Nevada Bicycling Cranks Down as Chair Lifts Start Turning

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Smiling Curtisby Curtis Fong, the Guy from Tahoe

The end of the bike event season is welcomed, after dedicating most of the late winter, spring and summer to event production duties and all the related stress and strain one endures to make sure you cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s to execute each ride from start to finish with no issues to result in a satisfying and memorable experience for all the participants.

When you plan and produce an event for over 3000 bicyclists such as America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride in June; and another for over 1700 bicyclists such as Tour de Tahoe in September; one tends to serve all riders as equals, and except for friends who are riding, the event production side of things become more or less impersonal, but still assuming responsibility for all your participant’s actions. And from Start of the event, you keep tabs on all riders until they cross the Finish Line.

But wait, Doesn’t Bike the West produce another event? Yes. the 28th Annual OATBRAN fully supported bike tour across the Silver State on US Hwy 50, the Loneliest Road. Myself as well as my experienced Bike the West Team, looks forward to producing this week long, fully supported tour across Nevada that includes riding 5 days, 420+ miles from Lake Tahoe to the Utah Border ending at Baker, Nevada and the gateway to the Great Basin National Park.

OATBRAN is the acronym for One Awesome Tour Bike Ride Across Nevada and riders come from near and far to experience the Loneliest Road. Our Fully Supported tour includes 6-nights’ accommodations, all meals from the check-in orientation dinner to breakfast the morning of tour end departure, custom annual event ride jersey, water bottle, prizes and all the miles of challenge they want to ride across the Silver State.

This is equivalent to producing 5 separate bike rides daily from town to town with setting up daily breakfasts, rest stops every 20 miles along the route, including lunch, over-night accommodations, after ride refreshments & activities including dinner in each of the host communities. I don’t personally view this as work, but a labor of love. After producing this tour for over a quarter of a century, I enjoy leading this group and exposing the riders to the rich western history of Nevada, the westward movement, Carson City, Virginia City, The Pony Express, The Lincoln Highway and have them experience each community, first hand from Stateline, South Shore Lake Tahoe, Fallon, Austin, Eureka, Ely and Baker, i.e. Utah Border and Great Basin National Park.

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Sunday, September 22: OATBRAN Gathering

2019 Oatbran participants

24 enthusiastic bicyclists from all over the country, met with anticipation at Montbleu Casino Resort & Spa to ride border to border on The Loneliest Road across Nevada participating in the 28th Annual OATBRAN.

This year’s participants came from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Utah, California & Nevada. 12 new riders and 12 riders that have ridden OATBRAN one or more times including one, who was celebrating his 25th consecutive OATBRAN Ride. Rene Linares a Reno local Cable Guy who rode the event for the first time 25 years ago, and the next year, brought his family along (when we use to camp) and even had his father crew with us one year. And this year, we were pleased to have his son (I always mention that he was conceived on the ride) join our Team Bike the West to support this year’s ride.

Our 10 person Team, worked all day loading supplies into our gear truck and set up 5 additional vehicles, including two 15 passenger vans with all the supplies to stage rest stops, including road signs, bike racks, awnings, tables, food & water containers.

219 Oatbran information tableThis evening, participants enjoyed overnight accommodations and a Welcome / Orientation Dinner where I went over stats of the 5 day – 420+ mile ride, crossing basin & range as most participants had no idea that Nevada is the most mountainous state in the lower 48. Bicyclists Safety is discussed as well as daily procedures, rest stop check in / out procedures. Everything we want riders to be aware of from day to day. The new riders just question their motives. Why Did I Sign Up for This? And, many that have ridden OATBRAN come back year after year and is a testament to enjoying our style of tour.

2019 Oatbran meetingWe have our participants fill out a Rider Profile Form and include a photograph, to which we assemble an OATBRAN Participant Binder that is passed around so riders can get to know each other and find common grounds to break the ice. Large name badges as well as introducing each rider from their profile information and again drawing names for prizes… So, each person is recognized to get to know one another. It took no time for this year’s group to get to know each other.

