Even though you’ll be putting in a LOT of saddle time over the next few days, it’s important to remember Cycle Oregon is about much more than the ride. Learning a little about the host communities and meeting the locals is a crucial part of the complete experience, and something not to be missed. These rural communities serve as a refreshing reminder of things that seem to have been long forgotten in many urban areas. Kids have manners, mom-and-pop shops are the norm, architecture matters, and people say “hello” when walking down the street. The people in these towns are genuinely connected to each other in much in the same way cyclists are connected. Perhaps that’s why the two communities always seem to mesh so beautifully.
There’s a wealth of great information on each community in the Rider Handbook (if you haven’t taken a good look at it yet, you can download it here). And, of course, every town has been featured in depth through newsletter articles.
Just in case you missed them, here are some highlights:
Sutherlin is located in one of the many valleys between the Cascade Mountain Range and the Costal Range and is a sportsman’s paradise. Its proximity to rivers, creeks and ponds makes it a serious draw for fishermen, boaters, hikers and campers. It’s also enjoyed by oenophiles, with many of Oregon’s best wineries within striking distance (including Abacela, which makes mind-blowning Tempranillos and is the namesake for my dog).
There’s even a boxing event scheduled from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, put on by the Sutherlin High School’s booster club and the James Gang Boxing gym, at Sutherlin High School.
Cottage Grove is nestled in the forests and farmland at the southern end of the Willamette Valley. In 1926 silent film actor Buster Keaton directed and starred in The General, which he shot in Cottage Grove. The film is considered to be one of the greatest in movie history. The highlight of the film was the destruction of a locomotive as it steamed onto a burning bridge. Long before the days of CG and special effects, the scene was shot on the Row River and the train remained there until it was recovered for scrap during WWII.
While the train and bridge are gone, there are plenty of other bridges to enjoy around Cottage Grove. Just want to stay in town? No problem. Downtown Cottage Grove is a National Historic District, so there’s plenty to take in right there.
The ride from Cottage Grove to Reedsport will make for one of the longer, tougher (and most spectacular) days on this year’s Cycle Oregon. The reward at the end of the day is a fantastic coastal town that begs to be explored for a few days rather than a few hours. There are many great coffee houses, restaurants and attractions close to camp, so there are plenty of options for those that want to venture out. Winchester Bay is only three miles from Reedsport, so if you’re itching to dip your toes in the Pacific for the first time, that’s where you’ll want to be.
Like Reedsport, there’s no shortage of fun to be found in Bandon. Golfing, horseback riding, fishing, birding, art workshops, wine tasting, hiking and local theater are all viable options. Information on all these activities and more is available in the Rider’s Handbook as well as the Bandon Chamber of Commerce’s website. The optional ride on the layover day is a nice one, but no one can fault you if you choose to do the tourist thing instead.
Like Sutherlin, Powers is a powerful draw for hunters, fishermen and outdoor sports enthusiasts. It’s a small community, and the entire downtown can be walked in a matter of minutes. But it’s still a downtown worth exploring, and the high school and Senior Center are providing bus service from camp for those who don’t feel like making the one-mile trek. You will have done a lot of climbing to get to Powers, so there’s no reason to feel bad about giving your getaway sticks a quick break.
More small-town goodness awaits in Riddle. A river runs behind the fields/park where we’ll be camped, for those who want to take a dip. The old Hanna Nickel mining/smelter site is on the route to town, and if you’re into sawmills there are several within two miles of camp (modern sawmills are actually pretty impressive).
And if you’ve had enough of the small-town thing, the Seven Feathers Casino is five miles away. There’s a wine tasting there from 5-7 on Friday and, if you didn’t get enough rodeo last year, there’s one right at the casino on Saturday afternoon. Something tells me it’s not going to be as amazing as Pendleton, though.