Cycle Oregon Day 3 – Starkey to Sumpter

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cycle oregon Day 3 ride Starkey to Sumpter

[Leaving Starkey]

Ride Details: 53 miles, 4,400 feet elevation gain

This morning we left Starkey and rode along the Grande Ronde River valley. It was a frigid but unbelievably gorgeous start to the day. I couldn’t resist joining the many other riders that stopped on a bridge for a cheesy photo of me and the river.

Today’s ride was a roller-coaster with more tough climbing and unrelenting heat. We pedaled over three separate peaks on our way into Sumpter.

After a morning in the mountains, our route opened up into a vast meadow. Cows and serpentine creeks left their mark on my memory and on the wide-open landscape.

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Cycle Oregon – Camp at Starkey

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Cycle Oregon day 2 - Starkey camp scenes

[Dave, owner of
the Starkey Store]

The folks in Starkey, like Heppner and Umatilla, welcomed us with open arms; all 42 of them. Starkey is the first real small town we’ve stayed in. Total population is 21 and according to Dave (owner of the Starkey Store) they were the last town in Oregon to get phone service.

Setting up the Cycle Oregon circus of 3000 people in a place like this is—in the words of ride director Jerry Norquist—“a challenge” and that’s putting it mildly.

There was no running water for us to tap in to so the ride crew trucked in 30,000 gallons for the showers. Then, some forest fire crews called up and took some of the trucks, leaving some folks without their daily bathing ritual.

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Cycle Oregon Day 2 – Heppner to Starkey

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cycle oregon day 2 - heppner to Starkey

[Leaving Heppner]

Ride details: 82 miles, 6000 feet elevation gain

Leaving Heppner was bittersweet. While I looked forward to getting back in the saddle and the ride into Starkey, I felt like I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the sweet little town nestled between golden, rolling hills.

The community in Heppner gladly let Cycle Oregon take over their entire downtown and the night’s entertainment—an awesome Irish music ensemble—fit with Heppner’s strong Irish roots.

While hanging out around the stage, I noticed a familiar T-shirt on Cycle Oregon founder and emcee Jonathan Nicholas. The design was created by Portlander Justa Louise-Phillips and he bought the shirt from her at last year’s BikeCraft Fair.

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Cycle Oregon: Day 1 to Heppner

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Cycle Oregon Day 1

Well I made it to Heppner; 70 miles down, 520 to go.

The ride was fantastic. Ideal weather, wide-open countryside, and wispy clouds set against a perfectly blue sky and empty roads. I rolled out of Umatilla and kept to myself for the first 20 miles or so. I just wanted to let the feeling of the pedals and the open vistas sink in. It’s been way too long since I’ve been on the open road and it felt great.

Here’s a few stories about the people I met on my way to Heppner.

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Cycle Oregon base camp: Umatilla

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[Editor’s note: I wrote this last night but couldn’t get on the web until now.]

Cycle Oregon Day 0 Umatilla

[Where’s my bag?]

So here I am in McNary Dam State Park, Umatilla Oregon. I’ve never been this far out into the Gorge. I feel like I’m out on the frontier.

It’s Day 0 of the 19th annual Cycle Oregon and the sounds, sights and scope of this whole operation are overwhelming.

Thousands of people are settling into this temporary compound; 2000 riders, hundreds of volunteers, vendors, staff, it’s like a tiny nation-state in the middle of nowhere. Generators and refrigerated trucks hum incessantly and riders are like bees in a honeycomb, busily setting up their tents and fidgeting with their huge bags of gear.

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Ready or not, Cycle Oregon here I come

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Cycle Oregon party

The 19th edition of Cycle Oregon begins this Saturday. I’ll be joining the famous week-long tour and reporting back with photos and stories from the road.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’m woefully unprepared for the journey. Sure, I’m still young(ish) at 31, but I can’t even remember the last time I rode over 30 miles at one sitting. Looking at the route, I’ve got to survive an average of 70 miles over seven days; not to mention scaling numerous mountain passes.

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Cycle Oregon announces Visionaries Voyage ride

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Cycle Oregon/Scenic Bikeway ride

[Jonathan Nicholas at
last year’s ride.]

Last year Metro and Cycle Oregon teamed up to host a bike ride from the Eastbank Esplanade to Champoeg State Park. They informally called it the “Policymakers Ride”. It was an invite-only affair to showcase a future Portland-to-Champoeg leg of Oregon State Parks’ Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway Route.

On the ride were all sorts of bike and transportation bigwigs including former Mayor Bud Clark and reps from Metro, Oregon Parks and Recreation, BTA, PDOT, and others.

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Cycle Oregon unveils route at kickoff party

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Cycle Oregon party

[Art meets sport]

It was fitting that the Cycle Oregon crew unveiled the 2006 route at a classy place like the Portland Art Museum. I’ve never seen such a big hoopla just to announce a ride. It was really impressive.

From the covered and guarded bike parking to the 20 or so smiling, official-T-shirt-clad volunteers who greeted me before I even hit the lobby. If this is how they run their ride, sign me up. Once inside, I saw white linen cloaked tables, bottles of wine, and hundreds of smiling, beautiful baby boomers wearing everything from sport coats to spandex…and this was just the pre-party!

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A visit to Cycle Oregon HQ

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Cycle Oregon HQ in North Portland

I never realized Cycle Oregon had its headquarters right here in North Portland. I visited them today to talk top secret business stuff and was impressed by what I saw. I especially liked this nifty bike rack.

Here’s a photo of their top guy, Jerry Norquist (thanks for lunch!). He’s been in the bike industry (Specialized, Trek) for over 30 years and brings some serious vision and connections to his position.

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