Day 1: Cottage Grove to Creswell - Willamette Valley Covered Bridges - CycleBlaze

June 20, 2022

Day 1: Cottage Grove to Creswell

My wife Karolyn drove me to Cottage Grove after breakfast. She dropped me off at the little covered bridge on Main Street. I asked her to take a picture of me because I know I won't get many self-portraits during this tour. On the road at 10:10 AM. Today is relatively flat and short, but with many stops.

The tour begins at Centennial Covered Bridge in downtown Cottage Grove.
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First I pedaled back and forth on Main Street to get a closer look at downtown. It seems to be doing reasonably well.

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Downtown Cottage Grove.
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Then I stopped again at Centennial Covered Bridge to take more pictures. It's a narrow pedestrian bridge, but quite long. The bridge was built in 1987 to celebrate Cottage Grove's centennial. It has very stout construction using old timbers from two dismantled covered bridges.

Coast Fork Willamette river from Centennial Covered Bridge. Built in 1987 using timbers from 2 dismantled bridges.
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Centennial Covered Bridge and Main Street.
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Then I pedaled south along River Road to the Swing Bridge and Chambers Railroad Bridge.  River road has a lot of interesting historical stuff because it's the original Oregon-California wagon road.

The swing bridge was recently renovated. New resin deck boards don't warp and have good traction. The bridge still bounces up and down when multiple people walk on it.

Swing Bridge in the middle of Cottage Grove.
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Coast Fork Willamette river from the swing bridge.
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Chambers Railroad Bridge is impressive. The privately owned bridge was built to get trainloads of logs to a sawmill. It was abandoned in 1951 after the sawmill burned down for the third time. By 2010 the bridge was leaning severely to one side, about to collapse. In 2011 a $1.3 million restoration completely rebuilt the bridge. It now includes stairs and a ramp on the River Road side, and a new city park on the opposite side. Also many detailed signs about the history of the town, bridge, and the Chambers sawmill.

Chambers Railroad bridge, built in 1925. A rare unpainted bridge. It crosses the Coast Fork Willamette river.
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While I was there two guys, obviously volunteers, showed up carrying buckets to search for trash. They said they pick up trash every day and promptly remove any graffiti that they find. No wonder the parks look so nice.

The only remaining railroad covered bridge in Oregon.
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Chambers Railroad bridge and River road. The restoration cost $1.3 million.
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After the railroad bridge I pedaled back to downtown Cottage Grove to see Bohemia Park. Across the street from Bohemia Park I stopped to take a picture of a shiny red Ford Thunderbird sports car. While stopped, an old man pulled over and came out to talk to me. We talked for 30 minutes. He's a lifelong cyclist who now mostly rides recumbent trikes. Maybe 80 years old.

I never saw colors like this in Utah.
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While taking this picture an old cyclist man stopped to talk. We talked for 30 minutes.
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I stopped to take a picture of Bohemia Park. It has a huge fountain pool and an amphitheater built into a slope. The park is empty now but I have seen it during the annual Bohemia Mining Days festival when it has thousands of visitors and a fake mining town. The festival celebrates Cottage Grove's short history as the main supply town for the Bohemia gold mining district in the Calapooya mountains.

Bohemia Park is the site of the Bohemia Mining Days festival.
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Leaving Bohemia Park I crossed Main Street to the trailhead of the Row River trail. The trailhead has a well equipped city park but two of the 3 shelters are occupied by homeless tents.

The wigwam burner indicates that the park was once the site of a sawmill.

Homeless tents occupy the park at the Row River trailhead.
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The Row River trail takes me east from downtown along the former railroad line, with no traffic signals and few road crossings. It's a low stress way to get out of town.

A couple miles east of town the trail starts to follow the Row river (pronounced like Wow). I turned off the trail to see Mosby Creek covered bridge which is about 100 yards off the trail.

Mosby creek from a trail bridge.
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Mosby Creek covered bridge is typical of the covered bridges east of Cottage Grove. They have skylights, but no windows to allow a view of the stream underneath. Maybe they wanted to discourage pedestrians from hanging out on the narrow bridges.

Mosby Creek covered bridge, built in 1920. Oldest covered bridge in Lane county.
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Mosby Creek covered bridge. Skylights but no windows.
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Then I pedaled 1.5 miles up Mosby Creek to Stewart Covered Bridge. I saw all of today's covered bridges during my Waterfalls of Calapooya bike tour in 2013. At that time Stewart Covered Bridge still had one approach ramp. I can only assume that the approach ramp was damaged by a flood. Hopefully there are plans to rebuild the approach ramp. Stewart Covered Bridge is the only bridge I saw during this tour that I can't walk on.

Stewart Covered bridge, built in 1930. An inaccessible island now.
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Stewart Covered Bridge over Mosby Creek.
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In 2013 I was able to go onto Stewart Covered bridge. I stayed on the bridge for a long time to wait out a rain shower. While on the bridge I even pulled out my stove and made a cup of hot tea. Can't do that now.

Stewart bridge during my 2013 Waterfalls of Calapooya bike tour.
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Stewart Covered Bridge is at the intersection of Mosby Creek road and Garoutte Road. I followed Garoutte road east, the signed covered bridge auto tour route. Garoutte road climbs 400 feet at 7% grade, then descends a similar amount to Dorena lake. Not an ideal bike route. The views are nice, though, and there was no traffic.

Descending on Garoutte road.
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Garoutte Road connects to Shoreview Drive which goes sort of near the south shore of Dorena reservoir. Shoreview Drive has almost no views of the lake. Most of the time the lake is far down a forested hill from the road. Trees (view blockers) obstruct the view most of the time.

Dorena dam and reservoir.
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Shoreview Drive is quite hilly and has light traffic that drives very fast and doesn't expect cyclists on the road. Cyclists are supposed to be on the Row River Trail across the lake. I was happy to have two 350 Lumen red flashers.

