Evergreen Museum – Grand Island Loop
It’s a perfect day of adventure: piggyback a visit to a world-class cultural attraction with a pleasant bike ride through a largely unknown area of natural beauty and back roads.
If you’re visiting McMinnville, a visit to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum should be high on your list; sure, it’s famous for Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, but even that behemoth can’t overshadow the broad collection of planes and space equipment, and the interactive, hands-on learning opportunities.
So drive out to the museum, spend several hours soaking up history and knowledge, and then break out the bikes for a wandering, basically flat route out to the scenic Grand Island area.
Because the museum is positioned just outside McMinnville, it doesn’t take any time at all to feel like you’re out in the country. A few back-road jogs take you southeast, through lush and rolling farm land.
When you cross the Lambert Slough just after 12 miles, you’ve entered Grand Island – which is formed by the slough that takes a looping route to the west of the Willamette River before rejoining it further south – creating a large “island” of agricultural fertility.
It’s also a beautiful spot, which is why you might want to stop to get a photo or two as you enter the “island.”
A short circumnavigation of Grand Island Loop Road provides a tranquil immersion into the setting. After you cross back over the slough, look for Bob’s Grand Island Grocery & Deli is a perfect spot to stop for some delicious lunch – or put together your own picnic to take to Dayton further into the route.
And it’s 8 easy miles into Dayton, a charming small town founded in 1850, before Oregon was even a state. It was the first community in Oregon to be designated as a national historic resource, and it has numerous buildings listed on the National Historic Register. In fact, you can take a little time off the bike to take an efficient historic walking tour; maps are available at City Hall.
If you’re thinking picnic, the route takes you right past Dayton’s city park, comprising the historic courthouse square and an impressive oak grove. There’s a bike info kiosk, plus plenty of shade and space to spread out and relax for a bit.
After Dayton, it’s only four easy miles back to your car. It’s a perfect time to reflect on how much ground you’ve covered – literally and figuratively – in one grand adventure.