Ely, Nevada is the kind of town that grows on you. It doesn’t seem like much, but the historical charm that permeates it, and the regular sound of the old train whistle from the steam engine that circles it, give Ely a beating heart that warms yours. Two years ago, I attended the 2016 Fears, Tears, and Beers mountain bike enduro race in Ely for the first time. You can read all about that adventure from my earlier blog post here. I was excited to return this year for a second run at it.
After checking into the Jailhouse Casino-Motel on Friday morning, we headed out to pre-ride the race course. Since my husband John is the race photographer, it would be his only opportunity to ride it. I took advantage of my chance to get familiar with the trail conditions which were a lot different from the last time I was there. Heavy rains had given many of the trails some really nice traction. The hot, dry weather this year made for dusty conditions and much looser traction. We shuttled the ride (drove the car to the top rather than riding up) so that I could conserve my energy for race day and worked up a healthy appetite for dinner in the process.
The hunting-themed Racks Bar & Grill is the most popular place in town to hang out and grab a drink and a bite to eat. They have a good selection of sandwiches, burgers, and wraps. The smoky pulled-pork sandwich made for a tasty pre-race meal. Like most of Ely, the beer selection is mostly devoid of craft. But, they did have Rack’s IPA made by Ruby Mountain Brewing Company. Located on a ranch near Wells, NV, Ruby Mountain is the essential craft option for the region. Many of the casino bars carry their own brand of the same Ruby Mountain IPA. I couldn’t help but notice how hazy it’s looking these days! With citrus and floral hops flavors, smooth mouthfeel, and the appearance of a glass of orange juice, this remote little brewery is right on trend.
Race day was full of excitement! With no rain in sight, everything was right on schedule. Things got rolling from the middle of town, right through the Jailhouse Casino and Hotel Nevada. Tell me; where else will you ever get to ride your bike on a casino floor? It’s great to see the community participate and support local events.
The race itself is pretty tough, especially with hotter temperatures. I took my time getting to the top where I would begin the first of 3 timed stages. I chose to ride the Beginner loop again this year. The Sport, Expert, and Pro divisions start with an additional loop before tackling Stage #2 which was my first stage. My leisurely climbing pace had me at the pack of the Beginner pack and I found myself in the company of the fastest Expert and Pro men. As a result, I was passed twice by fast men on course, even though riders are staggered to avoid this. One got a little too close and clipped my handle bar causing me to crash. Ouch! Other than that, I had a smooth race. I finished up my last stage where a lovely volunteer offered me a bottle of cold beer. I believe that’s about as good as beer will ever taste!
Once I returned back to town, it was time to relax. I got showered and then headed back to the park where the race started to chill in the shade, and watch Pro and Expert racers descend the gnarliness that is Whorehouse Hill. Folks have binoculars at the ready to catch the action. Later on, everyone reconvened at the local convention center for an awards ceremony, raffle, dinner, and free beer from Ruby Mountain Brewing Co.
With a belly full of food and beer, my tired body slept very well. We woke up on Sunday morning, checked out of the motel, and headed over to La Fiesta for a Mexican breakfast. I sipped a crisp Sol Mexican lager as I devoured a plate of huevos rancheros. It was delicious! I don’t expect to find great Mexican food in Ely, Nevada, but this place continues to surprise me!
The good times continued at Cave Lake State Park, just south of Ely. This beautiful reservoir is host to a variety of summer and winter activities. The trails there offer amazing views of the lake and some really nice downhill flow if you’re riding. As tired as I was from racing, the place seemed magical and rejuvenating somehow. Our campsite at Elk Flats campground had mountain views, flushing toilets, and showers. For us, it was truly luxurious!
The more time I spend in Ely, the more I love it. It ain’t fancy, but it’s bursting with pastimes waiting to be discovered and passionate people who appreciate the outdoors. Fears, Tears, and Beers is a challenging, fun, and well-organized race. I can’t wait to return, hopefully with a crew of friends, and make a real party out of it!
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