Cycle Oregon base camp: Umatilla

[Editor’s note: I wrote this last night but couldn’t get on the web until now.]

Cycle Oregon Day 0 Umatilla

[Where’s my bag?]

So here I am in McNary Dam State Park, Umatilla Oregon. I’ve never been this far out into the Gorge. I feel like I’m out on the frontier.

It’s Day 0 of the 19th annual Cycle Oregon and the sounds, sights and scope of this whole operation are overwhelming.

Thousands of people are settling into this temporary compound; 2000 riders, hundreds of volunteers, vendors, staff, it’s like a tiny nation-state in the middle of nowhere. Generators and refrigerated trucks hum incessantly and riders are like bees in a honeycomb, busily setting up their tents and fidgeting with their huge bags of gear.

Cycle Oregon Day 0 Umatilla

[The tent farm]

The camp itself has been laid out with military precision. Each section has its purpose; the main stage, the vendors area, tent farm, porta-potties, beer garden and so on. Amazingly, somehow it all comes together (even though the stiff wind has been trying to blow everything apart). Everyone (it seems) is happy and that’s really all that matters. And hey, what’s not to love; we’re about to embark on a seven day riding adventure through some of the most gorgeous country in, well, the country.

But before we start, there’s Umatilla base camp.

Standing guard over camp is the Smith family. I noticed this trio of gunslingers standing by the bike corral and found out that they’re all related; dad Rob, son Trevor and grandpa Mark. Rob’s great-great Grandpa was a real-life Sherriff in North Dakota back in the 1800s. And yes, the guns are loaded (with confetti).

[Don’t mess with the Smith boys.]

Bike Gallery is here in a big way. They’ve got a retail store set up, but the product mix has been tailored a bit for Cycle Oregon; toothbrushes and motrin are their best sellers.

Cycle Oregon Day 0 Umatilla

Cycle Oregon’s main mission is to support the small towns they travel through. On that note, they’ve got a community market area that features local vendors and organizations selling foods and crafts. These cute kids from a local elementary school were selling nice, big Hermiston watermelon for $1 per slice.

But I didn’t want to fill up with watermelon, because I noticed the grilling machine going full tilt. What’s a grilling machine? The caterers have this custom-made trailer that can grill 1,000 New York steaks at one time. It’s essentially a conveyor belt and the steaks go ’round-and-’round, dipping themselves in a vat of marinade with each rotation. Vegetarians, avert your eyes…

Cycle Oregon Day 0 Umatilla

And of course what ride would be complete without an accupuncurist on hand? Yep, that’s right, I battled the chi in my knees and got my first treatment.

It’s about 4:30 now and the beer garden is filling up. They’ve got some live music lined up and I better go or I won’t get a good seat. I think I’ll go check it out.

Tomorrow we ride 65 miles. I can’t wait.

[See more photos in my photo gallery from Base Camp in Umatilla.]

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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17 years ago

the picture shows a funny mix of fit people and people thinking “shit look at all these fit people.”