The Best Bike Ride in America

Cycle Oregon Blog

CO3 Community Conversations

BakercityOne of the coolest parts about CO3 is getting the chance to learn more about the communities we’ll visit, meet the region’s movers and shakers, get a much more up-close-and-personal view of the issues the communities face, and talk about what we can do to help. The fact that these discussions will happen over delicious “farm to fork” meals will make these discussions even more enjoyable.

Themes and topics will include:

  • Stewardship-based economic development
  • The history of Enterprise and the Wallowas
  • Rebuilding local economies
  • The Slow Food movement
  • Local sharing economy
  • Bringing arts education back to the schools
  • Tourism and bike tourism-based economic development
  • The history of Baker City

Great riding, great amenities, great people and the chance to make a difference in the lives of some amazing Oregonians – it doesn’t get any better than that. Space is still available, but don’t delay. Registration closes at the end of the month, and there’s a good chance it could sell out before that. Click here to register.


Route Talk with Ken Chichester

DAY 2             Glenwood to Dufur

Descent Mt Hood View 2

Those who have ridden Cycle Oregon in the past know the least desirable option for choosing a road is to use the same road twice. There are three roads available when leaving Glenwood and returning to Oregon: the one used on the first day (Nah, been there, done that), a route that is longer with more traffic, or the one selected that has very little traffic, great scenery, a wonderful downhill, and as we can’t have everything, a short section of gravel.

Initially, Day 2 was a ride from Glenwood to The Dalles, with an optional loop after reaching The Dalles to Mosier for those who wanted more miles. The rationale for going back to The Dalles for the second overnight was that we would spend two nights in three towns during the week. This would have resulted in setting up camp in only four towns, and alternating overnights in The Dalles and Tygh Valley, and staying two nights in Madras. Thus, overnight camps would not have to be completely torn down at the end of each day and built again for the following day. Much of the camp could be left in place, including all the T&P tents. This would have cut the amount of work in half for the volunteers who erect all of the support equipment.

Alas, the loop to Mosier and back to The Dalles is really a tough ride (80 mile day and over 6,000 feet of climbing), and the next day to Tygh Valley was REALLY a tough day – 90 miles and around 9,000 feet of climbing. So saner heads prevailed, my idea was scrapped, and we elected to spend the second night in Dufur, rather that The Dalles (Sorry volunteers, a near-normal week for you!).

The great scenery of Day 1 continues on the second day with a small hill, with just over a mile and a half of gravel, before starting twenty-plus miles of downhill back to Lyle, the location of the first stop the previous day. This lightly traveled road does include log truck traffic, so please Share the Road. Then it is a re-trace of the seven miles of the Washington state highway along to the Columbia River. This is the day we hope the windsurfers are on the water enjoying a stiff breeze, because it would be a tailwind for us.

After crossing the Columbia River, the lunch stop in Riverfront Park is a decision point: a direct route of eighteen miles to the finish in Dufur, or a twenty-five mile out-and-back ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway to the Rowena Crest Viewpoint overlooking the Columbia River. The decision on which route to take is dependent on how one feels, if the windsurfers are enjoying a windy day (think headwind), and a review of the elevation chart, because nearly all of the climbing begins after leaving The Dalles.

For those who choose to forgo more views of the Columbia Gorge, the route to Dufur returns up the hill in The Dalles we rode down at the beginning of the first day, and then an up-and-down ride through cherry orchards and wheat fields. These very lightly traveled back roads lead to major north-south U.S. Highway 97. This road has moderate traffic but excellent shoulders for bicycles, and we use it for eight miles before arriving in Dufur.

The optional eighty-five mile route uses a bike path from the lunch site for over three miles (riding past Google) before ending at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.  Riders then use Old Highway 30 to travel west. This road is flat until a two-mile climb to the viewpoint. After a rest stop, riders return to The Dalles on the old highway and join the main route to ride to Dufur.


Better Know Glenwood, Washington

glenwoodWith a population between 400 and 500 people, Glenwood, Washington, isn’t a big town, but it has some mighty huge views of a pretty spectacular mountain. The downtown won’t take long to explore. Once you’ve taken in the general store and the Glenwood Inn, you’ll have pretty much seen it all. But there’s a lot more to the area than just that.

