Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway Day 2, Part 2

Albany to Salem – Miles 60-99

For some odd reason I left for day two of biking with the number 24 in my head – 24 miles that is – but oh how I was wrong. Pedaling from Albany to Salem as the second part of our Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway adventure, I should have know by pure driving distance on the indirect roads that it would be more, but my legs would never have anticipated that the length was to be nearly double.

Leaving around 11 a.m. we hopped on our bikes –everyone a little more softly on the seat then the day before and my legs tight even after stretching and walking that morning. But once we got moving, muscel memory set in and the legs just kept pumping.

The first section took us through the main roads of Albany then out to the farm fields, freshly plowed signifying the end of summer – though the warm round sun, heating up the road begged to differ.

At the top Scravel Hill just outside of Albany, we received some beautiful benefits from this scenic bikeway. Stretching out flat across the fertile valley floor, brown and green patchwork of countryside spotted with trees and homes decorated the horizon. A white barn from the farm just down the road waited for us as we stopped at the quiet graveyard at the top of the hill to take in the view, stretch out our legs and snatch a few photos.

Scravel Hill Road Panorama

Along the route, we also enjoy some vineyard views.

Biking past Ankeny Hill Winery

Biking through empty field, nowhere near Salem, we hit 24 miles with my legs already aching. The previous day’s ride had really taken it out of me and a rough night’s sleep didn’t aid in the re-coup process, but I powered on.

Luckily when we reached Independence, we took a quick break for ice cream – the ultimate energy boosting snack. And we definitely needed that energy when we realized the time. With another ten miles ahead of us before Salem, we only had an hour until we were supposed to be at an event. We really needed to book it into town.

Working against us though were the rolling hills. Mound after mound along the two lane road grinded at my legs. Beads of sweat rolling down my back made me swat at my jersey like pesky flies landing on an elephant. Yet finally at 5:30 p.m. (when we were supposed to be arriving at the event) we rolled into Salem with rush hour traffic.

Strolling through the lobby of The Grand Hotel in downtown Salem in our shorts and helmets, we hastily shoved our bikes on the elevators and high tailed it to our rooms to shower.

At least there was prospect of wine to wash down the roughness of the day and relax the legs, I thought as I dropped my bags in my hotel room for the night – lots of wine.

The biking group enjoying some wine.

More Photos from Day 2:

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The Grand Hotel

Lush pillow top beds and spacious rooms greeted us at The Grand Hotel in downtown Salem. One of the only accommodation options in the downtown area, the Grand is in walking distance from the capitol building, shops, and food. Additionally the offer a continental breakfast in a large dining facility in the morning that gives your elbows room to dive into their various food choices.

Willamette Valley Vineyards

Wonderful wine, beautiful views and a fabulous celebration for the new Oregon wine licenses plate awaited us this evening at Willamette Valley Vineyards. Meeting up with a few of our good Eugene friends, we felt right at home and enjoy some delicious finger foods and fabulous wine from all over the state. Both Eola Hills and Willamette Valley Vineyard’s Pinot Noirs wowed my taste buds and rejuvenated my legs. Plus Jim Bernau, the winery’s founder, graciously sent us loose for the night with a bottle of his wine in hand.

Jonathan’s

This is a great little place in the heart of downtown for late night appetizers on a budget. We strolled in around 9 p.m. and they were still serving a long list of food options from their “mini bits” menu. Plus check in on Foursquare and get a free mini bit with the purchase of a drink.

Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway Day 1

“The most difficult step of the journey is the first.” ~unknown.

I started getting that gurgly feeling in my stomach more than 24 hours before the early a.m. departure. As if I didn’t remember between three-hour long training rides and frantic, last-minute gear shopping, my body had to remind me of what I was about to do. And as someone battling Crohn’s Disease, a gurgly gut is not a welcomed anxiety feeling – but all and all, I was stomach-achingly excited for what was sure to be an epic trip one way or another.

Three days, 139 miles, 4 bikes, 1 sag-wagon, and high hopes for a grand-old time on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.

