HELENA – On Saturday morning, hundreds of bicycle riders from near and far gathered in York. They hit the road for a good cause, in the annual York 38 Special mountain bike ride.
The 38-mile course started in York, traveled up to Nelson, then looped back through the national forest. Riders gained more than 2,000 feet of elevation.
“It’s a race; it’s a climb; it’s no joke,” said Jeff Erickson.
Erickson, from Butte, was taking part for the first time. He said he saw the ride advertised at a restaurant in Helena and decided to try it out.
“Everybody’s been good,” he said. “It’s been fun.”
At Nelson, ten miles into the course, organizers set up the first of five aid stations for the riders. They provided everything from food and water to bike repairs to an EMT, in case any rider needed medical help.
York Fire-Rescue assistant chief Don Zimmerman was in charge of the Nelson station.
“All of these aid stations are a welcome sight to these guys,” he said.
He said it took a combined effort to make the ride possible.
“We’ve got 50 to 60 people working this, all volunteers,” he said.
This year, about 150 riders took part in the 38 Special itself – slightly more than in 2017. In addition, more than 50 took on the Lucky 13, a 13-mile “family ride” with a more gentle grade, from York to Vigilante campground and back.
Tahnee Szymanski and her six-year-old daughter Campbell rode in the Lucky 13 for the first time.
“We have just graduated to a bigger bike for Campbell,” said Szymanski. “We had some friends that were doing it, and so we decided we would try it this year.”
Campbell completed about ten miles of the course, while her mother went the whole way.
“It’s gorgeous scenery, all the way and all the way back,” Szymanski said. “It’s nice to ride along the creek.”
While there was some haze in the air, the conditions weren’t very smoky.
“We were worried about how bad it would be, but we didn’t notice it at all on the ride,” said Szymanski. “It was a beautiful day for a ride – perfect weather.”
York Fire-Rescue leaders said the 38 Special has been going on about 15 years. Today, it is a major fundraiser, helping the small volunteer department pay for things like equipment and training.
“We don’t have a big tax base,” said Zimmerman. “If it wasn’t for the fundraising, there’s a lot of things this department has, we would not have.”
After this year’s ride was over, many said they’re ready to take it on again.
“Oh, yeah, I’ll be back next year,” Erickson said.
“We’ll definitely do it again,” said Szymanski. “We have to get her all the way to the end.”
York Fire-Rescue is now getting ready for its next major fundraiser, York Fest. The community celebration will be held Saturday, Sept. 15.