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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Cloud Peak 500 - Soundtrack

A post on this blog doesn't often appear overnight. Typically some time passes while I process an experience to understand it well enough to be able to express it. Sometimes that doesn't ever happen. However, as thoughts, feelings, images and all sorts of things rattle around upstairs, often a song emerges to light a path to the story. When a song helps me understand and express an experience, I'll add at the top of the post a relevant quote from that song, and a complete video clip at the bottom. The song then becomes part of the story.

I have no original music to share, for I'm no songwriter. And, as my family repeatedly reminds me, much of my limited musical knowledge is from the 1970's or so. Yeah, well, I still ride a 1991 rigid single speed mountain bike on occasion and use an Oxford Comma to boot, so that's all just part of it.

Backroads in the Big Horns. (photo by Paul Brasby) 

In any event, with emotions so raw on the Cloud Peak 500, songs came to mind readily for the ride reports, even for one I didn't write. That is, at first glance of Paul's striking sunset pictures as he prepared to ride deep into the night on Day 6, I could hear Johnny Cash sing "Ghost Riders In The Sky." When Paul later submitted his ride report for Day 6, I unilaterally added that song, deciding to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. A country music guy, Paul later said he loved it. For what it's worth, I did use his selection of country music for his Day 7 and 8 posts.

Now that all the individual ride and logistics reports are posted, I've re-read them several times to see how they fit together. With 12 ride reports and 9 logistics reports published over the course of almost four months, there's a lot of material. But I finally put my thoughts together to write a Cloud Peak 500 Wrap Up post, with its own song.

So, I'm feeling good, but sometimes all the words get in the way. So, I decided to also wrap up our Cloud Peak 500 by the music alone. Below are the lyrics quote and video clip of the song from each ride report. Now, I can go to one place to listen to all the music telling the story of our Cloud Peak 500. I also included a link to each ride report, in case the music triggers a desire to read the narrative. Now, that's a wrap.

Cloud Peak 500 - A Bikepacking Journey

Got to pay your dues
If you want to sing the blues
And you know it don't come easy
It Don't Come Easy, Ringo Starr and George Harrison (1971)

                                                                                            It Don't Come Easy, Ringo Starr (1971)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 1) - Up High, Down Hard

Took my love, I took it down 
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Til the landslide brought me down 

Landslide, Stevie Nicks (1975)

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac (1975), performed by Stevie Nicks (2009)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 2) - Riding The Storm Out

It's a hard life to live, but it gives back what you give
And I'm not missing a thing, watching the full moon crossing the range
Riding the storm out. Riding the storm out. Riding the storm out. Riding the storm out.
Riding The Storm Out, Gary Richrath, REO Speedwagon (1973)

Riding The Storm Out, REO SpeedWagon live (1983)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 3) - Dude's Downhill

I've had an excellent time so far
There's only one thing that I fear
I've been up so long on this lucky star
It could be all downhill from here
It could be all downhill from here
All Downhill, Lyle Lovett (2007)

 All Downhill, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band (2007)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 4) - Go Your Own Way

You can go your own way
Go your own way 
Go Your Own Way, Lindsey Buckingham (1977)

Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 5) - Back In The High Life

I'll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time
Will be opened up again
Back In The High Life Again, Steve Winwood & Will Jennings (1986)

Back In The High Life, Steve Winwood (1986)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 6) - Decision Day

Don't look back, a new day is breakin'
It's been too long since I felt this way
I don't mind where I get taken 
The road is callin', today is the day.
Don't Look Back, Tom Scholtz (1978)

Don't Look Back, Boston (1978)

Cloud Peak 500 (Day 7) - High On A Desert Plain

We're beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled in dust
I'll show you a place 
High on a desert plain
Where the streets have no name 
Where The Streets Have No Name, Bono and U2 (1987)

Where The Streets Have No Name, U2 live (2013)

Cloud Peak 500 (Paul Writes His Day 6) - Ghost Rider In The Sky

An old cowboy went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw
Yippie yi ooh, Yippie yi yay, ghost riders in the sky

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
He's riding hard to catch that herd, but he ain't caught 'em yet
'Cause they've got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire, as they ride on hear their cry
Yippie yi ooh, Yippie yi yay, ghost riders in the sky
Ghost Riders In The Sky, Stan Jones (1948)

