Cycle Oregon Blog
A funny thing happens when it comes to major life experiences—like, say, spending seven days and 457 miles on a bike. Over time, the difficult aspects dissipate while the good memories take over and grow rosier. Call it survival instinct or call it selective memory, it happens. How else could we as a species get through the terrible twos, organic chemistry, and dance recitals?
As we look back on this year’s Week Ride to the southern Oregon coast, one thing becomes clear—our memories needn’t be so selective.
On the first evening in camp at Myrtle Creek, Executive Director Steve Schulz climbed on stage in his hiking boots and cowboy hat and laid down a message of “we not me.” Clearly, it stuck. Camp truly was a community this year, and riders looked out for each other. New and old friends gathered nightly to share stories and libations in the beer tent. At the crack of dawn, cheerful volunteers from the local community offered up extra-big slices of spinach feta scramble with a smile. SAG drivers picked up riders and got them to camp safely when their equipment or bodies had let them down. Everyone was determined to make the week a success, and we all came together to do it.
Mother Nature seemed to be on board as well. September in Southern Oregon can be unpredictable, but we had terrific weather all week. Mild wind, ideal riding temperatures, and hardly a drop of rain. After last year’s trial by fire, the weather gods seemed eager to make it up to us with great weather that only enhanced the beautiful country.
It wasn’t all endorphins and high fives though. The hills on days two and five pushed a lot of people to their limits. And a few thoughtless riders blew through stop signs or buzzed other riders without so much as an “on your left.” But those things will soon get filed away in the dusty archives of our brains, only to be replaced with memories of rolling country roads, breathtaking coastal views, and the rugged Rogue River. Flat tires and sore muscles aren’t worth remembering, but whales feeding just steps from our camp at Gold Beach and the lone bagpiper atop the day-two climb sure as hell are.
It’s also important to remember why we were out there in the first place—to bring some prosperity to small Oregon communities that really need it. Sometimes that prosperity looked like hundreds of bikes leaned up against a Mexican restaurant, as it did in Glendale. Sometimes it looked like Cycle Oregon riders buying and drinking all the beer in Gold Beach (really Gold Beach, it was our pleasure). And sometimes it looks like a new sound system at a high school football stadium, or a $5,000 grant for community development. Locals we talked to everywhere made it clear that Cycle Oregon is much more than a bike ride to them. They greatly appreciate it every time Cycle Oregon rolls through their towns.
Next year is the 30th anniversary of Cycle Oregon and we are beyond excited for it. We have 30 years worth of great memories and experiences that make us thrilled to do this year after year. As for the inevitable challenging moments of a weeklong bike ride—what challenging moments?
Here’s to 2017!
Thanks to those of you who joined us on the 2016 Go for Gold weeklong event!
If you were there, you know that it was an amazing week with near-perfect weather and fantastic communities. We biked over the coast range, rode along the ocean from Bandon to Gold Beach to Brookings, followed the Rogue back over the mountains to Indian Mary Park (perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the state for an overnight stay), and finished alongside Cow Creek on a gentle descent.
Hopefully, along the way you experienced what makes Cycle Oregon events more than just the best bike rides in America.
When I’m asked to describe Cycle Oregon, I give one word: transformational. There is a synergistic exchange that happens among everyone involved in our events. Folks that ordinarily would never cross paths—riders, townspeople, volunteers, and vendors—come together and support each other. From encouraging a struggling cyclist to get up that hill, to serving food to a bunch of Lycra-clad strangers, we help each other.
It is about the collective we—not me. We’re a family that embraces the diversity of rural and urban. We understand that we are all connected in some way. There is no divide, only solidarity.
Cycle Oregon is more than just a brand or a bike ride. It’s a way of being.
As part of the Cycle Oregon family, you embrace the environment that surrounds you, find meaning in it, and understand that you are making a difference. That’s why Cycle Oregon started in the first place—to make a difference by creating positive change.
And that’s what we will continue to do. Collectively, we’ll transform individuals and communities. Whether it’s building a new friendship or building a new community center, Cycle Oregon is here to move lives forward.
Cycle Oregon may be in town for just a day or two, but our impact is long lasting. On this year’s Week Ride:
- Each of our 2,000 riders spent an average of $200 in the communities. That’s $400,000 of economic support for these rural communities.
- Communities earned $175,000 directly from Cycle Oregon for hosting and supporting our event.
- We rode through towns where we have funded projects, including bike racks and the food pantry in Bandon; a food co-op in Port Orford; and park improvements in Coquille/Powers, Josephine County, and Wolf Creek.
