WAITS BURG, Wash. --Let’s face it, cyclists and motorized vehicles don’t always get along.
Even in “bike-friendly” Portland, conflicts between bicyclists and motorists are common. Take two thousands bike and fill a rural road with Lycra and you could have a recipe for disaster. So imagine how welcome riders on Cycle Oregon 2010 felt in Waitsburg, Washington when a farmer mowed into his wheat field the image of a giant bicycle!
Officially, Wednesday was a “rest” day for the week-long tour. After pedaling 240 miles in the past three days, I was ready for the rest. However, I remember watching the Tour de France on TV, and the announcers made a big deal out of the fact that, even on the “rest” days, Tour riders would go for a ride because it was actually better for their legs than doing nothing.
With that in mind, I decided to take advantage of the options and pedal around the sprawling amber fields surrounding Waitsburg rather than take the day off. This was a good plan in theory. However, apparently I am not a Tour de France rider - or much of a navigator. I managed to cram two thousand feet of climbing in just a 20-mile tour outside of town, oops!
What the ride lacked in restfulness, it more than made up for in scenery. Out here east of the Cascades, if you can see your neighbor, you’re too close! Ribbons of wheat fields stretch out toward every horizon. I tried to count the cars, and never got to the fingers on my second hand.
Along the route, I saw several riders pulled over. Wondering if they were OK, I stopped – only to discover they found some bushes still full of fresh blackberries in mid September. It was a delicious unscheduled snack stop.
Many riders went by bus or bike all the way to Walla Walla, where the town rolled out the welcome mat, including live music on the main street, and plenty of tastings of the wine made from locally grown grapes.
Back at camp, other riders used the rest day for important things like washing three days worth of cycling clothes using a makeshift set of buckets and soap, then using the town’s ball field fence to hang clothes to dry.
Cycle Oregon features a different local band performing live each evening, but for me he best entertainment of the week is "Bike Rodeo." That's when the hard-working wrenches at Bike Gallery get a chance to take a break from working on riders’ bikers and instead get to play games on their own. Tonight, the mechanics outdid themselves, vying for two-wheeled superiority in a mix of made-up competitions that included a wheelie contest, a big-air jump, an insane five-lape race around and through the assembled crowd, and a fabulous invention called bike jousting.
VIDEO: Cycle Oregon "Bike Jousting"
The crowning event, for which qualifying rounds are held, is called "foot down." In foot down, riders pedal at and into each other in an effort to force the other rider to put a foot down on the ground. Whoever stays upright longest, wins!
VIDEO: Cycle Oregon Foot Down
On this night, none other than Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves won the marquee competition, despite repeated attempts by the BG announcer to help the tech known as the "man-child". No sucking up to the boss in this one - Jay, who's company has provided the mechanical support for all 23 editions of Cycle Oregon, won foot-down fair and square!
PHOTO GALLERY: Cycle Oregon Day 4
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