Day 1: September 28 – Armitage to Albany – Mile 1 – 59

Meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning at Armitage County Park just north of Eugene, we were all smiles. Despite, the cool fall air that decided to greet us for the get-up, my four co-workers and I were geared and ready to begin the journey north.

The group ready to take off from Armitage Park in Eugene

After a few commemorative photos and loading up the sag wagon with our suite cases and snacks, we were off. Today was to be our longest day, traveling 59 miles from Eugene to Albany via Brownsville – plus I foolishly tacked on six extra miles before the start of the ride.

The morning started with a deep, thick fog filling the sky. The sun filtered through as it masked the approaching hillside. (Boy was I glad that the sales man at Pearl Izumi’s talked me into that neon green windbreaker). My fingers frigidly grasp the handle bars of my borrowed bike as we cruised through Coburg and its antique malls.

The damp sky smelled like the sea – you could practically taste the salt in the air – and a strong headwind pelted the front line of our bikes. But there was no turning back now. Luckily, as we made the first turn of the day and crossed over I-5, rush-hour traffic, my anxieties and chill quickly dissipated as the sun burst through the heavy clouds and we made our way toward the hills leading to Brownsville.

Samara riding a Bike Friday bike from Coburg to Brownsville

The only ranked climbs along the entire Willamette Valley Bikeway, the slopes ramped up the forested foothills in small sections. With only two days of hill climbing practice out of my one month bike training, I prayed my legs would guide me to the top. Yet to my surprise, I tackled the inclines without even using my granny gear and then rewardingly sailed down at nearly 30 mph.

Now if only the next 30 miles were so gracious on my turtle legs.

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” ~ Greg Anderson

Before lunching in Brownsville, our group of tourist girls stopped for an exploration of the Living Rock Studios.

Built of Oregon agate, crystal, petrified wood, flagstone and other local area rocks, this house is a living graveyard for rock hunters. A ruggedly twisted two-story house that curves into a flowering tree with stone column limbs and canvas top, the museum was built by Howard Taylor stone by stone beginning in the 1960s.

Like a Where’s Waldo world for old-timer collectables and hooting owls, Taylor’s living daughter led us through the crafted house with a raspy voice as if telling a ghost story. And with the stone chill I wouldn’t be surprised if the late Howard Taylor or “Daddy” as the thin, sweater clad lady referred to him still roamed the home.

Stones, rocks, and cystals at the Living Rock Studios

Video from our tour of the entrance room of the house.

After the museum we pedal into historic Brownsville that shined with beautiful classic buildings, clean streets, and all that small town charm that any American city would be proud of. Settled in 1846, Brownsville is a quaint spot to spend the afternoon and check out its other claim to fame, filming locations for the movie Stand By Me.

For an energy loading stop we grabbed a bite to eat at Bella Cuccina, a small specialty bakery offering a delicious Mexican influenced lunch menu. I enjoyed three corn tortilla, chicken tacos and lots of refreshing ice cold water.

Popping a few peanut M&Ms in my mouth and my helmet back on my head, we put our tires back to the road. Still another 30 miles to go.

Around mile 40 my legs started to really burn. Further than I had ever biked in my life and I could tell from then on that it was going to be more a battle of the brain than really the body.

Along the mapped route, we took a short diversion to Thompson’s Mill State Heritage State, the oldest water-powered grain mill in the state located just south of Albany. Refurbished, the mill is now a park site with antique milling machinery and interpretive exhibits. Unfortunately until the river water levels rise, you cannot enter the mill because of safety concerns, yet still a great stop for the second half of the biking day.

The mill's grain silos.

Closing in on the 50+ mile mark, we curved our way along a small two-lane road, through a beautiful fall color-changing canopy of trees and past a beaten down one room, white wooden church before finally crossing the bridge into the neighborhoods hugging downtown Albany.

The biking day ended as we rolled up to Pfieffer Cottage, a 1909 Craftsman Bungalow converted into warm, bed and breakfast located just off the downtown. We were greeted with hot showers, a claw foot tub and a cheese, cracker and salami appetizer. Soaking my legs in the tub and scrubbing off the pesty dust from the back of my calves, I allowed my body to finally relax. Enveloped in the aroma of citrus body wash and daydreaming of the cold beer and dinner I was about to have from Calapooia Brewery, I temporarily turned my brain off for a quiet moment of bliss.

