Cloud ride at Scotts Bluff National Monument

This morning’s ride was magical.

As I pedaled through Gering for an early ride up Scotts Bluff National Monument before it opened to car traffic, I could see the top of the bluff peeking up out of a fog bank.

When I got closer to the bluff, I plunged in and out of the mist draped across the landscape, in full sun one moment, in shadow the next.

On my journey up Summit Road, I had to stop a couple of times to take pictures.

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Panoramic shot at the beginning of the ride.

sun fog bluff

The scenery in front of the sun fighting through the mist tumbling across the bluff was otherworldly.

grass and fog

Closer to the top, the fog started to break up a bit.

As I neared a final turn, a ray of sunshine broke through and illuminated the fog particles as they rode a turbulent wind gust, around and around and down.

I paused in the parking lot up top to capture the wind in motion, made visible by the fog.

I took a short hike to an overlook, hoping the fog would break up and I could get an amazing shot of the bluff tops hovering above the clouds. Alas, the fog thickened.

Here’s an example of what I had hoped to see, from a photo posted August 6, 2015, on the Scotts Bluff National Monument Facebook page:

SBNM Aug 6 2015 fog

Photo credit: Scotts Bluff National Monument

The fog-filtered light atop the bluff – illumination without shadow – made the flora growing there seem distinct, distinguished.

cloudy sunlight

yellow flower

On my cautious, wet-brake descent, I stopped to take pictures of the tunnels. It was a little eerie looking to the side of the road and seeing nothing but cloud, easy to imagine being at a much greater height than I actually was.

summit road tunnel b

summit road tunnel a

So glad I decided on an early morning training ride today. What a way to start the week!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except photo credited to Scotts Bluff National Monument

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.

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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

Y Not Ride, community ride 2016

This year’s Y Not Ride community ride was a bit challenging. There was a stiff breeze out of the east (25 MPH sustained, gusting to 35-40), and there was wildfire smoke from Canada, and some folks on the 54-mile route got caught in rain showers, but it was still a great kickoff to the cycling season. I appreciate all the volunteers & sponsors who make it happen! Thanks as well to the Bayard Depot Museum and Scotts Bluff National Monument for serving as rest stops!

A few pictures from the ride:

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A Western Nebraska Bicycling Club member passes us on our tandem. The fact that the smoke from the sugar factory stack in the background is going horizontal gives an indication of the wind.

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Cattle sloshing around in a marshy area. Note how hazy the air is. That wasn’t moisture. It was wildlife smoke. As the day went along, the smell of smoke got stronger and the density of smoke particles got thicker.

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The wildfire / air quality map from that morning, from airnow.gov.

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Hooray for the SAG volunteers! Also, hooray for the fact that this was our turn on the 28-mile route, and we could quit bucking the wind! (I do much prefer to have a headwind on the way out, when I’m fresher, so a wind out of the east wasn’t the worst thing in the world.)

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More cattle. The babies gamboling on the greenery were so fun to watch!

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Approaching the overpass bridge in Gering, you can just baaarely make out the outline of Scotts Bluff National Monument in the distance. Darned smoke! *koff koff*

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Rolling through Gering, 53 degrees, pushed along by the same wind pulling the flags out horizontal.

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A touch of sun illuminates the smoke-blurred bluffs.

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At the Scotts Bluff National Monument rest stop. I was rather wishing I’d brought my jacket as this point. Kind of chilly. But we were almost home! (Photo courtesy of water station volunteer.)

I’m looking forward to the end-of-season “Monument to Monument” Y Not Ride challenge ride in September! (Note: the M2M ride is a great supported 50- or 100-mile ride for out-of-towners who want to see two National Monument properties and some gorgeous High Plains scenery. Keep in mind, while it’s the “plains,” it’s not flat.)

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

 

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.

