Friday, October 8, 2010

Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway: Champoeg to Salem

Finding the time for cycling can be a challenge, especially when you want to take a long ride. I happen to have the most understanding spouse in the world when it comes to ride time, but I try not to push it too often.  Today, all the stars aligned.  Mrs. C and Nat went up north to Washington Square for some shopping, so I hitched a ride with them and then rode back home on my bike.  Fifty-eight miles of pedaling bliss!
I’ve not met anybody who likes riding on busy roadways. Sharing 99W with casino and winery traffic is definitely not my favorite. I just don’t know the area around Tigard and Tualatin well enough to have other route options, so I went for it.  It was a nice surprise to find big, wide bike lanes and shoulders and a long stretch of brand new asphalt. Smooth, baby... Still, I was relieved when after 20 miles I finally got to Newberg and could head south toward Woodburn on some quieter road.
Rider-friendly roads!
I prefer riding on quiet country roads (shock, right?) The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway  starts at Champoeg Park and goes for like gazillions of miles down through the valley. It’s a real treasure for us cyclists. Solitude and that so much to ask? With this route, there’s usually not a bike lane or shoulder to ride on, but it really doesn’t matter because there’s nobody else on the road. Literally, you can pedal for 5 minutes or more without seeing a single car in either direction!
This route is not very direct, but it intentionally places you right into the rhythm of the agriculture here.  Riding past the farms, dairies, orchards, nurseries, and hop yards is a much more personal encounter with the land than driving in a car. Today, workers were busy in the fields and hazelnut orchards; trucks full of produce rumbled out onto the road, headed for town.
This stretch from Champoeg to Salem has very few hills, other than the occasional ravines carved out by the system of creeks that wind through this area. Out along the open fields, you can see the Cascade foothills thirty miles to the east, and the Coast Range twenty miles to the west.
Near Champoeg Park
There are signs everywhere that autumn has begun...Canada Geese are flying overhead in their formations, more leaves are littering the roadway, Woolly Bear caterpillars are making their annual appearance, and shadows are growing longer each day. You feel a good 10-degree drop when you ride through the shade of a grove of old trees. In those shady pockets, the damp air feels downright cold.
A “dust devil” snuck up on me just outside of Brooks. It whipped along in the field across the road, then it vanished, then I was in the middle of it, and then it was gone.  Weird how those cross winds push you--hard--in both directions so quickly.  My technical strategy worked: hold on and try not to fall over.
A weather system is pushing in from the ocean tonight, bringing a whole weekend of solid rain. Today was definitely the right day to take that ride!

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Hmmm... "58 miles of pedaling bliss"? I question your sanity! ; )
I've decided that my workout schedule will include a bike ride (rain or shine, this is Oregon after all) once a week. I'm only looking at 5-7 miles to start though. Maybe someday I'll just show up at your door and ask for a ride home! LOL!