I got a flat just as we rolled into Missoula and we decided to make a little instructional video out of it. I share some tube patching secrets and wrestle on the TIGHT Brompton tire on and win….just barely : )
We’ve been getting a ton of questions about how we’ve attached backpacks to the the Bromptons. We’re using a pretty lo-fi solution, a dowel and some leather toe straps but it seems to work pretty well. We had some down time at Lolo hot springs so we made a short little video there and uploaded it from a little motel in Missoula, a few blocks away from Adventure Cycling HQ. Enjoy!
Updating from a hotel room in Lewiston, ID. We’ve FINALLY left Oregon but I’m still editing footage from there. It has been a challenge the last few days to find an ideal environment to edit videos (ie. electricity, WiFi and shade). We’ve been doing a lot of climbing and sometimes there’s barely enough energy to eat dinner and set up the tent, much less piece a narrative together. That said, I’m really pleased with our video on Baker City. We happened to be in the right place at the right time with some fun and interesting things going on! From here, we’re pushing into the mountains again with Lolo Pass looming ahead of us. We hope to be in Missoula next week and will take a few days off to catch up on videos and posts.
Updating from the Knight’s Inn in Baker City, OR. We’ve decided to take a few rest days in the cute town of Baker to get caught up on some posts and videos. In our latest video, we leave the Crooked River and hop on the Adventure Cycling Trans America route in Prineville, OR. We go up our first extended climb on the Bromptons and experience an absolutely wonderful descent into the tiny town of Mitchell where we camp in the city park!
In case you missed it, we’re finally ready to hit the road! Six weeks, to the day, from when we had planned to head out, my ankle is finally strong enough and we are heading East! (And we are very excited!) We made a few adjustments to our original plans, based on some connections we’ve made over the past few weeks, and we wanted to share our (tentative) route with you all.
While it would have been a beautiful route, we have decided to forego our original plan of leaving Portland via the Columbia Gorge. In our conversations with folks at Cycle Oregon and TravelOregon, we’ve heard so much about initiatives to entice cycle tourists to Eastern Oregon towns. We decided that we had to check this out for ourselves, and share our findings with you all!
So, from Bend, we will be heading East along (mostly) the ACA TransAm route. Since we love to freestyle our route planning, we are open to diversions, but it seems like a great way to get from Bend to Eastern Oregon to Missoula (which we know we want to be our next big stop). If you happen to be in or around Eastern Oregon or Central Idaho (along the TransAm route), or you know of something amazing that we should see or experience or people we should talk to, drop us a line. It looks like we’ll be headed through Prineville, Mitchell, Dayville, Mt Vernon, John Day, and Prairie City (Oregon), before rolling into Baker City for a few days. Then, we’ll likely continue on through Cambridge, Council, New Meadows, Grangeville (Idaho) and up and over Lolo Pass into Missoula.
Our Big Adventure on Small Wheels is finally ready to roll, and we’re thrilled to have you all along for the ride!
Even though Laura’s ankle is still healing, we’re not letting it stop us from having some bike adventures. Like Amtrak, regional bus systems can be a great way to augment bicycle travel. In this video, we take the very bicycle friendly The Wave bus out of downtown Portland to Tillamook. From there we stay at a bicycle friendly hostel in Rockaway Beach. Along the way, we eat beef jerky, bubblegum ice cream, feed fish and camp at the amazing Cape Lookout hiker/bike site.
My Brompton and I are stopped at an intersection. The light turns green and I push down on the pedal with my right leg. But the bike doesn’t respond, at least not the way it should. To get any momentum, I have to slam down on the other pedal with my left leg. Slowly, I get up to a roaring 7mph, telling myself to simply be content that I can pedal continuously at that speed without any pain.
That was a week ago. Today, I’m up to a more respectable 11-12mph. But I still have to rely heavily on my left leg to get moving from a stop. It’s a weird experience to push down with all your might, only to have the pedal swing anemically underneath you. My ankle is healing and limbering up again; my focus now is building strength back into those muscles and tendons. Slowly, but surely, day by day, I’m putting myself through my version of physical therapy, and I’m regaining my ability to go for a ride on my bike.
For the last week, we have been in Corvallis, Oregon (my hometown), staying with my Mom. It’s a city with a lot of cyclists and some of the widest bike lanes and best-planned, best-laid-out bike infrastructure that we’ve seen. But it comes with its ironies. The lack of obvious bike “culture” has made us wonder if the sorts of bike scenes we’ve found in Portland and Austin are actually born of strife. Since bike lanes have been around for decades in Corvallis, cycling is simply a part of everyday life, not something to fight for. There was no need for Critical Mass, so nothing galvanized cyclists into a group (in Portland, ex-Critical Mass cyclists formed Shift; in Austin, they formed Social Cycling ATX). It’s an interesting theory, and makes us wonder what it’s really like as a cyclist in Denmark and Amsterdam.