A new gravel bike race in Wyobraska

I’m proud to see how western Nebraska is getting into the “fun fitness” scene. First, it was the Monument Marathon starting in 2012. Now, it’s the area’s first “gravel grinder” bike race, the Robidoux Quick & Dirty, debuting this spring, May 22, 2016, shepherded along by members of the Western Nebraska Bicycling Club.

The RQ&D is a 75-mile bike race that’ll be run primarily on gravel roads (88% gravel, 12% asphalt) in the Wildcat Hills area of Scotts Bluff County in western Nebraska, which is just a 3-hour drive from Denver, CO, or Rapid City, SD. This is in the most scenic western part of the state, so it is not a flat ride (about 4,000 feet of climb), and it’s also at an elevation of about 4,000 feet.

I’ve not gone out and ridden the course myself, but I do have photos I took while I was in the race territory for other reasons in past years.

From A visit to one of the newer public lands in Western Nebraska:

hey

There are a lot of turkeys in them thar hills.

landscape

Typical piney ridge in the Wildcat Hills.

cow-calf

This is open range. Gotta watch that!

The route goes right past the parking areas for Carter Canyon Ranch, and also for Montz Point Ranch and Bead Mountain Ranch, as well as passing through Scotts Bluff National Monument.

From Monument Marathon and its western Nebraska scenery (the bike race shares a few portions of the course with the marathon):

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The path of the old Oregon Trail through Mitchell Pass is in part under the road going through Scotts Bluff National Monument.

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This nasty little hill comes just after a peaceful circumnavigation of a historic cemetery.

From Views from a hike:

sunset-no-tresspassing

Yes, there is a portion of the RQ&D race that traverses private land. The landowners have given permission for riders to enter the property ON THE DAY OF THE RACE ONLY. Please respect what is effectively someone’s ranch yard – don’t ride this section of race other than on the day of the event. If anyone abuses this privilege, it will likely be revoked in the future.

This is really beautiful countryside to ride through. I much prefer to see it from a bike saddle than from a car window. You really get a feel for the place from a bike.

A few more details:

While this is a race and you can win prize money, much like the Monument Marathon the RQ&D also welcomes people who simply want to go out for a challenge and complete the course.

Unlike the Monument Marathon, which has a lot of on-course support, this bike race is designed for participants to be a lot more self-sufficient. There are a couple of water stops, but this ride is on rural county roads, and you’ll be on your own for a lot of the time. Pack supplies in on your bike (and pack out your trash, too). You also have to obey traffic signs (unless a course marshal flags you through), and you need an odometer on your bike, to help you navigate on this out-in-the-boonies race and to prove you’re not cutting corners. No non-rider family/friends allowed out there for course support, either.

Race day: Sunday, May 22, 2016, 8 a.m. start

Packet pickup: Saturday, May 21, 2016

Registration: open until May 1 or limit of 200 riders, whichever comes first

Fee: nonrefundable $55

For more information and to register, check out the race website here: Robidoux Quick & Dirty.

Happy trails!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

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

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

I’ve already taken it upon myself to do blog posts about the highlights of the Monument Marathon course (in 2012, the first year of the race) and a mile-by-mile accounting of the course (in 2013). What more can I do to persuade people that the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska is The Place To Be?

How about a Top Ten list?

OK, here are:

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Run the Monument Marathon in western Nebraska

10. Unique division awards.

If you are fast enough to win a division award (and your chances are better here, with a smaller race field), you don’t get a generic plaque – you get a piece of original artwork from a western Nebraska artist! Photographer Rick Myers and painter Yelena Khanevskaya have been lending their talents to the race these past few years. Here are some examples of their work that have portions of the race course as their subject:

This Rick Myers picture was cropped from an image on his Facebook page.

This Rick Myers picture was cropped from an image on his Facebook page. Both the full and half marathon participants will run on this road through Mitchell Pass.

