My family’s Cycle Oregon Weekend (photos)

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My crew aboard the Buena Vista Ferry which crosses the Willamette River southeast of Monmouth.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

In my opinion, the best thing about Cycle Oregon Weekend has nothing to do with cycling at all.

Now in its twelfth year, the Weekend Ride (a.k.a. Summer Bike Camp) was created as a kinder, gentler version of Cycle Oregon’s legendary week-long ride. Instead of seven days of grueling climbs and lots of mileage, the weekend ride offers two days of riding (with six total route options) with something for everyone from a complete novice to a hardened enthusiast.

But the riding is just one part of what makes this event so enjoyable. This year I brought along my three kids (ages four, nine, and 12) and my wife Juli. We filled our weekend with picnics, card games at our campsite, a few history lessons, a ferry boat ride, swimming, skipping rocks, hanging out in parks, listening to live music, picking blackberries, exploring roadside attractions, and much more.

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Rest stop picnic on the Willamette.
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Skipping rocks on the Willamette in Buena Vista.
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The Cascadia Thunderpluckers at a rest stop.
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So good.
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Tis the season.
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Jennifer Smieja on stage Saturday night.
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Mural in Dallas.
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Rest stop picnics where so much fun.
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Swimming at the WOU pool was a big hit.

The event uses Western Oregon University in Monmouth as a base camp (meals are served in the dining hall and there’s even an option to sleep in the dorm rooms). With around 1,800 attendees, the college campus feel more like Cycle Oregon University from Friday through Sunday. The several acres between the tents on the grass athletic fields and the main city park where the beer garden and live music stage are set up, feels like one big residential block in an old neighborhood where everyone knows each other and kids run and ride freely from one house to another.

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For the kids who aren’t ready to ride the 20-mile short course, the Community Cycling Center runs camps each day. On Saturday night campers grab the spotlight on the main stage during nightly announcements. They’re always just as goofy and charming as you’d expect.

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I think Cycle Oregon Weekend is just an elaborate plot to recruit future riders for their 7-day Week ride.

Where fit and fast middle-aged riders dominate Cycle Oregon’s longer event, families and kids are the norm on the Weekend. I was struck at how many families had three generations riding togeter! Grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, and their kids. This is a true “8-80” event where everyone’s welcome. It’s sort of like Sunday Parkways but out in the country.

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Greg and Erin Lehman from Oak Grove were riding with their four children ages 12-16 years old.

Speaking of feeling welcome, Monmouth city councilor Marshall Guthrie was on hand Saturday night. He loves cycling and wants his little corner of Polk County to be a magnet for bicycle tourism. So much so in fact that he invited the entire crowd to join him on the road. “Send me an email next time you’re in town,” he told the entire crowd from the main stage, “and we’ll go for a ride.”

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The Monmouth-Independence area is in good hands with
community leaders like Marshall Guthrie.

And if you want to focus on the riding, you won’t be disappointed. People who chose the long route each day covered 134 miles and over 5,500 feet of climbing on some of the most beautiful and lightly traveled roads in Oregon. In the tiny towns around Monmouth, horses, cows and tractors far outnumber people. You’ll pedal by historic farms, picturesque barns and majestic rolling hills covered in wheat, mint, corn, lavender, berries, cherries, and more.

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Historic downtown Dallas looks and feels like a movie set.
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On Saturday, my family and I rode southeast of Monmouth to Buena Vista. We hopped aboard a ferry for a round-trip ride, then returned to Monmouth via the Little Luckiamute River. On Sunday we headed the opposite direction and explored historic Dallas before looping back to campus via Cooper Hollow Road and a few secret gravel roads I found thanks to a “wrong” turn.

Despite what you might expect, my wife and kids are anything but hardcore riders. To them biking is “daddy’s work” and it’s not their first choice of activities. This was a rare occasion where we all rode together, without my usual focus on work. And it was sublime. Quiet roads, easy conversations, and just the right amount of challenge to test legs and minds (it was my 12-year-old’s first time on a real road bike, my 9-year old got over her fear of gravel, and my little 4-year-old co-captain did his longest ride ever!).

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There’s nothing like the open road to open up hearts and minds (even of pre-teen girls).
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Thumbs up!

Overall, I speak for my entire family in giving this event a big thumbs up… And that’s not the free ice cream talking.

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Disclaimer: BikePortland is an official 2015 Cycle Oregon media partner. Cycle Oregon paid for my registration at the Weekend Ride..

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Matt M
Matt M
8 years ago

Glad to hear that this event has evolved from where it started. My Dad and I did the first one and there were no route options that year, and the hills on that first day had many people walking their bikes on the side of the road. We’ll be looking into this event next year.

David Bosch
David Bosch
8 years ago

What a ton of Family Fun! I’d love to get something like this going in my state (Michigan)!

John Liu
John Liu
8 years ago

I loved Cycle Oregon weekend last year. Shame it always conflicts with STP meaning I have to choose which to do.

8 years ago

Thanks for the nice writeup. I saw you and two of your kids near the main stage on Saturday – the picture of happy family time!
I’ve done the weekend three times now, and enjoyed each go round. We got lucky with the weather – the heat broke just in time.

Marshall Guthrie
8 years ago

It was great to meet you Jonathan, and I’m so glad that you and the rest of the riders could experience this Monmouth/Independence community that I love.
Having lived in many different states, I can truly say that this area offers first-class biking (along with great food, drink, and people). I’m privillaged to ride these streets each day. My invitation stands; if any readers are looking for a ride, you can find my contact info on the Monmouth city webpage.

8 years ago

I lived in Salem for a bit and the riding out there is amazing. That ferry ride was often incorporated in a loop, great roads out there.

8 years ago

Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

8 years ago

A Bianchi with Campy on it.
Thanks for raising that kid right!

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
8 years ago

Your kids are growing up so fast!,…I remember when they were…

8 years ago


Mike Sanders
Mike Sanders
8 years ago

Loved that sign: “Life is an Adventure.” Quite true! Great pix! Love that Buena Vista ferry!

8 years ago

Fun story.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
8 years ago

How tall is your 4yo and how well does he fit that trailer bike? Mine has about 18in inseam and couldn’t pedal a piccolo until I changed to shorter cranks and reversed the seatpost clamp.

M Arnett
M Arnett
8 years ago

Such a wonderfully fun weekend this was. It was my first time to participate and I plan on coming back. Thanks to all the great people who worked so hard to plan and implement this event!