A few weeks ago, we met up with Martina and Jason of Swift Industries. As some of you may remember, they are a two-person team that makes bags and accessories for bicycles. We interviewed Martina over a year and a half ago when we passed through Seattle at the very beginning of our travels.

So much has changed since then. Firstly, Martina and Jason got married (congrats!). Their bag designs have continued to evolve and improve as well as their business. They contacted me about shooting some photos of their bags for their new site. Of course, my first reaction was to suggest doing a short weekend bike tour to photograph the bags in action! Martina jumped on the idea and after sending a few Facebook messages to some people in town we assembled a small crack team to go on a weekend bike trip.

We decided to go to Stub Stewart State Park which is about 20+ miles from the terminus of Hillsboro MAX train. Using some routes that the fantastic bike touring group CycleWild put together, we all boarded the train from Portland to the city outskirts. I was tasked with sherpa duty, pulling a BOB trailer with a Rubbermaid full of Swift panniers that we would put on everyones bikes at Hillsboro.

It wasn’t long until we were into farm country. This is one of the favorite things I’ve grown to enjoy about Portland. It is only a short train ride and a few miles of pedaling before you can leave the bustling metro area and be in great touring country. It was hard to imagine that only an hour before we were passing through downtown Portland.

After about 10 miles of country roads we take the Banks-Vernonia Trail, a rail conversion that gradually climbs towards the state park. It climbs at a gentle railroad grade, never pitching upwards too steep, but enough to let you know that you’re climbing.

The trail is quiet and serene. You’re surrounded by both sides with tall green trees which occasionally offer you a glimpse of the climbing that you’ve done. The only sound is that of your chain working its way through your drive train.

The trail got us to within two or three miles of the cabins we were staying in. We took a nearly deserted park road past the visitor’s center and day use area to the cabins. It was a steep but short climb to the cabins, enough to keep your legs honest.

We stayed in the cabins for two nights that were filled with great conversations about bicycle touring, travel, the state of “handmade” and the phenomena of Etsy. During the day, I would take a small group of us to take photos with the panniers. At night, we made meals together, played some Bananagrams and enjoyed our little retreat together. It was a lovely way to spend the weekend and confirmed in my mind that a bicycle tour, no matter how long or short, whether you’re free camping in the desert or staying in a cabin is just as fulfilling. With the right mix of people, like we had on this trip, those few nights can leave an indelible print on you, long after you’ve unpacked your bags at home.