“Day 0” of Cycle Oregon is winding down here in The Dalles. High above this historic Gorge town in beautiful Sorosis Park, over 2,000 people have created a mini-city complete with live entertainment, food, a vendor/expo area, more porta-potties than you can imagine, a bike shop, and much more.
People have come from all over the country (and the world) to take part in the 27th edition of this ride. After making final adjustments to their bikes and bodies, tomorrow morning we’ll begin what is rumored to be one of the toughest Cycle Oregon routes ever. But before the riding starts, we got to spend a day in The Dalles, this year’s host city.
As you might recall from my visit here back in April, The Dalles wants to put itself on the cycling map. They’ve got a very enthusiastic mayor in Stephen Lawrence and he’s guiding a ship with an eager crew. From the Chamber of Commerce to local businesses, The Dalles rolled out the welcome mat for Cycle Oregon.
In a display of bicycling’s long history in this area, civic boosters hung up cycling-related articles from local newspapers dating back to the 1800s in downtown storefront windows. From commentaries on bicycle fashion to recaps of thrilling bike adventures, the excerpts made for fun reading. Check out a few of my favorites below…
The displays were part of a larger, special Early Day Bicycling in The Dalles exhibit put together by “The Crazy History Ladies” (a band of women who love sharing local lore, more about their exploits below) and The Dalles Main Street (the group that recently opened the city’s first parklet). The main exhibit, housed in a former car dealership on Union Street near the river, features historic photographs, more newspaper articles, and bicycle-related artwork from the 19th century.
That’s where I met Charles T. Burchtorf, my new Oregon history hero.
“Charlie” as he was known throughout The Dalles, lived here for 71 years. Trained as a gunsmith he also became a renowned bicycle mechanic, salesman, and shop owner. He was known to take bikecamping adventures north into Washington with friends and he even invented a special foot strap to get his bike up the area’s steep mountain roads. For his entire life Burchtorf “steadfastly shunned” motorized vehicles, and people said they could set their watches to his regular bike commutes from his home to his bike shop. Tragically, he was hit and killed by one of those motorized vehicles while biking into work in April 1948. A tragic and poignant end to the life of a fellow bicycle lover.
After a walk around downtown, I headed back up to Sorosis Park to check out the crowds in the beer garden and settle into the evening.
And then I met “The Floozies”.
I’d heard about them last time I was in town. They’re essentially the official greeters of The Dalles. It’s a fun-loving group started a few years ago by history buff Mary Davis (who goes by the Floozie name of “Madame Mary”) and her friend Sharon Hull. The Floozies — think of them as The Dalles’ version of Portland’s Royal Rosarians, with more of a, how should I say, adult edge — have earned quite a reputation working the docks and welcoming cruise ship guests to town.
The Floozies are fantastic. I’m already looking forward to hanging out with them more when we finish here in The Dalles a week from tomorrow.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Time for bed. Tomorrow is Day 1, a 63-mile jaunt across the Columbia River and up the Klickitat River Valley to Glenwood, Washington.
Check out more photos — including some shots of The Dalles Mayor Stephen Lawrence and new Cycle Oregon Director Alison Graves — on my full Day 0 gallery on Flickr.