We’ve been quiet, but it’s because we’ve been busy. The last few weeks have been spent nose to the digital grindstone so to speak editing all the footage we shot this summer. Proud to announce that our latest Scenic Bikeway vid is out and might be our best yet! So sit back. Watch. Enjoy!
A Bike Tourism Riddle: What does it mean when the car-free weekend at Crater Lake National Park gets hit by an icy storm that, at best, makes the cycling highly unpleasant and, at worst, makes it downright treacherous – and, yet, hundreds of people still flock to the park with their bikes?
When we arrived at Crater Lake on Saturday afternoon, the ranger at the entrance gate asked if we were there to bicycle around the rim. She looked nervous for us, so I jokingly asked if it had snowed yet. Yes, she said, they had gotten some snow that morning. But the forecast is supposed to be a lot better on Sunday, she added hopefully. We paid our entry fee and she wished us luck.
For years, there have been high-level conversations between bike advocates and park management about closing the rim road to cars for a short period of time and opening it only to people on foot or bike. In June, park management finally agreed, and it turned out to be one of their highest grossing weekends ever. That paved the way to make it an annual event – the third weekend of September – and we instantly made travel plans when we heard the news!
The trouble with the third weekend in September is that, at 7200 feet, the weather can be just about anything. This past weekend, the weather decided to be stunningly cold and craptacular. At noon on Sunday, the rim was socked in with a freezing fog so thick that you couldn’t see the water from the edge. Visibility was maybe 15 feet and plants on the hillside were covered in ice. Suffice it to say that we never actually rode our bikes.
Instead, we hung out with the 15 or so friends who had also made the 5-hour trek from Portland. We camped out, despite the awful weather, and ate at one of the restaurants in the park. And we marveled at the incredible number of bikes we saw strapped to incoming cars.
To be honest, we were worried that the weather would scare everyone away and that, if nobody showed up with bikes, an incredible opportunity would be lost. Without a doubt, the weather did scare some people away, but it was also quite clear how eager folks are to experience riding a bike at Crater Lake without the noise or stress of sharing the road with cars. Put another way, even if nobody actually rode a bicycle through the wintry weather on the rim road, hundreds of people showed up (and spent money) at Crater Lake over the weekend simply because the park promised the opportunity to ride without cars.
Despite the weather, we think this weekend was a bike tourism success, and we encourage Crater Lake National Park to continue their commitment to an annual car-free weekend.
Beyond just Crater Lake, though, this weekend has important applications to bike tourism efforts worldwide. Bike tourism doesn’t need to be complicated and it doesn’t necessarily need to be all about the bike. Oftentimes, people on bikes feel like they’re inserting themselves someplace where they’re not particularly wanted. As soon as you create a space where people on bikes feel welcome, they’ll be there, even if they can’t actually ride their bikes, and they’ll be loyal. Bike tourism is also one of the few real-world instances where, if you build it, they will come. In the case of Crater Lake, building ‘it’ was as simple as closing a few gates and keeping an existing road open to bikes only.
A few weeks ago, we were asked to film the annual Policy Maker’s Ride on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The ride was meant to bring key policy makers to the Historic Columbia River Highway so they could see what could be possible with a completely re-connected HCRH. The ride brought together elected officials, staff from various DOTs, bicycle advocates, business leaders and even the mayors from the neighboring cities. It was an amazing event to be part of.
What was most remarkable for us was that everyone in attendance was keenly aware of the historic highway’s amazing “bicycle tourism” possibilities. Sure, you could blaze through the Gorge on I-84, but you don’t really experience it. Perhaps more importantly, by taking the interstate you move TOO fast and aren’t stopping at the small communities along the way. The mayors from Troutdale, The Dalles, Hood River and Cascade Locks were there (mayor Doug Daoust, who hadn’t ridden a bike in years, rode the the whole way!) and each spoke about the benefits of having a re-connected historic highway and a steady stream of cyclists passing through. These aren’t Portlandia bike hipsters or hardcore bike-campers, but they recognized the potential of having the historic highway easily navigable by bike.
The ride also celebrated a new stretch of off-road bike path. You can now ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks without getting on the less than pleasant I-84. For all the fanfare though, there was still a very serious call to action. The HCRH trail is not complete. The last 10 miles, which will be the hardest to construct and costliest to fund, is still at stake. In order for the Gorge to truly be a world-class bike destination, that last 10 mile stretch must be completed. As it stands now, cyclists who want to ride from the greater Portland metro area to Hood River have to negotiate a terrible stretch of I-84. Most notorious is a portion called Shell Rock (aka Death Wall) in which the shoulder shrinks to the width of a sidewalk AND curves, leaving a cyclist to sprint around the corner to avoid speeding traffic.
This is a long-term project with lots of challenges (financially and politically) along the way, but we are pretty confident it will be worth it. Right now, riding to Hood River via the Gorge is a pretty good ride. Having a complete Historic Columbia River Highway will make it a truly GREAT ride, worthy of being a world-class bicycling destination. Only 10 more miles to go!
We get a lot of questions about the gear we use for filming. Since I’m packing to do another Scenic Bikeway shoot tomorrow I decided to lay everything out and take a picture of it all. Our primary camera is a Panasonic GH3 which is capable of both stills and videos. There are, I suppose, “better” cameras in terms of resolution, sensor size, etc., But for our purposes, the micro 4/3rds format is really the best solution. We needed a system that we could carry easily by bike. By using a small camera, everything else tends to be smaller. The lenses are smaller, the supports and other contraptions for camera movement are smaller. I’m as much of a camera nerd as the next guy and would love to shoot with a RED or Black Magic, but honestly, I don’t think those cameras would survive a days worth of shooting after bouncing around in one of our panniers. So operating on the truism that “the best camera is the one you have,” the GH3/GH2 is the best camera for our purposes.
Everything is carried by bike with a mix of panniers, Wald 137 basket, some PVC pipe and Revelate Mountain Feedbags (makes great lens holders). For the eagle-eyed, you’ll notice an Abus Bordo lock in the mix. I use it for a counter balance for the camera on the jib
GoPro Hero 3 Black
Olympus 45mm 1.8
Panasonic 25mm 1.4
(Would love to add the Panasonic 35-100 2.8 and 12-35mm 2.8 in the future)
Benro Video Tripod
Nice Industries Aviator Jib
MeFoto and Joby ball head
Manfrotto quick release bases and plates
Yay, the latest Oregon Scenic Bikeway video has been released! It was a challenging one to film because of the distance and climbing, but we got great support from local proponents. The riders featured in the video are actually locals from the Heppner area who ride. They were fun to work with and really made us want to make the video awesome. Watch and enjoy!