bodie bowl

During the inaugural Bodie Bowl, riders see more than 100 original structures in the historic ghost town. Photo courtesy of Bodie Bowl

A real, live, ghost town, Bodie, California, is one of the coolest spots in the lower 48. And August 22 just might be the funnest day of the year to visit this former mining town, thanks to a mountain bike ride: the Bodie Bowl. Best yet? Registration for the event opened on February 1.

"It's the Wild West. It's the well preserved old ghost town of an old mining town," explained Alan Jacoby who lives in nearby Mammoth Lakes, runs Fat Bike Mammoth, an advocacy group, and has ridden Bodie for years. "And the surrounding area is just beautiful. The views are amazing. It's remote. You're out in the wilderness."

The downtown of Bodie is in a state of what's called "arrested decay." Translation: Many of the original items in the storefronts, bars, and homes are still there. Time has coated the whiskey bottles, barroom pianos, and poker tables with a layer of dust, but the only thing that has changed beyond that thin layer is the times.

Located in the Eastern Sierra, Bodie is 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe, about 60 miles north Mammoth Lakes, and about 30-plus miles from eastside gate to Yosemite.

Bodie California

The Bodie Bowl includes two laps through the historic ghost town before a ride heads for the surrounding hills. Photo courtesy of Bodie Bowl

The Bodie Bowl is the brainchild of Dean Irvin, a cancer survivor, avid mountain biker, and fisherman who was up in the hills surrounding Bodie with a few friends, thinking aloud, saying he'd like to start fundraising for a national nonprofit organization that conducts fishing retreats for men with cancer: Reel Recovery.

One of his friends replied, "The only time I really donate is when there's an event I'm interested in."

Irwin looked down at the ghost town and said, "This would be a phenomenal place for a ride."

And the idea was born and Irwin started contacting contacting local, state, and national agencies, and spoke with local property owners since the surrounding areas are in private hands.

Since the Bodie Historic District is recognized as a National Historic Landmark as well as a California Historical Landmark, Irwin knew that getting the appropriate permits would take miles of legwork. And after a few months of phone calls and visits, he got the go ahead.

Bodie California

The Bodie Bowl is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride at one the coolest ghost towns in the world. Photo courtesy of Bodie Bowl

But entries are limited to only 200 riders. To lessen the impact on non-pedaling Bodie visitors, participants will take two laps through the town that still includes 110 structures as well as one gold mill before heading out into the surrounding hills.

There will be two courses. The Expert/Sport course is 50 kilometers (31 miles) and includes about 2,500 feet of climbing. The Recreational course is 30 kilometers (18.6 miles). To add to the challenge, both courses are above 8,000 feet elevation, where the air has less oxygen than it does at sea level.

Since the courses are predominantly on Jeep trails/double-track, it should be a fast event that's accessible to riders who may not consider themselves technical riders. Jacoby said it's a good course for 29" bikes because "niners" excel on non-tech and fast trails due to their larger wheel size.

Both courses include a handful of out and backs, and provide great views of the White Mountains, Mono Lake, and the Eastern Sierras, says Irwin. And a portion of the proceeds will benefit Reel Recovery.

The inaugural Bodie Bowl is limited to 200 riders. Register at BikeReg.com

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