An Off-Road Quest to Reach the Silver Spike

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. My goal was the finishers reward of the coveted silver railroad spike with the proof of my success engraved in the metal. 

Epic Rides Carson City Off Road Mountain Bike Race offers a test of determination and perseverance.

My wife Kim gave me a kiss 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. My goal was the finishers reward of the coveted silver railroad spike with the proof of my success engraved in the metal.

Steep climbing combined with rough terrain as the howling gusts of wind attempted to slow riders down and the adventure was on! 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 miles of climbing to do so. However there was a lovely reward, a view of double lakes with Marlette Lake in the foreground and the deep blue Lake Tahoe directly behind it. The remaining thirteen miles were downhill.

The view on the Lake Tahoe Rim Trail as spectacular as the Tahoe basin is snow covered, even in early summer. I stopped and took a few photos 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 I wanted a ride back in the truck. Having never quit a race in my life, I would politely decline, but I did ask him one question, “How much further to the summit?” When he said “two miles” I told him, “I’ve got this.” I didn’t realize the last two miles was a mixture of single track switchbacks leading into a snow field.

Having reached the peak, it was all downhill from there. I called my wife Kim from the top and told her it would be a couple more hours because I now had about 13 miles of deep forest single track switch-backs over tree roots and rocks.

Towards the end of the decent, I detoured off the pleasant fire road on to the “secret trail”. This was a narrow goat trail (more like gopher trail on a ledge) along the side of the mountain that connected the riders to another route. I was told this was added to link “useable” land parcels. 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). Not wanting to fall off the so-called “secret trail” ledge and worry my wife, I decided to ride and paddle some of the off–camber turns; 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’s, I’d rank this event close to the top. Even the pros were saying it was a “tough” course like a shorter version of the Leadville 100-mile race in Colorado.

The reward was as promised, a heavy silver chrome-plated railroad spike. It was one of the most thoughtful tokens of appreciation for completing such a beautiful and challenging race. We enjoyed the festival atmosphere and free city park camping along the quaking cottonwood trees.

At the festival the vendor sponsors offered quality free swag and services. Kim received a flat repair kit from the Slime company and I got a free front dérailleur 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, and I can’t emphasize enough 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!

The Carson City Off-Road 35/50 Mountain Bike Race entry fee was $120, which was very fair for the thrills, adventure, and race. To accomplish this ride yourself, I suggest you take a two-day drive up from San Diego and camp in Mammoth next to the 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, consider a stop in Bridgeport, California for a bite to eat. A bonus was our tour of the historic Carson City Mint, where they used to mint gold pieces and silver dollars. There is lots of fun to be had and Western history to learn. See you on the trail!

Ride:Carson City Off-Road
Location:Carson City, Nevada
Distance:35, 65, or 90 miles
Difficulty:Intermediate/PRO
Start:Capital Complex
Hosts:Epic Rides
Next Event:June 15-17, 2018
The sunsets over the mountains in Carson City, Nevada.
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