We created the WeBike Bike Camping Clinic in 2022 and discovered a desire to access nature without the use of a car. WeBike hosted beginner-friendly camping trips in 2017 and 2022 that wound up being big successes, and thanks to the Adventure Cycling Association Bike Overnights Mini Grant, we were able to take things even further this year.
With a grant budget that covered gear rentals, transit passes, food, and campsites, we were able welcome even more first-time bike campers.
Our journey began in downtown Portland on the TriMet MAX Blue Line. Taking the train meant we could avoid 20 miles of unpleasantly busy and hilly roads and spend 50 minutes in air-conditioned comfort. I love multimodal travel! This was also many of our campers’ first experience putting a bike on the MAX and several are planning to do so again.
We rode to the end of the line in Hillsboro, Oregon and within a few minutes were pedaling on scenic and mostly flat country roads. We enjoyed 13 miles of riding through the quiet countryside before arriving in Banks, Oregon where we stopped for lunch in the shade next to the one big grocery store in town. Within a mile we were on the lovely Banks-Vernonia Trail.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail is a rails-to-trails multi-use path with a gentle grade. It provided a shady, car-free, tree-filled backdrop for the final 10 miles of our trip. The trail got gradually steeper than the standard three-percent railroad grade as we approached the campground, and once we were in Stub Stewart State Park things got even steeper and the surface turned to gravel. Fortunately, everyone was up for the challenge, and I had made sure to describe the terrain in advance.
Our food menu was simple but tasty. Cyclists chose their own lunch at the grocery store, I distributed snacks along the route, then we had pasta and chili followed by s’mores and hot chocolate. Breakfast was instant oatmeal, homemade banana bread, coffee, and more coffee. (Hello Pacific Northwest! We love our coffee!) and then another choose-your-grocery-store lunch on the way home. I realized during our May camping trip that it would be easy to provide all vegan food, so that’s what I did for this trip. It felt great to be able to accommodate folks in this manner.
Thanks to my cargo bike I was able to transport plenty of group gear, including six tents, four sleeping pads, four sleeping bags, extra plates and bowls, and meals and snacks for 22 people. It's important to me to be able to travel without a car, so carrying extra gear for other cyclists was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
The mood was upbeat from start to finish. I usually need a while to recuperate from camping trips before wanting to tackle another one, but the next morning everyone reported that they would do it again.
Over breakfast I distributed index cards and asked everyone to write their (anonymous) thoughts about our shared camping experience, and I received wonderful feedback.
Here are a few highlights:
“I was most surprised how empowering it feels to be self-sufficient, to carry everything I needed (except for food) and get from my house to the campsite without a car. Sure I was slower than I normally am — but I did it!”
“I was surprised by how community-oriented everyone was. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming, and looking out for each other at all times, which was really awesome.”
“I want to challenge myself to ride my bike more, and go more places by bike. It is so wonderful to be with so many people who prioritize moving throughout the world by bike. It was very inspiring.”
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