Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 13th, 2009 at 11:25 pm
south of Medford.
(Photos © J. Maus)
If the rest of the week is this hard, I’m not sure what I’ll do. Usually Cycle Oregon begins with easy, meandering miles. It’s a traditional parade lap before the real riding begins on the second or third day. But not this time.
On today’s 67 mile journey from Medford to Yreka (not in California the organizers implore, but in the State of Jefferson) the nine mile climb up to Siskiyou Summit (elevation 4,500 feet) was supposed to be the hardest part. Of course, that was before headwinds kicked up just before noon.
The ride started perfectly, with an easy jaunt south from Medford, through rolling farm valleys full of pear orchards so lush I heard one woman wonder out loud “I’m tempted to go pick a few of them.” Our first stop was in Ashland’s legendary Lithia Park and then a few miles later we were out in rural farm country once again.
Once the climb started up Old Highway 99, the temperature had climbed too. But as luck would have it, nearly the entire ascent (which was a nice, even 6% incline the whole way) was shaded. Cresting the summit was a thrill, but soon thereafter we hit our first patch of gravel that would foreshadow the rough roads ahead.
After a descent into California (several miles of which we shared with big-rigs on the shoulder of I-5), we hit two unexpected challenges — roads under construction and a stiff headwind coming straight at us.
The country just south of the Oregon-California border is desolate and dry — the only solace being the snow-capped peak of Mt. Shasta that looms way off in the distance.
We stopped for lunch at Willow Creek School (established in 1860) and were serenaded by an old-timey string band.
After lunch, the winds continued. I knew it was tough going because no one on the road said a word. Everyone seemed to be in their own private pain cave just hoping that Yreka would be around the next bend.
Eventually we rolled into camp and were greeted to a hero’s welcome. Throngs of local kids waving U.S. flags and blowing kazoos helped smooth out a rough day (and the complimentary, ice-cold chocolate milk didn’t hurt either).
Tonight at evening announcements, we heard more about the history of the State of Jefferson. It was a very real effort to create a new state between Oregon and California. Locals felt neglected by far-off officials in Salem and Sacramento and wanted to create their own government and state (named after that revolutionary Thomas Jefferson). It started in about 1939 and gained some serious momentum by 1941. Everything was in place and the big announcement was set for December 7, 1941. Unfortunately, it just so happened that the Japanese also chose that date to bomb Pearl Harbor and the State of Jefferson has been little than a quirky historical footnote ever since.
Speaking on stage tonight was head of Yreka’s Chamber of Commerce. She has her own name for the area “Baja Oregon”.
Our destination tomorrow is Happy Camp. We’ll follow the Klamath River west into the heard of Jefferson and some of the most isolated and remote places anywhere in America.
For more images of Day 1, check out the gallery or watch the slideshow below (click through to the Flickr page for captions).