Just a quick video montage from footage from our trip. I’m still going through and editing interviews and piecing episodes together. Hope this quick cut gets you excited about bike touring! (YouTube version here.)
Whereupon we finally make it to Adventure Cycling! It has been our goal to get there and have our picture taken ever since we discovered bicycle touring. On the way, we get stopped by a puncture, distracted by a farmer’s market and some ice cream. But we do get there eventually and get a wonderful tour from Greg Siple and get our photos taken for the National Bicycle Touring Portrait Gallery. The first Bromptons to be photographed, according to Greg.
In this video we travel from Lewiston, ID to Lolo Hot Springs, MT via the 12. The 12 is a beautiful stretch that has some absolutely terrible riding. The climb up Lolo pass itself was uneventful, but the getting there from Lewiston was memorable and not in good ways. (YouTube version)
After an eye-opening talk with Bill White, the man who rallied the community of Twin Bridges together to erect the nation’s first ever Bike Camp, we’ve been thinking a lot about bicycle touring and its effects on small towns. He started Bike Camp as a means to get touring cyclists to stay in town and to benefit the local economy. He became enamored with the many stories of passing cyclists but also saw an opportunity for the town of Twin Bridges to benefit from hungry and tired bike tourists riding through.
For Bill, it was simple. To not do something to keep the cyclists in town was like “watching gold flow down the river.” So he dreamed up Bike Camp and raised the funds and community support to see it happen. It was such a simple insight, but one that we as bike tourists always clamor for. Show us a modicum of bike friendliness and we’ll be eternally grateful. Heck, we’ll even spend money in your town.
This got me thinking about our spending habits and how it would be different if we were in a car. We’re pretty average as far as touring cyclists, shooting for about 50 miles a day. Far enough to move through the landscape, but slow enough to do some fishing and eat some pie. Because of our limited distance per day and the massive amounts of calories we’re expending a day we eat a lot and require a place to overnight (camp, RV park, motel, etc.,).
I began thinking of how our spending habits would be different if we were driving. Take a 200 mile road trip. It would be easily accomplished within a day in an automobile. You’d probably stop for lunch, refill the gas tank along the way and get dinner and lodging at your final destination. You might pass a handful of small towns along the way, but since you’re moving so fast and not expending any calories, chances are you probably won’t stop unless you have to use the bathroom. Those small towns would just be a blur from inside your car.
Take that same 200 mile stretch and think of how a bike tourist would move through the landscape. If they’re 50-mile-a-day cyclists like us, they would require 4 nights of lodging or camping. Because we’re constantly burning calories, that same trip would require 12 meals or snacks in between (either cooked with food bought from local markets or meals at the local eateries). We would definitely stop in every town to refill water bottles, stock up on food, use the restroom and spend the night.
Given the same 200 mile stretch, a touring cyclist will make more of an economic impact on the small towns along the way than a person driving in a car. Now imagine, if small towns across the country welcomed cyclists by offering simple accommodations like the Bike Camp, especially those along Adventure Cycling routes. Not only would it benefit cyclists, but small towns would benefit as well with a constant stream of tired and hungry bike tourists coming through town. The more accommodations, the more people touring, the more people spending money in small towns.
It’s a dream for sure. But after seeing Bike Camp, in Twin Bridges and talking to Bill, we had a momentary glimmer of what bike tourism could be.
In this video, we make it out of the Wallowa mountains and land in Joseph, OR. While there, we have the opportunity to spend a day with Dan Price, author of Radical Simplicity and The Moonlight Chronicles. Dan has been living the “simple life” for decades before minimalist bloggers (heck, before blogs!) and 100 thing challenges. True to his word, he lives simply in Hobbit home and gives us a tour of the meadow.
Like a string of pearls, we pass through small town after small town in Eastern Oregon, each with its own unique personality. We camp on a perfectly manicured lawn of an RV park, we find the Bike Inn in Mt. Vernon, we camp behind an old train depot and celebrate Laura’s birthday with new friends. The magic of bike touring!
