Salem writer recounts 1,500-mile bike trip across Oregon in new book

When Dan Shryock told his wife of 40 years that he planned to cycle across the state of Oregon and write a book about it, she told him he was crazy.

Three years later, the Salem travel writer and former newspaper reporter has self-published a book chronicling his adventures titled, “Cycling Across Oregon: Stories, Surprises & Revelations Along the State’s Scenic Bikeways.” 

The 1,500 mile tour, which he did all on the steel-framed Torelli bicycle he lovingly calls “my baby,” was full of surprises. It sometimes turned dangerous, like when he rode through central Oregon’s high desert in the July heat. He soon realized the asphalt was literally boiling. 

In retrospect Shryock said that particular decision probably wasn’t the best one, but he’s come a long way since he decided to start riding.  

Shryock didn’t see much of the state he calls home until he finally got on a bike back in 2010 after his friend and Salemite Bob Cortright convinced him to ride with his tantalizing tales of exotic Italian cycling trips. 

“One of the things that surprises me is that there is so much of Oregon that Oregonians don’t know about. I’ve lived here. It took me 27 years to finally see the Painted Hills,” he said. 

The trip along the Painted Hills Scenic Bikeway in central Oregon which became one of the more memorable experiences for Shryock in his new book. 

He met cyclists at the Spoke’n Hostel in Mitchell who were traveling across the country on the TransAmerica Trail, which runs more than 4,000 miles between North Carolina and Oregon with alternate starting and ending points in New York and California. 

“It made me realize that what we were undertaking was nothing compared to what these other people were doing,” Shryock said. 

Patti Rogers and Bob Cortright in front of the Spoke’n Hostel in Mitchell (Courtesy/Dan Shryock)

Despite the sense of perspective, Shryock learned the Painted Hills Scenic Bikeway is nothing to mess around with. On the particular day Shryock and his cycling companions rode it, temperatures soared into the hundreds. 

“We turn west on Rowe Creek Road and my spirits sag when I see the road begin to ramp up. I hear a pop-pop-pop sound as my tires roll across the narrow road’s chip seal surface,” Shryock wrote. “It sounds as if I’m riding over small sheets of air-bubble packaging wrap. Pop. Pop. Pop.”

As it turned out, the asphalt was literally boiling from the intense desert heat. 

Shryock said in retrospect it was a terrible idea to take the ride so late in the  summer. The group always rode with a support vehicle not far away to intervene in the case of an emergency. Despite this comfort, they pushed through the ride until the end. 

“The thought of boiling asphalt fogs my mind. I’m hot, very hot, and disheartened. And, now we have boiling asphalt,” Shryock wrote.  

Shryock wrote the book based on his cycling trips on all 17 of Oregon’s scenic bikeways. He was able to ride 16 of the bikeways in between April and October of 2021, but the 17th bikeway, the Cascade Rivers Scenic Bikeway, was closed until the summer of 2023. 

Shryock said his favorite bikeways include the McKenzie Pass and Wild Rivers Coast scenic bikeways. The Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway starts and finishes in Port Orford and follows the Elk River and inspired the book’s cover. 

One bikeway closer to home, Shryock said, is the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which runs directly through Salem. He said it is rare for Oregon’s bikeways to cross through urban areas like Salem. 

After riding all 17, he finished and self published the book in March of 2024. With one book under his belt, Carla Shryock is finally on board with her husband’s new career writing books.

“She is totally supportive. Reading everything. Nothing leaves my laptop until she has read it,” Shryock said. “We are a team, and she is totally on board.” 

Carla Shryock is also a character in the book, and accompanied her husband along with the couple’s adult son, Sam Shryock, on some of the cycling adventures. 

The book is chock-full of details and experiences from Shryock’s trips across the state. One overarching theme in the book is exploration: of the land, its history, its geology.Shryock’s love of cycling grew with each trip within Oregon and to places like New Zealand, Italy, and British Columbia. He realized experiencing the world on a bike is rather rewarding. 

“We saw the land and traversed its undulations. We heard the waters, smelled the fields, felt the breeze, and studied the sky,” Shryock wrote. “Our understanding of and appreciation for the land grew with each pedal stroke. We were mindful of our sense of place.” 

Dan Shryock, Patti Rogers, Eric Jacobson, Bob Cortright, and Robert Mansolillo pose together for a photo during a bike ride (Courtesy/Mischa O’Reilly)

Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 503-335-7790.

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Joe Siess is a reporter for Salem Reporter. Joe joined Salem Reporter in 2024 and primarily covers city and county government but loves surprises. Joe previously reported for the Redmond Spokesman, the Bulletin in Bend, Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born in Independence, MO, where the Oregon Trail officially starts, and grew up in the Kansas City area.