QUEST for the Silver Spike!
My wife Kim gave me a soft kiss on the lips and said “Be careful honey, I'll see you in a few hours”.
That was the start of my day, as I left our campsite and motor home in Carson City, Nevada on a Saturday morning. I rode my Mountain Bike to the start line of the inaugural Carson City Off-Road 35/50 Mountain bike race put on by Epic Rides. As I headed out, I could see the Mountains rise up to over 8,600 feet. Think of driving along old highway 395 and looking at snowcapped peaks, like Mt Whitney.
The week prior to the race, the winds were like demons. Howling gusts slowed the riders down during our race. Winds combined with steep climbing and rough terrain; the adventure was on! You see, Carson City is located at 5,000 feet and the peak altitude for the race was at about 8,600 feet. To crest the peak was the goal, but it took twenty-two (22) miles of climbing to do so. There was however a lovely reward, a view of double lakes; Marlette lake in the foreground with the deep blue Lake Tahoe directly behind it. The remaining thirteen miles were downhill.
Anyone who's rode or run on the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail will tell you the view is spectacular, as the Tahoe basin is snow covered, even in early summer. Imagine snow covered mountains, dropping into deep blue Lake Tahoe. I stopped and took a few pictures to preserve the memory. At the 20-mile mark, the sun was high in the sky, and one of the course marshals asked me if wanted a ride back in the truck. Having never quit a race in my life, I politely declined. However, in a moment of clarity at almost 8,600 feet I did asked “how much further to the summit”? When he said two miles, I told him “I’ve got this”. What I didn't realize, was the last two miles was a mixture of single track switchbacks leading into a snow field. Yes, we rode through a snow field!
Having reached the peak, it was all downhill from there, so I called my wife Kim from the top and told her it would be a “couple more hours”. This was because I now had about 13 mile of deep forest single track switch backs over tree roots and rocks, then opening up onto rolling fire roads.
Towards the end of the decent, I had to laugh when I was detoured off the pleasant fire road on to the "secret trail". This was a narrow goat trail, more like a gopher trail on a ledge, along the side of the mountain which connected the riders to another route. I was told this was added to link “useable” land parcels. You see, it's hard to design a ride that smoothly navigates riders through land parcels. (I’m seeing this more and more, as our open spaces keep shrinking). Well, not wanting to fall off the so called “secret trail” ledge (cliff) and worry my wife, I decided to ride and paddle some of the off camber turns, and miraculously did not fall. I then crossed the finish line in good spirits, after a full day of everything I had. At a month short of 60 years old, and having completed many different races, including a couple of Ironman races, I'd rank this event close to the top. Even the pros were saying it was a “tough” course, and a shorter version of the Leadville, 100-mile race in Colorado.
The reward was a heavy Silver (chrome plated) engraved rail road spike. It was definitely one of the most thoughtful tokens of appreciation for completing such a beautiful and challenging race. It was earned!
Also fun was the festival atmosphere and free City Park camping among the quaking cottonwood trees. We had a beautiful view of the snowcapped mountains and lots of grass for our Mini Aussie Reilly to play Frisbee. Talking with my camping buddies was quite the experience. They offered good intel regarding the race too, as Epic Races put on two earlier season races, one in Prescott Arizona, and the other in Colorado.
The vendor sponsors offered lots of quality free Swag and services. For example, Kim received a flat repair kit from the Slime company. I got a free front derailleur adjustment from the Shimano crew who traveled from Irvine, California. The Sponsor I appreciated the most though, was the cool mechanic from “Stan's No Tubes”. He injected my new tubeless Mountain Bike tires with Stan's flat stop. I can't tell you how important that was. Having a flat in the forest, would have been uncomfortable. Luckily, I did not have to ride in on my rim, like another participant I passed.
By the way, the combined pro purse, men's and women's, was $100k – Nice!
In the end, I suggest you take a two day drive up from San Diego, and camp in Mammoth, California next to the many creeks at the base of the Sierras. Try “Cedar Creek” for $35 a night, just south of Mammoth. On the way in to Carson City, stop in Bridgeport, California for a bite to eat. The race entry fee was $120.00 and that’s very fair for the thrills, adventure, and race. A bonus was our tour of the historic Carson City Mint. They used to mint gold pieces and silver dollars there. Lots of fun and Western history!