A Weekend(er) of friends and fun in McMinnville

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Lars Larson with that, there’s-only-10-miles-to-the-finish-line, smile.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Cycle Oregon is many things. The organization — in the midst of its 30th year — is dedicated to helping all of Oregon reach its economic and cycling potential while putting on events that bring people closer to new places and faces.

Cycling is at the heart of what Cycle Oregon does; but they’re really in the people business. When you “do” a Cycle Oregon event it’s entirely possible to come away with more memories of the people you rode with than the roads you pedaled on. That’s especially true on their Weekender event. Without the physical challenge of the much more grueling Classic ride (the seven-day event they’re most known for), Weekender is much more accessible in both price ($199 versus $999) and pain (120 miles over two days versus 490 miles over seven days). This means it might be doable for friends who aren’t as nutty about cycling as you are.

This past weekend I invited a few friends to join me on the ride. We chose to ride 78 miles from Portland to the base camp at Linfield College in McMinnville on Friday (thankfully someone drove our bags down for us). We followed that up with 73 miles on Saturday and a 52-miler on Sunday. None of the days had a significant amount of climbing and we kept our average speed chill and conversational (13-15 mph). It’s also worth noting that we chose the longest of three possible routes both days. (This event would be great if you have friends that would rather ride just 15 or 40 miles a day.) In between miles in the saddle we relaxed, got to know each other a bit better (easier to do than at home where our kids and other responsibilities constantly loom), soaked up the small-town charms of McMinnville, and let Cycle Oregon’s legendary hospitality do the rest.

Friday’s ride was highlighted by a trip up Oregon City’s municipal elevator (and its companion view), a lunch stop at the Butteville Store in Champoeg State Park (their food is amazing for a State Park general store), a trip across the Willamette River on the Wheatland Ferry, and a final toast of seasonal blackberry cider at the rooftop bar of McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon with 360-degree views of McMinnville and beyond. “I think I’ve had a perma-grin for the past six hours,” my friend Jason Dotts said as our server snapped a quick photo of us.

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Somehow this guy who only rides to four miles to work and back managed to ride about 200 miles in three days and always had a smile on his face.
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$1 to cross the river. Well worth it.
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Just before the climb up Walnut Hill Road.
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View of the Yamhill River Valley toward McMinnville from Walnut Hill Rd.
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Massive oak trees dotted our route all weekend.
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All smiles at rooftop bar above McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon in McMinnville.

As a bonus it just so happened to be the 57th annual Turkey Rama Summer Festival so McMinnville’s main street was carfree and full of vendors, food and entertainment (which included the annual Beard and Mustache Contest).


Cycle Oregon kicked off Weekender on Friday night with dinner (which we ate outside amid the trees and grass of the Lindfield campus) and music from a great Portland band called Ma Fondue, whose lead singer Nayibe Rojas infused the crowd with impressive energy and vocals.

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We woke up Saturday with breakfast in the rising sun and then set out on a 73-mile loop that would take us southwest of McMinnville to just beyond the small timber town of Willamina. The expansive farms and forests had us contemplating the history of the American west. My riding mate Lars Larson is a professor of English who just so happens to be something of an expert on the myriad connections between physical spaces, geography, history and literature. Lars shared insights about the behaviors of the native tribes (did you know they set fire to forests?) and megafauna extinctions and migrations in our recent past (did you know camels originated in America?).

Saturday’s ride was highlighted by the short and punchy climb up Rock Creek Road just outside of Sheridan and the splendid descent of Buck Hollow Road that followed. The best rest stop of the weekend was at Blackwell County Park where we enjoyed cups of local blackberries and watched crystal clear Willamina Creek glide along at our feet. The last 20 miles of the loop were sort of a hot slog and weren’t nearly as interesting as the first 50.

After another post-ride stop at McMenamin’s Hotel Oregon for just one more blackberry cider and some tots, we rolled into camp, put on our swim trunks, and headed straight for the pool! The cool liquid immersion was just what the doctor ordered.

After dinner on Saturday night we kicked back on the grass and enjoyed more great live music. This time it was another Portland band, The Junebugs, that got us talking. Just when we thought this three-dude, two-beard trio would be all folksy, lead singer Moses Barrett started covering pop songs from Lorde and Katy Perry. And he pulled it off!

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Jason works at the law firm Two & Oak, so I took this of him and a big oak just for fun.
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Lars sharing the road with another vulnerable road user (yes, farm equipment drivers are also legally defined as VRUs).
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Mural in Sheridan harkens back to the timber era.
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Ultimate rest stop at Blackwell County Park in the hills above Willamina.

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Post-ride iced coffee from thew new (and rentable!) Nossa Familia cargo bike. Yes please!

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Kicking back in the shade and soaking up the Cycle Oregon camp vibes.

Sunday’s 52-mile loop went east then south from McMinnville and meandered through small towns surrounding Amity between the Yamhill and Willamette Rivers. We lunched at Hauer of the Dauen Winery, tasted a few of their bottles, then rolled into camp where we were greeted with cheers and free ice cream.

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Good one Cycle Oregon sign volunteers.
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Lars got a lesson in soil types, wine marketing, and grape varieties along with his sips.

As with every Cycle Oregon ride I’ve done, I feel like I know my state a bit more now. And having friends along to enjoy this one with me had the added bonus of feeling like I know them a bit more too.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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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 maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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6 years ago

Jonathan, I hope thats not the Lars Larson with the Radio Show.

Big Knobbies
Big Knobbies
6 years ago
Reply to  bikeninja

Why? Have you ever listened to his show? That Lars is a good guy. He allows people with any view to call in and make their point. He’s fair, but if he disagrees he will tell you why, but he isn’t nasty about it. He’s on FM 101.1 right now. He mentioned the bike tax earlier. Call him up. Ask him what he thinks about the bike tax. Probably only on live until 3 pm.
2:48 pm

6 years ago

Why does bikeninja get a pass on this. Seems he’s the one who wanted to politicize it?

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
6 years ago
Reply to  bikeninja

If you think conservatives don’t ride bikes, I have a CRC to sell you.

Cycle Oregon
Cycle Oregon
6 years ago

Thanks for the write up, Jonathan! One oversight – The Junebugs also covered Taylor Swift (and brought the house down).

Big thanks to all the volunteers for all their help, the staff and students at Linfield for sharing their campus and the city of McMinnville for welcoming us. And a heartfelt thank you to all the riders – so many good vibes on the ride this year. Must have been all that sunshine!

Steve Campbell
Steve Campbell
6 years ago

Sorry to be a bummer, but does anyone have any information about the rider who crashed on the second day? It was still in town right before the bridge over the Yamhill River.