Fifty-nine miles down, only 93 more to go. “I can do this,” I thought as I melted further into the bubbles.

More Photos from Day 1

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Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway – Albany to Brownsville and Brownsville to Eugene Map & Cue Sheet

Living Rock Studio

Open Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. this unusual museum is a not to miss stop in the quaint town of Brownsville. Just be prepared to take your time – it can be a bit of a long winded tour, also don’t go alone!

Bella Cuccina

122 Spaulding St. – Brownsville, Oregon – 541-466-5902

Thompson’s Mill State Heritage Site

Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. for self-guided tours.

Boston Mill Road – 541-491-3611

Pfieffer Cottage

Accommodating for everyone from bikers to honeymooners and the regular football fan crowds, this bed & breakfast has a comfortable living space and lovely outdoor sitting area for relaxing – plus the hand-prepared breakfast is wonderful!

530 Ferry ST SW – Albany, OR  97321 – 541-971-9557

Calapooia Brewing Co.

Brewing local, hoppy microbrews, Calapooia sends suds with delicious flavor straight into the hands of Albany residents at their restaurant and brewery. Open Sunday – Wednesday, 11:30 – 10 p.m., Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., and Friday & Saturday, 11:30 – midnight. I highly recommend the Chili Beer Chili, with its just-enough spice, and a side of tots. As for beer, I’m always a sucker for the IPA.

140 Hill St. NE – Albany, Oregon 97321 – 541-928-1931

Packing For My First Multi-Day Bike Trip

In less than 36 hours I will be testing my leg strength and sunscreen in my first multi-day cycling trip through the Willamette Valley. While passing lush, growing vineyards and farm grounds being tilled, there are a few essentials that I know I’ll need along the way and a few things that are bulk just out of pure want – luckily for me my group has a support vehicle for the three-day trip north from Armitage County Park to Champoeg State Park.

For my packing list I divided my needs into four categories: Food, Clothes, Bike Needs, Blogging Needs/Others

Food

Our bike trip is not only about the peddling but also about the stops, so many of our meals we plan on enjoying a local eateries. But with covering 139 miles I needed to pack at least a few snacks to keep up my energy. Additionally I am on a gluten and dairy light diet, so my food packing list is a little different from the ordinary crowd.

My yummies for the road

  • 2 Peanut Butter & Jelly, Rice Tortilla Rolls
  • 3 mini boxes of rice milk
  • 1 baggy of cereal
  • 3 baggies of peanut M&Ms
  • 2 Gluten Free Lara Bars
  • 2 Bags of Gluten Free crackers
  • 1 Gatorade
  • 3 days worth of vitamins & medications

 Clothes

For my trip, I not only needed bike gear for three days but also outfits for evenings out and sightseeing.

Outfits

  • 1 neon yellow wind/rain proof bike jacket
  • 1 warm zip up
  • 3 sports tank tops
  • 1 half-zip biking top
  • 1 pair cushioned bike shorts
  • 1 back-up Capri exercise pants
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 2 sports bras
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 skirt & blouse for night out
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 dress shoes
  • 1 pair of tennis shoes
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 bathing suit
  • Undergarments

 Bike Gear

Now for the real essentials of the trip. Most of the articles I plan on having on me during the trip on in my bike bag.

Bike essentials

  • 1 helmet
  • 1 bike light
  • 1 tire tool
  • 1 spare tube
  • 1 bike lock
  • 1 water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • First aid kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Tylenol
  • Bike!

Blog

I also plan of keeping all of my blog fans (you!) updated during the trip along with other writing opportunities so my list continues with blogging needs:

writing is no longer as simple as paper and pen

  • 1 iPhone
  • 1 phone charger
  • 1 camera
  • Spare batteries
  • 1 note pad
  • 2 pencils
  • 2 pens
  • ipod
  • iPad (work is providing this)

If you were taking a three day bike-ride what else would you bring? What would be leave behind?