by Curtis Fong, “The Guy from Tahoe”
Thursday, September 26: “Rolling Beauty – Is This Nevada?”
Eureka to Ely: 79 Miles – 3900 vertical feet of climbing
Another absolutely beautiful Central Nevada morning, as I headed out to drive my early recon of the route ahead. This day, riders experience four climbs as Basin and Range continues across the Great Basin.
I drove up and over Pinto Summit and down to Newark Valley, which is one of the most scenic views of the Loneliest Road: the junction of Nevada Highway 379, heading south to Currant via Fishcreek and Duckwater. For the past 28 years, I have never had the chance to drive NV 379 and has been on my bucket list forever.
The sunrise was spectacular from this vantage point. No wind, no clouds, temps in the upper 40s and looking like another great weather day for the riders heading to Ely.
I drove back over Pinto Summit to catch up with the riders attending breakfast with folks from Eureka Senior Center, that was preparing and serving downstairs in the Eureka Opera House. Their facility across the street was closed due to adjacent wall construction, so they had been temporarily moved to work out of the opera house’s downstairs kitchen.
OATBRAN Riders headed out of Eureka, elevation 6495 feet, to climb Pinto Summit cresting at 7376 feet. everyone made in fine fashion and descended to Newark Valley.
The sun warmed up the spirit of the riders and a slight tailwind helped them get across the basin to the second climb to Pancake Summit. this named for the big round flat area atop this climb.
Everyone was in great spirits and as the tailwinds helped get them up the climb… And, all riders definitely enjoying our rest stop and service on this 4th ride day of OATBRAN.
The next segment, included at climb up through a beautiful canyon, where wildlife crossing signs are posted on narrow roadway heading up and over Little Antelope Summit. A great diverse section of roadway where one year, Nevada Highway Patrol held our riders to escort a huge — I mean huge wide load — a big mining bucket, spanning the width of both lanes, west bound through this canyon.
On the downhill side of the summit, we moved our traditional Rest / Lunch Stop from the Hamilton – Illipah Historic marker on the left hand side of the road, to just west in an area the NDOT paved as an equipment – materials yard on the safer right side of the roadway… When we arrived to set up, this lot was recently oiled and looked like a black skating rink.
Everyone enjoyed the great weather and relaxed before heading to the last climb of the day, up and over Robinson Summit at 7607 feet, before riding the last 20 miles to Ely.
The Loneliest Road is mostly downhill east to Ely and enters the old mining district with Ruth up above to the south… I was really enthused to see that this last section, from Ruth into Ely, had recently been repaved and had designated Bike Lanes on both side of the highway. This a marked improvement from just Fog Line and guard rail. And, the traditional rumble strip had open sections so a bicyclists could maneuver from roadway to Bike Lane and back without having to ride across the rumble strip. Great Job NDOT on this section of Highway 50.
Ely has a lot going on and is a welcomed destination on the eastern side of Nevada on the Loneliest Road. We continue to enjoy the hospitality of the Jail House Motel & Casino and we basically book most their west wing.
As the riders arrived at our unloading staging area of the Jail House, it’s always fun to direct them to the lobby to check into their Cell!
All the OATBRAN Riders and SAG Wagons made it in to Ely, and after everyone was settled in our staff headed to the Economy Drug Store, a short walk down Altman Street to let down with a Milk Shake at their old fashion Ice cream parlor. many riders also found their way down to enjoy a refreshing and rewarding end of the ride.
Dinner is always highly anticipated in Ely as we have worked with one group, the Ladies of RHO. Headed up by Carla Dolezal for all 28 years, they provide a Thanksgiving style home roasted Turkey dinner with all the fixings and no one ever leaves hungry.
At the end of dinner we coordinate logistics for the final ride day and solicit riders to see who would like to take a tour of Great Basin National Park and who would like to ride to the top of Wheeler Peak and who has bikes that need to be boxed up and how we would rack bikes for the return.
For the past 27 years, we have worked with staff from Great Basin National Park to provide a special tour of the Lehman Caves for our participants. This year they wanted us to fill out a special event permit and reserve the tour, pay a processing fee and pay the tour guide, instead of paying per person for a group tour. Too much paperwork and include them as additionally insured in our ride insurance policy, so we opted to take participants to the visitors center so they could be exposed to the sights and purchase souvenirs and the such.
