Podcast: Ben Brainard of the Shasta Gravel Hugger, Northern California

podcast shasta gravel hugger

Our partner in podcasting, The Gravel Ride Podcast, sits down this time around with Ben Brainard to discuss the Shasta Gravel Hugger. Founded in 2020, this March event in Northern California has proven to be a great season opener for many gravel cyclists.

The Podcast

Shasta Gravel Hugger Website

Automatic Transcription by The Gravel Ride (please excuse all errors)

[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport

I’m your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don’t need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.

This week on the show. We welcome Ben Bernard, the founder of the Shasta gravel hugger event in Northern California taking place in March each year for the last four years. It’s become a real great early season option. For those of you looking to test your metal in the early parts of the year and not able to go out to some of the Midwest gravel races, like the mid south.

Ben has a real interesting approach to the race. He’s got a great area to play with around Mount Shasta. If you’ve never been there before, it’s a real amazing. Landmark. In the region, if you’re driving, say from San Francisco up to Oregon, you pass through the town of Mount Shasta and then around on the north side of the mountain and the views are absolutely spectacular.

I’ve got a number of friends from Marin county who love this event and have been up on a number of occasions. As Ben will describe the weather sometimes plays a factor in the event and really dramatically affects your choice of equipment for this early season race. Before we jump in i need to thank this week sponsor hammerhead and the hammerhead caru to computer

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You can get a new hammerhead to computer in front of you for your next year’s riding endeavors. With all that said let’s jump right into my conversation with ben

[00:04:04] Craig: Ben. Welcome to the gravel ride podcast.

Cast

[00:04:07] Ben: Thanks for having me. It’s, it’s an honor.

[00:04:09] Craig: I’m excited. I, you know, Shasta being not dramatically far away from my, from where I live and certainly a place that I’ve been before, ever since I started seeing the Shasta gravel hugger on the calendar. I’ve been excited to talk to you cuz it’s a beautiful area and I wanna learn, learn more about the event.

[00:04:27] Ben: Excellent. You got it. It is a beautiful area. I’ve just loved going, riding my bike down there, especially in the winter, as I’ve said before this time of year it is, it is perfect. We got great smooth roads and the weather is usually pretty stinking good except for on race day. Yeah. I wanna

[00:04:43] Craig: step back and talk about that a little bit later.

But before we get get into the race itself, why don’t we just learn a little bit about yourself? How did you find your way into that region? How’d you find your way to gravel cycling? .

[00:04:55] Ben: Yeah, I’ve been in the valley here for I guess about 22 years. The Rogue Valley that is, so I’m, I’m north of where the race is by about a 45 minute drive.

You know, like most people work brought us here. And then I got immersed in, in work for several years and, and finally when that led up a little bit, Picked up my bike about, you know, from, from a young age I was riding bikes, but, but not racing bikes. And about 12 years ago I started racing and then slowly found my way into gravel and then yeah, eventually promotion.

It’s crazy. So,

[00:05:34] Craig: so to set the context for our listeners, I’ve been up to Shasta, I’ve been north of Shasta. On my way to Bend, I think is what normally I go by Shasta and, and, and continue up that road. It’s a pretty rural part of Northern California. So can you des just sort of describe the area and maybe paint a picture for, you know, what brings people there?

What’s the sort of the economic engine of the region, et cetera.

[00:05:59] Ben: Yeah, I would say timber is what developed this area. And, and so, so that’s the main thing. We’ve seen less and less timber. I. In this area, you know, the mills have kind of dwindled down to where there’s, you know, one big one or something.

And, and so I would say now this particular area is recreation is a big, a big thing. And then secondary would be tourism yeah, tourism. And, and I just slipped me, what was the, the other one I was gonna say. But but yeah, it’s a beautiful area and it’s a great place to visit. . Yeah,

[00:06:33] Craig: certainly Mount Shasta.

I guess I first became aware of it because of the mountain at Mount Shasta and the desire to climb it and go up. It, it’s just sort of, it’s an attainable, quote unquote mountaineering experience for a lot of people. And I know they’ve got, you know, a great outfitter right there in, in, in downtown Mount Shasta to help you get up the mountain.

And that’s where I first got exposed to it and mm-hmm. , it was clear. Obviously there’s a lot of wilderness around that area. I stopped there once on my mountain bike on the way home from Ben to explore a little bit, but just kind of got the, the tip of the iceberg for what the terrain is around there.

