Cycle Oregon Day 1: Riding into the State of Jefferson

Posted by on September 13th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Cycle Oregon 2009 - Day 1-8

Rolling through the countryside
south of Medford.
-Slideshow below/Gallery
(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.

Story continues below


Cycle Oregon 2009 - Day 1-36

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.

Cycle Oregon 2009 - Day 1-59

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.

Cycle Oregon 2009 - Day 1-76

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.

Cycle Oregon 2009 - Day 1-85

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).

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SuziQtAvatarbikieboyRufusEd Dalton Recent comment authors
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I’m confused, either way they are still out of the state of Oregon whether they are in California or the State of Jefferson.

Ed Dalton

Thanks for your Day 1 summary. Your descriptive review of Day 1 eases my pain of missing CO this year (due to InterBike’s schedule). Enjoy the ride (stay dry (: and keep up the great reporting!
Ed Dalton
Showers Pass


Boo Cycle “OREGON”!

Next year riders can bring thier passports and visit the imaginary magical land of Cascadia. It’s chalk full of unicorns or so I’ve heard.


“Everyone seemed to be in their own private pain cave…”

that would be my cubicle at work.

C’mon, Jonathan, cowboy up! that, or take the sag…;>)


Jonathan, there is a way to get from Old Hwy 99 to Klamath R. Rd., but it involves more climbing up paved, shaded Mt Ashland Rd & a long stretch of downhill gravel from the top of Mt. Ashland on (mostly) Beaver Creek Rd. Presuming Cycle Oregon connected w. Klamath R. Rd. @ the jct. of CA SR263, you sacrifice about 1/3 of the riding along Klamath R. Rd., but the payback is spending the O’nite on Day 1 @ Happy Camp, giving an oportunity to add another day of riding onto the end of the tour.

Incidentally, if you think the climb up Old 99 was tough, try going from Yreka northbound on I-5 to Ashland towing a trailer with gear. I know of a 70-year old cyclist from CA who did just that in June. It’s a much longer climb with NO shade. That’s what all those gears are for. Gear down, cut the pace to sustainable & enjoy the scenery.

Regards, & have a great tour!


Thanks Jonathan for the daily updates for those of us (dummies) who did not sign up soon enough. See you next year.