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 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
Quality Inn Albany
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.
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.