Sunday, July 19, 2009
Well, it's been a while, and since my (not-so) little brother lit a fire under my ass, I'll finally blog about the glorious Oregon vacation from which I recently returned. It was a cycling dream--big mountain passes, glistening lakes, snowy peaks, mished and mashed with the joyful ease of urban cycling that is Portland (at one point during a ride around a neighborhood in which they carved out a left turn lane specifically for bicycles, Aaron and I turned to each other with a look that could only express appreciation and amazement). One epic ride, a couple of 30 milers, and lots of city-riding combined to make a trip so aligned with our favorite activity, that we're already planning a trip back in September. If you haven't been, GO. Not only does Oregon have great riding, there's also a robust local food movement, refined microbrews and wines, a bustling art scene, and a menagerie of additonal outdoor activities, from hiking to everything the Columbia River Valley has to offer. For further suggestions about where to stay and what to do, call me. My map and Yelp-obsessed self has managed to acquire a pretty solid grasp on Portland neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, etc. as well as what other lovely Oregon cities have to offer!
Ride 1--The 98 mile (and 98 degrees) epic, Ashland, Oregon
It was hot. It was steep. It was exhausting. But sort of ridiculously beautiful, and there's a lot of mountain lakes in which you can cool off, mid-ride. Started in downtown Ashland and headed out Highway 66 toward Klamath. Literally a 10 mile uphill climb once you're out of city limits. Good shoulder, but I would suggest doing in early to beat the heat and the traffic. Just past the Green Springs Mountain Summitt (elevation 4551, where you can pick up the Pacific Crest Trail), turn left into the Hyatt Lake Recreation Area. We made a wrong turn here, but alas the roads were smooth and it was fine. Basically, if you continue straight, you'll go all the way around the lake. If you veer left, you come around the other side and it's a bit shorter. You'll end up on Hyatt Prairie Road. Turn right on Hyatt Prairie Dam Access Road. Turn left on Keno Access Road (not marked, but the road you're on comes to a T, and you can't continue straight). The next road you come to is Dead Indian Memorial Road (cool name, right?). If you go right, you head toward Lake of the Woods and can ride around there, on paved or fire roads. If you go left, you'll head back towards Ashland (and a wicked 12 mile descent). Either way, services are sparse, so fuel up when you're in the Hyatt Lake area. In fact, I would recommend three water bottles on this ride, but I'm a camel. Lots of route additions and subtractions, but the main key is that Green Springs Highway/Route 66 is the way up; Dead Indian Memorial is the way down. I would NOT recommend the reverse.
Ride 2, 3 and 5: Portland Urban Roll
Basically, I don't need to give turn by turn directions for riding in Portland. The city transportation department has taken care of that with their clear, visible, and frequent bike route signs, which not only indicate neighborhoods/points of interest/parks/main roads that you may be trying to get to, but also how many miles and estimated minutes they are away! Incredible, right? Don't miss a ride in Forest Park, along the northern edge of the city, unpaved, wide, and well, forested; the Willamette River trail, running along both the eastern and western sides of the river; and Skyline Boulevard, not dissimilar to Skyline in good ole' Oakland, very popular for riding, and the "gateway" to the Willamette Valley and longer, more farmland riding. Also, any bike shop in Portland carries a wonderful Bike Portland! map with detailed routes for pretty much anywhere in the greater Portland metropolitan area.
Ride 4: Hood River and Mosier, 35 miles
Having never been to the Columbia River Gorge, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even really know what a gorge looked like. I was not disappointed. The drive out alone was worth it. A mere 59 miles from Portland, the Gorge has waterfalls, expansive river vistas, and views of Mount Hood to the south and Mount St. Helens (we think?) to the north. Starting in downtown Hood River on Oak Street, we headed east. Turn left on State Street/30, go over 35, and begin a short, steep climb up to the Mark Hatfield Trail. Wow, what an incredible bike trail--basically runs along the edge of the Gorge, with views of the Columbia the whole length. And you even go through a tunnel! At the end of the trail, turn left, and then left again at the bottom of the hill for a quick jaunt on 30. At 10 Speed Coffee (highly recommend you stop in-- very good coffee, very friendly folks), turn right onto Center, and a quick left on 3rd Street. Third sort of becomes State Street, and shortly thereafter you should turn right onto Dry Creek Road. This is not marked, but there is a cherry orchard on the corner. If you start heading up a very steep climb, you missed the turn (you'll come down that later). Dry Creek is a fun road, paved for a while, winding through orchards and vineyards, then becoming well-packed gravel, with well-worth-the-climb views to the right. At the end of the gravel road, turn left on 7 Mile Hill Road/State Street to head back to Mosier, and backtrack. We were told by some bike shop dudes that you could continue on gravel roads basically all the way to Mount Hood, but I would recommend getting a local map (and having the conversation yourself) first.
Overall, we avoided dehydration (mostly), unfriendly drivers, flat tires, and over-doing it, and experienced a great deal of gratefulness for both the physical ability to ride and the financial ability to vacation, as well as each other's companionship and love. Awww... shucks.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I can't remember who, but someone recently asked me how I spent my 31st birthday. I had the day off, and maybe they imagined I went to the spa, shopping, or for a fanciful dinner out. I assume they would have approved of some more glamorous activity, because when I said I went for a bicycle ride in Marin, they kind of rolled their eyes in a sort of "figures" gesture. I was a bit taken aback--should I have done something more "relaxing", more typical? Well, little did they know I tried that for the big 3-0 last year, and it was a mediocre (my forte'!) at best. Okay massage, messy mani/pedi, PAINFUL facial, disappointing dinner. Well, this year, I decided to keep it simple--and it was simply marvelous. I don't know how many times in the course of the ride that I exclaimed "this is so incredible! Oh my gosh how beautiful! I'm having such a great time!"--a little cliched, but I fall back on cliches' when I'm at a loss for words (see?!). Afterwards, artisan beer, fries, wings, a few vegetables, more beer--and homemade organic ice cream. It was well beyond my expectations, and a most memorable day.
Route: Start in Fairfax, center of town. Head toward the west on Sir Francis Drake. Just outside of Lagunitas, as you enter Samuel P. Taylor State Park, begin to look on the right for a small wooden bridge that marks the entrance to the Cross Marin Bike Trail. Trail winds through the park along the river, partially unpaved. At the end of the trail, veer right, then left onto Platform Bridge Road. Best views of Elephant Mountain. At the stop sign, turn left on Point Reyes/Petaluma Road. A bit of traffic, not too bad. At the stop, turn left to head down the hill into Point Reyes Station. Bovine Bakery, Toby's, Cowgirl Creamery--a venerable foodie paradise. Take Hwy One south toward Olema. In Olema, turn left back onto Sir Francis Drake and climb to the top of the hill. Look for the Bolinas Ridge Trail entrance on the right. Trail is 11 miles long, at times steep, rocky, muddy, but mostly exhilarating. The views are unparalleled--stop to take lots of photos (the one at the top is in the forested part of the trail, in the Mt. Tam watershed). Trail ends onto Fairfax/Bolinas Road. Turn left for a well-deserved downhill to the resevoir. Go over the bridge, and turn right to climb back up to a mini-pass. Once at the top, it's all downhill to the center of Fairfax--I recommend a beeline toward Iron Springs! 48 miles, 4 1/2 hours.