It was finally here: Memorial Day weekend. We had scrambled through the week to get everything prepared and we were even taking Friday off to extend our holiday weekend. I pulled the Kid out of school early on Thursday, and we hit the road. We were heading south.
The plan was to camp every night and bike as much as possible, but the rest of the details were not laid in stone, leaving us open to possibilities. My brother, an Oregon native, was the third member of this ensemble. He lives on acreage in the Kings Valley, Oregon area, which is a mix of rural homesteads, open pastures, and small vineyards at the base of large tracts of douglas fir and mixed deciduous forested hills. The idea was to base ourselves out of Kings Valley and take day trips to different locations rather than traverse a continuous route. The overall goal was to disconnect from the busy urban ambiance and simply enjoy the local surroundings. We still managed to log about 80 miles of total riding over the course of the trip.
On the way down, we stopped at Seven Corner Cycles (www.7-corners.com) in SE Portland, which is a fantastic shop, and the owner, Cory is a genuine, helpful, and down-to-earth guy. There, I picked up a vital piece of equipment that I needed: a Banjo Brothers Waterproof Convertible Pannier Backpack. He also was kind enough to loan me one of his own personal Relevate Designs Sweetroll handle bar roll bag and Mountain Feedbag. I didn’t end up getting a chance to use the Relevate items on this trip, however, I will definitely keep their products in mind for the future. While in Portland, we had a deliciously satisfying meal of chicken and rice at Nong’s and then got back on the road.
We made it down to my brother’s place in time to set up camp and hunker down for the night. The next morning, we woke up to blue skies and had breakfast cooked over the campfire. We broke down our camp site, organized our gear, and laid out our route for the ride that day. The plan was to ride from Philomath, through Corvallis, and just out of town to the east of Corvallis on Hwy 34. We caught a ride from Kings Valley to Philomath to avoid riding on the shoulder-less Hwy 223 and the very busy Hwy 20.
On the way, we stopped at Gathering Together Farm (www.gatheringtogetherfarm.com) in Philomath. It is a local, organic farm that also features a small restaurant with an amazing menu based on mostly what is raised and harvested on the farm. It features a massive wood fired pizza oven and their pizza is some of the best I’ve had, with very eclectic topping combinations.
We made our way to the launching point, fitted up the bikes with all of our camping gear, and were on our way. We were taking the very beginning of a bike trail network that begins in Philomath and routes through Corvallis branching into multiple legs through town. In our case, we were routing through downtown and back out to the countryside off of Hwy 34 to our camp spot. The route was about 10 miles in total and looked something like this:
We made a quick stop at one of the local bike shops in downtown Corvallis, Corvallis Cyclery (corvalliscycleryinc.com) to pick up a couple more parts and accessories. This is a complete shop that carries just about everything you could want and has an experienced staff of mechanics.
We were invited to camp on a friend’s property, which is on a couple of acres off of Colorado Lake Dr. just off of Hwy. 34. The property is on a small lake, so we were able to go on a little canoe ride, do some fishing, feed the ducks, and even a bit a tree climbing!
After some good, old-fashioned country fun, we set up camp and started a nice camp fire. We roasted everything from sausages, to fresh oysters, to whole Walla Walla onions. The next day, we packed up our gear and rode back through the route we had taken there. We picked up an extra riding companion, our gracious host, who escorted us almost the whole way back. We stopped off at the Corvallis farmers market, which rivals any other market I have been to and draws a great crowd. We rode a little bit farther into Philomath this time and then got a ride back to our home base camp site in Kings Valley.
That afternoon, we took a ride up a logging rode into the woods which was about a 7 mile loop. The first half was pretty much steady climbing, but the second half was all descent and made the ride up all worth it. The views from the clearings at the top were breathtaking.
We were invited to a fantastic home cooked meal that night, so not exactly roughing it, but very welcomed nonetheless. We followed that with another camp fire and then to bed. The next morning, we had another camp fire breakfast and then prepped our bikes for a day drip.
