Chad Davis is the president of the Cycle Oregon Board of Directors and we figure the best way to get to know him is to ask one simple question – “What’s your favorite route?”
My favorite ride (route)? If you know me that’s an easy answer, it’s tomorrow’s ride. Wherever we’re going it will be awesome and so much better than any alternative that does not include riding!
But, okay, force me to pick a Cycle Oregon route and I can oblige. I’ve ridden three Classics, a Weekender and two GRAVEL events. First, the honorable mentions:
I love Wallowa County, the Eagle Caps are my spiritual home. I’ve spent a good bit of time in my career with the U.S. Forest Service partnering with the incredible staff at Wallowa Resources; their work is incredibly powerful and vital to both locals and those of us who weekend in Chief Joseph’s valley. Riding into Joseph, OR and Enterprise, OR for the first time during Classic 2018 with friends and fellow first-timers brought tears to my eyes.
Classic 2016 featured a traverse of the Oregon & California checkerboard – a literal patchwork of public and private forestland unique to the region. Professionally, I know a lot about the history, federal and state policies that guide management decisions in this region. The impacts from a past of dominant timber use was visibly evident in the communities here, much more pronounced than I have seen in eastern Oregon. Climbing the incredibly steep grades allows one to see a landscape differently than in a history book or in proposed legislation.
My Favorite Route – Chad Davis
But in the end, I’m a gravel head so my favorite ride is Day 2 of the inaugural GRAVEL event in the Tillamook State Forest – a ride that technically hasn’t ended, but we’ll get to that!
The first GRAVEL event was what I imagine Woodstock being like. Rain, mud, new friends, free booze and camping in the woods with only one thing on our mind. We didn’t know exactly what to expect and none of us had ever done it before at this scale.
The weather on Friday leading up to the weekend event was miserable with cold rain. There’s a descriptor of weather where I’m from that means “absolute effing crap”. I’m from the deep south and we’re too proud to curse point blank. But that’s implied.
“Are we still doing it?, my favorite riding partner and fellow GRAVEL participant asked. “Of course,” I replied. We rode out to Timber, Oregon from Portland in what I’ve heard others describe as hell-slop. Upon arrival into camp, we happened upon a true Cycle Oregon experience with familiar faces, a welcoming community spirit and free beer! Day 1 of the event on Saturday was amazing. Sun, gravel, & great friends.
Welcome, now, to Day 2. A slight headache accompanies my breakfast. By slight, I mean lasting until lunchtime. By headache, I mean a raging hangover. Apparently free beer has that effect on some people. And I have now realized that I don’t have transportation back to Portland at day’s end other than my bicycle?!?
After three miles of gradual, ease-you-in gravel, we slog up the steepest climb of the weekend. Holy gravel climb, Batman! My partner in crime and I are feeling accomplished at the false summit, clipping along a good conversational, alternating half-wheeling pace, riding supple double track through working forestland. Then abruptly from behind, “On your left! On your left!” Whoa, someone’s serious about that KOM segment. But good on ya, chap!
The weather conditions continue to deteriorate as we climb, seemingly losing degrees of temperature and gaining degrees of fogginess with every revolution of the chainring. When we reach the turnaround point at Salmonberry lookout, we are almost frozen to our saddles. And, with the increasing fog, I’m not sure we were at a lookout at all! Could anyone honestly see more than 50 feet in front of their handlebars up there? ‘The ride back to camp is all downhill?’, I ask myself sarcastically. ‘Oh joy,’ I say back to myself even more sneeringly. For most of the way down we were in survival mode. Somehow we rattled out the essence of a conversation in the bone-numbing cold as a distraction. Need some hand warmers? Need my jacket? No, I’m good for now. Sure? No but I’ll survive. The conversation between us and in my head was enough to get us both back to camp. Food? Beer? Yes!
This is where most folks ended the GRAVEL weekend. But our ride was only just beginning- or let’s call it an intermission as we take a break from the bikes for a quick visit to the shower truck. There may have been a few quizzical looks from our fellow showerers as we pulled on a new pair of bibs after a long, warm shower. When you #ridetotheride there’s only one way home. “It’ll get warmer as we ride back to town.”, I say hoping to convince myself more than my ride partner. Wink, wink.
“Rad, until next time” is our farewell somewhere amid the Portland suburbs. One of us heads north, the other south. Not long after, I crash in Forest Park and tear a hole in my brand-spanking-new insulated bibs. With only a minor flesh wound producing a dribble of blood, I dust myself off and pedal across that beautiful teal bridge into St. John’s. I’m home!
But the ride didn’t end there at my doorstep and it still hasn’t to this day. My riding buddy and I still chuckle about showering mid-ride, about the cold and the ridiculousness of pulling on fresh kit in the shower truck, going the long way home over Wildcat Mountain with rain clouds hovering above. This ride has come up during every ride since. Those are the days that only happen when you’re pedaling with someone as obsessed about cycling as yourself. To this day, I only have one set of insulated bibs, and they have a hole in one knee.
As Robert Earl Keen put to lyrics, “The road goes on forever and the party never ends!” Cycling is about place. Cycling is about people. See the world. Do it with friends. And never shall the party end!