Our penultimate day here at Cycle Oregon allowed us to bask in the beauty of the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway, one of 14 routes officially designated, signed, and mapped by the State of Oregon as the “best of the best” road rides.
We took the long way from Baker City to La Grande for a total of 77 miles, stopping by the tiny towns of Pondosa, Medical Springs and Cove on our way into the finish.
Today’s route was the eastern half of the Scenic Bikeway, we’ll do the other half tomorrow…
Our rest stop at the Pondosa Store was an unexpected delight. Named after the Ponderosa pines that dot the area, Pondosa shares a common history with many small towns in rural Oregon. For over thirty years it was home to a sawmill operation. At its peak in the 1950s, 500 people called the place home. When the mill shut down, Pondosa’s fate was precarious. A wildfire that burned several homes and other structures a few years later sealed it. Today just a few families still live in the area. One of them operates the Pondosa Store.
The store, which used to also be a hotel, is inside what felt like someone’s private home. The large reception area had several recliners bedecked by handmade blankets, there was a pot-belly stove cranking out much-needed heat (it was right around freezing when we woke up this morning), and The Price is Right blared on the small TV in the corner.
Cycle Oregonians did what they do best — they swarmed the place, took out their wallets, chatted with the two proprietors, and bought everything in sight.
After Pondosa we pedaled the foothills of the Wallowa Mountains, eventually riding into the National Forest for our first look at big trees this entire trip. We lunched at Catherine Creek State Park.
And we were greeted into our campsite in La Grande with cheers and dancing from local middle and high schoolers (oh, and they also baked us a bunch of free cookies!).
Tomorrow this Eastern Oregon adventure comes to an end as we ride south through the valley back to Baker City. Stay tuned for a final wrap-up. See all this week’s coverage here.