Bicycle Adventures Oregon Coast Tour, 2006

August 17-19, 2006, Thursday-Saturday

Reston, VA to Portland, OR

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Spilling water on Kerie's lap about an hour into the flight to Portland, to begin our bicycle tour of the Oregon coast, was not a good omen. Kerie just missed our seat mate when she threw the offending cup at me and stormed off to the restroom. Not only was her lap wet, but her seat was soaked as well. Luckily we had a blanket that could be used as a seat cushion, but the water slowly seeped through during the flight as I discovered, since I was relegated to said seat. We had been up since about 5 a.m. to catch the 8:40 a.m. flight and we were both tired and grouchy.

Despite the bad omen, we had a great trip. The criteria for our bike tour this year were a bit more strict than previous years. We wanted an easier tour this year, one that entailed moderate miles and limited climbing. The tour company needed to be able to accommodate Kerie's recumbent, a Tour Easy, which is a long bike. It would be our first year packing and unpacking the recumbent. Kerie and I both love the Pacific Northwest, at least in the summertime. We've done a couple of tours there, riding along the Volcanoes of Washington and to Crater Lake in Oregon.

We haven't seen much of the Oregon coast, said to be some of the best scenic cycling areas in the country. We reserved a tour with Bicycle Adventures again this year, the Oregon Coast Budget tour. We've had good luck with them in the past. They have knowledgeable guides, they provide lots of services, including lunches on the road, they have good refreshments after the ride, often including local microbrew beer, and their vans can carry the recumbent. This year it would be interesting to compare their "budget" tour with the normal tours we've taken with them before.

The State of Oregon has produced an excellent bicycle map of the coast route that is available on the Internet as a PDF file on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Map page.

We were a bit concerned about the flight out, which was shortly after the arrest of suspected terrorists in England who were said to be plotting to blow up U.S.-bound plans with liquid explosives. We were careful about what we carried on the plane, trying to simplify our load and making sure we had no liquids. Even though there were long lines at security, we passed through more quickly than in the past. Had we been traveling a few days earlier, it would have been a nightmare, as security guards were just figuring out what could be carried onboard and confiscating all the various liquids that passengers normally carry.

We had a brief layover in Seattle where we had lunch before catching our flight to Portland. The Portland Days Inn City Center did not offer an airport shuttle, but we discovered that there was not much need for it with the excellent Max light rail train, that made frequent runs from the airport to the center of the city. There are even special areas on the train for bikes, where commuters hang their bikes on special hooks during the trip. Unlike in D.C., there are no rush-hour restrictions on bringing a bike on the train.

It was a bit of a hassle carrying our bags the 4 or 5 short blocks to the motel, but we made it with no problems. I prefer staying in moderately priced motels like the Days Inn, where the staff are much less formal than in the more expensive motels, and they care less about us bringing bikes into the rooms. The room was adequate, and there was a refrigerator and microwave. There was no free wireless Internet service, but there were several cafes nearby that offered the service.

Once we got checked in and picked up Kerie's bike that was shipped to the motel (she uses a company called Sports Express which offers door-to-door service), we collapsed for a while before heading out for dinner. We stumbled upon Higgins Restaurant and Bar. Recommended by a fellow cyclist on the Crater Lake tour, we had tried to eat there on our previous trip but could not get in. It is a good restaurant, although the dishes are a bit rich, with too much garlic and butter. Food tasted great at first but was very heavy. We wandered around the neighborhood afterwards, bought some drinks for the next couple of days, and headed back to the motel.

August 18, 2006

Kerie's bike. (Some assembly required.)
On Friday, after putting together the bikes, we took a long ride along the East Bank Esplanade trail, beside the Willamette River, and the Springwater Corridor rail trail. They are both excellent trails, with good road crossings, shaded seating areas and water fountains, and the trails are in good shape. Before leaving town we stopped by the local Whole Foods Market to pick up lunch, then to The Bike Gallery to check out the shop and pick up the latest copy of the excellent Portland bike map, Bike There!. Portland is one of the few places that has two bike maps. While Bike There! costs $6.00, Portland by Bicycle [pdf] is free and contains much of the same info as Bike There!

The Bike Gallery. Notice the button above Kerie's hand that opens store door so that you can wheel your bike in.Share the road arrow (Sharrow).Bike/Ped lanes on Hawthorne Bridge.
Road crossing on Springwater Trail. Note bike route directional sign on right with mileages.Springwater Trail sign and trail directional signs.Trailside rest area with racks, water, and rest rooms.

