2010 Cycle Oregon

Words: | Photography: Brian Vernor, Jake Stangel | Date:

Film: Benji Wagner

Day 1: Opening Day

WORDS: Kansas Waugh

It was WAY colder the previous night than any of us had expected. It of course was cool in the evening and when the sun went down it was cold enough to always want to stand by the fire. But, nobody expected the thick layer of frost in the morning or the 27 degree low temp. It was especially surprising to those who chose to sleep outside on the ground in makeshift straw beds. At least the tents we all shared held some warmth in. Benji couldnt get warm in any way during the night and turned the posh outhouse into a cheap motel. We were slow getting going in the morning, but it was the first day of a weeks’ riding, so that excitement balanced our cold bones. We watched the sun crawl towards the camp while drinking coffee and eating cereal. Packed up the van and we were on our way.

No one had really anticipated the size of the Cycle Oregon crowds  the camps, the amenities, or the number of riders. As we left the town of Elgin to shouts of encouragement from the locals on their porches, we came into view of a road ahead with riders nestled on the right side for as far as we could see. We passed a few guys from Portland who Carey knew just as the road began to rise upward, and when Hahn and Sam accelerated quickly, I followed. The first of many jumps and roll-aways in a long week of riding with friends.

We regathered not long after this and spent time riding and talking with strangers pedaling the Cycle Oregon route. The rest stops were very well organized and once we came to the second one of the day we decided to have some espresso and take in the scene. I found a mother and daughter who I had met at the PDX airport upon on my arrival from Chicago. The steep climb out of Elgin had taken many by surprise so there were along of people taking in the food and drink. The road since then had wound up and then down through a canyon with huge vistas of a river far below. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and the roads were worn and smooth.

We rolled into Enterprise, OR after 50 miles and regrouped under the shade of some grain elevators. There was an optional 20 mile loop and since the day was still young, we kept riding. The route took us out into farmland which sat in a valley that was hugged by a range of 8 and 9K mountains. There was rumor of a swimming hole on this route but all we found was the small town of Joseph, where we stopped and had a Coke. The first full day in the sun, and the skin was beginning to feel it, but Enterprise and beer where in site.

Grumblings about Terminal Gravity brewing pushed the pace for the last 10 miles and with satisfied legs and bronzed skin we rolled into Terminal Gravity and relaxed by their ideallic creek and drank IPAs until our cheeks were rosy and our legs were lose for the ride to our camping spot.

It was widely reported that the temperature wouldnt drop anywhere close to the night before. So after taking much needed showers and setting up camp, we headed down to the Cycle Oregon tent city. And a city it was. There was an enormous tent with thousands of people eating dinner and dessert, a giant tent for massages, a stage with guest speakers and a band warming up, and then lots of smaller booths with specialty food, drinks, or riding equipment and supplies. We hung out for awhile and listened to Congressman Peter DeFazio introduced as the only member of congress who has worked as a bike mechanic  had a couple more beers with Matt Cardinal of Signal Cycles and then made our way in the dark back to the camp to rest up for day 2 in the saddle.

Day 2: Looking for Water

WORDS: Cole Maness

After a late night of partying on the lawn at the picturesque Terminal Gravity Brewery, we were up and ready for day two of Cycle Oregon. It was a cold sleep, but not nearly as cold as the 27 degree surprise we had the night before in Elgin.

Our route for the day was heading due north for 95 miles and the last 55 miles wed be pedaling through Washington where wed spend our evening in Clarkston, WA.

The road lifted us to 4700 feet from the get go. The 20 mile slight ascent to the 20+ mile ridge run, led to a screaming descent with perfect switchbacks that drop us into the state of WA. Hahn and i took turns with a few random Cycle Oregonians bombing the 13 mile descent and thoroughly enjoying every second of it. †At the base of the descent is where we all met back up and decided against picking up water (false rumors of a water stop around the corner kept us motivated to just keep rolling along).

The main climb of the day had just begun and after realizing that the 6% grade wasnt going to ease up after 8 miles, we realized that our decision to not stop for water was setting in.

It was hot, we were exposed, and we still had 2,765 ft of climbing left before we topped out at the Rattlesnake Summit. I actually saw the desert journey scene from The Three Amigos (view it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHVpJGXZ21o).

At this point we were looking for the stop but it never came. Instead I carried on conversations with fellow cyclists and probably said howdy and on yer left at least 400 times. I could tell we were getting close to the summit when the view opened up to a spectacular valley to the east and the treasure we had been waiting for, water, was pouring generously from orange Igloo coolers.

