Cycle Oregon Blog
Cycle Oregon is widely known for organizing great bike rides and supporting efforts in rural communities. But Cycle Oregon also plays a vital role in helping Portland stay informed and connected through an event celebrating its eleventh year: the Policymaker Ride.
The Policymaker Ride was started in 2004 when Cycle Oregon was working to advance Oregon’s Scenic Bikeway program. The first year we showcased the “good, bad and ugly” of the proposed Scenic Bikeway and invited elected officials, agency directors, business leaders and nonprofit executives to experience it first-hand. This invite-only affair brought out 175 local leaders to see important projects, learn about upcoming initiatives, and get to know each other through shared interest in building a more connected community.
Working in partnership with Greenspaces Institute, Metro, PBOT, BPS and the Intertwine Alliance, the event this year focused on Portland’s Comprehensive Plan update, which integrates active transportation, environmental and community health and economic development.
After opening remarks from Cycle Oregon Chairman Jonathan Nicholas, US Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Executive Director Alison Graves at the Moda Center, the riders saddled up and cruised the Broadway Bridge, the Park Blocks, SW Moody Boulevard, Orange Line bike routes and the Springwater Corridor. We learned about Portland’s Comprehensive Plan, innovate approaches to playgrounds at Westmoreland Park’s Nature Play area and a one-of-a-kind active transportation-only bridge across the Willamette River and more.
The event is a simple and powerful way to get things done. Here’s what a couple of people had to say about the event:
“It’s a great opportunity for policy-makers, bureaucrats, and those who influence them to socialize and get on the same page. I always have valuable conversations and end up deepening connections.”
“… Connecting with others to help break down silos. For example, planners usually only talk with other planers so the ride provided us with an opportunity to talk with engineers and public health professionals that are working on similar projects.”
After the event, we learned that Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has been organizing bike commute events where he will learn more about opportunities to improve Portland’s bicycle facilities. We anticipate good news about how Portland’s leaders are connecting important dots and continuing to keep Portland at the forefront.
Perched on the edge of the Grande Ronde Valley, La Grande is sheltered by the Blue Mountains to the west and the Wallowas to the east. The natural hot springs and abundant wildlife and vegetation attracted many Native American tribes, including the Bannock, the Nez Perce and Cayuse. Later, trappers and missionaries roamed the area. The discovery of gold in the Blue Mountains spurred settlement by farmers who grew food for the miners.
Today, the area is a recreational mecca that puts visitors in the enviable position of choosing between hiking, skiing, hunting, fishing, horseback riding and of course, biking. Road riders can hit the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway. Mountain Bikers can visit the Mount Emily Recreation Area.
Downtown La Grande is lined with beautiful brick buildings and specialty shops, where you can find the perfect keepsake, peruse great books and hunt for antiques. There also are lots of restaurants. Ten Depot and Mamacita’s come highly recommended and are two eateries on our list to check out
Home to Eastern Oregon University, La Grande boasts a unique blend of urban and rural living, with year-round concerts, plays and art exhibits as well as a nod to the past via the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park at Blue Mountain Crossing, the Union County Museum and The Eastern Oregon Fire Museum.
When it’s time to crash for the night, visitors have their choice of hotels like the Best Western Rama Inn and Suites and more intimate lodging like the La Grande Inn or the Hot Springs Bed & Breakfast.
There are a number of options to choose from when developing a route between La Grande and Baker City. The route chosen for the last day of the week is the shortest (with the exception of riding the entire way on I-84), and with the least amount of climbing of the available routes. After traveling past the campus of Eastern Oregon University, the route leaves the city limits of La Grande and travels on a state highway to the first stop at a city park in the community of Union. The twelve miles of Highway 203 to Union will have the most traffic of the day, so everyone will need to use the relatively narrow shoulder to its fullest potential.
When leaving Union, the route follows another state highway with very gradual climbing through a small canyon (watch for wild turkeys). After coming out of the canyon, the road is bordered by agricultural fields, and a gradual descent into North Powder, with a population of nearly 500. The city park is the location of the second stop of the day, and is located just over half way to the finish line. Traveling under the interstate freeway when leaving North Powder leads to a number of county roadways that are used to finish the week’s riding. The first few miles of these lightly traveled roads are flat, but then many will feel as if the culmination of riding a bike for a week has caught up with them. Don’t let your eyes fool you when feeling like you’re struggling – for about five miles the road looks flat, but it is really a slight uphill grade that slows nearly everyone down.
Just when you thought you were tiring out, the grade changes to a slight, but noticeable, downgrade. For about nine miles, it’s a quick ride to the finish, with the last mile on a bike/pedestrian path. A finish line celebration and lunch welcomes everyone back to Baker City at the Sports Complex where the week’s adventure began.
After leaving Wallowa Lake and Joseph, the route avoids the main state highway in the valley by using Hurricane Creek Road. This road will have little traffic, and is slightly downhill to Enterprise. The route skirts the main part of town to arrive at a state fish hatchery for the first rest stop of the day. The Wallowa Fish Hatchery is used for adult collection, spawning, acclimation and release of summer steelhead. After leaving the first stop, the only available road is Highway 82, and traffic on this state highway could be moderate, so use of the highway shoulder and riding single file will be a necessity.
The road travels through the small communities of Lostine and Wallowa before entering the Wallow River Canyon for approximately eight miles. In the canyon the road narrows and is somewhat curvy before arriving at the lunch site at the confluence of the Minam and Wallowa Rivers. This location is popular as a launch site for those rafting and fishing on the Wallowa and Grande Ronde rivers. This site is also the point where all of that flat, or mostly downhill road everyone has been enjoying since Enterprise, turns to climbing, and the four and half miles of the Minam Grade. The hill has a moderate grade, with a 6% pitch just before the top, and then its mostly downhill to Elgin, and a stop in the city’s park.
The day’s hill climbing is done, but there are still a couple of hours of riding before the finish in LaGrande. The first few miles after Elgin uses a state highway before turning onto county roads and riding through the unincorporated community of Summerville (population 130), with a small country store. The remainder of the day travels through agricultural fields in the Grande Ronde Valley, bordered by the Blue and Wallowa mountains. For thousands of years, abundant resources drew several different tribes to the valley. Tribes included the Nez Perce, Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Walla and Shoshone tribes, who lived together in harmony during the summer in what they called “The Valley of Peace.” Today, the major crops produced in the valley are peppermint oil, Kentucky bluegrass for seed, and certified seed potatoes.
After a final rest stop, there are just over thirteen miles of riding remaining, with Mt Emily (6,110’) off to the right. After passing over Interstate 84, the green grass and shade trees of LaGrande’s Pioneer Park will be a welcome sight after the longest day of the week.
For those who want to ride every mile of the week’s offerings, this is a pretty easy day. Except for the short hill between Wallowa Lake and Joseph (down on the way out, up on the way home), the day is mostly flat, traveling through verdant agricultural fields of the Wallowa Valley. The lunch stop is on the grounds of the county courthouse in the center of Enterprise. After lunch, the return route uses short sections of road that were used en route to Enterprise, but in the opposite direction providing a different view of the valley and mountains.