Bicycle Adventures Oregon Coast Tour, 2006

August 26-27, 2006, Saturday-Sunday

Eugene, OR

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It was a treat to sleep in. At least it was for Kerie. As usual I was awake early so I headed out to Starbucks for a decaf and a muffin. I brought a muffin back to Kerie for her breakfast. After lingering and napping in the room for a while, we headed out for our last bike ride of the trip. Using the Lane County Bike Map, we located a short, relatively flat 25 mile loop from Eugene, north to the McKenzie River, along the river for a few miles, then back to Springfield and Eugene. We also had a copy of the Eugene Bicycle Map [PDF] for reference.

It was great to be able to start the loop from our back porch at the inn, along the Willamette River North Bank Trail. From the trail we rode along Coburg Rd., using the wide concrete trail to skirt around major intersections. We made a detour to Trader Joe’s to purchase sandwiches and drinks for our lunch. Kerie noticed a dog locked up in a car, albeit with it's windows partly open. The Trader Joe staff decided that they didn't want to offend a customer with an announcement and didn't do anything. They must not have realized that they did offend a potential customer who said she would never set foot in a Trader Joe’s again.

We continued north along Coberg Rd to the McKenzie River, stopping at Armitage County Park, located on the banks of the river. While eating our sandwiches, which were very good, we watched a couple of black labs frolic in the shallow part of the river as a McKenzie River dory floated past..

Non-paying guest at Valley River Inn.McKenzie River doryLunch in Armitage Park on McKenzie River.
Being passed by other cyclists on bridge over McKenzie River.Summer fun on the McKenzie.Transition from on-road bike route to sidewalk.

We encountered several cyclists along McKenzie View Dr, most headed in the opposite direction. There was little traffic and it was a scenic ride, with a few short climbs. We then headed south along Hill Rd, crossed the Mohawk River and the McKenzie again before proceeded along Hayden Bridge Rd, a quiet back street leading into Springfield.

On the way back to Eugene we got a little lost but eventually found the River trail. We crossed on the ped/bike bridge into the downtown area to see what had changed since our last visit in 2004. On our way into town we passed the Amtrak station from where we would be leaving the next day. I checked on the status of the train, only to discover that our “train” was really a bus. Amtrak all too often uses buses for many of their shorter trips, and we were scheduled to catch the 1:45 p.m. bus. There's a big difference between riding a bus on major highways and a train that usually passes through scenic areas devoid of auto traffic. Sure enough, when we checked our tickets there as a note about the bus.

Saturday marketOwl sculpture on Eugene building.Squirrel sculpture.

The Eugene Saturday Market is a huge farm and craft market held every Saturday in downtown Eugene. It's billed as “the oldest weekly open air crafts festival in the U.S.” It's a wonderful place to find quality crafts and to watch the variety of people selling and buying wares. Before finding the market we commented that the downtown area seemed deserted. Everyone was at the market. We wandered around for a while, listening to the drum circle (as one vendor located across the street from the drummers noted, "drum circles are for people without a sense of rhythm") and a very good rock/blues group playing on the main stage in the center of the market. It's comforting to see this kind of market economy thriving.

We continued on the south and west bank trails, crossing back to the east and north bank trails along a section of trail that had been built since our last visit. The east trail passed a wealthy section of town segregated from the trail by spiked iron fences. We stopped at a pond where Western Pond Turtles nest. The turtles are nearly extinct in Washington and considered a sensitive species in Oregon. There were several kinds of ducks, several nutria, and other animals.

Instead of fretting about where to eat dinner we walked to the El Torito restaurant next to the motel for a decent and reasonably priced dinner that included a complimentary flan desert that we shared. Not a great last dinner, but fast and acceptable.

August 27, 2006, Sunday

Eugene, OR to Reston, VA

We're still trying to figure out why we decided to take the late train to Portland from Eugene and the red-eye flight from Portland to DC. I think it was because there were very few flights for the lower round-trip fares. It sounded romantic, or at least different. What it seemed to do was waste two days instead of one. We didn't do much with the little time we had in Eugene on Sunday and we were wiped out for the following Monday.

In the morning we walked down to Starbucks, the only non-motel breakfast option, for a steamed milk and muffin. The Valley River Inn is located next to a large mall and several office parks. It's not a good place to find restaurants and shops, especially when the Mall is closed, but it is next to the trail and river. After breakfast we spent a couple of hours packing the bikes. By then it was nearly time to catch the 1:00 motel shuttle to the Amtrak station.

We arrived at the station about a half hour early, so I walked around a little in the downtown area while Kerie fretted that I would miss the bus. Missing the bus doesn't seem quite as bad as missing the train, but I didn't wander far. The train station is near an interesting market area that we had visited on the previous trip, and I took a photo of the mix of building types.

Historic buildings across from Amtrak station.“Train” conductor leaving the Amtrak station.The other Union Station, in downtown Portland.

The bus ride was uneventful, although it was fun to watch the many dust devils in the plowed fields along the route. There was a brief traffic jam outside of Portland as the vacationing Portlanders returned from their weekend excursions. We checked our bags at the Amtrak station for $2/bag, then walked into town, past the Portland Saturday/Sunday Market that was just closing. We sat on the promenade watching the parade of cyclists, tourists and street people wander by. Before long we wilted in the 90-degree heat and took refuge in the shade. For dinner we returned to Typhoon! restaurant, a known quantity that serves good, basic Thai food for reasonable prices in an elegant setting. Dinner came to $30 including the tip.

At the train station we picked up our bags and caught a cab to the nearest Max station. Max was crowded with people and bicycles, with all of the bike hooks occupied. It's a relatively quick, inexpensive ($1.95) trip to the airport and we were dropped off beside the terminal, albeit at the baggage claim level. We settled in for the long wait for our flight.

In summary, it was a great trip. The scenery was excellent. The cycling conditions in Oregon are probably the best in the U.S. Our Bicycle Adventures guides did a good job with the large group. Since this was the budget tour, it was probably low on the wish list for experienced guides, so two of the three guides were relatively new. We didn't notice much difference between the budget trip and the regular trip. The restaurants were perhaps not quite as good and we didn't stay in any B&B inns, but the motels were fine. We have so little time to linger in the rooms that a good, clean, spacious room is all we needed.

I highly recommend Bicycle Adventures. They have competent guides and good sag vehicles with racks that accommodate larger recumbent and tandem bikes. They provide lunch, which some other groups do not, and there are many snacks available during the day and snacks and drinks available after the ride, including microbrew beer. We will likely ride with them in the future.

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