and interesting. For instance, at one point there was a town (named Boston) right next to the Mill. When the railroad went through Shedd's Station, the place where I noticed my tire losing air, the town around the mill was abandoned and many buildings were moved to Shedd.
Our historical thirst quenched, we continued on to Brownsville.

To see the photographic record of our trip Matt posted on Facebook go here:
Don't worry, it's public, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to see it.

Leaving Albany

On the way out of town, which included going through town--at this point we had only been on the outskirts--Matt hooted at this sign and had me take a picture of it. Albany is a nice town with a theater company performing Oliver Twist. We also stopped at the Bike n' Hike and pumped up our tires. Mine was quite low. I also bought a CO2 charger, in case of flat tire disaster. Could this be foreshadowing? Read on.

The route from Albany to Brownsville had fields aplenty, but we rode past a lot of houses too. It was interesting to me that there would be miles of fields and then, in the middle of seemingly nowhere would be eight to ten houses in a row before we reverted to fields again.

Another look at the Willamette from the route.

A handy sign informed me this field was radish seed. As I find radishes gone to see incredibly pretty and I also have some in my yard, I took a picture.

Now and again we would see beehives in the clover fields. This was a particularly large operation.

To see the photographic record of our trip Matt posted on Facebook go here:
Don't worry, it's public, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to see it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On the road to Albany

Outside of Salem we had rolling hills, to Matt's delight and my annoyance. He found the flat farmland of the previous day bor-ring while I enjoyed the many different crops we saw. I found the constant up and down more of an annoyance than entertaining, but then I had my fill of rolling hills while riding my bike in Western Massachusetts.

Partway up one such rolling hill, Matt came to an abrupt stop. He was switching gears and the grip shifter on the big gear side came off. We attempted to fix it, failed and resolved to ride eight more miles (with him in the granny gear) to Independence/Monmouth to see if there was a bike shop open. However! Matt then unpacked his entire gear to get his sunglasses out and while I was waiting for that unpack and pack experience to end I somehow managed to fix the shifter! Yay me! I'm glad it didn't break again, because I think that was a lightning strikes sort of a situation.

More farmland. After the initial rolling hill section, we were back to flat farmland.

A stop at Johnston Street.

One of the "fun" things about the trip was riding for a seemingly long time and then seeing a sign that said that where you came from was not really that far away. At least by car 13 miles isn't that far.

We stopped for more sunscreen at Talbot (more a crossroads than a town) and I observed that people hadn't stayed long at the Talbot Community Church. Services started at 11:00, we were there at 12:30 and there was no one about.
This is the first field of peppermint I saw on the trip. The Willamette Valley is known for peppermint production, but we saw a lot more hops in production than peppermint.

Outside of Jefferson, we were to take Scravel Hill Road, our big climb of the day. Before we even got to the interchange we saw signs that there would be a detour. The detour was quite well marked, and if I had carefully looked at the website before we left, I would have known about it ahead of time, as there is a link on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway website describing the scope of the work and the suggested detour. The good news is that we avoided our big climb of the day by taking the detour.

We ended up on Kamph Road, after heading through the Murder Creek interchange. Here you can find out how Murder Creek got its name. You can see the very vivid bike detour signs that guided us on our way.

At the intersection of Kamph and Scravel Hill Road a motorcyclist stopped to chat. He had come from Brownsville, leaving after church and was having a good time riding about. We told him we were headed to Albany today and would be in Brownsville tomorrow.

Also, at this intersection--I believe we were adding more sunscreen to our bodies and that's why we were there so long--a car pulled up and a young man got out, holding some sort of device. I immediately suspected them of geocaching and I was proved correct when he shouted to his companion that he had found it.

Arriving in Albany, we had to wait a bit to check into our room at the Quality Inn. They were nice enough to let us park our bikes in the meeting room while we waited and there was a computer in the lobby so Matt could check his Facebook and retrieve his many "Happy Birthday" wishes, as today was his birthday. We checked the movie times of the theater near us and walked to the theater to celebrate by watching X-Men: First Class which we both enjoyed.

Walking back, we stopped at Sweetwater's Family Restaurant which is one of my favorite types of establishments. I call them "old people restaurants" and the criteria includes: a full menu of Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner offerings encompassing all the "normal" American food such as grilled cheese, ham and cheese 3-egg omelet, Chef's Salad etc. If you are lucky, they will still have listed a "diet plate" consisting of a hamburger patty, a side of cottage cheese and a cup of fruit. A good portion of the menu should be given over to the "senior menu." It was in this place. "I can't order most of the stuff on here," Matt complained, "because it's all senior menu." The food is usually not fabulous, consisting of unfancy bread, iceberg lettuce salads with a few carrot shavings, entrees that come with sides of vegetables that have been sitting in the steam tray for hours. But if you choose wisely, (grilled cheese and fries) it tastes delicious and is pretty darn cheap too. They also always have a rotating pie case and when pie is ordered, cut generous slices. In my opinion, the best menu choice is the soup, salad and slice of pie meal. This is what I partook of. The beef vegetable (another classic of such restaurants) was salty and more broth than anything, the salad came with ranch on the salad, not ranch on the side as I had requested, but the pie was a delicious peanut butter chocolate concoction with more calories in the whipped cream than the salad and soup combined. I suspect the main demographic for such restaurants has an average age of about 75 by now, and with the passing of their patrons, these restaurants will slowly shutter. That's why I take advantage of them in the here and now. That and the pie.

The restaurants also tend to have out-of-this-decade decor that warms the cockles of my heart, such as these chairs.

Matt had the apple stuffed chicken which came with delicious sides as well as the aforementioned limp vegetables in the form of green beans. He ate everything but the green beans.

Back at the hotel we got ready for a soak in the hot tub, but first posed with our mileage today: 44 miles.
To see the photographic record of our trip Matt posted on Facebook go here:
Don't worry, it's public, you don't have to be a member of Facebook to see it.