The bicycle was the ultimate safe recreation choice during the pandemic — and it’s perfect for this summer too. The shelves of local bike shops were bare last summer for a good reason: Even when we didn’t know how rare it was for COVID to spread outdoors, bicycles were one of the few obvious safe activity choices during the pandemic.
And so there were a lot of people who rediscovered the majesty of biking last year. They dug around the dingy corners of their garages for their old Schwinn, dropped a few glugs of oil on the creaky chain, and once again experienced the thrill of cycling — the way the pedals respond to the pavement, the way wind whips across your face, the way your stomach lurches as you careen down a hill.
After all, riding a bike is a bit like, well, riding a bike. It’s something you can pick up again instantly, no matter how long ago you set aside the hobby.
So whether you’re a wide-eyed ingenue who just ditched your training wheels or a disgraced Tour de France winner bitter in your old age, we have some cycling ideas for you this summer.
BIKE TO ZIP’S IN CHENEY AND GET A CORN DOG
During the depths of the pandemic last year, my father and I — in a bout of Harold-and-Kumarian ambition — decided to pursue something grand: a corn dog from Zip’s, the beloved regional fast-food chain.
Sure, we could have just swung over to Zip’s downtown location. But where’s the challenge in that? We wanted to channel the pure Zip’s-loving essence of an Eastern Washington University sophomore, both in the sense of heading to the Zip’s in Cheney and in the not-having-a-car sense. We decided to ride.
The Centennial Trail gets all the love, and for good reason: Until it just sort of gives up around the Idaho state line, the Centennial is one of the most gorgeous features of our region. The Fish Lake Trail, by contrast, at first appears to be the treadmill of bike trails — flat and samey. But it gets better the farther you go.
And while the unfinished Fish Lake route requires an obnoxious two-mile detour around the railroad tracks, just when you’re ready to give up you’re back on the Columbia Plateau section of the trail. From there it’s only a short jaunt to Cheney, where your reward of corn dogs and milkshakes await.
Just make sure to let your food settle before you start biking back. Last time, I left a bit of corn dog and banana milkshake puree on the ride home.
GO BIKE CAMPING AT DRAGOON CREEK
Camping is fun. Paying to park at a campsite isn’t. Yet even a state-funded campground like Riverside State Park makes you shell out for a Discover Pass to park. The solution is bike camping, says Spokane Active Transportation founder and avid cyclist Jessica Engelman.
Think car camping, but you carry your stuff on your bike. With a little bit of practice and the right equipment, it’s actually not that hard to carry some basic camping gear. After all, you don’t have to fret over every gram of weight like you do when backpacking, and you can get a lot farther a lot faster.
“I just use the old sleeping bag I got from my parents 20 years ago,” says Engelman. “I bungee-cord them on the back of the bike and it works out.”
As for a natural first bike camping adventure, she recommends Dragoon Lake State Park. It’s about a 20-mile ride one-way from Spokane. You’ll start on the Children of the Sun trail in Hillyard and be treated to a lot of scenic country roads — and a few steep hills — along the way.
Give the Natural Resources Northeast Office a call to make sure the campsite is open before you head out: 509-684-7474.