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Exploring eastern Oregon by bike (and bus) with Treo Bike Tours

Posted by on July 15th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-12

The descent into Cottonwood Canyon State Park.
(Photos by Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

What’s better than riding the dreamy roads of eastern Oregon with a handful of good friends? How about door-to-door support for you and your entire group on board on air-conditioned shuttle bus that’s stocked with yummy drinks and snacks? Fortunately, as I found this past weekend, that’s no longer just a dream.

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-2

Treo Bike Tours owner Phil Carlson
has redefined the “SAG wagon.”

The new service is the latest in the impressive bike tourism arsenal of Phil Carlson, owner of Treo Bike Tours. His ranch is situated 16 miles southwest of downtown Heppner, Oregon (pop. 1,200) and about 200 miles east of Portland. My assignment was to be the embedded photographer as Carlson and his crew supported a group of seven friends on a four-day, three-night bicycling vacation full of riding, relaxation, and exploration. (I tried, of course, to only partake in as much of it as was necessary in order to accurately report this story.)

This was the second time I ventured east to explore the farms, valleys, and rivers of ‘Oregon’s dry side’ as a guest of Treo. Last August I went on one of Treo’s first trips. At that time, Carlson was still fine-tuning his offerings but it was obvious that he had something very special to share: a combination of hospitality and access to amazing rides that I haven’t experienced anywhere else in Oregon.


Fast-forward almost a year later and I’m happy to report that Treo is breaking exciting new ground. His purchase of a shuttle bus means he now offers not only pick-up (and drop-off) at your front door in Portland (!), but an unparallelled level of support when you’re out on the road putting in the miles. Treo has redefined the role of the “SAG wagon.”

Over the next four days, I’ll share photos and brief notes from each of our daily adventures…

Day One: Wasco to Condon via Cottonwood Canyon State Park

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-1

Boarding the Treo bus in northeast Portland in front of the home of Jenn Dederich, who organized the trip (that’s her dog “Buddy” in the photo). (Note: The bus pulls a large cargo trailer that can fit a dozen or so bikes, all the luggage, and other supplies.)
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-3

Beats driving huh? Courtney Martin and Carl Steinke enjoy themselves as the Columbia River Gorge blurs by in the background.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-4

The bus is stocked with fresh fruit and cold drinks.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-6

Instead of staying on the bus all the way to the Treo ranch, Phil dropped us off in Wasco so the group could pedal about 40 miles east into Condon.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-7

These windmills were a constant source of conversation during the trip. Phil told us each blade is about 100 feet long.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-11

The best part of being out there is being out there.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-38

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-33

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-8

Oh those roads! At times it felt like we had them all to ourselves.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-13

At the end of a long and fun descent we rolled into Oregon’s newest state park, Cottonwood Canyon.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-16

Our first sighting of the John Day River just inside the state park entrance.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-20

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-17

A perfect spot for lunch.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-18

The old bones of the wild west surround you in these parts.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-21

Sharrows! Inside a state park! In Wasco!
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-22

The climb out of the state park was beautiful…
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-23

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-24

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-28

… but the brutal heat took its toll on the group. Luckily Phil was waiting at the top with cold, wet towels which were a welcome relief.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-26

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-29

Mt. Adams looms over Mike Bernard. On a clear day, five peaks (Hood, Helens, Adams, Jefferson and Rainier) are visible from the Wasco-Heppner Hwy. On Friday we could see four of them.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-35

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-36

Jered and Carl gut out the final climb.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-40

We saw this fellow while re-fueling the bus in Condon. Seemed like a fitting juxtaposition.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 1-39

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 2 - John Day River Valley-4

Once the group got to the ranch it was time for dinner, relaxing, and planning for the adventures ahead.
Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 2 - John Day River Valley-3

Treo Bike Ranch trip Day 2 - John Day River Valley-2

That first day would set a tone for what the group had in store for the rest of the weekend. Stay tuned tomorrow as I share more photos and notes from the group’s ride into the John Day River valley where they peeked into Oregon’s prehistoric past and traded spandex for swimming trunks.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Avatar
    Pete July 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Some of my favorite riding! Glad you’re making your way east – I love these pictorial articles (otherwise known as “living vicariously”). During the recent Amgen Tour of California I thought of these very roads as I was eyeing the “ice vests” some of those boys were wearing…

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    Pete July 15, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Also, I wonder if that fellow in Condon knows Tacx makes bike trainers. 😉

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    Spiffy July 15, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I was trying to figure out how they transported all the bikes… looks like there’s a cargo trailer being pulled by the bus…

    where were the bikes stored overnight?

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Yep. The bus pulls a big cargo trailer that can hold a dozen or so bikes and lots of other supplies, parts, luggage, food, water, and so on. I should have made that more clear in the story. I’ll consider adding something.

      As for where the bikes go overnight… they’re secure let’s just put it that way.

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    was carless July 15, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Wow. It looks so hot out there – make sure to use sunscreen and hydrate!

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    GlowBoy July 15, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Looks like a ton of fun. By the way, back in May I experienced that as spectacular as it is to road bike past Cottonwood Canyon State Park on the highway, it’s even better to explore the park by mountain bike.

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    Adam July 16, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Amazing! I could see this appealing to a lot of people.

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    howard draper July 16, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    There’s some great gravel around TREO, as well. I did 2 days of riding from there in April.

    Phil rented the ranch to us without SAG or food service, so we drove ourselves and cooked in the kitchen. It was an awesome base for self-supported rides on the rougher roads around there.

    Longish route with old cemetery visit, crosses a bridge with supports made out of cars!

    Out and back to Lonerock ghost town:

    PS – the Hardman cemetery on the hill above TREO glows at night. You’ll have to go up there to find out why.

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    KristenT July 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Beautiful, and awesome.

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