This image of a watercolor by Yelena Khanevskaya is one of many available on her website yelena-khanevskaya.squarespace.com

This image of a watercolor by Yelena Khanevskaya is one of many on her website. This view is of Mitchell Pass from the opposite direction of Rick Myers’ photo.

9. Convenience.

The race Expo and pre-race pasta feed is at the Gering Civic Center, just blocks from the race site.  There is ample, free parking at the race finish at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Half marathoners start and finish right there at the amphitheater. Full marathoners get a free shuttle bus to the race start and gear drop service. It’s easy to find your way around this small community, and it’s only a 3-hour drive from the major gateway cities of Denver, Colorado, and Rapid City, South Dakota.

The sunrise was incredible on Year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012. Here was the shuttle bus that year, in the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, ready to take full marathoners to their race start in the Wildcat Hills.

The sunrise was incredible on Year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012. Here was the shuttle bus that year, in the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, ready to take full marathoners to their race start in the Wildcat Hills.

8. History.

You will literally be running in the footsteps of westbound pioneers, as portions of the full and half marathon courses traverse the Oregon Trail, near where Mark Twain encountered a Pony Express rider. You will pass the gates of two neighboring history museums as well: Legacy of the Plains Museum and the Oregon Trail Museum and Visitor Center at Scotts Bluff National Monument (the latter is a National Park site, so if you have a National Park passport, you can add another stamp to your collection!).

This map, from the website of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is right on the Monument Marathon course, shows some selected historical sites in the North Platte River Valley, which has been a transportation corridor for centuries. (It also shows the distance between Gering and selected cities.)

This map, from the website of the Legacy of the Plains Museum, which is right on the Monument Marathon course, shows some selected historical sites in the North Platte River Valley, which has been a transportation corridor for centuries. (It also shows the distance between Gering and selected cities.)

7. Field size.

The Monument Marathon is a small race, with around 500 participants total between the full and half marathon courses. You won’t have to worry about elbowing your way through a crowded field.

At the 2013 race, the field was small enough that the half marathon winner didn't even have anyone on his tail in the chute. Leaders from race title sponsor Platte Valley Companies hold the finisher tape. The community support for this race is wonderful!

At the 2013 race, the field was small enough that the half marathon winner didn’t even have anyone on his tail in the chute. Leaders from race title sponsor Platte Valley Companies hold the finisher tape. The community support for this race is wonderful!

6. Unique race swag.

Each participant will receive a wicking race shirt and a swag bag, which in past years has included such goodies as a bag of locally-grown beans and a cookbook. Your participant medal is shaped like the state of Nebraska and, because we are practical folk, your medal can also be used as a bottle opener. The design of the race medal changes every year – collect them all!

Here is the half marathon finisher medal from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

Here is the half marathon finisher medal from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

5. Charity.

Your registration dollars help support a good cause. Unlike so many marathons and half marathons these days that are operated by commercial interests, the Monument Marathon is coordinated by community organizations and volunteers in support of the Western Nebraska Community College Foundation. The Monument Marathon has helped to raise $150,000 for scholarships.

Here's a screen grab from a THANK YOU video the WNCC Foundation assembled. Your participation in the Monument Marathon helps students like these.

Here’s a screen grab from a THANK YOU video the WNCC Foundation assembled. Your participation in the Monument Marathon helps students like these.

4. Tourism opportunities.

While there are plenty of attractions to visit while you are here, the area remains off the beaten path, so you don’t have to fight the crowds. See here for my personal list of Top 10 Reasons to Come to Western Nebraska. See here for official Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau information, here for Gering tourism info, and here for information about the wider western Nebraska area.

There's no way I could decide which image to use of the tourism opportunities here: museums, hiking, bluffs, a CCC-built inland lighthouse . . . so, here's the logo of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau!

There’s no way I could decide which image to use of the tourism opportunities here: museums, hiking, bluffs, a CCC-built inland lighthouse . . . so, here’s the logo of the Scotts Bluff Area Visitors Bureau!