It’s incredible how fast the ride days go by and how fit the riders become in the past four days of riding. And, the realization that tomorrow is the final ride day to the Utah Border… Our crew scrambles in Ely knowing that our OATBRAN tradition is to present Awards the next day and we attempt to collaborate and discuss what awards or departing gifts we would bestow to each rider.
The Spirit of OATBRAN Award and tongue in cheek gifts from comments or anecdotes that our crew members pick up in conversations and interaction over the past days at rest stops and meals. So, before and after dinner we head out to whatever is open to seek boxes of cereal, like ALL BRAN for rider that complete the ride, fun Joke gifts and appropriate tongue in cheek gifts to recognize all riders. At the same time, we did experience some issues and drama with one of our team members having to leave, but, rallied to know that our team would be able to execute the remainder of the tour. it was a late night before our team was able to get some rest for the final ride day.
Friday, September 27: “The ‘AWE’ in Awesome”
Ely to Utah Border: 65.8 Mile (+options) 3300 vertical feet of climbing
Rise and Shine. and yes, another beautiful morning as OATBRAN rolls out of Ely. Got a late start on my usual morning re-con drive but 20 miles out, the weather was beautiful . . . a few clouds and tail winds.
Riders were instructed to leave their main luggage in their rooms and to pack a change of clothes and their toiletries to clean up at the finish of the days ride… We would be returning for our second night at the Jail House later that evening with a “I Survived” party.
I made it back to Ely to catch up with the riders that were having breakfast at a newly contracted restaurant, since the restaurant in the Jail House is leased out to a taco shop and not open for breakfast. I met with Victor Nardis the week before and set up our Ely breakfasts at Nardis Family Restaurant (previously the Silver State Café), just up the street from the Jail House.
What a spread! A hearty buffet was set up from scrambled eggs, potatoes to local sausage and cured bacon to pancakes — something for everyone’s taste and desire…
Riders are super enthused to ride this final day, and everyone wanted to get an early start to experience what we term the AWE in Awesome! We made sure that the right turn arrow was place on top of the cone where everyone is to turn to access Hwy 50 and the Great Basin Highway. The road heads south and turns east to climb up and over Conner Pass at 7723 feet. Along this route riders pass by Comins Lake and the entrance roads to both Cave Lake and Ward Charcoal Ovens.
Our rest stop at the base of the climb was set up to receive the riders and refuel them before the big climb.
The descent is fast and reviews the back side of Wheeler Peak and opens into Spring Valley at the Hwy 93 – Majors Junction… The view is AWESOME with Wind Turbines to the left and Wheeler Peak to the right. Hwy 50 continues past the junction across the valley to a second rest stop at the Historic Osceola Marker.
One more pass to climb and it’s downhill from there to the Utah Border and the Finish at the Border Inn.
Riders headed out from Osceola towards the final climb of OATBRAN, Sacramento Pass at 7154 feet. Once crested, the final OATBRAN lunch stop is about a mile and a half downhill in the Sacramento Pass Recreation Area
The Lunch Stop was set up and we headed to the Border Inn with the Gear Truck and one of the 15 passenger vans to set up the finish staging. Lots to get done as the riders arrived at the Utah border.
From Sacramento Pass lunch stop, it’s about 20 miles downhill to the Border Inn at the Nevada/Utah Border. one year a participant claimed he coasted all the way. We do offer the riders the option to ride into Baker and visit the Great Basin Visitor Center in Baker, or to ride to the Visitor Center of the Lehman Caves, or ride up to the Wheeler Peak Campground.
A couple of riders decided to challenge themselves and ride to the 10,000 feet marker on the roadway up to Wheeler Peak in the Great Basin National Park. We also had several folks that wanted to check out the Great Basin Nation Park’s Visitors Center, so we had one of the vans loaded at 2:45 pm to take them.
While our crew is working hard . . . riders are cleaning up and letting down in the bar & casino, cheering each other with adult beverages and appetizers and the like. One year, a rider hit a Royal Flush playing video poker and took home over $1500, that paid for his OATBRAN Ride.
We set up Finish Banners at Utah Border sign and riders one by one or in small groups finished and took photos of themselves. After the two riders that rode up to Wheeler Peak arrived at the finish, we staged a group shot.
Denys Koyle and son Gary Perea, proprietors of the Border Inn, have been long time friends and we have been ending the ride at the Border Inn for the past 15 years. As mentioned, they provide showers and also produce our awards banquet and this year, they served southern fried chicken with all the fixings.
