The first day of our week-long bike trip through Oregon was also the longest day of the trip, at least from a mileage standpoint. After having unloaded our bikes from the boxes we had shipped via AMTRAK Express, we discovered we both had rear flats (coincidence or AMTRAK conspiracy?), so we thought it prudent to get an early start to the day.
Crossing the eastern part of Portland by bike light was surprisingly easy. Portland has great bicycle infrastructure, and combined with the deserted streets of a pre-dawn Saturday morning, we made quick work of the first few miles and over Broadway Bridge as the sun began to rise.
Climbing out of the western part of Portland brought on a sense of euphoria that had Anthony flying up the hills and though more heavily weighed down, I was happy to give chase. This euphoria was soon blunted, however, by another rear flat on my bike. Nearly an hour and several patches/tubes later, we returned to the route, but not before one of the many cyclists that passed us returned for a second go-around and couldn’t resist the temptation to heckle us. Overall, our interactions with Portland’s cycling community were very positive and even this chap kept his joking good-natured enough that we were able to laugh along.
The stretch immediately west of Portland’s suburbs and heading into Yamhill County are covered by fertile Willamette Valley farmland and the occasional vineyard. It was here that we also began to notice what great shape Oregon’s roads are in (a theme we’d find true throughout our entire journey). In California, by contrast, it often seems that the repaving of roads leads to a less bike-friendly surface and there are many beautiful cycling routes that could use some new tarmac.
Yamhill Vineyards was our approximate halfway point for the day at some 55 miles in. In an earlier iteration of our bike trip, I had hoped to spend more time exploring the Willamette Valley and its vineyards, but as the coast and Crater Lake became the focus of the trip, I had settled for one stop at a vineyard.
Yamhill Vineyards was an oasis from the heat, albeit one that can only be reached by climbing the ridiculously steep hill you see below. Yamhill makes the best Riesling either of us have ever tasted and that’s not just the heat exhaustion talking! After our wine-tasting break we refilled our bottles and got back out on the road, where temperatures were reaching the high 90’s.
Our next stop along HWY 18 to the coast was a bit of an oddity. Along the highway appeared a sign for a Salvador Dali exhibit. Anthony was interested right away and I was intrigued, so we gave it a go. Turns out there were just a few Dali items, and fewer that I found interesting (maybe I just don’t understand that kind of art), but one or two caught our eyes. Of course, with a price tag of $20k+ and so little room on our bikes, we had to pass. Still, any air-conditioned room is a good place to take a break on days such as these.
A few miles farther down the road, we made another stop. We were running low on liquids (it didn’t help that Anthony decided not to bring water bottles on the trip!), so we took a break at a country store and ordered the “double-scoop” of Tillamook Mint Chip ice cream. What we ended up with were the two largest cones of ice cream I’ve ever seen, such that it was impossible to contain them without stuffing them into cups.
The headwinds began in earnest as we got closer to the coast and while Anthony’s afternoon ice cream was being deposited on the roadside, my saddle soreness was beginning to develop. We passed through Otis, a town that had been described to us as being so small that the entirety of it was purchased for $5 million a few years back.
After Otis, it was just a short cruise into Lincoln City (and I say cruise because we were seriously flagging). We finished the day with 106.5 miles and lots of hills.
Entering Devil’s Lake State Park, I was reminded immediately why I love Oregon State Parks. The ranger charged us $6 per person for hiker/biker sites and gave us some good suggestions about where to set up camp and what to do about dinner. While Devil’s Lake doesn’t have the best sites, we appreciated the cheap price-tag and friendly ranger.
The other reason I love the Oregon State Park System is that the many hiker/biker opportunities make it a destination for numerous other cyclists, which results in camaraderie between fellow touring cyclists. At Devil’s Lake, we met a Belgian and a Dutchman, who had started in Canada and were planning to take a full three months to cycle to Mexico. They had beautiful Koga World Traveller bikes and were clearly well-supplied for the long journey, but in no hurry to finish. A bit slow for my taste, but good on them for doing it the way they want…that’s the beauty of bicycle touring. So many ways to explore!