At Pit Stops for Kids, we’re fans of adventurous travel for kids, so it will come as no surprise that when we want to get away for an adults-only vacation, my husband Charlie and I prefer an active, outdoorsy pursuit of our own.
We also love wineries, outside-the-box local lodging, and farm-to-fork dining, indulgences absolutely possible to enjoy with kids, but— if we’re being honest here —even more enjoyable as a couples getaway. How to combine everything we like into one getaway? We found LifeCycle Adventures, an Oregon cycle tour company that offers customized cycling getaways.
Check it out!
Tony’s Oregon itineraries include a Willamette Valley tour, focusing on area wineries and featuring rolling terrain and quaint college towns, and a Columbia River Gorge tour, which takes cyclists around Mt. Hood before dropping them into the spectacular Columbia River Gorge at Hood River. We sampled a bit of both, so I could tell all you cycling parents out there which to book. As it turns out, we couldn’t decide which we liked better, so the good news is, you can’t go wrong.
Willamette Valley experience:
LifeCycle Adventures’ Willamette routes take cyclists from the outskirts of Portland through Forest Grove to McMinnville or Newberg, both in the heart of wine country. I say ‘routes’ instead of ‘route’ because every tour is customizable. Before embarking, we had communication with Tony via email or phone, during which we outlined our cycling experience (not much) and our objectives for our trip (to work up just enough of a sweat to ‘earn’ nice meals each evening). From our information, Tony compiled three route options per day, all ending at the same lodging location but offering various mileage. We could then choose our route as late as the day-of, after assessing sore muscles.
We started our journey with a quite easy 20 mile ride from beautiful Stewart ‘Stub’ State Park along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, which is a car-free bike path. At the tiny town of Banks, we transitioned to quiet country highways en route to Forest Grove. We had a great lunch at Maggie’s Buns, then transferred by van (hello, Tony!) to our accommodations in McMinnville. Along the way, we stopped at several Willamette Valley wineries, which we absolutely could have accessed on bike, had we wanted to ride all the way into town.
Along the way, Tony was only a phone call away, should we need him or the services of his passenger van, outfitted with bike racks, extra water bottles, the rest of our luggage, and plenty of Clif Bars.
We spent the night at A’ Tuscan Estate, a quiet and understated B&B located just a few blocks from downtown McMinnville. Quite possibly, A’ Tuscan Estate is the loveliest B&B we’ve ever experienced. Owners Jacques and Liz are perfect hosts, with a fountain of knowledge about food, dining, and the hospitality industry (just read any of the numerous books on these subjects authored by Jacques, all available for perusal in the living spaces).
We strolled the quaint downtown of McMinnville, stopping in at tasting rooms and concluding our night at La Rambla, a polished downtown eatery with Spanish cuisine. At A’ Tuscan Estate, we enjoyed an entire suite in the inn’s Craftsman bungalow, where we had a full kitchen, patio, garden, and living room should we need it. For breakfast, chef Jacques put together an amazing three-course feast, which included three kinds of juice, local fruit, a light-as-air quiche, and homemade pastry. Try getting on your bike and riding after that!
Columbia River Gorge experience:
Cyclists opting to tour the Columbia River Gorge start in or around Government Camp, Oregon, at the edge of Mt. Hood. Those wanting to go further can start lower, and begin with a climb…no thanks! We coasted from Cooper Spur, picking up speeds up to 30 miles per hour on the steep decline from the mountain. Once deposited into the fruitful valley, we stopped for a picnic lunch at a fruit stand (there are plenty en route) and then geared up (pun intended) for a steeply rolling route into Hood River. We tackled closer to 30 miles on this day, and found that with just a few stops (once to try a flight of ciders at Red Tail Fox Farm, once to take in a view of the river and Gorge), the mileage was very do-able. We rolled into Hood River around 5 pm, and checked into Villa Columbia.
This beautiful B&B is situated right off the Columbia, with views from just about every corner. The comfortable living room and dining room are available for guest use, as are the porches and an upstairs sitting room. We were in easy walking distance of Hood River dining, and decided that after our longer ride, we deserved a beer. Full Sail Brewing overlooks the river, where we could watch kite surfers while enjoying a flight and burgers.
From Hood River, cyclists can continue to follow the Columbia on day 3: we opted for the Historic Columbia River Highway, closed to cars, which parallels the river toward the Dalles. More ambitious cyclists could continue on the historic byway, but 20 miles was enough for us on Day 3!
What LifeCycle Adventures provides, and who it’s for:
We are on bikes about once a month at home, and do not consider ourselves to be serious cyclists. Because LifeCycle Adventures customizes all their itineraries, it’s a perfect getaway for anyone who is active and comfortable on a bike. For those who are ready to go out and kill it, Tony has routes for you, too.
During our trip, we came to think of LifeCycle— and Tony —as our personal concierge. He picked us up daily, transported all our luggage to our B&Bs, checked us in (so we could just jump into a shower the minute we arrived), provided us with lunch and dinner recommendations, and, best of all, provided us with detailed route instructions, tailored specifically to us.
Here’s an example of our itinerary. In addition to this, Tony offers many more maps and support documents. We felt safe and in control at all times.
This customization was perfect for us: we are familiar with the area and comfortable on bikes, but not familiar with biking the area. Every morning, we had a briefing with Tony, during which he showed us our route on a map, then —and this is the kicker —provided us with detailed step-by-step directions and maps, which we could keep at the ready on our bikes. We were equipped with bike pumps, directions, snacks, and phone numbers, so we never felt overwhelmed by routes or road challenges.
Before our trip, Tony meticulously created a customized tour book with our exact routes and mileage, plus town guides for each of our destinations. I’ve never seen such detail put into a customized itinerary. If you want to try an cycling adventure but don’t want to be responsible for planning out a complicated route based on abilities, traffic, and road conditions, absolutely leave it to Tony.
Included in a LifeCycle tour is use of bikes and helmets, full route planning, overnight accommodations, which are also customizable (you pick your price range), and full ground support. Our accommodations provided breakfasts, and we bought lunches and dinners on our own.
Can kids go?
Tony welcomes families with kids, and reports that older kids and teens do best. When deciding whether to bring the kids, keep in mind that while the riding can be modified to fit almost anyone, the general pace of a cycling trip is more leisurely than most kids enjoy. We lingered over meals, slept in (wow!) and spent most of each day on a bike or at a winery or fruit stand. Kids who are very into cycling will love it. Others may be looking for a more varied trip by Day 2. You decide!
How to book:
There’s a wealth of information on the LIfeCycle Adventures website, and I recommend doing a thorough reading, then calling the company to talk to someone in person. Tony and his team will be able to plan something perfect for your abilities, budget, and time frame.
As I disclose whenever applicable, we experienced our cycling itinerary as compliments of LifeCycle Adventures, for the purpose of review. All opinions…and sore muscles… are my own.