My Favorite Route


My Favorite Route – Bob Williams

Bob Williams, along with his wife Catherine, are fixtures in the Cycle Oregon community. Back at home in Portland they are ride leaders for the Portland Velo cycling club and are active in leading rides, welcoming new riders, and as we’ve been showcasing on this blog as of late, are helping integrate e-bikes into the road and gravel riding community.

We asked Bob to share his favorite Cycle Oregon memory and he takes us back to Day 2 of the 2010 Classic, The Round-Up Ride. What makes this story special is not simply Bob’s passion for riding but his personal account of watching someone else discover their own.

“For me on that day there were two ride experiences – the road ride itself and the emotional journey watching Catherine turn into an excited, fully engaged rider – and discovering what she loved – descending fast and climbing hard.”

My Favorite Route – Bob Williams

Cycle Oregon Classic 2010 Day 2 – Enterprise to Clarkston

My favorite route? Wow, what a hard question given the quality and character of all Cycle Oregon events and routes – along with my aging memory. What makes this ride special is that it was my wife Catherine’s first Classic week and it was so much fun watching her become a rider and realizing how much she loved the speed of big (Cycle Oregon style) descents, and the work and satisfaction of big climbs. 

Day Two started in Enterprise, elevation 3,724 feet, where we woke up to a very cold morning, just a bit above freezing. The ride began with a long gradual climb to our first rest stop at 4,693’ so we thought that would warm up a bit. We kept all our clothing at that stop, it was still a bit cool and it’s no problem with the other gear drops, right? Next there were fifteen or so mostly flat miles to the first water stop. From there we’d head down into Rattlesnake Canyon, an engaging name, but it’s cold, so no snakes, right? Many of us kept our jackets, leg warmers, and gloves for the big 14-mile, 3,200 foot descent. To quote Catherine – “This was my first big descent ever. I discovered the thrill of curves, the wonders of speed, and oh such amazing vistas!” Clearly the most fun, spectacular and memorable ride to date” She discovered she loves long, fast descents. 

At the bottom of the descent, Boganis Oasis, it was getting warm and we couldn’t wait to drop off our extra gear. We saw that most of the riders made the same clothing decision and the crew at the next aid station was totally overrun with gear drop demands. They quickly ran out of bags and we were given a square of plastic and some duct tape – the Cycle Oregon staff and volunteers are always so creative. 

Now to climb out of the canyon – 10 miles, 2,700’ at average grade of 5.1 %.  Catherine next found something else she loved, climbing up big hills. To quote her again, “Some people gravitate to flat rides; I discovered I loved climbing. It was a lovely 9-mile, 3000 foot climb with small waterfalls and pockets of forest and time to visually explore the terrain.” 

I doubt that I’ve ever described a 3,000 foot climb as “lovely”. 

Best of all she relished the thrill of being first to the top – especially knowing that after the summit awaited another 20 miles and 3,200 feet of classic Cycle Oregon descent into Clarkston. Unfortunately, it was not all just dessert; we then encountered a head wind part way down to Clarkston. Now it was my turn to shine; extra mass occasionally comes in handy. She described feeling like a whiffle ball blown about by the wind and having a hard time keeping up with me – finally! Even so, her words at the finish – “Best Ride Ever”!

Catherine and I ride with a bike club whose theme line is “It’s all about the Ride”.  Well, Cycle Oregon is also all about the ride – but the ride has two levels of experience. First is the actual bike ride itself – the route, the distance, the terrain, the people, the climate, and the unique happenings of the ride.

But there’s also the overall experience of the ride and to me that translates into something similar to “Riding the Urban – Rural Divide”. That is, getting to experience and better understand the rural areas of Oregon versus the urban areas that most of us live in and know well.  Oregon is BIG – 96,000 square miles. It’s also diverse in its climate, topography, scale of distance, density of population, and the nature of its economy. Oregon’s six largest counties have 64% of the population while only cover 11% of land mass.  Oregon’s smallest six counties (by population) have 22% of the land mass and less than 1% of the population.

This all translates into why Cycle Oregon has been one of our favorite ride events. You get to experience Oregon – at bike speed and at relationship speed – as the miles, the food, the beer and conversation with local Oregonians just “happens”. You get to sit down with a young ranching couple and discuss the challenges of building and running a successful ranch today, along with raising a family and living in an engaged and prosperous community. You get to learn that while the specific challenges might be different; the desire for success and meaning, to be part of a broader community, and the goal of seeing Oregon and Oregonians prosper is the same for all of us. You learn that the road along the urban-rural divide is sometimes paved, sometimes gravel, rarely straight, never level, and always challenging and enlightening. The concept of “Favorite” has many dimensions – both common and unique to each of us.

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  1. I remember that ride…. ..the “backward” ride..!! Most days, you go up, then come down. That day, we went down into Joseph Canyon, then had a long crank up, then down. The second downhill route provided spectacular scenery…! And since I had my son, his cousin, and one of their friends on the ride, the young and thin kids insisted on the “option” back around the Lewiston airport…. It wasn’t a gimme century ride, was it?

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. I couldn’t join my son in 2011, which would have been my first Cycle Oregon. Remember my son describing head winds riding down Rattlesnake Canyon.
    -Rohith “Photo” Gunawardena