220 riders cruise county, rest at JCMS
Madras' Stan Nowakowski and his wife Maura Schwartz have a passion for cycling.
So much so that there probably isn't a road in Jefferson County that they haven't covered on their bikes.
This past weekend, Nowakowski and Schwartz invited a few of their cycling friends - 218 to be exact - for a ride on some of Jefferson County's roads that offer some of the premier views in the state.
"The comments that I have heard from riders are that the ride was just gorgeous," Nowakowski said. "We live in one of the most scenic areas, and for the riders that have never been here before, I think they were really taken back."
As part of Bicycle Rides Northwest's Oregon Ride, the group of cyclists began a week-long bicycle tour that began in Prineville Sunday and ends in Prineville July 28.
"This route is just so full of views of Smith Rock, Lake Billy Chinook and the Cascade Mountains," said event coordinator Sanna Phinney. "People are just amazed with Smith Rock and people really enjoy seeing Billy Chinook."
The first leg of the tour began at Crook County High School and cyclists peddled past Smith Rock, then Culver, above Lake Billy Chinook, around Round Butte and finished at Jefferson County Middle School, where all riders set up camp for an overnight stay Sunday after the 58-mile ride.
"Well, almost all riders are camping out," Schwartz said with a laugh, as she and Nowakowski are the only two Madras riders in the group. "We get the luxury of sleeping in our own bed."
JCMS' football field was littered with tents Sunday. Cyclists enjoyed catered food, beverages, entertainment and conversation, before they peddled off to Maupin on Monday. Local musician Michael McGinnis and his band Triur Amadan played music for the cyclists, and Jerry Ramsey gave a speech.
"What we try to do is incorporate local flavor into each stop we make," said Phinney of the event that's in its 26th year. "We worked with Great Earth and we want people to gain a sense of each community."
Formerly known as Oregon Bicycle Ride Inc., BRNW was established in 1987, when Sandy Green and friends fulfilled their vision to take adventure seeking bicyclists who liked to tour on a great ride through a beautiful state. The first Oregon Bicycle Ride took 68 riders from Hells Canyon, Idaho, to the Oregon Coast in seven days.
"People participate in our rides because they love to cycle," said Phinney of the tour that is limited to the first 300 registrants. "What people love about our rides is that we keep the group small, rather than having 1,000 or 2,000 riders."
The tour has been through Madras once before, about 10 years ago according to Nowakowski, and costs riders $895.
"This is a fully supported tour," Phinney said. "Everything riders want and need, we have it available to them. We have food, beverages, showers, toilets and so on."
This year, the tour takes riders from Prineville to Madras, Maupin, the Deschutes River State Recreation Area on the Columbia River, Condon, and Mitchell, and then ends in Prineville.
"We rotate locations of the tour each year," said Phinney, who is in her second year as the event coordinator and has also participated since 1999. "Being that we have done this for 26 years, we have pretty much covered all parts of the state."
Most of the riders are in their 50s and 60s, and most are experienced cyclists.
"The total trip will be either 450 or 400 miles, depending on the loops that you choose," Nowakowski said. "It averages about 60-70 miles per day, so it's not a ride that kills the riders."
For Dave and Becky Bechtold of Pasco, Wash., the tour gives them an opportunity to see areas that they wouldn't otherwise see.
"It was just a pleasant ride, and the views were just beautiful," said Dave Bechtold. "We've been down Highway 97 a number of times on trips, but this was nice to see more of this area."
The two have been cycling for 24 years, and have participated in the Bicycle Rides Northwest tours a handful of times.
"We had never seen Smith Rock before and that was just beautiful," said Becky Bechtold. "We did a tour in 1988, and ever since, we've tried to do at least one tour per year."
The Bechtolds did what most riders did after they completed their ride Sunday and set up camp, they sat in camping chairs on the JCMS football field with a cool beverage in hand, shared conversation and just enjoyed the views of the Cascade Mountains.
"This is what makes this day special," said Dave Bechtold pointing to the Cascade Mountains. "We finished before the afternoon winds, there is no fire smoke and the views here are spectacular."