Did we get another perfect day? Yes we did (from the perspective of an Oregonian who is OK with sun, clouds, drizzle, lightning and rain all at the same time). The constantly changing weather really made the colors, shapes, patterns and textures of the landscape pop, which was something rider after rider kept mentioning with utter delight as they wafted by some of Oregon’s finest wineries. Days like this are why we ride.
A group of very enthusiastic students was on hand to greet the riders as they finished their journey. Hoots, hollers, hugs and general merriment abounded. Parting is sweet sorrow, but at least we get to do it all over again in a few months. Until then, keep training!
Hats off to the staff, volunteers, the communities and the riders for making this another great one.
Remember when we told you how McMinnville is working hard to make itself more of a cycle tourism destination? Well it is. Good thing too, because after putting rubber to the road today, it’s a safe bet that many of those who haven’t ridden here before will be back again (and again, and again, and again and again). Low traffic, silky ribbons of smooth asphalt, rolling hills (including a few lung-busters) and the multitude of shapes and colors that make up the agricultural mosaic of the Willamette Valley combine to make up some breathtaking cycling. Seriously, those of us who live in or near the Willamette Valley owe it to ourselves to ride all of it all the time — not just the sections close to home. If not for yourself, do it for the poor folks who have to travel great distances for bucolic splendor even half as splendid.
On top of the beauty of the course, the weather was perfect (at least until about 11:30 when it started to get a tad warm). No matter. Based on the smiles on the faces of all the riders I’m not sure anyone even noticed.
I’m smiling. I’m reflecting on CO3 and hearing peals of laughter as strangers become friends, seeing plump strawberries plunked in a pile of whipped cream, smelling sage and pine from canyon depths, and feeling hope for our collective future together in this special place called Oregon.
CO3 was designed to combine epic riding with quality time over fresh-from-the-farm dinners discussing community and economic development. These conversations are intended to help us allocate up to $30,000 in grant funding raised through the event. They will also add perspective for future strategic planning and partnerships.
We want to thank everyone who made this event happen: the community hosts and presenters, every one of the riders who joined us on this great adventure, and businesses including Airstream Adventures NW and Rogue Creamery. You all made this event incredibly special, with the promise of a new way for Cycle Oregon to promote a healthy and connected Oregon.
We’re on to something. The rides were, indeed, epic – as our legs and lungs will attest. Those 330 miles and 25,000 feet of elevation were stunning, grueling and amazing. The locals we met and the riders who joined us were informative and inspiring.
Agriculture-based Economic Development
Our first evening was spent outside Walla Walla in the wine and cheese region of southeastern Washington. We rolled out from Walla Walla past wheat fields to the edge of Waitsburg, where Izzy the camel welcomed us. Pedaling into the heart of Waitsburg, we turned toward the jimgermanbar, where the warm, sun-dappled room was full of life and delicious aromas.
We met local artisan farmers including Christopher Galasso of Stone’s Throw Farm and Blue Valley Meats, Liz Phillips from Welcome Table Farm and Pierre Monteillet of Monteillet Fromagerie. Our group of 20 bellied up to the long farm table to learn about the shifting agricultural landscape, where large-scale farming practices create both challenge and opportunity (as an example, Monsanto’s GMO practices are a threat to specialty crops, but they also have the most advanced non-invasive pest management programs available). The three speakers explained how they’re growing their market and helping provide fresh and healthy food options for locals while also raising awareness among consumers about humane practices and quality. This tiny town has a huge vision, and any trip in its direction merits a stopover for some social and gustatory inspiration.
Natural Resources-based Economic Development
We pushed off from Clarkston bright and early with visions of paella still dancing in our heads. We climbed steeply past the village of Anatone and dropped giddily to the bottom of Rattlesnake Grade. Then we climbed again – before still more climbing. Finally we reached the crest at the Chief Joseph Overlook before making our way into the wide Wallowa Valley and the town of Enterprise, where more than a few folks felt the pull of Terminal Gravity, an oasis of beer amid the cattle ranches.
As the mountains of the Eagle Cap Wilderness grew radiant in the evening sun, we headed over to the Arrowhead Ranch for dinner. We arrived to a hearty welcome from our local hosts and a scene of billowing tablecloths and straw-bale benches. Mike Hayward, Wallowa County commissioner for 18 years, explained that “we have natural resources, and our goal is to have both economic sustainability and community vitality.” That was the perfect introduction for Nils Christofferson, executive director of Wallowa Resources, a nonprofit organization founded 17 years ago when Wallowa lost all its sawmills. The organization is committed to maintaining and improving the natural-resource economy in ways that adapt and improve practices while staying competitive and creating opportunities for the next generation. Amy Busch, the education coordinator for Wallowa Resources, described the need to focus on the next generation by highlighting the fact that only 20 percent of kids play outside every day, which results in losing a sense of connection and place. When the majority of jobs in an area are based on knowledge of the land, this becomes a vital economic link.
