Tag Archives: travel

Biking in New Jersey

I’m in New Jersey for work at the moment.  And this trip is like no other work trip.  This trip I found an amazing, kind, generous, fellow bikey advocate to rent-at-a-steal/borrow a bike suitable for mild touring.  It’s my first experience biking in the US outside of RI/MA (as a road/fitness cyclist) and OR/WA/CA.  New Jersey isn’t what I would think of as an okay place to bike, but I’d now say they deserve their #7 ranking.

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Bikepacking from Corvallis to Crater Lake to Ashland

Bikes resting at Crater Lake(and taking public transit back)

My partner and I recently completed a 300 mile, 6 day bikepacking trip from Corvallis to Ashland (to see a play) via Crater Lake.  The views were stunning, the roads were quiet, the company was excellent.  It was an incredibly affordable week-long vacation.  We spent less than $70 on campsites and cooked most of our meals.  We opted to take public transportation back, at a cost of roughly $80 each (by bus and train).  More photos of the scenes along the way can be found here.

View Corvallis to Crater Lake to Ashland Biketrek in a larger map.

I would highly recommend the route we took.  Camping spots were well-spaced along the way and we changed our stops along the way (making it further than planned on Day 3 and Day 4).  We planned ahead for dispersed camping by bringing along a water filter and though we didn’t use it, it provided peace of mind that we could camp anywhere in the forest along the near completely unpopulated route.  The roads were very quiet and ranged from single lane, paved forest roads with cars passing once an hour to roads with wide shoulders and cars passing once every 20 minutes.  About 5% of the ride was on roads that I wouldn’t recommend, with little to no shoulder and heavy traffic, but 5% is easily swallowed for 285 miles of felted road.

So, while I would definitely recommend this ride to a friend, it is not for the faint of heart.  The climbs were unrelenting.  Even the downhills were broken up by protracted uphill battles.  We climbed around 13700 ft and descended around 12200 ft.  All with a missing brake-pad, a story for another post.

elevation profile crater lake bike-trek

Portland to Corvallis for $6.80 and 12 miles of riding

Update: To see a more serious list of options for public transportation between Corvallis and Portland (and Albany, Salem, Eugene and Newport), see this newer post.

Coming back from Portland after a short bicycle tour, we wanted to make it to Corvallis in time to put a little work in on a Monday afternoon.  Amtrak does make travelling with your bike very easy on the Cascades line, but the busses that they run on the line only have one bike-spot-per-bus, making travelling as a duo problematic.  The trains, with a cushier (although still reservation-worthy, especially in the summer) 6 spots per train, don’t depart Portland until 3PM.  And you’re still faced with a 12 mile ride from Albany to Corvallis.  And this costs roughly $24 (including the $5 bike fee).  Or, you could take the Linn-Benton Loop, with 3 spots for bikes on the front rack, for $1.25.

Or, like we perhaps ill-advisedly did, you could do this for as little as $6.80 and 12 miles of riding.

  • TriMet bus from Portland to Tigard Transit Center, $2.35
  • WES train from Tigard Transit Center to Wilsonville, free with above transfer
  • Cherriots bus from Wilsonville to Salem, $2.50
  • CARTS bus from Salem to Monroe Monmouth, $2
  • bike from Monroe to Adair Village, free
  • Benton Country Rural Transit from Adair Village to Corvallis, $0.75
All of the above busses have front-bike racks, with 2 or 3 spots.  We actually opted to disembark the CARTS bus in Independence and take a longer but more scenic bike ride to Corvallis.  We spent $5.85, enjoyed a delicious 2hr breakfast break in Salem, biked 20 miles, woke up in Portland at 5AM and were home and showered by noon.   One could imagine forgoing breakfast in Salem and the bus from Salem to Independence or Monroe and biking from Salem to Corvallis (~35 miles) and complete the trip in 4 hrs.
Admittedly not so speedy as by personal vehicle.  The other car-free options are speedier.  Amtrak to Albany plus biking or bussing into Corvallis (which, because of connections, are at best equivalent, but often in favor of biking) takes roughly 2.5 hrs.  This time is competitive with the infrequent busses (Greyhound, Valley Retriever) that connect to Corvallis, and, I would argue, competitive with the 1.75 hrs driving time.  Not only are you able to sit back and relax on the train – read a book, do some work – but you also benefit from a healthy 12 mile bike ride.  No gym membership required.

