April 17th, 2019

McMinnville Cycling: Getting Out in the Country

Full disclosure: I used to take a bus between my Salem home and downtown McMinnville so I could ride my bike home from work. Did I do it for the exercise? Sure. For the love of cycling? Of course.

I also did it for the Yamhill County countryside. I rarely went the same way two days in a row; I liked to vary it up so I could enjoy different routes, different scenery.

Not much has changed. I don’t work downtown any more but I still like to take my old Specialized bike to town and head out like I used to do. Each ride starts with a coffee, usually at Union Block on Third Street or Flag & Wire Coffee in the Granary District. Fortified by my jolt, I climb on, clip into my pedals and head out.

I’ve carefully mapped my exit along urban streets with safety in mind. If I want to head north or east, I follow Third Street to Three Mile Lane (Highway 18). The extra-wide road shoulders there provide plenty of comfort despite the high traffic volume.

My favorite direction is south, crossing the Linfield College campus before reaching Keck Drive and then Baker Street. A left turn on Baker and a quick right on Old Sheridan Road and I’m into the country.

A few hours and many miles later, I wheel back into town for some good food, perhaps a cold beer and conversation about the next ride into Yamhill County.

Where to Ride

I start my search for new routes by visiting the archive of ideas on this website. An easy ride to the Erratic Rock follows Old Sheridan Road to Masonville, McCabe Chapel and Oldsville roads. These are all low-traffic country roads that lead to the Erratic Rock, earthly litter from the prehistoric Missoula Floods.

Another good ride in the same direction is the Youngberg Hill Loop. There’s more climbing here but it could add some challenge while heading to or from the rock.

Riding along Three Mile Land takes me past the Evergreen Aviation Museum and the famed Spruce Goose. From here I can choose between the McMinnville Wine Loop, the Ballston Hopewell Loop and a few others.

Safety First

Yamhill County has beautiful country roads but many are narrow and surface shoulders are sometimes hard to find. It’s important, therefore, to ride defensively. I try to limit my time on busy roads by finding alternative ways – long-cuts, if you will – to get from point to point.

I avoid Westside Road whenever possible. Blind corners, heavy traffic, trucks and a lack of shoulders make this a no-go for me.

And, while I use Three Mile Lane, I know the narrow bridge near Joe Dancer Park normally is busy. I counter this danger point by making sure my red tail light is flashing, waiting for a big opening and hurrying across the bridge as fast as possible. Motorists typically wait for me to get across before trying to pass.

Coming Soon: Sheridan Peak

I like to pick a challenge at the start of each cycling season and this year I have an eye on riding up to Sheridan Peak. It will be a task but if I survive more than 4,000 feet of climbing in the first 28 miles, the rest will be (almost) all downhill.

Imagine the view I’ll have once I get there.

Dan Shryock writes about cycling, coffee and travel throughout the Pacific Northwest but he talks most about riding his bike in the Willamette Valley.