Curtis speaksUnlike producing our big one-day rides, we get to know each rider on first name basis, and everyone is treated and considered as OATBRAN Family We personally take stock in serving each of our participant’s needs and this is what OATBRAN is all about. Helping and encouraging each rider, mile after mile, to accomplish and complete the tour.

Monday, September 23: “A Taste of Nevada”
Lake Tahoe to Fallon / 91 miles / 2330 feet of climbing

It was a cool morning as the riders check out of their rooms, brought their luggage to load in our gear truck and gathered with their bikes in front of the Montbleu Casino for our traditional Start Photo. This year, we were pleased to have famed, Nevada photographer, Larry Burton join us for the entire tour to take images of the riders for the entire week.

Riders headed out eastbound on Hwy 50, climbing to the first rest stop at Spooner Summit… there was road construction at the top, but all riders checked in and out of the rest stop and descended towards Carson City, many using the coned off right lane and all made it safely down to the stop light at Hwy 395, to turn left onto 395, and not going straight onto the 580 Freeway. (last year we did have a rider continue on the freeway but was wise enough to get off onto Fairview and join the route).

The second rest stop check in was at the Red Hut at Clearview where they would ride to South Edmunds, and then on Fairview and come out on Hwy 50, by passing the traffic on Hwy 395 (North Carson Street). Once on Hwy 50, riders continued past the Virginia City turn off and headed to Dayton State Park, the third rest stop.

The next segment of Hwy 50 had major road construction in building the Freeway from Stagecoach to Silver Springs to which all riders were asked to use extra caution in this 10 mile section as there was little space on this two lane, one lane in each direction, portion leading to an oblong traffic circle at Silver Springs, site of this days lunch stop.

OatbranOne participant, Louise Hose, who resides in Dayton Nevada, wanted to surprise her husband on his birthday and had her friends bring him to our lunch stop where they gave him presents to open and cupcakes to all to help him celebrate, as she would be on the road with us the remainder of the week… This was a nice touch and we welcomed this. The day was now warming up into the low 70’s and there were some light winds, but mostly at the riders back.

Oatbran in FallonRiders continued eastbound on Hwy 50, past Lake Lahonton to Leeteville junction where the final rest stop of the day was set before heading into Fallon and ending at the Fallon Motel Six. Jay our host, always keeps the pool open for our group, so everyone can relax, swim and enjoy our after ride snacks & beverages to continue the bonding process of riders getting to know each other. Great to see riders sharing conversations, laughing and having fun. yes, they are also drinking beer and letting down from a good days ride.

This year’s group of riders was one of the best and fastest riders in recent years. our split times at rest stops were within an hour from the first rider in and the last rider out. this was going to a good flowing ride with seasoned bicyclists. in some past rides, we have had split times that exceed 2 hours, but what has been working is that we hold the fast riders at the rest stops, until 50% of the riders check in, before we release them forward to the next rest stop. this tightens up the group distance between the fast groups of riders and the slower riders. but good to see all riders finding pace with other riders and working together.

Motel life in FallonDinner was kitty corner from the motel at the Churchill County Fairgrounds, hosted by the Fallon Green Wave Cross Country Team. A pasta feed was presented, and the riders were really hungry this evening and we ate them out of pasta sauce. Yes, they ran out of food, but this was the first time they served our riders. I should say, they should have served our riders to control the amount of food that the riders were loading on their plates… unfortunately, a few at the end of the line got pasta with no sauce… We traditionally work with non-profit groups to serve our meals, so we can support local organizations as we pay them a donation for providing our meals. in the early years, we had the 4H Club serve our dinners and it was great to see the kids grow up year after year and we must have gone through 3 sets of kids over a period of 12 years.

