Cycling the Figure-8 Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway
by Trish Yerges/For The Observer
Adventure cyclists are registering now to participate in a leisurely ride on a 134-mile figure-8 route newly designated as the “Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway.”
The bicycling event begins in La Grande at Riverside Park on May 4 and takes its riders on back country roads through Union County to Baker City where they will stay the night before making the second leg of the trip back to La Grande on May 5. The route will take them along the historic Oregon Trail and through some of the most beautiful pastoral country and panoramic mountain views that Eastern Oregon has to offer.
Organizing this event is Anita Metlen, a five-time Cycle Oregon rider and former co-owner with her husband Kim of Mountain Works Bicycles in La Grande.
About four years ago Anita chaired a cycling committee including Kim Metlen, Heather Stanhope, Joe Kresse, Kent Coe and Mike McInnis that successfully worked to earn Oregon Bikeway status last April for the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway No. 9.
“It was my idea, and I emailed a bunch of people who would be interested,” said Anita. “They each did their part and got it done. It took us three years to accomplish.”
This year’s bicycling event will be a two-day event with an orientation meeting preceding it on May 3. In many ways it will be similar to the inaugural ride in 2012.
“Last year we had 36 riders who joined us,” said Anita. “Most of them were locals. Twelve stayed overnight in Baker City and bicycled the second half of the tour back to La Grande.”
Since then, the committee gained another member, Tim Elliott, and a supporting volunteer, Judy Hector. Together, the committee members have done all the preparation work to apply for yet another Oregon Bikeway.
“This past March 15, we just submitted our second request for Oregon Bikeway status for a route we call the ‘Gold Rush Bikeway,’” said Anita. “It’s in the works now. The route would start at Hilgard State Park to Starkey to Granite and then Sumpter and onto Baker City.”
While the committee waits to hear about their newest application, plans have been made to enjoy another trip over the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway on May 4 and 5.
For any who are interested in participating or just learning about the route, they may attend the orientation meeting on May 3 at Mountain Works Bicycles, 1301 Adams Ave. in La Grande from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
There will be appetizers there and registration packets for those interested.
“We’re charging the same as last year—$45 per person (18 and older) for the two-day event or $30 per person for one day,” said Anita.
“The money will go in the Northeast Oregon cyclist fund and be used to enhance the scenic bikeways.”
Riders are encouraged to be equipped safely for the 134-mile trek.
“We’d like everyone participating to wear a helmet and carry a tire patch and repair kit,” said Anita.
“We also ask that you bring a beverage, snack and money if you want to buy something at Union, North Powder, Haines, Baker City, Pondosa or Cove.”
The trip is designed for all cyclist skill levels and the route follows along low traffic, leisurely country roads, with a half-way stop at historic Baker City.
There, riders may enjoy a variety of entertaining activities.
“There are seven self-guided gallery tours, a regional museum, food, drink, swimming at the YMCA and the theater to enjoy,” said Anita.
“This is a no-host overnight stay at Baker City, so everyone must arrange for their own overnight accommodations.”
The committee negotiated discounted room rates with the Always Welcome Inn, 175 Campbell St., in Baker City. The Inn offers lunch upon arrival on Saturday at check-in and continental breakfast on Sunday morning before check-out.
Rooms with two beds will cost $60; for one bed and one person, $55.
There are other overnight options available too, including the historic Geiser Grand Hotel at 1996 Main St.
Additional accommodations offered to the riders by the organizers include the support vehicle (SAG wagon) which will carry overnight backpacks, snacks and beverages for the riders.
The organizers stress that this is a leisurely route and not a race, so everyone is encouraged to soak in the awesome scenery along the way.
“Pace yourself and listen to your body,” said Anita.
“Eat good energy food and drink when you need to.”
The organizers of the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway ride are looking for about five volunteers, according to Anita, to send off riders from Riverside Park on May 4 at 8:30 a.m.
Volunteers are also needed to drive the support vehicle along the route and to greet riders back to Riverside Park on May 5 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. where riders will be given snacks and beverages.
For more information about the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway event, or to volunteer as a helper those two days, contact the Metlens at 541-534-2008.
For registration forms, visit Mountain Works Bicycles or the La Grande Chamber of Commerce office.