Saddling Up on Cycle Oregon 2013

Before I get into my recap of this year’s Cycle Oregon let me share with you how I came about doing this event in the first place.

On a January morning in 2009, my husband walks into my office with his co-worker, both smiling and I knew something was up.  Typically I was the one to walk into my husband’s office smiling so this was a nice change.  Anyways, they both told me about an event called Cycle Oregon – a 7 day bike ride through Oregon.  The registration was days away and would sell out quickly. They both asked if I wanted to ride but I knew I wasn’t up for it – 7 days of riding seemed like a lot of miles and I still felt like a newby rider.  The two of them ended up talking several folks from work into riding so instead, I decided to volunteer and get more familiar with the event.

I was placed on the ‘Green’ Team to help riders know where to put their garbage.  Cycle Oregon had a new system of recycling, composting, and garbage to decrease the amount of trash the riders used.  It was a mindless job really – but I actually enjoyed getting to talk to many of the riders.  I also ended up being the Sherpa to our friends – that was much more enjoyable than the actual volunteer job.  I would drive to the next location (after my volunteer shift) and look for the perfect camping spot for all of us to camp and try to get everyone’s bags.  At the end of the week, I knew I had to ride next year.  2010.

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll know that 2010 was going to be my year – an event every month and September would have to be Cycle Oregon.  We registered in February and I was all set to train and then ride in the event.  Well, it didn’t happen.  I had a double mastectomy at the end of July and started chemo in September.  I figured taxing my body by riding and camping with 2,000 of my closest friends while recovering and going through chemo probably wasn’t the smartest idea.  So I cancelled.  It killed me to cancel an event (it’s been the only one I’ve ever cancelled to date).   I encouraged Alan to go ahead and ride – cancer didn’t have to take both of us down.  His friends picked him up and after he left, I cried.  I was so pissed that cancer was taking more away from me…something I had wanted to do.

So 2013 Cycle Oregon was my reprise.

Alan and I registered as soon as it opened and convinced a few of our other friends to join us. The most enticing thing about Cycle Oregon 2013 for me was the location.  It would start in Eastern Oregon where the sun seems to shine more and the route would be relatively flat – compared to years past.

So fast forward to September 7th. We drove to John Day, picked up our packet and met up with our group.  We prepared our bikes for the next day – a full 76 miles of riding.  It was the furthest I’d ridden since 2008.  I know – not the smartest but I knew I could get through it – I’m in relatively good shape.  My only task during Cycle Oregon was to get up, get on my bike and ride and I had all day to get to the next spot.  The day was long and hilly but I got it done and I earned my beer at the end of the day.

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Day two, we had to take our tents down, pack everything up and ride to Burns (71 miles).  I have to say it was a little bit more enjoyable ride – not as many hills and a nice tail wind – at least until we got into Burns.  It was beautiful ride.  We had lunch at the Silvies Valley Ranch and we made it into Burns about 3:30-ish.  Today was also my friend Robin’s birthday so after we got into camp and got cleaned up, we celebrated at the local Elks lodge. They sang her happy birthday and even gave her a brownie with a candle.   Note: Many of the local towns will provide alternative dinners and entertainment for the CO riders.

Day three, another great day for riding – the sun was out and the temps were warm – almost too warm.  I couldn’t believe I thought that it was too warm but by the afternoon, I was ready for a nice cold shower.  We rode 63 miles to Diamond – population 5 – that’s right 5.  A very generous rancher allowed all 2,000 riders and support to camp on his ranch for two days.  The stars were out that night and they had folks come out with telescopes – we got to see Saturn! Day 4 was a layover day with an option to ride.  I didn’t want my legs to get the impression we were done, so we rode 20 miles and visited a small B&B that was providing hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ, and Root Beer Floats!  I’m pretty sure that was the best Root Beer Float I’ve ever had.  Most importantly, they had shade.  We stayed few hours before heading back to the ranch.

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Day 5, we packed up once again and rode the 40 very fast miles to Crane.  It’s funny how after riding a few days of 70-something miles that anything under 60 seems fast and easy.  I used to think 40 miles was my long route.  Anyways, there was another option of riding an additional 40 miles to make 80 miles for the day but we decided to keep it at 40.  Didn’t want to over do it or anything.  Crane was an interesting place – we camped at the High School which was a boarding school for the kids in the area since their commute could be long each day.  They stayed at the school during the week and then traveled back home to their ranches on the weekend.  To say we were in a rural area would be putting it mildly.  This is where I had to change my tires – there were goat heads everywhere and I picked up a couple in each tire.  I’d much rather change my flats at camp then on the side of the road somewhere.

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Day 6, we were on the rode again to Seneca, 74 miles.  There were hills, there was gravel.  We weren’t riding mountain bikes, we were riding bikes made out of carbon fiber and skinny tires – tires that are easily punctured on gravel.  Luckily I didn’t have any punctures (at least not on the gravel).  This was the hardest day – we started out with overcast skies and the threat of rain.  Remember, I’m a fair weather rider so I wasn’t too happy and it was hard for me to get going.  However, the sun finally came out as we climb the hill – it seemed like it took forever.

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Day 7, only 56 miles to the end seemed easy enough.  There was a short climb and then a long descent and beautiful scenery along the way.  Coming into the final miles felt so good. The week mileage total was 400.  I rode 400 miles in one week – I never thought I’d say that!

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I felt like I finally accomplished my goal from 2010.  It took  me 3 years but I did it – I accomplished something I set out to do.  And in the end, it felt great!

Now, the question is, will I do it again??  The answer,  I’m not sure.  Seven days of riding with 2,000 other cyclist is a lot.  Lot of personality, lot of different cycling styles.  I think I’d rather plan a shorter (3-4 days) of riding with only a few friends…and instead of camping and eating food that is provided –  staying at B&B’s and venturing out to try local foods sounds a little more appealing.

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