What is it about a lists that makes me feel compelled to conquer them all? I have never considered myself a “stamp collector,” and always prided myself in pursuing only those places that interest me, rather than filling pages in a passport. But give me a finite list, and I have to complete it, lest I feel short changed.
I must not be the only one, as these lists are what Adventure/Outdoor magazines are made up of these days. If you want someone to read your article, put a number in it. Try reading anything travel related these days that doesn’t contain a “Ten Best,” from the ten most secluded beaches, to the Thousand Places to See Before You Die. We seem to engage more in adventures or experiences when there is a number associated with them. It’s a marketing ploy to which I have fallen victim to in my own pursuits in visiting the 58 parks with “National Park” status, as well as crossing off all 50 states. Good thing I am not a mountaineer. 😉
So when I read that Cottage Grove, a small town just 20 miles south of Eugene offered a bike route highlighting “The Six Covered Bridges of Cottage Grove,” I was hooked. The brochure promised, “You will find yourself feeling the emotions of decades of the town’s residents. Romantic and nostalgic, beautiful, pastoral, and quaint.” I’m in.
Lane County has more covered bridges than any other county west of the Mississippi. They date back from 1920 to the most recent Centennial Bridge, which was built in 1997 using recycled timber from two demolished bridges. It was built by the citizens of Cottage Grove to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their town.
The largest of these bridges is the Chambers Bridge, built tall to accommodate steam engines. It’s the last remaining railroad bridge west of the Mississippi, the last train having passed through it in 1951. It most collapsed in disrepair before restoration was begun in 2010.
I was surprised to learn that such a small town as Cottage Grove also had a 37 mile bike path, most of it a rail trail! After all, it had not shown up on my “Ten Best Rail Trails” list! 😉
Known as the “Covered Bridge Scenic Byway,” the paved, level path runs right through town. I stop at the Visitor’s Center to see if I can find a map, but they are closed so I ask a local man for directions. He tells me, “Park at the Safeway, the trail runs right behind it!” The trail continues on out of town and meets up with the Row River Trail, the “rail trail” section, then continues along the shoreline of Dorena Lake. It can either be ridden out and back, traffic-free for a total of 34 miles, or around the lake for 37 miles if one is comfortable on highway bike paths.
When I read that it is possible to see all six of the bridges by bike, well, it’s something I have to do. What I didn’t realize is that the sixth bridge is a good 20 miles away, and I don’t have that much time, especially at my speed! As anyone has figured out by now, I suffer from “Anthony-itus” in that I always seem to get a late start. No wonder Joni Mitchell’s “I’m always runnin’ behind the time….just like this train” runs through my mind on a continuous loop.
But having driven into Eugene from Newport that morning, and then another half hour to Cottage Grove, I only have enough time to complete one list or the other. Faced with the choice – see the six covered bridges or ride the bike path, I decide why not do both?! I will see as many bridges as I can cover by bike until the sun begins to set, then finish the tour in the Tracker.
This doesn’t exactly work out as I had planned, as the only road linking the bridges is closed until September for bridge repair. Unfortunately, the Mosby Creek Bridge is also the only bridge in Cottage Grove that you can drive a car through on an actual roadway. However, with most of the planks now missing, I can’t even drive a bike through! So I am forced to backtrack.
Having seen half the bridges by bike, I concede to ride back into town and finish my Bridges Tour in the Tracker. This makes for a beautiful evening drive around the Dorena Lake. However, seeing that beautiful, near level paved bike path running right alongside the entire shoreline of the lake is almost enough to make me push a moonlight ride! If only there was a little more moonlight…
“I’m always runnin’
Behind the time
Just like this train
Shakin’ into town
With the brakes complaining…
I used to count lovers like railroad cars
I counted them on my side
Lately I don’t count on nothing
I just let things slide”
~Joni Mitchell (Just Like This Train)