Ride, Oregon, ride.
That’s the idea behind the state’s nine scenic bike rides designed to showcase historic, geographic, cultural and panoramic elements throughout the state.
But coastal Highway 101 – already the most traveled state highway for bicyclists, and arguably one of the most beautiful – is not among them.
“We noticed that immediately,” said Wild Rivers Coast Alliance (WRCA) CEO Jim Seeley, whose organization hosted a meeting addressing the possibility of securing a designation for the South Coast. “We would like very much for it to form. It would be a really great basis for part of the South Coast promotional program – something that gets peoples’ attention.”
The nearest scenic bikeway is Cedar Creek/Deer Lake, a 32-mile route south of Grants Pass – yet still a two-hour drive from Brookings.
Oregon is the only state with designated scenic bikeways. The program is a venture between Oregon State Parks and Recreation, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Travel Oregon and Cycle Oregon.
It now includes nine scenic routes totalling 700 miles, an array of off-road trekking options and other shorter jaunts and loops.
The one- to four-day treks wend over formidable mountain passes, through historic covered bridges, along languid rivers and through towns where bicyclists can stop for a taste at a winery, shop at a local farmer’s market or take in the heady aromas of meadow flowers under a bluebird sky, the website reads.
Some are looped, others are linear. Many are long – up to 132 miles – and others are short, at 29.5 miles. Many can be broken up for day rides, to accommodate small children, difficulty rating, or desired destination, and others can be linked together for longer rides.
The WRCA met with Travel Oregon officials, county and city leaders, chambers of commerce members, Southern Oregon Visitors Association and other interested parties last month in Bandon to learn how to apply for the program.
It has until early next year to formulate possible routes and gather letters of support for consideration. Routes are suggested by local bicyclists, then reviewed, ridden and adopted. The earliest any routes might be designated would be 2014.
“They want to hear all the reasons we should consider one bikeway over the other,” Seeley said. “They’re all beautiful. But they told us to pick the best of the best.”
To be designated, a bike path must meet natural, human-made and sensory criteria.
The application indicates natural qualities include landforms, vegetation, wildlife and water features; they can also be intensified by color, contrast, unique shape and dramatic settings.
Human-made points of interest can include heritage sites, historic districts, unique buildings, structures and objects.
Sensory elements include the smells, sounds and tactile experiences a rider encounters along the route, and could include the smell of trees on a warm day, bird song or cool air at a river crossing.
The entire length of Highway 101 cannot be considered as a Scenic Bikeway as it already designated as the Oregon Coast Bike Route. Oregon Scenic Bikeways was created to highlight places tourists might not find on their own, and the 363-mile stretch of 101 is the most heavily ridden bike route in the state, said Marie Simmons, executive assistant for WRCA.
But a coastal route could include scenic jaunts along roads going up rivers – the Elk, Chetco or Sixes – or to historic spots such as Cape Blanco. Those routes could be linked by designated parts of the highway.
The website, rideoregonride.com, lists campgrounds, bike shops, restaurants, attractions, events – even bike concierge services for those arriving by plane or rail.