I was talking to a friend at Portland Oregon’s annual bikes and beer festival that I am totally sold on bike touring. If you would have told me that I would be saying this a three years ago I would have been skeptical. Not because bike touring did not appeal but because I did not think I could fall this hard for it. But I have.
Firstly I wish to thank my wonderful wife Debra for the many hours of planning she put into organizing not one but THREE different bike tours. this was mainly due to the ever changing dates my then employer was going to let me have free to go and also the commitment I had made to show my bike at the Vancouver bicycle frame builders show.
So when all the dust settled and the show was done I had a week to prep for my first cycle tour.
Debra had planned a nice train ride down from Vancouver to Portland, Oregon where we would stay for a couple nights with friends and catch up and then we would be off. riding out of a south west suburb and towards the coast with our goal being Astoria on the coast and then riding down the coast to Manzanita then on to Oceanside, inland to Beaver and then to ride the Nestucca river road right back into Portland.
Well that was the plan……..
So we left Vancouver on Saturday and Monday morning say Debra and myself riding to one of our favorite breakfast spots in SE Portland the “Paradox” cafe to get a hearty breakfast before hitting the road, we also managed to swing past a little piece of Portland bicycle framebuilding history.
The photo above is important to me as one of the first places I encountered bicycle frame building. Back in 2004 I had been in Portland for a few months spending time with Debra and during that time I was exposed to the bike building scene there. A scene that motivated and inspired me at the time and a scene that continues to do so.
Anyway back to our bike tour. So with full bellies we rolled out of the Paradox and on to Belmont street and towards Goose Hollow and the max station there. We boarded the max rode the train to the outer suburb of Hillsboro.
The ride out on the Max to Hillsboro is about 30 mins and IMO totally worth the trip. Navigating city streets on fully laden ed bikes is a chore and getting over the west hills first thing in the morning with 70lbs of bike under me is also something I will happily avoid if it means getting onto one of Oregon’s finest cycle touring routes quicker.
So with that done and we set out from Hillsboro station and within 15 minutes we were here on Wren rd.
As we crossed the Cornelieus-Schefflin junction and Wren became Roy and we rode through wonderful vineyards and harvested fields onto Wilksboro road and towards the town of Banks where we would connect with the Bank-Vernonia paved trail. The BVT is the first “rails-to-trails” state park in Oregon. The railway line dates back to the 1920s and was used for logs, lumber, freight and passengers. The line was abandoned and rails salvaged in 1973. Right of way was then purchased by the state in 1974 and transferred to O.P.R.D. in 1990. Being Oregon’s first “rails to trails” project and certainly one of its finest, from Banks to Vernonia is 21 miles of tree-lined gentle grades, beautiful meadows and a wonderfully relaxed climbs into the foothills of Oregon’s Coast range.
Our plan for the first night was to “Glamp” in Stub Stewart State Park. The park is nearly half way through the BVT and two thirds up the climb on the trail that is “Tophill”.
On Arriving at the turn off from the BVT we were met with a very steep and loose gravel trail that pointed up with an arrow that read “Mountain Dale cabin village” looking at each other and the path ahead we checked our laces and pushed into the gravel. The first thirty-forty feet were bloody hard but we struggles through and as the gravel gave way to dirt we found our footing and made our way to the camp ground. After a mistaken detour in the RV camp site, we found a park attendant and got directions to the camp ground were we should have been. This meant one more climb for the day but luckily it was paved and had some pretty awesome views. I had also been inspire to push on and get to the top by the thought of the beer in my bag getting warm.
After dinner we settled into our evening view and prepared for the following day’s early rise with an early night.
After a late summers night of comfortable temperatures we were greeted in the morning with a fresh fall morning of crisp air, a low soft light and a mountain dew that made the weather for the day a-head difficult to predict or so I though for the first half hour as I prepared breakfast. By the end of Breakfast though it was a clear blue bird sky. So we backed up our breakfast gear and pushed off towards Vernonia.
From the view point above and a road decent passing a group of white tail deer grazing on the roadside we were at the BVT trail junction and heading towards Vernonia.
On reaching Veronia we had two objectives, stock up with water and snacks for our day ahead as there are no reliable services between Vernonia and Olney and that’s 60 miles. our second objective was the second breakfast. with this in mind I was really starting to enjoy the cyclo tourist life. We parked up at the Black Iron Grill and with the mornings porridge worn off and lovely thoughts of coffee and wondrous breakfast foods in our minds, we walked in salivating,
The pictures below are of fellow cyclo tourists we meet in the Black Iron Grill, these guys had the great idea of credit card touring with their best friends in tow!
