Photos and story by Heather Andrews
Adventure Cycling Association as a summer intern has been pretty fabulous. One
of the projects I've been working on is their newest website, BikeOvernights.org, which features
the stories of regular people--people with jobs, spouses, families,
responsibilities--sharing their favorite places to go on a one- or two-night
trip by bicycle. Our thinking is that a lot of people are intimidated by the
phrase "bike touring," and we're showing that it can start with just an
fact, I'm the site's ideal audience--I've been commuting regularly by bike in
Portland, Ore., since 1999, but my own mental roadblocks have kept me from
thinking I could ever do bike touring. Ride on the edge of a highway next to
fast traffic--wouldn't that be really unpleasant? Carry a bunch of
gear? What if I got a flat? Could I even bike that sort of distance? With
enormous hill climbs? How would I check my e-mail?
my reservations, I have done a few bike overnights. The first was in July 2009,
to Stub Stewart State
Park in Oregon. Many people I knew had done trips with Cycle Wild, and I decided to give it a
are two reasons Stub Stewart State Park is such a popular destination. The
first is that the park is only about 25 miles from the western terminus of
Portland's light rail line, MAX--and there are bike hooks on the train! Since I
live near the eastern suburbs of Portland, using MAX cuts my distance in half,
and I don't have to climb over the west hills of the city.
you're off MAX, a series of rural backroads, with just a few rolling hills,
takes you past farms growing blueberries, apples, wheat and more. If the
weather's cooperating, Mt. Hood, about 60 miles to the east, is often visible
peaking over the year's crops.
second reason the destination is so popular is because it's directly connected
to the Banks-Vernonia
State Trail. Stub Stewart is in the foothills of the Oregon Coast Range,
yet using this rail-trail makes it feel like you're barely climbing at all.
Just 10 miles of car-free glory as you whoosh past more wheat fields before
being enveloped by a shady forest of Douglas-firs.
you're in the park, the climb is a little more challenging, but it's short.
Maneuvering to the hiker-biker camp also requires traversing a gravel trail
that dips down and then back up again, for about a quarter mile. But the payoff
is sweet: an area secluded, where you can hear a gentle breeze play through
tree branches instead of the drone of vehicles. If tent camping doesn't suit
you, Stub Stewart also has rustic cabins available by
reservation--a great option in cold weather.
the way home the next morning, the slight rail-trail grade still gives you a
delicious downhill. You'll whiz down the trail at a perfect pace, barely
pedaling. Is it any wonder that Stub Stewart is such a popular destination for
What happened with
all of my concerns about touring? I've yet to have a flat on the road, largely
because I have great tires on my bikes. Avoiding high-traffic highways
largely involves not planning your
route on them, and sites like RTC's TrailLink.com are great for mapping your way via trails (sometimes, though, busy roads are unavoidable). I'm still working on
building my ability to bike longer distances. And since Stub Stewart is on the
top of a mountain, I was able to check e-mail on my iPhone!
are plenty of other rail-trails in the Portland area that could be used in
planning a great bike overnight trip. I live very close to the Springwater
Corridor, an enormously popular rail-trail that opened in 1996. It starts
near the center of Portland and can be taken to the very eastern side of the
Portland area. If you're riding a bike that can take some gravel and bumps, the
unpaved part of the trail even goes out to the misleadingly named Boring, Ore. (It's really quite nice--it
even has an Army surplus store with some great deals on camping gear.) There
aren't a lot of camping opportunities right along the Springwater, but the trail
can get you most of the way to Oxbow Regional
Park or Milo McIver
rail-trails are just two of many routes that are part of the Intertwine, an effort to connect the
region's parks, trails and greenspaces. The name is new, but the concept is
not. As far back as 1903, famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead envisioned
a citywide loop of green spaces and parks for Portland.
Even if your
town doesn't have as many rail-trails as Portland, chances are there's a rail-trail and a campground near you.
Summer is fleeting, and rail-trails can help make your first bike overnight
easy and enjoyable. What are you waiting for?
Bikeovernights.org provides inspiration,
resources and tools for short bicycle tours (1-2 nights). You'll find stories,
tips and how-to's about embarking on overnight cycling adventures, whether
you're traveling solo to a beautiful state park, lounging at a bed-and-breakfast
with friends and family, or anything in-between! BikeOvernights.org is a
resource of Adventure Cycling
Association, which has more than 44,000 members in North America. Adventure Cycling
is dedicated to inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.