The recent amazing weather has got me itching to hit the road again. So last weekend, despite the dismal forecast, I called my friend Justin Flood and we decided to take our chances on a bike camping trip. Last year I came across Lizann Dunegan’s awesome Road Biking Oregon, a book that offers some 30 rides through the back roads to small towns, farm land and other curious sites of interest. We decided on a ride south of town, with a vague sense that we may stay overnight near Canby, Woodburn or Mollala.
After some bike maintenance and a super late start, we departed on route towards West Linn. Once in Oregon City we made a tragic discovery the pedestrian bridge was closed, leaving our options of biking back an hour + to Sellwood, or a hellish ride on the I-205 over the Willamette. Thankfully, we met a cyclist who told us of a free shuttle for pedestrians. So we loaded the bikes on board for the short jump over the water.
Once across, we finally made our starting point to Willamette Park. The ride started out with an insane climb up a mountain and at a certain point it was hard to contain my laughter for questioning why on Earth I was doing this. But we made it and cruised on down through some back roads to the Canby Ferry.
As a cyclist, you ride the ferry for free and it goes all day! It was fun and a nice break from the climb. The sun was out and the weather was fantastic.
Across the way we went into town. One downtown store advertised it sells “Bricks and Minifigs” (upon closer inspection it’s a lego store). We stopped for ice cream at Dairy Queen (eating turned out to be a big theme of the trip) and this was just the start.
While the ride officially ended in Canby, the call of the open road was drawing us further down. We headed off track, down Highway 99 down towards Woodburn. 99 was less than ideal but the most direct route and we stopped briefly in Aurora, the site of an anarchist commune from the late 1800s.
We reached Woodburn at dusk. When most people bring up this town, they think outlets malls on I-5. Just a mile or two past that Woodburn is home to a burgeoning Mexican immigrant community. Due to the agriculture, the surrounding area is predominately Latino, and the entire downtown area is Mexican owned and operated, with a plethora of tacquerias, panaderies and cowboy shops. As two white guys on bikes loaded with camping gear, I imagined we looked other wordly. We rolled into town as festivities were winding down for Cinco de Mayo: a mariachi band was playing outdoors and there were a variety of food vendors. We decided to find an outpost to set up camp for the night.
After a haunting failed first attempt to camp behind a school (in which we received an offer not unlike the one detailed above), we rode around the perimeter of town until reaching an industrial zone where we set up shop. We then ran back through town to catch dinner, as by this time we were famished.
On a stroll through town we found a place that sells a bizarre smoothie concoction of corn, mayo, chili powder and milk. We skipped that, and the 10 taco deal for $8. If it wasn’t obvious by the mobs of locals inside, we decided on a tacqueria Cinco de Mayo. This cozy place served hearty portions of Oaxcan food. I’m not even sure I could identify everything on my plate, but the mole sauce was out of this world. We grabbed some late night Mexican pastries at another shop and hit the road.
The following day we packed up and hightailed back to Portland. One highlight was a late breakfast at a greasy spoon, Top O Hill. They had to bring two plates because the food didn’t fit on one! I couldn’t recommend it more.
We got caught in some crazy hail storm on the way back but beat it back to Portland. At New Seasons we ate another incredible amount of food before calling it a day. All in all it was a memorable trip that made me excited about the summer and the continued prospect of bike camping. Next up: covered bridges. It should be E P I C.