Wheels keep on turning

    Courtesy photoTour de Farce riders pose for a photo at Heceta Head on the Oregon coast.

    Some 20 old friends from Oregon and Colorado — most in their mid or late-70s — have just finished their annual bicycle tour down the Oregon Coast and back up through covered bridges and wine country in the Willamette Valley, a fun jaunt organized here by Ashland orthopedic surgeon John Maurer.

    When what’s come to be known as the “Tour de Farce” started 22 years ago, when all were hale and hearty, the band of bikers would power through century (100-mile) legs of the trip, drink and eat voraciously then get up the next day and do it all over again, says Maurer.

    But with the limited endurance and energy sapped by age, the emphasis has shifted toward pleasure, scenery and camaraderie, says Maurer, as, on a recent evening, he served pulled pork and wine at his and wife Nancy’s house in the woods above the university.

    “The purpose now is old people having fun and going wild. We’re a diverse bunch — doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers — with a common interest in staying fit. We’re flexible and we find ways to accommodate century riders and also those who’d rather just order another bowl of clam chowder.”

    Maurer, who set up his practice in Ashland in 1975, got turned onto bicycle touring when he met his Nancy, then an English teacher in Colorado. She placed one condition on their marriage: that they do bike rides every year. The group had pedaled in many scenic spots, including Yellowstone, Cape Cod and Banff — and Oregon in 2008.

    “All my Colorado friends came out again and put up with the weather (smoke and rain) that didn’t happen,” said Nancy, “and no one got lost, so we’re celebrating all the fun we had.”

    Given their decline in robustitude, the group found a 15-passenger Mercedes “sag wagon,” a vehicle that can carry everyone, pick up stragglers and haul all the bikes in a trailer when they want to skip boring spots or get to a motel and dinner.

    After the barbecue, the group took a walking tour of downtown Ashland attractions, then biked around Crater Lake and headed for wine country.

    “It’s been magical,” said Pam Munson of Monument, Colorado. “I’ve never seen the beauty of the Oregon Coast. We don’t have that in the Rockies. It’s been such fun with these people. They’re a family to me.”

    Another Coloradan, Ruth Ann Cauley notes, “The Oregon Coast knocked me out. I’ve been doing this 10 years and it’s very bonding for us. We encourage each other and if someone can’t make it, that’s OK.”

    Maurer notes that, after 15 years of it, the bike jaunt is “such a fun renewal of our friendship. They treat me to such beauty in Colorado and I get to show them the splendors of the Great Oregon Bike Adventure, as I call it.”

    John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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