First Big Ride – Cycle Oregon I

Day one: Salem to Independence to Corvallis, 57 miles

Setting up in Salem September 1988, many riders, many new riders, many led on by the promise that anyone could ride from Salem to Independence for lunch came to ride the first Cycle Oregon. I was on my Bridgestone, still going strong. I remember saying goodbye to my wife and heading west on Hwy 22.

It’s one thing to ride alone or with a friend, it is totally another thing to ride with 1,028 riders (years later they would cut off the enrollment at 2,000 riders). The feeling is great, powerful, strong and capable. The line of bikes goes along the right side of the road, single file. Everyone at the same pace, no one trying to dash ahead. Everyone watching traffic. I learned from the first that each day was composed of 20 mile segments. I could ride 20 miles, get off to rest and eat and ride another 20 miles. That was all I needed.

When we got to Independence we found the miracle of Cycle Oregon: there were people with food! Somehow the organizers of the ride contacted local organizations and offered them the food concession for that day for their town for 2,000 cyclists and their entourage. Wonderful food, drinks, and snacks for the road to Corvallis. For the most part these were just regular folks who had gone out of their way to make sandwiches, potato salad, fruit, lemonade and more. Some later would be catered, but even then it was local. One of the main goals of Cycle Oregon was to introduce city people to country people. It certainly worked at the lunch stops.

And then we were back on the road with handlebar bags or rear trunks filled with food, water and warm memories of caring neighbors. We rode south on the Corvallis road (It was named the Independence Road on the southern end). We rode into the Benton County Fair Grounds, got our tents (mine was in a bright fluorescent orange duffle so it was easy to find among all the other bags.) In addition to my tent, there was my sleeping bag and pad, and extra clothing I might need. We then had to ride into the OSU campus to shower in the women’s gym. I stopped on my way back to visit my friend Sandra who lived in Corvallis near the campus. She was the Instructional Tech for Corvallis Public Schools; I was the Instructional Tech for Portland Public Schools. Then back to another feed courtesy of a group in Corvallis and off to bed. I slept well.

Day two: Corvallis to Harrisburg to Eugene, 47 miles

This was our second day, an easy 47 miles along the Willamette River. I didn’t even know you could ride beside the Willamette River on the way to Eugene as I had either gone I-5 or 99W highways to get there. But we took the Peoria Road that led from just east of Corvallis South passed Peoria to Harrisburg. The last time I had noted Peoria Road was the last time I was stoned and wondered how I had gotten to Illinois. But as many towns and cities are named for somewhere else, so was Peoria. There was a place to put your boat in at Irish bend and turn off to Oakville (lots of towns and streets with Oak in their name because of the great black oak copse that were everywhere since pioneer days and beyond).

As I was pedaling along at about 11 mph, a blinding flash flew by me with a couple of other guys in his wake. But this guy had only one leg and one arm. I would find out later he was prepping for Special Olympics in Korea and would often talk to classes in schools about himself and his disability, though I wouldn’t think he would call it that. He did not use crutches when off his bike, he simply hopped.

After stopping in Harrisburg for lunch near the river, we went on east toward I-5 but cut south just short of the freeway and headed to Coburg. After passing through Coburg We crossed the Mackenzie River and headed for the track field on the U of O campus. Now I was back in familiar territory. I had just finished the coursework on my Ph.D. here the year before. The Cycle Oregon trip was meant to give me space from my research on my dissertation before I began writing it up.

From my journal 9-10-88

Beautiful sunrise 6:30 a.m. Everyone beginning to stir. Dome tents that were trying to become kites as cyclists put them up, will fold like umbrellas this morning.

Most did not stake them out – part of the problem.

Gladstone performed last night, a local, Gary Keeler. Best tents – Sierra Design. Tandems look good.

Eugene – stopped at Keith and Suzanne’s to wash Groucho Goose shirt, Cycle Oregon sirt, 1 pr sox & red bandana.

Good ride today. Flat, sunny,great lunch in Harrisburg. Picture of W. river along the way. Wish I had someone to ride with. Next year Jeff or Keith should come along.

Maybe Betsy on Tandem! Must get Rebecca’s bike together. Butt sore today from seat. Anus OK, but around pelvic bones butt is sore.

Stopped at Armatige Park on Coburg Road at the Mackenzie. Wonderful. Well on to Eugene!!!

(Ran into Andy from San Juan tour. She helped me with juggling. Thro two balls across but don’t try to catch them!)

Day three – Eugene to Triangle Lake to Florence, 75 miles

Today is a big day, 75 miles, west, into the wind, to the coast.

We rode early to breakfast in Junction City at the firehouse. They gave us pins celebrating Scandinavian days and we headed out HWY 36 west towards Triangle Lake. We went past Chesire and the turn off to Veneta where the summer Oregon Country Fair was in July. As we get close to Triangle Lake the local minister put out some signs like the old Burma Shave signs on the highway: Be Patient, Don’t be naughty, Just Ahead, The Porta Potty.

Upon leaving Triangle Lake we headed over the Coast Range passing Deadwood, Swisshome and on to Mapleton. Then we turned west, into the wind and past an accident on the railroad tracks where someone got their tires stuck in the tracks and had a bad fall. An omen.

