Have you followed this whole journey from the beginning? Follow this link to find all the episodes of our North American Cycle Tour – 2019.
Thursday 25th July: Portland to Champoeg State Park (Oregon, USA): 54kms
Ride Time: 3hrs 45mins / Ave Speed: 9.25mph
We got packed up and had a couple of coffees from the office machine. It was just before 10 am when we left. We had chosen to cycle the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, a route in central Oregon’s lush and fertile Willamette Valley. We’d have to negotiate the Google Maps route out of Portland to get there. Google had created a very convoluted route which had us continually having to check our position. This, and a couple of detours, saw us slowly progress through the busy suburban streets.
After a big hill climb, we stopped for lunch at a Safeways in Oregon City, just south of Portland. We sat outside and chatted with a few old guys killing time together. They were utterly mystified by what we were doing – they’re not the first ones, though!
After finishing lunch, Google sent us up State Road 99. This put us on a terrifying 1-mile stretch of highway that was a long climb with no shoulders, a guard rail, and four lanes of traffic up our arse! At Canby, we stopped and got a cold drink, and rested. It was pretty hot today, and the water in our water bottles was now warm.
Just before Champoeg State Park is the small village of Butteville, where we stopped to rest under a big, shady tree alongside the General Store. We spent an hour there, cooled off, and had something to eat. Unfortunately, they had a minimal selection of things to eat and wouldn’t let us take any beers away. They said they only had a restaurant license – damn!
While waiting at the General Store, we met a fellow cyclist, Mark, from Portland. He had just used a bike path to come from the campground and explained where it was for us.
The bike path took us through a beautiful, forested area alongside the Willamette River. We rode in the shade the whole way, which we were grateful for. The Hiker-Biker site was huge at the campground and included power and water – a bonus! Only Mark and we were here for the night, at opposite ends of the site. I think he wanted to maintain his privacy, although it didn’t bother us if he didn’t want to talk anymore.
The ground in the Hiker-Biker site was pretty hard, and I had to borrow a hammer from a Canadian family who had their caravan parked not far from us.
So, as we watched the sunset over the fields, it was a pretty dry argument, the first one for a while!
Friday 26th: Champoeg State Park to Salem (Oregon, USA): 65kms
Ride Time: 4hrs 12mins / Ave Speed: 9.54mph
It was another hot day as we rode around the park, trying to find a way out. We eventually got directions from the caretaker and found ourselves heading south, surrounded by golden barley fields.
The Willamette Valley is famous for growing hops for Oregon’s numerous breweries and also has a thriving wine industry. Agriculture is the big thing, and over 170 different kinds of crops are grown here. Needless to say, the whole place is under intense farming with very little natural woodlands left. Still, the roads were tranquil to what we had become used to, and we were thankful for that.
We had contacted a Warmshowers host, Dave, in Salem, the state’s capital city. We would meet him at the Riverfront City Park’s carousel, and he would show us the way back to his place. The park was full of people enjoying the sunshine and water features. At the Carousel, we watched parents take their toddlers for a ride while we waited for Dave.
Dave showed up after 15 minutes on his e-bike. He’s in his 70s but very fit and sporty in his lycra. The ride back to his place involved quite a few significant hills, which became worse once we’d stopped to buy some beers!
Dave and Sharon had a lovely house, and we got our own bedroom and ensuite. I picked some raspberries for them from their fence to eat with their dessert. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and fielded many questions about our travels.
Saturday 27th July: Salem to Albany (Oregon, USA): 50kms
Ride Time: 3hrs / Ave Speed: 10.32mph
Dave rode out with us the next morning. He was taking us to the tiny town of Independence to show us a better way to get to our next stop in Albany. He maintained a healthy gap on us on his e-bike; we even lost sight of him several times on River Road.
At Independence, we crossed the Willamette River and pulled up in front of the Farmer’s Market. Every town usually has a Farmer’s Market on the weekend, a place to buy fresh fruit and veggies, as well as hand-made crafts, jams, and art.
Dave, not happy with showing off in his e-bike, convinced me to have a go on it myself. Curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I took it for a spin up the main street heading out of town. I have to say. I was surprised by just how fast it could accelerate. It had nine speeds, each faster than the previous one. I got up to 5 and had to back it off, worried I might get pulled over by the police!
Dave reckoned that riding on the other side of the river through Hopville, Modeville, and Buena Vista would be a much more pleasant ride than sticking to the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. I’m unsure if the Scenic Bikeway was better, but Dave’s route was very nice and had little traffic.
At Buena Vista, we met a couple on bicycles staring at a glass case with a full-size Yowie. We hung around and chatted with them for a while before heading down a long, straight hill heading south to Albany.
Dave’s route bought us out into North Albany, and we needed to cross over the Willamette River again to get into town. We had arranged another Warmshowers stay with Mathais and Erin, who lived close to the city center. We had arrived way too early, though, and did some laps of town looking for a cafe where we could keep an eye on the bikes.
The Brick and Mortar Cafe did well for us, but we were still relatively early. So, faced with time to kill, we found the No Rails Alehouse and dropped in for a couple of pints. We tied the bikes up out the front and sat behind the window so we could see them.
When the time came, we bought a dozen beers to take away and headed for our Warmshowers host’s place. Dave and Dena lived in a Heritage-Style house with red, white, and blue bunting draped over the front in a proud show of patriotism. They had prepared a BBQ for dinner, and their son and his family would join us later to eat. After chatting for a while, we discovered that Dena has relatives in Italy at Bassano del Grappa, just down the road from my Nonna’s home village – small world! We also had our first S’mores for dessert. Interesting!!!
Read on to see what happens next in – Along the Valley Road: Cycling from Albany to Eugene.