We regrouped, carried on, and the next 25 miles were all downhill, then it was a short 15 mile jaunt that took us into Idaho briefly for one last grunt of climb that took us into Carkston.

Day 3: Rapha Gone Rogue


Occasionally  but not often enough  I stumble over something that is so aligned with what I love, the way I think, and how I see the world that it dispels any last kernel of doubt that this life might not be worth living.

– Peter Buchanan-Smith

You will need a follow car to do this ride. A steel bike is recommended‚ one with 25s or wider. If you are a lover of loose sharp fast gravel descents with no automobiles then this is your ride. Its a big day for road bikes‚ a cross bike would have been more comfortable. But we didnt want comfort, thats way we decided to excuse ourselves from the prescribed routes of Cycle Oregon and decided to c-y-c-l-e o-r-e-g-o-n on our own. At least for a couple of days.

Day 4: Wine Country

WORDS: Hahn Rossman

Having gone thoroughly ROGUE the previous day in the Umatilla forest, managing to descend by the lights of the van while on gravel and flatting nearly every tube in their possession, we find our intrepid cyclists on this beautiful sunny morning holed up in a miserable RV Park. Every unpaved inch of ground had been watered by aggressive sprinklers the night before which forced our cyclist to make camp on sharp uneven gravel. But, today they are up ready to explore the wine country of Walla Walla, WA where the epic roads of the day prior had delivered them. Day 4 of Cycle Oregon or Rapha gone Rogue was about to begin.

We had no prescribed route for the day so we found ourselves doing basic research about the lay of the land and most importantly where the best breakfast and wineries were. Breakfast? We decided should be a greasy spoon and as local as you could get. After some furious thumbing about on our various devices we hopped on our bikes and landed at Tommys Dutch Lunch.

Replete with all the classic signs of either the best or worst meal ever (squeaky screen door, locals permanently installed at the counter lecturing about the federal reserve, outhouse in the back!), we knew we had found the gem of Walla Walla. Hott Sam ate more food than even Daniel is capable of, in general spirits were lifted and I think we all finally dried off after the night in the sprinkler and I think it had something to do with the liberal application of butter and bacon grease. Next on the agenda, wineries.

Walla Walla is world famous for wine and is home to many, many wineries. Cycle Oregon was on one of their rest days with an option to ride a 35 mile loop for through wine country. We still hadnt decided whether to rejoin the prescribed route f the day, but we were certainly going to explore at least some of the rolling vineyards and sample the terroir!

A simple plan was concocted to ride in slightly more formal dress than the usual sweaty jerseys and shockingly revealing, yet deceptively understated bib shorts. We also vowed to stop at every possible spot to taste the wine and smell the roses so to speak. This plan was immediately foiled by passing the first tasting room within three blocks of Tommys!

We rolled through the extremely bucolic countryside admiring the fastidious nature of grape production and stopped at various wineries where very well informed people immediately exceeded your narrators pay grade in palate talk. After the second winery we knew our day would not be talked about in miles but in how many glass of local wine we drank.

Our third stop was at Beresan winery where we had surprised the owner who was giving a private tasting to a couple from out of town. The lady of the estate took us in and turned out to be a joker of the first water and indulged Cole in elaborate fanciful jokes about her bad twin sister, and explained the many cruel pranks she had performed on her completely undeserving grandchildren. After quite a bit of this, Aaron asked about the signs advertising a second winery. She explained that Beresan is the official winery of the pepper bridge estate we were on, but that they allow their vintner to make his own label wine. So, we ventured over to Balboa to see just how different it really could be.

Now, Id like to say that with the first tasting a special spark was kindled between the Continental Project and Balboa‚ it has a nice narrative arc I know. But, it doesnt do the whole story justice.

It was obvious from the beginning that Balboa was different, when Tom (the owner) walked in in a t shirt from my favorite greasy spoon in Seattle it became clear that we had followed our instincts! The wine was remarkable and as we got more and more comfortable at Balboa, Tom started asking about our travels and what we were up to and so the storytelling started.

Along with our stories of riding some of the most amazing gravel roads and seeing parts of Oregon/Washington that we had never know existed we had to tell him also about our sprinkler filled night at the RV Park.

Well, you should stay here at the winery! Tom suggested.

So, in a matter of a an hour or so, we had rolled back to the RV park, broke camp and where winery bound for the night.

