Day 46: Dallas to Portland OR: 60 miles with a 1000 to 1500 feet of climbing
Folks that I talked to seem to think it would be a pain to bicycle into Portland, but they also complained about the heat when the temperature was in the low 80 F range. In both cases I think it is a matter of what you are used to. I choose to bicycle to the Portland Zoo rather than downtown Portland, which is a mile or two farther, because I could come up with what looked like a rideable route and, using that route, I wouldn't have to deal with rush hour traffic in the central city area.
It worked pretty well and the ride into Portland was relatively easy. Other than one big hill, it was as easy a ride as I have ever done into a major metropolitan area. Not a walk in the park, but also not a major traumatic experience. Not bad.
I rode out of Dallas around 9:00 A.M. in the company of Harold, one of my Dallas friends whom I first met in '96. Earlier this summer, Harold did his own cross country ride from Oregon to Virginia, so we had had much bicycle touring stuff to visit about while I was in Dallas. Dallas streets were moderately busy, but Harold and I often were able to talk as we rode. We rode OR 223 till it joined OR 22 - a major route to Salem - and then headed north on 99W.
This section of 99W has less traffic than 22 and goes through pretty country with rolling hills and nice views. Traffic was usually pretty light and the shoulder was wide enough that we could ride almost side by side and talk. We stopped along the way to pick and eat blackberries. Life is good in Oregon! Harold and I rode at a gentle pace into the north wind, blowing at 10 mph or so, till we got to Amityville where we stopped for an early lunch after which Harold headed back, with a good tail wind, to Dallas.
I rode on north on 99W and then, in only a mile or two, northeast on OR 233. That road runs below Mcminville and cuts a few miles off the distance to Portland. It is pleasant, low traffic, and quite rural for half a dozen miles, but then it jogs north and joins OR 18 near Dayton. From this point on, heavy traffic, including lots of trucks, accompanied me to Portland.
Fortunately, there is a good shoulder almost (that is a scary word...) all the way to Portland. 18 joins 99 in a few miles and traffic congestion happens. It does get better later, when the road becomes a divided four lane highway after Newberg.
I stopped at the bicycle shop in Newberg to check my route in Portland. Nice folks and knowledgeable. They agreed with most of my road choices and suggested some roads that would be more pleasant to ride on my way to the Zoo. Using the Zoo as my destination made this kind of discussion easier both at that bike shop and later, when I visited with a bicyclist in Portland. In parts of Newberg, riding conditions were not too good - four lanes, curb, no bike lane, and heavy traffic including big trucks. There was also a bad four lane stretch a few miles before Newberg where there was a two foot wide shoulder with a bad drop off at the edge (a foot or more drop that is close to vertical - you are going down hard if you ride off that shoulder), strong gusty crosswind, and the usual heavy traffic. That was the worst part of this ride, but it lasted for less than a mile.
The first real hill of this ride comes after Newberg. It is about 300 feet of vertical at a moderate grade and leads to a nice long downhill on the other side. 99W has moderate hills from here on into Portland. I stopped about ten miles later at a Subway for a second lunch and, suitably fortified, rode on into Tigard. After crossing a big bridge over railroad tracks with no shoulder - well signed with "Bikes in Lane" I came upon the tail end of a traffic backup. This was due to OR 217, an expressway in the Portland suburbs, and, since I knew the road I wanted to take, Greenburg Dr, exits left a few block before that expressway. I got over into the left hand lane and took that lane till I was able to get to the turn lane for Greenburg.
Greenburg has a bike lane and was easy riding, except where it crossed 217, to Hall Blvd. where I turned left again. I could tell I was in a bike friendly city because drivers gave me comfortable room to ride and were looking for bicyclists when they enter the roadway or made right turns. I was only on Hall for a few blocks and then I turned right (a car turning right at the same intersection waited for me to be sure I was turning right) and headed toward the Zoo on Scholl Ferry Rd. Nice, a bit hilly, low to moderate traffic and a bike lane. I had one, very minor, problem with a teenaged driver on this road. He was pulling out of a country club - ritzy neighborhood - and blocked the bike lane with the front end of his big Volvo so that I had to swerve around him. Several other drivers in Portland had backed up as I approached in similar situations.
Scholls Ferry Rd crosses OR 10 - a major and confusing intersection, this is were I checked with a Portland bicyclist - and climbs a ridge. This is a substantial hill, over 500 feet vertical, and it doesn't have a bike lane. It really wasn't bad with two lanes going up the hill, but there was construction near the top and that section had only two lanes. Portland drivers kept it from being dangerous, but it wasn't good bicycling! At the top I headed, briefly, east on US 26, a freeway, but I only had to ride the shoulder for about half a mile (at 20 to 30 mph since it was downhill) to the next exit. The Zoo exit is clearly marked. If I had ridden to the second exit, SW Canyon, I could have taken that road, which becomes Jefferson St, on into downtown Portland.