Yesterday I had the opportunity to head north and try out a portion of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.
I’m a big fan of country roads with few cars, which is exactly what this bikeway provides. Smooth roads, mostly fields and orchards everywhere, and very, very few cars. North of Salem, you’re definitely riding on the valley floor the whole time so there’s virtually no elevation changes. This route is not as direct as 99E (which has a very good shoulder in most places), but it’s not even a contest when it comes to the scenery or the noise and fumes of vehicular traffic.
The Salem portion is another story. Riders who don’t like sharing the road with cars will be frustrated with the downtown Salem portion of this ride. And I don’t care much for the Front Street section where cars are coming on and off the bridges. Not to worry, there are ways to do this. My strategy in these spots is to chill out, pull back on my speed, and wait for a space to open. Salem traffic changes dramatically with commuter times, so sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one on the streets. Believe it or not, I’ve found drivers in Salem to be a little more courteous than up in Stumptown.
There’s a great website for the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, with printer-friendly maps and details. Signs are posted along the way to help you stay on the right roads along the way.
My suggestion: put a little part of this ride on your summer to-do-list. Start at Champoeg Park, or Willamette Mission Park, or the little town of St. Louis. Go a few miles in one direction, turn around, and go a few more in the opposite direction. Then go into town and cap off your trip with some ice cream.