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My Day on the Oregon Coastal Bike Trail

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Today started with a tree dedication at the Seaside Museum and Historical Society for Bonnie Appleton, a pioneer in professional tree care, who recently passed away. Several of the cyclists were personally influenced by Bonnie's work in their professional lives and spoke about her legacy. The ceremony was touching and inspiring.

Then we were off. At the start of the morning, I was really excited and felt much better physically than I thought I would after cycling 95 miles the day before and with another 105 ahead of me today. One thing I love about the STIHL Tour des Trees is that everyone is really supportive, and it keeps the energy positive and upbeat for the entire ride. The Oregon scenery has astounded all of us, and helped us push forward. You never know what amazing landscape is coming up after the next climb, which gives the ride a real sense of adventure.

We spent the majority of today on Highway 101, the Oregon Coastal Bike Trail. About 15 miles in, was the first time we saw the rugged cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, where everyone stopped for photos. Then off to more hills. Steep hills.

The riding today was spectacular, the best of my life. I felt stronger than yesterday, and the hills seemed a more surmountable challenge than an excuse to fly home. We rode all along the Pacific Coast: around bays, over mountains, through fishing villages. Coming around every bend was a more dramatic view than the last -- I felt like I had to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Being from the coastal plains of Virginia, the Pacific Northwest has always had a majestic feeling for me. Yesterday, we traveled near where Lewis and Clark spent the first winter of their expedition, and it's hard to imagine how they managed to survive in such a rugged environment. Today's ride was anything but boring, and the entire experience -- the views, the climbs, the sense of accomplishment, the people, and the purpose -- give us all a sense of gratitude as we travel.

This gratitude is echoed in the afternoon tree planting in Tillamook, Ore. At every stop, we're reminded of the true reason for the ride: raising awareness and educating about the importance of trees. Professor Elwood Pricklethorn, educator extraordinaire, conducts events for children along the Tour route, educating them about the importance of trees, what trees provide to us, and how to put the right tree in the right place. In real life, Professor Pricklethorn is veteran Tour cyclist Warren Hoselton, a tree care professional in Toronto and the director of the Canadian Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund). He's a funny dude.

Case in point is when we do our standard STIHL Tour des Trees tree dedication: we take the "energy we're producing in our legs," then we wiggle our hands and "throw" the energy at the tree. This is followed by shouting, "THE ROOTS, THE ROOTS, THE ROOTS ARE ON FIRE." The grand finale is a singalong of "All we are saying, is give trees a chance" to the famous John Lennon tune. This makes me laugh hysterically every time. It reminds me of a summer camp experience, where the camp counselors are rousing the troops.

The town of Tillamook also came out in force, bringing their famous cheddar cheese and handmade jams made from marionberry and huckleberry. Becky Hallowell, our local STIHL dealer, even came out with a booth to support the Tour and the community event. Since I work for STIHL, it feels like a big family, and having the chance to meet with someone like Becky, who has lived in the area her whole life and whose business has been in the family for two generations, reiterates the importance of the work that I do for STIHL every day. My job day-to-day is to test STIHL prototypes and get them ready for the marketplace, so to interact with the people who use those final products makes me proud.

Another point of pride today was hitting my first century ride, a feat that my fellow rider Justin Espy hit by accident yesterday when he missed the last turnoff and kept going north when he was supposed to turn south. He caught up with three other riders, one of whom was also lost, and the other two who were on a mission. Ward Peterson rode on the original Tour in 1992 and was traveling to Astoria, Ore., to find a tree they had planted on the inaugural ride. Justin was excited to be a part of this side venture, though was less excited about the thirty mile detour in a full Pacific Ocean headwind.

The last twenty miles of the day was some of the best riding I've ever experienced. I fell into a group that was riding faster than my normal pace, but I was able to easily keep up, and it felt like the road was simply falling in front of us. Through all of the twists and turns, the speed was intense. Having already ridden more than 80 miles, I don't know where the energy came from, but I was so glad it was there.
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Chuck Kellen is an employee of STIHL Inc. who is spending this week cycling through Oregon with the STIHL Tour des Trees. The event benefits the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund). To learn more, visit www.stihltourdestrees.org and www.treefund.org.
Photo Credit: Alvin Gilens

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