A Central Oregon Tour: 19-24 May 2019

Smith Rock.

It’s spring, so it’s time to do some bicycle touring!

I’d been planning to do something in May or June. Originally the plan was to bike from Vancouver BC to Portland in mid-June. I wanted to go check out Velopalooza, Vancouver’s summer bike fest (which also coincidentally coincides with Pedalpalooza). I could also swing through Olympia and hit up a comix fest. But as the months went on, the certainty that Velopalooza was going to happen was sketchy. Plus, I wasn’t that interested in the comix fest anymore and would rather mostly stick around Portland for Pedalpalooza.

So initially I decided to bump this Vancouver-Portland tour up a month to the week before Memorial Day. But…it just wasn’t exciting me that much. I have done this ride a few times, and it’s a decent, fairly mellow ride. I wanted my first bike tour of the season to be on the mellower side, yes. (No bikepacking in the Cascades just yet.) But while it has its moments, Vancouver-Portland is not the most thrilling tour. I wanted something that would motivate me, something a bit more exciting.*

So I started to think. South Oregon Coast? This time of year could be a good time to do it. I ha done the south coast during my Coast Grand Tour in 2006, so I’ve ridden it before, but it’s been awhile. The furthest south I had been on the coast was Reedsport last year. The southern coast is filled with beautiful scenery, and is a lot more quiet than the northern coast (the areas closest to the Willamette Valley.) I could take the train to Albany or Eugene, ride/bus to the coast and head south.

The big difficulty would be the getting back, as the further south you go, the options of biking over the Coast Range back to the I-5 Corridor become slimmer and tougher. I could take a bus from either Brookings, Oregon or Crescent City, California to Klamath Falls, Ore. where I could take Amtrak home. But this would eat up two days of travel: the bus would pick me up in the AM, I’d have a four hour layover in Medford (ugh) to wait for the bus to Klamath Falls, which would get there in the evening. Then I’d have to stay the night and catch Amtrak the next morning, which doesn’t get into Portland until 4 PM (if it’s on time.)** I wasn’t up for that much travel this time around.

My mind threw out other options. San Juans and thereabouts? It’d be nice, but I’ve done that every year since 2013. Olympic Peninsula? Might be good, but have done that before, and weather is still a little iffy. Gorge? I’ll be out there at the end of July. Oregon Outback? Didn’t I say I wanted something a bit mellow?

Then it hit me, the epiphany: Central Oregon.

I’ve done a few bike explorations out there (2010, 2013, 2015), but they were all of the “passing through” variety. How about something that stays in the plateau east of the Cascades and west of the Ocochos, using the Bend area as a “base”? A loop, even. I can take a bus in and out of Bend (and other towns in the region) so I knew I had transportation options. While the route wouldn’t be flat, it wouldn’t cross any mountains. It’s a totally different landscape, the dry semi-desert vs. the lush forests in the west. And the weather out there is usually a bit drier and sometimes warmer than west of the Cascades, so if it’s raining in Portland, it’s less so in Bend.

So today (Sunday May 19) I’m taking a bus from Portland to Bend, where I’ll spend the night in Bend. On Monday May 20 I bike east into the Crooked River Canyon and camp there. Tuesday May 21, I’ll bike north along that river, through Prineville, and end up at Smith Rock for the night. Wednesday May 22 I head north some more around Madras and camp at Lake Billy Chinook. Then the last day of the tour (Thursday May 23) I ride west to Sisters and camp in town. There is a slight chance that McKenzie Pass may be open to bikes by then, and I may ride that over the Cascades. But most likely I’ll just take the bus home to Portland on the morning of Friday May 24.

There will be some areas I’ve explored by bike, and many I haven’t. I’m breaking it down into easy, manageable days of 30-45 miles. I don’t want to do long days just yet. And I’ll also be able to incorporate three of Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways: Crooked River Canyon, Madras Mountain Views, and Sisters to Smith Rock. Fun!

I don’t know if I’ll be posting much (if at all) during the week of the tour. But I should be posting pictures semi-regularly, which you can follow either on Instagram or flickr.

See you down the road!

*Of course after all of this was said, I heard one of my friends was going to do the same tour at the same time. Dang. Bike tours can be more exciting and fun when you go with someone else. (But not always!) Plus, looks like I may be going up to Vancouver for a few days in June anyway. Life is funny.

**Yeah, I could take Greyhound from Medford, but I prefer not to.

2 thoughts on “A Central Oregon Tour: 19-24 May 2019

Add yours

  1. That sounds like fun -Enjoy, good beer over there in Central Oregon too and as I recall the Sisters Bakery was pretty good too.

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