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Cycle Oregon: Have Bike, Will Ride

MONMOUTH -- The bride looked striking in a tutu over white spandex shorts, veil secured to her bike helmet and ankle-length socks bearing SpongeBob Squarepants' image.

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Western Oregon University’s campus became a tent city for hundreds of participants in the 2009 Cycle Oregon.

MONMOUTH -- The bride looked striking in a tutu over white spandex shorts, veil secured to her bike helmet and ankle-length socks bearing SpongeBob Squarepants' image.

Her husband-to-be donned a riding jersey with a graphic of a tuxedo, something that took him considerable hunting online to find, he said.

The carriage waiting to steal them away was an orange tandem bicycle, its saddle bags loaded with carbs and electrolytes instead of champagne.

Perhaps the only traditional element of Norm and Ellen Saager's wedding on the second day of Cycle Oregon at the Western Oregon University campus were the words during the ceremony - except for the not-so-subtle bicycle references.

"Your journey may be long and have hills ahead," said Pastor Jerry Jefferies of Tillamook. "We wish you the best of luck at the starting line of your great adventure."

The Saagers, who live near Milton-Freewater, participated in their first Cycle Oregon just after they began dating five years ago. So they thought it would be fitting to combine their marriage with the popular mass ride this summer.

"We thought it would be special," said Norm Saager just before the couple's 63-mile tour through Polk County. "Cycle Oregon has been a part of us."

This past weekend saw the Saagers and about 1,800 other bike nuts take over Monmouth for the nationally-renowned cycling tour event.

A sea of tents and campers occupied most of Western's Oregon campus from July 17-19. And there was scarcely a time when spandex-clad riders couldn't be spotted rolling into and out of town.

Gerda and Tom Sparks of Newport Beach, Calif., arrived on Friday afternoon, and hustled to erect their tents across from McArthur Stadium.

"After doing this for eight years, you learn how to pick your spots ... ones not too close to the bathrooms," Gerda Sparks said.

This was the second time Cycle Oregon has come to Monmouth since 2005. The availability of the university's facilities and low-traffic backroads set amidst farmland backdrops drew cyclists for the weekend, said Ingrid Nylen, a Cycle Oregon spokeswoman.

"There are short routes that are flat, and hills in places like the Zena area," Nylen said. "A lot of people haven't explored these."

Cycle Oregon could be described as a bike-centric version of Woodstock - with better hygiene and logistical planning.

Sixty volunteers helped plan and stage the event, while vendors were brought in to offer free bike repair, acupuncture and stretching classes.

Almost 100 portable toilets were set up around campus. Several pace vans with HAM radio operators and even two state police officers traveled with cyclists on routes.

And local businesses saw a boost in activity during the weekend. Dwight and Maggie Triplett, who run Petals & Vines on Main Street, kept the doors of their flower shop open three hours later than normal on July 17. They even offered complimentary bottles of water to visitors.

"They were in all night walking through here," Dwight Triplett said. "And (Main Street Pub & Eatery) next door was hopping."

Lana Crumrine of Klamath Falls was participating in her first Cycle Oregon and bike tour of Polk County.

"I rode past a dairy and a lavender farm ... it's beautiful," Crumrine said after a 20-mile ride.

But "my rear end is uncomfortable," she added. "I need to spend more time in the saddle."

Pastor Jefferies, meanwhile, is an eight-year Cycle Oregon veteran. But this was the only time he's ever performed a wedding at the gathering, he said.

After finishing the Saagers' ceremony near the route starting line on Church Street, he quickly signed the couple's marriage certificate, and yanked off his vestments to reveal riding shorts and a jersey with the words "Church of Bicycle" printed on the front and back.

The combination of riding terrain in the area and the setup at Western "is a luxury," he said. "You can't beat a situation like this."

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