Bike touring with a dog as practice for pandemic touring?

First of all, I haven’t done any bike trips in the last year. Heck, I’ve only peed away from home a few times during long bike rides recently! But when I think about eventually leaving home again, bike touring with Pixie in the past seems like it was perfect practice for bike touring now. Exactly two years ago, March 2019, Pixie and I biked from Portland to Eugene, Oregon and having Pixie along made for a mostly outdoor and distanced trip. While I’m totally down with the Path Less Pedaled’s bikes means business take on bike touring and think it’s a good thing to support local businesses of the places I’m passing through, having Pixie along meant I didn’t go inside anywhere or interact with many people over the four days of travel.

I tend to bring all my food and supplies along to begin with, but had Pixie not been along I probably would have supplemented my food supply with grocery and cafe stops. I wish I’d made a note of exactly what I brought along for future reference, but it was pretty boring: a bunch of avocados, a bunch of hard boiled eggs, lots of cheese sticks, tons of chocolate covered peanut butter cups, coffee, and dog food. I’ve always overpacked dog food on shorter trips so this time I packed a more reasonable amount, knowing Pixie doesn’t like eating kibble while camping. And I shared my avocados with her.

As always I took a gazillion pictures and recorded my route:
Portland to Eugene – March, 2019 – 351 photos

And the whole route on Ride with GPS.

As for the trip itself, my main takeaways were:

  1. All Scenic Bikeways are not created equal. My first Scenic Bikeway was the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway (my pix here) in 2018 and I figured all of them were beautiful and quiet. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway…not so much. There were a few awful spot–some possible to route around, some not. Which leads me to my other takeaway…
  2. I need to stop treating my solo trips as test runs for trips with the kids. I consider every single bike ride I take without the kids an opportunity to imagine making little changes, if necessary, to turn it into a family ride. The awful spots of the WVSB made me realize I need to stop doing this. Plus I should get to enjoy these solo (sorry Pixie! not really solo) trips as just for me. ALTHOUGH, my 11-year old said in passing he’d like to do a big bike trip with me and now I can’t stop thinking about a redo on our tandem bike!

I think most people would have done this ride over two days, but since I was in “practicing for doing it with the kids” mode I had planned to stretch it to five. I would have stretched it even longer, but I couldn’t find sufficient spots for camping. Not all campgrounds are open for business in March, but there also aren’t many spots to stop and camp along the way. As it was, I had to pay for fancy camping twice–at a KOA in Albany and a Hipcamp in Brownsville. If you’ve been doing the math and noticed I did it in four days, not five, that’s because it was raining on the Monday I meant to leave, plus I had to work all morning, so I decided to just add days one and two together. What a convenient side effect of planning small days and not needing a reservation until day three!

Things I’d change for next time:

  • Route my way to the Oregon City Municipal Elevator to save myself from some of the hill climbing in Oregon City.
  • Leave Salem through Minto Park instead of River Road (thanks for the tip Maria!) because that was one of the worst spots.

My other general takeaways were:

  • The roads were very clean! The sucky parts of the WVSB were gritty as well as too busy, but the quiet parts were surprisingly clean and free of litter (when I biked down from Seattle to Portland in 2016 I was appalled by the amount of litter!)
  • There wasn’t much in the way of roadkill! This, compared to the highway out to Snoqualmie Falls which is a veritable pet cemetery. The biggest dead thing I saw was a beaver, the smallest was a snake, and the middlest was what I thought used to be an opossum. And other than that, just a handful of squirrels.
  • Highway 99 (18 miles into the trip on day one, for two miles) was awful. The initial uphill part had the smallest shoulder I’ve ever seen…though that made the flat part with normal shoulder seem not as bad as it otherwise would have. This one stretch makes me think I’ll never take my kids to Champoeg State Park.

Day One
My original plan was to stay at Champoeg State Park (hiker/biker $7, 33 miles from home) for the first night, but since I combined days one and two I simply stopped there for lunch at a picnic table by the visitor center. Normally one enters the park via a trail, but it was closed so I entered via the road. There weren’t a lot of cars so it was still pleasant.

I also rode through Willamette Mission State Park which wasn’t open to camping for the season yet. It’s huge! It’s also right next to the Wheatland Ferry which Pixie and I rode across the Willamette River and back just for fun.

Our night one campground was the Independence Riverview Park Biker/Boater Campground ($10, 78 miles from home) which was a weird little spot right in the small town, but it did the trick!

Day Two
Another ferry! The Buena Vista Ferry is just like the Wheatland Ferry, which means it’s awesome and totally worth doing, even if you just rode the Wheatland Ferry 24 hours earlier.

And one of the highlights of this trip was passing through Albany, Oregon. Having grown up in Albany, California, it’s always great to visit the next closest Albany. It started raining as we arrived so we stopped for lunch at a covered picnic table. The rain never let up, but I had to explore a little bit and in front of the historic Albany Carousel I encountered a carousel volunteer who had reported to work early and had time to listen to me excitedly tell her I’m from the other Albany and take a picture of Pixie and me.

We spent the night at the Albany/Corvallis KOA (tent + dog $35, 45 miles from previous night’s camp). I didn’t like the highway 34 crossing to sidetrack to the KOA, but in looking at the official Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway route it looks like that crossing of 34 would have been even more uncomfortable with a bit of travel along the highway.

Day Three
The best day! Every stretch of road of day three was nice and quiet. I spent a little time exploring adorable Brownsville, where Stand By Me was filmed. And despite worrying my detour from the bikeway to my camp spot would definitely be up a mountain it was completely flat!

We stayed at the Sunset Farms Animal Sanctuary ($75–but now there’s a $50 option, 31 miles from previous night’s camp). This was my first time using Hipcamp since they tend to cost more than regular campgrounds, but with no other camping options it was a lifesaver. And the place was amazing! It was also nice to hide from the rain in the trailer rather than pitch my tent. Pixie didn’t take to farm life, but I had an excellent time meeting most of the 200 animals.

38 miles later I was done with my journey. Once in Eugene I wasn’t in bike camping mode anymore, though I guess it was still “practice pandemic” mode because I stayed in an Airstream trailer AirBnb, and had one outdoor conversation with the host. I visited friends outside, and mostly ate at outdoor places due to Pixie…though one restaurant let me bring her inside so that was one thing that wouldn’t fly now. Pixie and I hung out for two days and then took Amtrak home.

4 thoughts on “Bike touring with a dog as practice for pandemic touring?

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