Well…that was an unexpectedly unique week! Since being home for a few days, I’ve been recovering from the 14 hours and 1000 miles of driving each way and returning the camping gear to its various closet shelves and doing all the compulsory loads of laundry, I can take some time to gather these recollections and perceptions. As you probably know, I relish my annual CycleOregon immersion. From the warmth and generosity of the staff and the riders, to the beautiful quiet roads under wide open skies and the amazing layers of thought and preparation, it’s a wonderful week on wheels. The scheduled “Hell on Wheels” route was to be a replay of the 2003 counterclockwise circumnavigation and sojourn into Idaho’s Snake River Hells Canyon. But it didn’t work out that way. As we cyclist were gathering in Baker City on Saturday evening, an imbecile in a bar in Halfway Oregon decided to drive home after overindulging, then rolled his car off the road which set the surrounding tinder dry forest ablaze. The intended camp for night three in Halfway was then quickly converted into a fire incident base. As you would correctly assume, a forest fire trumps a bike tour. There were no smoke filled skies, unlike my Idaho tour a month ago, or any significant fire risk, or closed roads, just no place to camp, anywhere. So the tour was forced to hold over in Cambridge, Id. And then, it rained! There was an “out and back” optional route that day, down into the Snake River Canyon and many riders took advantage of that. But given the weather and the tours decision to ride back to Baker City via the same roads we’d just seen, I decided instead to hitch a ride the 100 miles back to the start and get my truck. This provide our little group with the ability to see the full extent of Hells Canyon, to get lunch in the town of Halfway, to experience the amazing Forest Service Route 39 over the Blue Mountains and see the gorgeous Wallowa Lake State Park, all of which none of the others had seen before. The town of Joseph was both saddened and disgruntled about the last minute change and the large loss of revenue. Two days of unfilled hotels, bars and restaurants can do that to a town. I heard that CycleOregon will still deliver on their promised grants for those days, even though the tour didn’t go through as planned. So, our little group was able to gather the memories of that beautiful route portion and just as I’d predicted in a recent blog, the first waves of fall color had washed into the trees and undergrowth, right on schedule. The next morning we woke to a light dusting of snow on the high peaks to our west. After a hearty breakfast in quiet downtown Joseph, I was able to make a long awaited stop at the Blue Banana for mocha a few miles up the road in Lostine! After exiting the Wallowa River canyon, we drove through harvested fields of grain and waves of rain as we turned south to rejoin the rerouted tour back in Baker City. The last two days up to La Grande and back were wonderful. Crisp mornings, blue skies, warm afternoons and the predictably smooth quiet roads painted the classic CycleOregon masterpiece. Many people decided not to continue from Cambridge once they heard about the re-route and the wet weather. As much as 15% I heard. But most did and their tenacity was well rewarded. If there is a point here it would be this; it will get better, the sun will come out and there will be beauty and joy ahead. You just have to keep on pedaling!
Thank you, CycleOregon 2015 and all those who participated