Since returning from the Week Ride, I’ve poured over your surveys and met with many of you who have expressed what a wonderful time you had and how extraordinary you thought the event was in one way or another (which is always great to hear). I’ve also been approached by folks who haven’t ridden Cycle Oregon and want to know why it means so much to so many. My first Cycle Oregon experience was in 2001 as a first time rider. I, too, asked, “What’s the big deal?” Then, I was transformed. Ever since then I’ve been a part of Cycle Oregon – as a rider, as a coach and as ride director.
It’s hard to simply describe Cycle Oregon and why it is so very special. It draws upon a myriad of senses and emotions. With it still fresh in our minds, let’s see if I can capture some of it.
The sounds of tent zippers and blue room doors opening and closing rustle us from our hibernation. We watch the morning sky light up as the sun breaks the horizon; the warmth beginning to radiate through our sufficiently chilled bodies – the result of our night sleeping out in nature. We see the steam rising out of the beverage tent as that next round of coffee is prepared for mass consumption. We hear bike pumps fighting the pressure in tires, water bottles being filled and quiet laughter as folks begin their journey for the day. The road beckons.
The legs are a bit stiff, but we listen to the pace of our breathing, we hear our cadence transferred through the drivetrain and we feel the buzz of the rubber hitting the road. Things start to come into rhythm and we are once again alive. Another blessed day in nature, simply riding and letting our cares drift away. A canvas of the countryside becomes painted in our minds. Mountain peaks rise up in every direction and we are in awe of their grandeur. We smell the fresh sage and pine. We hear quiet laughter in our surroundings. All is as it should be.
Our day is filled with emotion. Dread and pride come hand in hand as we approach and conquer the next hill. Childlike giddiness takes command as we fly effortlessly down the other side at speeds some would say defy the imagination. We begin to feel the fatigue in our body and our pedal stroke begins to suffer. Relief overcomes us as we approach the next gathering – a family reunion of sorts – at the next stop. We rest. We refuel. We converse. As we roll away, we’re warmed by thoughts of the small child who excitedly served us strawberries and thanked us for coming.
The day continues on like this, rolling through the countryside and small towns with magical townsfolk who prove to us that yes indeed, the world is full of wonderful people. We reach gathering after gathering until we finally roll to our day’s end. We are greeted by hordes of smiling, cheering locals. Most think we’re crazy for riding our bikes that far in one day but genuinely love that we have arrived. Joy overcomes us as we cross that finish line, and again, we hear quiet laughter.
Fatigued and elated, we relax into the next part of our day. The hot shower feels good on our tired bodies. We explore the town and meet locals, hearing their stories, which inspire us to look deeper inside ourselves. We feel good knowing that by just being here, we’re contributing to the sustainability of this haven we’ll call home, if just for one night. We vow to come back.
A cold beer quenches our thirst and begins to unwind our muscles. The hum of voices becomes the background music of our stories told with friends old and new. We settle in. Our hosts serve us our evening nourishment with smiles and ‘welcomes’ – we thank them. We’re honored that they’ve allowed us a quick glimpse into their life.
The chill of the evening creeps up as the sun begins to withdraw from our sky. We gather around the campfire and listen to stories, waiting patiently for our evening joke. Regardless if it’s good or bad, we laugh – because it feels good; we find comfort in our surroundings and at that moment nothing else matters. Eventually our mind and body start to tell us that this day must come to an end. We roust ourselves up, follow the narrow beam of light shining ahead of us to our tent, and slip into that cold sleeping bag – anxiously waiting for it to warm up. We think back on the day and all of the magnificent experiences we’ve had, and slowly start to drift off to sleep.
The camp is quiet. Again, we hear quiet laughter. We realize that it’s not coming from outside; It’s coming from within. We smile. Yes, of course it is. This is Cycle Oregon. And we can’t wait for tomorrow when we’ll do it all again.
What does your Cycle Oregon feel like to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next year …