Dinner was a spectacular grilling session involving copious amounts of wine, storytelling and debates about the weather in the morning.

Day 5: The Trade

WORDS: Aaron Erbeck & Tracy Erbeck


We awoke to a soft rain in the Balboa Vineyard. †I got up first and had a proper shower then put the coffee on‚ I was hoping our day of riding would start in the rain, but almost as soon as I had that thought, the drizzle stopped. Thered be no rain, wed just peacefully roll out the gravel drive dry and find ourselves unintentionally on the Cycle Oregon route. But from Walla Walla there was really only one scenic route into Pendleton where we were headed. Today wed trade Hahn for Tracy, my wife. It was our anniversary and we had rigged a swapping of Hahn as he need to be back in Seattle for the Cyclocross season opener Star Crossed.


Gray. Cold. Kinda windy. Dreary. You know‚ Seattle. It was hard to pack my bag to ride for two days with Rapha and actually force myself to keep it light. Supposedly, over there, in central Oregon, in the middle of cattle, cowboy, and rodeo queen (oh I love me a hair sprayed, rhinestone studded, rodeo queen) country, it was actually quite warm.

Aaron, my life mate, my husband, my baby-daddy, arranged a trade the last few days of Cycle Oregon. Hahn for his wife. It was very kind of all involved (Cole, Carey, Kansas, GJ, Hott Sam, Benji, Jake, Landon) to approve of such an unprecedented event- it was probably a pain in the ass‚ but these guys understood matrimony and promises and the importance of a five year mark. They get it.

The gray turned to blue and gold at the instant of passing to the east of the Cascade range. You can count on that on most days of the year. I was on a private plane, sitting next to our friend and pilot, Xylon. I’m happy to huck myself down a mountain on a bike or a snowboard any day of the week, but flying is something that terrifies me. So I found it odd that I was fascinated by the procedures, the controls, and the jib jab jargon of air traffic controllers. There was no fear of the flight, only the lingering fear of riding with this team and getting repeatedly dropped. I didn’t want to disappoint them, nor my husband. I’m strong on a bike‚ but am I Rapha strong?

We landed in Pendleton in quick order. A straight of gray in the middle of amber waves of grain. Just like the song. The majesty of the landscape forced me to hum the rest of the song. I’m just finishing an inspirational ‚ÄúAmerica, America, God shed his grace on thee‚ ‚Äù, when I spy the Rapha Sprinter. It’s black, (of course) It’s sleek. Its conspicuous logo captures sun and slightly blinds me. The door opens. They come pouring out. The husband, the photographer, the videographer, the team, the everybody and everything. I feel like a movie star and I wish that I had applied some lip gloss.

The team puts my bike together, grabs my bag, loads everything into the van. They are tired. The are weary. They are hot. They are in need of clean clothing(!). They’ve been putting in big miles and for days. But I’ll tell you straight up that I knew immediately every single one of them were of the same caliber as Aaron‚ .generous, hilarious, smart, dedicated, mentally and physically unbreakable. My composure eased. I relaxed. I was ready. I’d do their laundry. I’d follow them anywhere and everywhere.

Day 6: Gravel, A Clavicle, & Bull Riding

WORDS: Hott Sam

The Continental has been rogue for 2 days and we are camping in Emigrant State Park outside Pendleton, Oregon. Carey and I put together a route the evening before while using the wifi at a Pendleton Starbucks with absolutely no idea what the ride would be like other than basic elevation changes and that we would be riding through the Umatilla National Forest. After Tuesday’s adventure we were all hoping that any gravel roads would be kinder and gentler, but still wanted to seek them out. The plan was to drive about 20 minutes east on I-84, get on our bikes at highway 244, then do a big loop and head back into Pendleton to hang out with the cowboys in pink.

We have two new awesome riding companions, but we lost Hahn. Greg Johnson drove out from Portland the previous night and Tracy flew in to spend the weekend riding with Aaron for their anniversary. We load up the van and drive to our starting point with the sun starting to break out from the clouds and light rain. It looks like the weather is going to be perfect.

We all pile out of the van and get ready to roll out. We throw on stowaway and knees but it is warming rapidly and most of us take them off even before we start. The first stretch is roughly 13 miles on Highway 244 and it turns out to be a beautiful road along a river with very little traffic. Tracy and Greg roll out ahead of us and we work to chase up to them with Landon motoring along at an uncomfortable pace. This pace continues until we hit McIntyre Rd., the moment of truth. The road that would define the day? Or would it be just another forest service road?