We crossed the Willamette on the Hawthorne Bridge and continued on Hawthorne Blvd. to Coventry Cycle Works to check out their selection of recumbent bikes. We knew we were in the right place when, as we approached the store, we spotted a women test riding an EZ-Sport. They had a small but neat collection of bents, EZ-Sport, EZ-1, Tour Easy's, Burleys, and Bacchetta's. The also had a couple of tadpole trikes. Their selection was not as diverse as ours at bikes&vienna, but it was a very attractive, well-laid out store.

One of the store clerks talked to us briefly about the trail we would ride and he gave us good directions for getting there from the store. As we rode further from the downtown area, the edge of the trail was lined with blackberry bushes heavy with fruit, and they smelled delicious. Occasionally we'd see people with their buckets picking the ripe fruit. One section of the trail faces Mt. Hood in the distance and on a clear day the view is said to be excellent. There must have been smoke in the air that day because we could just barely make out the mountain's outline.

We had gone several miles on the Springwater trail and we wanted to try to reach the end of the paved section but it was getting late. We decided to turn around and head back to the city. We were both getting a bit tired and we still had a long way to go before we reached the motel. We slowly rode along the east bank trail, re-crossed the Willamette and headed back to our room. For dinner we ended up at Typhoon!, the restaurant adjacent to and connected with the Hotel Lucia, where we had stayed on our earlier trip to Portland.

Entrance to Springwater Trail.View from East Bank Esplanade trail.View from West Bank Esplanade trail.

August 19, 2006, Saturday

We decided to head west to check out the roads that lead into the surrounding hills. As with the Springwater ride, the route we followed was suggested by the site Oregon.com, which has a list of five bike rides in and around Portland. Using the directions and the bike map we were able to make our way to NW Cornell Rd that has a good shoulder for cyclists. There are two narrow tunnels on this road, but an ingenious solution was built to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians; trails are built into the hillside to skirt around the tunnels.

We turned right on Skyline Boulevard and after a few miles came to Skyline Memorial Gardens, a good place to check out the view to the west and eat our lunch which was purchased earlier at Whole Foods again. We felt a little guilty sitting on a cemetery bench eating our lunch, but there was almost no one there and I doubt that the residents cared.

We continued on Skyline, past Germantown Road and busy Cornelius Pass Road. We climbed a little further and decided to take the shorter loop, so we headed back to Germantown Road and headed downhill toward the river. It was a thrilling descent, with many switchbacks where it was easy to drift into the oncoming lane. At the bottom of the hill we rode a short distance on Route 30 then crossed the Willamette on the St. Johns bridge. There was no shoulder but traffic was light and we made it across OK. From the bridge we could see the hundreds of cars waiting to be shipped to various parts of the West. Portland handles the most automobiles of any port in the West, fourth in the nation.

On Skyline Blvd riding toward Cornelius Pass Road.Kerie riding on St. Johns bridge.View from St. Johns bridge looking east.
Pattie's Home Plate Cafe.Crossing Broadway bridge.View from Broadway bridge looking north.

We followed the bike map and made our way from the outskirts of town to the downtown area. Along the way we stopped at a classic old diner, Pattie's Home Plate Cafe. It's located in the heart of old St. Johns, a small town that merged with Portland in 1915. Pattie was sitting at one of the tables, at one point stopping by our stools and asked us how everything was. The cherry Sprite was excellent, as was Kerie's root beer float. There was an interesting collection of used and new stuff taking up half of the cafe, and on certain nights the tables are cleared for a dance floor. It's nice to know that small town soda fountains like this still exist.

We continued following the map to the Broadway Bridge which, like all of the other downtown bridges, has separate bike trails, usually one in each direction. We were tired by the time we reached the Days Inn. After showers the search for dinner began. The Bicycle Adventures literature had suggested Jake's Famous Crawfish restaurant. The food was good and we were surrounded by old oil paintings of Oregon scenes. The restaurant has been in Portland for over 100 years and many famous people have dined there. Kerie was more than a little disappointed when I told her that McCormick and Schmicks purchased the restaurant in the 70's.

Eating at Jake's was a fine way to end our stay in Portland. We caught the free trolley back to our motel and prepared for the trip ahead. We would be picked up at 8:45 a.m. the following morning at the Heathman Hotel.

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