A large part of the area’s history is rooted in the timber industry. Much of the wood processed in these mills went to make wooden fruit crates used in the region. The millpond for the Mt. Adams Pine Company is still there, and we’ll pass right by it on the way into town.

millIn the 1920s there were several sawmills in the region. However, by 1931 timber started getting scarce. Local legend says mill owner Truman Collins and his nearest competitor, J. Neils, decided there wasn’t enough business for the two of them, so they would flip a coin and the winner would buy the loser out. There ended the Collins mill (don’t feel too bad; the family seemed to do pretty well for itself in the timber industry for generations).

The Glenwood Valley was also once home to the Klickitat Tree Farm, which employed the first sustained-yield plan for a private forest in 1939.

Of course Glenwood is about much more than just logging and forestry. Apparently it’s a pretty popular gathering place for Sasquatch. So much so that a recent reality show about the large-footed beasts was filmed there. Sadly, the show’s crew wasn’t able to capture this majestic creature on video in the short time they were there, but we’ll want to be sure to keep our eyes peeled. With about 2,500 of us in town, surely one of us will catch a glimpse. There’s big money to be made with good footage, so keep your smartphones at the ready.

As is the case with pretty much every town we’ll visit during the ride, there are plenty of great reasons to explore in more depth than we’ll be able to accomplish while we’re there on CO. The Klickitat River Canyon is nearby, and the river that runs through it is designated Wild and Scenic. It’s a great place for whitewater enthusiasts and anglers alike. Spring steelhead, chinook and stocked salmon abound. There’s also a great rodeo on Father’s Day and the Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a large herd of elk, the greater sandhill crane and the Oregon spotted frog.

Glenwood here we come!


Ian Madin Rocks Geology – Day Two: Geology, Faults, Flows and Floods

Ian Madin is the chief scientist at the Oregon Department of Geology, and he will be providing us with information about the areas we’ll be visiting each day.

As we leave Glenwood and head south across the valley, we’ll see a long straight escarpment forming a wall along the edge of the valley. We came down this ridge at the end of Day One, but from this perspective it’s easier to see that this is a major fault. Faults are breaks in the Earth’s crust along which movements occur. In this case, the valley floor has dropped along the fault, while the land on the other side of the fault has risen; we call this type a “normal” fault. There has been at least 1,000 feet of vertical movement on this fault, just to account for the height of the escarpment ahead of us. We don’t know the depth beneath the valley of rocks that matches the top of the escarpment, but we would need to add that depth to assess the total amount of movement on the fault. This is the first of several major faults we’ll encounter today. Off to our left, the low rise is a young volcano, which erupted about 3,400 years ago. We’ll ride up and over the edge of a lava flow from this volcano shortly before we start to climb the fault escarpment.


This Google Earth image shows our route in purple and the fault along the base of the escarpment in red. Mt. Hood is visible in the distance. The small bump in the route before it begins the big climb occurs when the road climbs over the edge of a 3,400-year-old lava flow.

Once we get to the top, the rolling ride to Lyle once again crosses the Columbia River Basalt. It’s not very interesting in this kind of landscape, but it is a very important geologic marker in the Pacific Northwest because it allows geologists to get oriented in geologic time. The lava flows covered much of Washington and Oregon in a very short time span, between 15 and16 million years ago. That means that whenever you come across these lavas, you know approximately where they are in the vast expanse of geologic time. Geologists have learned to identify most of the dozens of individual lava flows that made up the flood basalt, using a combination of subtle chemical differences and differences in the direction of the north magnetic pole that each flow preserves. When a lava flow cools, microscopic crystals of iron-rich or magnetic minerals orient themselves to the direction of the magnetic pole at the time when the rock solidified. The north magnetic pole wanders constantly with respect to true north, and so each successive flow records a slightly different direction. Sometimes the north and south poles rapidly switch places, in a geomagnetic reversal, and they will then stay stable for hundreds of thousands of years before flipping again.

Along the way we’ll catch views of Mt. Hood in the distance. As we descend the final hill into Lyle, we’ll get a great view of dramatic evidence of the great floods from Day One’s route. The road passes a large gravel pit on the right, and you can clearly see that the top of the slope is composed of gravel sitting on top of reddish-brown rock and soil. This is a gravel bar left by the many ice age floods, which means that the ridge ahead must have been deep underwater. Past the gravel pit we’ll come around the corner and be looking at Rowena Crest, the mid-point of the day’s optional ride. The cliffs there are again made of successive lava flows of the Columbia River Basalt.


