A Dream Deferred
A group of 1,504 rugged riders representing seven countries and 49 states just culminated the 429 mile tour de awesome that was the 2019 Cycle Oregon Classic. To say the least, it was a week to remember.
Our adventure started in the community of Oakridge where we set off from the local high school in the midst of an unseasonal moisture surplus event (rain) that would follow us on and off for the next few days. With widespread smiles shining through the rain and mist, we crossed covered bridges and pedaled up the beautiful Aufderheide Scenic Bikeway. Our muscles got warmer, our toes started to thaw out, and the rain began to let up. After our first legit climb of the week, it was time for lunch, then it was all downhill past the breathtaking expanse of Cougar Reservoir and our first camp next to the famous Tokatee Golf Course in Rainbow.
After a night of rock n’ roll, recovering, and potentially a visit or two to the Whiskey Wagon, Day 2 served up another chilly, wet start accompanied by a mellow, albeit lengthy, climb. The altitude was hardly noticeable though since we were passing through some of the most interesting landscape you can see this side of the moon. Evidence of past volcanic mayhem and the fires of 2017 were all around us as we climbed through McKenzie Pass. The payoff at the top was spectacular views of Three Sisters and Mount Bachelor from the Dee Wright Observatory – a fortress built of, and on, a mountain of volcanic rock. After flying down the twisty pass, the remainder of the day was mostly flat country roads with the option to ride the week’s first gravel sections. The gravel option took the brave few along quiet, rolling back roads with views that stretched on forever. The finish in Tumalo was an awesome camp directly on the bank of the Deschutes River. Riders soaked their tired legs in the river as another round of rain rolled in for the night. No chance of drying out just yet.
Day 3 and the sun is finally shining on Tumalo State Park! Our ride started off with a quick tour through Bend, then on up the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway toward Mt. Bachelor. After a nice long climb, we reached the summit for lunch, great view, and lemon ginger kombucha. With our bellies full and the main challenge of the day behind us, there was nothing left to do but enjoy the relatively flat roads and high desert scenery that accompanied us all the way to La Pine. Our camp for the night was a great big field where we’d listen to the bands play with the almost-full moon rising high and majestic behind us. For most though, it was an early night as the next day presented our first 90+ mile test of the week.
Camp was bustling extra early on Wednesday with many riders keen to get a jump on their long journey. The ride consisted of lots of Cascade Lakes Highway miles and a back roads gravel option through some really beautiful forested area. By the time most riders reached Diamond Lake and heard the raucous welcome and read the funny signs made by the community supporters they had already forgotten how intimidating that last hill was. The beautiful setting and the picturesque lake made all the miles totally worth it.
Layover Day and what’s this? Could it be darn-near perfect weather? Not a cloud in the sky (and more importantly, not a drop of rain in the forecast). Some chose to stay close to Diamond Lake and relax. Some chose to ride over to the lodge and poke around. But the majority chose to take in the stupefyingly blue waters of Crater Lake from every possible angle. And it was everything we had hoped it would be. The ride up to the rim was no cake walk, and the ride around the rim was like an EKG, but it was so. very. worth it!
After our reinvigorating Layover Day, it was back in the saddle for another 90-mile ride. The unique thing about this ride is that it started out with a lot of downhill. We’re talking 40 miles of downhill in a beautiful canyon parallelling the wild Umpqua River! How often have you ever seen 40 consecutive miles of downhill? And then after lunch, as if to remind us that gravity works both ways, we had the most challenging hill of the week to deal with. The climb was a certified lung-buster and the descent had a pucker factor of 7.5. After the hill, it was all bike paths and pacelines along Dorena Lake and into camp for our final full moon lit night together.
We came, we saw, we danced, and we loved, but we still had one more passport stamp to earn. So we packed our bags for one last time, mounted our trusty bikes, and headed back along Dorena Lake, Oakridge bound. Day 7 had more than its fair share of climbing but by now our legs were steel and the excitement to get back home pushed us through. Back in basecamp at Oakridge, riders celebrated their amazing 429-mile achievement, said their fond goodbyes, and started wondering about what incredible places their bikes could take them next year.