Overnight Ride – Northwest Out of Philly

CampgroundSometimes it’s nice to get out of the city for a night.  Fortunately, if you live in Philly, there are lots of good options.  If you want to do the whole thing on two wheels, with no cars, buses, or trains involved, a ride out to Green Lane Park in northwest Montgomery County is a great choice.  The route is almost completely off road, following the (paved) Schuylkill River Trail to Oaks then meandering up the (gravel) Perkiomen Trail to the park, which is set around three lakes dammed on Perkiomen Creek.

If you’ve never done any bike camping and want to give it a shot, this is a perfect intro.  It was my first loaded adventure, back in 2008, and I’ve repeated it whenever an opportunity has arisen.

Official Sites:  Schuylkill River Trail, Perkiomen Trail,  Green Lane Park

Difficulty:  Easy-to-Moderate

Ride Type:  Out-and-Back

Surface:  Paved and Gravel

  ★★★★☆

Eastern Oregon Day Rides

Sagebrush and Gravel In The High Desert

Map - Eastern Oregon Day Rides
Click to open in Google Maps

I’ve visited Oregon many times over the years but, like most people, have stuck to the wet, green 100-mile strip along the Pacific.  The only exception was a weekend jaunt to the Bend/Sisters area nearly a decade ago that gave me a taste of the dramatically different landscape that lies in the high desert east of the Cascade Range.

When I returned this year to visit my good friends Steve and Laura in Portland, we agreed it was time to get out and see some of the natural wonders in the east, and to do a lot of it by bike.  The distances are long and our time was limited, so we planned a mix of driving and day rides.  We opted for two nights each in John Day, Burns, and Frenchglen.  I scoured maps and local websites to identify loop or out-and-back rides that would mix great scenery with minimal traffic, moderate distances (25-40 miles), reasonable climbing (2500 feet or less) and decent surfaces (asphalt or well-used gravel).  We decided on five rides:

Feel free to jump ahead to a specific ride:

Continue reading “Eastern Oregon Day Rides”

A Good Workout in the Hills West of Portland

If you’re looking for a day ride that’s a bit more strenuous than the Springwater Corridor or Sauvie Island, but want to avoid the stress of traffic-heavy roads, check out the Banks-Vernonia Rail Trail.  It offers nice towns, great scenery, some elevation changes, and even multiple options for camping.

Official Site:  Oregon State Parks

Difficulty:  Moderate

Ride Type:  Out-and-Back

Surface:  Paved

  ★★★☆☆

Easy Ride – East Out of Portland

Springwater PathIf you’re looking for a flat, easy, relaxed ride starting downtown or in the southeast quadrant of Portland, the Springwater Corridor is your choice.  It’s a rail trail that starts along the Willamette River near the southern end of the Eastbank Esplanade, heads south to Sellwood, then turns east along Johnson Creek and past Powell Butte to Gresham and Boring.

Most of the trail is off-road and the few road transitions are bike friendly.

Official Site:    City of Portland Parks

Difficulty:  Easy

Ride Type:  Out-and-Back

Surface:  Paved

  ★★★☆☆

Three Rides within 30 miles of Downtown Portland

Portland Day Rides Map
Click to open in Google Maps

Portland is a one of the most bike friendly cities in the US, with bike lanes everywhere, thousands of bike commuters, local bike shops in most neighborhoods, and lots of organized events.  This includes the annual Naked Bike Ride, which flashed through town while I was there in late June and early July.  BikePortland.org has a useful calendar.

I have some great friends who live in the lively Hawthorne neighborhood and are kind enough to let me stay in their basement guest suite during extended summer visits when I can enjoy their company and escape the east coast humidity.  This year, we ventured out for a week-long trip to do some cycling in the high desert of eastern Oregon.  I also took advantage of the opportunity to do some day rides in and around the city.  Each was flexible in length, with options up to 40+ miles and offered great scenery with minimal traffic concerns.

Feel free to jump ahead to a specific ride:

Continue reading “Day Rides Around Portland (OR)”

Bucolic Loop – Just North of Portland

Multnomah Channel

Just 11 miles from downtown Portland, as the waters of the Columbia and Willamette rivers flow from their confluence towards the Pacific Ocean, they encircle a bucolic piece of farm and park land call Sauvie Island.  It’s about a 60 minute ride (or 20 minute drive) from downtown Portland but feels like a world away, with winding country lanes, quaint farms, lakes, beaches, a lighthouse, and wildlife refuge areas.

