Oregon Adventure Part 4

If you need to catch up, feel free to read  Part 1, then Part 2, and Part 3.

Leaving behind McMinnville was just a little bittersweet. Sure, adventure awaited us on our journey – but we had just met this town and I felt like we could become good friends. I suppose the mediocre espresso we had in the morning made parting easier.

With lunches procured from the local grocer, we decided to amend our route to remove a small climb and vineyard visits, mostly due to the fact that our math showed we would be arriving before they open. Onward we pressed out of town, eventually coming upon the first truly unpleasant road of the trip – State Highway 99. With 55mph traffic (or faster) and narrow shoulders it was surprising that this is a recommended cycling route by some. Perhaps the allure of no cues (just follow 99 until you get to “X”) is the reason. Eventually we passed into the tiny town of Dayton and took a break under a massive tree in their lovely town square. From Dayton we knew services would be limited, so we filled water bottles before we pressed on, taking a nearly direct north-south route through farmland that supported many different crops. The scenery did not disappoint, and the quiet roads allowed for side-by-side riding and chatting.

McMinnville to Salem

McMinnville to Salem

These were great.

These were great.

Our first full stop of the day was at the Willamette Valley Cheese Company, which we considered a risky proposition, but one we must check out. The scare was that our nearly empty stomachs would revolt from the influx of fats and dairy products, and the generosity of the sampling hostess knew no bounds. The location was not at all picturesque, or welcoming to sensitive noses – the cows were only feet from the tasting room doors – but a worthy stop where we got to try some award winning cheeses, both from raw and pasturized milk, and fresh or aged varieties.

Thankfully our stomachs did not revolt, though the cheese had no magical powers and our bodies soon revealed signs of the dreaded bonk. At times we crawled up the slightest of inclines, finding every last bit of energy available for consumption, before finally arriving at Christom vineyards.

So as not to be rude, we stumbled in the doors, purchased two glasses of refreshing white wines, and stumbled back out onto the porch to devour our packed lunches. The friendly dogs who greeted us outside were disappointed to find not a single scrap landing on the floor below our feet.

Lunch at Christom

Lunch at Christom

View from Christom

View from Christom

Recharged we decided to try a vertical tasting of the Pinot Noir made from one specific field at the vineyard, as our excellent guide explained the weather and factors that imparted some amazingly distinct flavor profiles into each vintage. While I enjoyed the wines, Kate found them less interesting than at Penner Ash – but we both agreed that the opportunity to compare different vintages back to back to back was very educational.

Back on the road towards Salem we were greeted with more undulating terrain, including one climb on Brush College Road that we ended up repeating in a different direction to visit one final vineyard – Redhawk Winery and Vineyard. Notwithstanding the added climbing, the scenery in this portion of the ride was very nice – as was the air conditioned tasting room at Redhawk. In another bout of small-worldedness, the person staffing the vineyard happened to be a former employee of Gilgamesh Brewing – which was started by a former acquaintance of Kates.

A zooming descent on Spring Valley Road

A zooming descent on Spring Valley Road

Brush College Road

Brush College Road, Christom somewhere in the distance to the left.

Finally we crossed the Willamette River on bikes, and entered downtown Salem. We meandered around the state house grounds and the Willamette University grounds before arriving at the Century House of Salem, a bed and breakfast that would be our home for the night. We picked the Century House specifically because it is a wonderful respite for touring cyclists. The host and owner, Jean, is an avid touring cyclist herself, as well as a great bike-centric crafter and a mean cook! Jean has secure bike parking, complete with a repair stand and tools, and since she lives a car-lite lifestyle, even offered to rent us her car should we need it for side excursions from Salem.

Also staying at the house that evening was a retired couple from Ohio, who had driven to Oregon for some folding-bike adventures, and to be fitted for their new Bike Fridays a short drive away in Eugene!

Salem isn’t a great food or beer mecca – so I don’t think a stay longer than one evening is warranted – but if you happen to be touring through Salem I can’t recommend the Century House B&B enough!


Oregon Adventure Part 3

Forgive me – it has been nearly a week since we left off the story of our Oregon Adventure. If you care to refresh yourself, go read Part 1, then read Part 2.

[Scene] Daybreak over Newberg, Oregon, population 22,400. Your intrepid adventurers awake to find that nothing has gone wrong overnight. The bikes – right were they were left. No missing parts, no mysterious failures.