Bicycle rentals done right

So: you’re from out of town and need to get around.  You could rent a car.  Roughly $40 a day plus gas.  You could take the bus.  Roughly $2.50 a trip.  You could walk.  This takes time you may or may not have.  For easy getting-round in a strange town, few might opt to rent a bike – most bike rental places aim to provide recreation rather than transit and charge rates comparable to a car rental.  One could likely find a used bike on craigslist and abandon it for less!

The University of Victoria – or, more accurately a group of dedicated volunteer students called SPOKES at the University of Victoria – provides an amazing $3/day rental service. Sure, the bikes aren’t fancy disc-brake, carbon-fibre frames with shocks.  More well-loved, refurbished bikes.  For myself?  A well-maintained OPEC-crisis (’70s-’80s) road bike with down-tube shifters and toe clips made for a fun ride covering the 6 miles separating my downtown hotel and the conference at the university in the same time transit takes – and cheaper.  Bonus?  The joy of coffee-fueled exercise.

Thank you, SPOKES!  Here’s hoping the university continues to support your fine work.

Bicycling from Corvallis to Portland

A few days ago, despite a badly bruised (fractured?) rib, I biked with my partner from Corvallis to Portland.  We stuck to scenic country roads as much as possible, so our route was not the most direct – 80 miles became 110 as a result, making this the longest bike ride either of us had been on (in a single day).  I expected the ride to not be so bad, but to be in for a world of pain the next couple of days.  Other than my bruised rib, we both felt fine (but tired) the next day.  The ride itself was harder than expected, though – even though we’d been on 70 mile rides before.  It was quite hot and stopping for a few hours in the middle of the day was not a great option, since the ride (including regular breaks) already took nearly 12 hours.  We swapped a single set of paniers (carrying food, clothes for two days and some work) back and forth, which I would recommend if possible – it made for a nice break, both weight- and wind-wise.

Much of our trip ran along the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway (consisting of designated country and city roads).  Although the bikeway is signposted, in preparation, I mapped out our route on Bikely and imported the resulting gpx file using Trails on my smart phone.  I was glad for it, as we twice missed turns and were not clear on where to go several other times.  Since there is no room left on my handlebars for a smartphone mount (due to such safety items as light, bell and “oh shit” brakes*), the gps was relegated to a panier, which meant more frequent and longer than otherwise desired stops.  Remember, cyclists don’t have passenger seats and dashboards for maps and gps units.  Signs were not ideally placed for a cyclist.  Each turn was marked with at most one small sign, thankfully at eye level, but directly at the turn, and sometimes on the other side of an intersection, resulting in short stops and loss of otherwise maintainable speed.  Which, over 110 miles, makes a difference.  While I am very thankful for bike infrastructure (living in Oregon is a North American cyclist’s dream), I wonder how often bike routes are tested by cyclists under normal conditions.  Simply moving the signs back 10 or 20 meters could make a world of difference. Even better would be doubling up signs along the route.  But that would cost money.

We took the train back to Albany from Portland – biking the 12.5 miles from the train station to Corvallis.  One great thing about biking 110 miles is that 12.5 miles feels like nothing.

Thanks to everyone who provided us with water along the way.  No thanks to the person in Oregon City, who upon my legally crossing at a 4-way stop nearly t-boned me and yelled “Get off the fucking road” with his two children sitting in the back of his car.  Remember: bicycles legally are vehicles and have a right to use non-Interstate roads.

* An extra set of inline brake levers at the top of drop bars, excellent for emergencies and long descents.

(This post is backdated, moved from glencora.org to carfreecorvallis.com)