The evening was best summed up by Liza Jane Nichols, a fifth-generation rancher at Six Ranch (any trip to Wallowa County must include a stop by Six Ranch’s farm stand for some of their local veggies, fresh eggs and specialty grass-fed beef). She summed up our experience with words shared over a special meal: “We have met, and we are friends. Now we have eaten, and we are family.”
Planting Seeds of a Rural Economy
We departed Enterprise, traveling along Wallowa Valley with the Eagle Cap at our backs and the Wallowa Mountains ahead of us. We delighted in the shady slope of Forest Road 39 winding along the Imnaha River up to the Hells Canyon Overlook before dropping toward the Snake River and into the hamlet of Halfway.
Our evening conversation took place in the gorgeous gardens of Wallowa Llamas, where our table stretched along the fence with llamas in the foreground and mountains in the distance.
The discussion was kicked off by Coco Forte, who described Halfway as a place where, when the community needs something, whether social or cultural, someone local leads the charge to create it. She explained that the town’s remote location and small population make it difficult to support much, including basic services like a doctor or dentist. So they have to get very creative, which they have done. Their supervising physician, located in Baker City, was named the Oregon Physician of the Year! Other neighbors have contributed to the fabric that makes Halfway such a special place, including Steve Baxter, the publisher and editor of the local newspaper, who founded the Cornucopia Arts Council and its various arts and music programs. We heard Linda Collier describe the library beautification project, and from Liz McClellan, who supports all sorts of projects with fundraising and capacity building through United Community Partners.
Tourism- and Bicycle-based Economic Development
The ride from Halfway to Baker was dominated by a few distinct features: rolling hills, sage, cattle, wind and heat. This would be our “shortest” ride of the week at only 55 miles, though it felt much longer as we spread out and pedaled those hot, hilly miles. By the time we reached our lunch stop at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, we were hot, thirsty and hungry. Then we went inside and learned about what thousands of pioneers endured as they pursued their fortunes by wagon and horse.
Our discomfort was temporary. Theirs was anything but, so we counted our blessings and pedaled the final five miles into Baker and rejoiced as the Geiser Grand Hotel came into view. Baker City is a majestic old city, with more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The Geiser is the crown jewel. The building was restored completely by Barbara Sidway, who singlehandedly saved it from demolition. That act was one of many that improved the downtown core and focused on increasing tourism as one avenue toward economic prosperity. One aspect of that is bicycles, which includes being on the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway and promoting bike friendliness (as the Geiser Grand does).
Baker’s bicycle epicenter is Baker Loves Bikes, a nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and support greater access and safe opportunities for all cyclists in Baker County.Baker Loves Bikes is connected to many exciting projects in the area, including the Baker City Cycling Classic, which was held the weekend after our stay. Organized by artist and bike enthusiast Brian Vegter, the Classic is a professional race that emphasizes equal purses between men’s and women’s races. This was something I learned during Inga Thompson’s presentation. Inga and Brian showed a film called “Half the Road” that explained the challenges women riders face in light of restrictive UCI rules ranging from restrictions on race distances to smaller purse prizes.
Baker Loves Bikes is also involved with promoting the area as a major mountain biking destination, and they’re creating the maps to prove it! We also heard from long-time Cycle Oregon rider and supporter Jerry Peacock, who shared exciting news about a new educational program for youth, the Baker Technical Institute. His goal is to create a job-ready workforce that can work in and build Baker’s future. With the new institute’s focus on engineering, architectural design, plant and animal science, and manufacturing technologies (bike frames, anyone?), Jerry hopes to keep more local kids local and continue to build a community with a healthy future. As one of the best-kept secrets in Oregon, the city’s future will surely be bright.
Building a Healthy Future, Together
One of the common themes throughout the week was the interdependent nature of the relationship between rural and urban Oregonians. In some ways it’s a false distinction. Many of our riders had lived in one of the state’s larger cities and now live in small towns. Or they grew up on rural farms and now live in Portland or Salem. One thing we all shared was a deep belief that we can’t exist without each other.
