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Along the Way: Sutherlin

What is it with Cycle O and centennials? Last year we managed to be in town for the 100th running of the Pendleton Round-Up. This year we pick Sutherlin as our start/finish… and it turns out that 2011 is their centennial. We’re happy to be part of a big year in this small town.

So here’s the story: 100 years ago the Sutherlin family of Indiana moved out west, and when they came upon the area where the town now stands, they fell in love with it. The family had a vision of fruit orchards – specifically, apples. And while the climate was ideal for growing them, unfortunately shipping them back east proved to be a problem. So the town’s fortunes grew on the most abundant resource around: timber. A railroad came through, and “things looked pretty good for a while,” says Char Hendershott, Sutherlin’s Tourism Director.

Like many timber towns, Sutherlin has had its share of struggles, but Char reassures that it’s “hanging in there.” There are two main employers in town – Murphy Plywood and Orenco, a maker of wastewater-treatment equipment and systems.

The town has many things going for it – mainly a pleasant diversity of resources and opportunities. For one thing, it’s almost exactly halfway between the California and Washington borders, and I-5 goes right through town, so it’s a popular stopping point for travelers. And it’s a bedroom community for nearby Roseburg and even Eugene.

There’s plenty to recommend the town for locals and visitors alike. “We’re known for our fishing,” Char says, “and we’re in the heart of the Umpqua wineries region.” In fact, the local Umpqua Valley Wine Trail has been featured in the New York Port, and the area was spotlighted in Sunset magazine last year. Nearby Umpqua Community College is home to the Southern Oregon Wine Institute.

Sutherlin is also right on the North Umpqua River, a beautiful body of water. The renowned North Umpqua Trail (“the NUT”) is rated an “ Epic Ride” by the International Mountain Biking Association, and road cyclists can use back roads to ride from Sutherlin to Crater Lake in the summer.

If you’re looking for a reason to visit Sutherlin other than as part of our two-wheeled circus, there are numerous events and attractions in the area. In May the “ Purple Foot Gang” holds a bike ride through wine country. There’s a rodeo in July, the Blackberry Festival in August, the Umpqua Ultimate Triathlon on Labor Day weekend, and the Timber Toy Light Parade at Christmas.

Any time of year, you can check out the Flying W Alpacas ranch, or the unique Wine Cave Tasting Room at Reustle-Prayer Rock Vineyards. And on Friday nights you can catch an old-school movie at Hi-Way Haven, a former drive-in turned RV park.

Perhaps most important for Cycle Oregon riders, Sutherlin embodies that quintessential quality for our host towns. “I hear it over and over from our visitors,” Char says. “What a friendly small community!”

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