New Year’s!

I have another Bike History post half-planned, about the bike I started riding after the Raleigh (a mixte!) but that will wait, because I’m going out of town for New Year’s!

Stub Stewart is the place I always recommend to people new to cycle touring/camping. Getting there is easy and fun: Take the MAX commuter train to the end of the blue line in Hillsboro. Take a meandering route through mostly low-traffic gently-rolling farmland, with some lovely views of the surrounding hills, to the small town of Banks. Buy your groceries (and beer) at the store in Banks (that is, some of the groceries–I’m vegan and Shawn is vegetarian, so we get most of our junk and/or convenience food here in Portland), and then after a short stint in Banks, you get on a rails-to-trails called the Banks-Vernonia Trail. It is uphill, but it’s a very gentle grade, and after some tree-lined path parallel (but not too close) to a highway, and a bit through more farmland, you’re in the official park, and there’s gorgeous forest on all sides.

The whole ride is about twenty-two miles: Eleven from Hillsboro to Banks, eleven from Banks to the park. If you ride your bike as transportation, at all, you can probably do it. I’ve heard of families on Dutch-style bikes going out there (although I think they used the cabins), if they can do it, so can you!

The only truly sucky part is, of course, right at the very end. Say that it’s winter, and you and your friends have wisely decided to rent cabins together. The last mile, it feels like, is straight up. Now, the last time I rode that stretch almost two years ago, I had a mid-70’s ten speed (the aforementioned mixte) with fairly high gearing…so I ended up walking a lot of it. The bike I’m riding now has a granny gear, and I’ve gone up some long steep hills on that bike, so I should be okay. It’s probably not as long or steep as I remember, anyway.

But say it’s summer, or early fall, and your friends are staying in the hike-in spots. Those are my favorite, weather permitting. Oh man. You’re under huge lovely trees, you’re far enough away from the main campground that you can’t hear them (and you can be rowdy if you want if you’re the only people there). There’s some nice firepits with benches, including one that’s centrally located to four or five campsites, so if you’re there with a bunch of friends, you can hang out there all day. It’s so gorgeous. You sometimes hear owls! (My favorite being the one whose call sounded like “whoooooyeah!”) I love western Oregon forests. I feel so lucky to live here.

The negative of the hike-in sites: Well, there’s no flush toilets, just a couple of (fairly nice) pit toilets and some outdoor cold water taps. If you need to take a shower you have to walk the quarter-mile-plus to the regular campsites. Oh, that quarter mile…the path to the hike-in sites is right off the parking lot to the ranger station/visitor’s center. It’s gravel. There’s a steep section. I don’t have a front rack or bags (yet), so getting my bike up there is an exercise in frustration. I have to walk the bike, and it keeps trying to slide away from me or rear backwards. Only people who’ve done this (or seen someone do this) really know how hard it is. The closest analogy is dragging a toddler somewhere it doesn’t want to go–they fight you, try to get out of your hands, and they never seem to give up. Yup. But it’s worth it, I swear! And leaving is way easier–I’m only okay at biking on gravel (I hate it with the burning fire of a thousand suns) but even I usually manage to carefully coast/brake down the hill without needing to get off and walk.

I make it sound awful! Really, it’s not. The gravel portion is over in less than ten minutes, and then you’re in beautiful forested campsites.

We’re spoiled here in Oregon, in terms of state parks. The fees are fairly low, most campgrounds have biker/biker (or hike-in) sites that are cheaper (and never full, their policy is to always make space for someone arriving by bike or on foot), they all have nice well-maintained bathrooms and hot showers. Many of them have yurts, which are sort of like a combination between a cabin and a permanent tent. They have light and heating and furniture! You still have to cook outside, though, and if you want to stay there during the nicer months and/or on the weekend you have to reserve them far in advance. Some other states apparently have yurts, but Oregon’s are the cheapest that I know of.

So Shawn and I have a cabin to ourselves tomorrow (Thursday) night, and then we’re joined by a bunch of friends, and between the bunch of us we have several cabins rented! We all leave on the second of January. I’m really looking forward to it!

In Other News: I finally put a new tube in my rear tire. A few months ago, Shawn and I were coming back from a stay near Mt. Hood when I got a rear flat. My wheels take schraeder valves but my only spare tube was presta. That tube was in there several months, and over time I mangled, and then broke off completely, the top of the valve, while inflating it. Well, I’m not going to ride twenty-two miles, carrying all my stuff, with an under-inflated tire. So I swapped it out for a tube with a schraeder. Supposedly presta valves leak less air over time, but I find them much much harder to inflate, especially since if you get the pump on wrong, they leak air like crazy. I’ve made tires flat because I couldn’t get the pump on correctly. Oh, and as I’ve learned, it’s not hard to mangle and break the top of the valve clean off.

So now I have two properly-inflated schraeder valve tires/tubes. And I got the rear wheel in the dropouts straight without too much effort for once (the trick seems to be doing it with the bike upside down on the ground/floor). And tomorrow I get to bike twenty-two miles to a gorgeous park, for one nice night of just me and Shawn, and several nights with awesome friends! See you when I get back!

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