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Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Monday, January 12, 2015

Oregon - TREO

--The upcoming series of posts from our trip to Oregon in September is way, way overdue. Hopefully, over the next couple of weeks, as I finally sort through all these photos of cyclists wearing just shorts and sleeveless jerseys on days where the thermometer regularly topped 90F, the memories of hot weather will make me feel warm again during these mid-winter days when hardly any Fahrenheits are out and about. And if you are tired of reading about excessive rain in Ireland, read on...

Early in the summer, as my activity level seemed to be returning to normal, we started to talk about a cycling holiday. I had resumed regular riding and, while I was still battling pain, it was time for a proper cycling vacation.

For a while now, our friend Dan Morgan had been suggesting we take another trip to Oregon. We've done quite a bit of bike touring there over the years, and it's really not a hard sell. We love the area. Dan and his wife, Janet, live just west of Portland and have been gracious hosts to us on several occasions.


We met Dan and Janet many years ago, when they still lived on the east coast and brought their tandem to VĂ©lo New Hampshire, an event we used to run over the July 4th weekend. When they told us they were moving west, we were sad that we wouldn't see them on our NH rides, but we were excited to now have friends to visit in Oregon. We also knew that since we all enjoyed the riding on the same types of roads, that Dan would quickly find roads we'd like.

We've been out to visit a few times, and indeed Dan has taken us on some amazing rides. Since then, he started telling us about work he was doing with Phil Carlson at TREO Bike Tours, helping Phil to transition the focus of his ranch from chukar hunting in the winter to cycling in the summer. Dan helped Phil to map out many miles of paved and gravel road routes - Dan referred to this as "work," but we think that "labor of love" would be a better description. He did, however, definitely work hard with Phil on the logistics of supporting cyclists, including feeding and hydrating them - both on the road and off. Seems these skinny cyclists can eat and drink just like burly hunters! They did a really neat job of converting a trailer of Phil's to carry bikes (including the oft ignored tandem sub-species), along with the aforementioned supplies.

As we talked with Dan about coming out this fall, he suggested we spend a few days at TREO. Since our previous trips had mostly been in the Cascades, we were excited to explore a bit of Central/Eastern Oregon. In the meantime, John's brother, David, was planning a trip to the US, so we suggested that he come with us to Oregon. Coordinating across several time zones, we settled on starting our Oregon trip with three days in TREO, in the company of Dan, Janet and their tandeming friends, Jim and Meg, in the week after Labor Day.

As we tried to figure out the logistics of getting from Portland out to eastern Oregon,  Phil offered his transportation service. He has a small bus and trailer and could come to Portland and drive us out to Heppner, along with the bikes, tandems and gear. This is certainly a convenient resource for a group flying into Portland, allowing you to avoid dealing with getting out of a city, even a bike friendly one like Portland.

John, David and I flew out late Monday, and spent Tuesday building up bikes, including one very new one, details of which will appear in a later post. 

We met Phil and everyone else in town on Wednesday morning for the drive to Wasco. En route, we got to know Jim and Meg, long time friends of Dan and Janet, who had just flown in from upstate New York. Upon arriving in Wasco, Phil summarily kicked us out, with our bikes, and told us we'd have to ride the rest of the way. Challenge accepted!




photo by Phil Carlson

photo by Phil Carlson

photo by Phil Carlson

photo by Phil Carlson

Upon leaving Wasco, the first thing we noticed were the massive wind farms along both sides of the Columbia River. We've seen small wind farms in Vermont and New York, with 10 to 20 turbines. But here there were thousands of turbines, and this went on for miles and miles. As we enjoyed a screaming tailwind [Err, I thought you had never experienced a tailwind before Ireland? -- FR] for a while, it was fairly obvious to us why this was such a good spot for generating wind power. The Columbia River has long been popular with wind surfers, and now the land on either side has become home to some of the largest wind farms in the US. 

Of course we also couldn't help but notice Mt Hood and Mt Adams dominating the horizon. 







photo by Phil Carlson

BTW, when I said Phil kicked us out to ride, I did not mean that he abandoned us. We had full support all along the way, with Phil leapfrogging the group with snack stops as well as a break for a scrumptious lunch at Cottonwood Canyon. Phil put out an amazing spread here. As someone who's used to unsupported rides, it was almost overwhelming.  