In addition, Cycle Oregon funds major signature projects:
- Saving the Halfway Fairgrounds from foreclosure
- Preserving the east moraine at Wallowa Lake from development
- Restocking Diamond Lake after the eradication of an invasive species
- Initially funding and co-creating the Oregon Scenic Bikeways program—now with 15 designated bikeways totaling 1187 miles. (The latest economic study shows 150 jobs created and a $12.4 million annual economic impact.)
- Our largest and current signature project is the Salmonberry Trail. This multi-use path will run alongside the spectacular Salmonberry River through the Tillamook Forest, connecting Portland to the coast and bringing together rural and urban communities. Over the last three years, we have invested $150,000, and we will invest in this transformational project again this year.
To date, Cycle Oregon has contributed $1.7 million in 190 grants promoting bicycle tourism, supporting rural Oregon communities, and preserving the special places in Oregon.
Together, we are Cycle Oregon. Thank you for being a part of who we are.
See you at next year’s events!
– Steve Schulz, Executive Director
Day 6 takes you down the Rogue and up Graves and Wolf Creek, through the heart of the Rogue River mining district.
Southwest Oregon was once home to hundreds of gold mines, which operated from the later 1800s to the 1940s. F.W. Libbey, an Oregon State geologist, wrote in 1963, “Gold mining was originally the mainstay of the economy of southern Oregon. It started settlements, built roads and schools, promoted local government, and established law and order. It is now at best only a token of its past.” Despite that fact that a lot of gold remains in the ground, mining today is still a shadow of what it was a hundred years ago. During World War II, gold mines were closed by government decree, because the labor and equipment was needed to mine materials critical to the war effort, which gold was not.
There are two different types of gold mine in the area—lode and placer. In lode mines, gold occurs in narrow veins in the rock, typically mixed with quartz and sulfides, which are compounds of sulfur with metals like copper, lead, iron and zinc. Lode veins form when bodies of magma are injected into the crust of the earth and slowly cool. As the magma solidifies, chemical elements like sulfur, water, and metals are concentrated in fluids that percolate towards the surface through fractures in the rock. As the fluids cool, mineral crystals precipitate, filling the fractures with veins of ore. Mining lode gold is a difficult and dangerous process which involved excavating tunnels with dynamite to follow the veins.
Placer deposits on the other hand are much easier to mine. Placer gold forms when the rocks that encase ore veins are weathered and eroded away over millions of years. Gold is essentially indestructible at the surface of the earth, so that long after the mountain that held the vein has crumbled into sand and been washed to the sea, the gold contained in the veins is still fresh, and gets trapped in the sediment at the bottom of streams and rivers. Gold is one of the densest elements known, twice as dense as lead, so even very fine particles are hard for a river to move, and they accumulate in river gravel. There is still placer gold in most of the rivers of southern Oregon, including the Rogue, but most of the richest placer mines were in river terraces, like the ones you rode across on Day 5.
Lode gold mines are common in the hills surrounding Galice and Indian Mary Park, and you will see an obvious example at mile eight, just past the Almeda Park. You will pass a big road cut on the right made up of crumbly yellow-orange and red-stained rock. This is a zone of mineralized rock that hosts the ore veins that the Almeda mine followed, with thousands of feet of underground tunnels and shafts that have long since been closed or collapsed. The mine produced gold, silver, copper, and lead for many years in the 1930s and 1940s. As you ride down the Rogue and then turn up Graves Creek, you will be passing numerous old placer
Old placer mines along Graves Creek show as ragged pits on the smooth surfaces of old river terraces in this perspective view of lidar imagery.
mines on the ancient river terraces that now lie high above the modern streams. Mines with names like the Lucky Shot, Golden Light, and Vindicator recall a time when mining was the mainstay of the local economy. Using recent lidar topographic scanning data, we can see the scars left by large-scale placer mining in the days before reclamation of mined lands was required. These older mines were typically worked using hydraulic mining. Hydraulic mining relied on a network of ditches to bring water to the mine from surrounding creeks, and the water was then sprayed at high pressure through a giant iron nozzle, called a monitor. The resulting stream tore away the loose gravel holding the gold and sluiced the material into boxes designed to trap the gold and pass the remaining sediment out. This was a very cheap and effective form of mining, but left damaging amounts of sediment in streams and rivers, and it is no longer allowed.
After you leave Wolf Creek and begin the climb along I-5, you will have plenty of time to admire a huge road cut along the interstate. The road cut is composed of a rock geologists call greenstone, largely because it is green. Greenstone is a catch-all term for a wide range of metamorphosed volcanic rocks, which typically are green because they contain two iron-rich metamorphic minerals, chlorite and epidote. Iron is one of the most common sources of strong colors in rock, producing yellow-orange and red when it is in the oxidized form, and green when it is reduced. You will see more road cuts of greenstone along the road to the lunch stop and the return to Glendale.
