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New ‘Bike To The Eclipse’ website offers routes, tips and inspiration

Posted by on August 15th, 2017 at 9:36 am

We’re just one week out from the total solar eclipse and many people are freaking out about potential traffic jams. If you believe the Oregon Department of Transportation and local newscasts, roads will be clogged from Portland to Ashland for days.

What if instead of carmageddon, the eclipse spurred the largest mass bike ride Oregon has ever seen?

After all, this is Oregon! We love bikes and the outdoors and we’re not afraid of a little adventure. What if thousands of people scrapped their awkward and inefficient automobiles and rode their bikes into the path of totality? Imagine bicycle riders streaming happily by on highway shoulders as people sit idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic. (It’s not hard that to imagine since the same phenomenon plays out twice a day during Portland rush-hours.)

A new website created by a Portland man aims to make biking to the eclipse more doable for more people. “Don’t become traffic. Join the movement” reads the top of BiketotheEclipse.com.

“We knew that people could use support and the idea was born to create a route and an opportunity for people to join a common movement of bicycles all the way to and from the eclipse.”
— Neal Armstrong, BiketotheEclipse.com creator

The site is the work of Neal Armstrong and a crew of volunteers. Armstrong owns Axiom Event Productions, a business that counts the City of Portland’s Sunday Parkways among its many clients. Armstrong says he and his team have created routes and accompanying emergency action plans for nearly 100 organized events all over the country.

The idea for the website started as a way to offer his volunteers and staff who work Sunday Parkways (which happens this Sunday August 20th, one day before the eclipse) more information about how to bike down to see the eclipse. “As we started looking at this route and event, we realized just how many people had the exact same idea to bike the the eclipse,” Armstrong shared with BikePortland. “We knew that people could use support and the idea was born to create a route and an opportunity for people to join a common movement of bicycles all the way to and from the eclipse.”

Armstrong realized that due to many unknown risks, an organized Ride to the Eclipse wasn’t possible. Instead, he’s offering the website as a general resource and tool for collective organizing.

The site is full of tips and includes maps of bike-friendly routes to the path of totality.

Well-versed riders will probably have no trouble finding friends to join them for the journey. And others have already committed to guided rides like the ones we highlighted back in June. But for the average person who doesn’t think of themselves as a hardcore rider, this site could be just the thing they need to make plans — or to change their auto-centric ones.

Here’s an excerpt from the homepage:

If you have the skills and equipment to do it, biking to the eclipse is an opportunity for the adventure of a life time. But it’s also imperative that you be prepared to be entirely self-sufficient.

This website serves as a hub for people biking to the eclipse on Monday, August 21st to connect with others who had the same idea, ride a common route, and plan ahead to help each other. Meet up early. Ride safely in numbers. Support each other with assistance and supplies. Strengthen the community to help everyone who bikes to the eclipse enjoy the spectacle, and most importantly, to return home safely.

The site also offers a packing list and detailed time estimates to various viewing points depending on how fast you can ride. There are also suggested meetup times and locations to encourage people to ride together.

Most helpful for DIY eclipse riders are the GPS-linked routes from Portland, Eugene and Bend

If you want to hitch onto an existing group ride, there’s one leaving the Safeway on Barbur Blvd on Sunday night.

Or if you plan to stay in Portland, consider joining the Human Access Project’s Eclipse Party on the Willamette River that’s being co-hosted by the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (who says the Willamette has a clean bill of health).

For more on how to bike the eclipse, see this article by BikePortland subscriber Tom Howe.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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50 Comments
  • Adam
    Adam August 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Sharing the roads with thousands of frustrated drivers trying to get to the eclipse? No thank you. I’ll be riding up Tabor instead. Seems like a good tool for people who feel more comfortable than I cycling on rural roads, though. I’m actually kind of bummed since riding to the eclipse legitimately sounds fun, but all the cars will likely ruin that experience for me.