Then, there was the OATBRAN Recognition Awards. Every rider is recognized for riding our annual event some with tongue in cheek gifts and lots of fun for everyone as we celebrate another successful ride.
But, wait — it’s not over: as we loaded up the vehicles to head back to Ely for our “I Survived the Loneliest Road Celebration” we were treated to a spectacular Nevada Sunset and great end of One Awesome Tour Bike Ride Across Nevada…
We caravan backed to the Jail House Motel & Casino and had a fun time in the front bar with appetizers and cocktails… This year’s group was an incredible group of riders from all walks of life and from all over the country… an experienced group of safe riders that made the tour go by quickly and relatively easy to manage.
Saturday, September 28: “Deja Vu – The Trip Back in Time”
Big Thanks to all the riders, Team Bike the West and Nevada Photographer, Larry Burton for his images and making the 28th Annual OATBRAN a huge success!
P.S. We did make it back to Lake Tahoe before the Snow
Speaking of Snow . . . Winter Starts Now! I Think?
I hope all that attended the South Shore Premier of Warren Miller’s “Timeless” at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, enjoyed the heck out it. Back to basics and much more self-imaginable skiing and snowboarding segments with an emphasis on more skiing and less cliff-hucking. Good music as well as great athletes taking it to the limit and good funny stuff from early Warren Miller movies with fun antics and the like, that we’ve all come to appreciate and just belly-laugh. Both shows were well attended and good to see all the locals, especially the “old timers” that have been creating “Timeless” memories on Tahoe slopes with friends and family forever.
Got your Gear set up for this season? Lots of offers out there at local shops with all the NEW state of the art updated skis, boots, snowboards and back country stuff. Yes, Back Country stuff… I said it and hopefully will not be sued for saying Back Country. What a controversial conundrum that has led to. Never underestimate the greed, so to speak of corporate America. Lots of good stuff out there, but I recommend that you demo the gear first, before you lay down your hard earned green backs. What your friends tell you, what work for them, works for them. You need to test ride and find out what works for you. simple but true!
The Thanksgiving week storm proved to be the shot in the arm to get everyone going… especially the resorts. Mt Rose Ski Tahoe is going strong with opening to the top; Squaw & Alpine were able to get a few more lifts and runs open. Heavenly opening the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and both Kirkwood and Northstar, as well as Sugar Bowl, turning lifts on Black Friday, which was renamed to White Friday. And, with Sierra at Tahoe also opening on Thanksgiving weekend… Oh… and Mammoth is happening as well!
Just like clockwork, the Winter Storm Warning and travel issues with road controls and delays getting around hit just in time to confuse and catch all the unprepared visitors… Some of the new locals as well. But, we all figured it out and manage to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday week in style and be thankful to mother nature for its input to drop natural snow to start the winter coat to blanket the mountains and ski runs. Bring it!
EPIC, IKON, Mountain Collective, Powder Alliance, Indy Pass… What pass did you get? Good news is, all resorts want your business and these Season Pass deals are for the taking depending on where you ski or ride the most. and the best thing is, they are competitive enough in pricing to invest in one or two. Although the Epic & Ikon pass is designed to turn you into a brand loyal follower, the others are attempting to get your attention and skier days to compete with the big boys. Bottomline? Us skiers and riders benefit with affordable access to a variety of local, national and international destinations. I don’t know anyone in their right mind that would purchase a rack rate daily lift ticket. Just sayin’.
It would be nice to see the hotel & motel industry follow suit with an annual season pass for a discount rate that allows you 10-20 nights at their various destinations around the country or worldwide and create brand loyalty. I know the major chains have their membership cards and points systems to earn discounts, additional nights and upgrades, but would be cool to pay one discounted price for committing to 10 or 20 night stays… Just blabbing out loud!
In other news: Aramark, the folks that operate Zephyr Cove Resort, Lake Tahoe Cruises with the M.S. Dixie II and Zephyr Cove Snowmobile Tours, recently purchased Lake Tahoe Adventures and will continue to operate snowmobile tours in Hope Valley… Speaking of Hope Valley, Hope Valley Outdoors Cross Country Center, located at Picketts Junctions, Hwy 89/88, is still up for sale if anyone wants to purchase the yurt and inventory and create some winter XC & Snowshoe experiences for all ages…
Continue to do your snow dance and pray for snow! Winter is on its way. Get out and enjoy what mother nature gives us and continue to prepare for the Christmas Holiday / New Year’s week. Wishing everyone a Great Holiday Season! Now, Get Out and Do It!