Note all the goodness carried by bike on a previous trip: full size pans, olive oil, English muffins, fresh eggs…

Every summer Andy and I bicycle the in between places. Never the most popular and usually lightly peopled, there’s a definite charm to being off road and off the beaten path. Unlike the ultra-light bikepackers, worried about every ounce, we often bring panniers carrying more stuff than we need- comfort stuff like a puffy pillow, or fun stuff like bags of chips and jars of salsa, or inexplicably silly stuff like a #8 cast iron skillet.

Given the rapid pace of climate change and its wake, for last summer’s adventure we tried to find a place where we’d avoid wildfire smoke, be kept cool by the shade of trees, and pedal on trails or gravel roads with car traffic so low that it we’d see vehicles per day, if that (not per hour or per minute as we would at home).

We roped Vince into joining us and after poring over a few forest service websites, and yes, paper maps, we sketched out a rough five-day, circular route from the pastoral Willamette Valley, over the Coast Mountains out to the Pacific Ocean and back. All with the idea of avoiding riding on the scenic, but high-traffic and sonically annoying Highway 101.

In our planning phase we talked about what to bring and how to avoid carrying too much stuff; more out of the idea that having less stuff to deal with would make for a better trip than some puritanical virtue that being lighter would help us go faster. We go to beautiful places to enjoy them, so why would we want to get through them quickly?

Long ago we ruled out the idea of sharing tents. Andy prefers a hammock and he snores. I’m a light sleeper and want to get as far from everyone as possible. Then we moved on to food and cooking gear. No this time, there wouldn’t be a cast iron pan, but we agreed that perhaps we could share a stove, a water filter, and even plan a few meals together.

The closer it got to the trip, the more disorganized our plans became. My bright idea of meal sharing wasn’t coming to fruition- largely because I was still figuring the basic cargo carrying set up for my new bike. In the end, we all packed up without much consultation with the rest of the crew.

On departure day, Andy and I converged on Vince’s house riding our fully-loaded bikes. It was good shakedown and ensured that everything was ready to go. We then reluctantly disassembled everything so all the bikes would fit in or on Vince’s car and so that nothing would be lost on the road, and headed south to our starting point in Corvallis. It’s about 15 miles off the I-5 corridor and way off the list of cool places, thankfully overlooked by the average off-road bicyclist in favor of the mountain bike meccas like Oakridge, some 90 miles to the southeast. But for us, it fit our theme perfectly.

Its old-fashioned downtown is largely intact, the nearby OSU campus adds a laid-back youthful vibe, and just a short pedal from a good felafel place where we fueled up, we found ourselves meandering down a low-traffic road in the farm country without a single cyclist in sight- just the way we like it.

(Part 2 will be published next Friday)