Fallon's Green Wave Cross Country teamAt the end of dinner, I traditionally speak to the group and go over the next day’s ride route, including what to watch for as well as some of the history along the route…

Later that evening we went to replenish supplies for the next couple of days and all the vehicles were reloaded and ready to hit the road early the next morning as breakfast would be served starting at 5:15 am.

Tuesday, September 24: “The Longest Day”
Fallon to Austin / 113 miles / 5200 feet of climbing

After an early breakfast put together by the Churchill County Park & Rec group, riders hit the roadway before sunrise to challenge themselves to ride 113 miles with over 5000 feet of climbing to Austin Nevada. Yesterday’s ride was a warmup, but mostly downhill to the lowest elevation of the tour and today will be the test of endurance and mental stamina. OatbranThis is the day that most participants are most anxious about.

I was up by 4:30 am and traditionally drive as far as the first rest stop to inspect the roadway and check the weather and wind conditions to make sure all is good for the riders to start. Our traffic control manager was behind me setting up Bike Ahead warning signs to alert motorists that bicycles would be on the roadway as they head out to work at the Fallon Naval Air Station.

four bikes on US 50 east of FallonThe ride starts out flat past views of the Fallon Naval Air Station, Grimes Point Petroglyphs and across the desert to Sand Mountain, where our first rest stop is set up. This is nearby the Sand Springs Pony Express Station and is a huge destination for folks who like to play in the dirt with their off road sand toys. There is awesomeness in viewing this ancient sand dune at sunrise.

Riders continue on the Loneliest Road up over Sand Springs Pass and descended to the next basin, where the signs are posted “Watch for Low Flying Aircraft” and the Top Gun bombing range. On occasion our participants have be lucky to witness the fighter jets hitting the targets on the shelf below Fairview Peak. This day there were jets flying around, but no bombing maneuvers. But that’s not all — another gentle climb up and over Drumm Summit before dropping to Middlegate.

Middlegate StationOld Middlegate Station is one of my favorite stops and is also well received by our OATBRAN Riders. Plenty of history here and it’s preserved like time has stood still. Fun to mention to the riders if you want to use their rest rooms, make sure you know the difference between a cow and bull.

Oatbranbikes on Highway 722Not only is this the longest ride day of the tour, we also give riders the choice to continue on Hwy 50 to Cold Springs or ride on Old Hwy 50 (NV 722) though Eastgate and the Desatoya Range.

This year, 9 riders chose to ride NV722 route, so we had to utilize two vehicles to SAG this route separately to also set up a lunch stop along this route, while the rest of the riders and other SAG teams continued to serve riders on Hwy 50. Those riders that rode this route through Eastgate were treated to the sight of Big Horns hanging out in the rocky overlooking slopes.

Lunch breakThe lunch stop on the Hwy 50 route was set at Cold Springs Station. This has been recently rebuilt and also has a restaurant, bar & gift shop, plus RV parking and some limited rooms. I recall the original Cold Spring Stations or the building that was there 28 years ago and where we use to set up lunch on their front porch. Ralph & Nikki were the operators then and over the past 20 years, Ralph had passed away and Nikki discounted to operate it. It suffered a major fire and burnt down to the ground several years back and then it was rebuilt to the present facility.

Riding Highway 722The folks that now own and operate it are bike friendly and allow us to use a small fenced in orchard behind the building for our lunch stop set up area. Nice surroundings with shade and just east of the original foundations of the Cold Springs settlement and site of the Cold Springs Pony Express Station.

Mount Airy SummitFrom there, riders continue on Hwy 50, climbing up to New Pass Summit where the next rest stop is located, and then over Mt. Airy before descending down to the Reese River Valley to Austin. There was a tailwind this afternoon and the riders were enjoying the ride.

The route over NV722 is about the same mileage and features two climbs, one over Carroll Summit and the other over Railroad Pass with Smith Creek Valley – Playa in-between. This route drops down into the Reese River Valley and re-joins Hwy 50 just west of Austin and this junction is the last rest stop before all riders climb into Austin.

