WAITSBURG, Wash. – In 1805, a pair of explorers passed through this region, hoping to reach the Pacific Ocean. The twin towns of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington – our overnight camping area for Cycle Oregon – were named to honor Lewis and Clark.
On Tuesday, more than two thousand cyclists rolled out of Clarkston and spun along the banks of the Snake River on a modern, two-wheeled journey of discovery through the wheat fields of Eastern Washington.
Discovery can take many forms. For the many who traveled from urban areas, Tuesday’s route was a landscape of discovery.
Distance takes on new meaning east of the Cascades. Between Clarkston and our destination, Waitsburg, we passed through only two towns, Pomeroy and Starbuck (no, they don’t see that coffee there!) Undulating golden fields of wheat stretched to the horizon, with a red barn here and there, and a silo and grain elevator near the main towns.
Historians tell us Lewis and Clark might never have made to the mouth of the Columbia River if not for the help of the Nez Perce tribe that inhabited this region east of the Cascades. Helping hands about at Cycle Oregon as well. Tuesday’s route challenged riders with a second straight day of 80-plus miles, two 10-mile hills, and a healthy serving of east side headwinds.
Some riders discovered new strength by completing the route. I discovered new friends like David and Roger, who helped block the wind while I drafted behind them.
Most of all, Cycle Oregon offers a chance for visitor and host to discover how much we all have in common. Two thousand lycra-clad cyclists instantly boost the population of our finish host town of Waitsburg. The mayor welcomed riders, admitting he worried about the right way to address us: Bikers? Cyclers? Teens from town greeted us with high-fives as we pedaled past Main Street. Clearly, the folks in this rural community went the extra mile to make our mostly urban band of two-wheeled explorers feel welcome.
The evening ended as the local country band, Frog Hopper, played to an appreciative Cycle Oregon crowd. Cowboys and cyclists shared the dance floor, just one of many ways Cycle Oregon brings urban and rural together. The band’s lead singer summed it up best by ending the performance with the announcement: “You’re all rednecks now!”
PHOTO GALLERY: Cycle Oregon Day 3