Saturday, September 21, 2013

CycleOregon - Day 1 - Strawberry Mountain Loop

I begin this with special thanks to Steve and Patty Palmer who shared some of my training rides. Unfortunately, Steve came down with a virus a week before the ride and was unable to participate this year. More thanks go to Maelynn and Bob Anderson and their friend Stacey who volunteered to give me and my bike a ride to John Day for the start of the ride. After about five miles on the first day, I never saw Bob again on a ride as he joined with a group much more suited to his faster speed. I did see Maelynn and Stacey often on the trail and we usually had dinner together to share the day’s experiences.
Camping on a baseball field in John Day
CycleOregon began in 1988 when some folks including Jonathan Nicholas of the Oregonian decided to emulate RAGBRAI (the ride across Iowa) and create something similar for Oregon. I remember reading about it and wishing that they were doing it in August instead of September so I could also participate. At the time I was riding a lot and would have been ready to do 500 or so miles in a week, especially when someone else takes care of ALL the logistics. Over the years, I had stopped riding much even after we moved into our condo with its beautiful riverside trail so inviting. Spring last year, I decided I needed to start riding again to get in some real exercise and this year figured I was ready to take on the challenge. The route this year also goes through one of my favorite parts of Oregon as it goes from John Day to Steens Mountain through some of the more interesting geological structures in the state and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge which is one of the most important stops on the Western flyway.

Our group arrived at the campsite about 4:00 pm after a nice drive up the Gorge and then down Hiway 395 along the John Day River. We would use 395 on four different days of our trip. After setting up camp, we explored the set-up, had dinner, and listened to Etoufee (or is it A2Fay?), a fun Louisiana Blues group. We were camped on the lush lawn of the baseball field.

John Day is one of eastern Oregon’s interesting small towns. The John Day River is protected by both Oregon and national scenic rivers acts and is the gateway to both the beautiful Strawberry Wilderness and the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and the Painted Hills. The town is also the site of the Kam Wah Chung Museum. The museum memorializes the life of Ing Hay, Chinese doctor who cared for people of the area until the 1950s using traditional Chinese medicine.
On the road to Prairie City

Prairie City
Selling lemonade can be profitable with the right location

Today’s ride started with a slight uphill climb to Prairie City where we turned off Hiway 26 to climb almost 2800 feet  following the John Day River as it flows out of the Strawberry Wilderness. While the ride was not easy, we did enjoy the gurgling sound of the river as it flowed beside us. Our first food stop included music and coffee from Trailhead Coffee Roasters a pedal powered coffee shop. Earlier, we had been treated to an old-fashioned lemonade stop hosted by two young girls who probably earned $1000 that day as it seemed that most of the riders stopped to partake of their drinks.

Headwaters of the John Day River

Made it!
The route down was equally beautiful following the Malheur River from its source with a stop for lunch at Big Creek Campground.

Headwaters of the Malheur River
It helps to have the 75 mile route punctuated by two water stops, two snack stops and a lunch stop. All three food stops include local musicians so we can have a rest and enjoy the stop while we replenish our reserves.
Music at our rest stops

A most amazing coffee roaster on wheels
 Back in camp, a cool shower, dinner, a beer (or two) and more live music prepare us for a good night’s sleep and another long ride tomorrow. We also have massage and physical therapists to help restore the body. It also helps that Bike Gallery has donated several mechanics to take care of any repairs our bikes might need.

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