In this Rough Cut, we interview Jerry Norquist, the executive director of CycleOregon. Jerry has been in the bicycling industry for many years and has been involved in bicycle advocacy throughout. In this video, Jerry talks a little about the history of CycleOregon, attending the National Bike Summit and the shift in conversation to promoting bicycles as an economic development tool. It has been enlightening to see how event rides can affect rural communities and can sometimes create long-term positive changes.
On a personal note, we left Portland yesterday and took the Amtrak bus to Albany, OR. We are currently in Corvallis, OR staying with Laura’s mom for a few days while she heals. It looks like we will be in Oregon a while longer, doing short trips involving buses, trains and bikes (thank goodness for the Bromptons!). We’ve found that for a bike tourer in Oregon, there are many transit options to connect with a bicycle. We’re a little sad that we won’t be setting off across the country just yet, but we’re doing our best to turn the lemon into lemonade. Staying in Oregon gives us a chance to really explore deeper into what organizations are making the chances to make Oregon more bicycle friendly and explore some of the rural communities that have embraced cycling.
Part of the irony of our trip was when we first decided to do a tour combining bicycle and trains, the trains were an ancillary part of the experience, meant to augment and extend our bicycling range. Since Laura’s accident, trains and transit have taken a more central role in how we’re getting around. Likewise, having chosen the Brompton and the ease with which you can take it on trains, buses and cars has become key to our mobility. I hesitate to reduce what happened to a simple platitude like “all things happen for a reason,” but it has given us more perspective as to the importance of transit and bicycles.
The healing process is painfully slow, especially when it interferes with larger plans. Laura has been resting her ankle and is progressively becoming more active with it. The whole experience has really shown us how fragile our bodies can be and the tenuousness of our plans and schemes. The good news is that it is healing and we’re expecting a departure date of this Wednesday. Ultimately, it was the right decision for us to have her convalesce in Portland than try to to push off at our appointed launch date.
While she has been resting, I took the opportunity to do an S24O this weekend with my friend Joey. Like most endeavors, it was decided that after a few beers on Friday that we should leave “early” the following morning and go bike camping. Early is relative of course. I was off to a slow start and had to quickly rearrange the bags from “fully loaded touring” mode to “overnighter,” which consisted of leaving most of the electronics at home and carrying pots and food.
We met up around noon (“early” is relative remember) at the Rose Quarter transit stop and took the MAX train to Gresham, an outlying suburb of Portland. I got a chance to try out my new Garmin Vista HCx that I picked up at the REI sale along with the City Navigator SD card. It is admittedly not as easy to use as Google Maps on the iPhone. Once you get past the clunky user interface and invest some time, you realize how robust it is. Some of the absolute no-brainer advantages of the Garmin over the iPhone is its amazing battery life, great reception and weatherproofness of the unit. Running a real-time GPS application on a smartphone will drain its battery life in no time. It is also no secret that AT&T has absolutely terrible reception and because of this it is easy to be left out on a limb if you use a smartphone as your primary navigation. I was able to record the route and post it to Bikely with relative ease.
After some flat riding in Gresham and a quick dip to a tributary, you pick up the Historic Columbia River Highway and pass through the small town of Corbett as you work your way uphill to an overlook near the Portland Women’s Forum. The grades are reasonable and the climbing is extended over several miles. From the overlook, you get an amazing view of the Gorge and catch a glimpse of Vista House.
From Vista House, the road twists and turns, dumping elevation quickly until you are almost level with highway 84. From there the road undulates in gentle rollers and you past several falls. Perhaps the two most popular are Multnomah Falls, the second tallest year-round water fall in the United States and Horsetail Falls, where a scene from The Road was filmed. Caution is needed, especially at Multnomah Falls, because of the high level of tourist traffic coming from the main highway that may not be looking out for bicycles.
Once you are past the falls, it is a short ride to Ainsworth State Park. Ainsworth has several RV sites, but also a few “walk-in” tent sites that are more covered in the woods. Firewood, flush toilets and showers are available, making it a great comfortable place to camp.
