Back in the cold and dark of January, several Grant County residents sat around a well-used dining room table considering the annual 'Cycle Oregon' bicycle ride.
Not thrilled by the idea of jostling with 2,000 other riders, Christy Waldner of Mt. Vernon suggested creating our own 'Cycle Grant County' and a plan was hatched.
The weekend of June 20-22, that plan was executed with a huge success. Without any publicity, Waldner organized a ride, and 18 cyclists of varied skill levels participated on the 180-mile route over three days. Also along were four support vehicles and drivers.
"It was exhilarating, having our own private adventure, and the setting is so astoundingly beautiful," said Eva Harris of Canyon City.
The first day ended at Ritter Hot Springs, "the perfect ending to a perfect day" said Tony Johns of Prairie City. Day Two consisted of breathtaking views on the 10-mile Ritter Pass descent and a strawberry shortcake break at Big Bend outside Monument. The evenings were filled with laughter and good food from potluck dinners prepared by support drivers and riders alike.
Because the ride was supported by four vehicles, even with a 67- and an 80-mile day, it was possible for all levels of cyclists. The ages ranged from 23 to 71.
Organizers say the success of the Strawberry Outdoor Club 'Cycle Grant County' ride is a strong indication that cycling could play a significant role in recasting Grant County's image as it faces continuing economic challenges from reduced timber harvest and rising fuel costs.
"I have long dreamed of having a bike path along the John Day River from Mt. Vernon to Prairie City," said Sophie Cosgrove. "Imagine how enticing that would be to anyone considering living in the John Day Valley."
Storie Mooser of Prairie City, an avid cycling advocate, has mapped many rides and assembled a Prairie City Bicycle Invitational.
"We used to see far more cyclists, but when the bike shop closed, they sought other routes," bicycle enthusiast Mike Cosgrove said. "I'll bet if they knew they had support here Grant County would once again be the route of choice."
As for Cycle Grant County 2009, Waldner is already dreaming up new routes and activities. Riders may want to sign up early.
For information about Strawberry Outdoor Club rides or bike repair, call Mytchell Mead at 575-0284, and for information about the Prairie City Bicycle Invitational, log onto the Prairie City website, (www.prairiecityoregon.com).
- Contributed by Mytchell Mead.