We drove back into the Philomath area and launched from the intersection of Hwy 20 and 53rd. This is a relatively busy intersection, but we were heading south on 53rd, and after the first mile or two, we only saw a handful of cars in either direction until meeting up with Bellfountain Rd. The loop we ended up doing was about 18 miles and the route is as follows:
These roads are surrounded by beautiful scenes of grass farm fields and the occasional patch of trees. The traffic is very sparse and there are some gradual hill climbs, but overall a very flat ride. There are countless variations of this type of ride branching out from Philomath and Corvallis, and you could even make a great day of riding from Corvallis to Eugene, with plenty to see along the way.
We drove back to our camp and decided to pack up and head up by car into the Alsea Falls area. This is also a very scenic road and would be one to follow completely by bike at some point in the future. It’s a much longer ride with some pretty steady climbing. There are plenty of camping spots off the beaten path throughout this area and it is all mostly BLM land which doesn’t require any type of permit. We did some exploring and a little bit of fishing around the Alsea Falls, which is a fairly touristy area, but a lovely set of falls and fun spot to hike around.
Down the road from the falls, we found a BLM road that took us up a mountain. There were a couple of camp sites at the road entrance, but we kept going farther up the mountain and didn’t see anyone at all a short while after that. We turned up a short branch in the road and found a perfect camp site at the end of it with a flat clearing, but protected by trees. We didn’t see or hear another person the whole time we were at the site. It was a perfectly clear night with not a hint of wind, so we left the rain fly off to watch the stars throughout the night.
After the regular camp side breakfast routine and breaking down camp, the Kid and I took the opportunity to bomb back down the hill on our bikes. The Kid has really taken to downhill mountain biking because he took off like a rocket, and I couldn’t catch him until we hit the flats at the bottom of the hill!
We drove back to Kings Valley, got cleaned up, and then got our bikes prepped for the ride that day. This was to be the longest ride of the trip at about 24 miles. We were riding from my brother’s house in Kings Valley to my Dad’s house in Corvallis via Kings Valley Hwy, Tampico Rd., and Hwy 99W. We didn’t have to haul any of the camping on this ride since it was just a day trip. We fitted up my brother’s bike with a Bicyclebungee for a three bike tandem with him at the lead, myself in the middle, and the Kid in his usual position at the back. This was the route:
This route sees very little traffic, particularly once on Tampico Rd. The entire Kings Valley Hwy to 99W portion of the route follows beautiful scenic open country that is a mix of pasture land, vineyards, grass seed fields, and clusters of woods. Our three-bike tandem worked really well, and distributed the pulling between the two lead riders. On the flats and down hills, the drafting and natural momentum kept the train cruising very smoothly. There are a set of climbs since you are travelling through rolling hill country, but nothing too extreme, and we were able to power up these in tandem.
Right after getting on Hwy 99W heading south, we stopped at the Adair Village market to refill on water and have some snacks. We bypassed a portion of Hwy 99W by getting on Arboretum Rd. which eventually connects back with 99. The ride between Adair Village and Corvallis is very flat and there is a large shoulder on the highway, so it is pretty straight forward riding. Even though this was the last portion of the ride, it felt very easy because of how flat and steady it is.
We made it to our destination and had a nice relaxing time catching up with relatives who were also in town for the weekend. Later on, we rode into downtown which is about 3 miles away (and nearly all bike path) to a classic Corvallis pizza spot, American Dream Pizza
(www.adpizza.com). We had some delicious pizza and then strolled around the laid back and pleasant riverfront area of downtown. For a spectacular view of the city and dinner or a beer, also check out Sky High Brewing (www.skyhighbrewing.com), which has a rooftop lounge with a 360 degree view of the city.
A ride back to the house was the last riding we did for the day and the trip. We loaded everything up, said our farewells and were on our way back to our regular routine in Seattle. After about a half hour of driving, the Kid was fast asleep and slept the whole way through! He certainly had his fill of riding, and we exceeded each other’s expectations on how much tandem riding and camping we could do in a weekend. This trip would set the bar even higher for the next trip!
The Corvallis/Philomath area is truly a biker’s haven with 18 miles of multi-use paths and 46 miles of bike lanes in a town of just over 50k residents. See the Benton County bike route map here. It also has a very flat landscape, an extremely bike-friendly and conscious culture, and there are plenty of scenic country roads to ride just outside of town. Whether touring or just passing through, I recommend a stop there, and you’re guaranteed to have a nice visit, eat some good food, and meet some friendly folk.
Please comment below with your thoughts and any stories on bike-camping or biking in Oregon.