ELGIN, Ore. -- After a rest day spent experiencing the Pendleton Round-up, riders at Cycle Oregon 2010 got to experience another Eastern Oregon tradition overnight - a powerful thunderstorm.
Through thin tent walls, night turned briefly into day as lightning flashed across the sky, then thunder reverberated against the hills. I had left my big fancy REI "condo" tent at home and instead brought a more space-friendly $30 tent I got years ago at Fred Meyer. For fifteen minutes, as strong winds repeatedly battered my shelter, I wondered if I'd regret the decision. But the storm past, the tent stood firm, and 2,200 riders awoke to the final day of Cycle Oregon to ride what was billed as the hardest day of the week.
The Day 7 route took riders from Pendleton back to the ride start in Elgin on a 76-mile route through the Blue Mountains. The course included a "warm-up" two mile hill. followed by a 20-mile hill right after lunch. Total climbing for the day was about 6,700. If you drove up the road from Government Camp to Timberline Lodge in your car three times, you still wouldn't quite match the Day 7 elevation gain!
With such dire warnings of a challenging final day, riders broke camp and were on their bikes earlier than any previous day of the week. By 7:50 a.m., when my group tossed our tent and duffel bags on trailer for the last time, the high school football field where we spent two nights was nearly deserted! It is a curious habit of a Cycle Oregon "vacation" that riders get up, and get on their bikes, earlier than if they were at home and going to work.
The morning once again threatened rain but mostly served up only damp roads through harvested wheat fields. At about 20 miles in, we rode up the fist hill, which spiraled artistically upward, offering panoramic views of the riders behind as they pedaled up through rolling wheat fields. After a final lunch stop at a park where riders took turns going down the park slide, and ate sandwiches on the kids' swing, everyone set out for the climb into the Blue Mountains.
The first miles pitched steeply upward, but the rest of the climb included brief flatter or downhill sections, and most riders I talked to found the climb to be less difficult than the more scenic but also more challenging Rattlesnake Grade on Day 2. The top of the climb took us through Tollgate, where a mix of rustic and opulent lodges circled an alpine lake. From the top of the climb, the final 15 miles of Cycle Oregon were literally all downhill to the rousing welcome back to Elgin.
Many of the riders who came with a group, or made new friends during the week, rode in together. I had come to this year's ride with a half-dozen friends and, as in years past, was fortunate to meet great new friends along the way. It was a delight to fly down the final hill with David, Daphne and Roger and finish together with my riding companions for the week.
For some people, Cycle Oregon is just a chance to get in lots of bike riding. I sure did that, tallying 415 miles in six days. But for many, Cycle Oregon is not just about the bike. It's an annual journey of discovery, a chance to explore the quiet corners of our state. It's also a chance to connect east and west, urban and rural, to gain a better mutual understanding of the challenges we each face. And ultimately, Cycle Oregon is about people - 2,200 adventurous-minded people, and hundreds more dedicated volunteers - coming together to share an adventure with old friends, and make new ones.
Where to next year?
PHOTO GALLERY: Cycle Oregon Day 7
PHOTO GALLERY: Pendleton Round-Up
PHOTO GALLERY: Westward Ho! parade
Complete Coverage Cycle Oregon Blog