The next morning, we got a truly early start and left camp around 8am and climbed the switchbacks up to Vista House and made our way back to the MAX stop in Gresham. We got back into Portland by around 11:30am. The S24O to Ainsworth is a great retreat from Portland and offers the cyclist a good mix of rural roads, scenic byways, a satisfying climb and descent that is only a few hours out of town, making it a perfect bike camping option.
It seems like only a few weeks ago that we tumbled off the Amtrak train into Portland and were standing on the esplanade, watching every variety of bicycle whiz by, in awe and wonder at what was going to be our “home” for the next few months. We still remember trying to take a self-portrait of us and the Steel Bridge behind us. We were looking for someone in the crowd of bicycles to take the picture, when almost on cue, our friend Logan from RowdyKittens appeared out of nowhere. Barely twenty minutes in town and we were met with a friendly and familiar face.
Our seven month stay in Portland has been pretty rough weather wise. They are not kidding when they say it rains here. As someone that more or less grew up in Southern California, this winter has literally been the coldest and wettest I’ve ever experienced.
However, we made the most of the rainy season, or the The Big Dark as some call it. We did some rides with CycleWild, a great local group that promotes bike camping. Laura had a table at BikeCraft and still has some Bike Mustaches over at Bikeasauraus. I was able to contribute some multi-media stories to BikePortland, a website that has greatly influenced me over the years. I took part in a photo show with bike pundit Elly Blue and local bike photographer Heidi Swift. I shot a lot of lifestyle imagery for the folks at Klean Kanteen. I got to go fishing for steelhead on the famous Deschutes river. We sampled a fair amount of food carts and local beers. I also became a bit of a coffee nerd, getting into brewing methods and searching for the best cup of coffee in Portland (Coava Coffee Roasters).
Of all the things we did, the most fulfilling was making friends and finding a community. We were fortunate enough to fall into a small group of people that we really enjoyed and spent time with them, doing silly things like riding up steep hills to make Frito Pie. The word friend gets tossed around so casually these days (and has even been transformed into a verb), but we’re distinctly aware of how special the word really is. One of the joys of travel is meeting wonderful people everyday; one of its sorrows is parting ways with those kind souls.
Laura and I had dinner last night and talked a little about the next coming days, but I was distracted and a little melancholic. The reality of moving again was sinking in. I was trying to get myself excited about all the great things we would experience in the coming months, the wide open spaces of Montana, fishing, riding through a part of the country we had never been to. Truth be told, at that moment I was too overcome with the sadness of leaving our friends here in Portland. It was hard to do it in Long Beach two years ago and it hasn’t gotten any easier. It is part of the unspoken cost of travel.
Tonight, we’re sleeping on sleeping pads in the living room. The bikes are readied. The bags are packed. Tomorrow morning we cast off and become sailors once again. We are different people this time, looking at open-ended travel with a different lens. We are a little less giddy perhaps, but far more thankful to have this chance again (we’re doing a once-in-a-life-time trip twice, after all!). Thank you dear readers, old and new, for following us through strange and interesting times of our lives. Thank you to all the people we met on our previous trip who showed us so much kindness. Most of all, thank you to Portland and all the kind souls who graced us with their friendship.
LAST DAY TODAY! If you’re excited for our Big Adventure. Small Wheels. trip and support our goal to invigorate bike and train travel, consider making a donation to allow us to go further and create inspiring videos along the way.
If you’re a fan on our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter, you’ve probably seen these videos already. We’re working hard to make some great new content for our next adventure. Not all of it gets posted right away on the website, so if you want to see things hot off the presses, join the Facebook Page. Check out our latest videos!
Packing Up. Again.
In this video, we go through the strange ritual of putting things in boxes for a second time. It gets easier in some ways, but harder in others.
Visiting Corvallis with Bromptons and the Amtrak Bus
In this video, we take a trip to Corvallis, Laura’s hometown, to do a presentation. It is a small trip down memory lane for her and a small multi-modal adventure with the Bromptons and the Amtrak bus.
If you’re excited for our Big Adventure. Small Wheels. trip and support our goal to invigorate bike and train travel, consider making a donation to allow us to go further and create inspiring videos along the way.