And to represent the things you can do here (cycle, golf, stroll by the river, fish): the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau logo.

And to represent the things you can do here (cycle, golf, stroll by the river, fish): the Gering Convention and Visitors Bureau logo.

3. The scenery.

People who have never been here before sometimes don’t believe it, but there is some seriously gorgeous topography out this way.

There are a thousand beautiful images I could have chosen to represent western Nebraska scenery, but I decided to go with this one - it's a view from the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, where the race ends. Even the parking lot of the race has great scenery!

There are a thousand beautiful images I could have chosen to represent western Nebraska scenery, but I decided to go with this one – it’s a view from the parking lot of Five Rocks Amphitheater, where the race ends. Even the parking lot of the race has great scenery!

2. Top-notch organization.

The Monument Marathon is a well-organized affair, with numerous experienced runners on the race crew and a professional timing company to assist with the chip-timed race. The entire community is involved and invested in the race, which means we have great coordination with local leaders, businesses, law enforcement, and transportation officials. (Case in point: The local Nebraska Department of Roads project manager made sure to include a stipulation in their summer highway construction contract to ensure that roads will be open for race – without the race director even having to ask them to!)

Community EMS volunteers from multiple agencies come out early and support the entire race to ensure everyone has a safe race. Did you know? There is even a relay tower placed on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument during the event to ensure clear EMS radio communication.

Community EMT volunteers from multiple agencies come out early and support the entire race to ensure everyone has a safe race. Did you know there is even a relay tower placed on top of Scotts Bluff National Monument during the event to ensure clear EMT radio communication?

1. Small-town hospitality.

Western Nebraska is the kind of place where residents will greet you with genuine friendliness. We tend to go out of our way to make sure you have a good experience so you will tell your friends about us and come back for a repeat visit yourself. Hundreds of community volunteers will assist and cheer for you on race day. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures of course volunteers and cheerleaders.

The drizzle on year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012 didn't dissuade this racing fan!

The drizzle on year 1 of the Monument Marathon in 2012 didn’t dissuade this racing fan!

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers sang encouragement songs to runners as they came up a final hill on the Monument Marathon half/full course in 2013.

The Pine Ridge Agency Singers sang encouragement songs to runners as they came up a final hill on the Monument Marathon half/full course in 2013.

An Elmo balloon photobombs these colorful race fans from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

An Elmo balloon photobombs these colorful course marshals / race fans from the 2014 Monument Marathon.

If you don’t quite trust the wonderful things I’m saying about the Monument Marathon (yeah, I’m a bit biased, since I’m on the planning crew), check out the reviews and blog posts from runners who have actually run the race.

Sign up today! You’ll make the race director’s heart happy. 🙂

Made it 15, anyway

I was supposed to run 18 miles this weekend, decided to shoot for 13 because of muscle pain, but wound up being able to tolerate 15.5. Granted, it was a very slow 15.5, but distance is distance, no matter how slow!

It’s still a mystery to me the variables that affect my running.

I suppose my pace was slowed a little because of the scenery. Sometimes you just have to stop and take a photo.

Me and Bugman, on a Scotts Bluff National Monument pathway. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming and that I truly live only 5 miles from scenery this beautiful.

Me and Bugman, on a Scotts Bluff National Monument pathway. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be sure I am not dreaming and that I truly live only 5 miles from scenery this beautiful.

We weren't the only ones tackling Mitchell Pass on the Oregon Trail that day. At the crest of the hill in this photo is another runner - behind him, a cyclist. This is part of the course for the Monument Marathon (and half), which will be held Sept. 18 this year. Registration deadline is Sept. 15!! Check it out here.

We weren’t the only ones tackling Mitchell Pass on the Oregon Trail that day. At the crest of the hill in this photo is a tiny dot that is actually another runner – behind him, a cyclist. This is part of the course for the Monument Marathon (and half), which will be held Sept. 28 this year. Registration deadline is Sept. 15!!

