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Along the Way: Bandon

If a charming town, in a spectacular setting on the beach, with four of the top-rated golf courses in the world right next door, can be considered a hidden gem, the city of Bandon fits the bill wonderfully. This little slice of coastal paradise is going to be an eye-opener for Cycle Oregon riders – whether they’re Portlanders used to popping over to Cannon Beach or Seaside, or visitors from across the country.

Just ask Julie Miller, with the Bandon Chamber of Commerce. Raised a city girl, she moved to Bandon and “took two years to acclimate – and now I wouldn’t ever go back.”

A lot of people have that experience with Bandon, Julie says – even the ones who don’t stay. “We’re kind of hard to get to,” she admits. “But once people come here, they fall in love with it.”

Maybe that’s because Bandon combines the coziness of a small town with the lure of a revitalized old town district, all on one of the prettiest stretches of coastline in America.

And it all started with a shipwrecked Irishman. Although the earliest white settlers established a site called Averill in 1853, it was George Bennett and his sons who washed up from Bandon, Ireland, in 1873 and soon after changed the town’s name to honor his hometown. Within 10 years there was a post office, a sawmill, a church and a store, cheese-making was ongoing, and the Corps of Engineers began building a jetty. In 1896 the Coquille River lighthouse was built, ensuring safer passage for ships and proving a boon for the local economy.

Although devastating fires in 1914 and 1936 (the latter burned down 484 of Bandon’s 500 buildings) set the town back, the strength of the local cheese factory, cranberry growing, a woolen mill and the shipping business kept Bandon bouncing back.

And then a man decided to build a golf course nearby. Bandon Dune Golf Resort’s first course opened in 1999, and it now encompasses four golf courses –all four ranking in the top 15 of Golf magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.”

So more people have discovered Bandon – but it still retains its small-town character.

“It’s amazing how uncrowded it is here,” Julie says. “You can walk the beach here and sometimes be the only person out there.”

That small-town status also means that Cycle Oregon coming to town is a pretty big deal.

“For us having Cycle Oregon stay here is a huge boost,” Julie adds. “It’s not just the number of people coming through – it’s also the recognition for having the layover here.”

And boy, will they have some fun things ready for us on that layover. You’ll get a complete list in your Rider Handbook later this summer, but here’s a sample: horseback riding on the beach; agate-hunting and a chance to turn your find into jewelry; deep-sea charter fishing and an evening river cruise; a guided nighttime beach walk with a campfire and s’mores; birding at Bandon Marsh; wine and “dessert fetish” tastings…

And how about this one: “You can crab right from the dock,” Julie relates. “Drop a ring in the water, go get a beer, come back and give your catch to Tony, who will cook ‘em up for a dollar a crab while you drink your beer.”

Sounds like the good life, eh? Julie says the locals have a real appreciation for the life they enjoy. But it’s also a life of limited resources and self-reliance. “We take kind of a duct-tape approach here,” she explains. “We make do with what we have.”

That’s one of the reasons the locals are so excited about what Cycle Oregon brings to town – including money, which will be put to good use. Cycle Oregon funds will help with everything from purchasing lights for the local baseball field to buying a new furnace for the Odd Fellows Hall so the gals in the local quilting club can make more quilts for military personnel and children in crisis.

Julie sums it all up: “We’re extremely excited, the whole community. We’re going to roll out the red carpet for Cycle Oregon.”

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