To top it off, the sky is a brilliant blue, the temperature is in the low 60s – refreshing to body and spirit, and the local coffee shop makes a nice espresso. Paired with a marionberry scone and a breakfast quiche, our route review went splendidly. We mapped out each day of the tour before we departed D.C., but purposely built in some flexibility to account for our changing ambitions in both the distance and winery visit categories.  Today we decided to forgo visiting one of the wineries we had planned on – cutting out a few miles and allowing for more time to explore our next destination – McMinnville. It was a worthy tradeoff.

Newberg to Carlton to McMinnville.

Newberg to Carlton to McMinnville.

Our riding was predominantly in the flat to mildly rolling floor of the Willamette Valley, which offered spectacular vistas of ridges and distant mountains throughout the morning. Within minutes of our departure we were in truly rural country. In general car traffic was very low, meaning you could be sucked into the experience of riding in the unfamiliar and beautiful country, sights and sounds of bike tires humming along and whatever thoughts you had in your head.

And – our bad luck was about to completly evaporate. As we came to an intersection we discussed the winery stops for the day – but Kate couldn’t remember the exact name of the first venue. We turned left and pedaled along until she stopped at a gravel turn-off. A sign had jogged her memory – Penner Ash Wine Cellars – open at 11:00am. I quickly looked at my GPS – 11:20 – let’s go!

Take a look at the elevation profile at the bottom of the map above – can you guess where the winery was? Yeah, about Mile 9. After a really grueling climb we were greeted at the top with spectacular views, and the tasting room staff! They offered us free tastings on account of the fact that we were their first customers of the day, and we had just climbed that steep hill – bonus! And the wine – amazing! If you have a change to try their “Pas de Nom” do not pass it up (it is a $100 bottle at retail, probably $250 in restaurants, so it isn’t a regular tuesday wine!).

Views of Hood from Penner Ash

Views of Hood from Penner Ash

We didn’t want to leave, but we eventually made our way down the hill and continued on our journey, even getting a bit of gravel grinding action along the roads to Carlton. Carlton is a pretty sleepy small town that wisely saw the wine tourism business in the valley picking up, and capitalized in a big way.  Every shop, restaurant and tasting room still retains that small rural town charm, but would be equally comfortable in a bigger cosmopolitan city. We stopped for lunch at Horse Radish (on the recommendation of the folks at Penner Ash), then meandered our way to the Carlton Winemakers Studio. The studio is basically an incubator for aspiring winemakers – they supply the labor, materials and marketing, and the studio offers the equipment and space. We were able to sample some pretty tasty small batch wines there – I recommend it!

On the road to Carlton

On the road to Carlton

Views for miles and miles.

Views for miles and miles.

Outside the Carlton Winemakers Studio

Outside the Carlton Winemakers Studio

Eventually we landed in McMinnville – which was kind of the perfect small town USA. The farmers market was in full gear, downtown was bustling, and our hotel (a McMenamins location) was pretty neat. By arriving early we got the chance to visit a few tasting rooms, where we chatted with the locals (including one of the winemakers who stopped in after work), and got a real feel for the town. Fun loving people, amazing civic pride, and what seems like an economy bouyed by great wines. Dinner recommendations were passed around, including all the little secret “locals only” places – it was a great way to end our first real full day of touring!



Oregon Adventure Part 2

6:24pm: I was holding a pedal in my hand, but only long enough to launch it at a nearby fence.


I could feel my blood pressure rising, the heat in my face. Curse words had little calming effect. This seriously messed up our plans.

6:27pm: Three minutes had passed. My phone battery was low, and the rental shop closed at 6pm. What the hell, maybe they’ll pick up.

Ring. Ring.

[WB] Hello.

[Me] YES. That bike you rented me. The pedal came off. I’m outside of Tigard. This is a problem.


[Me] Tigard. Uhh. Bull Mountain Road. There is a school nearby.

[WB] Oh, well. Can you get to your car.

[Me] Its a touring bike, I’m on tour. There is no car.

[WB] Is your hotel nearby?

[Me] I need to get to Newberg. We only rode 3 of 25 miles and I’m on the side of the road without a pedal. I need a replacement.

[WB] Well our mechanic is gone for the day, and the only other touring bike needs a new brake level. Let me see what I can do.