An ornate box turtle!! First one I've seen! Found this little guy on the canal road north of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

An ornate box turtle!! First one I’ve seen! Found this little guy on the canal road north of Scotts Bluff National Monument.

In my last post, I had commented about preserving summer produce. Here is what I did with some of that produce, which tasted really, really, really, really good after running 15.5 miles:

Homemade waffles made with locally-grown wheat flour that is coarse ground and kind of crunchy, topped with butter and stewed garden tomatoes (no additives, just cooked-down tomato goodness), topped with shredded Meadowlark goat cheddar from Victory Hill Farm, plus basil from the garden. A friend suggested this type of savory waffle, and, boy, was it scrumptious!

Homemade waffles made with locally-grown wheat flour that is coarse ground and kind of crunchy, topped with butter and stewed garden tomatoes (no additives, just cooked-down tomato goodness), topped with shredded Meadowlark goat cheddar from Victory Hill Farm, plus basil from the garden. A friend suggested this type of savory waffle, and, boy, was it scrumptious!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycling the Monument Marathon course

I am a member of a  dedicated planning crew for the Monument Marathon in Gering-Scottsbluff, Nebraska.

Last year, the first year of the race, Bugman and I rode our commuter bikes on one of several rides necessary to certify the course through USA Track & Field. I took that opportunity to take pictures and write a blog post about the course: Monument Marathon and its Western Nebraska Scenery. I did a short writeup after the event, too: Inaugural Monument Marathon in the books.

Now that Bugman and I are riding a tandem long distances, I figured we ought to do a Monument Marathon ride. Since on my first cycle tour of the course I picked and chose the most interesting or illustrative views, I decided that this time I would document the course in a more objective fashion by taking a picture every half mile.

“That’s going to be a lot of pictures,” Bugman said.

Yep. At 26.2 miles, two pictures per mile = 52 pictures.

But my first post on the marathon course contained 62 images. It’s pretty countryside! It needs to be documented and shared!

Bugman and I biked up to the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, cooled off for a little while, then headed out on the course. I turned on my GPS audio cues and took pictures every half-mile, give or take the distance crossed while I fumbled with my camera.

Here are the results of our efforts:

mile 0

Mile 0: looking west/southwest. Wildcat Hills Nature Center parking lot. Paved surface.

Mile 0.5

Mile 0.5: looking north / downhill. Highway 71. Paved surface.

Oops! Missed mile 1.0 – the wind was whistling so loudly on the downhill I didn’t hear my GPS.

mile 1 point 5

Mile 1.5: looking east. Homes in the Wildcat Hills. Paved surface.

mile 2

Mile 2: looking east. Paved surface.

mile 2 point 5
Mile 2.5: looking east/southest. Paved surface.
mile 3

Mile 3: looking west into Gering Valley. Paved surface.

mile 3 point 5
Mile 3.5: looking west. Paved surface.
mile 4

Mile 4: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 4 point 5
Mile 4.5: looking west. Paved surface.
mile 5

Mile 5: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 5 point 5

Mile 5.5: looking east. Paved surface.

mile 6

Mile 6: looking south. This is on Sandberg Road, after the turn off Highway 71. Paved surface.

mile 6 point 5

Mile 6.5: looking east. Hard to see in the photo, but there is a tractor on the road up ahead. Luckily, he turned off the road before we caught up with him. Paved surface.

mile 7

Mile 7: looking north. Paved surface.

mile 7 point 5

Mile 7.5: looking south. Gering Valley (irrigation) Drain. Paved surface.

mile 8

Mile 8: looking northwest. The turn from Sandberg Road to Lockwood Road. Paved surface.

mile 8 point 5

Mile 8.5: looking west over a corn field to Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

mile 9

Mile 9: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 9 point 5

Mile 9.5: looking east. This might have been the place where there was a junkyard on the west side. Editorial decision to face east for the photo. Paved surface.

mile 10

Mile 10: looking northwest at the turn into Gering. Paved surface.

mile 10 point 5

Mile 10.5: looking north. The race’s entry into Gering is via an industrial area. Paved surface.

mile 11

Mile 11: looking south. Paved surface.

