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Monday, December 03, 2012

I want to ride my bicycle, Part Two: Touring

Has it really been two and a half months since by last bike overnight?
Oh me, the contrarian. As I hear the rain pound outside my apartment window, my thoughts drift towards a bike ride.

It's been over two months since my last bike camping excursion. I would have done some other camping rides after the Metzler Park adventure, as the weather was good for another month, but life conspired against me. Time has become a precious commodity these past few months, with work and obligations. But I'll be getting almost a week of time off from work, starting after Christmas and lasting until the New Year. A week off, what to do?

The obvious answer is: Go Somewhere. But where? I'd love to get back up to Vancouver, BC for this time frame. But April doesn't want to go, and I'd feel a tad guilty going without her. But the biggest hurdle is cost. This is prime travel time, and carriers price accordingly. Amtrak, my preferred conveyance besides bicycle, would cost me over $100 one way to go there. (Normally we'd be looking at around $60 one-way.) I don't really feel like spending $200 for travelling. I could go to Seattle instead, but I was just there in August and it would still be pricey, just not as much as Vancouver. Scratch that.

But what about a bike tour of some sort?

I've never really done a winter bike tour in these parts, for the obvious reasons: weather and daylight. The chances of rain are pretty high in December. While I might not get dumped on all the time, I'll get wet at some point unless I luck upon a dry spell. But daylight, daylight is something I can't get around. On December 27, the fist day that I have off, sunrise is 7:56 am and sunset is 4:28pm. While there would be some light before and after, I'll only have eight and a half hours of sunlight. That ain't much. If I were to camp, I would like to be to the campground by 3:30 at the latest to set up. And if it is raining? This means I'll be stuck in a tent for many, many hours each night. I don't mind spending an hour in the tent before I go to sleep, but five or so would be too much.
Yeah, it's cozy. But do I want to be in this tent from about 5pm to about 7am every day?

Part of me wants to tell myself to HTFU and deal, while the other part wants to figure out a way around camping during this time of year. And there are options.

I could use yurts and cabins that are located at many state parks in Oregon and Washington. But while cheaper than hotels, they'd still set me back anywhere from $40 to $60 a night. And I would need to make reservations, as it would be really chancing it to show up at a campground and expect a yurt or cabin to be available. And while there are a few hostels around, there's not enough to string a tour together.

So what else? Well, there is Warmshowers. And thankfully there are quite a bit of options either north or south of Portland. And I've already gone north recently, so south through the Willamette Valley would be the better option. I could either ride from my house, head south, then turn around midway through the valley and come back north. Or, I could take Amtrak to Albany or Eugene (prices to these cities are much cheaper) and ride north from there. There are enough Warmshowers hosts that I could do 40-50 mile days, which would be good for 8 1/2 hours of daylight. I could possibly incorporate some Coast Range riding as well, as the likelihood that there would be snow out there is much less than in the Cascades. Whatever I choose, I would want to get to Stub Stewart on Monday December 31, where a group of us will be renting cabins (again) for the New Year holiday.

Hopefully this all works out. I'll keep y'all posted on the progress.


  1. Replies
    1. I don't mind riding at night in my everyday riding. I do quite a bit of it around Portland. And my Long Haul Trucker with its dynamo hub and powerful headlight is a good steed for night riding. However, when I'm touring I prefer riding during the day. Beyond saftey issues, I like actually seeing where I'm going. Riding at night means seeing the illuminated spot on the road ahead of you. I want to also see what's around me.

      I don't want a repeat of my first cross-country drive back in 1998, where it was more about endurance and distance than anything else. We passed through whole states in the night, in the West. (Even though I crossed through Arizona and New Mexico on that drive, I didn't actually see those states until five years later.

      Also, I hate setting up camp in the dark.

      Don't get me wrong: I've ridden into the night and set up camp quite a few times on my tours over the years. But if I can avoid it, I will.

  2. Riding at night is not really so bad (aside from missing the scenery, and as you imply, perhaps the point) but as a hiker and biker... I absolutely agree, setting up camp at night is horrible. It is annoying at best, and at worst, I have made some foolish decisions in camp placement that a hint of daylight would have helped to avoid.

    1. Yeah, it's hard to figure out a good spot to place the tent (unless it's one of those sites with a tent pad), no matter how good a headlight one has.

      And you nailed it on the head re: "the point". I do enjoy a nice night ride, and if I get more into randonneuring, there will be more night riding. But touring? I want to see the scenery.

  3. I hear what y'all are saying, me, if the night riding gets me that much further out someplace it's all to the good. And plus I enjoy riding at night for it's own sake.

  4. My approach to the short days and long nights at this time of year is to come prepared: a good book, a small radio or an ipod filled with podcasts, some good port, mixed nuts and dark chocolate usually helps me pass(out) the hours until bedtime.


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