Cycle Oregon 2006
September 8 - On To Cycle Oregon 2006 - Steve Whelan picked up Jim Duncan and me at 10 AM at Jim's house in his Lexus SUV. We loaded our bikes on its rear rack, stuffed our gear in its luggage area and set off for an easy drive to Bend, OR. Steve has a Garmin Quest GPS system which guided us all the way up I5 and US 97 to our hotel - The Hampton Inn. Questy led us to dinner at the Deschutes Brewery where we sampled some fine ales and ate some good pub food.
September 9 - After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded up the car and set off for Umatilla and Lake Wallula. Questy was on target steering us up US 97 and east on I84 in time for lunch at the Desert River Inn. After lunch, we headed over to the first night's camp, checked in and carried our bikes and gear to our tents. We took advantage of Joe's Outdoor Tent & Porter Service. This service set up and took down our tents. It also delivered our gear in the afternoon and picked it up in the morning. It's worth paying for after and before a tough day of riding. I shared a tent with Jim while Steve went solo.
After orienting ourselves to the camp, we found our way to the Beer Garden to sample some ales from Widmer Brothers Brewery.
There is a daily routine on Cycle Oregon. It starts with breakfast as early as 5:30 for those anxious to get going and for those that can't sleep through the zipper noise. Next is the daily ride. At the end of the ride, it's showers in huge shower trucks. Then it's on to the Beer Garden. The Beer Garden is near the sound stage so that you can watch and hear the early entertainment provided by locals. Dinner starts around 5 PM. Then it's back to the sound stage at 7:30 for announcements and evening entertainment. Bed time is whenever you want it to be.
Part of the following narrative is paraphrased from the "Rider Handbook".
September 10 - Day 1 - Umatilla (Lake Wallula) to Heppner - We eased into our week-long adventure with a relatively flat morning, leaving the Columbia River and rolling out through some of the richest agricultural land in the Northwest. We crossed over I-84 and into historic Echo, a popular stop for emigrants along the Oregon Trail and home of 10 different buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Then we began a long, gradual incline – interrupted by fueling up at lunch – before spinning down into Heppner. We celebrated a successful first day at the Beer Garden near the famously haunted courthouse.
Statistics: 69 miles with 3300 feet of climbing. Weather was cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon.
September 11 - Day 2 - Heppner to Starkey - Today we woke up our legs for real. We used the first five miles, starting out in the wide-open wheat country of Heppner, to get warmed up. From Mile 5 to Mile 31 we climbed nearly 3,000 feet – one of the biggest climbs of the week. We found some salvation in the fact that we did that climbing on the spectacular Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, a Forest Service road that offered splendid isolation and panoramic views. This day’s route featured far more cattle guards (13) than turns (1), and the number of cars we saw was probably somewhere in between. Once we hit that high point, it was basically a long coast for 17 miles, dropping 2,000 feet into Ukiah for lunch. Then in the afternoon we repeated the process, only less strenuously: a long gradual hill and then an exhilarating descent into Starkey.
Statistics: 82 miles with 6000 feet of climbing. Weather was cool in the morning and hot in the afternoon. It turned very cold at night.
September 12 - Day 3 - Starkey to Sumpter - We started out today by following the pristine Grande Ronde River. We climbed back above 5,000 feet by Mile 19 and then spent the majority of the day on a mile-high cycling high. The high point of the day was Chicken Hill, just after Mile 22. Along the way we passed through Granite, the last town in Oregon to get individual phone service. After a gradual nine-mile climb out of Granite we glided down into Sumpter, once a bustling gold-mining town that had phone service a century ago, when it was a stop on the Sumpter Valley Railway. At that time it also had 16 saloons (and just four churches) for 3,000 people.
Statistics: 53 miles with 4400 feet of climbing. Weather was cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon.
September 13 - Day 4 - Sumpter to Union - Now that we really got our mountain legs under us, it was time for a summit assault. We started by experiencing the crest between Sumpter and Granite from the reverse point of view, then powered our way up to Anthony Lakes Ski Resort, the highest base- elevation ski area in Oregon. At more than 7,000 feet, it was the high point of the week and the perfect place to stop for lunch. Then we bombed down the 4,000-foot descent, coasted past a firefighters' camp and crossed under Interstate 84 into North Powder for a rest stop. Then we rolled into Union fighting unending rollers and powerful head winds.
Statistics: 80 miles with 5500 feet of climbing. Weather was cool in the morning and mild in the afternoon.
September 14 - Day 5 - Union - This was either a rest day or a 91-mile loop. I decided to rest. Steve did an out-and-back to the first rest stop. Jim rode the whole loop. I wandered around Union and the camp catching up on my reading and sampling some of the local food. The local hardware sold hardware, expresso and liquor. The clerk called it "... bolts and booze".
Statistics: 0 miles with 0 feet of climbing. Weather was cool in the morning and cool in the afternoon.
September 15 - Day 6 - Union to Athena - Cycle Oregon management had to make a drastic change to today's route. The passes we were to go over had snow and were very cold. For safety reasons they routed us to La Grande, onto I84, alongside I84 and over Deadman's Pass. We had very cold weather with heavy rain at times up to lunch. Lunch was eaten in a building in a park. It was very warm and humid - like a mild sauna. After lunch, it dried out and the rest of the day was fairly pleasant.
Statistics: 90 miles with about 3500 feet of climbing. Weather was cold and raining in the morning and cool in the afternoon.
September 16 - Day 7 - Athena to Umatilla (Lake Wallula) - Today's ride - the final ride - was advertised as three or four hours of wide-open spaces, mostly gentle downhill, through sleepy towns like Helix and Holdman. In reality, headwinds made the ride extra challanging. We had plenty of rollers and the "gentle downhill" was steady peddling in middle gears. The weather was good and the scenery was gorgeous. Steve and Jim got to the end about 25 minutes before I did.
Statistics: 48 miles with about 1300 feet of climbing. Weather was mild with strong headwinds.
We showered, ate lunch and loaded our gear into Steve's car. Steve powered on Questy and we were on our way to Klamath Falls. We stayed at The Best Western Klamath Inn.. Dinner was at Antonio's Cucina italiana where we managed to stuff ourselves with pasta and to fortify ourselves with wine from Coppola Winery.
September 17 - On to Home - The next morning we left Klamath Falls at 7 AM, trying to make it back to the Bay Area before the traffic built up. We stopped in Winters for lunch at Steady Eddy's a fairly new coffee and panini cafe. We rolled into Jim's house early afternoon.
Retrospective - This Cycle Oregon was much tougher than the other two that I rode in. Daily mileage seemed longer and the climbing was much higher. The scenery was spectacular! Camp life was significantly easier because of the porter service. The shower crew did not come up to speed until day 3. Before then, all trucks were not set up when we arrived in camp and we had to wait in long lines. Breakfasts were OK if you like hard-scrambled eggs every morning. Coffee was inconsistant - sometimes being very strong but mostly being very weak. Lunches were also OK. They would have been better if the sandwich bread wasn't so dry. Dinners were very good for cafeteria food. We had grilled pork, beef, chicken and fish and excellent salads.
I especially enjoyed traveling with Steve and Jim, my Valley Spokemen friends, and in meeting up with Rich Fuller, my Tuesday PokeSlow buddy. As a special treat, we met Sarah Gates, the daughter of Steve and Nancy Dudley who were classmates of mine at Pomona College. Sarah smoked us on the ride!!!