6:35 pm: We eventually found our way onto the school grounds and set up shop on the playground. Hoping that parents playing with their kids wouldn’t call the cops on us. I walked laps around the building, then the nearby park, then some sort of historical house – searching for a power outlet to charge the phone. 12%.

6:45 pm: Voicemail. No ring. It is so-and-so from the shop, a mechanic will come back, install the level, but it will take 90 minutes, maybe 2 hours.

6:50 pm: An outlet! Salvation!

6:51pm: It’s dead. Crap.

6:53pm: I call back. They’re still at the shop. As polite as I can be – while stressing that a pedal simply doesn’t fall off – they either stripped the threads by installing backwards, or didn’t tighten fully – that if their mechanic arrives at 8pm it will be dark. We can’t ride 20 miles in the dark to Newberg. Will the mechanic drive us to the hotel? Yes?!

Yes. They will. OK. Let’s confirm – We are at Alberta Rider Elementary School (go Bulls!). No, I have no idea where that is. Yes, google. OK. We’ll see you in an hour. *Fingers Crossed*

7:15pm: We realize we could have coasted down the hill and pushed our bikes to a nearby bar. We could have eaten dinner, calmed our nerves, and charged our phone. Too late now. We do however have granola bars, a swingset, amazing views of Mt. Hood, and a crazy story to tell. That being said, our blood pressure is still high – we aren’t saved yet.

7:40pm: A silver compact sedan rolls into the lot with a bike on a rack. Salvation?! A friendly bike mechanic steps out. Declares my rented Fuji Touring bike dead (for now at least) – no surprise there. We confirm our lift to the hotel and load things up. My spirits are lifted significantly.

8:20pm: Welcome to Newberg, Oregon. We part ways with our mechanic/savior – after having shared an enjoyable conversation learning which cool places to visit, which breweries are good.

9:00pm: We’re back on track, checked in and showered. Nearly every respectable dining establishment in town is closed, but we find one still serving cold beer and tasty hamburgers.

Day 1 of the tour is over. Things are only going to get better from here on.

I can’t release Waterfront from blame for the failed pedal – but they absolutely made it up with the after hours rescue that they provided.

At least he had this view to tide the time.  Source: http://activerain.trulia.com/states/OR/cities/Tigard/communities/Bull%20Mountain

At least he had this view to tide the time. Source: http://activerain.trulia.com

Oregon Adventure Part 1

10 days in Oregon – the land of beautiful scenery, craft beer, pinot noir and bikes. It would be wrong to call our August vacation a once-in-a-lifetime trip – but I certainly had been looking forward to this adventure for quite some time.

Hello Mr. Hood

Hello Mr. Hood

In a nutshell, our plan was to fly into Portland and pick up rental bikes – then cruise down the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway for a few days before picking up a rental car in Salem. From there the car would propel our bikes and gear up and over the Cascades to Bend (further adventure awaits) and Hood River (more adventure) and finally to Portland, where we would bike through the city for a few days before we left. Basically, that’s how it went down… with a few twists and turns.

As for route planning – there are many ways out of Portland to the Willamette Valley Bikeway, it seems the preferred route is south through Oregon City, Canby, and finally to the trailhead at Champoeg State Park. BUT (pay attention here!) the bikeway is no good. I repeat, no good. Well, that is if you enjoy wine (and Kate does). You see, the bikeway runs along the eastern banks of the Willamette River, but the wineries, preferring a east facing slope for their fruits, are all located well to the west of the Willamette. So our plan was revised, we would load the bikes onto the bus, and hitch a ride out through the sprawl to Tigard. From there we would bike to Newberg, McMinnville, and parts beyond. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has a great collection of downloadable maps that indicate the volume and shoulder size of roads well beyond the city itself – which makes route planning a breeze!

We picked up our rentals from Waterfront Bicycles downtown – probably the best place to rent from, and loaded up our panniers. We were off (well, we took the wrong bus at first, but then we were OFF!).

Bike lanes in Portland - HUGE!

Bike lanes in Portland – HUGE!

Whenever you start a tour all sorts of bad thoughts run through your mind. What did you forget, what did you pack that you won’t need, will the route work, will the roads be ok?  I admit, I did have some pre-ride jitters, but overall I felt we were ready. That we were starting to get the hand of this touring thing – daily effort, packing lists, nutrition – it felt good. We left the bus depot into the setting sun – adventure was ahead!

