What bike tour would be complete without at least one epic day? Today was that day.
After a smattering of rain last night, we embarked on our penultimate day’s ride under our first morning of questionable weather so far. Ominous clouds lingered overhead and riders suited up for the worst. At last night’s announcements, we were told our original route had been changed due to severe weather and cold in the mountains.
The cold and damp weather, combined with about 25 miles of highway and freeway riding at the start of the day was admittedly a bit miserable. Even though our new route was 1200 feet lower than the original one, it was still frigid and reports said it was only 38 degrees at our lunch stop at Emigrant Springs State Park.
Luckily the Cycle Oregon crew came through and secured a warm shelter for us. Riders took advantage of the pot-belly stove and nearly disrobed in an effort to dry their clothes and warm up. There was also a raging outdoor fire which surely prevented many folks from climbing aboard the sag vehicles.
People were plastic bagging their feet and apparently a little store along the route sold completely out of wool socks.
It was tough to saddle up again after lunch, but just a few miles down the road, things dried up, temperatures rose, and we were treated to an unbelievable day of riding.
The best part of the ride was an amazing downhill section that dropped us back into the Umatilla Valley.
Wide open vistas and a serpentine, smooth road were the reward for the morning’s tough conditions. After the descent, rolling hills amid amber waves of grain and a memorable climb out of the Umatilla River valley completed the day.
A few miles before town I met a fellow UCSB Gaucho, Roger Whalen. Roger noticed my UCSB team vest and pulled alongside of me. He was class of ’65 and this was his first time on Cycle Oregon. Roger graduated from 10 years before I was born, and here we were, laughing and pedaling along a beautiful empty road at the end of a week-long bike adventure.
As we entered Athena (pop. 1200) it dawned on me that this would be our last night of camping. Luckily the rain stayed away and we enjoyed a well-earned dinner complete with fresh flower table decorations compliments of the citizens of Athena.
Tonight the beer garden was full of energy. I think people realize that this is really the last day of Cycle Oregon. Tomorrow’s short, easy ride back to Umatilla is just a formality. Luckily the entertainment was great and we danced the night away with friends new and old.
Before going to bed I lingered through the camp site, soaking it all in one last time.