Tomorrow, we’re headed back up to Portland for a few days of Pedalpalooza madness. Amtrak’s Cascades line has allowed us to travel back and forth without too much trouble, and has provided even more proof of the value of long-distance public transit. On Monday, we’re headed to the coast on a short transit-supported trip, to continue exploring the link between cycle tourists and rural economic development. We’ve made some interesting connections and look forward to sharing them with you all. With any luck, the following week, five weeks after my injury, we’ll finally be able to head out on our big trip.
We’re starting a new series on the site highlighting people who are working to improve cycling in the US. Are you a business, restaurant or accommodation that is bicycle friendly? Tell us how! Are you a small community that is trying to encourage cyclists to visit, share your story. We’re looking for stories about how businesses, communities and individuals are trying to make their area more bike friendly.
Scottie Jones is walking us around her property, Leaping Lamb Farms. It’s a working sheep farm, on property originally homesteaded in 1895. We navigate gingerly along a dirt path toward the barn, weaving our way through a small minefield of sheep poop. “Be careful, that’s stinging nettle,” she tells us, pointing at a tall, looming plant. Brushing up against the leaves can cause a burning sensation, followed by a rash. Conveniently, she tells us, all you have to do is look for a “dock plant”, found alongside the stinging nettle, whose leaves will neutralize the pain. The solution to a problem is oftentimes right under our nose; we just have to know what it looks like.
Eight years ago, Scottie and her husband Greg moved from Tempe, Arizona to the small rural farm community of Alsea, Oregon. She was “naive at 50,” she likes to joke. With their natural pluck and “we can do anything” attitude, they thought they could easily make farm life work. The reality of the situation was a lot different from their rustic frontier idea. When she realized she was basically paying people to eat her lamb, she began scrambling to find a solution. She found one and it was beneath their feet the whole time, she only had to see it in the right way.
In 2006, she opened her farm to guests. The cabin they had built for their parents, which subsequently sat unused, was re-purposed as “farm stay” lodging. Employing the marketing skills she learned while working at the Phoenix zoo, she turned her farm into a customer-oriented, hospitality-based business. That year, the farm made $4000 in lamb sales and $25,000 in farm stays. The farm stays were paying for the farm. From this transformative insight, she began the website FarmStayUS, a directory which lists US-based working farms which offer guest accommodations. FarmStayUS has a directory of over 900 farm stays across the US with accommodations that range from the rustic to regal. Many farms, she tells us, are in danger of becoming “hobby farms.” Farms that are doomed to lose money year after year, that people hold on to because they love the lifestyle. Farm stays are another way that farmers can create income with their land and still maintain a farm.
For Scottie, farm stays are also a part of a larger picture of advocacy for rural communities. Many of her guests come from cities and work in technology, law or medicine, who are far removed from the politics of rural communities. However, by staying with farmers and learning about the business and challenges involved in farming, they can more easily empathize with the plight of rural economies. Her guests, she tells us, are more likely to shop at a farmers’ market, understand the true price of food, and be more thoughtful about legislation that will affect farmers. Scottie also employs several of the local teens in Alsea, who not only help with maintenance, they learn computer skills (like Quikbooks).
The Cycling Connection
We first learned of FarmStayUS through Laura’s mom, who met Scottie through a local entrepreneur group in Corvallis. Farm stays and bicycle touring are a natural fit. Farms are generally located in rural areas with quiet country roads that are perfect for riding. Bike tourists generally have a tough time bridging lodging gaps in remote areas. By combining the two, farmers could make some extra income and bike tourists could more easily find accommodations or resources on their travels in remote areas. 30 years ago, Scottie did a bicycle tour in Europe with two friends, and they often asked farmers if they could sleep in the barn. Ironically, it didn’t dawn on her that the same thing could happen in the US until we contacted her through Facebook (and you readers left comments!). We’re happy to say that Scottie is very open to reaching out to bike tourists and hopes to work with Adventure Cycling in the future!
We’re excited about making this connection, because it could potentially open up a whole new network for bike tourists. We also hope that interactions like this will positively affect how rural communities view bicycling. We’ve seen how organizations like CycleOregon and TravelOregon have begun to create this change within the state. A nationwide network like FarmStayUS could be one of the many tools that help bridge the gap between bicycles and rural communities.
Yesterday, as I sat slumped under a black cloud, I realized that I needed to make a choice. I could either continue to mope around and feel crummy about my inability to do what I had planned and hoped and expected. Or I could move on, and re-frame how I think about this injury and what it means. Because, I realized, the only truth in this whole experience is that my ankle is sprained; everything else is subjective and up to me.
