2016 OTD Hill Climb

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.)

rider 24

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.

sbnm

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.

shadow

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.

milkweed flower

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.

prairie woman

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.

wagon

Bikes, make way! Here comes a wagon for the parade!

down below

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

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.

sbnm float

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.

william henry jackson

Paint away, Mr. Jackson! More on WHJ here.)

legacy float

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.

horse closeup

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.

oompa loompas

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.

balloon fest

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

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Wyobraska bike events 2016

Given that there seems to be a proliferation of bicycling events in the Wyobraska region of late, I wanted to start a list page for folks seeking such info. Let me know of additional events I need to add.

For a list of local bike events and Western Nebraska Bicycling Club events, as well as non-local events WNBC club members are attending, see the group Google calendar.

Y Not Ride community ride starts at the Scottsbluff Y.

Y Not Ride community ride starts at the Scottsbluff Y.

Saturday, May 7, 2016
Y Not Ride, community road/path ride
Scottsbluff
This is a casual and family-friendly season-opener ride sponsored by the Scottsbluff Y. Route options include 3, 9, 28, and 54 miles. This is a supported ride with SAG vehicles and snack stops. The shorter routes are on bike path and bike lanes in town and cost $5 ($15 max per family). The longer routes are primarily on inter-community highways cost $10 ($30 max per family). All routes start and end at the Scottsbluff Y. April 18 registration deadline to guarantee a t-shirt ($11 short-sleeve or $13 long-sleeve). Otherwise, you can register at 7 a.m. the day of the ride, which starts at 8 a.m. Registration forms available at the Y or register online.

Sunday, May 22, 2016
Robidoux Quick & Dirty, gravel grinder race / recreational gravel ride [inaugural year!]
Gering
This is a race on rural, mostly gravel roads, but casual riders are welcome as well. Just be aware that, like most gravel grinder races, this ride is minimally supported. Also note: this course is not flat! There is over 4,000 feet of climb on the full race route. Registration for the 75-mile race is $55 and must be completed online by May 1. Registration for the 28-mile recreational ride is $20 on May 21, the day of packet checkin. Riders must check in Saturday, May 21, at the meet-and-greet, 4-7 p.m. at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Both rides begin with a rolling start from Five Rocks Amphitheater, which is also the finish line. There is a cap of 200 riders. To register and for more info, see the event website.

Sunday-Monday, July 3-4, 2016
Tour de La Grange, overnight road tour
Mitchell
This ride, organized by the Mitchell Evangelical Free Church, is a supported out-and-back ride on paved roads from Mitchell to La Grange, Wyoming, about 55 miles per day. Sunday night tent camping in a park or a dormitory stay – enjoy the fireworks and ice cream social. Gear transport and meals will be available. Registration cost $35. For information see the event Facebook page or the church website.

Early morning registration at the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb.

Early morning registration at the Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb.

Saturday, July 9, 2016
Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb, road time trial
Gering
Racers in this perennial Oregon Trail Days event will ascend to the top of Scotts Bluff National Monument on the paved 1.6-mile Summit Road (average 5% grade). Registration opens at 6 a.m., and riders are released one at a time beginning at 7 a.m. There are road bike and mountain bike divisions for men and women. Cost is $20. Preregister by July 1 to guarantee a shirt. There is a cap of 90 riders. For more information, see the event website.

A rider southbound on Highway 71 passes through gorgeous High Plains scenery enroute from Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

A Monument to Monument Y Not Challenge Ride participant passes through gorgeous late-summer High Plains scenery enroute from Agate Fossil Beds National Monument to Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Saturday, September 10, 2016
Y Not Ride Challenge, aka Monument to Monument, road ride
Gering
This is the Scottsbluff Y’s season-closing challenge ride. Route options include 50 and 100 miles – ride from Scotts Bluff National Monument to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument and back (100 miles), or use the shuttle and bike trailer service to ride one-way only (50 miles), either to Agate or to Scotts Bluff. This is a supported ride with a SAG vehicle with snacks/water. Sandwiches are served at Agate for participants between 10:30-noon. There are hills on this scenic paved rural highway route, most of which has no shoulder. Riders on the 100-mile and “to-Agate” 50-mile route leave Scotts Bluff National Monument at 7 a.m. Riders on the “to-Scotts-Bluff” 50-mile route leave Scotts Bluff National Monument on the bus at 10 a.m. (please arrive by 9 a.m. to load your bike). For up-to-date information about the event and registration, see the event website.

Oregon Trail Days Hill Climb 2015

Bugman and I got up early on Saturday morning and headed to Scotts Bluff National Monument to help out with the 2015 Oregon Trail Days Bicycle Hill Climb.

As usual, the scenery was divine in the early morning light.

There was also this interesting addition to the backdrop of the bluffs. I thought the truck was destined for the OTD parade later that morning, but I didn't see it. I guess this is just someone's car???

There was also this interesting addition to the backdrop of the bluffs. I thought the truck was destined for the OTD parade later that morning, but I didn’t see it. I guess this is just someone’s car???

This was the first year that members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club were organizing the event, having taken it over from previous volunteers.

Those orange WNBC shirts really stand out!

Those orange WNBC shirts really stand out!

I also have to give props to the staff members at Scotts Bluff National Monument – they were so wonderfully helpful.

They arrive extra-early to make sure the road would be safe for the bikers and took a sweeper to the road to clean up a bit of rock that had crumbled onto the road overnight.

They arrived extra-early to make sure the road would be safe for the bikers and took a sweeper up to clear off a bit of rock that had crumbled onto the road overnight.

I was glad to see some out-of-area cyclists signing up in addition to the locals.

registrationOne of the cool things about this time-trial ride (up 1.6 miles with an average grade of 5%) is that both hardcore and casual cyclists are welcome. There are some seriously fit riders who can hammer up the bluff in less than 7 minutes, and there are others who do it just to see if they can make it to the top. (I counted myself in the latter category when I completed the ride in 2010 and 2011.)

Bugman and I were assigned to the cheering section for the hill climb, as previously people have commented that the race course was kind of quiet.

Having ridden the bluff several times, we knew that the best place to station ourselves was probably just after the third tunnel, where the road starts to seem never-ending. We could advise the riders that there were “only four more curves to the top.”

We were offered a couple of cowbells to cheer with. I was a little dubious about this, as I considered it a bit early in the morning for cowbell, and it almost seemed sacrilegious to shatter the early stillness of the bluffs with all that clanging. At least some of the riders later said they appreciated it, though.

After the first few riders, we settled on a cowbell rhythm, which seemed much more tolerable than random clanging.

Bugman is also a percussionist (he's played drums in a few orchestras, garage bands, and big bands), so rhythm comes naturally to him. I just followed his lead.

Bugman is also a percussionist (he’s played drums in a few orchestras, garage bands, and big bands), so rhythm comes naturally to him. I just followed his lead.

I took a photo of nearly every rider who came up the bluff past the third tunnel. (If you rode and want your picture, drop me a line with your rider number and I’ll send you your picture.) Here’s one of the better photos I got:

Crowd favorite and perennial Hill Climb participant Joe Lichius, 74, won his category with a time of 25:33.

Crowd favorite and perennial Hill Climb participant Joe Lichius, 74, won his category with a time of 25:33.

Results for the 2015 event are here.

This hill climb is definitely a challenge (I heard a lot of “sprinter’s hack” after the event), but you can’t beat the scenery, and the camaraderie is pretty great, too. We were glad to be a part of it again this year on the volunteer side.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw