Editor’s note: I’m bringing this article from last summer back in the hope that it may be helpful to those of you considering family bicycle trips.
I recently returned from a successful week-long bike trip to the Oregon Coast with my two boyz, Max (18) and Gabe (15). Max is a serious cyclist who typically rides 200+ miles a week and races in Seattle’s underground (non-team) events. Gabe is a strong rider, but juggling and acrobatics are his main passions.
We began our trip by riding our bikes and gear to Seattle’s King Street Station, where we boarded an Amtrak train bound for Eugene, Oregon. Amtrak has a limited number of runs that enable you to hang your bike in the baggage car. Most runs require that the bike be boxed in one of Amtrak’s boxes. This is an inconvenience best avoided if possible. The baggage car has hooks for 6 bikes, so advance reservations are recommended. The 6-hour trip to Eugene was very relaxing and cost only $130 (one-way) for all 3 of us and bikes. I hate driving or even being in a car. Amtrak was the perfect way to travel.
We arrived in Eugene at 8:30 PM and headed to a motel less than a mile from the train station. It had received decent reviews online, but I believe the reviews were posted by the motel owners and their friends. Our “No Smoking” room may have been tobacco-free, but I suspect it was the site of many crack-smoking and binge-drinking events. Fortunately, once the air conditioning got up to speed, the Lysol cleared and the room became a bearable cave for the night.
We went out on our bikes in search of dinner and had the good fortune to get a recommendation from a college student we met at a crosswalk, who sent us to the Pizza Research Institute. Having grown up in an Italian section of Brooklyn, I consider myself a pizza connoisseur. While they do not make Italian-style pizza, I am thrilled to be able to say they make the best “natural-style” pizza I have ever eaten. We ate there at the start and end of our trip. Pizza Research Institute is in and of itself a good reason to visit Eugene. Our favorite was chevre, marinated eggplant & carmelized onions on an unbleached flour crust. I am getting hungry just thinking about it. The atmosphere and decor of this restaurant is eclectic, creative, and original. In an age of crappy American franchises where the likes of Domino’s and Papa John’s are endemic (perhaps “epidemic” is a better word), Pizza Research Institute is an oasis of hope.
The next morning we headed out on our bikes toward Florence, on the Pacific Coast. I had researched routes online, but stopped at a reputable local Eugene bike shop, Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life to confirm whether or not my route was a good one. As it turned out, it was not a good one, and the store manager drew me a terrific map that would take us to the coast on a beautiful bike-friendly scenic route. Since I still struggle with maps we managed to take a wrong turn. We stopped at a Mini-Mart for drinks, and debated whether to back-track several miles or take an alternate less scenic highway. We were befriended by a Willy Nelson look-alike who convinced us that the highway all cycling sources told us to stay away from was even better than our original route and much closer. Since it was hot and we like Willy Nelson, we took his advice. As it turned out, Willy was wrong. While his route (Rt. 126 Eugene to Florence Hwy.) was the most direct, it was the least bike friendly. On our return trip we took the scenic route (Rt. 36) and although it was winding and indirect, it was gorgeous — traversing rivers, creeks, and lakes. Moral of the story is “don’t trust Willie Nelson”. We did arrive in Florence on the Pacific that same day though, after cycling 80 miles. Our first destination on the coast was to explore the Oregon Dunes.
The Oregon Dunes is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. Some dunes tower up to 150 meters above sea level, stretching approximately 40 miles north from the Coos River in North Bend, to the Siuslaw River, in Florence. The dunes adjoin Honeyman State Park where we camped. The campground has a separate secluded campsite for hikers and cyclists, so we were not sleeping next to Winnebagos. The campground is fantastic and well-maintained. Hot private showers are a wonderful thing after a day or more of serious cycling. At $4 a day per person, it is an amazing deal. There were about 20 cyclists camping in the spacious campsite that night. Many were cycling the entire Oregon Coast into California, including one couple who were cycling from Portland to California to get married.
After a few days at Honeyman, we headed north on Hwy. 101 to Yachats (YAH-HOTS), one of our favorite places in the world. The 28 mile ride had significant elevation gain as the coast changes from dunes to a mountainous rocky geography.
This area is spectacular. We saw whales from the overlooks and sea lions just about everywhere. We set up camp at Beach Side State Park in Yachats and rode our bikes 4 miles into town for meals — sometimes on Hwy. 101, sometimes on the beach. The food choices in Yachats are terrific. We ate breakfasts at the Green Salmon Bakery, an amazing earthy cafe that serves organic natural-food meals, baked goods, and locally roasted coffee. They produce a portion of their electricity with a wind generator outside their front door. We ate lunches at Luna Sea, a small chowder house serving handcrafted slumgullion, chowders, and fish & chips. For dinner we ate at the Drift Inn, a tavern-style eatery that served a wide variety of excellent food, and featured live music by professional musicians who were passing through. There was always a line to get in.
Yachats is the kind of place you don’t want to leave. In winter it’s a great place for storm watching. In Spring and Autumn you can watch the annual Gray Whale migration from the beaches and overlooks. In Summer it reminds me of the Big Island of Hawaii. Once we were in Yachats, we settled in and felt less motivated to put big mileage on the bikes. The weather on the Oregon Coast is dramatic and completely different from areas 30 miles inland. When temps were over 100F in Seattle and inland Oregon, it was only in the 60s on the coast. I thought my son Max was crazy for packing wool pants and sweaters, but he made good use of them on the coast. The cooler temps were perfect for cycling (and sleeping).
I bought a new ultralight tent for the trip. Weighing in at just under 7 lbs., the MSR Mutha Hubba is a terrific tent for bike camping. Gear weight adds up quickly, and you can feel the weight of every extra pair of socks on long steep climbs. Although the nearly $400 price tag is not cheap, it is a very well made tent. I figure it paid for itself after a few days of not staying in motels. It’s now part of my collection of gear that I hope will keep me seeking new outdoor cycling adventures.