City on Wheels

It takes a village of volunteers to set up and service Cycle Oregon sites
Jim Wilson, a volunteer with Cycle Oregon, helps set up at Southern Oregon University's recreation fields for the riders who will arrive in Ashland today after pedaling in from Prospect via Dead Indian Memorial Road.Jamie Lusch

The process of rounding up hundreds of volunteers, finding suitable tent sites, and countless other preparations to accommodate the about 2,200 cyclists riding with Cycle Oregon begins a couple years ahead of time, the organization's director, Jerry Norquist, said.

It's a well-kept secret, but the 2013 Cycle Oregon route already is set, and 2014 is well in the works, Norquist said, settling into camp outside Prospect, resting before today's ride to Ashland.

But for the organization's two site crews, who race ahead of the riders in automobiles to prepare the next retreat from the road, setting up for the mass arrival is a one-day rush.

Today, the riders will descend on Ashland, the only two-day layover on the 417-to-490-mile pedal trek winding its way through Southern Oregon since Sunday morning.

"We'll be ready for them," said volunteer Jim Wilson, preparing the Ashland camp site on Southern Oregon University's recreation and sports practice fields at the north end of campus.

Wilson, 57, a retired Postal Service worker from the Albany area, has been volunteering with Cycle Oregon since 2007, he said, because he enjoys the work and reward of seeing so many riders pull in tired and leave rested and ready.

Wilson is a part of Site Team B, one of two 12-person crews that leap-frog each other during the weeklong ride, breaking down and setting up the camp for cyclists and other support crews.

There are about 150 other volunteers who stay with the riders throughout the journey, monitoring roads, hauling luggage, handing out lunches and performing a slew of support services that have made Cycle Oregon the premier event it is today, in its 25th year.

Site Crew B's caravan started pouring into Ashland at about noon Tuesday and that's when work began.

This trip's hiccup: The truck hauling the dinner tent suffered a flat tire on the way to Ashland from Fort Klamath, where cyclists stayed Monday night, said six-year volunteer Tim Oyen.

It's only a delay, but it means the massive tent will have to be set up in half the time crews normally take, he said.

Oyen, a full-time PSU student and avid cyclist, said it's the logistics of making Cycle Oregon's traveling city work that keep him coming back year after year, not to mention the atmosphere and sightseeing along the way.

"We're basically the camp-planning team," Oyen said, pulling coolers out of the trailer. "There is always a lot of work we have to do, but we have fun doing it."

Riders should begin arriving in Ashland at about 3 p.m. today, after a coast down Dead Indian Memorial Road, which they will have to pedal back up on their way to Klamath Falls Friday.

Oyen said he'll likely take the opportunity today to click in and ride up to Mount Ashland for the optional ride, since he won't have to tear down camp until the next day.

Volunteer Miriam Steierman said the transformation of an empty field into a full-fledged tent city is one of the most impressive things about Cycle Oregon.

"I always love seeing the before and after," said Steierman, a bookkeeper from Portland. "It'll look quite a bit different once the cyclists move in."

In addition to the riders, bicycle service vans, massage and acupuncture stations, shower houses, cooking trailers, an on-the-move blog mobile home and other amenities will pack into the grassy fields at SOU.

Sometimes it's a cow- and horse-dung-filled pasture, Oyen said, which adds a little extra pickup work for crews.

"Either way, we always make it work," he said. "We're like one big family that's always on the move."

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

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