A century ago, the railway made life better and easier for early Oregonians and the burgeoning lumber industry that fueled their prosperity in the northwest corner of the state claimed its place in and made its mark on the land. But while the trains are gone and their tracks dismantled, the paths they carved through the wilderness remain. The Banks-Vernonia State Trail (BVT) it’s the space once allotted for the Industrial Age’s biggest, most propulsive machines has been handed back over to nature – and to people (like us) who seek it out.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail, a whiff of Oregon history. 21 miles of easy-grades that wind through sun-dappled glades and across swift, clear streams, 13 old bridges and wooden trestles rise up to acquaint you with days of the past. Being just 26 miles from central Portland this avenue awaits your next adventure, one I urge you to take when you can.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail can be accessed at these 6 points along its progression – including trailheads at Manning, Buxton, Tophill, and Beaver Creek, as well as at Banks and Vernonia. If you are riding from Portland to the coast it is certainly an one of the options I would recommend to get from Portland out to Hwy 47.
After finishing our second breakfast we left Vernonia on HWY47 heading for Mist and our turn off onto HWY202. The journey to Mist was pleasant albeit with a rather close encounter with a group of young local men in what I imagine to be their first pick up truck, I imagine this as their driving left a lot to be desired as did their respect for other road users. That being said the day was beautiful and with the exception of my encounter with the above mentioned Sunkist Orange, late 80″s short box ford pick-up, our riding was wonderful.
Hwy47 continued to unfold and we rode a lightly trafficked road all the way to Mist and our turn off onto Hwy 202. 202 is a regional two lane road that weaved through amazingly scenic rolling country side, of farm houses, stables, and the very small and quaint towns of Birkenfeld and Jewell.
We stopped for lunch, at the Jewell meadows wildlife area in hope of spotting some elk while we ate our lunch of noddles with pesto. The pasta was followed with salted nuts, and fresh cups of Stumptown coffee. Once we cleaned up and repacked our lovely Swift Industries Panniers it was back on the 202 in search of Olney and our turn off onto Youngs River road.
However before we were to hit Olney we had to crest the Tidewater Summit. One thing I do have to admit about cycle touring is that I enjoy climbing more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong though, it still sucks compared to climbing on my nice light race bike. Once I got over the fact that I was not riding my 17lbs race bike, and that the objective was not to put the hurt on myself in an effort to ascend as fast as possible, but rather to relax, sit up and take a look around the climb was great. Once on top we caught our breath and had a drink and then enjoyed the elevation gain riding down the back side of Tidewater towards Olney.
Once we were atop Tidewater it was a great decent. I was also very pleased with the proof of concept and design, as my bike with a front load of about 2o pounds descended with such stability that i was happy riding with a hand free shooting photos from the hip
Once down it was a succession of rollers and calm lanes until we hit Olney.
Once at Olney it was a quick refuel and on to Youngs river road. This being the last road till Astoria. Youngs river road was awesome,beautiful and the perfect pathway into the busy roads of Astoria. Their is a more direct way into Astoria if you stay on Hwy202, I would however recommend the Youngs river detour it is longer but flatter and very picturesque. I will just drop a bunch of the shots I took on the way into Astoria along YRR.
Debra also looked awesome after a day on the bike with the thoughts of a big dinner.
So our original plan was to stay one night in Astoria and then to proceed down the coast and head back into Portland via Tillamook and HWY 6. However the great thing about cycle touring is that plans change! So we ate well, drank well and decided to stay for a day in Astoria and ride back to Portland the way we came. But to do it in a single days riding. I was excited, Debra was dubious.
Our ride back was at this point still a day away and we had a bunch of tourist things to do.
We finished up with a walk through the Coast Guard museum. The only photos I took of this was some of the below life size diorama
From the museum we continued to walk through Astoria towards the Goonies house. On arrival we found the house covered in tarps with a sign at the bottom of the drive saying in a round about way “we have covered our house because thousands of Goonie fans pass by each year wanting to film and photograph our house”, “please go away”
On reading this notice I was a bit miffed, as I too am a Goonie fan and I too wanted to gawp at Mikey and Brads family home, yet alas thousands before me have ruined my opportunity for a quick truffle shuffle in hope of gaining entrance, or maybe just a couple stick in the mud home owners who knew the investment they were buying and are bummed out they find themselves having to share it, maybe they feel a bit like watched fish?
Anyway this was not so much of a bummer that I did not forget about it as we walked beer in search of forward.
The next day was all about riding and eating, we knew our route and we got up early and had a great breakfast and set out when the mist was still reluctantly attached to the streets of Astoria. Below is a gallery set of our ride back into Portland.