Official Site:   SauvieIsland.org

Difficulty:  Easy

Ride Type:  Out-and-Back and/or Loop

Surface:  Paved
  ★★★★☆

Continue reading “Sauvie Island (OR)”

MOUNTAINS, VALLEYS, AND CANALS

ItaliaFeel free to jump ahead to another section:

Northern Italy Tour Map
Click to Open in Google Maps

My friend Steve and I have been traveling together for about two decades.  We met when I was running a home beer and wine supply store in Austin, TX and he came in wanting to get started brewing.  Unsurprisingly, much of our travel has revolved around places with good beer and wine, like Belgium and Bordeaux, Oregon and Oktoberfest.

In 2016, things changed.  He was settled into a relationship with Laura, who owned more bikes than me and had been touring for decades.  We started talking about combining our annual trip with some bike touring.

I had never done an organized tour, and it sounded intriguing.  We agreed it should be somewhere in Europe.  None of us had spent much time in Italy, so we focused on tours there, eventually settling on a bike and barge tour of the northern part of the country.  It would follow mostly flat terrain, starting in Bolzano, near the Austrian border.  The first few days would follow the Adige River to Lake Garda, then the Mincio River to Mantova.  From there, a canal barge would follow us through small towns in the Po River Delta, eventually reaching Venice.   The Bolzano-to-Mantova section would be self-guided with hotel stays.  The rest would be guided with lodging and dinners on the barge.  The tour price was just over $2000 per person, including bike rental, lodging, luggage transfer, and meals on the barge.  The total riding distance would be about 250 miles.

Continue reading “Northern Italy – Bike & Barge – 2016”

THE PERFECT ALL-AROUND SEAT BAG?

Ortlieb Stock PhotoHow much stuff do you really need to carry on your bike?  And how do you carry it?

Hmm.  That’s a “loaded” question.

It depends.  Are you commuting?  Do you need to carry a computer?  Clothes?  Are you touring?  Doing a multiday ride?  An all day ride with changing weather?

The answers to many of those questions could easily lead to the conclusion that the best solution is to install a rear rack and have the option of a rack trunk or panniers.  Most of my bikes are configured that way.  I even have a guitar with a removable neck and a case that’s fitted with Ortlieb hardware so it can be easily secured to a rack.

But what if all you are doing is hopping on for a ride after work.  It feels good to go fast.  It feels good to have a bike that’s light and nimble.  That rack is heavy, and so are the bags.  What about the drag.  you paid a lot of money for a bike with a carbon fork and lightweight components, and now your gonna load it down with a bunch of heavy luggage?  Not a chance.

I just built up a bike with the sole purpose of being my daily ride, the one I take out for a spin up the Schuylkill River Trail or out to meet friends for dinner.  It’s not going for overnight trips loaded with camping gear.  It’s not going to hop downed trees on single track trails.  But it’s going to see both pavement and gravel.  It’s going to see weather changes from morning to afternoon or afternoon to evening.  It needs to be able to carry some stuff.

Continue reading “Review – Ortlieb Saddle-Bag Two 4.1L”

I HAD A DREAM   

Schwinn Scrambler AdAt 12 years old, I had pretty well worn out the bike I got for First Holy Communion, which was a classic 70’s cruiser with a banana seat and sissy bar.  By the late 70’s, that style was falling out of fashion anyway.  The cool new thing was BMX bikes, with mag wheels and bar/frame crash pads.

Even then, I liked to know all my options.  My mother, with remarkable patience, drove me to all the bike shops in the area to check out the Haro’s, Huffy’s, Mongooses, and Redlines.  But the one that caught my eye was a Schwinn Scrambler.  I remember it being described as Candyapple Red, but that doesn’t match the old ads I see now.  They only offered it in a few colors:  Spicy Chestnut, Frosty Silver, and Cardinal Red.  In any case, it was sweet.  Schwinn’s were special back then, like Surly’s and Salsa’s now.  The tag said $200, which was a lot of money in 1978.  I started saving.  

Continue reading “Lessons from a Stolen BMX”

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF FOREIGN TRAVEL   

Hello in Many Languages

Touring in a different country can be both challenging and exhilarating.  A lot of things are different from what we’re used to, including the food, road signs, and cultural norms, but often the biggest difference is the language.  Most people view this as a major difficulty, but it can also be a great opportunity.

There is a stereotype of the American traveler who is boorish and rude. 

Definition of Ugly American

Locals might take offense at a wide array of behavior, but one common mistake is traveling with no knowledge of the local language, expecting everyone to understand English and provide written materials like menus in English.  Imagine someone from Austria or Switzerland coming to your workplace, speaking to you in German, and expecting (without even asking) that you will understand them and respond politely in their language.  Is there a chance that you might be offended?

Continue reading “Learning a New Language”