Category Archives: Bike Camping

Simply Propelled

If you have any interest in family biking, bikepacking, adventure travel, or all of the above, be sure to check out and follow Simply Propelled.

The Clark family has taken some amazing long distance adventure travel journeys with their two kids, and Dan Clark does a fantastic job of documenting them with high quality video, photos, and narrative. Their next sojourn is a family bikepacking trip from the Canadian Arctic to Baja California. They are launching on July 1st, so make sure to follow their trek and say hello to them!

5 DAYS, 4 NIGHTS: BIKING AND CAMPING WITH THE KID IN RURAL WILLAMETTE VALLEY, OREGON

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.

BIKE CAMPING ON BAINBRIDGE ISLAND

The kid and I are gearing up for the summer, and the destination for our first bike-camping trip was Fay Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Up to this point, most of our riding has been urban and strictly day trips, so this was the first run out to a relatively comfortable location to test the logistics, equipment, and feasibility of bike camping on a more regular basis, for longer distances, and to more remote locations.

The first step was to set up the bike to handle the extra cargo we’d need. I added a Topeak Super Tourist DX rear rack that I picked up from Angle Lake Cyclery (anglelakecycle.com). The goal was to mount everything to the rear rack and allow enough clearance for the Bicyclebungee.

Before investing in panniers, I wanted to make use of some bags I had around to get a feel for weight distribution and volume needed for the gear we were carrying. The net result was I mounted the tent to the top of the rack, which left just enough clearance for the Bicyclebungee. Then I adapted two mini-duffle bags to the sides, which contained clothes, gear, etc. I strapped one sleeping bag to the handle bar and the other off the rear rack. Overall, it worked pretty well, however, I was very tail heavy, so I will look into some front racks to get more of the weight up front. Also, panniers designed to mount to a rack will be a lot more practical, but this setup was good enough to get us going.

The equipment we brought was the following: a three-man tent, two sleeping bags, extra change of clothes, extra layers, toiletries, travel towel, Goal Zero solar charger, book (for reading), misc. camping gear (flashlight, knife, leatherman, matches, extra straps), and some snacks and light breakfast items. There were going to be plenty of eating options along the way, so I didn’t want the extra weight and hassle of packing cooking gear and food, however it would have also fit in our bags. The regular biking equipment goes in the frame bag or directly on the frame and includes: locks, tools, spare tube, pump, and water bottle.

The route we planned from downtown was the following:

The distance from the ferry dock on Bainbridge to Fay Bainbridge park is about 7 miles. We biked to the light rail station at Seatac, which is about 4.5 miles from our house. From there we rode the light rail to the Pioneer Square station. We decided to go up the new 2nd Ave. protected bike lane (for just one block), just to say we did. We turned down Columbia Way, which was a little complicated on a Friday afternoon during rush hour with a cargo-laden bike, and the wee-man to watch out for. We mostly walked down the sidewalk until just beyond 1st Ave. and then biked from there. Perhaps a better option is using Yesler instead.

Getting on the ferry by bike is simple. There is a bike staging lane, and the WA State Ferry staff are very helpful. Once on, you can park your bike anywhere on the side. One trick I learned observing other commuters is it’s helpful to have a bungee cord to strap your bike off to the railing. We left all of our gear on the bikes and went upstairs for most of the ride. That’s a good time to use the bathroom, fill up with water, etc.

 

On arrival, we just followed all of the other cyclists out. It was about time for dinner, so we decided to grab a quick bite at That’s A Some Pizza. To get there, you just take left on Winslow, and it is one block up. There’s no bike parking per se, but you can see your bikes from just about any part of the small establishment. We opted for the outdoor seating. The pizza was really good, and they also sell it by the slice so it was a quick and delicious meal. The kid certainly loved it.

   

With pizza in our bellies, it was time to make the 7 mile trek to Fay Bainbridge with enough daylight to set up camp. We followed Ferncliff Ave. Which has a bike lane leaving town and minimal traffic. The bike lane goes away after a while, but the traffic is light, and I never felt unsafe along the way. There is an inherent biking culture on Bainbridge, as this is one of the best ways to commute to Seattle.

From Ferncliff, the route jogs down Lofgren to meet up with Moran, which ends at Hwy. 305. There you could take Madison all the way through, but we took the more scenic Manitou Beach Dr. This is a beautiful route, as it follows the beach around the point with amazing views of Seattle.