No more than 3 miles later, things started feeling weird as I was climbing a decent sized hill. Then, seconds later, oof, I hit the top tube as my right foot powered a downstroke.

Portland, we have a problem.



No good.

No good.

Not exactly the plan.

Not exactly the plan.




[Beer Review] Flying Dog Dead Rise

Friends, this beer wins Summer 2014. Hands. Down. When Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland bottled a new summer seasonal this year they struck at the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the residents in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Though I still hold on strongly to my New England roots, the Chesapeake Bay is really the second best place there is.

But wait you say – it is late August, pumpkin beer is out in full force, why bother focusing on a summer seasonal at this late date? Well the answer is simple – crabs.  When you buy blue crabs you buy them based on the point-to-point shell size. But the shells don’t grow continuously, crabs “size up” in the spring when they molt their shell and grow a new one (hence why spring/early summer is soft shell crab season). Once the shell hardens, the crab needs to grow into their new home, so an early summer crab is going to be “light” – lots of picking for little reward. But towards the end of August and into September the crabs are at their fattest (and people start thinking of fall foods, so prices drop too). So folks – the season for crab feasts is NOW.

Order up a few duz, and while you’re out look through the cold cases for a six or two of Dead Rise. I’ll tell you why below.



Flying Dog, despite originally hailing from the great state of Colorado, knows the Old Line State. To me it is clear that their understanding goes beyond marketing studies – they know the difference between a Jimmie and a Sook, they know of the proud Chesapeake Bay heritage, they’ve been downey ohshin, and they know when to emphasize the “O” in the Star Spangled Banner. And I appreciate that.

Combining 75 years of history with Old Bay, and hundreds of years of history from Chesapeake Bay watermen is a pretty neat thing. Adding to the “make me wanna buy it NOW” feelings are the great name – a deadrise boat is a traditional working vessel commonly found in the Chesapeake for crabbing, oystering or fishing. With a sharp V-shaped bow designed to efficiently cut through chop, and a hull that tapers to a very shallow V to promote stability and provide accessibility in shallow waters – all welcomed traits in bay waters. To top it off, a portion of the proceeds from the beer go to True Blue, a charity dedicated to helping the struggling fisheries industry and to promoting sustainable harvesting of true Maryland blue crabs. Jeez – buy your marketing/branding folks a beer, they earned it!

Great branding means nothing without great taste, and Dead Rise is a winner in this department as well. Yeah, a lot of people are put off by the concept of Old Bay in beer – particularly those northerners who don’t understand how everything is made better with a dash of his heavenly offering. On your pizza, popcorn, or wings, as a rub on steak or seafood, around the rim of your Bloody Mary – the zesty pop of spice beats out nearly every other regional sauce or rub. Take a sip of a cold Dead Rise and the taste of Old Bay is immediately familiar, but not overpowering. Give a smell, you’ll start wondering when the steamer pot is ready for feasting. Dead Rise conjures warm summer nights, gathered around a table, mallets hammering away to reveal plump morsels of sweet blue crab. And there is absolutely nothing you can’t like about that.

But lets not forget it is a pretty nice pale ale as well. Hops are patient, lingering in the background – you’ll notice they are there if you take your time between sips as they cut away at the tongue coating Old Bay flavors. The nice medium malt character rounds out the beer with a touch of sweetness. The Old Bay flavor is king, but without the rest of the parts working in harmony it could be a dud of a beer. Fortunately for us, that’s not the case. In fact, demand was so high that Flying Dog sold out of what they predicted as a 5 month supply in 8 days. So for 5 weeks this summer the brewery dedicated 65% of its capacity to this single beer.

Damn. Go get some.


Four More Bikey Books Worth Reading

Two years ago I offered up four books as suggested summer reads to enjoy at the end of a long day of riding relaxing sipping a beer, on a bike-camping tour after dinner has been enjoyed, in the middle of a utilitaire under a tree in a park, and even on those days when it is just too darn hot to ride.

I’ve torn through four more books this summer – and though the season is coming to and end (at least in our minds), I submit these for your consideration as worthwhile (bike related) reads.