This was my first experience riding into the wind. Wind on the coast was predictable, usually going north to south as we were. But here on the road to Florence it cut in east inland and blew hard. So I learned how to ‘draft.’ When you draft with another cyclist, you follow him closely, almost touching his rear tire with your front tire. You strive to match cadence and speed as you progress, allowing you to save some energy and keep pace while going at a steady speed together, thus decreasing your ride time and strain against the wind. This focus also occupied your thoughts and made the time fly by.

But there were rules. In order to share the work we swapped off every mile. Him first, then me first and he could rest, then him first again, allowing me to catch my wind. It worked beautifully and we became friends for the rest of the ride. (I would later meet him again on Cycle Oregon II when climbing Crater Lake.) We both laughed and pointed to the woman on the side of the road who had stopped to smoke a cigarette. (I had recently lost 40 lbs with Betsy on NutriSystems and then had quit smoking in preparation for this ride.)

When we got to Florence we had to ride out North on HWY 101 to the fair grounds to set up out tents. After a catered dinner I crashed to await the next leg of the trip.

Day four, Florence to Reedsport to Coos Bay, 70 miles.

Today we ride on the Oregon Coast!

We started just north in Florence, just after eating breakfast, packing up our gear and taking it to the trucks and heading south toward Reedsport. Just outside of town, on our first hill as I was walking my bike up the hill, I saw someone with a flat tire on her bike. I stopped to help her remembering the saying, “If I give you a fish…” So I taught her how to change her own tire. We were quickly on our way.

O our destination today was Coos Bay. Coos Bay had a large log shipping enterprise on the Oregon Coast. Logs and wood chips were piled high and loaded on ships for overseas ports, such as Japan.

As we left Florence we passed the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you could rent dune buggies and ride the sand dunes. At that time they also had a camel ride, provided by “Lawrence of Florence.” On the other side of the road in the eastward direction were small lakes.

We stopped for lunch courtesy of volunteers in Reedsport. Here is where the Umpqua River joined the ocean. (It started in Glide near Roseburg. We would ‘glide’ to glide in Cycle Oregon 11 in 1998 when I retired.) Just a few miles to the east was Loon Lake Campground where my daughter Rebecca would provide “Interpretation” for the campers after she got her bachelor’s in Forestry. Most of my children became teachers of one sort or another. When your field was Forestry, you taught by providing interpretive talks around the campfire at night.

When we left Reedsport we were on the lookout for a lighthouse. We found one at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, six miles south of Reedsport.

There are 11 lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. Many of these light houses have been restored (and largely replaced by electronic warnings of heads, capes, or big rocks). This light house was set up in 1849 at the mouth of the Umpqua River. Umpqua Light house

I rolled into Coos Bay at about 3:00 p.m. and sought out our campground. I don’t recall its location, but I remember the Gardens at Shore Acres State Park. (

Once again, I was well fed and hit the hay to a restful sleep, though Ibuprophen was a part of my recovery each night.

Day Five: Coos Bay to Port Orford to Gold Beach, 78 miles

One big day riding the Oregon coast southward. I love Bandon, like the Tillamook of the south coast, same cheese. Nice little tourist town and very friendly for cyclist. Port Orford was a pleasant surprise, on the coast with beautiful vistas. Port Orford is a port without a bay.,_Oregon.


Just south of Port Orford was Humbug Mountain State Park. We had heard rumors about the curvy roads and the dangers of sharing the road with timber trucks, chip trucks and those big RV’s with amateur drivers. The rumor said that the Oregon State Police would have to stop traffic until the bikes were through the area and then return traffic to HWY 101.

From the Oregon State Parks:

Park History

The original land purchase from Carl White in 1926 was 30.6 acres near the mouth of Brush Creek. Sixteen other tracts were purchased between 1930 and 1975. Initial development of Humbug Mountain commenced in 1934 using Civilian Conservation Corps forces. In 1952, overnight camping was developed to offer visitors opportunity for an extended stay. Once known as Sugarloaf Mountain, the name was changed to “Tichenor’s Humbug” after an exploring party sent forth from Port Orford by townsite developer Captain William Tichenor in 1851 mistakenly went south instead of north, toward the mountain. Eventually, the name was shortened to Humbug Mountain. In 1958, a major forest fire burned much of the north side of the park. The balance of mountain timber was saved by a change of wind as onlookers watched, helpless but thankful.

And on to Gold Beach. Gold Beach is famous for its famous Mail boats that are hydrofoils that race up the Rogue River skimming over the water. This wa a place I ear-marked to return to and ride those boats. We road over a beautiful bridge over the Rogue River.

While there are many beautiful bridges on the Oregon Coast, this one is exceptionally beautiful. After the longest ride of the entire trip, we were eager to find food and shelter. But we knew we had only 29 miles to go tomorrow to Brookings. We were in the banana belt now. This part of Oregon had balmy temperatures.

Day 6: Gold Beach to Brookings, 29 miles.

If the ride to Brookings was too short for you, you could ride an additional six miles to the California border. A short day with a long bus ride ahead back to Portland. We had made it. The first of many Cycle Oregon bicycle rides had begun. I was happy to have ridden it. The next year I talked three of my friends to join me for Cycle Oregon II, saying this is really easy. You can do it. They believed me until they found out that the second day we would clime 5,000 feet to Government camp, and later climb Crater Lake. Two of my friends dropped out near Bend (by previous agreement) and the third, my friend Vivian from Minnesota, made it to Ashland with a brace that had to be repaired somewhere in the middle of Oregon.–L-N7PIVjVf


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