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“Route Talk” With Ken Chichester

Ken Chichester

This month’s Route Talk covers Day 2, from Cottage Grove to Reedsport. Master route planner Ken Chichester mentioned last month that this is the cornerstone day of the 2011 route. Once you ride it, you’ll know why.

Why did you choose to go this way?
This is the day the rest of the week was developed around. The scenery, the almost total lack of cars, and the lack of a major climb to travel over the summit of the Coast Range were some of the reasons for wanting to travel this way to the coast for a Cycle Oregon route. In addition, we’ve never stayed overnight in Reedsport.

What planning challenges were involved with this route?
In thinking of this day’s route, the only drawback was the length of the day. For many people, 90 miles is a really long day. So originally the thought was to begin west of Cottage Grove to make the day shorter, but the potential alternative camping locations were too small to handle the size of our overnight footprint. The plus of such a long day, in this case, is that there are no “major” climbs to make a long day even more difficult.

The next major challenge is the typical difficulty faced in many routes selected for Cycle Oregon – finding a place for stops along the route. The major appeal of this route, in addition to the scenery, is the lack of civilization. This lack of anything related to a community of some kind is also a major problem when locating stops, as we are left with finding a wide spot along the roadway. The first stop is ideal mileage-wise, but the next two are the only spots big enough to accommodate our equipment while providing a place for cyclists to get safely off the roadway. They are spaced a little farther than we typically like to have them, and the ambiance of large gravel areas is somewhat lacking. But the old Navy saying, “Any port in a storm,” is applicable along this route as there are simply no other options.

Can you provide a brief point-to-point description of this route?
There isn’t a lot to describe, in the normal context of tourist-related activities, along the route. There’s almost nothing except forest and rivers between Cottage Grove and Reedsport. Isn’t that a wonderful description of a 90-mile bike ride?

Once we leave Cottage Grove there are 11 miles of smooth pavement with nice shoulders traveling through agricultural fields and then forest. There is some evidence of civilization, with houses and small farms near the road, before arriving in Lorane for the first stop of the day. After leaving Lorane, signs of human activity are minimal and Cycle Oregon route signage is necessary to ensure the right roads are used to arrive on the Oregon Coast.

There are some rollers and bumps in the road, but no real hills. About 30 miles after leaving our starting location, the county roadway becomes a BLM-maintained road. At about this same location is a Lane County Inmate Forest Work Camp (we haven’t asked for permission for a visit). Just after a road junction with a large wooden BLM map identifying the roads in the area is the beginning of the first, and only, climb of the day. At a grade of about 4-5%, the climb lasts only a few miles before reaching the Oxbow Summit.

After a short descent, the route is almost entirely shaded to our lunch site at the Vincent Creek Recreation Site. The route is now following the Smith River, which empties into the Umpqua River just before that river reaches the Pacific Ocean just north of Reedsport. A few miles after lunch we’ll ride by Smith River Falls, which hopefully will not be spectacular, because haven’t we all been requesting no rain?

The forested route begins to change into fields with some farms, and you’ll know we’re getting close to civilization again, because about 15 miles from Reedsport we’ll ride by the Smith River Grocery & Tavern. Where do their customers come from – certainly not your fellow riders!

After the last stop for the day at a county park/boat ramp, it’s onto Highway 101. After turning onto the coastal state highway, we cross the Umpqua River on a bridge with no shoulders, so everyone will need to ride single-file. We travel south on this main highway for a couple miles before finishing at the Reedsport schools and city park complex for our overnight stay.

How would you assess the route from a rider’s point of view – difficulty level, things to be aware of, not to miss, etc?
This day is not a difficult day, even considering the length of the route. Some of the BLM-maintained roadway has moderately bumpy chip-seal, which can become tiring, but except for the long mileage, the difficulty level of the day is moderate as the terrain the route follows is generally flat.

The thing not to miss on this day is the scenery – which can’t be missed because that’s pretty much all there is to see.

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