I live a very full life day to day. My wife and I stay very busy with 4 kids – 3 in secondary education, and one in preschool. On top of that, we are involved in community organizations and I co-own and help run multiple technology businesses. On many days I’m up at 5:30 or 6 to help get the kids up and off to school, then I’m out to the office by 9, meetings or projects throughout the day, off to some activity for kids or family, help with homework, tuck in kids, catch up on home stuff, and finally shut it down around midnight or later. Then back up the next day to do it again. At nearly 40, it takes it’s toll more than it did 10 years ago, and hardly provides the right schedule for massive amounts of riding or training. Yet some days, the sun, moon and stars all align, and I’m able to take advantage of some great cycling, right out my backdoor. If you haven’t ridden in the north Salem and Keizer area, here are some great options for you…
On days when I’m working from home, or a Saturday morning when we have nothing planned, I like to sneak out and squeeze out one of these routes. The great thing about these routes are the fact that I can start from my driveway, and choose my distance of 12-42 miles or more, and choose ahead of time, or as I’m out. This gives me great flexibility with a hectic schedule. If I see that I have an open hour coming up, and the weather is cooperating, I can run out and do a quick 15 mile loop. If I’ve got 2-3 hrs to spare (rare as that may be) I can go out and hit the 32 mile loop.
Now if you don’t like miles of beautiful farming country backroads, these routes aren’t for you. If you don’t want to go 10-15 miles on a sunny weekday morning and only see maybe 3 or 4 cars on the whole ride…don’t click on these links. If you don’t want to have to wave at other smiling cyclists who are all thinking “how in the world did we get so lucky to be living right here!” then click off the page, because these are beautiful out of town routes I’m talking about here. So from shortest to longest, here they are, in miles from my front door:
1. The Windsor Island Loop – 12 Miles
Bikely Link for Route – This was my first real ‘distance’ loop of any kind. I rode this on a Trek Navigator before I knew there was anything as simple and beautiful as a roade bike. I burned some decent calories, and nearly popped my head off when climbing the one good little hill on the route. Now that I’ve ditched the sofa sized seat, and energy sucking shocks, this is a great route for a fast ride, or for those days when I only have a short amount of time, or when I’m going out for a nice stroll with my wife or kids. Watch out for Windsor Rock trucks, but they’re usually very good about watching out for you. Also, there’s one dog that everyone knows about around these parts…so far, I don’t think he’s eaten anyone.
2. Windsor Island Out To Willamette Mission State Park – 22 Miles
Bikely Link for Route – If you want to get out past 20 miles, you can keep heading north when you hit Wheatland, rather than turning back into Keizer. This takes you out to the historic place where Jason Lee first founded a mission back in 1834. This is also the site of the Largest Black Cottonwood in North America where I’ve found myself taking pictures of each of the Torelli’s I’ve owned and ridden out to the park. I’m a geek. Watch out here…when the lower part of the park is flooded, you’ll still find cross racers and world travellers popping out from the park trails on freezing cold days!
3. Windsor Island to Waconda to Howell Prairie to Hazelgreen – 32 Miles
Bikely Link for Route – Just before hitting the state park above, you can head out east a bit and make a 30+ mile loop that goes through more farm country and enjoy some really great roads. There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens about halfway out on this route. When you turn off of Waconda on to Howell Prairie, you actually start on an incline. I don’t know if it’s the changing of direction after a long straight stretch, or the change of pavement types, but on the incline here, I ALWAYS go faster up this slight incline than I was on the flat away. I like to stop at the old schoolhouse for a water/powerbar break. Watch out for Hazelgreen drivers – the shoulder has a little inch tall ledge between different asphault pavings.
4. River Road to the Bankers Cup in St. Paul – 42 miles
Bikely Link for Route – When I decided to do the 75 mile Livestrong Challenge in my first year of cycling back in 2007, I had to start adding in some longer rides. One of my favorite 40+ mile routes was a trip out to St. Paul and back, with a halfway stop at a little espresso shop called The Banker’s Cup in downtown St. Paul. When the 4th of July Rodeo isn’t happening, there’s really not much going on here….the Banker’s Cup is the only place to refuel, other than a little mini mart. Also, know that the shop is only open until 2 pm, so get out early. The coffee is good here, and a couple of shots in a cup, and a blackberry scone are an amazing halfway motivator.
If you live in the Salem area, you owe it to yourself to hit a couple of these routes. And if you’re coming in from outside of town, these are some great options on this side of town to keep you rolling!
Ride safe, get out and enjoy the sun — cold as it may be!