Touched by Red Lodge

To the Editor,

Eighteen months ago, three Cycle Greater Yellowstone organizers (myself included) emerged from a first reconnaissance meeting in Red Lodge with identical thoughts. “We need to end here,” we began saying, not 10 feet from the Pollard’s door, about our inaugural tour, “and even add a second day.”

The enthusiasm and support from Patty Davis, Glory Mahan and Angela Beaumont was infectious. While all the communities we visited in February 2012 for route planning were welcoming, Red Lodge took it to another level. And aside from Red Lodge consistently earning my vote as “the coolest town in Montana”, we had another reason for wanting 700 riders and 80 volunteers to put down tent stakes for an extra day in your vibrant mountain community Aug. 23-24: The Beartooth Pass. When we first learned of the human-caused fire along U.S. Highway 212 south of town, the impromptu and busy fire base at our scheduled camp at the fairgrounds, the smoke shrouding Red Lodge off and on, and the Beartooth’s untimely closure, we were chagrined and, in the case of those who have worked with Patty and Glory for so long, heartbroken.

Red Lodge and the Beartooth were advertised as our coup de grace, the you-ain’t-seen-nothin’-yet climax to what was an unforgettable week. We debated. We agonized. Our hearts and our heads sparred. Nobody wanted to undo locked-in plans for a traveling circus with a million moving parts. And nobody wanted to pull the rug out from under Red Lodge, which we wanted to send a fitting “thank you” for your longstanding support. We called event planners and fire experts. We asked: what would you do? We held out until the last possible moment but, in the end, the safety and health of 700 riders and the possibility of being uprooted from our camp trumped all else. Our heads prevailed over our hearts, and we opted for a second night with our gracious hosts in Cody while imploring cyclists to savor their upcoming time in Red Lodge. Happily, many cyclists did just that — and still pedaled the Beartooth, un-supported. One foursome rose at 2 a.m. Sunday so they could be at the first summit by sunrise.

We were touched by the tireless efforts Red Lodge made to accommodate us under unique circumstances and appreciate your understanding of our predicament. Know this: If Cycle Greater Yellowstone becomes the signature event for the region that we firmly believe it will, we will be back — with an even larger contingent. Red Lodge and the Beartooth are just too cool not to.

Jeff Welsch

Communications Director Greater Yellowstone Coalition/Cycle Greater Yellowstone Bozeman