As we descend that last mile into Lyle, we’ll pass this gravel pit, in which we can see loose gray river gravel deposited by the ice age floods 15,000 years ago on top of the reddish-brown Columbia River Basalt.

After we make the climb to the top of Rowena Crest we’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view both ways of the Columbia River Gorge, and, again, most of what you see is Columbia River Basalt. Rowena Crest is famous for its spring wildflowers and for its vernal pools – short-lived ponds that harbor a wider range of life in spring. After we descend Rowena Crest and ride about one mile, we’ll start to get great views across the river of the second big fault of the day. The normal fault we climbed this morning formed by moving one side up, but this fault is a strike-slip fault, which moves one side horizontally past the other. The result is not an escarpment but an area of strongly bent and tilted lava layers. These layers were originally flat, but right against the fault they have been turned nearly vertical. The climb up Rowena Crest was actually crossing the same fault after it crosses the Columbia.


Looking across the river as we return from Rowena Crest, we can see the lava flows of the Columbia River Basalt tilted and folded by movement along a major fault. The red line marks the path of the fault; blue lines show how individual lava layers, originally horizontal, have been tilted.

From The Dalles to Dufur we’ll be riding through rolling uplands and shallow canyons carved into the Dalles Formation, which is composed of layers of river sediment (sand and gravel) and layers of volcanic mud flows, all of which originated 8 to 10 million years ago from Cascade volcanoes to the west – these are now long eroded away and buried by younger volcanoes.


Rider Profile: Jackie Yerby

“Somewhere between Zen and masochism is long-distance bike riding” – Jackie Yerby

Like many who now identify as cyclists, Jackie Yerby got her start by deciding to sign up for Cycle Oregon with a group of friends (that’s her on the left). That was 2010, and she’s been a regular ever since. Going from novice to seasoned endurance rider in a matter of months is an incredible metamorphosis – particularly when setting out with little guidance or structure, which is how she, like most other novices, got her start.

But start she did. She logged an impressive 600 miles on her own and even made the transition to clipless pedals before reaching out to STRADA -  Cycle Oregon’s training gurus – for the helpful education and plans that allowed her to take her fitness and skills to the next level. By September of that year, she was more than ready.

Now, as a seasoned veteran she’s got a lot to share with those who are beginning their journey:

  • Put the required time in the saddle. I typically log 1,200 miles by September.
  • Seek balance – be sure to make room for your friends and your life outside of training during the season.
  • Ride your own ride – get into your own rhythm and ride at the right pace for you. If this doesn’t happen to be the same pace as your friends, don’t worry about it; you’ll all end up in the same place at the end of the day.
  • Get good bike shorts.
  • Use chamois lube.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Hydrate – becoming dehydrated is no fun, and it takes a while to recover. Drink early and often, even when you aren’t thirsty.
  • Carry food with you and eat constantly.
  • Have the right attitude – if you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.
  • Be ready to meet new people – one of the coolest things about Cycle Oregon is the other riders and the friendships you form. Some friendships continue on into the “real world,” and some are rekindled every year on the event, but they’re all good.
  • There’s little room for vanity on Cycle Oregon – spitting and performances of the “farmer’s blow” are fine – just make sure the coast is clear first. (Editor’s note: If you have a mustache, forgo the farmer’s blow. Clear coast or no, this move’s not for you.)
  • Communicate with your fellow riders – when you pass, call “On your left” or, if appropriate, just say “Hello.”
  • Take the layover day off and wear non-cycling clothes (I always wear a dress on the layover day).
  • Carry ID or wear a Road ID bracelet.
  • Even if you think you’re a master recycler, listen to the volunteers when they help you determine what’s trash, recyclable and compost – they have mad skills.

Jackie Yerby is the sustainability program manager at Cambia Health Solutions. She is on the board of the Community Cycling Center and volunteers for a wide variety of great causes. When you see her on the road this September, strike up a conversation; you’ll be glad you did.

Photo by Rohith Gunawardena.