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Trip Report Cycling through the "mythical State of Jefferson"

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In the spirit of a true Oregonian, Cycle Oregon founder, Jonathan Nicholas, promised long ago that the annual week-long bicycle tour would never enter the State of California. So he had to use history to bail himself out when he announced that the route for this year’s ride would be through the “mythical State of Jefferson”: http://www.cycleoregon.com/week-ride/ . I rode with three friends, all seasoned Cycle Oregon veterans as compared to me, it being only my 2nd ride. Herewith, some random thoughts and musings gathered from throughout the week….

Day 1, Medford - Yreka; Passing through Ashland, seeing all of those Priuses, it felt more like California than Oregon. Maybe we could get Arnold to fund SOU for us…. The Siskiyous; much easier in a car than on a bicycle. But then, how easy is it to stop for photos when you're flying down the interstate at 75.... For future reference, Callahan’s: http://www.callahanslodge.com/ …. Interstates really weren’t meant to be shared by semis and bicycles…. I should have taken the recommendation to train more seriously (pedaling into a headwind is more difficult than pedaling up a hill).... If that's Mt Shasta, we must be in California... errr Jefferson.... The recession has clearly hit Yreka. Proprietors/owners/workers of the seemingly few stores still open for business lined the streets to greet us, practically begging the 2,000+ cyclists to stop and shop.... It's only the first day, and already we've pedaled up mountains, tangled with semis on I-5, ridden roads unfit for cars, much less bicycles, and fought 20 mph headwinds. Can I take six more days of this?

Day 2, Yreka – Happy Camp; Was that a PUBLIC building flying the flag of the State of Jefferson? http://www.jeffersonstate.com/jeffersonflag.html Evidently, the idea is much more than a myth, and still has some traction…. Heart attacks sometimes happen when they’re least expected. The guy was riding downhill, for pete’s sake. Thank God he’s okay…. People in remote, rural areas of northern California take news of financial meltdown, and global economic crisis with a grain of salt. Recession hit these parts decades ago, and they’ve long since learned how to deal with it. We could take a lesson…. Sasquatch is alive (in the minds of many). And there are photos to prove it…. Native folk must have traveled across continents and seas. Either that, or natives of Happy Camp have an equal claim to reggae. Kickin’ band tonight!

Day 3, Happy Camp – Lake Selmac; “Gradual warm-up through tranquil woods..” Not!! And, “steep near the top” No kidding! Try a 20% grade! Whoever wrote that “8%” on the daily ride graph should be shot. Twice…. Still, it’s easier pedaling uphill when you’re behind an attractive 20-something blonde clad in skin-tight polyester-spandex shorts…. But, “Nice ass” isn't always a welcomed substitute well for “On your left”…. Marijuana is evidently still a big cash crop in southern Oregon…. Even when he’s armed with Doppler Radar, a cycling meteorologist rarely forecasts the weather more accurately than a local…. People have varying ways of practicing conservation, and caring for the environment. Who’s to say whose is the right, or only way….

Day 4, Lake Selmac – Glendale; Aahhh, the Rogue River, just as pretty from a bicycle saddle as it is from the seat of a jetboat…. Yeah, it might look like a shorter route on a map, but what were those folks who turned onto Bear Camp Road in the middle of winter a couple years ago thinking?.... Note to self; plan an overnight at Wolf Creek Inn; http://www.thewolfcreekinn.com/…. Yikes! Another section on the freeway!.... It’s best not to talk forest management and salmon habitat issues with out-of-work folks whose livelihoods have for decades depended upon harvesting related natural resources…. Some out-of-work people have 2nd career potential playing in rock bands…. Drinking beer on public school grounds is a no-no…. Bicycle rodeos; great fun.

Day 5, Glendale – Grants Pass; Heaven on Earth Restaurant, off exit 86 in southern Oregon, is exactly that; http://www.heavenonearthrestaurant.com/. Marionberry cobler; yumm. And, generosity is sometimes repaid, many times over…. Don’t ride in a “pace line” with people you don’t know. You might end up in a hospital…. The research findings are accurate; wine drinking is dehydrating. And dehydration and physical exertion don’t go together well. Live and learn…. Karaoke from Hell; Patsy Cline she ain’t; ‘nuff said.

Day 6, Layover in Grants Pass; What? Grants Pass Hugo Loop? I thought there were some wineries around here we could ride to…. Okay, I know it puts people to work, but is there any other good reason to spend stimulus dollars on roads that few people travel. And, couldn’t they at least pave with something besides chip-seal? Bone-jarring ride…. Grants Pass is worth more time than a road-trip gas stop; cute, vibrant little downtown. Another note to self; have meals at Rosso’s Trattoria and Taprock; http://www.taprock.com/…. Nice of the merchants of Grants Pass to host a “Wine Stroll” for just Cycle O, but southern Oregon wines have a long ways to go before “the next Napa Valley” claim is realized.... Last dinner on the road. Hmmm.... wait in line for something that barely passes as salmon, or margaritas and tamales in town? No contest! Uno mas, por favor.

Day 7, Grants Pass – Medford; Contrary to my earlier thinking, conditioning actually improves after six consecutive days in the saddle. Or, maybe it’s just knowing that the finish line is near…. What southern Oregon wines lack in quality, they make up for in scenic location. Vineyard views through the Applegate Valley don’t have to take a back seat to any place. Those dairy farm aromas, on the other hand…. Jacksonville is picture postcard cute. But, I already knew that. And, it may only be 10:00am in Jacksonville, but it’s 4:00pm somewhere in the world…. Traditions die hard. Like other Cycle Oregon veterans, the friends I rode with gave themselves a name: Team Rubber Chicken. Must have been a reason for choosing that name 20 years ago, but if left to me, I’d have chosen something like, Team Martini – A Drinking Team with a Cycling Problem. Anyways, each team member is “required” to ride with a rubber chicken fastened somehow to the bicycle, which, at the end of the week just prior to the finish, is removed, and the team then crosses the line together, rubber chickens dangling from their mouths. What’s up with that? That finish line photo might be the only clear shot the photographer got of me all week!.... A cold Widmer tastes good after a looonnng bicycle ride.

The tag line for this year’s Cycle Oregon was, “Entering a Different State of Mind”. In his spiel on the last night, Jonathan Nicholas offered a teaser about next year’s route, saying it would be tagged, “Entering a Different Mind of State”. Have to think about that…. Would be neat if it involved a section of the coast. The route won’t be announced until early 2010, by which time we’ll all have forgotten the grinding hill-climbs, long “blue room” lines, tasteless cafeteria-style food, and sleepless nights on the cold, hard ground. So remembering only the good stuff, maybe I’ll sign up for my 3rd. There’s no doubt in my mind that my friends will be signing up for their 23rd, 20th, and 10th. Crazy?

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