(August 3 – written by Dave)
Today we were back in the saddle after a few relaxing weeks off in Portland. It was nice to have a break. Keeping with the relaxed theme, we enjoyed a nice brekkie with Jan on her back porch. Thanks again for everything Jan! Temperatures were actually quite pleasant on the deck, not too hot yet. That would change as the day progressed.
I mapped a fairly bicycle friendly route out of Portland. I was expecting there to be some traffic but it was not actually too bad. We took back roads to Tualatin where we found Cook Park and stopped for a slice of watermelon – a parting gift from Jan and a really nice treat as by then it was starting to heat up.
In Cook Park we met up with a couple riders who while lightly loaded, looked like they were on a big trip. We only spoke with them briefly as they zipped past us on their light weight bikes. We didn’t give them much more thought until we saw them and the rest of their group out at the Red Berry Barn fruit stand out on Highway 99 past Sherwood.
It turns out that they were a group of young folks (well, younger than us) who were part of an organization called Bike and Build (www.bikeandbuild.org). It looks like a great organization, check out their webpage – great to see young people doing good work and riding their bikes. The group started in Yorktown, VA a few days after we left Fairbanks and were only 2 days from the end of their ride in Cannon Beach. They were in great spirits, though somewhat sad that their ride would soon be completed. All 36 riders who started the ride were still riding – they stay in churches most nights, having camped just 6 days so far. Naturally while at the berry farm, we enjoyed some treats. Neither of us got past the marionberry turnovers.
Back out on Highway 99, we had an uphill and a downhill before we reached Newberg and the cooling climes of Starbucks. This was the last real stop before our planned stop at Champoeg Park. By now we were reading over 100 on our thermometers. We were still debating riding 25 miles past Champoeg to a hotel and A/C or staying at the park.
A word about the haze in today’s photos. Turns out that in addition to the heat, we also have smoke from distant BC, Canada wildfires to contend with. Makes for some interesting pictures but a wee bit hard on the breathing.
At the park, we pulled into the hiker biker site and had further discussions. The campsite was nice but it was only 12:30 and pretty hot. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to sitting 100+ degree temps for an afternoon and decided to ride onto Salem and find that cool hotel.
Before that, more about Champoeg State Park. Champoeg – pronounced “sham-POO-ee” – is an old historic town south of Portland, Oregon. It is now a “ghost town” but it was a pretty important place in the 1840s. It was on the Willamette River and half-way between the two biggest towns in Oregon (Oregon City and Salem). It was the site of the first provisional government of the Oregon Country (which became the state of Oregon).
In the 1840s a local group gathered to discuss weather Oregon should be part of the US or the UK. They voted 52 to 50 to join the US. I’m sure that everyone at the meeting felt pretty important casting their vote but I’m not sure it would have matter much as the powers that be in Washington DC and London had already agreed to make the boundary further north. Champoeg lost out on being named the capitol when the Oregon Territory was officially formed in 1848 and even worse, was completely wiped out when the river rose 55 feet above normal levels in 1861. It never really recovered from these events – leaving today just a few plaques and one building as the only records that the town ever existed.
Back when we lived in Portland, I used to have bike races out starting at the current day park. So I’ve seen a fair bit of the park either riding fast in a race pack, or sitting at the registration booth when our club was putting on the races. In other words, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the park and seen very little of it – so it was great stopping (for the first time ever) at the information centre.
I always thought that the name Champoeg was of French origin but learned on this trip that is actually an Indian name. The language was called Kalapuyan, spoken only in a small local area around Champoeg and is today officially extinct.
We peeled ourselves away from the A/C equipped visitor centre and back out into the heat. We had nice quiet roads leading south – through farm and orchard areas. There were lots of hazelnut orchards, hops and grain fields. And man was it hot. Nancy was reading 105 on her thermometer by now. We drank a lot of water (steaming hot from our bottles) and wet our heads and neckwear several times (thanks Linda for the cooling neckwear – it worked!).
The heat has made the wild, roadside blackberries ripen very quickly. We could only take so much riding past bush after bush before we pulled up to pick a few handfuls for a snack and a bag for eating later. They are very tasty and will be a nice supplement for next few days, at least until we head up into the mountains and out of berry country.
With all of our pondering, about riding on or stopping, we sort of missed out on lunch (other than the blackberries). And our route on the back roads missed any convenience store stops we might have had out on the bigger roads. We were pretty excited when we came upon the Jones Farm fruit stand about 10 miles short of Salem. It didn’t take either of us very long to pick out blackberry milk shakes for a late lunch.
It was still stinking hot but the shade and ice cream revived us enough to be able to ride onto Salem where we found a bargain priced Motel 6. The check-in/lobby area was filled with an almost scary collection of oddballs and goofy folks. Not that we were exactly “normal” – two fully loaded touring bikes in 105 degree afternoon heat. Just goes to show you that “normal” has many definitions depending on your perspective. As for the room – well, I did say bargain – we’ll probably keep our flip-flops on most of the time in the room. At least the A/C works so we’ll recover from today’s heat.
We didn’t get very far for dinner. We picked out a Mexican restaurant only about 50 meters away but we when found out that their A/C wasn’t working, we decided to go across the street to a Chinese place. We managed to eat about half the food that they brought us. We know that we should really split dinners here in the USA but we always seem to forget, especially when lunch was nothing more than a blackberry milkshake.
Today’s longer than planned ride makes tomorrow’s ride only about 38 miles. We’ll still try getting out early as the heatwave is forecast to last one more day. We may get to Corvallis too early to meet up with niece Anna/Claire but I’m sure that we can find a Starbucks (or equivalent) coffee shop with A/C to kill a few hours.