Corvallis is a great place to live to as a bicycle camper/tourer. My partner and I have done several two-day bicycle tours on weekends over the summer, mostly to Alsea Falls, which I’ll blog about later. Planning these trips takes some time: which campground to go to? will they have a spot available? do they have firewood? which route to take? is it paved all the way? does it have logging trucks? So, I’m going to try and get in the habit of broadcasting the results in the hopes that I can save some other bicycle tourist in the Willamette Valley some time and effort.
Last weekend’s trek was supposed to be to Silver Falls. A lucky call to the campsite ahead of time let us know that most of the tent sites were closed and they were booked up for the weekend. A scramble to find another off-season campground that was open and available for a Saturday night led us to John Neal Memorial Park in Lyons, OR.
The route: Most of the biking I’ve done near Corvallis has been hilly: up into the Coastal Range. This route was perhaps the flattest 50 mile ride I’ve ever taken, in Oregon or not. It runs across the Willamette Valley from the base of the Coastal Range to the base of the Cascade Range. The route I have given is the route we came back on after learning that we could avoid some industrial areas north of Albany and slightly busier roads leading to Stayton. I was utterly amazed that the quiet farm roads were paved. For a long stretch of perhaps 15 miles between Jefferson and Stayton, we could count on one hand the number of cars we saw.
Stops along the way: At about the halfway point we stopped at Green Bridge Gardens where we regretted the amount of food we brought with us. We still stocked up on pears, peaches, raspberries, cherry tomatoes and a (small) marionberry pie that we heated up over our campfire later that night. The farm made a great lunch and water-refill stop. Close to our destination, we happened by Trexler Farm which, normally only open for lunch, happened to have an open door where Sharlene Trexler was happy to serve us some delicious, locally-roasted and much-needed coffee and even more delicious home-made pumpkin bread. Sharlene let us know that in the future we could call up and arrange to have a meal after-hours. Breakfast the next morning found us at Your Country Kitchen, a not-so-greasy family-run greasy spoon.
The Campsite: When we first arrived at the John Neal Memorial Park, I’ll be honest: we were disappointed. The campground is just at the edge of Lyons, OR (a town of ~1000) and so felt quite … municipal. The campsites are very close together with not much privacy. However, only about 5 of the over 20 sites were occupied, so we were able to camp in a stretch without any gorvs in site. When dusk fell, we felt like the only people there. Dead silence. Firewood was available for purchase at the two nearby convenience stores and a house on the way to the campground. We went with the latter for convenience, but the firewood was from leftover lumber, not in log form, and took away from the romance of a campfire. Add in the luxurious shower facilities, and the night wasn’t so bad.
Next time: The route was gorgeous and quiet and safe. I would ride it again in a heartbeat. I plan on trying the campground at North Santiam State Park, a walk-in/boat-in site, which is across the river from John Neal Memorial Park. It was already closed for the season this time. John Neal would make a good back-up site, though. I would also recommend it as a ‘beginner’s destination’ as the ride, though long, was very flat.