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Five routes to bicycle-friendly Jacksonville

The historic town of Jacksonville always is a great destination for cyclists, especially during the colder months. I recommend these five different routes to put a little distance on the legs and end up at a destination where you can get warm before you return home.

1. From Central Point, head west on Pine Street, which turns into Hanley Road on a sweeping left turn that bends southward. After about a mile, climb the short Hanley Hill (4-percent grade), descend the other side (5-percent grade) and continue past the Oregon State University Extension Office and on into Jacksonville. This route is 5.62 miles, one way, and averages 1-percent grade.

2. From central Medford, head west from Hawthorne Park on Main Street (Highway 238) for a fairly flat, easy ride (5.5 miles, average 1-percent grade). After passing through downtown Medford, this route follows the Don Stathos Bikeway through a tree-covered residential area, then into open farm land. Turn left at Bybee Corner onto Hanley Road and continue into Jacksonville.

3. From south Medford (Stewart and Oakdale), go west on Stewart Avenue, turn left on Hull Road, then right on Bellinger Lane. Toward the end of this ride there is a short climb (half mile, 8-percent grade) over Bellinger Hill then a rapid descent (5 percent) to South Stage Road. Turn right and you're minutes from Jacksonville (3-percent average, downhill grade). This route is four and a half miles, with an average 2-percent grade. If you don't want to go over the hill, turn right on Arnold Lane then left onto the Jacksonville Highway (Highway 238).

4. From Phoenix, I'd recommend the 9.5-mile route starting on Highway 99 and Fourth Street. Go west on Fourth Street, which turns into Houston Road. Turn right on Coleman Creek Road, then right onto Voorhies and left on South Stage. Follow South Stage all the way to Jacksonville. This rolling route offers an average of 2-percent uphill grade along the way with a moderate hill climb (seven-tenths of a mile, average 4-percent grade) over the southern end of Bellinger Hill and then a quick descent into Jacksonville.

5. From Ashland (South Valley View Road and Highway 99), take Highway 99 toward Talent, turn left on Talent Avenue and climb the short hill. Follow Talent Avenue through Talent. Turn left on Colver Road and continue on to Phoenix, then turn left on Houston Road and continue on as described in the Phoenix route. This route is 151/2; miles. The first nine miles, to South Stage Road, average 2-percent downhill grade and the next six miles, into Jacksonville, average a 2-percent uphill climb, but the last 1.25-miles is a coast into town.

All of these routes have wide shoulders or bike lanes. Jackson County sweeps the shoulders and bike lanes clean on occasion, but be cautious, as farm equipment from the fields and gravel from driveways can create debris on the shoulder strip. Also watch out for garbage cans left on the shoulders and vehicles exiting the many driveways along these routes.

The distances of these rides and the colder weather justify a well-deserved rest or snack in a warm place before a return trip. So give yourself some time to pause over a warm cup of soup, cocoa or java before returning. The Pony Espresso (the only place with a bike rack) on North 5th Street and the Good Bean Coffee Company, South Oregon Street, are warm and cozy and provide quick meals and a fine cup of espresso. The Thai House Restaurant, West California Street, serves very good Thai food. If you need a heavier meal, there are other fine places to get food and warm drinks within the historic-themed town.

Although these are rural country roads, they do get a considerable amount of traffic. So, ride safe and alert. During the winter months, you might encounter fog. Carry a blinking tail light so you are easily seen. Watch for icy spots on Bellinger Hill and other shaded spots along the way. Have a nice ride!

Bicycling enthusiast Bob Korfhage of Phoenix is a former president of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club.