Right now I should be attending Cycle Oregon’s week-long ride. I should be sitting by Diamond Lake surrounded by bikes and cyclists and people’s damp and stinky riding clothes. Unfortunately that ride got cancelled because of the fires. So now I’m sitting by Wallowa Lake surrounded by bikes and cyclists and people’s damp and stinky riding clothes. And as far as we’re concerned, we’re still “doing Cycle Oregon.”
That’s because Cycle Oregon is much more than a really awesome, fully-supported cycling adventure that takes place the first full week in September after Labor Day in some of the beautiful parts of the world.
So What Is Cycle Oregon?If you ask the people who run it, they will tell you it’s a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming individuals and communities through bicycling because that’s the official mission statement and what’s the point of having an official mission statement if it doesn’t get used? After that, they will elaborate in more detail, which is required to provide the true essence of it all.
If you ask me Cycle Oregon is about a bunch of people with a common passion for bikes and fitness and food and booze and fun and an interest in helping people in the rural parts of this pretty great state. It’s about a family and it’s about community. It’s something that exists in the hearts and minds of everyone who has ever participated — much in the same way a pirated movie exists in little packets on computers all over the globe.
It begins the moment you commit. It’s every training ride you take, every pedal stroke you make, every healthy meal you eat (and every unhealthy one), every conversation, every Facebook visit and every moment spent in anticipation. It’s preparing your gear and your mind and then road tripping your way to the start. After it’s done, it’s about the enduring friendships and the photos and reliving the memories.
Is the part where you spend a week of riding and cavorting with 2,200 of your closest friends in some of the state’s most bucolic areas an important part of the Cycle Oregon equation? Why yes, as a matter of fact it is. Many would argue it’s the central part. Does the cancellation of the event mean Cycle Oregon 2017 didn’t happen? Not even a little.
Together Even When We’re ApartOur group is far from being the only group of displaced Cycle Oregonians here right now. According to a waitress at one of the popular watering holes in Joseph, there are about 100 other Cycle Oregonians in town. That comes as no surprise. Not only is this one of the few parts of the state that isn’t on fire, it’s a very special place to ride. Some of us rode here from Halfway (then Halfway.com) in 2008. Others tried on 2015 when fire blocked our path.
It was great to see other CO folks in town. We met one lovely local named Sarah who, as a lifelong resident of eastern Oregon, she became interested when the circus came through town in the early 2000s. Last year was her first ride and now she’s hooked. Her training regimen includes distance trail running, gravel riding and mountain biking. As one of the only road riders in town she has to do a lot of solo training, but after seeing her waft uphill on a mountain bike, my guess is riding partners might only slow her down.
One has to wonder how many of members of the tribe rolled their own adventures this week and where they went.