ENTERPRISE, Ore. – You know it’s going to be a good day when you get a send-off from real cheerleaders.
The population of the Eastern Oregon town of Elgin shrank in half Sunday morning when 2,200 cyclists rolled out for the first day of Cycle Oregon 2010 with a boost from the Elgin High School cheerleaders.
The warm send-off was appreciated after most riders awoke to find frost clinging to the walls of their tents. Cyclists quickly shed layers as the morning chill quickly gave way to sunny skies.
Riders climbed up out of Elgin then chased the Wallowa River, passing fly fishermen along the way, en route to lunch in the town of Wallowa.
After lunch, I joined hundreds of riders who took a 25-mile optional side trip to pristine Wallowa Lake. Patches of snow still clung to the jagged Wallow peaks that stab the Eastern Oregon skyline. It’s no surprise this area is known as Little Switzerland.
Just before the lake, a monument honors Chief Joseph, the great chief of the Nez Perce tribe that once inhabited these valleys, and for whom the nearby town of Joseph is named. Offerings adorn the base of the monument, which sits atop a ridge overlooking spectacular Wallowa Lake.
After 60 miles of riding, most of us who took the side trip were easily temped to take a dip in the lake. I knew what I was in for when I noticed that the only swimmer at the lake was wearing a wetsuit, but the frigid waters were somehow rejuvenating for tired legs.
The route back to Enterprise passed through the chief’s namesake town of Joseph, where riders were split evenly between a pair of temptations, the local ice cream shop and the local patio bar. But most riders waited to quench their thirst until the finish in Enterprise, which got its name during a meeting in a tent in 1887. More than a century later, the town remains an “enterprising” community.
One such institution proved especially popular with Cycle Oregon riders - Terminal Gravity, a widely respected micro brew. Packed shuttles ferried riders from the finish to the outpost oasis, where pitchers and TG cycling jerseys seemed in equal demand.
Back at the finish, a new tent city sprang up, again doubling the local population in a single afternoon. Today’s campsite? The town golf course, but with one restriction: No camping on the greens!
PHOTO GALLERY: Cycle Oregon Day 2