Another Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb in the books – 1.6 miles, 460 feet of climb, and lots of cyclist camaraderie.
I competed this year, and I beat my previous time (from 2011) by 2:30! (Granted, I was riding my new carbon road bike instead of my steel hybrid.)
Photo by Kay Grote
I’m mystified, though, why the turnout for this event is so low. Only 29 people competed this year, only 7 of which were women. (When there are prizes awarded for the top male and female in both road and mountain bike categories, those are pretty good odds for the ladies!)
I did meet a woman from Kansas who competed this year. I’m bummed I did not talk to her more and find out how she learned about the event. Her comment was that the air is pretty dry here. It is. A significant amount of “hill climb hack” could be heard during and after the event. But at least when you sweat, it cools you quickly.
Yes, it’s definitely a challenge. It’s all uphill. But if you take it slow and steady, it’s doable (remember: pole pole). And it’s in the cool of early morning on a scenic bluff.
I mean, really – how can you beat this scenery?!? Sure, the bluff looks intimidating, but the course goes up a paved road with an average grade of 5%.
For locals, it’s a great cardiovascular fitness tool to bike (or run or walk) up Summit Road on Scotts Bluff National Monument – before the road opens or after it closes to vehicle traffic (check the SBNM website for operating hours).
For out-of-towners, it’s a great time to visit, since there’s so much to do during Oregon Trail Days. (If you’re staying overnight, though – book early. Hotel rooms can get scarce.)
And now, a few photos from the day.
I biked from my house to the Monument, via the trail that runs across the property. I heard the calls of pheasant and goldfinch and western meadowlark. My shadow fell across fragrant sagebrush and yucca pods and Mexican hat wildflowers.
Yeah, I had to get out of bed early to get to the Monument by about 6:15 a.m. via bike from my home near downtown Scottsbluff, but the payoff is the exquisite quality of the morning light, which makes everything – including end-of-bloom showy milkweed – radiate a dreamy beauty.
I got a kick out of the contrast between the modern bike kits and the historic garb of the park rangers preparing for the Oregon Trail Days parade.
Bikes, make way! Here comes a wagon for the parade!
It’s easy to make a new friend while waiting in line for your time to start up the bluff. Riders are released at 30-second intervals. I could feel the adrenaline kick in when it was my turn to wait at the starting line for the beep.
Up top, everyone cheers on the rest of the riders. Once you’re up top (as a participant or spectator), you wait until everyone is done, as downhill traffic is prohibited for safety reasons during the race. There is water and snacks at the top as well as a portable toilet. And great views. If the air is clear, you can see Chimney Rock about 20 miles to the east and Laramie Peak about 100 miles to the west.
After the Hill Climb was over, I biked through Gering towards home, but took a detour into the Gering High School parking lot, which is the staging area for the Oregon Trail Days parade. I didn’t want to hang around in my bike kit until noon to watch the whole parade, but I wanted to see some of the floats. The GHS parking lot was my sneak preview.
Here was a part of the entry for Scotts Bluff National Monument – featuring a volunteer who would ride in full sun in the parade – in a suit! – portraying painter William Henry Jackson.
Paint away, Mr. Jackson! More on WHJ here.)
I just adored the Legacy of the Plains Museum float, which made great use of a bicycle “horse team” crafted for use in horse-driving training. It won first place in the historic float division.
A closeup of the mighty steampunk steed. Doesn’t show well in the photo, but the tumbleweeds on the float are painted a bronzy-gold.
How can you not appreciate the colorful Theater West float to promote its Willy Wonka production? It was crawling with Oompa Loompas, one of whom cried, “Wait! Wait! Let me put on my wig!” when I asked to take a picture.
Loved the color – and the chuckle – of the Old West Balloon Fest float. I guess there weren’t enough portable toilets during a portion of the rebooted festival last year.
After I left the parade grounds, I swung by the 18th Street Farmers Market before heading home for a shower and some slices of fresh cinnamon swirl bread. Yum!
Think this sounds like fun? Start making your plans for July 2017. I think it will be July 8 next year.
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except cyclist photo by Kay Grote