Cycle Oregon: Golden Rollers

Photographs: Jake Stangel & Brian Vernor

I’ve been living in Oregon for 2+ years now, Hott Sam grew up here, Hahn & Aaron only live 2 hours away from this state, and for a week we/the Continental rode through areas of Oregon and Washington that none of us have ever been.

Cycle Oregon, a 7 day tour of NE Oregon & SE Washington, was responsible for taking us to new regions of our hometown state. 

Day 5 in particular was a new landscape for most of us…golden rollers. Hott Sam, Aaron, and Cole record their thoughts of our day on the golden rollers. 

Hott Sam

Fresh off a full day of wine drinking, the ride from Balboa winery in Walla Walla, WA to Pendleton, OR was the bucket of water to the face we needed to wake up. Rollers are hard. As soon as everyone sees the first roller it’s a race to the top. Then the next one. And so on, until your group is shattered by the continual punchiness. These shattered moments gave us time to catch our breath and slowly peddle through harvested hay fields, giant stacks of bails and unending fields of grass and tilled dirt. The air felt heavy and constant, it seemed to surround us from every direction it was a day of 10mph winds from every direction. 

Kansas and I had slowly gone ahead as everyone stopped for a water break. We noticed evacuation route signs along the road. Living close to the ocean I’m used to seeing tsunami evacuation signs, but what would you evacuate from out here? Dust storms maybe? After thinking about it more, that “maybe” was probably the reality. As Kansas and I rolled, we realized that we would be screwed on bikes if we were caught in a dust storm out there, no shelter, slow chip seal, wind, and rollers? We had already been moving at a glacial pace, our evacuation would  have been painstakingly slow if disaster struck. But, the rollers ended and we entered Pendleton after a long refreshing descent.

We descended on to The Pendleton Round-Up, which had brought 100,000 people to town. Cowboys in full pink regalia (pink was the official color of the rodeo this year) were jammed into town with RV’s parked in any space available. I had never seen so many pink clad cowboys in my life. We felt right at home as we rolled through town in our black and pink Rapha jersey’s to find much needed tacos after our day on the rollers. 

Aaron Erbeck

I like rollers and I felt pretty good that day. When I found myself accidentally off the front of our little group I decided to pretend “it’s your day.”

I geared up and went over the next few in the big ring. This type of jack-ass behavior usually elicits a well organized chase, or not…

On this day, I suspected not. But it was fun to pretend anyway and I was determined to take as many town limit points as possible over the week, even if I know no one else was playing.  Additionally, this was the run into Pendleton, arguably the epicenter of this trip  and there was
no traffic and few other cyclist on the road…I was truly alone.

I drilled it for two miles and passed one of Cycle Oregon’s well stocked rest areas, the sign said 13 miles to go. A little elevation loss, a left turn, a short climb on another beautiful rural highway, another drop into the Umatilla River valley and I was still all alone…it just felt so good.

After the climb I was pretty sure no one was coming for me, but I didn’t care, I never let up. I never saw a town limit sign for Pendleton, I unceremoniously rolled into the Cycle Oregon complex as they were all still setting up to receive the 2,500 cyclist behind me. No chocolate milk hand up, no water, no celebration…just a happy roller high. 

I love Oregon, all of it.

Cole Maness

The night before we slept under steady rain that left us and our sleeping bags soaked. I awoke to two 6 month old “stray” vineyard dogs licking my face eagerly wanting to play. If it hadn’t been for the generous donations of wine and russian moonshine from Balboa Winery, I’m not sure any of us would’ve actually fallen asleep that night. 

Rapha gone Rogue (RgR). In the morning we attempted to create our own route into Pendleton as our “epic” 13 mile ride/wine tour the day before had put us off course from the Cycle Oregon route. But, after one mile, we were back on the path of Cycle Oregon, a RgR failure, but a Cycle Oregon win. We came upon several cyclist and had glory filled conversations with them about wine, riding and the rodeo ahead. After several miles of conversing we hit HWY 11 which looked to be filled with fast semi’s and ranch trucks, Cycle Oregon right turn on HWY, RgR, “there has to be an alternative”. Being Continental curious we found some beautiful side roads we could take. All of us had our stoke meters red lining, we were the only cyclists on a lonely road and our escorts for this stretch were several red tailed hawks. The hawks broke from us after we rolled through the town of Weston, OR and it was here that the endless rollers began.

It’s not really our favorite style of riding, but personally I thoroughly enjoyed time on the bike. It was beautiful. I felt like I couldn’t get enough of the vast golden fields of cut hay, they went on forever, NE Oregon is great.

After about 15 miles we new our time on this empty road was coming to an end and our impending bout with tractor trailers and u-hauls was unavoidable. We t-boned with HWY 11 again but we only rode its chip seal for a couple miles and then it was back to rollers. We had to have been an hour or two ahead of the main Cycle Oregon group because once we made our way into the town of Pendleton, none of our cycling neighbors were anywhere in sight, just Oregonian Cowboys dressed head to toe in Rapha Pink.