Bipeds wanted for fun adventures

KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo Steven Charleton and Andrew Witt were in Long Beach Aug. 2 after riding 130 miles from Portland. The pair of veteran cyclists completed the Naselle Loop ride and Charleton has done the North Head Loop.

PENINSULA - If you aren't too tired to get on a two-tired vehicle and pedal, the Long Beach Peninsula is the place to be for all levels of cycling excitement and challenge.  Many biped adventures begin in Long Beach  Most folks are familiar with Long Beach's boardwalk, but not as many know of the Long Beach Dunes Trail adjacent to it. The trail is asphalt and open to bicycles and foot traffic, but closed to all motorized vehicles. The path starts at South 17th Street and proceeds along the Pacific to its completion just north of Chautauqua Lodge. The gently rolling lane features a bridge, an underpass beneath the boardwalk, and a monolith commemorating Lewis & Clark's sighting of the ocean.  Views along this trail include North Head Lighthouse to the south, downtown Long Beach and the Willapa Hills to the east, and the primary and secondary dunes by the blue Pacific. The ride is about 2.5 miles one way and takes a leisurely half hour to complete the round trip, as an ocean breeze often accompanies your excursion. Begin at the Seaview beach approach and end near The Breakers motel to add another three miles of quiet back streets and local architecture from the late 1800s to your foray.  Take a tour of Surfside and Oysterville  Another "easy" ride is the Surfside Estates tour. Starting at the Oysterville beach approach, pedal into the breeze. Choose your pace and your route, climb the back dune for a view of the ocean or follow the canal and look for feeding great blue herons. There isn't much of a shoulder in places, but the traffic is light as you view the new homes springing up on the Peninsula's north end. To circle Surfside is about nine miles and a jaunt east to Oysterville on Willapa Bay can add another half dozen miles and over 150 years of history to your trip.   Check out North Head Lighthouse in Ilwaco  For the more adventurous cyclist, the Ilwaco to North Head Lighthouse loop is just the ticket. Begin at Ilwaco Market Place and head southwest towards Fort Canby. Take a right at the junction and follow the sign to North Head. If you can resist taking the mile jaunt in to the lighthouse or turning off further west at the Beards Hollow exit, you will return to your starting point at Ilwaco in five difficult miles.

Be advised, this loop features a steep climb and the road is narrow and heavily traveled in summer, but the views of the Pacific are spectacular and you could spy a blackberry patch and brake for a snack. A trip to Fort Canby State Park can add a mile to your journey and provide a rest stop at the State Park. A flat cruise to Benson Beach and back to Waikiki Beach is well worth another three miles of smooth cycling.  Test your abilities on Naselle Loop Trail  Then there is the world-class Naselle Loop Trail, challenging in terrain and distance (44 miles) and exceptional in scenery and wildlife to be enjoyed. A great place to begin is the Megler rest area just east of the Astoria Bridge. You will travel east up the long and steep Knappton Hill on State Route 4 and continue for almost 11 miles to Naselle. At the corner by the Naselle Library, go left on Parpala Road for a scenic and country-like ride through pristine woods beside the Naselle River.

A little more than six miles east you will come to Highway 101 where you will need to go left. You will skirt Willapa Bay past the National Wildlife Refuge and enjoy Long Island to the west as you travel the sometimes constricted roadway. After the bay, your ride will take you to Bear River Flats, a straight stretch paralleling the river of the same name.  Bear River a challenging journey  Bear River Hill is the final major climb of your journey. After you descend, watch for the sign directing you to Astoria and take a left. When the road T's by the KOA Campground, proceed east toward Chinook. Follow Highway 101 a short distance to Chinook Valley Road and go left again to experience a lightly-traveled route past farms and meadows to the town of Chinook.

A final eastward turn onto Highway 101 will carry you through the lighted Fort Columbia tunnel, along the Columbia River, and back to the Megler rest area. For the hard core cyclist, a tour of the 4.1 mile Astoria Bridge will add a 7 percent climb and over eight miles to your round trip (52 miles total). However, on a clear day the view of the mouth of the Columbia and Young's Bay to the west and Desdemona Sands and Mount Saint Helens to the east may prove to be impossible to resist when that right turn toward the bridge to Oregon comes into sight.  Flora and fauna greet Peninsula bipeds  Don't be surprised if a bald eagle, a playful otter, a herd of Roosevelt elk, or a doe and her fawns startle you on the Naselle Loop. It won't be uncommon to observe a fisherman catch a sturgeon, salmon, or steelhead along the way. These and many other experiences are all part of the rich diversity that is yours to see from the seat of your bicycle in Pacific County.  Bike rentals available in Long Beach  If one of these rides piques your interest but you didn't bring your bike to the beach, rentals are available. North Beach Surrey Company and OWW Inc in Long Beach provide bike rentals by the hour or by the day. Anything from an old-fashioned one-speed to a 24-speed mountain bicycle is available by calling OWW at 642-4260 or stopping by just west of the go-kart track on South 10th Street. On South Ninth in the First Place Mall, Surrey Company has similar rentals. All the accessories and equipment needed for a safe and fun trip can easily be obtained.

Of course, if two wheels isn't your bag, Dan Heiner of Surrey Company does a booming business renting the four-wheel variety. Webster defines a surrey as a horse-drawn carriage with four wheels, but Heiner explains, "The Italians build what we rent and they call them surreys, so who am I to argue?" He also rents super E bikes, which he claims, "E bikes keep up with a regular bicycle and they are real kick to ride."

If you want to get close to nature, you can rent a three-wheel, sit-on-the-sand, 'fun cycle' and zip down to the 28-miles of beach at the doorstep of OWW. Owner, Eldora Merrill, says with a chuckle, "Cycling is something the entire family can enjoy-and it is good exercise. I even ride and I'm in the 50-something crowd!"

And the Long Beach area certainly provides a memorable cycling experience for everyone.

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