Ghost Riders In The Sky, Johnny Cash (1979)

Cloud Peak 500 (Paul Writes His Day 7) - Wonder Where I'm Bound

It's a long and a dusty road
It's a hot and a heavy load
And I can't help but wonder where I'm bound.
I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound, Tom Paxton (1964)

I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound, Tom Paxton (1964)

Cloud Peak 500 (Paul Writes His Final Day) - The Road Less Traveled

And it all might come together
And it all might come unraveled
On the road less traveled. 
The Road Less Traveled, Buddy Brock & Dean Dillon (2001)

The Road Less Traveled, George Strait (2001)

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel
It's a new dawn, it's a new day
It's a new life, for me
And I'm feeling good
Feeling Good, Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newly (1964)

Feeling Good, Michael Buble (2005)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Cloud Peak 500 Wrap - Feeling Good

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel
It's a new dawn, it's a new day
It's a new life, for me
And I'm feeling good
Feeling Good, Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newly (1964)

Paul Brasby and Craig Groseth enjoying the descent of Ten Sleep Canyon on Day 5.

At the end of our Cloud Peak 500, I felt good about the experience. Now, with all of our daily ride and logistics reports posted, the Cloud Peak 500 is finally over for me. And I'm still feeling good. 

My tale clearly was of two rides. The first ride was Day 1, which launched from sky high expectations to plummet into a barren ditch of doubt and despair, far deeper than my worst physical bonk. Emerging from that abyss, I rode stronger and smarter each of the next 6 days to work through another 300 miles of difficult, rugged, remote roads. That second ride reaffirmed my faith in the healing power of a loving God.

Several folks have asked whether I'm going back to the Cloud Peak 500 to complete some notion of "unfinished business." No. I rode the Cloud Peak 500 route as I rode it. I'm good with the experience.

For Paul, I would write his Cloud Peak 500 story as a trilogy. Part 1 recounts the excitement of Day 1 dominated by successfully riding the rugged foothills and massive climb up Red Grade Road and then the turmoil of my collapse throwing the entire enterprise into jeopardy. Part 2 features our hard, hot, rewarding rides on the next four days that each covered about 50 miles/5,000 feet of elevation gain on challenging roads through unique, remote backcountry. Part 3 shifts to the big chain ring for his race to beat the clock by hammering the final 250 miles in about 2 1/2 days. Paul rose to meet every challenge and obstacle, whether physical, mental or emotional. What a ride.

Of course, Paul would probably say that it was all just one awesome adventure. And let's do it again.

Screen shot of digital map of Cloud Peak 500 route from

The Cloud Peak 500 was my longest, hardest, and overall biggest ride of 2020 and deserved a commensurate writeup. It's a lot of writing, because it was a lot of riding. Like most of this blog, I wrote this series primarily as a digital scrapbook for myself and any friends that may enjoy it.

But this particular ride also belongs to my cycling buddy Paul, who persevered through a gauntlet of challenges to become the first official finisher of the Cloud Peak 500 bikepacking race. I wrote this for his scrapbook, too, and to document and recognize his achievement. Well done, Paul.

Additionally, this series of posts was written for all the bikepackers and potential bikepackers out there dreaming of their next adventure. If that could be in Wyoming, the Cloud Peak 500 certainly is a route to consider. These ride reports, and especially the logistics reports, reveal much to help plan such a ride.

Finally, I wrote this series of posts to honor the work of Sarah Wallick and Aaron Denberg in creating the Cloud Peak 500. Only passionate, local enthusiasts know their backcountry well enough, and care enough,  to piece together a route such as the Cloud Peak 500 and then share it with everyone. Cloud Peak 500 Official Site. Thank you, Sarah and Aaron. I hope to ride some remote roads with you in the future.

Feeling Good, Michael Buble (2005)

Friday, December 11, 2020

2020 Ridge Riders Trifecta - Come Together

Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah
Come together, yeah

Come Together, John Lennon (1969)

A fat bike, a gravel bike, and a mountain bike roll into the Black Hills.

"Rad!" said the fat bike, "Groomed trails that climb to a mountain top lookout tower!"

