Our first shake down tour was not only a chance to try out our gear, but to get an idea of our fitness level. Both of which were not too bad- of course there is always room for improvement.
We intended to leave at noon…but I (JP) had to go to Yoga at 10am and still needed to pick up the last few food items. We finally rolled out of our drive way at 2:50pm on Saturday leaving just a few hours before dusk. We had a very pleasant, chilly, mostly uphill (although slightly) ride north through Yamhill and Washington counties to Stub Stewart State Park.
Stub Stewart is a relatively new state park – clean and comfortable, albeit a bit pricey for camping ($17 for tent spot in the main camping area- a bit cheaper for the walk/bike ins). Arriving around 7pm we had just enough time to set up the tent before darkness set in. As soon as we rolled up, I wandered over to the neighbor’s camp and borrowed some of the heat from their fire to warm up my frozen toes! I have been riding in Solomon trail runners- which are fine for short trips but are a bit too tight and flexible for longer, cold rides. The most interesting characters in the camp ground were the goats-as-pets camped a few spots down from us.
Being experienced backpackers is proving to be useful in our bike touring. Our camping equipment was more than adequate. We were trying out a Steep-and-Cheap purchased, Alps Mountaineering Equinox 2, two person tent. It was a bit crowded for a rainy day but did a nice job keeping us dry overnight.
Our second day of riding took us on a different route than Jay had initially mapped out. The original plan had us exploring 20 or so miles off road in the hills around Vernonia. We rode 12 miles down the Banks – Vernonia rails to trails route into Vernonia where we lunched at the Blue House Mediterranean Café, Expresso Bar and Brew House, right on Hwy 47 in downtown . Warm chai tea, chicken gyro sandwich, hummus plate and creamy borscht were the ticket for another chilly morning ride. We decided we would benefit more from miles and time in the saddle than exploring the backcountry hills. It was a trade off – but, in retrospect, it was the right decision. We rode north on Hwy 47 to the unincorporated town of Mist, looking for a cafe. Surprise, Mist is little more than a beautiful crossroads in the hills with no apparent services. So we took a snack and stretch break and a few trips down the slide at the local school house.
Returning via Hwy 47 into Vernonia we decided to settle in for the night at the city campground Anderson Park, nestled in right on the banks of the Nehalem river. A reasonably kept camp ground with all the amenities, we were thankful for the cover of the common picnic area for shelter from the rain for dinner. We prepared dinner and put up our tent under the picnic cover and then moved everything out to a spot on the riverfront out of the lights of the pavillion that were left on all night. My main issue with the camp ground was the proximity to the town. The gathering groups of teenagers, pit bulls and other characters in trailers and the car that pulled up to a trash can and took out a brown paper bag and then speed off made me feel a bit uneasy. But in the end it was a pleasant stay and the soothing sound of the river soon had us lulled to sleep.
The morning brought colder temperatures with a partly cloudy, windy day. Our ride into Banks was cold enough that I wore my rain gear, wool hats and booties to keep my feet warm. My feet were so cold that I ended up changing my tennis shoes out for my fleece lined Crocs with Gore-Tex socks covered by wool socks and hand warmers on the toes. Finally my feet were warm! Our ride home took us into Forest Grove where we took a food break at the McMenamins Grand Lodge enjoying sweet potato fries and Ruby ale. It was hard to get back on the bike as the warmth of the sun and good food was lulling us into a state of relaxation. However, home, our dogs and the Jacuzzi called. Our last 20 miles were slow as we pedaled with our tired legs directly into the wind. We decided to tackle the final mile-long hill to home – did you know you can ride a bike up a hill slower than walking speed? (We had put mom on alert before we left – with the possibility of meeting us at the school a few miles from home and taking our gear up).
Overall a fantastic trip! Oregon is truly a beautiful place to ride and riding is truly a great way to experience the world.
Day one: Newberg to Stub Stewart State Park: 40.2 miles
Day two: Stub Stewart SP to Mist via Vernonia and back: Anderson Park: 47 miles
Day three: Vernonia to Newberg via Stub Stewart State Park: 50 miles
The Banks to Vernonia Rails to Trails path is fantastic for riding- the surface is well maintained, there are very few stops and it travels through some beautiful country side.
Day 1: Dinner: Pork Vindaloo and curry brown rice (homemade – including grinding the spices) paired with Bota Wine – Merlot (it is a good thing everything tastes better when camping).
Day 2: Breakfast: Chocolate chip blueberry pancakes
Lunch: Blue House Mediterranean Café, Expresso Bar and Brew House- Vernonia
Dinner: Pepperjack Cheese quesadillas and guacamole with red wine salami and smoked cheddar cheese snacks.
Day 3: Breakfast: Chocolate chip blueberry (notice a theme?) oatmeal.
Lunch: McMenamins Grand Lodge – Forrest Grove