Route Talk with Ken Chichester
DAY 6 Madras to Tygh Valley
We start on a highway that would not be a first choice when designing a route, but is one of only two roads available – both U.S. highways. The route travels north on U.S. Highway 26 for two miles, before turning onto county roadways. The short jaunt on Highway 26 allows us to avoid 13 miles of Highway 97, which everyone must cross just before the first stop of the day. After this stop, we must use Highway 97 for three miles. Then, just when you thought you were in for a huge climb that has been staring you in the face for a mile or so, there is a right turn (hooray!) to ride to the town of Antelope. This road, also a state highway, has almost no traffic, and a few good-sized bumps and rollers (aka whoop-de-doos).
Antelope, for those not from the Northwest or of an age much younger than our average rider, was named Rajneesh for a year. In the 1980s followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneeseh started the city (commune) of Rajneeshpuram on the nearby Big Muddy Ranch. Followers of the Bhagwan forced a vote to change the name of Antelope to Rajneesh. The Bhagwan later pled guilty to criminal charges and was allowed to leave the U.S. (without his fleet of Rolls Royce cars and personal planes). The town’s name was then restored to Antelope, which now boasts a population of about 40.
After a stop in Antelope, a three-mile climb leads to the ghost town of Shaniko, today’s lunch site. Shaniko has a population of about 30, but in the early 1900s it was known as the wool capitol of the world and was Wasco County’s fifth-largest city. In 1901 the town had the largest wool warehouse in the state and marketed 4 million pounds of wool.
When finished with lunch, riders use the main highway for a short distance and then turn onto Bakeoven Road for nearly 25 miles of almost all downhill to Maupin on the Deschutes River. Wool is still important to this area – the route passes the Imperial Stock Ranch, which provided the wool used in the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic Team sweaters. After a stop on the banks of the Deschutes where green grass abounds, the route follows the river for eight miles to Sherars Falls and bridge. This is a historic Native American fishing area, which is still used today. Look for the wood fishing platforms built above the falls.
A short climb from the river leads to a flat ride to the finish in Tygh Valley. For those interested in a short detour, the route passes White River Falls State Park. The park is the site of a 90-foot falls with an historic hydroelectric plant (now defunct) at its base.