"Cool!" said the gravel bike, "Forest gravel roads that climb the highest mountain pass!"

"Dude!" said the mountain bike, "Twisty single track that climb everything around!"

With all the bikes happily riding their separate ways, the Ridge Riders Racing Club dreamt of gathering the fat bike clan, the gravel family, and the mountain bike tribe together to celebrate all cycling in the Black Hills. So, they created a singular series, comprising a fat bike race (28 Below) in March, a gravel race (Gold Rush) in June, and a mountain bike race (Dakota Five-O) in September.

"Gather 'round!" said the Ridge Riders, "Let's ride together!"

The Ridge Riders Trifecta.

T-shirts and race plates from the 28 Below Fat Bike Race, Gold Rush Gravel Grinder,
 and Dakota Five-O Mountain Bike Race, along with the coveted Ridge Riders Trifecta mug.

1. 28 Below Fat Bike Race

Back in March, I started the Ridge Riders Trifecta with the 28 Below, a 31 mile fat bike race on snowmobile trails up 3,000 feet to the Cement Ridge Lookout Tower and back down. Not only was this my first fat bike race, it was the first ride on a fat bike on snow. And on a bike borrowed from race co-director Kristi Jewett.

Not surprisingly, my learning curve is steeper than the climbs. With a pile of fresh snow overnight to bury the groom, I struggle mightily all day to stay upright and occasionally ride a straight line. I've never worked so hard to ride so slow.

It's all good. I eventually finish. Everyone is so positive, encouraging, enthusiastic and welcoming. Fastest to slowest. Veteran to rookie. Old to young. Not unlike the grass roots gravel scene, or the early days of mountain biking. What a great boost at the end of a long winter!

For my race report on the 2020 28 Below Fat Bike Race, go to A Maiden Voyage To FatBikLand. For my fat bike "lessons learned" post, go to Exploring FatBikLand.

Fully decked out FatBack bike, loaned to me by race co-director Kristi Jewett for the 28 Below.

Soaking in the scenery along the initial 10 mile climb at the 28 Below.

2. Gold Rush Gravel Grinder

The second leg of the Ridge Riders Trifecta is the very familiar 110 mile Gold Rush Gravel Grinder. Since 2013, I have ridden the 110 mile course three times in the Gold Rush and three times as part of the 210 mile Mother Lode race. With the same course each year and straight forward navigation on local gravel roads, I need no course markings or even cue sheets.

Good thing, because there was no actual event. Due to governmental permit issues arising from virus concerns, the Gold Rush officially was cancelled. Shouting GO! in the face of NO!, Kristi and Perry forge forward with a "virtual" event. As a local, I am able to ride the actual course on the originally scheduled weekend in June, although it is more than a bit odd to see only one other cyclist out there all day.

With no aid stations, I carry supplies for the long, hot, windy day. But with no racing concerns, I stop after 70 miles at The TrailsHead Lodge near O'Neil Pass for a burger, fries and bottomless Coke. That certainly is a refreshing change! 

For my post on the Jewett's decision to manage a virtual event, go to GO in the face of NO. For my race report on the 2020 Gold Rush Gravel Grinder, go to Not A Virtual Ride.

My beloved Black Mountain Cycles MonsterCross set for a solo Gold Rush Gravel Grinder.

A welcoming herd of local cycling fans fill the road to cheer on passing racers at the Gold Rush.

3. Dakota Five-O Mountain Bike Race

The final leg of the Ridge Riders Trifecta is the venerable Dakota Five-O, a 50 mile single track mountain bike race. Poised to celebrate its 20th birthday with hundreds of stoked mountain bikers from 30 states, the Five-O also fell to permitting issues related to virus concerns. Another one bites the dust.

Not about to walk away, Kristi and Perry again make the most of a tough hand by offering a virtual event. As a local, I fortunately can ride the actual race course on the scheduled weekend in September. But that is possible only because the Ridge Riders rousted a posse of volunteers to clear miles and miles of trail blocked by downed timber from a freak tornado. Then they marked the entire course, with some necessary detours, right before the originally scheduled start. Stellar community service.

