By Terry Schuster
More than 150 bicyclists traveled 30 or 50 miles of gravel roads, in the dark of night, through a pouring storm Sept. 2, and then celebrated the unforgettable experience.
They were part of a large cycling sub-culture who loves the challenge of riding gravel roads.
Ogle County has some of the best gravel roads with hills and scenery in Illinois.
It lies close to large metropolitan centers which have no gravel roads, hills, or scenery. Welcome to Ogle County.
This was the second annual Dust at Dusk event organized collaboratively by White Pelican Inc. in Oregon and Stu Garwick, owner of Freeport Cyclery.
This year’s event even attracted Kae Takeshita, of Chicago, one of the top gravel road racing cyclists in the U.S.
Scores of riders then stayed to enjoy an after party at Franklin Street Pub.
Many participants stayed the night in area campgrounds, hotels, and in community homes which offered sleeping space.
A lot of energy was evident at the registration table in the Conover parking lot as equipment was unloaded and checked.
Riders gathered in groups to share stories and make new friendships.
Local cyclists Dan Libman, Dom Cozzi, and Scott Stephens worked hard to make everyone feel welcome.
Maps of the 30- and 50-mile routes on roads as far as Polo were handed out.
By the 6 p.m. start time the weather was ominous, with thunder in the north and dark clouds to the west.
Riders on the longer route were engulfed in the storm at the halfway point around 8 p.m.
One rider recalled riding downhill on a gravel road at 25 miles per hour with thunder, wind, and rain lashing at him. He said it was like bicycling down a rushing brown river. His comment afterward was, “I can’t wait to return next year.” They are a tough breed.
By 11 p.m., stories of adventures flowed freely over pizza and beer as the last riders made it back to town. All agreed it was a great success.
“The ride is a great way to spend night before Labor Day, with the day afterward for recovery,” Cozzi said.
Next year’s ride is again planned for Sunday of Labor Day weekend.
Two additional cycling events are coming to Oregon in the near future.
Ogle County’s largest organized ride, TOSOC (Tour of Scenic Ogle County) will be held on Saturday, Sept. 22.
More than 400 riders are expected for this third annual Village of Progress fundraiser ride of 10, 32, or 62 miles.
Information can be found on the events page at villageofprogress.org.
The next cycling event is Lutheran Outdoor Ministry Center’s “Pedal for a Purpose” round trip ride to Byron at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29.
This is a relatively flat 22-mile ride along the Rock River National Water Trail and returning by the Byron Nuclear Plant.
Information for that ride can be found on LOMC.org/news/.
Nine other established country road routes for enjoyment at any time can be found on bikeogle.org, or at the Historic Depot viewing stand.