Two weeks ago, before all of this had really started, the full Cycle Oregon staff piled into a van and headed out for a three-day scouting trip of the 2020 Classic route. That’s six of us – John Brooks (Route Planning & Permit Coordinator), Miranda Wigginton (Customer Service & Volunteer Manager), Brad Kendrick (Operations Manager), Anne Marie Hingley* (Events Manager), Steve Schulz (Executive Director), and me, Chris DiStefano* (Marketing & Development). It was a trip we’d all been looking forward to not just for the beautiful sights of Oregon but also for the time we’d spend together. We are a small, but mighty, crew and with two* of us being new on staff for 2020 it was a great opportunity to forge strong bonds prior to event season. Little did we know how strongly we’d connect over 72 hours as we discussed the exacting details of water stops, route marking, best pie flavors at the Dayville Cafe, and deep conversations as the world rapidly came to terms with COVID-19 without us.
Chasing the course from Fossil to Mitchell to Dayville to John Day to Monument and back to Fossil, our group previewed every detail along a route that often took us out of range of phone service. We’d begin a section talking about the latest news only to learn upon the completion of that section that what we knew at the start was now ancient history. Schools were closing early for spring break and maybe for even longer. March Madness, the massive annual NCAA basketball tournament, went from talk of playing in empty arenas to postponement to outright cancellation. It was so much so fast. But we talked more about work each night at dinner than any news we’d heard and with all the course details in our heads each day we didn’t feel the cumulative weight of what was happening globally. Our team will always share this special time of connection.
We crossed paths with a middle school girls basketball team at 7th Street Park in John Day, (where we’ll begin and end the 2020 Classic). Their season had been canceled just moments before on the first day of a tournament they’d been looking forward to. Their coaches brought them here to shoot hoops outside and surprised them with pizza and milkshakes. We talked about what little we knew of what was happening but shared stories of our love for riding bikes and the summer ahead. We opted not to take a group photo because we’d just learned about social distancing. (ed. – I wish we had, though!)
We rolled through Monument on our third day and spoke with the school superintendent – we’ll be using some school facilities for our overnight there- and she simply could not have been more gracious and accommodating at such a stressful time for her and the students. Oregon, it turns out, is a wondrous landscape but made even more special by the people who make it home.
If you’ve ridden bikes in Oregon you know these people and places, you’ve seen the signs all around. Here are some of the friendly sights, and signs, we saw over those three days; we look forward to returning and hope you’ll ride with us when we do.
Thanks for reading, keep riding, and be well.
-Chris DiStefano and the Cycle Oregon staff