Like the Gold Rush, this is a long, hot day, with no aid stations. I carry 4.5 liters of water, which is barely enough. Early on, several other riders pass me and later a few more leap-frog with me. So, I'm not entirely alone, but I miss was the energy and encouragement from the typically hundreds of other riders, all the volunteers, and the finish line party. 

Well, a day on the bike is always a good day, especially when cruising sweet single track lovingly built and maintained by passionate locals.

For my report on the 2020 Dakota Five-O Mountain Bike Race, go to 2020 DaCOVID Five-O.

Jones 29+ to navigate the 20th Annual Dakota Five-O course.

Rolling along on the 2020 Dakota Five-O course.

In a year of closed doors, covered faces and cancelled events, when many voices screamed "NO!," a few found a way to responsibly shout "GO! GO! GO!"

Thank you, Kristi and Perry Jewett, the Ridge Riders Racing Club, volunteers, sponsors and riders who worked together to keep the vibe alive. Pedal Power!

The Ridge Riders Trifecta. Mission Accomplished.

Come Together, The Beatles (1969)

Saturday, December 5, 2020

2020 Pony Express 120 Bikepacking Adventure - Take A Back Road

And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long

Take A Back Road, Rhett Akins & Luke Laird (2011)

After several summers of solo weekend bikepacking rides throughout the Black Hills, I enjoyed a week+ trip around the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming with cycling buddy Paul Brasby. During that trip, Paul described a bikepacking event he was adding to an existing gravel grinder.

What? Adding a bikepacking event to a gravel grinder? What does that look like?

Paul Brasby leads the Friday group bikepacking ride out to the campground at Sabetha City Lake.
(photo by Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash)

The Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash is an annual race in the historic town of Marysville, Kansas. With passionate, dedicated individuals planning and managing the event, the Pony Express has developed a growing cult following among area cyclists as a must-ride at the end of the year's gravel calendar.

The signature event is a 120 mile gravel race on a wide variety of gravel/dirt roads fanning out from the first Home Station of the famous Pony Express of the Old West. For those looking for less saddle time, the Pony Express also offers a 70 mile race and two different relays - a 3 person relay to cover the 120 mile course and a 4 person relay on the 70 mile course. Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash.

Paul knows this event thoroughly. In fact, he created the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash, co-directed it for its first 5 years, and just this year turned it over to locals. For 2020, Paul suggested a bikepacking event that would leave the morning before the main event, ride along the 120 mile route, camp somewhere about half way, and ride back the next day to finish along with everyone else. In another twist, the Friday ride out to the camp would be a non-timed group ride, while the Saturday ride back would be a timed race for those that wanted to compete. Now, how about that?

Paul Brasby leads the start of the inaugural Pony Express 120 Bikepacking Adventure.
(photo by Andrea Skalla)

After a spring and summer of riding solo, very small group rides, and "virtual" events, the prospect of riding in an actual event with others certainly is appealing. The Pony Express also sounds like a well conceived and executed gravel event, especially with this intriguing Bikepacking Adventure. But it's Paul's role in the event that drives me to find my way to Marysville, Kansas in the middle of October.

Paul co-directed the Pony Express with the Marysville Chamber of Commerce for the first five years and the small town really responds. Seemingly half of the town's weekly newspaper is devoted to the event and "Welcome Gravel Dashers!" signs adorn businesses all over. The City Park even fills this weekend with many cyclists and their families camping in RVs and tents. It's the event of the weekend.

Cruising a Minimum Maintenance Road during harvest season in northern Kansas.

The bikepacking event rules are pretty straightforward. Carry what you want for food, clothing and camping, but you'll have to carry it the entire event. You can utilize the aid stations set up for the main event and also stop at commercial establishments along the way, if any. But I'm not relying on unknown resupply and I'm not cutting corners. As a non-racer who enjoys hot meals and relative comfort on and off the bike, I will carry my typical autumn sub-24 gear and plan to resupply nothing but water.

For this two day/one night event on a gravel race course, I choose my beloved Black Mountain Cycles  MonsterCross bike with 40 mm Schwalbe G-One Bite tires. It's built for this terrain and comfortably carries everything, including tent, sleeping bag/liner/pad/pillow, rain gear, clothing, stove, food, and 4.5 liters of water. When ready to roll, it weighs 47 pounds. No fly weight, but all business.

