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Grizzly Century Rolls Through Scenic Byway

Submitted by Doug Waltner

NORTH FORK – The Grizzly Century Bike Run returns to the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“The Griz” has become one of the premier rides in Central California. Great scenery, little traffic, and friendly service are among the attractions.

The Grizzly Century began 21 years ago as a vision of Mike Nolen, who recruited a small contingent of supporters who have been making it better every year since.

Mike Nolen talking to riders at Grizzly Century 2012 - photo Gina ClugstonFrom the beginning it has been a community event, whose purpose is to provide a quality Century Bicycle ride and raise money for community activities, with a focus on the Sierra Vista National Scenic Byway.

Now, between 475 and 600 riders from around the state and the nation return year after year to ride the Grizzly, whose route follows much of the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, leaving from North Fork, heading to Arch Rock, returning to the Grizzly Road, going through Cold Springs Summit and down Beasore road and around Bass Lake, before returning to North Fork.

Near Redinger Lake Overlook Grizzly Run 2012 - photo Gina ClugstonRiders have choices of shorter rides, including a 100K ride, and a Loop around Bass Lake.

Riders love the Grizzly for its fantastic scenery, challenging climbs, lack of traffic, beautiful fall weather, great food, and especially the friendliness of the volunteers.

Most of the 70+ volunteers are non-riders, who just enjoy working the ride and helping the community. Most have been helping for years at rest stops, SAGGing (Support and Gear) or driving around helping riders, registering, working the radios, and more.

Grizzly Century Bike Run  - Roz and Chuck Thrapp and Roric RussellThe food always gets rave notices, from the Lion’s Club breakfast, to Roz Thrapp’s cinnamon rolls, to Judy Nolen’s family’s sushi, to the Forest Service barbeque. Rick Garner, owner of Yosemite Bicycles, believes the Grizzly should be renamed the Sushi Grizzly, since it’s probably the only ride in the country that offers that unique food.

The breakfast and barbecue are open to the public, and provide a good chance to socialize with local friends and meet folks from out of town.

Also, the North Fork Women’s Club hosts the Fall Festival at the old mill site, and the History Group has displays at the Scout building on the day of the ride.

Single rider on Grizzly Run - photo Gina ClugstonAccording to some Grizzly board members, perhaps the most satisfying part of the whole event is that the profits all go back to the community.

Projects over the years have included repairs and upgrades to Redinger Overlook and Mile High Vista, the town totem pole, school assemblies, assistance to Volunteer Fire Departments and North Fork History Group, scholarships, summer reading program and much more.

Staging at North Fork School for Grizzly Ride - photo by Gina ClugstonAlso, thousands of dollars are poured into the community by riders on lodging and food, and the Grizzly buys as much as it can from local vendors.

The staging area is at the North Fork School, 33087 Road 228, North Fork, CA. Riders show up early to fuel up on a hearty breakfast prepared by the North Fork Lions Club that includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, coffee and juice. Breakfast will be served to the public from 7 to 10 a.m., and everyone is invited.

There are three options for the day’s rides, laid out for various levels of ability and endurance –

THE GRIZ (100 miles) Over 10,000 foot elevation gain. Pass Mile High Vista, Jackass Rock, Arch Rock, the red fir forests of Cold Springs Summit, speedily descend to Bass Lake and back to North Fork.

THE METRIC CENTURY (100k = 63 miles) A 5,000 foot elevation gain. North Fork to Mile High Vista and back. Tremendous views of conifer forests, rock formations, and the high Sierra.

LOOP THE LAKE (24 miles) A 1,000 foot elevation gain around Bass lake, the Pines Resort. Beautiful pines and quiet roads. Then return to the staging area along county Road 274.

Visit the Grizzly Century website for information about registration, schedule, route maps, etc.

Two riders on Grizzly Century 2012The Grizzly Century is fabulous event for riders and those of us who live in Eastern Madera County. But, don’t just take our word for it. Below just tiny sample of unsolicited comments we get each year.

“I completed the Century ride on Saturday and just wanted to let you know I had a great time! As expected, the views were spectacular. Your ride is well organized, very well supported and, yes, the food was great. Thanks again, Steve”

“I would rate the Griz a 5 [out of 5] based on degree of difficulty, scenery and most of all the support staff, especially the SAG group which were really needed on that last hill. See you next year.”

“Absolutely – 5 stars!!! In all our years of cycling, we have done many-many organized rides. By far, the Grizzly Century is one of the best rides. Beautiful scenery, great food, and wonderful people. It’s a must-do ride for us!” Robert & Phyllis

“…the Grizzly is my favorite century ever! Stunning route with lots of climbing, wonderful friendly volunteers, great food and cool jerseys.”

“Cycling these remote byways have you feeling like an explorer while experiencing the beautiful Sierra Nevada backcountry.”

“Best value! Great food at rest stops, challenging yet fun ride. This is my favorite century :)”

Bring your family to enjoy the North Fork Fall Festival, which will include historic bicycles in honor of the 20th Griz.

There will be a BBQ at the North Fork Town Hall from noon to 7 p.m., put on by the Forest Service Employees Association. Tickets will be sold at the door the day of event.

Pre-Sale tickets are available at the USFS Bass Lake Ranger District Office in North Fork, and are $10 adults, $6 child.

Prices at the door will be $12 adults, $7 child. Make Checks out to: B.L.E.A. (Bass Lake Employees Association).

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