Tour de Lopez: cycling its way into summer

The 2008 Tour de Lopez sold out a month before its event date.

The 2008 Tour de Lopez sold out a month before its event date.

The annual bike tour of Lopez Island, which is non-competitive and open to all ages, has grown from a one-day event with several hundred people to a three-day community extravaganza with 850 riders coming to the island.

Now in its fifth year, Tour de Lopez is sponsored by the Lopez Chamber of Commerce and provides a portion of the funds needed to run the village restrooms. “In the one-day event we make enough profit to help keep the village restrooms open. Tour de Lopez pays for half the costs to maintain the restrooms and grounds for the year. That’s a huge factor in doing this,” said Becky Smith, a Chamber board member and organizer for the tour.

Another benefit of Tour de Lopez is the commerce it brings to the island. “Business-wise it’s increased our shoulder season with accommodations selling out and restaurant reservations increasing,” said Daren Holscher, who launched the first Tour de Lopez and still coordinates the event with Smith.

“A lot of people come Thursday through Sunday. The longer they’re here the more they are going to do in the community,” added Smith. She knows of at least one couple who bought property on the island after participating in the bike tour.

The Chamber has enjoyed involving community groups in Tour de Lopez, as the full list of island activities demonstrates. Over 60 volunteers help make the day a smooth endeavor, including firefighters and EMTs who monitor the routes. “When everyone is gone we get the island cleaned up in the same day,” said Holscher. Roads are not closed down for the tour, but car drivers are asked to be aware of the influx of bikers on the road.

As in previous years, there will be a mix of bicyclists from California, Oregon, Canada, and a handful from the East Coast. Families and couples from neighboring islands participate too: a large number of riders are coming from Friday Harbor.

There are three rest stops along the route with water and refreshments donated by local businesses. Lopez High School students are overseeing the Port Stanley School site, where photography students are taking digital photos of bicyclists that will be printed and ready for purchase by the lunch hour. They will also be selling postcards of island scenes. Lopez Grange is running the Shark Reef rest area, and the Lopez Lions Club will be at Agate Beach.

The weekend details are as follows.

Friday, April 25

Wine tasting and art show, 5-8 p.m. at the Port Stanley Schoolhouse. The evening will feature Lopez Vineyard wines, Bay Café appetizers, Just Heavenly Fudge samples, music by Hawk Arps, and the artwork of Christa Malay, jewelry by Tina Finneran, blown glass by Lark and Corrie Dalton, and metal works by Craig Withrow. This is also an early check-in for riders and the time to pick up pre-ordered t-Shirts and posters.

Live music and dancing at the Lopez Islander Resort, 9 p.m.

Saturday, April 26

The Tour de Lopez bicycle tour begins at 9:30 a.m. at Odlin Park. Check-in is required to pick up a lunch ticket and route map. Riders can enjoy a leisurely tour of the island, cruising into the Village Park for a Bay Café BBQ lunch from 1-3 p.m. The menu includes BBQ chicken with roasted corn relish, three salads, and delicious cookies. Anyone who is not participating in the tour can still attend the lunch for $15. The Randy Oxford Band will give a free concert in the park from 1-2 p.m.

Lopez Hospice and Home Support is presenting its poker ride/walk – the entry fee is $10. Pick up cards along the route of the bike tour or walk to participating businesses in the village. The highest poker hand wins two roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines and second place wins a $200 Bay Café gift certificate. Participants can register Friday night at the art show, during the check-in at Odlin Park, or at Islehaven Books. The winner will be announced at 3 p.m. in Village Park.

The Chamber is holding a raffle to raise funds for restoring the Water Tower in Village Park. The drawing will be at 3 p.m. The grand prize is a four-day Bicycle Adventures trip through the San Juans valued at $1800, plus other great prizes.

Jazz concert and dance at Lopez Center, 7:30 p.m., featuring the nationally acclaimed Randy Oxford Band. Advance tickets ($20) available at Lopez Center, Islehaven Books, Paper Scissors on the Rock or Blossom Organic Grocery and online at Proceeds support the Lopez School Music Advocacy Foundation.

Live dancing and music at Lopez Islander Resort, 9 p.m.

Sunday, April 27

Annual Pancake Breakfast by the Lions Club, 9-1 p.m. Come to the Lopez School Multipurpose Room to enjoy a great breakfast and support the Lopez Lions Club; $5 per person, $10 per family.