Flying into Summerfield, the first and only checkpoint of the first day.

Sixteen intrepid bikepackers roll out of Marysville on Friday morning, bound for Sabetha City Lake to camp. It's a jovial, talkative group excited to be out riding together on a crisp autumn morning. The route starts on the Blue River Rail Trail before turning onto fast gravel occasionally connected by dirt Minimum Maintenance Roads. If wet, this course could be Mr. Hyde, but today it's all Dr. Jekyll.

Mid-October is harvest season in northern Kansas and combines, tractors and trucks fill the countryside. More than once, I stop to let a procession of big rigs amble by. I welcome the short breaks, knowing that the industrious farmers are the reason these roads exist and I get to ride them just for fun.

The winds build throughout the morning, growing into a substantial, steady westerly. Turns out that's a big tailwind for most of our ride today. With the strong prevailing winds, fast roads, and relatively light gravel bike, I'm rolling 12-15 mph with little effort. Nice.

Before long, I pull into the 27 mile checkpoint in the town of Summerfield. In addition to water, some local volunteers offer the cyclists Halloween candy from a ginormous bag. What a treat! Since chocolate doesn't travel very well on a bike, I indulge right there. Sweet!

Good thing this Minimum Maintenance Road is dry.

The miles roll by easily, at least until Brewsky Hill. No, it's not a monster climb in length, but it is steep. So steep, in fact, that a sponsor offers a free beer to anyone that rides it without stopping. I give it a go, but don't get far. Remounting to try again, I fall after a couple of pedal strokes and stumble all the way to the bottom before catching my balance. OK, that's it. This is the only time all day that I would have preferred my Jones 29+ with mountain bike gearing.

After a delightful 73 miles, I soft pedal into the camp ground in mid-afternoon and set up camp. Camp host Jon Naaf checks on the bikepackers riding in and creates a central gathering place near his camper by the lake, with a picnic table, chairs and a roaring campfire. Once he accounts for all riders, Jon unexpectedly grills hamburgers and hot dogs, provides beverages, and awards a door prize to each rider. Even better, he later facilitates a round-the-campfire introduction of everyone there. Nice.

Gathering at a city lake, bikepackers attract the attention of the local constable.

Just as the party's getting started, a Sabetha Police Officer drives up to check out a report of "about 20 bikers" hanging out at the city lake. Even the local EMT shows up, just in case. Jon addresses their concerns and happily announces that no charges will be filed. 

The informal gathering stretches into the evening, as few wish to leave the warmth of the campfire and the company surrounding it. A little community builds, as new friends connect and old friends re-connect. Jon recounts the story of his wife Amy, who recovered from cancer and started the organization Pink Gravel to help others recovering from cancer return to active lifestyles. Pink Gravel is out in the community, raising awareness, encouraging folks, and volunteering at events such as the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash. That's some community service. See her website Pink Gravel.

Warm fire and conversation at Sabetha City Lake.

Eventually, all the bikepackers head to their tents and hammocks. Well, all but one. Todd Frye, a local cyclist active in the nutty Black Squirrel Cycling League, left his tent at the start. That actually was intentional, because he did not like how the tent's weight affected his bike's handling and figured a tarp would be enough shelter. Then forgot to load the tarp onto his bike. Only after arriving at the campground did he realize his mistake.

With temperatures dropping into the 40's and below, Todd knew he was in for a long, cold night in his sleeping bag in the open air. Determined to stick to the ethos of the bikepacking event, he refused offers of help and hunkered down in a shallow ditch. Then, in the middle of the night, a front blew in like a freight train and kicked winds up to a steady 25+ mph. I don't think he slept much after that.

Here I'm enjoying a cup of hot coffee while the racers take off on the second day.
(photo by Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash)

In the morning, the persistent wind creates all sorts of problems for everyone. Tents and ground covers billow. Stuff sacks scoot away. Hats tumble across the grounds. Stoves blow out. The biggest problem, however, is that steady 25+ mph wind will be a direct headwind for much of our 52+ miles today. That's going to take some work. Most of the bikepackers seem to respond with a silent shrug and continue to prepare for the ride ahead.