Rare view of Dorena lake from Shoreview Drive.
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Approaching Dorena Covered Bridge I was surprised to see that the county built a new concrete bypass bridge. In 2013 the covered bridge was the main road, with the same 3 ton weight limit that excluded a lot of traffic.

Dorena Covered Bridge, built in 1949. The bypass bridge on the left didn't exist in 2013.
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Dorena Covered Bridge is one of only two covered bridges on today's route with windows on the sides. I think it's more attractive than the windowless bridges, on the inside and on the outside.

Dorena Covered Bridge. Nice windows.
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I suppose the louvers reduce water intrusion through the windows. I only saw louvers on one other covered bridge.

Row river and Dorena Covered Bridge. Scrambling required for this view.
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After Dorena Covered Bridge I pedaled west on Row River road for a mile to connect to the Row River Trail.

Row river and Row River road. Free flowing river upstream from Dorena lake.
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The Row River Trail is awesome. It's a flat railroad bed. Part of it goes for miles along the shore of Dorena lake. Other parts go for miles in forest. I like how the narrow trail allows you to be IN the forest. Very different from pedaling on a highway in a 100 foot wide gap in the forest.

Dorena Lake and the Row River trail.
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The Row River Trail has fantastic scenery. No steep grades. No worries about traffic-not even crossroads. I think out and back from Cottage Grove to Dorena via the Row River trail is much preferred over my loop, unless you want more traffic and more climbing.

Row River trail in forest. The trail was originally a logging railroad.
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Today's last bridge is Currin Covered Bridge over the Row river. It has only one access ramp.

Currin Covered Bridge, built in 1925.
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Currin Covered Bridge. Another windowless bridge.
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Most covered bridges are painted white on the outside. A few are unpainted. I don't know why Currin Covered Bridge is painted red on the sides and white on the ends. It's the only 2-color bridge I saw during the tour.

Currin Covered Bridge is a rare 2-color bridge. Row river below.
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Traffic was much heavier when pedaling north towards Creswell.

Sears Road has easy navigation and good scenery, but also has rolling hills and moderate high speed traffic with no shoulder. Farm traffic such as pickup trucks towing giant hay trailers at high speed. Rush hour commuter traffic. It was clear that motorists don't expect to see cyclists on that road. Once again I was very happy to have two 350 Lumen rear flashers.

Christmas tree farm along Sears road south of Creswell.
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Tonight's home is Comfort Inn adjacent to the Creswell I-5 exit. The hotel is east of I-5 while the town is west of I-5. Creswell is an essential stop on my covered bridge route. Comfort Inn is the only motel in Creswell. The room cost $217. I think it's the first time I have ever paid more than $200 for a motel.

I walked west across I-5 into Creswell looking for dinner. I was too late for Creswell Bakery which closes at 6 PM. I walked past 5 or 6 restaurants that are either closed on Monday or closed permanently. Finally I found that the Round-Up Tavern was open and serving a beef stroganoff special. Cash only. Even more redneck than the Oakland Tavern near my house.

Today had great weather. Mostly sunny, high of 70F with the usual northwest wind. Sunnier and warmer than the previous several days.

Today I saw 6 covered bridges that I saw once before during a 2013 bike tour. I'm still close to home and the landscape is familiar. I haven't seen any of the remaining covered bridges during this tour. The rest of the tour will seem more unfamiliar and exotic.

In the evening I spent 1.5 hours on the phone, remotely attending a meeting of the City of Oakland Planning Commission. I'm the Chairman but can usually get away with missing a meeting during a bike tour. This time I attended in case my vote was needed for two tense public hearings for Variance applications.

Distance: 37.9 miles (60.6 km)
Average Speed: 9.4 mph (15 km/h)
Ascent/Descent: +1000/-1048 feet (+305/-320 m)

Today's ride: 38 miles (61 km)
Total: 38 miles (61 km)

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Kelly IniguezWe've run into two cash only places on this tour. This year is the first time I can remember being charged back the credit card processing fee. Now it has happened to me enough times that I don't even pause. Usually it is 3%, but we have already gotten an email from our lodging in Torrey that they charge 4%. I wonder if all of those places would happily take an out of state check? I'm sure they expect people to go to the ATM for cash.

Do you carry any sort of stove to make emergency tea, now? I debated carrying a little Esbit stove. I even bought one. It looked so cheap, I ended up throw ing it away . . . I think you could probably buy Esbit tablets and use an Altoids box.

Side note - my friends who own the movie theatre in Heber City had a lucrative deal to sell with a developer who wanted to raise the height to five stories and put apartments in the extra floors. Which was allowed. Then the city council changed the building height to two stories. Poof! There went the sale. I thought that the buyer could ask for a variance if he really wanted to buy, he just missed the deadline. I also think a five story building would look odd in downtown Heber.
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2 months ago
Wayne EstesI carried a stove for the first 3 or so years after I quit camping. Now I carry an insulated bottle instead of a stove. My present 24 ounce bottle can carry a lot of emergency tea. I don't miss the stove at all.

I stayed at a cash-only motel in Orderville, Utah last month. Cheapest place I've stayed in years. I have seen cash-only restaurants and bars but they are rare. I think most business owners put up with credit cards because customers spend more freely with credit cards than with cash. And as you mentioned, small businesses openly charge credit card fees nowadays.

I imagine the developer in Heber City would get a lot of grief from the local population if he built a 5 story building in a quaint historic district. It sounds like he would qualify for a variance because the city changed the height limit after he submitted his application. That's an interesting story because Utah is normally 101% pro development.
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2 months ago
Genny FoxGood to see your journal up! I am looking forward to following you.
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2 months ago