Phil also took over 500 photos, some of which I've included here. If you want a well documented trip, Phil's your man!


photo by Phil Carlson









With the long drive out from Portland, we only had a few hours of riding time before we had to get back into the bus for the rest of the journey to Heppner. I drowned my sorrows with an espresso milkshake at the old fashioned soda counter in Country Flowers gift shop in Condon. However I will say that the climb up through the stunningly beautiful Six-mile Canyon was heartbreaking from inside the bus.







Phil and his staff put on an impressive dinner. We arrived at the ranch and quickly showered before enjoying some of the benefits of being at a hunting lodge. The meat eaters among us devoured the chukar appetizers along with some nice draft beer. This was followed by a hearty dinner with substantial portions leaving no one hungry, not even Dave, infamous for his tape worm! 

photo by Phil Carlson

photo by Phil Carlson


photo by Phil Carlson
 
Our bellies were so full that we passed on the hot tub for the evening, opting instead for a good night of sleep before the long ride the next day. 

After a hearty breakfast, of course.

Our first stop of day 2 was at the community center in Hardman, because... well... how could you not stop in Hardman?


The Treo ranch, as seen at sunrise.














The town of Hardman was originally called Raw Dog! However, after Raw Dog was chosen as the site of a post office, postal officials insisted the town's name was changed.



photo by Phil Carlson


Some of the scenery we had to endure.


photo by Phil Carlson


photo by Phil Carlson

The day started cool and mild, but temperatures quickly rose. Fortunately it never got as hot as we had feared it would and it cooled down nicely overnight, creating great conditions for sleeping off the miles, food and libations.

Our route on day 2 took in many miles of gravel roads, including a big climb and descent to lunch in Monument, where Phil put out yet another impressive spread. We finished the day in the Painted Hills, at the John Day Fossil Beds, where we enjoyed a look around the Thomas Condon Palaeontology Center, before taking the bus back to the ranch.



photo by Phil Carlson

photo by Phil Carlson
The Fixie Pixie, working up an appetite for lunch in Monument.





The Painted Hills.

David enjoyed a serious tandem draft. Photo by Phil Carlson

photo by Phil Carlson
We had another fabulous dinner, where yet again, no one left the table hungry!

Our last day started with another delicious breakfast, before we headed out into the cool breeze. In spite of our fears of brutally hot conditions, it was quite chilly and we even started with warmers and jackets. However by the end of the day, we longed for those cool conditions.

photo by Phil Carlson






We took in several more dirt roads through magnificent big sky country, including some with with grass up the middle - just enough to remind John and David of their favourite roads in Ireland! This led to a section that Dan had christened The Canyon of Sorrows, in honour of all the abandoned ranches it featured. The high desert is definitely not an easy area in which to make a living!

Expansive views.




photo by Phil Carlson
photo by Phil Carlson






Despite a solid headwind, a descending trend for the day meant we found ourselves back at the Columbia River all too quickly, and at the end of this three day segment of our trip. We feasted on another great lunch before loading up the bus and trailer to head back to Portland.

This part of central/eastern Oregon is lovely for riding, with amazingly quiet roads passing through a surprisingly wide variety of dramatic scenery. Dan was more than able to sate our appetite for spectacular gravel backroads and he and Phil provided all kinds of historical background on the areas we passed through. TREO offers tours for groups that range from self supported to fully supported, including transport to and from Portland. You can rent the lodge and roll your own, or Phil will provide meals, routes and sag service. Trips are designed for groups, so you can't just sign up as an individual. The advantage is you pick your companions and specify a preference for type of roads, distance and pace that works for your group. Contact Phil at TREO to arrange a trip.





4 comments:

  1. I immensely enjoyed reading this and viewing all your photographs. Oregon is the state of my birth and my youth and I lived in three of the corner and traveled throughout the rest (mostly by motorcycle). It's high on my list to get back the state with a bicycle and, hopefully, some friends and your report only makes it more visceral. Glad to hear you're healing and especially appreciative of your attitude with all you do. Thank you.

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    1. P.S. I saw this through 'The Path Less Pedaled' who seem to be doing a great job of promoting bicycling tourism, especially in Oregon.

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    2. Stay tuned, there are 10 more Oregon posts in the queue!

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  2. Nice report with great photos Pamela. Looks like great riding unless it happens to rain - on the gravel roads :(

    We did a BAC tour from Eugene to Klamath Falls via Crater Lake last year. Loads of fun. Photos here:

    http://aehass.zenfolio.com/p30783457

    Ed Hass
    2009 Co-Motion Speedster

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