Monthly Archives: February 2013
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A pilgrimage to Stonehenge, a circumnavigation of The Gorge and the happy consequences of ignoring people who are well-informed.
This ride includes dirt roads, backroads, antique roads, state highways, interstates, bicycle paths and short stretches of grass. Most importantly, the route traces what is left of old Route 30, the Columbia River Scenic Highway. This is simply an amazing bicycle trip: a five-day, 250 mile loop of the Gorge, on both the Oregon and Washington sides.
Sam Hill is the patron saint of this journey: the man responsible for the Scenic Highway, the reproduction of Stonehenge, the town of Maryhill (named after his wife) and a fabulous mansion that became the Maryhill museum. He began his wide-ranging career as a lawyer, winning so many lawsuits against the Great Northern Railway that he was hired by the company and married the boss’ daughter in the bargain. It’s amazing what one energetic, visionary man can do if he marries into money.
Day 1: Gresham to Viento State Park.
The Historic Columbia Scenic highway must have been an incredibly hard thing to build. They did it with picks, shovels, wagons, horses, and a lot of dynamite. Large parts of the road were destroyed or abandoned in favor of a more modern throughway and it’s hard to believe that it was allowed to fall apart simply because it was considered obsolete as a automobile route. Today, it is being revamped as one of the best bicycle routes imaginable and ODOT is working to complete a dedicated bicycle route from Gresham to Hood River.
The amount of work going into Route 30 is an impressive testament to Oregon’s commitment to sustainable transportation and it nearly scuttled our trip at
the outset. Ten miles or so from our starting point we got to a hilltop called ‘The Woman’s Forum’ only to find that construction had closed Route 30 ahead. According to some experienced bikers we met at the roadblock, the only solution was to backtrack almost all the way to Gresham and use I-84. Charley, looking at his ‘Biking the Gorge‘ map, saw no alternative to a serious re-routing and was ready to abandon the trip right then and there. I was looking at my iphone GPS and found a route that brought us around the construction but the nature of the roads was not clear. We gave it a go and discovered a quick work-around that included a wonderful, deserted and nicely paved road and a short, deserted dirt road (zoom in on the map above for details). Executing this detour was one of the best moments of the trip. Score one for the GPS-phone and one for ignoring the advice of informed people.
In the waterfall area Route 30 hangs low in the gorge but in other places it ventures high into the bluffs and is accessible only to bikes and pedestrians. It is wonderful to be on a bike in the forest and this is a rare opportunity to do so. In the meantime, for a few short stretches on this ride where interstate route 84 is the only alternative.
If you go bike touring you will end up on an interstate at one point or another. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. One thing going for you is that the break-down lanes are wide and for the most part you can keep some distance between you and the big tractor-trailers and other fast-moving vehicles that rip up the air, making that tearing highway sound that carries so far. This is nobody’s first choice for a bicycle path but it does provide a necessary link between more pleasant venues. Interstates can actually be safer than smaller, winding roads with narrow shoulders where a driver might not see a biker until the last second. Interstates get you where you are going quickly, feature gradual changes in elevation and quite often, good pavement. Of course, breakdown lanes can be littered with fragments of tires, loose gravel, litter, automobile debris of all descriptions and the occasional road-kill but other than that, they are bearable and in some stretches almost pleasant.
Viento State Park offers camping and hot showers: exactly what you need to wash off the sweat and highway grime. I had a short conversation with another bike rider there, Danny, who said that he was headed East through the Gorge towards The Dalles. He had ridden all the way from Vancouver on I-84, forsaking the joys of old Route 30 for the interstate. I thought that this was a little strange but he seemed to be interested in moving quickly. Danny was the only other through-biker we saw all day and it seemed to me that long-distance cyclists might not be all that numerous. Later in the trip this impression would be confirmed. People who migrate on bikes are still relatively rare birds.
Day 2: Viento State Park to the Deschutes River Recreation Area
After a seven-mile early morning sprint on I-84 to Hood River for breakfast, we took Route 30 all the way to The Dalles and loved every mile of it. From Hood River to Mosier the route is a dedicated bike path with narrow tunnels through rock formations and sweeping vistas from high above the river. The route continues to The Dalles on a light-traffic road that tops out high on Rowena Point and then a steep return to the river level in a wonderful serpentine descent. Outside of town you can pick up the Riverfront Bike Path which covers the last five miles.
