Cycle Oregon VIII
A bicycle ride in north eastern Oregon
September 10-16, 1995
By Neil Mishalov
First things first. Here are some statistics about the ride.
Number of Riders: 2,200
Registration Fee: $435
Riders from Oregon: 1,514
Riders from California: 265
Number of States Represented: 38
Oldest Rider: 78 Years
Youngest Rider: 9 Years
Female Riders: 623
Male Riders: 1,577
Weather: Sunny, no rain and temperatures in the 90's during the day and 40's at night
Days on the road: Seven
Distance Cycled: 440 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 27,300 Feet
Area Cycled: Wallowa Mountains, Strawberry Mountains, Blue Mountains, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the high desert.
Towns Where We Camped: Athena, Elgin, Joseph, Halfway, Sumpter, Prairie City, Monument and Fossil. TEST: See if you can find these towns on your Oregon road map!
OK, now that the statistics are out of the way, I can tell you a little something about the trip. 1995 was the eighth year that Cycle Oregon took place, and it was the third year that I participated in the event. The ride is fully subscribed within a week of the applications being sent out, and each year the ride traverses a different route. This year we cycled through rural north eastern Oregon. Most of the towns that we cycled through or camped at have a population of less that 500 people. The trip traversed through the former home terrain of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians, former gold mining areas, the Oregon emigrant trail, hay fields and hills, hills, and more hills!
An amazing thing about Cycle Oregon is how smoothly everything works. The logistics are impressive when you consider that there are 2,200 cyclists on the road, a couple of hundred support people, and many support vehicles.
In addition, the riders were provided with three meals a day; For example, here is the quantity of food supplied for lunch on the 4th day of the trip: 625 lbs. of Turkey, ( Yes, vegetarians had non meat meals. ) 266 loaves of bread, 300 lbs. of cheese, 1,632 cans of soft drinks, 34 cases of Gatoraide, 2,000 lbs. of salad, 147 lbs. of bean sprouts, 44 flats of grapes, etc., etc.
Camp sites are provided every evening. If you have never seen ±1,500 tents set up on a high school football field, believe me it is a sight to see! Every evening portable showers are also set up and they never run out of hot water. Of course there is also a myriad of porta-potties.
The ride also has four ambulances riding on the course, four Oregon State Motorcycle Troopers tooling along on the road plus five sag wagons. In addition, three different traveling bicycle repair shops set up free repair facilities every day, and 20-30 masseuses provided massages for a fee. For those who were thirsty, Full Sail Brewery, out of Hood River, set up a beer garden every evening.
The ride is great to participate in just to see how this moving wheeled community flawlessly works.
DAY ONE: Well, the first day we cycled from Athena ( Elevation 1,734 ), located just north of Pendleton, to Elgin ( Elevation 2,692 ). The ride was only about 45 miles in length; we had to climb one big hill ( Peak Elevation 5,160 ). Lunch was at Spout Springs Ski Area ( Elevation 5,028 ). Elgin is a community with the Wallowa Mountains to the east and the Blue Mountains to the west. Elgin's site was once the location of the Central Indian Camp of the Nez Perce tribe, and a trading area since the 1880s. Total climb: 4,150ft.
DAY TWO: On day two we entered the beautiful Wallowa Valley, and had lunch in Wallowa. We cycled 54 miles and climbed 3,280ft. Camp was at Joseph ( Elevation 4,247 ), a thriving art community located on the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
DAY THREE: This was a tough day. The distance was 78 miles, and the total climb was 5,290ft. We had lunch overlooking Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. Hells Canyon is the deepest river gorge in North America, and a beautiful sight to see. After a sweet 17 mile decent into the Pine Valley, we camped at Halfway ( Elevation 2,684 ), the home of Inga Thompson, former Olympic cycling medalist.
DAY FOUR: We cycled 84 miles and climbed 4,800ft. Lunch was just outside Baker City at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This is a special place to visit. They have wonderful life size displays of the pioneers traversing the Oregon Trail in the 1850s. You can still see the wagon wheel ruts in the high desert. Ah yes, the high desert. We cycled about 50 miles of desert today. It was hot, it was sunny and it was hard. About 50 riders sagged into the evening camp at Sumpter ( Elevation 4,463 ). Sumpter, population 150, was a booming gold mining community and as recently as 1957 their gold dredge was still operating. The dredge can still be viewed on the edge of town.
DAY FIVE: This day was only 46 miles, and the climbing was 3,280ft. We had lunch in Unity ( Elevation 5,124 ), where we were treated to some wonderful foot-stomping, hand-clapping, fiddling music. We descended into Prairie City ( Elevation 3,553 ), and saw to the west the beautiful backdrop of the Strawberry Mountains.
DAY SIX: On this day we had a 72-mile ride and climbed 3,800 ft. During the many mining booms that hit Eastern Oregon, thousands of Chinese laborers were employed. John Day the first community we traveled through, is the site of the Kam Wah Museum, which celebrates the herbal medicine practice of the Chinese mine workers. Lunch was served at Fox ( Elevation 4,387 ). After a few more hot and steep climbs, we dropped 10 fast miles into Monument ( Elevation 2,013 ). Monument is an agricultural town bustling with activity in September. Hay, mint, apples and pears all come to harvest during September.
DAY SEVEN: Whew, the last day. On one hand you're pleased that the ride is finishing, but there is sadness knowing that the special magical event is almost over. We cycled 60 miles today and climbed 2,690ft. We had 40 miles of gentle downhill, and then a 2,100ft climb in ten miles. Then we dropped down to Fossil ( Elevation 2,656 ), and finished the ride!
Copyright © 1996 by Neil Mishalov
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