Photo, above: fields for the honey bees.
What makes the 132-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway so completely ‘Oregon’ that it has little bits of ‘Oregon’ bursting from its quivering seams?
Well, for one, it’s the first state mandated Scenic Bikeway in the country. This brilliant idea smacks heartily of Oregon. Only such a bike-loving state would curate its shining-gem cycling routes and polish them with infrastructure and informational resources. Photo, left: bike paths of Champoeg State Park.
Way to put your money where your mouth is, Oregon. Investing in cycle tourism is plain savvy because people are staycationing in the new economy, cycle tourism boosts economic development of the best kind, and the state capitalizes on/facilitates the surge of interest in cycle touring and bike packing.
Moving on to the second reason the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway will slap you upside the head with Oregon-ness. The mostly flat, pastoral three-day route winds south of Portland into the heart of the Willamette Valley past a medley of things that many Oregonians prize: vineyards, hops farms, fruit orchards, and hazelnut farms.
Oregon gets way geeky (borderline neurotic) on its beer, from hops to table. Plus, the Pinot Noir production is the region’s princess. (Once I had a resident of Piedmont, Italy say to me in his deep accent, “You’re from Oregon, eh? Really good Pinot Noir.”) And, if you hit the route during the right time of year, be prepared to eat some of the fresh local fruit and produce that Oregonians value so highly. Photo, right: Fruit orchards.
Speaking of hedonism, I have some must-stop recommendations for the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway:
The Butteville Store a couple of miles from Champoeg State Park (the start of the Bikeway) is the oldest consecutively running store in Oregon – since 1863. It serves decadent Tillamook ice cream to needy cyclists and has a lovely outdoor seating area. Want to know how nice they are? Diane, the owner, mailed me my cycling glove that fell on the floor. That’s sweeter than her ice cream, darn it.
Photo, left: Diane at the Butteville Store. A couple of miles off the route, Cheryl at the Independence House in Independence, Oregon (a bit south of Salem) makes it her personal duty to overindulge weary cyclists with decadent snacks, breakfast, and night caps.
What I didn’t get to try- but totally wanted to - was the new Rogue Brewery tasting room, the Rogue Farms Micro Hopyard, and its attached lodging, the Rogue Hop n’Bed, outside of Independence. The facilities are actually on the working Coleman Hops Farm. Being seven miles away from Independence, I could see this being a sweet side trip. The Hop n’ Bed is not particularly fit for cyclists as there is nowhere near to buy food nearby! But, they might let you use the kitchen if you bring your own stuff. Let me know what you find out.
Ankeny Vineyard is in between Salem and Albany on the route. With its tasting room a mere 10-15 yards away from the route, how can you not stop? Its reserve Pinot Noir is delish, and the tasting room is located on the actual vineyard that produces their grapes. The grounds are fully loaded with ridiculously picturesque crannies to sip your newly popped bottle. Photo, right: The route becomes a little hillier and forested outside of Eugene.
If you are interested in more tidbits and posts about cycle touring in Oregon, you can check out my blog which is on the website hub for my cycling touring Guidebook to Oregon due out next summer. I’ll be traipsing all over Oregon on my bike during research and will be sure to have an opinion about it.
About the author: Amongst her other talents, Ellee Thalheimer is bike tour guide, wilderness guide, travel writer, Lonely Planet guidebook contributor (and authored the most recent Cycling Italy guide for LP), yoga instructor, LMT, co-founder of a non-profit business alliance called the Portland Society. Follow her Blog as she tours Oregon by bike and compiles her new guide, currently titled Cycling Sojourner: a Guide to the Best Multi-day Touring in Oregon.