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  • bikeninja August 15, 2017 at 10:01 am

    That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for cycling. ( sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

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  • Allan Rudwick August 15, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I’m so pumped for this. E-bike should make this easy. I’m curious what the roads will be like w/ all the cars.

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  • B. Carfree August 15, 2017 at 10:11 am

    I dearly hope that the routes are generally much better than the one shown from Eugene. No sane person would ride that route; it’s simply deadly.

    Yes, I would love to be able to exercise my right to ride on all legal roads and I do acknowledge that by refusing to do so I am admitting that the terrorists have won. However, to recommend to folks who may not know any better that they ride on roadways that are known to be deadly for all users is irresponsible, imo.

    Of course if we do see the cars brought to a standstill it might be possible to ride that route with reasonable safety, but that would require that the cars be gridlocked for the entire route for the entire time one is riding. I don’t think that’s a good bet.

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    • Adam
      Adam August 15, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Oh, and if you want to bike from the Wilsonville train station, you’ll have to ride a good 6 miles extra compared to cars, which get a direct route to cross the river at I-5.

      Cue Kyle B. claiming that riding the shoulder of I-5 “isn’t that bad”. 😛

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      • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 10:30 am

        It really isn’t — you guys should give these options more thought. Some of the routes proposed here are going to be way more difficult and dangerous IMO.

        Crowded two lane roads when traffic is moving are dangerous if you’re not super alert unless shoulders are wide which they often aren’t. If I-5 is gummed up, you’ll have lots of physical distance from the vehicles, they won’t be noisy because they won’t be blasting by you at 70mph+, and the entrance and exit ramps — normally the most dangerous part — shouldn’t be so bad. The debris on I-5 is bad, so be very prepared for flats.

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        • joeb August 15, 2017 at 11:30 am

          Hey, that is a good idea. I’ve been planning a back road route between Oregon City and Woodburn and never considered the I5 shoulder. I have been really leery about the back roads on Monday.

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      • BradWagon August 15, 2017 at 2:01 pm

        That quick hop across the river is actually ridden pretty often by cyclists on road rides. 55 mph with little shoulder (219 or 99E) compared to 65mph but wide (if potentially dirty) shoulder on I5.

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Agreed on your thoughts about the Eugene route. There are shoulderless blind curves near Monroe (or at least were a few years ago) that are very dangerous if traffic is moving.

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      • Nathan Hinkle August 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

        On the site the Eugene route is clearly marked as being an untested suggestion. Anyone who has a better route is encouraged to submit it!

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 2:48 pm

          I’ve taken multiple ways up. Presuming I-5 is hosed, simply entering that at Coburg should work well.

          For non-interstate options, I personally liked Powerline. If you take Powerline until you bump into 99E, you will barely be in the path of totality. If you want more totality, turn left on American and meander your way North avoiding 99E (gravel shoulder so no fun with heavy traffic) and Peoria (great surface, but lacking shoulder in some places and higher vehicle speeds which will be no fun with heavy traffic). It’s very flat agricultural land out there with great sky views practically everywhere.

          Be aware that there may be loose dogs on some back roads. All the dogs I encountered in these specific areas are working, but they have a sense of territory that you will be violating. They are trained, but this is not an urban environment so this is not a good time to operate in an alternate reality bubble. Keep calm, don’t make eye contact, drop your cadence, don’t be surprised if you have a lot of teeth and racket at close proximity, and cruise by slowly.

          Note: I haven’t ridden these routes for 5 years, so conditions may have changed.

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      • 9watts August 15, 2017 at 1:31 pm

        “There are shoulderless blind curves near Monroe (or at least were a few years ago) that are very dangerous if traffic is moving.”

        Huh?
        just yesterday you were remonstrating all of us here that if we paid attention nothing could endanger us.

        Kyle Banerjee
        …You can walk on virtually any road safely if you’re paying attention.
        Recommended 4

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 2:26 pm

          I have ridden these curves a number of times and have a process which involves managing traffic as well as myself. It’s not fun, but doable. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone not used to managing traffic behind them.