When you think about like where you live now and around Shasta itself, how would you describe the, the, the gravel biking terrain that.

[00:07:18] Ben: Yeah. Oh man. We have so many gravel roads. So, you know, I live just over the border in Oregon in the rogue Valley. And our gravel roads are for the most part, very pristine, like very well developed gravel roads.

The problem we have around here is they almost all go up the side of a mountain. And so, , they’re great roads to ride in the summer, but in the wintertime, you’re gonna, you’re gonna bump into, into snow pretty early on and get turned around a lot of the time. And so that’s what led me to, to going down into the Shasta area because I, I can ride these awesome gravel roads the strata Bianchi roads and, and, and stay below, let’s say 3000 feet most of the time.

And that way I, I can, I can stay outta the. Interesting.

[00:08:06] Craig: Yeah, that it, it didn’t dawn on me that actually Shasta would have better weather than where you are.

[00:08:13] Ben: Yeah, it’s, I would say it has a few more sunny days in this area. I mean, I could, I could have drizzle here, go up over the Siskiyou, pass in, into Siskiyou County and, and voila, it’s a sunny day.

It’s, yeah, it’s quite a bit about the weather in the wintertime, especially. .

[00:08:30] Craig: Interesting. So you mentioned you sort of rediscovered the bicycle about a dozen years ago, and eventually during that path you started riding off road. Was that by virtue of the fact that there’s just so many dirt roads around where you

[00:08:42] Ben: were?

Yeah, well, I, I would say that I found gravel and dirt roads from a good friend Tom Neland, who started putting on the honey badge Arise, which are, are are pretty fun event around here. A free event. And he’s the one that introduced me to the gravel roads in the Mount Shasta area. So I had, I had an old Hardtail mountain bike that I used for commuting, and they had some, I don’t know, two inch slicks on it or something like that.

26 er. And, and I went to one of his honey Badger rides, which they kind of focus. unique courses and, and gravel. And and that’s how I found the gravel bike. And from there it was just riding cross bikes. And I actually been, I, geez, I guess three or four years that I’ve been racing gravel pretty seriously.

I mean, as. as a primary source for, for my events that I attend. And, but I got my first gravel bike this last year. It’s right here behind me. But most of the roads around here are so nice that a cross bike is absolutely fine. I mean, if you don’t need to go beyond 30 fives

[00:09:48] Craig: usually. Yeah. Yeah.

So there’s a, a quite a big leap between finding a love of riding gravel bikes and riding on dirt roads to creating an event. , what made you decide to take that leap? And remind me when the first Shaster gravel hugger event was?

[00:10:06] Ben: The first event was in 2000, March of 2000. So, it’s four years. This next year will be our fourth year of putting, no,

[00:10:14] Craig: 2020, sorry.

Yeah, 2020 was the first

[00:10:16] Ben: one. Yeah. Yeah. 2020. Yeah. Sorry. Yeah. And it’s grown steadily ever since.

[00:10:21] Craig: and was the first one. Did you just sort of put it out there, Hey, come one, come all, or did you put a little organization, a lot of organization behind it?

[00:10:30] Ben: Yeah. You know, in 2020 there were some, some big rides, obviously some big races, and, and I was drawn to those events and so I’m like, well, geez, we have these beautiful roads here.

You know, we need an. In this region, they’re, of which they’re, you’d have to go to Bend to get a gravel race or, or, or, or the Grasshopper series in Northern California, which are still several hours south of here. And so, so yeah, I just decided that these, these roads kind of reminded me of the strata Bianca Roads, these beautiful white crush granite roads.

, wanted to mimic the, the Strata Bianchi and the Peru Bay. That was the original plan, but we had a couple promoters around here and they like to put on events and, and, and like small little local events, and I wanted to try to make this more of a regional national type of event. And so I figured.

Someone that had the passion for, and the vision for this particular type of a race probably should be at the helm. And so I decided, you know, the whole, I guess I’ll do it myself kind of a thing. And, and it, it must take off. So it’s great. And did you, was it

[00:11:40] Craig: always sitting in early March as the time it was held?

