PENDLETON, Ore. – After five long days in the saddle, riders at Cycle Oregon 2010 had a chance to take a break from two-wheeled touring to experience the 100th annual Pendleton Round-Up.
The day began with the Westward Ho! Parade, which snaked through downtown Pendleton, following the route of the old Oregon Trail.
Cyclists and locals packed the parade route, and witnessed an event filld with patriotism and history. Native Americans were prominently featured and honored in the parade, and cowboy hats were quickly removed each time the American flag paraded past.
This parade was fueled exclusively by horsepower – oxen, mule teams, horses of every breed and size from palominos to Clydesdale, real stage coaches, and more rodeo queens than you could count, along with marching bands from as far away as Astoria, and the mandatory politicians, including both candidates for Governor (John Kitzhaber rode a horse, Chris Dudley walked.)
PHOTO GALLERY: Westward Ho! Parade
After the parade, cyclists got a chance to visit the world famous Pendleton Round-Up. The four-day competition started as a simple celebration of the harvest back in 1910 and has grown to be one of the biggest rodeos of its kind in the world.
We were assured that no trip to the rodeo was complete without a stop at the Let 'Er Buck room, a cavernous, dimly lit bar beneath the rodeo grandstands. "Don't try to order a Budweiser in there, because they only serve Pendleton Whiskey," Jonathan Nicholas had warned us. Although 11 a.m. seemed a little early for a Whiskey shot, "when in Pendleton..."
A half-dozen of us dress as far from cyclist as possible, in T-shirts, jeans and even a few cowboy hats, and moseyed on over for a ceremonial shot and a look around. A sea of cowboy hats and broad shoulders filled the dimly lit room. A prominently posted sign warned that "public indecency will not be tolerated." About five feet away, a red lace bra hung from the horns of a bull mounted on the wall. The Whiskey was strong, the air was hot, and it was time for the rodeo to start.
More than 17,000 filled the rodeo stands, including about 2,000 cyclsts, whose weary legs still had the strength to stomp in delighted unision when the rodeo announcer acknowledged our attendance. The cyclist section was notably silent half an hour later when the announcer told an Obama joke, to the delight of the majority of the rodeo crowd.
The competition included seven Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) like bull riding, cow roping abd barrel racing. For the centennial competition, several historic events were brought back, and we got to see Native Americans compete in the original Indian relay races, where each rider switched horses three times, all while riding bareback.
It was quite a show. Or, as they say in Pendleton: “Let ‘er buck!”
PHOTO GALLERY: Pendleton Round-Up