bikebritain News October 9, 2011

'Going Coastal' with Cycle Oregon

What an amazing week. I think it speaks volumes when, having participated in one Cycle Oregon event in 2008, my follow-up experience, whilst different, was as good as the first. Maybe the best test of how good the event was, is Swazy's comment, made to me on our last bike ride somewhere over the South Downs. "I tell people at work about it, but they just don't get it. I want to go back next year. I loved it." I'd say that's pretty good feedback. Well done Ingrid (Nylen. She's the 'face' of Cycle Oregon.) (By the way, the 'we' in this article is myself, Swazy and Malc.)

Our adventure started pretty well infact. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to Upper Class on our Virgin Atlantic flight over to San Francisco, and that in itself was an amazing experience. It was so quiet, sitting at the very front of a Boeing 747. And unlimited alcohol - flying doesn't get any better than that. We had made the decision to hire a car and drive North from San Francisco to the start at Sutherlin, about 8 hours away on the I5. Our overnight stop was in a sleepy town called Williams about 125 miles North of the Bay area. There was nothing much there other than a bed for us. Still, it was job done. We all had a strange nights 'sleep', jetlagged and jetlogged. We had another 5 hours to drive, so we cracked on and eventually arrived in Sutherlin, mid-afternoon, when it was approximately baking. I can tell you reassembling your bike in a field full of crickets in the sun was not fun. Bikes (eventually) back together, we went and registered.

This year we were part of the 'Tent City' brigade; meaning that we had to put our own tents up and down every day as opposed to doing tent and porter when everything is done for you. This meant we had to find a pitch each day, sometimes this was to our advantage (at Cottage Grove and Powers) and others it was not (at Reedsport and Bandon). Unlike Malc, I am not an experienced camper and this quickly became evident when it came to me putting up my tent. After much swearing and irritation I managed to erect it, thereby claiming the title of the campsites smallest tent. Not a great accolade to have. Thereafter and predictably we found ourselves in the Widmar Brothers beer tent (also eating Pizza, ummm delicious) and overall, things improved. The sun was still beating down but we had made it, safely, and were keen to get riding.

My first nights sleep was much like my previous 7 nights during the last Cycle Oregon; it mostly featured me not really sleeping. I was mainly to blame for this as my tent wasn’t long enough if I laid length ways. This, combined with the general uncomfortableness of lying on the ground resulted in a bleary pair of eyes the following morning. Still, we were in the flush of Day One so it didn't matter! After some last minute adjustments (read, faffing), we passed through the start and headed off on the road to Cottage Grove. 

I could significantly shorten this account by saying actually, each day is pretty similar to next. You get up. Have breakfast. Break the tent down. Go for a ride of varying distance. Put your tent up. Eat. Drink. Laugh, lots. Go to bed. Repeat 7 days. What's more, the event is so well organised, the beauty of it is, all you DO have to worry about are the things I've just described. If you like cycling, I cannot think of any reason why you would not like Cycle Oregon - and that's coming from a non-camper. However, what makes the event special are the people there. We were fortunate to meet RoadBikePhil who I have got to know off Twitter and his girlfriend Gerda. We also made friends with Brett, a very useful cyclist (read, too fast to ride with us) and of course Californian Craig and his 12 year old son Brevin who we had met last time around, who were riding this event on a tandem. Great effort. These folks made our week both entertaining and fun. Spending time with like-minded people with no time pressures or other distractions - what a privilege. 

Of course the scenery changed and this was the first time I had seen the Oregonian coast line. (Beautiful, dramatic.) We spent 3 days riding by the seaside and the prettiest place we saw was a place called Port Orford. We spent lunchtime overlooking the headland there and it was terrific. The sun was out, it was all very chilled. (Apart from the lorry driver who swore at all of us at the top of his voice, presumably at his wits end after he had avoided 1,500 + cyclists on highway 101. Having said that, it was quite funny.) We also saw a lighthouse that day, made better for being set against a clear blue sky. When we woke up in a place called Powers on Day 6, there was a mist rolling over the lake we were camped beside. That was spectacular. The mountains were also impressive, again, mainly on Day 6. This was almost the longest day (85 miles) and contained the most climbing. By now, having spent a couple of nights in a Motel (the camping had got too much for me), I was absolutely flying and as a consequence I stuck in a good ride that day. Swazy though, got the award for the most consistent rider of us 3. Having never ridden on 7 consecutive days before, it was as if he was born for Cycle Oregon. Great performance. Definitely a candidate for a Mallorca mission next too Lukey!

Another element that Cycle Oregon offers is riding with many people (circa 2350) on roads that were practically empty. Some of the road surfaces were like motor racing circuits, beautifully smooth. Others were, how can I put this, more like home! With that many people riding, you are never alone for long. We enjoyed riding amongst a number of pace lines, some up to 20 riders long. Frankly these were a bit dangerous, especially since the overall road awareness/road skills I would say was poor. Many folks were determined to stay in the middle of the road, making overtaking difficult. This was a shame because some of the descents were 'wasted' because of poor rider etiquette. Same goes for the use of the 'Sag' waggons. There were many people who did not even attempt the climbs; they would simply pull over and be taken to the summit so they could cycle down. Surely that's not the purpose of those suppport vehicles? Difficult for the organisers to legislate against though....

It's a long way to go for a bike ride, granted. It's not very local to us either. And it's a long time to be away from the family. But I am very glad to have 'Gone Coastal' this year. An experience to savour. If you get a moment, you might be interested in watching the films I took of our antics in Oregon. It captures the moment in a different way. If you search for bikebritain on YouTube you'll find us there - and at some point when 34sp sort themselves out I should be able to post Parts 1 and 2 on the website. It shows some of the countryside we cycled through and shares some of the (many) laughs we had.

To conclude; we'll all be back, hopefully together. Just not certain when. It's Cycle Oregon's 25th birthday next this space.

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