For the first time in Cycle Oregon history, the ride has been forced off its planned course. The reason for the change is the Dry Gulch fire which started Saturday near Richland, Oregon, a town close to Halfway, where Cycle Oregon was headed tomorrow.
Cycle Oregon is in Cambridge, Idaho tonight. The original plan was to leave Cambridge Tuesday morning and ride to Halfway, Oregon. But with fire crews camped in Hafway, there’s not enough room in the town for Cycle Oregon’s 2,500 person rolling city.
That also means the ride won’t be staying two nights at Wallowa Lake, the marquee destination of this year’s ride.
“We’re heartbroken,” said Cycle Oregon Executive Director Alison Hill-Graves in an interview tonight. “These are some of our favorite places and we’ve worked so hard to get back to them.”
Hill-Graves said they tried to find a way around Halfway that would get riders to Joseph and Wallowa Lake; but the only option would have required a grueling 130-mile day.
Rain is falling here in Cambridge tonight, but it’s not nearly enough to dampen the fire activity. Today Ride Director Steve Schultz and Route Director Ken Chichester drove to Halfway to talk with local leaders and the Oregon Department of Forestry. They were told that conditions won’t change in time for Cycle Oregon to maintain its schedule.
“We were standing in Halfway,” Schultz said, holding back tears, “And we looked up at he hillside burning.”
Many riders were in their tents and likely didn’t hear the route change news when it was shared at the ride’s nightly evening announcements. They will undoubtedly be disappointed to hear the news.
“But as disappointing as this is for us, imagine how the people in Halfway and surrounding communities are feeling,” said Hill-Graves.
Instead of an overnight in Halfway and then two nights at Wallowa Lake, the new plan is to spend two nights in Cambridge and then ride back to Farewell Bend State Park (where we camped Sunday night).
From Farewell Bend, the ride will work its way back to Baker City. The goal is to make it to La Grande for the last night of the ride, which was the original plan.
While this news is quite deflating for those of us who looked forward to the ride in Joseph and Wallowa Lake, the Cycle Oregon spirit will persevere and I have no doubt this group of great folks will make the most of it.
When the announcement was made at camp tonight, I heard a few groans, but they were immediately followed by cheers and shouts of support as Hill-Graves and Schultz struggled to hold back their emotions on stage.