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Fire forces major re-route of Cycle Oregon

Posted by on September 14th, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Rumors started swirling around camp by late afternoon.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

For the first time in Cycle Oregon history, the ride has been forced off its planned course. The reason for the change is the Dry Gulch fire which started Saturday near Richland, Oregon, a town close to Halfway, where Cycle Oregon was headed tomorrow.

Cycle Oregon is in Cambridge, Idaho tonight. The original plan was to leave Cambridge Tuesday morning and ride to Halfway, Oregon. But with fire crews camped in Hafway, there’s not enough room in the town for Cycle Oregon’s 2,500 person rolling city. 

That also means the ride won’t be staying two nights at Wallowa Lake, the marquee destination of this year’s ride. 

“We’re heartbroken,” said Cycle Oregon Executive Director Alison Hill-Graves in an interview tonight. “These are some of our favorite places and we’ve worked so hard to  get back to them.”

Cycle Oregon Ride Director Steve Schulz and Executive Director Alison Hill-Graves at evening announcements.

Hill-Graves said they tried to find a way around Halfway that would get riders to Joseph and Wallowa Lake; but the only option would have required a grueling 130-mile day.

Rain is falling here in Cambridge tonight, but it’s not nearly enough to dampen the fire activity. Today Ride Director Steve Schultz and Route Director Ken Chichester drove to Halfway to talk with local leaders and the Oregon Department of Forestry. They were told that conditions won’t change in time for Cycle Oregon to maintain its schedule. 

“We were standing in Halfway,” Schultz said, holding back tears, “And we looked up at he hillside burning.”
Many riders were in their tents and likely didn’t hear the route change news when it was shared at the ride’s nightly evening announcements. They will undoubtedly be disappointed to hear the news. 

“But as disappointing as this is for us, imagine how the people in Halfway and surrounding communities are feeling,” said Hill-Graves.

Instead of an overnight in Halfway and then two nights at Wallowa Lake, the new plan is to spend two nights in Cambridge and then ride back to Farewell Bend State Park (where we camped Sunday night).

From Farewell Bend, the ride will work its way back to Baker City. The goal is to make it to La Grande for the last night of the ride, which was the original plan. 

While this news is quite deflating for those of us who looked forward to the ride in Joseph and Wallowa Lake, the Cycle Oregon spirit will persevere and I have no doubt this group of great folks will make the most of it. 

When the announcement was made at camp tonight, I heard a few groans, but they were immediately followed by cheers and shouts of support as Hill-Graves and Schultz struggled to hold back their emotions on stage. 

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Kevin wagoner September 14, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    With this awesome group it is still going to rock!

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  • 9watts September 14, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    “But as disappointing as this is for us, imagine how the people in Halfway and surrounding communities are feeling,” said Hill-Graves.

    Did she mean “compared to us who are all on vacation and can just go another route, these people have real things to worry about, like their town is on fire.”
    “the people in Halfway will be even more disappointed to miss out on Cycle Oregon’s 2,500 person rolling city coming to town than we will be”?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 14, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      The former.

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    • Zimmerman September 14, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      What an incredibly pessimistic comment, to imply the people organizing and participating in Cycle Oregon aren’t sympathetic to the victims of the fire.

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      • 9watts September 14, 2015 at 9:44 pm

        Not so fast there.

        From the article it wasn’t clear, at least to me, whether the fire was threatening the people of and around Halfway, or that because the town was already full of firefighters it presented a logistical problem to Cycle Oregon.

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        • Zimmerman September 14, 2015 at 9:58 pm

          The fact you even brought up the possibility proves my original charge of pessimism, but thanks for clarifying.

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