Day 1: September 28
7:30am at Armitage Park wasn’t too hard considering how anxious I was to get started. We met up just past the entrance, loaded up the support car, put on extra layers of clothes because it was really cold. Luckily though, it was only cold and not rainy too.
We took a group picture then headed off to the north.
The morning was very cold and quite breezy (read: strong headwind). We went through Coburg then up and over I-5 to Diamond Hill and Gap road where Meg was waiting. Meg was such an integral part of the trip. It would not have been nearly as fun, or comfortable if it hadn’t been for Meg. It was nice to see her waiting at the end of a tough section. From this intersection we headed up the hills to Brownsville. We had heard that the hill in Brownsville was not one to be sneezed at. What was not brought to our attention was that it wasn’t just one hill. It was about 4 hills. As I crested the third one I exclaimed “gah! are you kidding me?!”
Our first planned stop of the day was at the Living Rock Studio Museum. I had read about it in Travel Oregon’s Guide and got the group on board. The visit was unforgettable and I recommend people go see it for themselves if they are ever near Brownsville.
We made it to Brownsville at high noon, tried to find a bike rack which, wasn’t so obvious at first and found some really great food at Bella Cuccina. I indulged in a Raspberry Cremosa and a Grilled Chicken, Avocado, Bacon wrap. It was really good!
Samara borrowed a Bike Friday New World Tourist for the trip and was stoked to see 3 other bike tourists with loaded down Bike Friday’s at a cafe in Brownsville. This trio was from Washington and had begun their ride at Woodburn.
After lunch we met back up with Meg, got what we needed from the car and took off again, across I-5 and into the wind! We stopped at Thompson’s Mill State Park, which is a water-powered mill on the Calapooia. We couldn’t go inside because there wasn’t enough water due to the removal of dams on the river, but the grounds were beautiful. There were very clean pit toilet style bathrooms, picnic tables, and the park ranger informed us that there would soon be more amenities for bikers (racks, etc).
Meg had scouted the route the weekend before and found an alternate route around construction. After a few turns, weaving through numerous grass fields we made our way to the outskirts of Corvallis and hwy 34 which presented itself as a very scary obstacle.
We all made it across hwy 34 and cruised into Albany to the Pfeiffer Cottage Inn where we met Ray and Debbie Lusk, our gracious hosts. Their inn was beautiful and they were the best hosts. We cleaned up enjoyed some cheese and crackers on the porch then went out to the Calapooia Brewing Company for dinner.
We didn’t last long after dinner and headed off to bed to get ready for our early start. I was most anxious for breakfast (my favorite meal).
Day 2: Albany to Salem
This was my first time at a bed and breakfast and I was almost giddy when it was time for breakfast. Debbie made a delicious egg dish served with homemade salsa and some really yummy sausage. Wow! I ate it so fast I didn’t even get a picture of it. I guess I will just have to go back to the Pfeiffer Cottage Inn =].
Our first stop of the day was the Carousel Museum in Albany (just down the street). I didn’t know anything about the museum prior to our visit. If the museum was a book and I was judging it by it’s cover, I don’t think I would have stopped. But, like so many good books with unfortunate covers, the inside was awesome. It was full of amazing pieces of art, energy, and people engaged in a community project. I’ve ridden a carousel before, at Disneyland, at the fair… but I never really thought of the history or nostalgia of them. The project in Albany seems to be bringing the community together while helping to keep alive the history of carousels.
After the Carousel Museum we stopped by the Albany Visitors Association, thanked Jimmie for the bottle of wine, went back to the Inn and grabbed our bikes and took off. Our ride companion for the day was Alex from the State Parks. She is an avid cyclist and has been instrumental in planning the various scenic bikeways in the state, including the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.
The elevation chart for this day’s ride looked relatively flat. A little roller here and there… then we got to Ankeny Hill. I probably shouldn’t talk about the hills so much because they didn’t detract from the enjoyment of the ride, perhaps they even added a bit of challenge to it. So if you’re reading this, trying to decide whether to go or not, and you don’t like hills, don’t overlook this ride. The valley has hills, but they are accompanied (usually) with downhills and only one (the third one in Brownsville) made me feel like I was going to lose my lunch.
We zoomed through Jefferson stopping at the market just past the green bridge, used the bathroom, refilled our water bottles and forged on as time was beginning to be an issue. We needed to be at the Willamette Valley Vineyards in a few hours. We met up with Meg at the Buena Vista Ferry, but in the interest of time, didn’t ride the ferry. Before long we were at the River Rd. junction where a right would lead us into Salem and a left would take us to Independence, Oregon where there is a great ice cream shop (2EZ). We went left and headed into Independence. The 2EZ didn’t disappoint. I enjoyed a cranberry scone and a root beer float and the others had ice cream.
Alex and I took off towards Salem at a fast pace and it was mostly uphill. I began to feel less guilty about the root beer float. I made it to the hotel, took my bike through the lobby (avoiding eye contact with the desk staff) met up with Meg and got into my room about 20 minutes before the others arrived.
The event at Willamette Valley Winery was to celebrate the new wine license plates for the state. Our co-worker, and favorite WVV shareholder, Victoria was at the event along with Travel Lane County CEO Kari Westlund and board member Robert Canaga. It was like a family reunion. To top the night off we met Jim Bernau the founder of WVV and he gave us all a bottle of our favorite wine. Mine was the 2008 Griffin Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.
Day 3: Salem to Champoeg
We started the day off with a visit to Travel Salem’s Travel Cafe, checked out their sweet digs and then walked to the State Capitol where we just happened to be there on the last day of the year when you can take a tour up to the top of the building!
Credit goes to the Oregon State Parks and Alex for the great signs along the W.V. Scenic Bikeway. The signs were extremely helpful, consistent and, with one exception, all in the right place. We made it through downtown Salem and soon were out of the city passing fields of hops, cauliflower, and flowers.
Our nextstop of the day was at the Willamette Mission State Park where we checked out the country’s largest cottonwood tree, and a hiker/biker camp. From here, we cut through the park to the Wheatland Ferry, where we rode across the Willamette River and then back. It was exhilarating!
After disembarking from the ferry, we ate some food and got back on the bikes. Our next stop would be Champoeg. There was an intersection that Meg had pointed out as being confusing and when we arrived at it. I remembered thinking we needed to go straight, but our cue sheets said turn right on St Paul Hwy. Unfortunately this was the first junction with St Paul Hwy and not the one we needed to turn right on. So we took a right and passed the Woodburn Dragstrip which was in use. That was cool. A few miles down the road it was clear that we had gone the wrong way so we turned around and went back the way I thought we should have gone.
I was the first to get to Champoeg where Meg was waiting by a fence. The others rolled in shortly after and we went across the street to a produce stand. I laid my bike down and checked out the stand, picking fresh corn and cantaloupe. Then Kelsey said “someone’s tire just exploded.” It was mine! So of all the 144 miles we rode on 4 bikes, we had two flat tires. My front tire on day one and my back tire on the last day.
It was a great experience and I feel like I did something that was somewhat significant. I had a great time bonding with my co-workers and meeting very interesting people along the way.
Thanks for reading!