          99W traffic might be especially heavy on eclipse day. Unless it is crawling, that won’t be much fun wherever shoulders are lacking. Even if it is crawling, it won’t be fun where shoulders are lacking because vehicles tend to be all over the place.

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    • bikeninja August 15, 2017 at 10:40 am

      I actually think riding the shoulder of I5 will be fine as none of the cars will be moving. Right now I5 from 217 until well past Wilsonville is at max capacity during most days including Saturday and Sunday, which is why traffic moves so slowly in that stretch.Add to that 100,000 cars or so over the extended weekend and it is mathematically unlikely that traffic will be moving at over 5 miles per hour, at least during daylight hours. The only problem with this idea is the shoulders will probably be clogged with cars that have run out of gas, as it is also not possible for the fuel delivery system in Oregon to deliver enough gas for that many extra cars on the move. Cycling will definitely be the way to go, just steer clear of angry drivers.

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      • Adam
        Adam August 15, 2017 at 10:45 am

        That exact thought did cross my mind but it still doesn’t sounds like something I’d enjoy doing. I think I’ll enjoy riding to watch the 99.7% eclipse here in town instead.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 12:34 pm

          If the cars are moving, you probably wouldn’t.

          But if they’re stuck — and it sounds like there’s a good chance they will be, you might find it outright cathartic to cruise by long lines of motor vehicles on one of your slow heavy rigs.

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          • Adam
            Adam August 15, 2017 at 12:43 pm

            I’d probably take the folding bike down there, which is ironically my fastest bike. 😛

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          • dan August 15, 2017 at 2:40 pm

            But it’s possible that there will be idiots trying to get around congestion on the shoulder, as well as broken down vehicles and/or people parking on the shoulder.

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      • Champs August 15, 2017 at 11:39 am

        We’d really have something if OSP would commit to putting squad cars on the shoulders for bicyclists and emergencies.

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      • Andy K August 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm

        I do not recommend riding on the shoulder of I-5 on Monday. In the shoulder there will be scofflaw drivers passing on their way to the next exit, a high likelihood of emergency vehicles, and 100% chance of glass and debris.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 1:28 pm

          Agreed with your basic analysis.

          With regards to scofflaw drivers, two factors may prove of significant assistance. The first is that they will have seen the cyclist pass them before they enter the shoulder — that’s why they’re behind the cyclist. The second is that the ramps will probably be clogged too which will have a calming effect.

          In addition, when traffic is moving so slowly, they will more likely look around and notice things such as cyclists passing from behind.

          I would still ride further right than normal when approaching ramps just in case an impatient driver suddenly pulls out. Daylight strobes could be helpful for those who are especially worried.

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          • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 1:31 pm

            Even with the issues you raise, I think I-5 is most likely safer than alternatives. Riding in close proximity with tailgaters on 2 lane roads will not be fun — and there is likely to be more RV (i.e. extra wide vehicles driven by people who don’t normally drive such things) traffic than normal.

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      • Jimmy August 15, 2017 at 1:13 pm

        There will be 6 lanes of bumper-to-bumper cars idling and spewing out exhaust. Maybe safer in terms of not getting hit, but the air quality will be horrible.

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  • Kyle Banerjee August 15, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I love the site and the list, though I’m not sure anyone who needs to be told any of that stuff is a good candidate for undertaking such a trip unless they’re with people who can help them.

    I got a chuckle out of some of the items they suggested people consider, in particular “A fire extinguisher – there is a high fire danger this time of year”

    Now *that’s* being prepared…

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  • Steven Soto August 15, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Does anyone know if the Dundee Bypass is rideable?

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    • rick August 18, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      I doubt they built it for people to ride bikes on a protected bike path.

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  • Marshall Habermann-Guthrie August 15, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Feel free to join us in Monmouth. We’ll have a number of organized rides through the weekend, and we’re right in the path.

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  • SilkySlim August 15, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    I wasn’t considering this before, but that Springwater + Trolley Trail down to Oregon City, and then 213 to Mulino option doesn’t look all that bad. Just did a few street views for the most southern section, and I’m seeing decent shoulder just about everywhere.