Geology Rocks Day 7: Fire and Faults
The ride down Cow Creek will take you through the heart of the 2013 Douglas Complex fire. Areas shown in red were severely burned. Orange means moderately burned, and green lightly burned. You will cross the Canyonville Fault and pass beneath Nickel Mountain, site of the only nickel mine in the US.
The final day of riding takes you down the valley of the beautiful Cow Creek. For much of the day, the geology will be the familiar rocks of the exotic terranes, mélange, greenstone, and serpentinite.
From 6 to 10 miles into the ride, you will enter a long stretch that was severely burned in 2013 by the Douglas Complex Fire. This fire, which was started by lightning, covered over 44,000 acres and was controlled thorough the efforts of over 3,000 firefighters. The fire may have cleared away enough vegetation that you will be able to see some old placer mines on both sides of the road at about mile 8. These mines, on high river terraces, produced gold and in some cases platinum and chromite. Platinum and chromite are minerals that are found in ultramafic rocks, so it is no surprise to find them in placer deposits where the bedrock includes serpentinite. You will see the Douglas Complex fire again from miles 12 to 20.
At mile 25, you will cross a major fault, called the Canyonville Fault, which extends for 50 miles east to west through the area. When you cross the fault, you will once again see the thick sedimentary turbidite layers that you saw in the Tyee country on Day 2. But the fault is actually very complex, so you will pass through alternating slivers of exotic terranes, and thick beds of turbidite sandstone and conglomerate. You will see a great outcrop of tilted turbidite layers at about mile 32, just before you come out into the wide valley at Riddle.
In this perspective view derived from lidar imagery, tilted sandstone and conglomerate layers are clearly visible from the road near mile 32.
Shortly before you turn off Cow Creek Road onto Glenbrook Loop Road, you will see what appears to be a large industrial facility to the left, with big piles of crushed rock, and you may notice a large bare patch at the top of the mountain behind the stockpiles. This is the remnant of the Hanna Nickel mine, which is the only significant nickel mine to have operated in the US. Despite having relatively low grade ore, the mine was opened with a US government subsidy because of concern over dependence on foreign sources of nickel, a strategic metal. When subsidies were halted in the 1980s, the smelter continued to produce nickel form higher grade imported ore, but it was ultimately closed and sold for scrap.
Ian Madin is the Chief Scientist for the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and in his spare time provides geology blogs for the Cycle Oregon. He will be providing commentary during the evening program and will be a available to answer questions during the ride.
On Friday August 19, more than 100 elected officials and civic leaders rode the 12th annual Policymakers Ride in Oregon’s Washington County. Since the ride began in 2005, Cycle Oregon has helped stage this annual event that initiates discussion about regional challenges related to water, population, tourism, and transportation management systems.
This year’s 27-mile ride—which went from the Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove to Greenville City Park in Banks, and back—focused on the Portland metropolitan area’s “West Side Story,” a rapidly growing network of cycling and walking trails.
Members and allies of the Intertwine Alliance started the day with a tour of the nationally recognized Fernhill Wetlands wastewater management facility. Riders departed Fernhill with a belly full of scones, burritos, quiches, and cinnamon rolls from Maggie’s Buns in Forest Grove. They rode past farm fields to the village of Verboort, famous for its towering sequoia groves and annual handmade-sausage festival.
Under the welcome shade of the sequoia trees, riders learned about the intersections of agriculture and water management, which has helped grow the nursery business in Washington County. Riders headed north toward Banks, where they took the Banks-Vernonia trail to a stop at the Vandehay Ranch. There, riders heard about Metro’s upcoming levy to secure open spaces and fund conservation efforts, and about Oregon State Parks Scenic Bikeway program.
Riders found shade back at Greenville City Park in Banks, where lunch by the Trailhead Café was served. They heard about the growing tourism economy in Washington County, including award-winning wines and world-class bicycle routes—the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, a scenic trail through wine country, is on the list for future ride routes. Riders also heard about the latest news on the Salmonberry Trail, which holds the promise of connecting Portland with the coast along a historic 84-mile route through the Tillamook State Forest and many chapters of Oregon’s history.
The return to Fernhill was hot, but conversations about advancing many important projects helped the miles pass quickly. Temperatures were flirting with 100 degrees by the time the peloton crossed the finish line, where riders were greeted in true Cycle Oregon fashion by an ice cream truck!
Photos by Scott Mizée and Jonathan Nicholas. Special thanks to our partners and sponsors of the Policymakers Ride.
Organized rides across the country are getting pushback from communities that are frustrated by riders who flaunt the rules of the road. Besides crashes and fights, some communities have disqualified permits, and insurance companies have denied event coverage. If you’re participating in Cycle Oregon’s Week Ride this month, or really any ride, please be courteous and—above all, be safe.