Mile 11.5: looking northwest towards the Oregon Trail Park ballfields

Mile 11.5: looking northwest towards the Oregon Trail Park ballfields. Paved surface.

mile 12

Mile 12: looking northwest at the turn from a residential neighborhood onto Five Rocks Road. Paved surface.

Mile 12.5: looking east, back over my shoulder at the 4-way-stop intersection of Five Rocks Road and M Street / Old Oregon Trail. The measurement point was at the intersection, but I was too busy paying attention to traffic to take a picture.

Mile 12.5: looking east, back over my shoulder at the 4-way-stop intersection of Five Rocks Road and M Street / Old Oregon Trail. The measurement point was at the intersection, but I was too busy paying attention to traffic to take a picture. There are some late-1800s pictures of this road early in Gering’s development. Before it was a city street, it was a part of the Oregon Trail. Pony Express riders traveled this path, too. Paved surface.

Mile 13: looking south down the tree-lined drive to the Gering cemetery

Mile 13: looking south down the tree-lined drive to the Gering cemetery. Paved surface.

Bugman and I stopped for a break at Legacy of the Plains Museum / Farm And Ranch Museum, so our mile markers will likely be a little off from this point forward on account of the distance traveled in the museum parking lot.

Bugman and I stopped for a break at Legacy of the Plains Museum, so our mile markers will likely be a little off from this point forward on account of the distance traveled in the museum parking lot.

Mile 13.5: looking northwest at some property belonging to the Legacy of the Plains Museum / Farm And Ranch Museum, with Scotts Bluff National Monument in the background.

Mile 13.5: looking northwest at some property belonging to the Legacy of the Plains Museum, with Scotts Bluff National Monument in the background. Paved surface.

Mile 14: looking northwest at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Gosh, the yucca bloom are striking this year!

Mile 14: looking northwest at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

Mile 14.5: looking north. Perfect timing to catch the pioneer wagon and "oxen" on the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument.

Mile 14.5: looking north. Perfect timing to catch the pioneer wagon and “oxen” on the Oregon Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

Mile 15: looking north. Over the hump of Mitchell Pass.

Mile 15: looking north. Paved surface.

Mile 15.5: looking northwest

Mile 15.5: looking northwest. Paved surface.

mile 16

Mile 16: looking northeast. I *love* that some people around here still raise longhorn cattle. Paved surface.

mile 16 point 5

Mile 16.5: looking east. Paved surface.

mile 17

Mile 17: looking west. In that clump of trees is the charming Barn Anew B&B. Paved surface.

mile 17 point 5

Mile 17.5: looking west. Paved surface.

mile 18

Mile 18: looking south across a field of young sugar beet plants on Ridgeway Drive. Mitchell Pass is on the left of the frame (which was back at about mile 14.5). Gravel surface.

mile 18 point 5

Mile 18.5: looking south? southwest? Gravel surface.

mile 19

Mile 19: looking south from the irrigation canal road. The route from about mile 19 to about mile 22.5 is on a dirt-and-gravel private road on Scotts Bluff National Monument property that is primarily used for irrigation canal maintenance. It was pretty difficult to navigate a tandem on, since the surface varies from small gravel to large gravel to packed dirt to loose, sandy soil with the occasional tire ruts. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 19 point 5

Mile 19.5: looking south at a prairie dog colony across the irrigation canal. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 20

Mile 20: looking south. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 20 point 5

Mile 20.5: looking south. I think it was somewhere around this point that we hit a patch of loose soil and I wound up planting a hand on the ground. This surface is OK to run on – you just have to pay attention, but in places it’s not OK for a 350-pound tandem-with-riders on two thin road tires. We walked the bike for a bit. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 21

