Day 0 - Friday July 17
Tom and I arrive to Cycle Oregon University (COU aka Western Oregon University). We arrived around 3p.m. and had some time to kill before we could settle into our dorm room. So we took a little tour of Monmouth. It really is small! The main street is two or three blocks long, but they have the important stuff right across the street from the park where the entertainment and beer/wine garden were located for COU - that would be the ice cream shop and the coffee shop. Lots of people were hanging out over there. This day consisted of us checking in and settling into the dorms and having dinner before heading to the park for the Cycle Oregon festivities.
It's a pretty cool atmosphere to be a part of - we were 2 out of approximately 2000 cyclists and that was fun! We met quite a few people from the Portland Metro area over the couple of days we were there and met some others that were a little strange, but overall everyone was genuinely nice. They were well staff with experienced volunteers and all that we needed to do went pretty smoothly.
Oh, the other thing about Monmouth was that it was blazing hot! So when one of the organizers made announcements to the group, we were advised to start as early as possible for two reasons - it's going to be hot and the winds will pick up in the afternoon. It really was something, we did what we could to stay cool and hydrated since I was sweating so much just hanging out!
Day 1 - July 18
We are early risers for the most part so it was easy to get to breakfast at 6 a.m. The food that was available was so good! So many choices to help fuel us for the morning, eggs, potatoes, ham, oatmeal...fruit and other standard breakfast fare! Once we had our fill of breakfast we made our way out of the dining hall and out the door to a line-up of people that went down the stairs and around the corner on the walkway....lazy bums! They had to wait a long time! Well, with 2000 people going thru that kitchen it's a good thing that breakfast was being served until 9:00 a.m.
The course opened at 7:00 a.m. and we got going shortly after. We opted to do the middle route since it would be our warm up for the longer route the next day. The route took us north out of Monmouth and on 99W to Amity. That was a pretty good ride to the rest stop long steady climbs to warm us up and some wind too - evidently the wind can start when it wants! After lunch (at 9:30) we started the return to Monmouth. It was all mostly uneventful, but there were 4 small climbs that we had right before and after the rest stop in Dallas, OR. Other than that we made it back to town around lunch time. Total miles for the day - 46.81 miles.
During the ride, there was a Kid's Bike Camp which was put on by the Community Cycling Center located in Portland. There about 50 kids that spent the morning in "class" at the campus and honing there bike handling skills before they went out for a ride themselves. Some of the kids made and appearance during the evening festivities at the Main Stage and got to ride there bikes in front of the crowd that was already gathered there. They were presented by one of the CCC directors and they got to tell the crowd what their favorite part of the day was - this is what one said, "My favorite part of the day was going to a winery" and before she could finish, everyone was laughing because that was her favorite part of the day - it was her favortite because they (Eola Hills) had a pond and they had lunch there. It was pretty funny though. Poor thing...probably wasn't expecting that part.
During the announcements the night before the group was told that there would be tours available for riders starting at 1:30. A couple of the tours were Winery Tours! Now, we thought this would be fun, so Tom got us signed up for the North tours - which included Eola Hills. The City of Monmouth arranged to have these activities for us which was pretty cool, but the transportation and logistics needed some work. They had the right idea, but didn't realize what it would take to get groups out to the wineries and back in a smooth fashion. The transportation that was provided were these buses that are used for retirement homes and one actually said "Monmouth Senior Services!" What a crack up! We got onto our bus and there was no air conditioning - ugh. The open windows were a dead give-away. We only did a tasting at the Eola Hills which was very good! We arrived at Left Coast Cellars and the tasting room was completely packed so we decided to head back with a return group to the campus for the rest of the afternoon.
We hoofed it to town (not more than a 10 minute walk from campus) and got ourselves a treat - ice cream and people watched for a little while and met some other cyclists while hanging out. I don't think that the people that actually live there were out and about - it seemed that everyone I saw had a Cycle Oregon wristband on.
After an hour or so we went back to the dorms to rest a little and then went to dinner (fried chicken!) before heading back to the beer garden for some evening entertainment provided by a band called the Severin Sisters. They were so good - both very talented. One plays Banjo and Guitar and the other the Fiddle and mandolin. Their music is American Roots/Bluegrass (to check out their website click above the highlighted name).
Come 9:30 it was time for LIGHTS OUT!
Day 2 - July 19
Same routine as Day 1 get up and eat, but we had to pack our stuff into the car again before leaving so that added another element to the morning.
After Tom turned in our key we headed out for the long route which was 57.9 miles with 2,561 ft of elevation gain. With that much to gain from a start at 218 ft we had to start climbing hills pretty quick - like at 2 miles at a 6 or 7 percent grade for over two miles! Now, if you don't know me, I have a hard time doing the little hills near our home too early in a ride, my lungs need to get warmed up first. So, that first climb was almost too much. There were a couple of times that I just wanted to stop, but that would be defeat and I didn't want that. Also, since it was so early in the ride, my legs felt really good. So I couldn't stop, my lungs weren't cooperating, but I kept it steady and just when I thought we were at the top, the road made a turn and kept going up! What I really like is a nice long down hill after a big climb - that seems only fair as a reward. Nope that wasn't happening just yet. When it did come up it felt great to just go DOWN just to get ready for the next climb!
There were a few hills in the first part of this route, but I managed them all we stopped at the rest stop and made use of the porta potty and fueled up before heading out again. Now, I didn't mention this earlier, but during the announcement we were told that Polk County has the best roads around...although the shoulder is full of fresh gravel, the roadways are the best. This guy was not lying, they ARE the best around! They are very smooth, not like anything we have ridden on anywhere. After we left the rest stop at Kings Valley the road turn bad, really fast. We must have ridden on old chip sealed roads (really old and really bad) for at least 5 miles. Not only that, but it was a steady uphill grade and it was horrible, but once we got to Polk County, the road turned from really bad to really great in an instant! It was awesome! I could get some speed going again, no longer did I feel like a slug.
Next up, Buena Vista for lunch. This is where we could have taken the ferry across the river and continue on the long route, but with a large group waiting at the dock to get on and another group at the top of the hill that was an option that we did not want to do. So we continued on the remainder of the short loop option which only cut out about 5 miles from what our total mileage would have been. The ride into Independence was windy! At least it wasn't too long and there was another ODS rest stop which seemed really weird because the finish was less than 5 miles away! We pulled off so I could readjust my shoe and stuff and then made our way back to COU. Since we had to vacate the dorm before the ride we did still have access to the showers in the gym before heading out, it would be bad to travel after just riding...blah.
Cycle Oregon Weekend was a really fun experience and with all the talk about the week ride, we hope to do that sometime in the next few years. The major differences between the two - there are no route options and camping is it! The thought of spending a week in a traveling community of cyclists is exciting though, so we might just have to do it soon!
Enjoy the photos - but be forewarned there are 40+ pictures and this smile box moves slow...so click the arrow in the corner to advance to the next pic!
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