Suddenly we are on gravel, not surprising.

Umatilla National Forest has diverse terrain consisting of beautiful forests, grasslands, mountains, plateaus, and V-shaped valleys. While Tuesday we spent the entire time in mountainous terrain, this ride was on a plateau that we would descend and then climb back up before returning to our starting point. The gravel on McIntyre Rd. qualifies as loose but not overly difficult. Or at least it started that way.

We only make it a few miles before the first flat, Cole. We fix the flat and get rolling again. The gravel is deep and loose but is on top of hard pack. As we get farther along the road begins to get worse. Large rocks start to poke up from the road. Then the road becomes all rock. Not the loose rock of a gravel road, more like a rock garden you might encounter on a mountain bike ride. We notice a single track trail paralleling the road in the trees and give it a try. It’s not any better, we move back onto the road. Amazingly, it doesn’t get better at all, it actually gets worse. Almost everyone has flatted at this point and we are starting to run low on tubes. The final insult is two sections of road that resemble scree fields with a road plowed through the middle. A road made of fist sized rocks, insane! The only way to make it is keep moving and let your bike find the line. It’s jarring and and feels like our bikes could shake apart at any moment, but everyone cleans the section.

Finally, and gratefully, the road improves and we begin a ten mile descent. It’s fast and smooth and we fly down the hill. Our joy is short lived. At the bottom of the descent we hit epic washboard. Several miles of it. We split on the descent and Landon, Kansas, Greg and I are desperately trying to find any clean line we can through the washboard. We finally hit pavement and stop to wait for Aaron and Tracy. We are at an intersection and the direction we need to go is uphill and, predictably, gravel. The wait starts to get long and we begin to worry. The van appears and Aaron and Tracy are inside. After surviving the worst gravel road we’ve ever ridden, Tracy was felled a mile from pavement on some washboard. She’s bloodied and is holding her arm the way people do when they have a broken collarbone. We try to clean her up and make a new plan.


Despite Tracy’s protests we decided to abort the ride and continue into Pendleton to get her shoulder checked. We feel only slightly disappointed to cut the ride short, the gravel we had endured already was insane. It’s a flat, windy ride into Pendleton with Landon, once again, setting a blistering pace. We take Tracy to see the Cycle Oregon medical staff. They diagnose a broken collarbone and suggest going to a hospital. At this point we split up. Tracy, Aaron, and Carey head to the hospital and the rest of us head in to explore Pendleton. Jake (photographer) and Benji (videographer) secure their press passes to get into the Pendleton Round-Up to watch a little rodeo action first hand. Not surprisingly we couldn’t get tickets, I guess the other 90,000 people visiting Pendleton (town of 10,000) bought all of them. We helped Benji buy a cowboy hat, a prerequisite for getting into the press area, and then continued to a brewpub,The Prodigal Son, in the center of town.

We drank some beers(good ones!) and ate food waiting for the hospital and rodeo crews to arrive. After a while we see a couple guys wheel a mechanical bull into the back of the pub. We are going to get our rodeo fix after all! Cole knowingly refuses to ride the bull, but the rest of us fall into line. Conti rider after Conti rider getting slammed to the ground. I can’t speak for real bulls, but mechanical ones are hard on your groin muscles. It was difficult to walk almost immediately after riding the bull. Turns out Carey isn’t too bad at mechanical bull riding and she developed a following of guys in full western wear that isnt just for show but authentic. Aaron, over-hears one of them saying to another ‚Äúnow that’s a real women‚Äù. As we get ready to leave the cowboys corner Carey to shake her hand and express how impressed they are by her riding ability.

We head out on the streets where pink shirt clad cowboys are roaming about in large numbers. There is a band playing country music on a nearby street that has been shut down and couples are swing dancing in front of a large crowd. A maniacal looking man is on stage during the song holding a giant corn-dog. Apparently, this man has made the worlds biggest corn-dog at 7 lbs. Impressive, I guess. The man never stopped smiling the entire time we watched him. People queued up after the song to get photos with the corn-dog. Greg managed to muscle his way in for a photo op, presumably to get a pic with the crazy looking man, not just the corn-dog. The man is still smiling maniacally, which is how we all feel after the awesome week of riding and improvised adventures.





Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.






Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

Rapha rides Cycle Oregon. September 12-19, 2010.

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