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  • Nathan Hinkle August 15, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Adam
    Oh, and if you want to bike from the Wilsonville train station, you’ll have to ride a good 6 miles extra compared to cars, which get a direct route to cross the river at I-5.
    Cue Kyle B. claiming that riding the shoulder of I-5 “isn’t that bad”.
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    Ive been helping with the routes and website. I did post the Wilsonville to I-5 route on the map, but I recommend against it. I’ve read a lot of comments from people with that plan – and that doesn’t count the many people who had the same “original” idea and didn’t post it online. I expect WES to be completely full. It only runs every half hour, is prone to delays already, has limited bike space, and the first one doesn’t arrive until 6:25 am. I expect there will be a lot more commuters on WES than usual too because people in Wilsonville still need to get to work, and will be looking for alternatives to crowded highways. You just can’t rely on WES the morning of the eclipse.

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    • BradWagon August 15, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Yeah don’t count on Wes but there are some ok routes to get to Wilsonville and I5 crossing. Boones Ferry from Tigard / Tualatin is my commute and I recommend it for the fastest route. Once you’re on it you could judge if everything is a mess and just stay on the freeway or if it seems that backroads are a better option.

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      • Adam
        Adam August 15, 2017 at 3:33 pm

        don’t count on Wes

        Even with a folding bike?

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        • BradWagon August 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

          I meant that in a general sense regarding potentially crowded / delayed trains.

          Regarding bikes, the standard WES train only has one Priority Seating area that I imagine will be full of standard bikes that morning so you would likely just be standing by the door with a folding bike unless its narrow enough to be in the aisle next to you. One of the WES trains has a very large bike / luggage area that is separate from the seating cabin. I imagine this will be packed with standard bikes as well that morning but again, I’m sure you could squeeze a folding bike somewhere either in there or next to you.

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  • Jon August 15, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Keep in mind the routes south of Newberg are limited due to the Willamette river. Your choice is 219 toward St. Paul or 99W toward Dayton. 99W has sections of extremely narrow shoulders after Dundee. If any cars are stopped you may be climbing into drainage ditches or over guard rails to get around them. I was forced to ride 99W from Dayton to Newberg one day and vowed that I would never do that again and I feel very comfortable riding in traffic. It is just too narrow with very fast traffic and bad sight lines. There are a lot of places less than a foot wide. The bridge over the Willamette on 219 has a very narrow shoulder. The road widens a bit on the south side but then narrows down very quickly with fences and berry brambles next to the road.
    I used to ride on the side of 26 from 217 to Sylvan before the bike path was put in and often was going faster than car traffic. It was not super fun but I always felt safe because of the wide shoulder. I would take the shoulder of I-5 before I would take the 219 or 99W route south of Newberg.

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  • bikeninja August 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    The part I am looking forward to is when many of the folks who are attempting to drive to central Oregon find that they are still on I5 south of Woodburn when the eclipse rolls in. Will everyone park and jump out of their cars in the middle of the freeway to watch? Will they keep moving and crane their necks out of the window? Will they keep rolling along and just stick their arms out the window with cell phones pointing to the sky. Then, will they all attempt bootleg turns in the median to return home, their $750 per night camping spots unused? Only time will tell

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  • BradWagon August 15, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    If the city of Canby wanted to make a huge amount of money and make a huge positive impact that day they would close the Ferry to auto traffic that day and allow only cyclists / peds. At $2 each and say 50 bikes per trip that $100 a trip is a lot more than 6 cars at $5 each. Cyclists could head pretty much directly south through Canby (lots of options for avoiding major roadways) cross 99E and disperse into the rural roads south of Canby to avoid traffic and find quiet areas to view.

    While the route from the north and immediately to the south isn’t ideal for cycling it would be an awesome option with drivers not being able to use it and with the large numbers of cyclists if it was advertised as a direct and safe way south. Getting there from Wilsonville is a few miles of rural roads, from Lake O area would be quickest from Portland but obviously not the best road conditions. From Oregon City through West Linn to Stafford area then south would be more appealing to me than fighting cars south on 99E.

