Jason Mar 29, 2016
It is interesting how the more familiar you are with a particular area, the less likely it is that you will spend time really getting to know it. We stop looking closely and miss out on opportunities. I'm not often much of a tourist while riding, but for my March Gran Fondo I selected two specific destinations to visit while on my ride. In fact, one of the surprising things on a bike is just how many locations and experiences are easily accessed and how enjoyable and satisfying it is to reach them under your own power. It gives the destination a context that is lost when you arrive at more than 25 miles an hour.
For this ride, I headed west, looping through the agriculture that makes the Willamette Valley so renowned. My first destination was the Erratic Rock State Natural Site. This is a remarkable 90-ton rock from the northern Rocky Mountains perched on a Willamette Valley hillside surrounded by fields and vineyards. The massive hulk was deposited on the slope when an enormous flood of water rushed down the Columbia River Gorge and washed up the Willamette Valley, leaving evidence behind. It's interesting to imagine the dramatic changes in the surrounding region to which this boulder bears mute witness.
After a quick snack while letting the rock block the breeze to keep from getting chilled, my route swung back east through the community of Amity, with a brisk climb over the Eola Hills, to my second destination: the Wheatland Ferry. I'd been on this ferry once before (also on my bike) but it had been years since that adventure. What a beautiful time of the year to cross the river on the ferry! The water was running high and swift, but the warmth of the sun made it feel like a summer day. It's also pleasant to have an enforced break on a ride and to simply enjoy the experience for a few minutes. It was peaceful standing on the ferry with the water and wind sliding past. You leave the launch and are immediately tugged downstream by the current. It's strange to look back and see how far you drift. As the ferry chugs along, it gradually heads back upriver to the launch on the far shore. (If you decide to go in the winter or spring, be sure to check to make sure the ferry is running. They close it down if the water is running too high. I almost had to change my route for this Gran Fondo due to high water at the ferry.)
It was hard not to note that if all of the drivers waiting for the ferry on both sides of the river had instead been on bikes as well, the entire lot of us could have crossed the river in one go, with plenty of room to spare.
Both of these destinations were locations I've thought about visiting multiple times when driving past in a car, but I was always on the way to something else and didn't take the time. As I've gradually reoriented my life towards riding more in place of driving, it's amazing how many of these local adventures are to be had. Not only am I continually finding new things to explore nearby, but each of these adventure rides also deepens my appreciation of the region in which I live. I feel more connected to my home as I build a greater understanding for the environmental context. Exploring your local area often leads to exciting new discoveries in your own backyard.
Perhaps striving towards time efficiency in transportation as a dominant goal has negative side-effects that aren't immediately apparent. For me, the journey is becoming just as important as the destination.