And then I had to chuckle, because I’m apparently not nearly as skilled at going-with-the-flow as I would like to believe!
Early in our last trip, we made the decision to not plan. When you plan, you feel attached to it, sometimes chained to it, and you’re not as able to enjoy the spontaneous other opportunities that come along. When we thought about heading back out on the road, we were really looking forward to getting back into that mindset. Little did we realize that we would get exactly that wish, in a completely different way than we expected. Which is truly ironic, because how can you plan to stop planning?
For the past week and a half, I’ve been lamenting the inability to stick with our plan. Yesterday, I realized that I needed to give up the plan, to say ‘okay, life’s a fact,’ and embrace this new situation. But what does that mean? And how do I actually get out from under these black clouds?
I talked with my Mom recently, and she pointed out something that I’ve missed until now… physically, I’m at a beginner’s level. I can ride 10 miles, max. I’m exhausted after just 3 miles. And hills? Forget it. I just don’t have the strength right now. The only path out of my ankle sprain is the same one that all beginners must travel… start small, do what I can, and slowly build up my strength.
Which is where the shift in thinking comes in handy. I can either be frustrated by my beginner-ness, or I can embrace it the way Buddhists do. What if I accepted my current situation and set out to have fun anyway, in whatever way I’m able, without heaping any shame on myself for not doing more? What would it look like to have an incredible adventure when I can only ride 5 or 10 miles?
This is where my head is now, as I try to shake these dark clouds. If it takes six weeks for my ankle to heal properly, I’ll give it six weeks. I’ll stop forcing it to heal on my timeframe, and let it tell me when it’s ready for something bigger. But I’m not going to just while away my time on the couch anymore. The more I ponder this injury and what I am capable of doing, the more I realize that it’s still possible to explore this great big world of ours – I just have to do it 5 miles at a time.
What would an incredible adventure look like to you, if you could only ride 5 or 10 miles?
We’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about bicycle touring and tourism. Oregon is fortunate in that it has a very active coalition, between TravelOregon (and its bike-specific site RideOregonRide) and CycleOregon and its State Parks, that sees the benefits of promoting bicycling throughout the state. What has been clear is that, although the improvements and amenities ostensibly target cyclists, the benefits of “bicycle-friendly businesses” and “bicycle routes” have larger ramifications.
Can bicycle tourism save small town America? From our own experience, we would stop at many small towns (sometimes nothing more than a post-office and a general store) and take a break, buy some snacks and maybe chat up a local. We would also spend money on lodging, groceries, and, I swear, I think I bought one small thing from every bicycle shop we passed. Bicycle touring is ripe with these small interactions that probably would not happen if you were just driving through. When people go out and ride to “see America” this is what they mean. Bicycles allow us to travel fast enough to move across the country, but slow enough to interact with the landscape and people.
There is often the perception that bicycles fall on the urban side of the rural-urban divide. While there are certainly more bikes in cities, it doesn’t mean that there’s terrible biking in the country. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Small rural communities often have the best roads with scenic riding and low traffic volumes. They have, as Tara Corbin, of CycleOregon, and Kristin Dahl, of TravelOregon, have pointed out in our recent interviews, many of the “assets” that make ideal cycling – they merely have to connect the dots. Simple actions with very little capital investment – like advertising a motel as “bicycle friendly,” having some spare tubes and a pump handy, and offering bag lunches to cyclists-on-the-go – are inexpensive ways to attract cyclists.
We fear what we don’t understand. When conducting the interviews, I was plying the thesis that rural towns are naturally antithetical to bicycling. From my interviews so far, it doesn’t appear to be the case in Oregon. Oregon benefits by having a one-two punch combination with CycleOregon (a bicycling event that acts as initial contact with small towns to demonstrate bicycling’s economic impact) and TravelOregon (a quasi-governmental organization that works to further develop bicycle tourism and infrastructure with interested small towns). Unfortunately, not every state is so lucky.
This is where a project like the US Bicycle Route System, being spearheaded by Adventure Cycling, is so important. Not every state or region has organizations working to delineate good routes for bicycling. Most people that bike want to know what the best roads are for riding, and while this is certainly possible with lots of independent research and trial and error, it is infinitely easier to have designated routes. We see this daily on a micro-scale in cities with bike paths, bike boulevards, and bicycle lanes. Think of how convenient it is to know these routes on your daily commute, how you are much more free to enjoy the riding and your city. Now imagine that on a macro scale. Suddenly, the anxiety and burden of finding a route is lessened. You are free to just pedal, to stop at the small general stores and strike up conversation and to “see America.”
The fundraiser for the US Bicycle Route System is winding down and we feel its a worthy project to support. Click here to donate and support the USBRS!