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.
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.
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.
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!