We have often passed by Christmas tree farms in the summer on our way to some of our favorite hiking spots. Oregon grows more Christmas trees than any other state in the country, and the NW is the heart of the industry. I have always thought it would be fun to visit one of these farms and cut our own tree. This year there was some discussion on PDX Cargo Bike Gang Facebook page about which farms were most accessible by bike. We learned that the Holscher’s tree farm, 16530 SE Foster Road, was only 14 miles from downtown Portland. Almost the entire ride is on the Springwater Corridor Trial. I couldn’t resist giving it a try.
Ornaments from Bikecraft
Before heading out to the tree farm, we stopped by Bike Farm to check out Bikecraft. Bikecraft is a small annual holiday gift fair with handmade and locally produced gifts for bike lovers. My favorite vender was Velco Gioielli where each of the kids picked out a new ornament to commemorate our first ride to the tree farm. My birthday is in December so I picked out a one of a kind necklace made out of bicycle chain and ornamented with topaz.
Strategies for Making the Longish Ride Enjoyable for the Kids
I am learning to balance my love of long rides with my children’s threshold for being on the bike. They bore of beautiful scenery and the exhilaration of physical activity much sooner than I do. Once those thrills are over, they have little tolerance for the tediousness of the ride. If you have been on a long ride then you know that your saddle starts to get sore after a while. We adults soldier on, not the kiddos, the moment discomfort sets in we hear about it over, and over, and over until we do something about it. Here are some strategies that have helped us insure that the ride stays fun for everyone:
- Use public transportation to cut down on riding time: There are a few cargo bikes that will fit on the front of a bus like the Kinn Cascade Flier and the Haul-a-Day. My Big Dummy won’t fit, so I am relegated to the MAX. I have figured out that I can stand it upright, balancing on the Hooptie and fit pretty reasonably into the designated bike area on the MAX. I have to keep a hand on it for stability. Not sure if it is technically okay with TriMet policy to have the Big Dummy on MAX since it is still too tall to hang from the hook they provide. As it turned out, the Trimet security officers stood right next to me for part of this trip and never questioned it, so I felt reasonably legit. Since Bike Farm is near the Convention Center MAX Station, we cut out some of the ride by taking the Green Line to Lent’s Town Center MAX Station. That allowed us to take the 205 Multi-use Path to the Springwater Corridor Trail. By doing this, a 14 mile trip to the farm was cut to a 4 mile trip, boo ya!
- Plan to be flexible: In the week prior to the ride I checked out different routes. Safety, and keeping the kids off busy roads without protected bike paths or lanes is the ultimate goal, however this is not always possible. We were hoping to bike all the way home, but developed a backup plan where my husband and the kids could bike back to the Lent’s Town Square Max Station if the weather took a turn for the worse, or they had, had as much fun as they could stand.
- Pack entertainment: My kids love audio books so much that we have a subscription to Audible. Having these audio books handy on the iPod has been a miracle worker for us on long bike trips. It keeps their mind occupied and prevents them from complaining or getting rowdy on the back of the bike. Since this was a Christmas activity, I downloaded a few new audio books, the Magic Tree House Christmas in Camelot, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. The iPod was also loaded with Christmas music, and I brought our little Pebble waterproof bluetooth speaker so we could all listen together.
- Pack snacks: I always pack a few snacks, this allows us the freedom to take breaks when the children need them, or take advantage of a spontaneous stop without being worried about when the hangries are going to set in. For these cold days having a thermos of hot coco can help too. I like to bring Dixie cups; these little shots of happiness can be a quick pick me up when the murmuring starts to set in. Yet they are small enough you can spread the happiness out over the course of a long ride without putting everyone into a sugar coma.
- Plan fun stops: Planning funs stops gives the kids something to look forward to and gives them a chance to get off the bike and let their saddle recover a bit. On the way home we made a stop at Piece of Cake and enjoyed some delicious cupcakes. The shop is packed full of strange and fun antiques and collectibles. The kids had a great time playing I Spy.
One word of Caution, the last ¼ of the ride was up Foster Road. There was no bike lane and cars were traveling about 45 mph. This was not a comfortable situation for family biking. As we waited at the intersection a woman walking her dog looked on in distress. “The bike lane is that way” she offered helpfully. “We came from that direction, we are headed this way” my husband said. As we pulled onto Foster she began yelling in panic, “WHERE IS THE BIKE LANE…THERE IS NO BIKE LANE…WHERE IS THE BIKE LANE…THERE IS NO BIKE LANE…” until we were out of earshot. I don’t know which frayed my nerves more the traffic or her heckling. As it turned out the directions for Google weren’t great for getting us the last bit of the route. We had hoped to follow signs but it turns out there were a cluster of Christmas tree farms in that area and signs were pointing in every which direction. Given our discomfort with riding on Foster, we just pulled into the first one we came upon which turned out to be Couturier Christmas Tree Farm. It was a lovely farm, and the family was super nice and helpful. That night as my husband and I lay in bed reflecting over the fun of the day I asked, “Do you think that lady that was yelling at us was crazy?” Then we began to chuckle realizing that she is probably thought the same thing about us!
A Wonderful Day
Foster aside, it was a lovely ride. The weather was perfect, no rain, and 50+ degrees. The farm was cute and festive, and the kids had a great time playing among the trees. We experienced many fun surprises along the Springwater Corridor which added to the children’s enjoyment. We stopped and talked to some horse riders. The biggest thrill for my son was biking right alongside the Polar Express all lit up. What a magnificent sight for our little train enthusiast. The kids enjoyed themselves almost the entire trip. We were able to bike all 14 miles back, making our round trip 18 miles. We all agreed that it was a good time and something we would do again.
Happy Holidays to you all!
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. I would especially love to hear your tips for successful family biking and/or planning safe routes.