Last practice trip: cabin camping at Stub Stewart!

The breathtaking Banks-Vernonia Trail

Well, my third and final (I think!) practice trip is now complete. This past Wednesday and Thursday, I biked out for a one-night vacation stay in a lovely, cozy cabin at Stub Stewart State Park, about 50 miles northwest of Portland between Banks and Vernonia.

The trip was physically challenging—as I suspected and hoped it would be—so I think I got a good taste of what may be in store for me, physically, as I set out on the coming year’s journey.

I’ve done 50-mile days on a bike before, including most recently about a year ago when I went out to Estacada, southeast of Portland, and returned the same day. But I’ve never done it with a trailer before. The Chubby towed my belongings like a champ, and never felt uncomfortable to pull. However, I was rather surprised and chagrined to note that it took me an entire day (9:30 am to 7:15 pm) to make it from my door to the cabin’s door. In the past, that distance has usually taken me about seven hours, including lunch, snack, and photography breaks. This time, though, I did climb a total of at least 2000 feet—which I believe is a personal record—so that probably contributed to the time.

My trusty companion, at the start of the Fanno Creek trail in Beaverton.

This time, too, there was one extra delay: after arriving at the BG Cartel Beaverton food cart pod I’d heard so much about—and ordering some Buddhist Delight to snack on for lunch and then save most of for dinner at my destination—I discovered to my consternation that I had managed to forget my bike lock! (You may recall that on my previous practice trip, I forgot my helmet. I don’t like this pattern.)

Fortunately, a quick Google map search revealed a bike shop just a few blocks away, so after lunch I headed over there, wheeled in my entire rig, and purchased a new U-lock, which if I’m honest was overdue anyway, so perhaps my forgetfulness was a blessing in disguise. I was also able to use the restroom at the bike shop, so all in all it was a worthwhile stop.

I got back on the road, and the temperatures continued to climb as I found beautiful farmland scenery, but sadly quite a dearth of shade. After an hour or two of riding in these conditions—continuously sucking down water from the hydration pack I learned I would need by taking my first practice trip—I found a small spot of shade and pulled over to rest a bit. I was soaked in sweat. My weather app told me the temperature was 93. I estimated I had about another 25 miles ahead of me, including 906 more feet of elevation to gain.


But I did it! And after just a few more miles, I blessedly reached the Banks-Vernonia trail, with its ample shade, abundant blackberries, and countless sweet cherry trees which—remarkably at this point in the season—continued to drop their bounty of fresh and “sun dried” fruit all over the path and the grass surrounding it. A good chunk of my delay can probably be attributed to my resultant fruit feasting!

Those extra 906 vertical feet turned out to be almost entirely spread out over the 15 miles or so of very gently inclining trail. I didn’t get to any real hills until I actually reached the park, found the welcome center, and then had to ascend for another half-mile or so, though I admit I was thoroughly spent by that point, so I walked/pushed the bike up much of that last hill, pausing a few times to rest and then occasionally ride another short stretch.

I found the cabin nestled down in a hollow (as I descended, I thought, “this damn well better be the right turnoff! I’m not climbing back up out of this place tonight!”) and was the perfect haven to rest and relax.

There were families in most of the surrounding 14 cabins in the “village,” but the noise was manageable, and the kids next door to me were adorably friendly and exuberant to be camping.

Helmet hair alert!

I showered. I unpacked. I took in the view from the porch. I took a brief walk up a hill to sit at a picnic table and watch a sunset over stunningly beautiful wooded hills.

Sunset just behind my cabin

I wolfed down the rest of my food.

That night was one of my most restful nights of sleep in recent memory. All of my (numerous!) stresses about everything I need to take care of in the next month before I leave seemed to melt away in the wooded oasis.

The next morning, I awoke slowly, at a luxurious pace, and then went for a walk in the wooded trails. The light on the greenery was breathtaking at times.

Around noon, I packed up my things and wheeled up out of the hollow. The next 15 miles or so—back on the trail—were now on a slight downhill, so I was able to glide easily through the shady woods. I feasted once again on the cherries, then made my way back to Hillsboro, taking a different route through dry August western Oregon fields. Once in Hillsboro, I hopped on a light-rail train back to downtown Portland, saving myself at least 20 miles of pedaling. Just a few stops before I was to disembark, I noticed another passenger deboarding the train with his own, folded-up Brompton! Wow. I cross paths with people riding Bromptons around Portland maybe about once a month or so, but it was quite a kick to see someone who had been on very same train with me.

August in western Oregon. I rode past miles and miles of this terrain. (I love all the oaks!)

I biked the three or four miles back up a slight hill to get home, and soon set about diving back into “everything I need to do to get ready for this journey,” including packing up a few more boxes to take to my storage unit. I was back in the “real world,” and there was work to do.

But I’m so glad I took that trip! The escape from “reality” was so welcome, and the physical challenges of the distance, the heat, the hills, and the forgotten lock all showed me that I’m ready to do this.

One more month!!

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