If you’re gearing up for the Week Ride, you’re about to embark on an epic adventure, one that has the ability to change lives in a positive way. You’re helping raise money for some great causes. You’re getting the chance to meet some amazing people from some of the most awesome communities in the world. And last but not least, you get to spend an entire week with over 2,000 people who have at least one shared passion.
You might not know a lot of your fellow riders today, but that’s about to change. Soon, you’ll be friends who feel like family. One of the very best ways to allow this camaraderie to blossom is to do your part to make sure that everyone is having as much fun as you are. Here’s how:
Maintain road awareness
You’ll be on some pretty rural roads most of the time, but there will always be traffic. You, your fellow riders, Cycle Oregon support vehicles, motorists, and people who live in the area are all going to be sharing the road. Knowing at all times what and who is around you is a great help to you and everyone else. Keep your eyes and ears open, and frequently check your six.
Consider a mirror
From Bike Gallery’s Aaron “Rambo” Harrison: Bicycle mirrors help create awareness of what’s behind you while riding, helping you ride more predictably and safely. Mirrors come in three basic flavors: handlebar-mounted, helmet-mounted, and eyeglass-mounted
Handlebar-mounted mirrors have long been a popular option, especially if you just want a basic idea of what’s going on behind you. Unfortunately, the advent of integrated brake/shift levers have forced handlebar mirrors for road bikes to move from the brake-hood down to the end of the handlebar. While there are some excellent fish-eye mirrors, which provide a fairly large field of view, they’re very affected by the vibration of the bicycle (and the distortion created by the lens’s shape).
Helmet mirrors have become the most popular option among cyclists riding road bikes or recumbents. They are much less affected by road vibration, and since they sit much closer to your eye, they provide a significantly larger field of view.
Eyeglass-mounted mirrors are much like helmet-mounted mirrors, but they mount on one of the temples of your glasses instead of your helmet. Many modern sports glasses don’t have flat enough surfaces to mount them. If you wear prescription eyewear with straight temples, these are a good option.
Position yourself strategically
If you’re a slower rider, keep to the right. If you’re a faster rider, give those you pass a wide berth. If you’re being passed, move to the right. If you’re going to stop, move over to the right before doing so—especially if you’re on a steep climb. If that’s not possible, make sure no one is right behind you before you jump off. If you have no reason to change your position, hold your line.
If you notice a car coming from behind, let your fellow riders know by calling “car back.” If you see a car coming toward you, it’s “car up.” If you’re passing or stopping, let that be known as well. Likewise, if you notice a hazard, point it out. If you want to give a hand signal, point toward the hazard, not in the direction someone needs to go to avoid it.
Before you pass, check behind you and to your left before you make your move. Assume another rider or a support vehicle is passing you at all times. This is something a lot of folks tend to forget. Keep in mind that support vehicles are often driving slowly and quietly until it’s safe to pass riders. Don’t assume you’ll hear them.
If there’s a car behind you or someone is passing you, hang back a few seconds until the coast is clear. Also, when you hear “car back,” wait to initiate your pass until the car goes by. Going for the quick pass when you hear “car back” is dangerous and obnoxious. When you finish your pass, move back to the right when it’s safe to do so (someone might want to pass you, Speed Racer). Don’t pass someone who is in the process of passing someone else.
Remember, this isn’t a race, and your desire to get around slower riders should never put you or them in jeopardy. We never run out of beer, food, or places to pitch your tent.
Obey traffic laws
All of them. It’s amazing how many people do blatantly silly stuff. Blowing off a stop sign isn’t a good idea. Blowing off a stop sign WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING FOR TRAFFIC is just dumb. And it’s something we see frequently. If you’re going to stop along the route, Oregon law dictates that you pull off the road. It also requires riding single-file if there’s traffic behind you. Keep in mind that the motorcycle police who accompany us can and will issue tickets as warranted.
Riding in a paceline is a lot of fun, particularly if you’re a skilled and seasoned rider. (It is never recommended to paceline with people you are not used to pacelining with.) But your fun should not come at the expense of everyone else’s fun—not to mention safety. Please restrict paceline riding to areas where it’s safe. If your whole group can’t safely pass riders, don’t pass. And if you have to drop off your paceline to avoid putting someone else in danger, do it.
Share the road
“Share the road” is not simply a saying to remind motorists that they need to make room for cyclists. It works the other way around, too. On an event like Cycle Oregon, it’s important to leave room for traffic. Riding three (or four or five) abreast while letting cars stack up behind you is not sharing the road. Moreover, it isn’t the way to endear ourselves to the local motorists, many of whom are our hosts. We’re ambassadors of our sport, and the way we conduct ourselves on the road matters.