I awoke several times throughout the night to the sound of the rain beating on our tent from above. I had foolishly hoped that the unseasonably warm spell we had had the prior week would stick around. But as a native Pacific Northwesterner, I know better than to believe such nonsense. Everyone knows the official summer starts after the 4th of July.
The rain abated by the time we awoke as we packed our tent and ate a breakfast of rice cakes topped with peanut butter and banana. We were glad to have a sheltered area with a picnic table that kept our bikes and bags dry overnight and hoped that the rain would stay away.
Of course, as soon as we packed our gear and finished our final bites, the rain returned and would last throughout the day, coming and going in strong waves. The next several days would deliver chilly cloudy days as we made our way along the the 134-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway from Champoeg State Park to Eugene, Oregon.
After cycling in South America, where cycling routes don’t exactly exist, we were delighted to find that the entire Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway was labeled with signage and arrows pointing us in the right direction. I had downloaded the cue sheet and map for the bikeway, but hardly had to use it. We only pulled out our phones a few times to check directions at some intersections. What I’d love to see in the future is mileage added to the signs indicating how far to the next destinations for the next 30 or so miles and major cities. One day, I hope that Oregon will come out with something like Germany’s Bett and Bike Program, which informs cyclists of mileage, places to camp, where to find food, and other amenities.
For more of our favorite finds about cycling in Germany, read our post High, Low, Sleeper: Germany.
Becca, from Oregon Wine Country and Stephen from Eugene Cascades Coast put together an amazing vegan and dog-friendly itinerary for us during our trip that would take us to several breweries, restaurants, and accommodations that all welcomed both Sora and our diet. As we set off, we knew we were in for a treat.
Day 1: Champoeg State Park to Salem
We departed early, our destination Salem, 40 miles from Champoeg State Park. Passing storms dropping heaving rains would require us to stop frequently to don all of our waterproof gear, only to have to take it off a few minutes later. I rode most of the miles in my winter set up: waterproof gloves, booties, rain pants and jacket. I wished I had had my buff to cover my numb chin. The calendar indicated June, but the weather said otherwise.
The rains caused our surroundings to glow a brilliant green. In the lushest part of the state, this meant that the hops fields, vineyards, berry patches, and hazelnut groves shone as they drank nature’s bath. I dreamed of the beer made with those very hops we’d be guzzling that evening after our soggy ride.
The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway signs directed us through Salem along neighborhood roads, easing the usual stress of attempting to navigate an unknown city on bicycle. Just before reaching our B&B, we happened upon the dog-friendly Salem Saturday Market just before stalls began to shut down for the day and went in search for lunch. But first dessert. When you happen upon a vegan bakery en route to lunch, we make that a priority. I bought the last cinnamon roll and Dave indulged in a marionberry jam pastry that we devoured before finding real food. We passed on the vegan paella for the soba noodles and fried rice from the Japanese stall. Unimpressed, we wished we had gone for the paella.
We met friends at Taproot Lounge + Cafe in downtown Salem for dinner. A bit of a sleepy town on a Saturday night, we enjoyed our golden hour walk to the restaurant. Taproot has something for everyone, with plenty of vegan options. We both went for the curry bowl, washed down with a local IPA from Santiam Brewing. We left Sora at home that evening since it was a bit chilly, but there are several outdoor tables that can accommodate dogs.
Jean, our hostess at Century House went above and beyond to accommodate our bicycles, Sora, and our vegan diet. An avid cycle tourist herself, who has cycled in 33 states, she knew our needs well and made us feel right at home. Where she really scored was breakfast. She sat us down and delivered plate after glass after bowl of food to our seats. We started with a huge fruit salad topped with coconut cream, followed by a green smoothie loaded with fruits, and ended on a quinoa porridge bowl with toast and local jam, all accompanied by Steel Bridge Coffee—carefully selected coffees delivered by bicycle. Knowing we had a long day ahead, she sent us off with bellies filled with foods that would last the journey.
Day 2: Salem to Corvallis
The rains seemed to dissipate and we were gifted a partly cloudy day for the journey ahead. Our first stop was Ankeny Vineyard, located right on the route. The beautiful grounds overlook the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge and Sora was welcomed inside as we sipped wine and ate lunch.
With his flu , Dave wasn’t feeling up to the 50 miles we were set to cover that day, so we veered slightly off the bikeway to cut off 15 miles by taking the Buena Vista Ferry. We met several riders out for the day who chatted with us about routes to Corvallis and asked about our travels with our Sora.
We arrived in Corvallis around 5pm where I promptly began to suffer from allergy attacks I wanted nothing more than to scratch out my eyeballs and rip my face off. I tried my best, but no luck.
Our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, overlooked the Willamette River and was located just a few steps from the waterfront path. Our luxuriously cozy bed begged us to retire for the evening, but we had beer to drink. We never pass the chance to eat and imbibe at one of our favorite dog-friendly breweries, Block 15 Brewing. With plenty of vegan options and too many delicious beers from which to choose, we fueled our bodies after a long day and walked back to our hotel along the waterfront path.
Day 3: Corvallis to Brownsville
We hardly slept in our cozy bed thanks to Dave’s cough and my allergies that would rob us of our much-needed sleep, but the short day ahead left us with time to see a bit more of the city. Becca, from Oregon Wine Country took us to Peavey Arboretum/McDonald Forest just outside of town so we could give Sora a longer walk and visit some of the nearby natural areas in town.
A darling college town with decorated with colorful flowers and bike lanes on just about every street, we were a bit sad to not be able to stay longer. We picked up tofu bahn mi sandwiches from Baguette and packed our bags to head out for the day.
Seventeen hundred people call the town of Brownsville home. Made famous by the film “Stand By Me,” Brownsville is a pioneer village with vintage charm. The town opens the quiet and peaceful Pioneer Park to cyclists for overnight camping. Before leaving, be sure to stop in at Randy’s Main Street Coffee. Non vegans will enjoy the selection of homemade pastries that made us briefly reconsider our diet.
Day 4: Brownsville to Armitage State Park
On cue, the rains began as soon as we sipped our last drop of coffee from Randy’s. With the toughest climb of the ride ahead, we geared up and set off on our final day on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.
The skies cleared soon after and we even spotted some blue above as we eagerly made our way to what was perhaps our favorite stop on the bikeway: Agrarian Ales. Located on the longtime family farm, you won’t find traditional PNW hoppy IPAs served from the taps here. That’s because Agrarian grows 100% of the hops used in their beers. A true farm-to-table brewery, much of the food served out of the restaurant is grown on the property and that which is not, is purchased from the farmers’ market in nearby Eugene, used to make one of the best pizzas in the Willamette Valley. They are also super dog-friendly and took in Boo, a stray who wandered on to the farm several years ago.
A short ride away, we spotted our last bikeway sign directing us into Armitage Park Campground, a stunning 57-acre park situated alongside the McKenzie River, complete with a two-acre dog park and river trails.
We felt almost sad to have completed our first scenic bikeway. The longest of the three we would tackle, the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway proved a beautiful starter ride before hitting the more challenging McKenzie Pass and the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeways.
Have you cycled the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway? What did you love and where did you stop and visit or sleep? Tell us in the comments below!