After lunch we biked 10 miles or so on I-84 to the Deschutes River recreation area. I had wanted to check the place out and it was so nice that we decided to camp there even though we were only six or seven miles from Maryhill and Stonehenge. This is a beautiful oasis in the dry country East of the Cascades, situated on the confluence of the Deschutes and the Columbia rivers. There is a lot of wildlife in this park, including a large number of geese that love all that soft, green grass in the camping area even more than some tired biker who is obliged to rake away the goose shit before setting up his tent.
Here we ran into Danny again and we all shared a campsite. It turns out that he is a veteran long-distance rider who holds two UltraMarathon Cycling Association records for crossing the state of Oregon. We had a great evening listening to his stories, exchanging notes and admiring his bike. He was out of there at sunrise the next day. Charlie and I took off shortly thereafter.
Day 3: Stonehenge, The Maryhill Museum and a Salmon dinner.
It was a short ride to Maryhill State Park and we had set up camp by mid-morning. Stonehenge is only 2 miles away and we set out to complete our pilgrimage to this
full-scale replica of the old Druid monument, accurate even to its orientation to the heavens. They built it with poured concrete and rebar and made the surface irregular in order to simulate stone but it really looks more like a collection of lumpy concrete slabs than ancient, quarried monoliths. Sam Hill has this thing constructed as a monument for local soldiers who had been given up to that industrial-scale, state-sponsored orgy of homicide that we like to call World War I. At the time, it was thought that the original Stonehenge was the site of human sacrifices to some more personable God of War (a notion that is no longer believed) and Mr. Hill, a Quaker, provided the dedication on a plaque posted on a concrete pillar.
”To the memory of the soldiers and sailors of Klickitat County who gave their lives in defense of their country … in the hope that others inspired by the example of their valor and their heroism may share in that love of liberty and burn with that fire of patriotism which death alone can quench”
There are 13 names on plaques in the monument. One of them is Henry Allyn.
The Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, WA., August 1, 1918, page 1 CORP. HENRY ALLYN DIES IN FRANCE
Henry Allyn is dead. His body lies in the embrace of the friendly soil of France, but “his soul goes marching on.” He is Goldendale’s first son to die on foreign land in this present war. “Liberty, equality and justice” was a phrase full of meaning to this man. He felt that wrapped up in this motto were things worth fighting for, so one day, early in November, 1917, Goldendale gave him up and he became more definitely a citizen of God’s big world. He enlisted under the Stars and Stripes to fight for freedom of the oppressed and wrong. He was a man – though not twenty-one years of age – who knew what “duty” and “obligation” meant. He never have the joy of reaching the front. He never experienced the thrill that must come from an active engagement with the thugs employed by the Potsdam gang. He died of diphtheria in a quarantine hospital.
It’s hard for me to reconcile the ‘joy of reaching the front’ and a thrilling engagement with employees of the Potsdam Gang with what really happened in the senseless carnage of WWI and the incessant warfare following The War To End All War. I wondered what would Henry Allyn and twelve others, dead from combat or disease, think of all the flowery language and tortured grammar in the obituaries. What would they think of this monument to misconceptions on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River? It is a lovely spot and a sad one, as so many war memorials are. Thirteen young men from Klickitat County, Washington: killed in a nightmare and remembered in a dream, most definitely citizens of God’s big world.
The Maryhill Museum, four miles from Stonehenge, is an imposing chateau originally built by Sam Hill as a residence but never actually lived in. There is a large collection of sculptures by Rodin and a genuine copy of the crown worn by Queen Marie of Romania, who had befriended Sam Hill when he was in Europe, selling stock in the Great Northern Railway.
The Maryhill Winery is also in the vicinity. We dropped in for a taste and attracted a bit of attention as ‘the men who had biked from Portland’. Chicks dug us and one gave me a big high-five, reminding me of how eagerly some people encourage others to do senseless, dangerous things like riding bikes on the freeway or to march off in a war to end war. Charley and I had been awarded the status of minor heroes, distantly related to the guys at Stonehenge who had received their high-fives under far more tragic circumstances. For one thing, we actually did experience joys and thrills on our adventure. For another, we hadn’t been killed yet. We picked up a couple of bottles of estate wine and pedaled back to the town.
Sam Hill intended Maryhill to be a utopian community back in the day but by the time we got there it seemed to be a little shy of achieving the ideal. In a perfect world everything is at its own, perfect temperature. In a utopian world you need a refrigerator and a stove but you have both. In Maryhill we needed only some ice to cool off our wine but there was not a single cube to be found.
Fortunately, there were quite a few land yachts in the State Park and so I asked the couple who were lounging in a nearby RV if we could cop a chill for our wine in their cooler. Jeff and his wife were all to happy to oblige.
Jeff has a large Recreational Vahallah, an 18-foot fishing boat and two vehicles to tow them. He and his wife were in the process of filleting an enormous salmon they had caught that morning. Jeff wanted to know if we’d like some after he had cooked it and we had no problem with that at all. An hour later he walked over to our camp site carrying two plates, fully loaded, with sour cream on the side. Cold wine and a dinner of fresh salmon, baked potato and cole slaw. Utopia at last!
Day 4: A long ride on Route 14 to Beacon Rock.
We decided to do the return trip on the Washington side and I was glad to have done so. Route 14 is a beautiful state highway that contours high on the north-side hills overlooking the river. We began by biking to the top of the bluffs overlooking Maryhill. It was Sunday morning, traffic was almost non-exisent and from high above the river we had unobstructed views all the way to Mt. Hood.
Route 14 is much more direct than the roads on the Oregon side and we made excellent time. We stopped for a late breakfast in Lyle, Washington, at a little diner that serves pancakes the size of frisbees. There was a sign on the wall advertising free WiFi. I asked the waitress if I could log on. She smiled and went back to the kitchen, returning with the password written on a piece of paper: ’6fc6fwv7bc45an7′. There was a PIN to type in as well: ’49382357′. The WiFi was free alright, if you can type 25 random characters into your phone with your fingers all sticky with pancake syrup. I thought it was a wise move on the management’s part. If you are offering something for free it’s a good idea to make it inaccessible.
We continued on Route 14 to Hood River and considered crossing there but the bridge is closed to bicycles. We could either put out our thumbs and hope for a kindly person with a pickup to give us a ride across or continue West on Route 14. We chose to stay on 14 and I think it was a good idea. We biked on to Beacon Rock.
Beacon Rock is the core of an old volcano and a landmark on the Western end of the Gorge. We camped in the State Park there and met two bicyclists who were on their first leg of a trip to … Stonehenge! They were ready to pull the plug on the whole enterprise because of what they considered to be a toilsome and discouraging ride on Route 14 from Vancouver that day. Since we were planning to take that route back home we were eager to find out what the problem was. There were many: road construction, annoying drivers, hills, large trucks and so on, every single complaint they mentioned is commonplace on any route and Charley and I were a bit confused about two capable bikers wanting to throw in the towel over everyday road conditions.
Day 5: Beacon Rock to Portland
The first order of business after leaving Beacon Rock is to get up the imposing hill that marks the end of the Gorge, before the descent into the flatland just East of Vancouver. The summit offers one of the best views of the Gorge and we could see across the river to places we had biked on day 1.
Soon after leaving the summit we came to the construction site the two bikers at Beacon Rock had mentioned. It was a pretty extensive piece of work with flag-persons at either end managing the one-lane route through the construction and we joined a line of vehicles waiting to ride drive through. The construction extended for a few hundred yards and on the other end was a long line of vehicles waiting their turn. Obviously, it would take more than a few minutes before another set of vehicles going our way would show up so we paused to let the cars in our group go on ahead. Now we had the whole lane going downhill to ourselves and we were treated to a quiet, exhilarating and safe ride for three or four miles to the bottom of the hill.
Strangely, our Gorge loop ended in the same way it began: we ignored the opinions of informed people and had a lot of fun as a result. The road construction that our friends at Beacon Rock had described as one reason to abandon the ride and the closed road that had nearly ruined our trip at the outset turned out to have provided two of the best moments we had on our journey. Sometimes it’s smart to ignore what informed people tell you and sometimes it’s not so smart. It is always the case that you’ll never know if you made the right decision until it’s too late to do anything about it.
We finished the trip by crossing the I-205 bridge from Vancouver to Portland and riding the familiar streets and bike paths of Rose City.
I loved this trip and I recommend it highly to anyone who listens to well-informed people. May you have good weather and lots of road construction.
This ride has not been done yet
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Some cities never sleep. Portland never stops dreaming but we don’t count sheep in this town: we count bicycles.
If you can walk in your sleep and talk in your sleep then you can wander around telling people that you are living the dream and nobody will know you’re not awake. In Portland, somncyclists are living the green, wet and possibly sustainable dream of riding in the very best bicycle venue in the whole, wide world.
This notion has some basis in fact. If I highlighted every good bike route in town, the map above would look like a plate of rainbow spaghetti. Bicycle Magazine declared Portland to be the top-rated bicycling city in the USA for 2012, unseating the former winner, Minneapolis. This seems like a low-hanging achievement to me: would you rather pedal your bike in a cool, gentle rain or mush through a raging blizzard at 20 degrees below zero?
There are about 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths in Portland. These numbers are impressive but in truth, these things did not make the town a great place to bike, they only made it better. Most of Portland consists of quiet, residential neighborhoods and dozens of local parks that make everyday biking a pleasant, practical alternative to other modes of transportation. Portland was a great place to bike long before the term ‘bike-friendly’ became a ballot-box imperative.
Another thing: the drivers here in Portland do not run down bicyclists for sport nearly as much they do in other cities. Boston, for example, has close to 600 serious bike injuries a year, compared to around 300 in Portland, despite the fact that in Portland the hunting season is longer and game is more plentiful.
On the map above I have marked some of the major bike routes, a few points of interest in town and three important avenues of escape from the city altogether. I did not include Max light rail lines. Taking your bike on the train to Hillsboro or Gresham can save time and effort but the whole point of biking is to expend time and effort. I’m not a sneering bicycle purist and I do use Max on occasion; it’s just that extending the scope of this blog to include public transportation would be a waste of time (and effort).
Being weird is being wonderful in Portland. Schizoid might be an even better term but geologically speaking the town is only bipolar. The hills on the west side of the Willamette river are properly called the Tualatin Mountain and this long, 1,000-foot ridge is actually part of the tectonically uplifted costal range. The prominences on the East side of the river are cinder cones in a region of volcanic activity that belongs to the Cascades. If you like biking on hills you’re in luck. If not, you’re still on a roll because most of the city is built on relatively flat land that is covered with alluvial deposits from the Missoula floods. If you have multiple personalities then biking in Portland’s eclectic landscape will make every one of you very happy.
The superb variety of terrain, the plethora of parks and bicycle paths, bike-tolerant drivers and the year-round temperate conditions is why Portlandians, when they are not dreaming, tell outsiders that this is the very worst place in the whole, wide world to bike. Don’t even come here. It rains all the time, seasonal affective disorder is considered a virtue and everybody who isn’t involved with some dungeons-and-vegans, nude tap-dancing counter-cult is hooked on meth. Go to Minneapolis or Boston, especially if you are from California.
This ride has not been done yet
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An Experiment in Mobility
After biking 70 miles each day to Eugene I was eager to see what might be reasonable for a day’s mileage with a larger load on more difficult terrain. I picked out a 180-mile loop from Hillsboro to Tillamook and back via the Nestucca River road. This route crosses the coast range twice and goes over Cape Lookout, offering significant elevation gains on each of the three days I spent pedaling. I didn’t camp but I did throw some extra ballast into my panniers to simulate a light camping load. This time I went solo.
Day 1: Route 6 from Hillsboro to Tillamook is a scenic route with a pretty good bicycle lane and a lot of traffic. Going head-to-head with trucks and cars is part of the bicycle experience and this route promised to provide plenty of sparring partners. I figured that leaving on a Sunday might help avoid commercial traffic and that getting on the road as early as possible would be smart. I took the first Max train to Hillsboro and by 8AM I was in the countryside West of Forest Grove, headed for the hills.
Route 6 is a beautiful ride and I would do it again but it was a bit unnerving at times. By leaving early on Sunday I had managed to avoid commercial traffic but I was right on schedule to join a long caravan of cars, vans, busses and every pickup truck towing ATVs, jet skis or boats to the coast that morning.
It’s not easy to be within a few feet of large vehicles moving at 40 or 50 mph, especially on a bike when you can’t see them coming. The rear-view mirror is the wrong place to be looking when rolling downhill at 25MPH and approaching a pothole so listening comes in handy at a time like this. Some vehicles, like a pickup towing a dilapidated flat-bed trailer carrying a couple of dirt bikes, are pretty noisy and you know they are coming. In this case, concentration and bike skills will see you through the encounter. Sometimes you can’t hear vehicles until they are in the act of passing and by then they already haven’t hit you . In this case, survival was a matter of dumb luck. In both cases you get buffeted by the air-wake which can be a significant hazard of it’s own. These scenarios are played out over and over again and it can get pretty disconcerting. Several times I pulled over to collect my dumb, lucky self for a few moments.
I suppose I’ll get used to it eventually. A bicyclist is not in a lot of danger as long as he concentrates on what he is doing and stays to the
left right. Ride deliberately. G ive the drivers an easy target. Don’t make any sudden moves. Experienced bikers tell me to look to my own deportment and things will probably be fine. I believe that. The CDC’s caveat-studded statics indicate that bicycling has 2-3 times the death rate of riding in a car. In contrast, there is a guy on YouTube who concludes that the risk of injury is higher in a car than on a bike. Well, I’m a statistical analyst and I say that the probability of getting squished to death by a vehicle are way, way higher if I’m on a bike than if I’m in the the car that is running it over.
After a lunch stop at the visitor’s center I finished the traverse of the coast range and rode into Tillamook at about 1:30 PM. I was astonished that it had taken only 6 hours to go the 60 miles over the mountains. A more experienced and stronger biker would have done it more quickly and even I could have easily made it another dozen miles or so to Cape Lookout and the beach had I been camping. Instead, I biked around town for a bit, checked into the Red Apple Inn and had a long, leisurely dinner.
Day 2: Cape lookout is a world-class state park and a favorite with cyclists touring the coast. There is camping right in the dunes, hot showers and a fabulous, untamed beach. I took some time to hang out before continuing south and gaining the thousand feet rise over the cape headlands. At the summit there is a 2-mile foot trail that runs out to the point and what must be a fantastic view of the coast but in order to get there I would have to have left my bike unattended for hours in a busy parking lot
I have a lock for my bike so why not take the trail? Is it any more likely that criminally-inclined people, visiting a state park in a pickup truck equipped with four-foot bolt cutters, are going to make off with my bike instead of stealing that Audi or kidnapping a flat-bed trailer carrying two dirt bikes? It’s hard to say. I didn’t own the Audi and I did’t own the trailer but anyone with the gall to steal stuff like that isn’t going to think twice about stealing my bike. If I want to hike to see the scenic viewpoint without any fear of being robbed, I’d have to hitch-hike to the trailhead. Then I’d have to bum a ride home – possibly finding myself in a stolen Audi. The only solution was to get out of this crime-infested area and continue biking South.
Sand Lake is a tidal estuary with a lot of birds, good fishing and so much sand that the prevailing winds blow it up on the surrounding hills, creating a small desert. A portion of this sandy-land is set aside as a dune-buggy preserve for endangering species. There is a large, well-situated campground which, according to the caretakers, is quiet and peaceful during the early part of the week and at all other times something like a cross between the Indy 500 and a frat party during rush week.
My objective this day was a B&B on Blaine Road along the Nestucca river but first I had to get to Route 101 and follow it South for a few miles. If Route 6 isn’t busy enough for you, Route 101 will make up for it. Four miles of logging trucks, narrow shoulders and fast traffic on this section were enough for me and I was happy to make it to the little town of Beaver and the Nestucca. Ten miles up the creek is the elegant Powder Creek Ranch. Take my advice. Just stay there. You can have a home-cooked dinner with Bev, Brenda and Hillary, who made me feel as if I had been reunited with old friends. You can meet Lilly, the happiest dog in Oregon and roam a beautiful piece of costal range farmland. It is also perfectly situated for the next’s days ride back to Hillsboro.
Day 3: The Nestucca River road is the best cycling route I’ve seen yet. Traffic is virtually non-existant, the road is in good shape and the scenery is superb. The road is unpaved for a couple of miles, which might account for the lack of thru-traffic but I was able to ride nearly all of that stretch. The route winds up the narrow valley, eventually topping out at 2,000 feet, offering a grand view of the Willamette Valley. The descent is steep, quick and bottoms out in Carleton.
The route from Carlton to Hillsboro runs through the peaceful back roads of farm and wine country, except for a short stretch on Route 47, which offers the cyclist a final opportunity for up-close, high-speed encounters with huge trucks and heavy farm equipment. I made it to Hillsboro by 4PM and rode the Max to Portland.
What a wonderful loop this is. Mountains, coastline, more mountains and farmland, all in close proximity and on great biking routes. I learned something new about mountains. When hiking, both ascents and descents can be difficult and the going is slow but mountains don’t bog down a biker nearly as much. The ascents are still energy and time consuming but the payoff on a bike is a swift and relatively effortless descent. Each of my three 60-mile days on this trip could have easily been longer and this augers well for biking in the Cascades. The experiment was a huge success.
My first trip wasn’t nearly as awful as I thought it would be.
My neighbor, Charlie, is a bike rider and had no more interest in climbing St. Helen’s than I, a hiker and street-skater, had in bicycling to Eugene. I was good with this state of affairs until Charlie upset the balance by climbing the mountain with me. If Charlie did that just so I would have to go bike touring with him, his arduous gambit was a big success. I hope so, because making summit didn’t seem to make the grade for him. Charlie announced his retirement from mountaineering even while standing on top of his first peak, effective the moment we got back to the car. On the way home from biking to Eugene we were planning our next bike trip.
Day 1: We started at Champoeg State Park, gateway to the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway and about 70 miles from Albany, where we planned to spend the night. As a long-time hiker I was not accustomed to thinking in terms of a seventy-mile day but it took only a few hours of biking and a glance or two at my $20 bike computer to realize that seventy miles on a bike is very doable, especially on the relatively flat terrain in the valley. Ten or twelve miles per hour is all it takes. Eight hours of easy pedaling in good conditions would give you a day-radius of 90 miles with time left over to sit and gawk at things.
During my first day I learned that a bicycle is fast enough to get you from one place to another and slow enough for you to have learned a lot about what’s in between. In a car, the landscape rushes by without pausing to say hello but to a biker it reveals itself in a leisurely manner, inviting the pedalist to linger for a moment. On a bike you can hear and smell and touch the world you are traveling through: you are an integral part of the scene and not just a spectator. You might exchange a ‘good morning’ with someone who happens to be at their mailbox as you ride by. You might tag along with a jogger for a few moments, exchanging pleasantries or information on road ahead. Dogs run to the curb to bark at you, defending their turf. A truck approaches from behind and you hold tight to edge of the road. The air whips and buffets as the truck passes by. Watch out for potholes. Put some rhythm in your legs and set a pace for the long haul. Control your respiration as you look around and breathe it all in. Compared to biking, riding in a car is more like an exercise in sensory deprivation.
In a car, you’re in a car. On a bike, you’re somewhere else.
The Willamette Scenic Bikeway is well-marked and runs mainly on back roads past pastures, fields and hops farms , through residential neighborhoods, along main streets and sometimes past places best described as nowhere at all. After lunch in Salem we had a long ride through woodland and fields and late in the afternoon found ourselves in Jefferson, home of The Best Root Beer Float In The World (as judged after biking all day in the sun). The proprietors of Cafe 99 are very friendly and they gave us a short cut into town which saved us several miles of pedaling.
Day 2: The road south of Albany runs through an area of industrial-scale farming: huge fields lush with green crops and gaping expanses of bare, tortured earth awaiting replanting. Long arrays of spray irrigation shoot jets of water into the air, in an exuberant, almost indulgent celebration of water that was in sharp contrast to the severe drought and failed crops throughout the midwest at the time.
The Bikeway passes through Brownsville, an historic little town that has retained a lot of it’s Victorian and Gothic architecture. We had lunch at Kirk’s Ferry Trading Post which is worth a visit, even if you had ate somewhere else. The building has a large, open interior that houses the original log-cabin trading post in Brownsville, circa 1840. The place has live music and dancing in the evenings and the owner told me they wanted to have a wild west show but were having trouble getting the health department to approve horses inside a restaurant. Go figure.
Heading South from Brownsville the bikeway makes a 700-foot gain on Gap road and from that point you can almost see Eugene, an easy 30 miles away.
If Portland is the heart of my own private Oregon, Eugene is the soul. It’s a peaceful mixture of liberals, progressives, rainbow families and big-time college sports in a verdant oasis, set deep in the heart of red-state territory. Eugene is well above the head of navigation on the Willamette river and the bucolic riverfront is surprisingly undeveloped. In some parts you’d think you were far out in the country rather than in the center of a city. The smooth riverfront bike paths and the bike-friendly streets make this town a sort of bicycle Valhalla. We stayed a day to take in the Eugene’s 150th anniversary parade and next day we took Amtrak back to Portland, reversing our route in under three hours.
The trip had been an eye-opening experience in for me. Hiking and climbing was all about mobility in wilderness terrain. Street skating is ideal for moving quickly and deftly through a complicated urban environment that includes streets, paths, plazas and sometimes lobbies and elevators. Biking presented me with a huge extension of my horizon for personal transport and I was eager to head back out as soon as possible.