[00:11:44] Ben: Yeah. I originally had plans to, to call it strata something, you know, mimicking the strata Bianchi roads. But eventually I just didn’t want the conflict with that particular race. And it’s on the same exact day as strata Bianchi. And so we kind of, I wanted to put it early in the year because as we all know, as the summer goes on, the race counter gets more and more competi.

This particular week is one week ahead of Midsouth. I did not want to try to go up against the Midsouth. If I’m trying to be a a national type race, then, then, then you wouldn’t automatically go up against Midsouth. Yeah. And so I kind of placed it on the calendar right here for those two reasons originally.

And, and then the third thing is when, when I was training riding turbos in, in the, in the winter. , I wanted to get out and do an early event. You know, like even if you’re just, you know, doing some base work or something like that, you still kind of want to go out and test yourself and, and, and this is perfect.

It, it, it fit into how it, it fit in exactly to a spot that I would want a race personally. Yeah. So, yeah. That’s kind of, that

[00:12:51] Craig: makes a lot of sense how either there, yeah. Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. Like I know any Wouldbe race organizer at this point, there’s gravel events throughout the. And to your point, like if you want to create an event that can occupy a little bit more of a national profile and kind of be a destination, that early season spot is one that’s open and granted, not everybody’s gonna have the wherewithal to go to Mid-South, but it certainly has the name and.

The recognition and sponsors that is gonna draw a lot of athletes and not head going head-to-head with it, but also similarly for recreational athletes. Providing that early season goal and opportunity I think makes a ton of sense with that March date. As I’ve seen pictures over the years. , you have experienced some dramatic weather.

Can you kind of describe kind of the, you know, just the many different personalities the course can have based on the weather conditions?

[00:13:49] Ben: Yeah. Like I’ve said, this area has fantastic weather in the wintertime, but we have been, I don’t blessed cursed. I don’t know what, but we. all three years that we’ve had the race so far, we’ve had snow on course at some point, you know, and so year number one was probably the worst year if you ask me.

It was cold, it was raining at the start, and then by the time we got to the highest point of the race, there was snow on the ground. So you dig back in the photos of, of that first race and, and it, and it was pretty sloppy and, and and. The next year we had snow overnight, but it was a beautiful sunny day and it just created these just in incredible pitchers.

The course was good except for, you know, the infamous Jeep Trail, which which was just saturated actually, and so it, it, it didn’t have a chance to dry out, but But these roads, for the most part, with the exception of this Jeep Road, east Louis Jeep Road, that seems to be pretty famous in this race.

The roads hold up to all kinds of weather, so well the majority of ’em are gonna be just if you get some rain in the week ahead. They are faster than most pavement roads. So they’re big, wide open county maintained gravel roads that are really smooth. Most of the.

[00:15:07] Craig: Yeah, I was, when I was on the Shasta Gravel hugger website, I was looking at the tire recommendations as I often do for, for travel events.

And you made mention like totally capable in a, in a dry ish road, gravel day 30 twos to 37. You’re, you’re, you’re all good. Mm-hmm. . But if it’s actually wet on the course, all of a sudden it’s a different.

[00:15:29] Ben: Yeah. We have, we’ve had road bikes do well, so Luke lamp party came up here and raced on a road bike with, he could stuff some 30 millimeters in there.

And it was one of the years it was super wet. Could he have been higher than third place with, with a proper gravel bike? Possibly that particular year, but like last year, I would say that. He, he might have been able to win it on a, on a road bike. And that’s the fun thing about this particular race, like we call it gravel and it, it, it attracts a lot of people, but it is almost half pavement.

So. It is a real, I try to do the build up the sectors. And the reason we have sectors is because there’s gravel sections. And then of course we have, you know, maybe, I think our longest one’s like a 12 mile section of pavement. And, and so yeah, picking the right tires is, is huge. And, and if you can get away with running some 32 millimeter slicks, like I write it a lot.

my cross bike with, with kind of a road ish wheel on ’em, and, and it does fine. So yeah, let’s dig

[00:16:34] Craig: into the courses that are available to riders now for the 2023 edition. What, what course options do you have?

[00:16:41] Ben: Yeah, our big one is called the Full Hug and it’s a hundred miles and it has about 4,500 feet of climbing in it.

I wanna. And then we have the half hug. I kind of like the bro hug. It’s like it’s half, half that. It’s, it’s a hundred kilometers. It is just a, just I think 65 miles with about 4,000 feet of climbing. So it’s, it’s close. Most of the climbing’s in the second half of the, of the race. And then brand new this year, we are adding a more social.