Austin cemeteryAustin is steeped in Nevada history as well, with silver mines, Pony Express and wild west stories and Nevada folklore.The Historic International Hotel & Saloon was moved from Virginia City and reassembled in Austin during their silver boom and thousands of miners and people resided in Austin in its heyday. This is one of my favorite places to enjoy stepping back in time in Nevada.

Most riders arrived in Austin with good spirits and glad to put the days ride behind them. We set up base camp at the Lincoln Motel, with riders staying here and other properties, including the Cozy Mountain Motel, the Pony Canyon Motel and the Union Street Bed & Breakfast. We are spread about, but all properties are within 1-1/2 blocks of each other.

Austin dinnerWe waited for the final 3 riders to arrive just in time to check in their rooms, clean up and join everyone for the highly anticipated dinner sponsored by the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

For several years everyone likes this meal. And, they never run out of food… The infamous “COW IN A CAN” Slow Roast-Smoked Tri-Tip Beef Dinner! Awesome! Plenty of protein along with a variety of salads, and more . . . with servers coming around asking if you would like more of this or that. Robyn Veach from the Chamber organized this along with their members to make this fundraising dinner memorable. They even gave out Pony Express Territory handkerchief to all riders. (Robyn & her husband Joey, also own and operate the Lucky Spur in Kingston and are my across the street neighbors in Gillman Springs where I have a house and hang out between my events in the summer).

Internatonal Hotel, Austin NevadaLater that evening, everyone was invited to join in a toast of making it to Austin at the International Bar. Those that could make it, made it! It’s always fun to hang out with Vic, our host bartender and have a few laughs and let down after this challenging day on the road. Two of our crew members also made it to the Owl Club. What happens in Austin, Stays in Austin!

Wednesday, September 25: “A Re(Dis)Covery Day, I Think!?
Austin to Eureka / 70 miles / 2600 feet of climbing

I was up early and headed to grab a cup of coffee at the Toiyabe Café, when they opened at 6 am, to do my morning road inspection up and over both Austin Summit and Bob Scott Summit to the Big Smoky Valley. A beautiful morning with clear skies, light winds and temps in the upper 40’s. Cool morning but predicted to warm up into the upper 60’s.

Toiyabe Cafe, Austin NevadaThere are no other non-profit groups active enough to do a breakfast for us, so for the past several years, we work with the Toiyabe Café and all our riders enjoy a great breakfast by ordering off their menu… from pancakes to standard bacon & eggs to those that even ordered steak & eggs… This ride day pans out to be a recovery day with “only” 70 miles to complete but still with several climbs as basin & range continues across Nevada.

Austin SummitFrom the get-go… you are on the climb up Austin Summit from elevation 6577 feet to 7484 feet, then a short curvy descent and back up to Bob Scott Summit at 7267 feet… followed by a nice descent down to junction 376 and the first rest stop.

The Big Smoky Valley runs north-south and the Toiyabe Range is spectacular from this vantage point. My summer home is about 10 miles south of this junction in Gillman Springs with Kingston about 6 miles further south.

Big Smoky ValleyAnother Basin & Range day in Nevada Pony Express Territory… Across the Big Smoky Valley, over Hickison Summit and across Monitor Valley… I have explored most of the side roads off this corridor with so many places to visit along the way. Spencer Hot Springs, Toquima Caves, Belmont & Manhattan, Geographic Center of Nevada, Hickison Petroglyphs and more, including remnants of the Dry Creek Pony Station all the way across the valley to Roberts Creek Station…

With all riders making it up and over Hickison Summit and checking in and out of that rest stop, the lunch stop was further up the road in the Bean Flat Rest Area… OATBRAN has used this wide rest stop area for the past 28 years with a picnic table and shade that offers a beautiful view of the Antelope Range… Riders were coming in fast as a nice tailwind helped pushed them across the valley… Rabbit brushThere was one more rest stop positioned just after Roberts Creek and then through the canyon into Diamond Valley and up the hill to Eureka, “The Friendliest Town” on the Loneliest Road…

We used to camp in the park behind the Owl Club…Yes, there is another Owl Club on Hwy 50, and then in the old elementary school yard across from the pool, but now stay in the comfort of the Eureka Gold Country Inn. The owner/operator also owns the Jackson House Hotel, to which the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures team have explored as well as the Chinese Cathedral and underground tunnels in Eureka… My assistant ride director and her husband, Di & Corey Bolton, were lucky to draw the short stick and stay in the Jackson House.