At the end of the point, there’s a neat little bike lane that puts you up the hill and around the curve. Manitou takes a bend and runs into Sunrise Dr. which takes you north all the way to Fay Bainbridge. There is a convenience store and cafe at this intersection which is the last place to get any supplies before the park if you need them.

The stretch down Sunrise Dr. to the park is straight but is a series of climbs and descents. It’s nothing too extreme, but with all of the gear on board and towing a bike, I was panting at the top of each climb. Fortunately, each descent was enough to catch my breath for the next one. The traffic is very light through here, but taillights are recommended, even during the day. The towering trees that border the road and occasional wildlife create an ethereal backdrop to bike through.

The last stretch to Fay Bainbridge is downhill, so it’s a pleasant way to end the ride and catch your breath. We made it there just before 8 pm, and we were rewarded with a stunning sunset. We threw the tent up and then went straight down to the beach to witness the best entertainment available. It was a clear and still night, the city far in the backdrop, sailboats drifting in the distance, and the golden, orange light of the setting sun was all we needed.

We lit a little camp fire as it was getting dark and hung out below the stars for a bit before hunkering down for the night. We woke up to overcast skies, and shortly thereafter a light drizzle came down. We weren’t that compelled to hang out on the beach in the rain, so we got everything packed up and ready to make the trek back. Just as we were setting out, the rain fortunately let up for us. The ride back down Sunrise was smooth. We stopped at the Rolling Bay Cafe for some really good breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and conversation with the locals there.

 

Just after setting out again, the rain caught up with us and came down relentlessly the whole way back to the ferry. We muscled through the weather and finally made it to town. We stopped at Classic Cycle, the local bike shop, to see what they had to offer (and dry off a bit). What I discovered was a truly amazing bike shop! The selection was great and the staff was even better. I was perusing the pannier selection and was quickly approached by Jaime who was extremely helpful and friendly. As it turns out, along with general cyclery, she had a lot of experience with family biking.
The topic eventually turned to the mechanics and physiology of my kid on his bike, how he’d grown so much in the last six months, and why his current 20″ bike was both problematic and dangerous. It all made sense, the way she explained it, and I quickly realized that he needed to move up to a bigger bike sooner than later. They just happened to have a used 26″ Trek mountain bike with a 13″ frame that was in excellent condition and a very sleek “big-boy” bike. At first glance, I thought it would be too much bike, but he took it for a test ride and looked perfectly natural on it. He immediately had more stability and power, and everything Jaime had taken the time to explain to me was spot on.

I knew that we had to make this change for him to improve his biking, and a used bike like this isn’t very common. Classic Cycle took the old bike on a trade, which solved the issue of getting home with an extra bike. They mounted a kick stand, a new bell, and all of his other accessories while we went for another round of pizza.

Our experience at Classic Cycle was so great, that I would recommend stopping by there sometime soon, if anything, just to talk to the nice folks there and look at their collection of classic bicycles, but you won’t be disappointed with their offerings either.

The kid adjusted very quickly to his new ride, and we went on our merry way to the ferry terminal. We were two of three bicycles on the way back, surprisingly.

For the way back, I planned a different route from the ferry terminal to the light rail station. Instead of taking the short but precarious route up the steep downtown climbs, we went south on Alaska Way for a few blocks and then got on the Elliot Bay bike trail. The Elliot Bay trail was great, and worked out really well. It took us down to Atlantic near Safeco Field, and from there we went south on 1st, then jogged over to Occidental all the way to Lander and on to the Sodo light rail station. We pulled up just as the train was arriving, loaded up, and we were heading south again. There was another biker in our car who was super friendly and we were able to exchange stories on the way down.

  

We take the train to the end of the line, Seatac airport, but I’ll be happy when they finally finish the new Angle Lake station. It shaves about 1.5 miles off of the route, but more importantly it eliminates the need to ride through the sketchy International Blvd. area. There is a new road along the station that puts you out on 204th. From there, you can ride the sidewalk just to the next intersection which is 208th, and then cut down to 24th, which parallels Pacific Hwy., has a bike lane, minimal traffic, and is a very easy ride.

Overall, we rode about 15 miles on the first day and about 17 on the second. This was a great weekend getaway, and a great warm up to future longer bike camping trips. I now have a better idea of what I can pack and fine tune for the next trip. Also, the Fay Bainbridge outing is now something we can do at the spur of the moment. I highly recommend this trip when you have the opportunity. Of course, the kid was pretty happy with his reward!