After seven days, 489 miles, and 35,000 feet of climbing, my Cycle Oregon 2014 experience concluded in The Dalles on Saturday.
The final day’s route was a fitting end to a stunning week of riding. We left our camp in bucolic Tygh Valley and ascended 1,500 feet in the first 9 miles. It was a long slog, but climbing was a great way to warm up after awakening to icy morning temps in the valley. Once to the top of Tygh Ridge the rest of our day was mostly downhill, save for a few rolling hills. The roads — as was typical all week — were mostly devoid of all other traffic.
After weaving by postcard-perfect ranch houses and views of Mt. Hood, I let out a bittersweet sigh as I got my first sight of the Columbia River and The Dalles Bridge. A week ago, our ride began on that same bridge, and now it was coming to an end. I savored every last pedal stroke and tried to remember as many details of the previous week as I could.
At the finish line, I watched other riders stream in with a mix of relief (it was a very challenging route) and happiness (finishing all seven days was no simple feat).
(Photo by Dean Rodgers/Cycle Oregon)
After a five year absence, the past week was a chance for me to re-acquaint myself with Cycle Oregon: its riders, staff, volunteers, vendors, and its mission. After 27 years, the event remains relevant and vibrant, but the organization behind it — a non-profit that raises funds to help rural communities and spurs over $5 million per year in statewide economic development — is searching for direction. With a new executive director at the helm in Alison Graves, Cycle Oregon is asking itself how it can make the most impact in the future.
The ride was founded as a way to connect urban-dwelling bike lovers with Oregon’s rural areas to strengthen the social and financial fabric between the two. Taking 2,000 or so people through the nooks and crannies of our state and meeting local people along the way seems like a sure-fire way to do that. For me personally, it has definitely worked. The new places I’ve explored on my bike and the people I’ve met along the way have given me not only a stronger connection to Oregon (outside of my Portland bubble), but a desire to make it even better — whether someone rides a bike or not.