Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Oregon - Salem and Corvallis

It's bittersweet when friends move away. Naturally, we miss seeing and riding with them on a regular basis, but it is also nice to have friends living in exotic travel destinations!

So I tried not to take it personally last year, when my entire 2011 Fleche team moved away. I really don't think it was to keep from having to take part in another Fleche, although admittedly, after 2011, Susan had actually vowed never to do another. Still, she could have just said no when I asked. She didn't actually have to relocate all the way across the country! And Dave and Dena didn't actually have to follow her lead and move away too!

Now when Susan and Liz headed off to Portland, they extended an offer to come visit. We took them at their word and stayed them before our TREO trip. After putting up with our arrival in the wee hours of Tuesday morning,  Susan played tour guide and took us to one of her favorite spots for breakfast. We then set up shop in their garage to build up our bikes. After discovering we needed a part to allow us to get into the granny ring on the tandem, we headed out on a shake down ride - hoping not to need the granny gear. Susan led us on a tour of some local parks on the way to a bike shop where we picked up the proper part as well as some other last minute bike supplies. Then Liz joined us after work for dinner and drinks, before Dave, John and I headed away the next day for our 3 day trip.

Returning from TREO, we took advantage of their hospitality again, imposing on them for yet another night. We met Susan in town for dinner and then she took us on a cool midnight bike tour around Portland.

We returned from Central Oregon, where temperatures had been rather mild, to find Portland in the midst of a brutal heatwave. It was over 90℉ and predictions were that it would stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately we had decided to head out to the coast where it should be much cooler. The only problem was we had to get there first. As we were planning this next phase of the trip, we considered a few different options for riding over the coastal range. Dan had a nice route heading due west of Portland. However with very few services along his route, we might find ourselves needing to carry lots of extra water and having to cover a longer distance than we'd like in this heat. Dan was also worried that since it was so hot, Portlanders might have had the same idea and fled to the coast for the weekend, making Saturday night lodging hard to come by.

So, instead, we decided to endure the heat and first head south toward Salem and Corvallis. Then, on Monday we could head into the hills and out to the coast after all weekend traffic had died down. 

Should we follow the signs to Happy Valley or Boring?

Our initial goal was to get to Oregon City and pick up a route that I'd found on RWGPS out to Champoeg Park, where we'd then pick up the signposted Willamette Valley bike route all the way to Covallis. There were two bike paths we could take down to Oregon City. One followed I-205 and the other took us out past Lake Oswego. On a Saturday with temperatures soaring, I worried that the bike path to Lake Oswego would be crazily busy, so we opted to take the less scenic, but likely quieter path by the highway. Silly me, a path next to a highway may have less traffic on the actual path, but it was by no means quiet! In retrospect, we definitely should have taken the river path down past the lake.

Maybe it was the midnight tour that contributed to our late start, but we weren't exactly out the door at dawn. By the time we finally headed out, the mercury had risen substantially. As a result, we didn't make it far before stopping for brunch and ice cold drinks.

A swim was quite a relief from the oppressive heat

Looking at the name I gave my Strava upload for the day, the recurring theme seemed to be all about stopping to get cold drinks. We didn't make it very far from brunch before we needed to stop again to dump the boiling water from our bottles and replace it with something cooler. Then as we got close to the Clackamas River, I noticed a path down to the waterside and insisted we take it and go in for a swim. There were no objections to that suggestion.

We next made it all the way to a Dairy Queen in Oregon City where we introduced Dave to the joys of a DQ Blizzard. John first became acquainted with these uniquely American cold treats 20+ years ago on PAC Tour, when DQ was a regular stop in the afternoon heat. Somewhere further along the way, there was a stop for a frozen lemonade and then in Butteville, we downed espresso milkshakes. Yep, it was HOT!

When we stopped in Butteville, we asked about lodging, but there was some sort of festival going on and everything was booked. So we pressed on to find the entrance to the Willamette bike route and continued heading south toward Salem.

Not surprisingly, given the combination of a late start and many stops for cold drinks, we ran out of daylight before reaching Salem. At least the temperature dropped a bit as the sun fell toward the horizon.

With darkness and fatigue dictating choices, we stopped at the first motel we found in Kaizer. Unfortunately, the only place nearby to get food was Subway. But they served the best tasting subs ever. As John's mom used to say, "Hunger makes good sauce!"

The next morning we made our way into Salem and sampled multiple coffee shops before we rejoined the Willamette bike route down toward Corvallis.

We were surprised to see hardly any other cyclists on this very flat, very well signposted bike route. We did bump into one other touring cyclist when we stopped for lunch in Jefferson. He'd been touring in the Cascades and was now headed back north to Seattle, I think with plans to pick up the train somewhere along the way. Like us, he seemed a bit surprised by the extreme heat!

After lunch, we pointed the bikes south again toward Corvallis. Well I should clarify "toward Corvallis," as the signposted bike route actually bypasses Corvallis, so if you are following our tracks, don't overshoot civilization like we did. We had been counting down the miles on the signs for Corvallis, when suddenly we stopped seeing signs for Corvallis and instead saw signs for Eugene. We backtracked a bit and made our way into the very nice college town, where we quickly tracked down an ice cream shop, followed by a motel where we each took advantage of a cooling shower.

Choosing between so many brew pubs was a tough call, but we found a nice one for dinner, and continued to rehydrate.


  1. Thank you so much for all the Ireland posts, it looks like a lovely place to bike, despite the rain. All those funny little road, no sign of traffic, beautiful and green.
    As for summer in Oregon, on this january night I am having a hard time remembering a heat wave in the pacific northwest this past summer, although I'm on the coast Canada side, but it was a beautiful summer. It seems so far away, thanks for triggering my memory!

  2. yes, it was freakishly hot. http://lynnerides.blogspot.com/2014/09/donuts-to-total-domination.html
    Next time you come out here, I can give you a route to the coast, with lots of little towns (and services) along the way