Cycle Oregon believes the future of our state is dependent on healthy communities from border to border. With the economic changes since the 1980s there is still a lot of work to do to maintain and develop new economies based on current realities. This is no small task. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that amazing things can happen one pedal stroke at a time.
If you’re lucky, you’ve got good friends who can convince you to become a Cycle Oregon rider. If you’re really lucky, those friends are Candlelighters. Jim Ruble is one really lucky guy.
Candlelighters for Children With Cancer is an Oregon-based nonprofit organization that provides support, education, advocacy and hope to children, families and communities affected by childhood cancer. The organization raises money in several different ways. Our personal favorite is their Ride for a Child program, which raises money for the organization and honors children from the regions we visit each year during the Week Ride. In 12 years, the Ride for a Child program has raised nearly $1.2 million.
Jim has been riding as a Candlelighter for the past seven years, and has served on the organization’s board. He has come to appreciate the strength of a group of individuals riding together for a common cause. He also believes that when it comes to this kind of work, you get out more than you can ever put in.
One of the things that impressed him most was that 96 percent of all the money raised by the team of more than 50 riders who participate every year goes directly to the families in need of support. All riders are encouraged to try their hand at raising funds, and the organization provides coaching and ideas on how to make that happen. According to Jim, it’s a great way to step out and learn fundraising if it’s something you’ve never done before.
Candlelighters are easy to spot on the course – they’re wearing their signature light-blue and yellow jerseys with a child’s name on the back. They also camp together and have events in camp with the families and kids they’re honoring. Participation is open to everyone, and interested parties should visit the website for more information. Any Cycle Oregon rider is also free to make a donation whether or not you’re a member, and all Candlelighters can tell you how.
Jim was also one of the participants in this year’s CO3. Not surprisingly, he was intrigued by the prospect of meeting with the community leaders and other interesting speakers, which he found every bit as enjoyable as the ride (and he thought the ride was pretty darn enjoyable).
One of the speakers was Inga Thompson, a champion bike racer who advocates for quality women’s cycling and the importance of making competitive cycling a dope-free sport. That particular conversation must have been as compelling for Inga as it was for the participants, because Inga is now planning to ride this year’s Week Ride – as a Candlelighter.
On Cycle Oregon
His affiliation with the Candlelighters isn’t the only thing that keeps Jim coming back. Like so many others, it’s the friendships built on the road that become a vital part of the experience. It’s also the organization. “They’ve done their homework and thought of a thousand little details that all combine to make the ride incredibly enjoyable,” he says.
In terms of tips for new riders, Jim says it’s important to enjoy the music in camp and get out every night and dance – his theory is that it’s a good way to flush the legs of lactic acid.
So if you want to meet Jim on this year’s ride, say “Hi” to all the Candlelighters you meet – or strap on your dancing shoes.
Recently some riders have contacted me and expressed their concerns about their preparation. If you’re one of them, this post will get you moving in the right direction. First off, in order to become a comfortable climber you need to do just that. There is a guiding principle in training called SAID, or Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. This simple yet effective training principle states that if you want to adapt to mountainous terrain, you need to expose yourself to that type of demand. If you don’t have hills around you, gear down (ride in a harder gear) and make the flats more challenging. If you only have access to a short hill, enjoy hill repeats. Regardless of your riding environment, it’s important that you implement some high-intensity work. For last month and this month your training drills include hill repeats and threshold training. The change is adding 1 to 2 sets to the hill repeats and 2 to 3 minutes to the threshold training.
Both of these training tools will help you immensely in conquering this year’s route. When completing the training drills, your legs should maintain the “burn” throughout the entire work period. If you’re using a heart rate (HR) monitor, stay within 5 beats of your anaerobic threshold (ANT). To determine your estimated ANT, take the average HR during a 6- to 8-minute period of all-out work.
These training tools are designed to be done during shorter training rides, but you can also implement them during long rides. Just keep in mind that the total volume of each drill might need to be reduced.
Here is your monthly checklist:
Mileage: 130 to 180 miles per week.
Ride Pace: Hill repeats and threshold training drills 2 to 3 times a week. One to 2 long recovery rides at an easier pace.
Hill repeats: Add 1 to 2 sets from last month – 2 to 5 of 5-minute hard climbs, then 5 minutes recovery pace
Threshold training: 2 to 5; add 2 to 3 minutes from last month, so 4 to 10 minutes working at your threshold, then 5 to 10 minutes recovery pace
Use most of this time for recovery: massage, deep-water float, meditation or simply getting plenty of sleep. Remember that your body gets stronger when you’re resting, not working.
“Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.” –W. Clement Stone