Bicyclists roll into town

By Dick Mason, The Observer August 05, 2013 10:09 am

Stan Nowakowski of Madras, Bob Cargill of Portland and Maura Schwartz of Madras talk following Sunday’s ride from Athena to Pioneer Park in La Grande. All riders on the Oregon Bicycle Ride put on by Bicycle Rides Northwest made it to La Grande by 4:30 p.m. Sunday. (Dick Mason/The Observer)
Stan Nowakowski of Madras, Bob Cargill of Portland and Maura Schwartz of Madras talk following Sunday’s ride from Athena to Pioneer Park in La Grande. All riders on the Oregon Bicycle Ride put on by Bicycle Rides Northwest made it to La Grande by 4:30 p.m. Sunday. (Dick Mason/The Observer)
 

A rolling city, one which pulls up its spokes each morning, braked in La Grande Sunday afternoon.

Three hundred cyclists, with the Bicycle Rides Northwest company, rolled into Pioneer Park where they spent the night before leaving Monday morning for Joseph. The cyclists are on a seven-day, 464-mile Oregon Bicycle Ride. The tour started in Athena Sunday morning, pedaling a total of 65 miles, first along Highway 204 to Elgin and then through the Grande Ronde Valley to La Grande. 

“It was a great ride,” said Tom Durkin of Portland. 

He appreciated the many courteous drivers the cyclists encountered.

“The drivers, locally, were looking out for us,” Durkin said. 

The riders had to climb at least 3,800 feet the first 27 miles of the ride to the Spout Springs Ski Area. Durkin said this stretch was particularly difficult because the wind was to the riders’ backs.

“Because it was a tailwind, it did not cool us down,” Durkin said.

Maura Schwartz of Madras said Sunday’s ride was a good one for getting into the rhythm of the tour.

“It got us warmed up and into the groove,” Schwartz said.

At Pioneer Park, cyclists were able to swim at Veterans Memorial Pool, which the City of La Grande opened for the bikers. 

Most of the cyclists at Pioneer Park were from Oregon, Washington and California, although some were from greater distances, including Cliff Kranish from South Orange, N.J. Kranish tries to participate in a bike ride each summer in the West.

“It is a cliché but I like the wide-open spaces,” Kranish said. 

The lengthy climbs Kranish finds himself making on western rides like this one is something he could never do in New Jersey.

“Where I live two miles is a long climb,” Kranish said.

The toughest part of the tour is expected to be on Wednesday when the cyclists will ride from Joseph to Asotin, Wash., said Sanna Phinney, event director for Bicycle Rides Northwest. She noted that the 88-mile ride will include a difficult 10-mile stretch on the Rattlesnake Grade highway. The tour concludes Saturday with a 62-mile ride from Dayton, Wash., to Athena, the ride’s starting point. 

Throughout the seven-day tour,
cyclists will be provided with portable hot showers, meals, luggage transportation and evening entertainment. 

Debra Windus of Bend, who has been on other Bicycle Rides Northwest rides in the past, looks forward to the hot showers she can enjoy at the end of each day’s ride.

“Knowing that there is an endless shower is a big, big deal,’’ Windus said.

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