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State of Oregon plans ‘Governor’s Ride’ to mark historic event

Posted by on January 25th, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Governor Geer, bike lover.
(Photo: Oregon State Library)

Remember Oregon’s tenth governor, Theodore T. Geer? He’s the great Oregonian who, in May of 1900, rode his bike from the capital in Salem to Champoeg to establish a monument to an historic vote that took place there in 1843. That vote paved the way to Oregon statehood and the monument stands today as the focal point for the Champoeg State Heritage Area.

To honor that ride and Governor Geer’s role in the founding of Oregon, the State of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is organizing a bike ride that will retrace his route. The inaugural “Governor’s Ride 2012,” will be part of Champoeg’s annual “Founder’s Day” festivities (which have taken place at the monument since 1901).

Champoeg State Heritage Area Park Ranger Bob Woodruff got in touch with us to share more…

“It would be wonderful to have one or more folks do the ride on a turn of the century bike, similar to the one that Gov. Geer rode.”
— Bob Woodruff, Champoeg State Heritage Area Park Ranger

The ride is on May 5th. It will be unsupported (meaning you’ll have to carry your own stuff) start in downtown Salem and head north on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway (isn’t that convenient!) to Monument Plaza in Champoeg State Park where a gathering and celebration is planned for 3:00 pm. The ride will then roll back to Salem for a total length of about 60 miles.

But wait! There’s more: Ranger Woodruff wants to pay homage to Oregon’s bicycling heritage by having a few historic bikes on the ride.

“It may be a bit far fetched,” he said via email today, “but it would be wonderful to have one or more folks do the ride on a turn of the century bike, similar to the one that Gov. Geer rode.”

Have one of these lying around?
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Like many other bike lovers of the day, Gov. Geer rode what is known as a “safety bike” (so named because they were much safer than high-wheelers, a.k.a. penny farthings). The problem is, Woodruff can’t track any safety bikes down. If you or someone you know has a safety bike the State of Oregon can borrow for this historic ride get in touch with Ranger Woodruff at Bob [dot] woodruff [at] state [dot] or [dot] us or call him at (503) 678-1251 x. 234.

Stay tuned for more details as the State finishes up a web page with more info.

I’m excited for the inaugural ‘Governor’s Ride’! Not just because my family, friends and I have ridden and camped at Champoeg, but it seems like a very fitting tribute to Oregon’s past and our long history of — and present commitment — bicycling.

Save May 5th on your calendar and plan to attend. If enough people show up this could become a big annual tradition!

— For more about Oregon’s bicycle history, browse our “history” tag.

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  • Paul Johnson January 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Detail map of State Route WV between Salem and Champoeg, for those who need a closer look than the OSP website can give you.

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  • Jim Hook January 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I assume the organizers of this ride are aware of the “Monster Cookie” ride (also from Salem to Champoeg and back) the weekend before:


    Have they invited Kitz?

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  • Woodstock Cyclist January 25, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Sounds like a great event! Slight wonky correction–Theodore Geer was the tenth governor of Oregon, not the first. And believe it or not, he was a Republican!

    Thanks Woodstock Cyclist. I’ve corrected the post. — JM

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  • Ranger Bob January 25, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Jim: One of the first things we did was check to make sure there was no conflict with the Monster Cookie date. We don’t yet know what type of riders will be interested, but definitely see the Governor’s Ride as complementing rather than competing with the MC.

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  • Richard January 25, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    What? Bikes existed, and were ridden on public roads, before there were cars?
    Heads will explode at OLive.

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    • Oliver January 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      Well he did say it was ‘a fad’

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  • GlowBoy January 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    I thought the term “safety bike” referred to any bicycle with a crankset driving the rear wheels via a chain and sprockets, not just bikes of such design from that particular era.

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  • Eric January 26, 2012 at 12:50 am

    This ride is terrific news! Here’s what Geer had to say about it a little over a decade later:

    Accordingly, on the morning of May 1, 1900, I mounted my bicycle — bicycle riding was a very popular fad at that time — and proceeded toward Champoeg, some thirty miles away. I had previously made an appointment with Hon. F. X. Matthieu, who lived but three miles from Champoeg and who even then was the only man living who had participated in that meeting in ‘43. The arrangement was for me to go to his home, remain overnight, and in the morning, on the anniversary of the day the event took place, go over with him to the quiet little town and mark the spot where history was made by a lot of earnest men. Hon. George H. Himes, the secretary of the Oregon Historical Society, had also promised to be present.

    I shall never forget that beautiful ride from Salem to Champoeg. It was a perfect day, with a firm north breeze, not a cloud in the sky; the roads were in good condition, the, crops were growing splendidly, birds were singing everywhere, seemingly to be in harmony with Nature’s glad mood — it was, in short, just that sort of a day which is known in all its wealth of joy, beauty, and inspiration only in the Willamette valley in the spring and summer months.

    I passed through the town of Gervais, where Joseph Gervais settled in the early ‘30s. At his home, one of the meetings was held preliminary to the actual organization at Champoeg. The little city rests upon the bosom of the great French Prairie, now teeming with prosperous farmers whose land is worth more per acre now than a section was in the time of Gervais, and the main street is where the old barnyard was located in the days of Jason Lee.

    Woodburn, the “metropolis of French Prairie,” railroad junction and all-round pushing town, twenty miles away, was passed in the early forenoon, and Hubbard, four miles farther on, soon afterward. At this place a detour to the west was necessary to strike the old “Champoeg road” on which Father Matthieu lived.

    Upon arriving at the celebrated old homestead I found that Himes, with a Portland photographer, was already there, but Mr. Matthieu was in Portland on business and had, in fact, forgotten his appointment with us. A long distance telephone was brought into action and he replied that he would take the evening train for home. A team was sent to Aurora, the nearest station, and he arrived in time for supper

    Though by 1900 the bike and telephone weren’t exactly bleeding edge, they did make for a trip that employed pretty leading edge technology. The trip is remarkable in many ways – not the least of which is that he did it on a fixie by himself!

    The complete quote is in Chap 24 of Geer’s Fifty Years in Oregon.

    As for Geer’s bike, you can see a representation of it in the article Jonathan referenced in the first para. It’s a lot more “regular” looking than the older safety bicycle from wikipedia. The frame geometry had been pretty standardized by 1900.

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  • Carter January 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    You say “If you or someone you know has a safety bike the State of Oregon can borrow …”

    We all ride safety bikes now.

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  • Ryan Howard January 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Maybe people could ride their single speeds to pay homage to the governor’s ride!

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