Hop in the Saddle; A Guide to Portland’s Craft Beer Scene, by Bike

HopintheSaddleThis pocket sized guide to the incredible craft beer scene in Portland, Oregon will either inspire you to make a pilgrimage to this fabled Pacific Northwest republic – or will melt you into a puddle of envy. Fortunately for me, I had a trip Planned to Oregon this August!  Divided into five portions, one each for Portland’s five (yes five) quadrants – the bike describes the must visit craft breweries,restaurants, bike shops and tourist spots. A map and cue sheet is provided, and extended “Beer Nerd” routes are also provided.  I particularly enjoyed the book because it had a strong focus on local, neighborhood spots as opposed to the tourist traps. Actually, Portland seems to have strong neighborhood identities, which means that the breweries (mostly brewpubs) reflect the neighborhood identity. Same goes for the collection of “can’t miss” restaurants and bike shops in each quadrant. And of course getting around by bike is bliss – the bike infrastructure is just plain top notch.

Hop in the Saddle is available HERE.  Don’t blame me when you melt into your puddle of envy.

Mud, Sweat, and Gears; A Rowdy Family Bike Adventure Across Canada on Seven Wheels – Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie

Mud_Sweat_GearsI’m a sucker for bike touring adventures – and a family sized adventure “across” Canada seemed like it would have to be packed with valuable insights, hilarious anecdotes, and a little bit of drama. Unfortunately, the book didn’t live up to those lofty expectations. The trip “across” Canada (I say “across” because most of the time you have no idea of where the family is actually riding) is really a memoir that alludes to how much of a jerk the “Metal Cowboy” it to his wife and family, and how he eventually realizes how much he cares about them – interspersed with weird conversations about his mother, and his bedtime conquests as a young man.

I can’t help but feel that Kurmaskie writes purely to stroke his ego (which reveals itself to be fairly massive), actually – it seems that he rides to stroke his ego as well. Tortuously long days in the saddle with three young kids and critiques of all of us “working stiffs” are interspersed with actually funny and insightful commentary. It’s not all negative – the book is a fast and enjoyable read –  but after reflecting upon the 303 pages I read in two sittings I feel like I just don’t like the author.  A lot of us aspire to go on great long journeys – but none of us want to feel like scum because we didn’t abandon our family and children to pursue those dreams.

A Dog in a Hat – Joe Parkin

doginahatOn the opposite side of the spectrum from Joe Kurmaskie is Joe Parkin – an American who scraped his way to Belgium (specifically Flanders) on the advice of Bobke Roll to make his way as a pro racer. Parkin is brutally honest – of his skills, of the other riders, of the general culture of the time  (which generally centered around lying team managers, riders buying/selling races and taking performance enhancing, or decreasing drugs). It is refreshing to hear a genuine story of a man with boatloads of talent, as he learns his way in the peloton, learns about the business of professional cycling, and learns that he won’t be the champion he envisioned when he first arrived in Belgium. It was another quick, plainspoken read, though it ends rather abruptly – a segue into the Parkins follow-up book about his return from Europe and a second career in the US. I felt like I was riding along with Parkin, which is the closest I’ll ever get to riding among the pro’s. I highly, highly recommend this read if you even have the slightest interest in pro cycling.

Slaying the Badger; Greg Lemond, Bernard Hinault and the Greatest Tour de France – Richard Moore

slayingthebadgerA Frenchman en route to becoming the first man ever to win six Tours of France, an American freak of nature (in the kindest way) attempting to fulfill his destiny as the first non-European to win the grandest of Grand Tours – and both teammates. The tension, intrigue and controversy captured by Moore is evident from the outset. Moore spends the first half of the book interviewing both riders in their respective homes, craftily building narrative (and tension) as he tells the dramatic story of each rider from childhood through the 1985 Tour, which culminates in Lemond helping the ailing Hinault to Paris and a fifth Tour victory, and in turn gaining in turn a promise that Hinult will be Lemonds domestique in ’86. But things don’t always go as planned – or – things aren’t always as they seem. Hinault attacks Lemond relentlessly in ’86, and Lemond must learn how to cope, lead a peloton, and win. If A Dog in a Hat revealed the hard life of an American mid-level pro in Europe, Slaying the Badger took it a step further – the hard life of two true superstar GC contenders, and the additional stresses that factor in such a riders life.  The book is amazingly packed with details and emotion, perhaps the only reason to watch the recently released documentary of the same name is to see those beautiful beautiful La Vie Claire jerseys from ’86.