Many of the OATBRAN riders explored Eureka with their self-guided walking tour, some got to the Owl Club and DJ’s Diner for snacks or milkshakes and others just let down with our after ride refreshment area in the parking lot of the Gold Country Inn. Di and I went to Raine’s Market (now a super store and hardware store) to pick up supplies while the rest of the crew reloaded supplies in their vehicles… Their deli is not to be missed with Fried Chicken, Beef Brisket and at times BBQ Beef Ribs… But, that’s another story!

Eureka Opera HouseEureka Opera HouseWe were treated to a great pasta / lasagna dinner served in the Eureka Opera House. This provided by the Eureka High School Freshman Class and the participants enjoyed a talk about the history of this amazing refurbished facility…

Later that evening, some of the crew gathered at the Owl Club to toast another great day of weather and a successful day on the road from Austin to Eureka…

The 28th Annual OATBRAN continues in my next edition, from Eureka to Ely and Ely to the Utah Border… Stay tuned!

Winter Starts Now!

Switching helmets from cycling to skiing, the 2019/20 Winter Season begins now!

The traditional Kick Off to Winter is always celebrated with the annual Warren Miller movie premiere and this year, the premier dates in our area come much earlier, so they must be thinking there will be early winter.

TimelessThis year marks the 70th Warren Miller production titled, “Timeless” and features segments from all over the globe… Narrated by Jonny Moseley, Timeless also features local area extreme skiing legend, Glen Plake and Squaw’s big mountain skier, Amie Engerbretson. Also, this film will feature up and coming skiers and snowboarders, such as the young Jaelin Kauf, who is gaining momentum as a member of the US Olympic Mogul skiers…

I have had the pleasure to emcee the local area premieres for over 25 years and am somewhat disappointed that I will not be emceeing the Reno premiere that is set for Friday, November 1 at the Reno Event Center… This year’s Reno movie premiere is hosted by the High Fives Foundation and I will miss seeing all my Reno friends that attend!

This year’s premiere schedule has a conflicting date, to which I will be emceeing the North Lake Tahoe premiere of Timeless on Friday & Saturday, November 1 & 2, at the Resort at Squaw Creek… And, then again for the South Lake Tahoe premiere, Friday & Saturday, November 22 & 23 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Casino… The Premiere of Warren Miller’s “Timeless” generally sell out, so purchase your tickets today at www.Eventbrite.com

Mt Rose skierMt. Rose Ski Tahoe fired up their snow making and opened the weekend of October 25-27… and will remain open for skiing & riding Fridays-Sundays, into November. The Wizard Chair turns with a $20 lift ticket, until they get more terrain open… Season Passes are on sale with a variety of options and pricing. For more information visit: https://skirose.com

Snow GunDiamond Peak in Incline Village has fired up their snow guns and is getting ready for winter. No announced date for opening at this point, but usually opens the first week in December, conditions permitting… They also have some great deals with their season pass offerings. For more information, visit: http://diamondpeak.com

Heavenly Meadows crowdUnder the Vail Resorts family, Heavenly Mountain Resort has also fired up their massive snow making system and has scheduled November 22 as opening day… Across the Lake at their Sister Resort, Northstar California, they too have targeted November 22 as opening day.

Between riding your bike or riding on snow — the late Fall Season in Nevada is a great time to get outside and enjoy a variety of activities — Get it while you can!

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