Been out of the office for the last week. I packed up the kiddo and the tandem, met up with two other families, and headed out for a little ride. Five days, ~180 total miles, lots of rain, wind storm, closed campgrounds, and tons of fun. We mostly followed the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway from Eugene back to Portland. It was a good route for the most part. Lots of beautiful, quiet roads through picturesque farmlands. Very flat, we only had a couple of significant(ish) climbs. And a fairly consistent tailwind for the entire trip. All around good stuff.
Day -1, Portland (~3 miles): Since we were not riding a loop out of PDX, logistics were a bit more involved than usual. I had to have everything all packed and ready to go the day before leaving on the trip. Rode the fully loaded tandem solo over to the Smitty's house and dropped it off. The bikes where going south via van, while most of the peeps were taking the Amtrak. The economics worked out that sending the bikes by van wasn't much more spendy than with us on the train. With the bonus of not needing to break down the bikes and reassemble on the receiving end.
Day 0, Portland to Eugene (~6 miles): Transportation day. Got up assy early to catch the early morning train to Eugene. Don't think I really needed to arise at 5:30am, but excitement about the trip made it hard to sleep. With three adults and four rambunctious excited children, the train conductor made the wise decision to give us our own train car for the three hour trip. The van o' bikes showed up a little we did. Rode around a little got some lunch, checking into the hotel, rode around more, ate dinner, Wade ate french fries for dinner for the first of about five times on the trip, sat in the hot tub at the hotel (the hot tub was poorly situated at the beginning of the trip, not the end), and after the kids calmed down a bit watched The Karate Kid on the hotel TV. Some amount of sleeping happened.
Day 1, Eugene to Brownsville (~30 miles): Wet. Like really wet. And windy. It rained most of the day. Kinda drizzly in the earlier part. Becoming a steady rain by the evening. We did have a couple of breaks from the precipitation, most notably just when we got to the park in Brownsville. So we did get to set up camp without getting poured on. The wind for the most part was in our favor. Coming out of the south, pushing us nicely towards our destination. Short day of riding, but we did have one of our two significant climbs that day on Gap Rd. on the way into Brownsville. It was only about 400' of elevation gain, much much more difficult on a fully loaded touring tandem with a seven year old on the back than riding solo on a road bike, as you might be able to imagine. Brownsville treated us well. Camped in the town park there. Supposedly totally legal, but we were a bit early in the season for camping. Town police officer came by to check us out. I think the screaming children may have scared him off, as he beat a hasty retreat after telling us it was okay to hang out there for the night. We all ate dinner at the only place in town that let kids in, a mediocre Mexican restaurant. We might have overstayed our welcome a bit, but it was warm and dry inside. Afterwards went back to the park and hung out until dark. It rained a lot. The adults sat around under cover in the picnic pavilion whilst the kiddos got completely soaked running around the park. That night there was a crazy windstorm. Like tree branches falling off trees crashing to the ground kind of crazy windstorm. Lucky none of ours got smooshed by gravity affected plant life. I had a spotty night of sleep due to being constantly woken up by the sound of the wind. My tent held up well with no issues (thanks Hilleberg! Email me if you wanna talk about good bikecamping tents, I'd be happy to share my experiences).
Day 2, Brownsville to Independence (~50 miles): The weather seemed a bit more promising the next day. A few little spells of rain, but mostly clear. Today was to be our 'long day' of riding. Though it was almost entirely flat and we continued to have an awesome tailwind. Without the rain it seemed a lot easier than Day 1. We diverged a bit from the official Bikeway route this day, and cut off about 15 miles of riding by bypassing Albany. We didn't need it as a resupply stop, and opted to stay on smaller farm roads rather than go through a fairly sizable city. Good decision on the whole. The only problem we seemed to have on the trip was when we went through bigger towns. Even when riding almost exclusively on bikeways and in bike lanes drivers in towns seemed to disregard the safety of cyclists more than they should have. Not everyone, by any means. Drivers on the whole are pretty great people. Some of my best friends drive cars. But the level of aggression by motorists was a bit higher within the bigger tows we went through. On the other end of things though, we did get to take one of the cable ferries that cross the Willamette River. Normally for cars, our touring group had the entire ferry to ourselves. The camping at the town of Independence left a bit to be desired. Admittedly we weren't actually supposed to be camping there. On some of our maps it's marked as camping for the Bikeway. However, as we found out, it's not officially open for camping yet. Later this year there will be a campground host and outdoor shower and a nice field to camp in with a fire pit. The fire pit and field were there, but also were a couple of really confused police officers wondering why we thought it was okay for us to be there. I had managed to start a fire from the pile of wet wood left beside the fire pit. It's probably that which attracted the police. They were kind enough not to kick us out (as they were doing to the people trying to sleep in their cars in the parking lot), especially because it had started to pour rain. Not really sure what we would have done with ourselves if we had to pack up and move out.
Day 3, Independence to Willamette Mission (~30 miles): Had a bit of a rude awakening this morning. The night before I had spotted a turkey roosting in a tree right next to the camping area. Didn't think much of it. But then the little fucker started in on it's gobble gobble shit before 6am. On the plus side, it had stopped raining by time I rolled out of the tent. There wasn't to be any more rain for the rest of the trip, but the sun wouldn't really show itself until the next day. A short and flat day of riding, with an extended stop in Salem for lunch and provisions. Me and Wade had salad and croissants for lunch. Went to the Salem Safeway for foodstuffs, encountered a bunch of rather rude people (customers, not employees), probably the worst of the trip. Rode by the Capitol Building (one of only 5 Art Deco style Capitols in the USA!), and then out of town to our camping stop at the Willamette Mission State Park. This had to be our favorite campsite of the trip by far. The park is only open to camping for people on bikes or on horses. And as there were no equestrians around, we had the entire 1680 acres to ourselves. The campsite is in an old filbert orchard. Nothing but trees and clear skies to be seen. The kids could be as loud and crazy as they wanted to be. We had a nice fire. Ate some excellent food. Possibly my favorite camping meal of ever, a nice thick pork chop pan seared in bacon fat, with sautéed pasta salad. So good. And after the kiddos passed out from exhaustion, the adultlike people stayed up chatting around the fire and sipping decent bourbon out of plastic bottles until 1am.
Day 4, Willamette Mission to Champoeg (~25 miles): Foggy foggy morning. Kinda pea soup style. Though you could tell how nice the day was going to be. The fog burned off by early morning, and it reached the 70s with full sun by the time we hit camp that afternoon. We rolled through the not terribly exciting stripmalls of Woodburn on the way to Champoeg (say 'sham-poo-ee") for lunch and resupply. So drastically different than the nice backroads we'd been riding on. We had our first mountain sighting of the trip, and at one point we could see Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens all from the same spot. Champoeg was pleasantish. Had an okay hiker-biker area with picnic shelters and a bike repair station. The kids donned their swimsuits and splashed around in the water spigot, striking stark contrast to the low 40s and raining from Day 1. Another nice night around the campfire. We tried out Chen's Patented Top Down Burning Method for our fire that night. It worked well. No real need to tend the fire while it was burning, which kind of ended up being a disadvantage with three kids around that wanted nothing more than to continuously poke and prod the fire.
Day 5, Champoeg to Portland (~35 miles): A decent night of sleep. The last fire of the trip. The last camp breakfast of bacon and pancakes. The last time packing up everything we had and strapping it to our bicycles. They ride was okay. A lot more trafficked than previous days, as we were mostly rolling through Portland's outlying bedroom communities. We stopped for a bit in Canby, let the kiddos blow off some steam and eat snacks. It was a bit hillier than the other days as well, with lots of ups and downs and the second biggish climb of the trip, over the ridge into Oregon City. We ate a late lunch at Burgerville, and took the mostly complete Trolley Trail back into PDX. The Smittys peeled off as we rode through Milwaukie, while the Vinograds and Kamzelskis rolled it back into the Inner SE of Portland and home.
On the whole, it was a pretty great trip. We weren't deterred by bad weather and a couple of close calls with bad drivers. The kiddos mostly behaved well. No mechanical issues to speak of. I would genuinely say that we all had a great time. I would totally do it again.