Shortly before 7:30, I deliberately sit at the picnic table by the lake and fire up my stove to make a fresh cup of coffee. I'm sitting out the race start. If I line up for that 7:30 start, I know I'll get caught up in racing. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but that's not why I'm here. So, at 7:30 I cheer on those starting the race back to Marysville and enjoy the rest of my coffee.

Winding our way back to Marysville on the second day.

Maybe 20 minutes later, I meander out of the campground as one of the last bikepackers to leave. The day breaks overcast, cool and windy. But I slept warm and well, savored a hot breakfast and am dressed for the conditions. I settle in for a relaxing 52 mile tour of the Pony Express countryside.

The idyllic, protected start around the lake soon climbs out of tree cover and emerges onto the fruited plains. No hiding from the wind here. I'm pedaling up and down rolling farmland directly into that big headwind. OK, so this is what the day is. I find a sustainable rhythm and enjoy the passing scenery.

At the Axtell checkpoint on the second day, riders on the 70 Mile course merge onto the 120 mile course.
(photo by Andrea Skalla)

I pass a few of the other non-racing bikepackers, several of whom are struggling with the early hills and wind. The return ride on the second day ultimately proved more difficult than expected for many, as only 10 of the 16 bikepackers starting today ultimately pedaled back to Marysville.

Cruising into the check point at the town of Axtell, I stop to refuel, rehydrate and stretch a bit. The park is buzzing with activity, with cyclists from today's 70 mile course streaming in to merge with the 120 mile route. Volunteers scurry about, taking care of everyone. I refill my water bottles, sit down against a fence by the road, and close my eyes. This is good . This is really good. Fully 20 minutes pass before I move again. Oh, yeah. I still need to eat and drink. OK, I will. Ahh. This is good.

Paul Brasby and Craig Groseth at the finish of the 2020 Pony Express 120 Bikepacking Adventure.
Paul finished 3rd to claim a podium spot. FWIW, I finished 7th.

The rest of the ride continues to roll through picturesque rural Kansas, up and down good gravel roads and more than occasionally dip into a dirt road connector. The main difference today is the persistently heavy headwinds and, after the Axtell check point, the presence of the 70 mile riders, including a couple of old Nebraskans. 

First, Rob Evans of Omaha flew by, then slowed to chat, before disappearing over the next ridge. A little later, Joe Billesbach of Beatrice did the same. Both interrupted their race to re-connect a bit, even as they were clearly racing. I later learned that Rob rode as part of the winning 120 mile relay team and Joe won the 70 mile fat bike race. Thanks for the hospitality, boys. I'm glad it didn't cost you a win!

Now that's a lot of stuff from one event. Clockwise from the upper right: 3/4 length event t-shirt,
custom bikepacking finisher's cup, buff, number plate, liner gloves, local newspaper, mud stick,
titanium spork, Pony Express "mail" to carry through the checkpoints, custom face mask, cue sheets,
 and 3/4 length Pink Gravel t-shirt.

The 120 mile course is quickly running out. Soon I'm back on the Blue River Rail Trail for the final few miles into Marysville. I'm not sure that I'm ready for all this to end, but I soft pedal through the finish line. There's Paul, waiting. He's excited for me, but he's also cheering for every rider coming in. Later I learn that Paul raced hard and smart all day to grab third place in the bikepacking race. Nice.

Riders of all kinds filter through the finish line over the next several hours. I hang out for the energetic post-race festivities by the newly restored Union Pacific Train Depot. There's plenty of drinks and snacks, but the homemade apple caramel pie and vanilla ice cream is simply scrumptious. I consider myself abundantly disciplined to consume only two servings. At a volunteer's table, I find my event schwag bag filled with all sorts of stuff, including a titanium spork and a "Marysville Mud Stick." Better yet, I receive a custom finisher's cup for the Bikepacking Adventure. How cool is that?

Thanks to race co-directors Mark and Renee Hoffman, the rest of the Black Squirrel Cycling League, and the Marysville Chamber of Commerce for running the 2020 Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash! Well done, folks! Thanks also to all the sponsors, the volunteers and the cyclists out there pedaling through that wind! And special thanks to my cycling buddy Paul Brasby for drawing me out to Marysville, Kansas to experience a slice of heaven known as the Pony Express 120 Gravel Dash.

Take A Back Road, Rodney Atkins (2011)