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Cycle Oregon hosts weekend of riding on the best roads in the state

Posted by on July 20th, 2009 at 1:16 pm

Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-10

Norm Saager and Ellen Brown liked the event
so much they got married at the start
line and then rode the course on their tandem.
-Slideshow below/Gallery-
(Photos © J. Maus)

Over the weekend, Western Oregon University in Monmouth served as base camp for over 1,800 people from all over the region (and country). They came to experience the legendary hospitality and bike riding Cycle Oregon is known for.

Cycle Oregon (the week-long version) has been going on for over 20 years, but for everyone who can’t take a week off during September and/or ride 60-80 miles a day for a week, there’s the Weekend Ride. In addition to being less physically (and financially) demanding than the full-length version, it is also fast-becoming the hot ticket for biking families.

Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-28 Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-48 Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-40 Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-67

Cycle Oregon is usually thought of as the domain of fit and fast 50-somethings. But the weekend ride is just the opposite. There are plenty of fit and fast riders to be sure, but there also a lot of families, kids, and folks who are just starting out.

In Monmouth, they all found something to suit their riding pleasure. The ride menu for Saturday and Sunday featured three loop options — short, medium and long. Back at camp, dozens of kids took advantage of the Bike Camp run by the Community Cycling Center.

Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-63

Bucolic biking bliss a few miles
South of Airlie, Oregon.

Those who set out on the country roads outside of Monmouth (and its twin city, nearby Independence), were treated to bucolic biking on roads straight out of every cyclist’s fantasy. Smooth, undulating, and very low in traffic (although it was harvest time and tractors were common on Saturday’s loops).

The roads were so good in fact, that on the main stage Saturday night in Monmouth’s main park, Cycle Oregon ride director Jerry Norquist presented a plaque to Polk County Commissioners (it was accepted by Monmouth Mayor John Oberst) that read:

“Polk County has set the standard for road quality in the state of Oregon. Cycle Oregon thanks you on behalf of all cyclists.”

Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-9

For Norm Saager and Ellen Brown, the weekend had special significance. The pair met on Cycle Oregon Weekend last year, so when planning out their summer, the engaged couple thought it made perfect sense to tie the knot and start their lives together at the start line of Cycle Oregon.

On Saturday morning, as riders rolled past ringing bells, Norm and Ellen were pronounced man and wife. Here’s an excerpt from their vows (as read by officiate at the ceremony):

Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-16

“A successful marriage can learn a lot from bicycle riding, you should promise each other that you will not be fair weather riders, but venture out together in the wind and the rain. Only by braving the storms as a team will you reap the rewards when sunshine arrives.

Look after each other, much as you care for your equipment. A well-oiled bike will run smoothly and change gears easily — adjusting to changes in terrain or changes in your lives.

Marriage is like the shared labor of riding a tandem. Keep pedaling. You really do need to share the responsibility of marriage or the one tires easily and gets very grumpy.

You should promise each other to not only enjoy new adventures and exploration but appreciate the same old routes you know and love…”

Cycle Oregon Weekend 2009-41

Kids. The future of Cycle Oregon and
cycling in Oregon.

Keeping on the family theme, Cycle Oregon has embraced their new, kid-friendly identity. The Kids Bike Camp was a big hit. On Saturday night there was a kid parade, capped off with an appearance on the Main Stage by camp alumni and hearty applause from the crowd.

On Sunday, I got a chance to sample the award-winning Polk County roads (I didn’t ride Saturday because I was recovering from my ride down there from Portland on Friday). I set out early and was treated to 35 miles of riding bliss. The quiet roads and new places I discovered (ever heard of the Luckiamute River?) along the fully supported route have me counting down the days to Cycle Oregon in September.

For more photos, view the slideshow below or browse the gallery.

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KrondaBillHungryPdxMarkphilbertorex Recent comment authors
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I’ll say that the route markings, support and general atmosphere was wonderful. The people were great and the campsite was fun.

That said, the food was atrocious. I had heard for years about how good Cycle Oregon food was. Unless there was some mishap, the food was utter crap. Saturday dinner was “honey stung” dried shingle of chicken served with “Normandy Vegetable Medley” which really means from a generic frozen bag of pre-boiled, ripple-cut zucchini, double-bland broccoli and loan carrot. Breakfast was equally compelling, filled with powdered eggs and salt-lick like biscuits. And what was with the fruit? Did CO have some exclusive deal with only one farmer – grapes! Grapes for breakfast. Grapes for lunch. Grapes at the rest stop. I only saw a banana once, Sunday morning, but they ran out. Usually, after doing something physical all day (like camping or hiking or biking) any food would go down like it was the best thing on the planet. Can’t say the same for Cycle Oregon’s menu. The only thing that felt good going down was the beer.

Jean M.
Jean M.

Speaking as an alumna of WOU (when it was still WOSC), I remember dining in that hall 20 years ago, and they had NOTHING like that food court then. That said, the food was just about the same. I even recognized some of the dishes. 🙂

That also said, Cycle Oregon Weekend rocks!

carless in pdx
carless in pdx

Oh my, I actually grew up in that town. I’m kind of horrified that you guys went down there… and enjoyed it. 😉


Carless in pdx:

Polk county has repaved every road in the last year it seemed. Literally almost every road.

Matt Picio

The roads are really nice – I took a ride down there last month to pick up a food order from a local farmer, and rode from Salem to Dallas, then a bit south and then east to Monmouth and Independence (which has a really nice new city park). The roads are awesome, and Polk County doesn’t seem to have quite the number of yahoos that rural Clackamas County has.

Oh, and the bike shop in Dallas is pretty cool, too.


The ride was great, but the food sucked.


It was a great event. The weather was just hot enough, the WOU campus was a wonderful site, and all the kids on bikes were a joy to see.

As for the food. It did not suck and was not atrocious. As a rider for 7 years and now a volunteer for going-on 5, I’ve eaten almost every meal Cycle Oregon has served over the past 12 years. In absolute terms the food is fine. In the context of feeding about 2000 people three times a day, the food is quite good. In view of the limits of logistics, physics and economics, it’s not made the same way anyone’s momma used to make it or anyone’s adored spouse/partner currently makes it. Anyone would be hard pressed to eat any better in any non-gourmet restaurant in most small towns in Oregon.


I have to take issue with the first poster’s comments about the food. No, the food wasn’t gourmet or individually cooked to order. I have a hard time taking “… the food was atrocius….and the food sucked…” comments seriously. The food was quite good and there was plenty of it. Frankly, I don’t think any reasonable person could make such complaints and be taken seriously. As far as the ranting about fruit, the grapes were fresh cold and tasty. There were lots of fresh strawberries at the rest stops. I could have had all the bananas or other goodies I wanted.

This was a great event except for reading posts from picky eaters.


Bill, PDXMark, you must be real old then to think that the food was anything but bland, milquetoast slop. I’m sure they’ll be happy enough to have you back ’round the trough this September or next year.


Hungry, yes indeed I am old, but the way you whine I’ve a hunch you were the crying person I passed while going up the Orchard Heights hill. Sorry your mother wasn’t along to feed you. That’s it for me on this subject.


My CO weekend pics are up at

We had a fabulous time and the food was fine. Not great, but I agree, feeding 2000 people is no easy trick. Support, atmosphere, lodging and company were all top notch. Looking forward to being able to afford the week-long someday…