SUNNYSIDE — Sunday morning dawned with perfect cycling weather if one likes cloudy overcast skies and cooler temperatures.
There was the bonus that this time of year, the air is filled with the harvest smells of ripe grapes, hops and apples all blending to tantalize the senses.
“Riding the backroads of the county is like being in one long aromatherapy session,” described Dave Paulson, organizer for the annual Harvest 100 Century Ride.
Despite the overcast skies and a chance of rain, the more than 35 cyclists double checked their gear, filled up water bottles and eagerly waited for Paulson to lead their 100-mile tour.
“The group is combining their passion for cycling with the desire to see where the hopyards, vineyards and orchards that create the patchwork of the Lower Yakima Valley agriculture scene,” explained Lance Reeve of the Bearded Monkey Brewery of Yakima.
He sat out this year’s 100-mile trek, saying last year’s event was held in the upper valley area, starting at Bale Breaker Brewery in Yakima.
This year, thanks to Paulson, the ride began and ended at Varietal Beer Company with each rider given a free beer token.
“Harvest 100 is really a ride for the cyclist who is passionate about his sport,” elucidated Reese. “It’s also an opportunity to see what is available to do in the Yakima Valley,” he added.
“Our agriculture scene is really under-valued as a form of tourism,” Reeves explained, a point Stephanie Gangle, of the Yakima Valley Tourism Office echoed.
“Agri-tourism is fast becoming one of the fastest growing reason for coming to the Yakima Valley,” she said Monday night.
“We get a lot of requests from travel writers, as well as various groups looking for an unique way to tour the valley,” Gangle commented. “More and more of the growers in our area were adding tours of their facilities as a part of the farming experience.”
“We don’t talk about the rides that are easy,” Reeves remarked. “When we recall our favorite rides over a beer, it’s the ones with a few obstacles that we cherish.”