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  • Todd Boulanger August 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    The key issue for safely sharing rural highways with motor vehicle traffic will be: normal traffic with local drivers / commuters vs. distracted tourists ‘overdriving’ large RVs in a rush due to time sensitive deadlines…road conditions may be the same but the drivers will not be. (Good luck to all travellers.)

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  • resopmok August 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

    As mentioned in a different article, I’m taking Terwilliger to 10, 210, Roy Rogers, then 99W to Dayton. From there, 221 and Doaks Ferry into West Salem. Leaving Saturday and returning Monday.

    FWIW, I don’t think the debris, exhaust, and tempers on I-5 will be worth it in either direction. Also, I don’t think its a good idea to overrun Champoeg or Willamette Mission park; if you don’t already have somewhere confirmed to stay, please don’t go.

    Hope everyone has a safe ride!

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    • rick August 18, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Why not SW Oleson Road to downtown Tigard ?

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  • RMHampel August 16, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I’m feeling a bit resentful that 1-million visitors to Oregon will make it impractical for my family to see the eclipse in our own home state.
    On the other hand, this is but a small taste of what daily life must be like in heavily tourist-crammed places like Hawai’i and Venice. Imagine your home is inundated every day with outsiders, spoiling the place you love. Oh well, perspective is a good thing.
    Please be safe out there!

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    • Paul August 16, 2017 at 10:51 am

      It’s not just the visitors. A large majority of he traffic will be local.

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  • KristenT August 16, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Biking to the eclipse might be a good idea, if the roads you intend to take have a wide enough shoulder to ride on. We’ll be packing our folding bikes amongst the camping gear in the car, just in case.

    Otherwise, for the two-lane rural roads, you’ll be stuck sitting in traffic with the cars, as there’s frequently no shoulder to ride on. I suppose you could ride the center yellow to get around the jam-ups, but to me that sounds like a dangerous and stupid proposition.

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  • GlowBoy August 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

    I will be in the Portland metro next week; I could easily take the day off and go down to the totality zone, but there is really no way in hell I would do it in a car (too much traffic) or a bike (again – too much traffic!)

    I know it’s not quite the same as totality, but I’ll be settling for viewing 99.4% obscuration from the office. I’m sure it will still be amazing.

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  • 9watts August 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Just one perspective:
    …Salem, Oregon — a location that Zeiler expects to be one of the sixth-most trafficked solar eclipse viewing locations in the country.

    Based on his analysis, about 25 million Americans may determine the Salem area is the quickest to reach and see totality. Most probably won’t make that trip, but the Zeiler’s maps nonetheless illustrate the potential chokepoint …

    http://www.businessinsider.com/solar-eclipse-oregon-traffic-conditions-video-2017-8

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    • Adam
      Adam August 18, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      I’m planning on taking a bus down the morning of and the train back that afternoon. Is this a terrible idea?

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      • 9watts August 18, 2017 at 12:52 pm

        Yes.

        Emphatically.

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        • Adam
          Adam August 18, 2017 at 12:56 pm

          It’s just so hard to tell since people here tend to overhype everything. Maybe everyone will listen to the warnings an no drive the morning of? I figure worst case I’m stuck on a bus for a few hours and miss it. Train back should be fine though.

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          • 9watts August 18, 2017 at 1:01 pm

            Do you have tickets?

            Might want to check. I think my wife and daughter got the last tickets on Amtrak (Sat/Tue) a few days ago.

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            • Adam
              Adam August 18, 2017 at 1:04 pm

              I have reserved Amtrak seats for both directions, yes. I booked them a few months ago and even then the morning train was sold out, so I ended up with a bus ticket. I was able to snag a return train trip, though.

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        • Adam
          Adam August 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

          Well, looks like I made it to Salem on time and without any issues. There was a traffic backup near Wilsonville which added maybe 20 or so minutes to my bus trip, but that was it. 😉

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