Length: 29.3 miles
Choosing Mother’s Day for a spin around the Madras Mountain Views Scenic Bikeway was a smart move. If I do say so myself. The timing was good in terms of traffic, weather, wildlife (viewing and avoiding) and my vision of a little slice of heaven: Central Oregon Springtime.
In the first 2 miles I discovered this ride was not flat. Travelling west out of town, a kicker of a hill appeared, before I was anywhere near warmed up. Following the route signage, I turned and was suddenly delivered into silence. Irrigation wouldn’t start for another day, and a gentle tailwind took all the effort out of my legs and put it right into enjoying the fantastic views. I love these buttery smooth, silent, empty roads and my solitude. Balm for my soul.
As I rode into Metolius, I got a bit of confused about the route. The sign pointing left means turn onto Butte Rd. and skirt the town of Metolius. I had to stop and consult the cue sheet on my phone, in a shady spot with a bench, and read that there was food, water and a historical railway station 4 blocks west. Sure enough, a detour into town brings you to the ‘End of the Line,” the historical terminus of the Oregon Trunk Railway line.
Nothing was there. Not a café, which I imagined hosting families enjoying cool drinks in the sun, with bike parking and outdoor seating under umbrellas and little kids running around. Not a single human or an open door of any kind.
With that sweet tailwind, it was not a long six more miles to Culver. There was an open restaurant of some kind, but I (deliriously?) decided to hurry, since there were some pupusas back in Madras with my name on them.
Trying to keep up my momentum as I turned north out of Culver toward Lake Billy Chinook and the Cove Palisades State Park, the headwind denied me. I was alone the whole length of the Mountain Views ride, except for amazing raptors riding the thermals at the canyon’s edge and one guy in a blue pickup. Red-tailed hawks, a juvenile golden eagle, some old crows, and those highly maneuverable sparrows that nest in the high walls of the geologic wonder walls carved by the water below. I recalled something about the volcanic activity from the Cascades, which long ago dumped tons of material into the Deschutes, re-routing the waterway and forcing it to cut a new canyon.
Visit one of three or four overlooks along this road and see where the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolius rivers come pouring into the reservoir. Then further below, all the waters are generating the electricity that is flowing above and all around you as you pass under PG&E’s wires. The route takes you through the Crooked River National Grasslands, which is adjacent to over 9,000 acres owned and managed by PG&E along with their 3 dams and fish facilities on the river. Somewhere down there in Lake Billy are thousands of fish they planted up in the tributaries.
I got a little worried when I looked into the distance and saw the road turning up toward Round Butte, but you don’t have to climb up to the top unless you want a really fantastic view. The route does climb, though. The grade is not more than 3% — a brief, brutal climb back over the ridge after turning onto Belmont Rd. Luckily, no one will be there to see if you need to walk or just take it excruciatingly slow, like I did. I was starving. Luckily, Madras is snuggled behind the last hill. Tooling easy past City Hall, I knew the pupsas were not far.
There really wasn’t much else going on with this ride. The day was relatively cool, even at high noon it was only in the 60s. Not another road cyclist, nor any live snakes, nor scarcely another human was about, which I considered a huge plus. I counted fewer than 20 cars passing me in 30 miles, which is about as low-traffic as it gets, making for an extremely wonderful outing.
La Salvadorena was blissfully open, though she said she had considered closing for mother’s day. I bought a mess of tamales to take home too, wrapped in banana leaves that impart that special tanginess. Her salsa is spicy and her pupsas are the most delicious thing ever, after a day in the saddle that pushed closer to 3 hours than 2. A happy Mother’s Day well earned and daylight well burned. I imagined all the other exhausted little creatures gratefully crawling into their beds this night too, having managed to survive another day of high desert adventures.