Mile 21: looking south at the north face of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 21 point 5

Mile 21.5: looking north towards the badlands as Bugman walks the tandem through another sandy patch. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 22

Mile 22: looking northeast across a pasture towards the edge of a neighborhood of mobile homes. Gravel/dirt surface.

mile 22 point 5

Mile 22.5: looking southwest at the neighborhood around the Monument Shadows golf course. Paved surface.

mile 23

Mile 23: looking west at Scotts Bluff National Monument from a bike path. Paved surface.

mile 23 point 5

Mile 23.5: looking west from the bike path. Paved surface.

mile 24

Mile 24: looking south from the U Street Pathway at the Gering bale facility (the processing center for the municipal landfill). Paved surface.

mile 24 point 5

Mile 24.5: looking west from Five Rocks Road. Paved surface.

mile 25

Mile 25: looking south on Meadowlark Boulevard – part of a zigzag through a neighborhood. Paved surface.

mile 25 point 5

Mile 25.5: looking west from the tree-lined cemetery road across a bean field towards the south bluff of Scotts Bluff National Monument. Paved surface.

mile 26

Mile 26: looking west – just before the cruel twist of landscape referred to among the race planners as “Devils’ Dip” or “Chupacabra Canyon.” Almost there! Gravel surface.

Through these gates and through the parking lot the finish line lies at Five Rocks Amphitheater

Through these gates and through the parking lot the finish line lies at Five Rocks Amphitheater. Gravel surface.

So there you have it: views of the Monument Marathon course from a tandem bicycle in approximately half-mile increments: a mix of nature preserve, pasture, farmland, Oregon Trail landmarks, industrial areas, and neighborhoods on asphalt, concrete, and dirt/gravel surfaces.

This is a high-quality rural race organized by volunteers to benefit the local community college foundation. It is one of only four marathons in Nebraska – the super-rural Sandhills Marathon is a small race with a registration limit, the others are urban biggies all the way on the other end of the state in Lincoln and Omaha. The culture here has more in common with Wyoming than with the rest of Nebraska (Husker football fan-dom excepted).

If this sounds like your type of adventure, register for the race through the main webpage. We’ll be glad to see you!

For tips on what to do and see in the area, check out the Scotts Bluff County Tourism site  or peruse some of the archived posts on my other blog, SCB Citizen.

Back to the biking for a moment, and a bit of reflection. A little over a year ago, biking 26.2 miles knocked me out. This year, we rode 47 miles to cover the race course plus the distance to and from our house, and I was only mildly fatigued afterwards. What a difference a year makes!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Bluff run

My run for May 22 doesn’t look all that special. I ran 3.3 miles at a 12:29 pace.

Ah, but my climb in that short run was 844 feet. I did a “bluff run”!

Me, slightly winded at the top of Scotts Bluff, slightly ticked off because Bugman ran at his own pace on this run and blew me out of the water. He did the run at 10:48 pace and ran circles in the parking lot up top, waiting for me to catch up. We have been training together for months. It just aggravates me that he can just up and run like that when it is so, so hard for me.

Me, winded at the top of Scotts Bluff, slightly ticked off because Bugman ran at his own pace on this run and blew me out of the water. He did the run at 10:48 pace and ran circles in the parking lot up top, waiting for me to catch up. We have been training together for months. It just aggravates me that he can just up and run like that when it is so, so hard for me – I can’t possibly keep up.

I just can’t repeat often enough how much I love having Scotts Bluff National Monument in my civic backyard. It’s a great training challenge with a great view!

On this evening in late May, we ran up the road instead of the pathway. I prefer the wide-open space of the roadway at that time of day at this time of year: all the better to see the rattlesnakes, my dear.

I forgot, though, just how severely canted the Monument road is. It’s not too much fun to run on.

Perhaps I’ll have to do my next bluff run early in the morning so I can take the path …

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw