A birthday weekend towards the coast. And car camping?

Ever since I got back into camping in 2005, I’ve pretty much done it with a bike. I can count on one hand* the amount of times I’ve driven, er, have been driven somewhere to camp. All of my current camping equipment and expertise (so to speak) is based around carrying it on a bike. “Car camping” is this big nebulous thing to me.

And last weekend I went car camping.

August 7th was my birthday. Originally I had booked four days off (Saturday August 5 to Tuesday August 8) not for my birthday but for a bike tour in Eastern Oregon that was organized by someone else. As is the nature of when you rely on others to plan your trips, it fell through a couple weeks before it happened. No problem, I have time off to do other stuff!

Normally I would just use it to do a four day bike tour somewhere else. But I wanted to hang out with my girlfriend Emee. And right now she does not bike camp, but has a van. So, why not car camp?

Well, in this part of the world, it’s not as easy as one would think. Yes, there are plenty of great places to camp. But finding one of those available on an August weekend? With only a couple weeks lead time, I found that pretty much anywhere that was reserveable was booked solid. Sure, we could free camp in National Forests and such, but for my first trip with my new girlfriend, I wanted something with…amenities. So, where?

Then I remembered a couple campgrounds to our north, both about 10-15 miles outside of Chehalis, WA: Lewis and Clark State Park and Rainbow Falls State Park. Both were off the beaten path,  far enough from the population centers of Seattle-Tacoma and Portland. Plus, both were first-come, first-served! I stayed in both before, Lewis and Clark during the Big Tour in 2011, Rainbow Falls during my PDX-Oly-Astoria tour in May/June 2012. I remember both as being pleasant. (It didn’t hurt that both had hiker/biker sites either!)

We decided to leave mid-afternoon on Friday and aim for Rainbow Falls. The two hour ride was pretty uneventful, except for the “event” of me driving most of the way so Emee could catch up on work. Yes, I still have a driver’s license, even if it’s every year or three until I actually drive! We got into Rainbow Falls around 6, and found plenty of sites still available. On a Friday night in August in Western Washington! Unbelievable. We found a good one and paid for two nights.

Rainbow Falls is along the Chehalis River. The “falls” themselves are a plunge in the rock along the river. No Multnomah Falls, for sure, but great for swimming. Emee and I didn’t get in the water, but there were plenty of others that did.

The other main attraction here is the Willapa Hills Trail.** It’s an old Northern Pacific rail line between South Bend and Chehalis now converted to rail-trail. The trail is in various states of repair, but they’ve done A LOT of work over the past couple years. It’s rideable by “regular bikes”*** from Pe Ell, seven miles west of Rainbow Falls, to Chehalis, fifteen miles east. And they are working on making the whole thing rideable by “regular bikes”. Emee and I packed bikes in the van: her Gary Fisher hybrid, my Raleigh Superbe.  We headed west to Pe Ell, took a break, then headed back to camp. The trail riding was fairly pleasant, if a bit unexciting (I hear heading east is more fun, as there’s a lot more bridges over the river). The big complaint was the gravel: while many rail-trails use a fine crushed limestone, this was more small gravel, and there were several loose sections. I probably wouldn’t mind it as much if I brought one of my two-inch-wide tired bikes, but the Superbe with 40 mm tires wasn’t as fun. Oh well, hopefully it gets graded out a bit.

And then Sunday! To the coast. This time we did have reservations at my favorite coastal park/campground in the area, Cape Disappointment State Park. Heading west down the Willapa River valley to the ocean, the hazy sunshine (we’ve been having a heat wave in Western Oregon and Washington, and fires from the Interior had been clouding the skies) was traded with gloomy overcast, and a dramatic drop in the temps. Aah. It got chilly enough that I actually put a down jacket on…

Monday was my birthday. We drove over to Astoria to hang out in the town. We stayed at a very nice hotel (Commodore) and wandered the streets on foot. On the way out of town we had an obligatory stop at the Astoria Column despite the fog. And since you were going to ask, no, we did not stop at the Goonies House, sorry.) And coming back to Portland, we rode the Puget Island Ferry, the last ferry on the Lower Columbia River!


It was a good trip. But different. It took me a little bit to wrap my head around the concept of car camping again. I’ve been used to packing light and making sure everything can fit on a bike. But with a van? Stuff that sucker up! As it is, since my gear is bike based, it didn’t take up a lot of space. But there were things that I wished I had thought of bringing but didn’t, like a cast iron skillet for cooking over the fire. I’d never think about it in my regular trips, but here it would have been a fun luxury.

What wasn’t a fun luxury was stressing out about where to camp. And I’m not used to that, since with a bike trip, one rarely books a spot in advance. Most places in the area are amenable to cyclotourists–if they don’t have a dedicated camping spot, they’ll usually make room somewhere. They ain’t going to do that with a car!

Anyways, the next camping trip will be more human powered, but a bit different…

*Assisted bike camping is different, though. There are many times I’ve put my bike on a bus, then rode ten miles to camp. But that still falls under the umbrella of “bike camping”.

**There was a bit of hiking in the state park on the other side of the Chehalis River, but since the floods of 2007 cut off the bridge across the river in the park, to get to this rump part of the park requires a several mile detour.

***Some sections are still just old railroad ballast, so they’d be excruciating to ride on anything short of a bike with 3 inch tires.

REMINDER: Proper Pedal Picnic TOMORROW, Thursday June 29!

​Yes, my final #pedalpalooza ride! 

Meet at P’s and Q’s (NE 13th Ave and NE Dekum St) at 6:30 PM tomorrow, Thursday June 29. We depart at 7. We ride approximately 5 miles to a mystery picnic destination. 

Get supplies at P’s and Q’s (or elsewhere.) Keep it classy: Dress up a bit and think of fancy (but not necessarily spendy) things to eat and drink. Don’t forget your picnic blanket! (And layers and lights too!) 

#pedalpalooza2017 #properpedalpicnic #bicyclepicnic 

REMINDER: Woodlawn Park Coffee Outside, Three Speed Ride, Slough Country Ramble TOMORROW Sunday June 25

Tomorrow! Three #pedalpalooza events that blend into each other. 

First, at 9 AM tomorrow, Sunday June 25, meet in Woodlawn Park (N of NE Dekum, W of NE 13) for Coffee Outside! Bring your own coffee to make via camp stove, or bring brewed coffee. Breakfast ain’t a bad idea, either. 

Then, at 10:30 AM, the combined Three Speed Ride/Slough Country Ramble will depart! Bring any kind of bike, but Three Speed is of course preferred. We’ll ride about 15 miles around the lowlands of the Columbia Slough. Not a loop, will end near transit/food/beverage. 

IT’S GOING TO BE HOT TOMORROW, so please be prepared! Extra water good. We WON’T have a brew up stop, but bring something like iced tea for a mid ride stop. 

See you tomorrow! 

#pedalpalooza2017 #woodlawnpark #coffeeoutside #sloughcountryramblers #columbiaslough #threespeed #threespeedride #societyofthreespeeds #threespeedmafia 

Adventure April Update

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello all! Yeah, I haven’t posted much about the wrap-up to the Three Speed Adventure April yet, and it’s half-way through May! I know, I know. I aplogise profusely.

And what can I say? Life has been hectic. The last few weeks have been Pedalpalooza deadlines, and getting ready for all the other craziness that will happen this summer. Contrast this to last November, after the October Challenge was over. Bike touring season was over, the holidays were approaching. Things winding down. More time for this stuff.

So because of this, I’m giving everyone a little more time to get their reports in. You have until next Friday, May 19th, to let me know. You can email me or send it to my PO Box. Yes, you still need to email or mail me, even if you’ve been tagging me in all of your Instagram posts!

And then I will…

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Next Three Speed Ride announced: Sunday June 25

Society Of Three Speeds

Hey all! We are gearing up for Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual celebration of Bike Fun. This year, it’s all of June! Of course I am planning all sorts of fun stuff for the month, but as like the past umpteen Pedalpaloozas, a three speed ride will happen!

This Pedalpalooza Three Speed Ride will happen on Sunday June 25th. Meet up at Woodlawn Park in NE (north of NE Dekum St, west of NE 13th Ave) at 9:45 am. Yeah, earlier this time! We’ll be taking off around 10:30 am. Here are some deets and info:

  • Coincidentally, this ride will happen right at the same time as the Woodlawn Park Coffee Outside, which starts at 9 am. So come with your coffee or tea brewing setup. (You’re going to use it again during the ride, anyways!) Some food ain’t a bad idea.
  • Yes, this ride is on the same day as Sunday…

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Finally, the Three Speed Ride Report for the April 2 ride!

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello folks! I have to say, we had a pretty good first Three Speed Ride for 2017! For one, the weather was pretty decent, a mix of sun and clouds (though at one point we did feel a couple drops) and a high in the mid-to-upper 50’s. (The only complaint there is the temp was “in between” enough that I kept on adding and subtracting a layer throughout the ride.)

We had a good turnout too, around 15 (we picked up a couple more at the end of the ride.) And the ride itself was just the right mix of ease and challenge, with an overall length of 18 miles. Some folks remarked that this was as far as they pushed their three speeds, which was a good sign. But you can push them even further than this ride!

Oh yeah, we managed to hit up four of the five…

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Three Speed Adventure April is happening NOW. And some clarifications on those rules.

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello all! We are officially in the midst of the Three Speed Adventure April challenge, which will be going on until the very end of the month (which is Sunday, April 30.) We’ve got a few people who have said “yes” so far. So if you are on board, give me a heads up at urbanadventureleague@gmail.com

I just wanted to clarify a few of the guidelines of the challenge, since there’s been some confusion, and I screwed up a couple details as well. So…

  • Please remember that the bike doesn’t have to be a three speed! As with the previous challenge, I accept four or five speed internally geared hubs, basically, what you could have gotten from Sturmey-Archer in the 1970’s.
  • As for that pesky derailleur on Bromptons, you’ll need to disable the derailleur to participate in the challenge. Note: I just said “disable”. You don’t have to remove…

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