Loop, which is gonna be 35 miles. And, and we have also added an e-bike, which is something that’s brand new for me to include an e-bike option in, in, in the

[00:17:21] Craig: race. So, interesting. And it sounds like, from what you were saying before in our tire discussion, from a technical perspective, no one should be too nervous about what they’re gonna get into up there.

[00:17:32] Ben: Yeah. I mean, we have one high speed descent. Might, would definitely make you wish you had some different tires on if you’re, if you went small. But all aid, all ages, all levels. We’d be fine. Just, you know, you gotta be careful. People can recognize when, when it’s getting dangerous and slow down, so, yeah.

Yeah, for the most part, roads are

[00:17:51] Craig: fantastic. And then are you providing aid stations out there on the course for the riders?

[00:17:56] Ben: Yeah, so we have, last year we had two main aid stations and then a third. Third was just in an emergency aid station that wasn’t quite stocked as much close to the end in case someone was crashing and boning or something like that.

Most people didn’t stop at that one, but yeah, fully supported. We encourage everyone to use our aid stations as opposed to try to seek outside help along along the way. You know, we try to discourage and make it fair enough for everybody if they don’t have a, a dad to hand water bottles up in random spots.

So we encourage everyone to, if they do want something special from, from a teammate or a family member, then do it in our, in our speed zones.

[00:18:35] Craig: Yeah. When you think about how you’re promoting the event and the types of athletes that you’re trying to attract, Are you categorizing this as a full throttle race?

You know, if there’s a spectrum between like hardcore race and gravel ride, where are you trying to sit? And I realize that you could answer that differently for the 10% at the front of the race versus the rest of us. But I’d just be interested to kind of get your thought process on how you’re, you’re categorizing it.

[00:19:01] Ben: Yeah, I mean, I would, I, I’d categorize it as a race, like, yeah, we’re chip timed, we are keeping track of different age groups, so yeah, full on race. But it, it falls into the, the gravel theme of you know, the molet, you know, we have let the racers race and then if anyone wants to, you know, just go out there and knock off a, a big, long day, then.

We’d love to have them too, so, so yeah. It’s, yeah, it’s, it’s definitely a, a party for some and, and, But we always try to maintain that there’s a race going on and we try to promote the race piece of it too. Because, you know, we’re trying to attract these big professional racers to come, which will, you know, create excitement for the everyday person to come and see how they stack up against people.

So it’s been fun.

[00:19:52] Craig: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And if I look back over the last few years, for whatever reason, whatever you’ve done, the timing, the location, the ethos you have managed to attract, Several or dozens of elite riders to come and chest their metal there in March.

[00:20:08] Ben: Yeah. Yeah. Originally, you know, it’s an interesting story.

So you’re number two. So you’re number one is, was the start of covid. So we’re in March of 2000 2020, excuse me. And. And there’s some grumbling about Covid of course. And then we pretty much shut down, right? And then there was hardly any races that year. And then the next year is like in the early spring it felt like, okay, things are starting to, to open up and, and a county like Siski I don’t know.

They, they would kind of, I just think they kind of poo-pooed the, the co covid thing in that area, the maj majority of people. And, and so they were welcoming of us trying to do something that year. And so year number two, we really quickly threw it together and And the funny story is that I noticed that Pete Stetner was, was liking some of my Instagram posts.

And so I’m like, huh. So we shot Pete a quick message and he’s like, yeah, I’m, I’m open that week and I’d love, love to come, kind of a thing. And, and . And so I would say he was the start of the, the professionals showing up to the race. And then we were able to leverage that Pete, you know, hey, Pete’s coming and you know, we got Jacob Rath Raey come down from, from the Portland area.

So we had a couple of pros in year number two. And then in year number two, the women’s field was, was even probably more stacked top to bottom. There was, I think only 13 of the, the women’s pros, but we had Clara Hansinger, we had Maude Farrell, and then of course Moe Wilson. That was, that was our, our, our, our podium with ma taking the wind.

Mo second and Clara Haunting are third. So, so yeah, it, it’s definitely. The interest of the, the regional pros. And then last year Adam, Rob, you know, he’s coming all the way over from Quebec, but he just wanted one, an event and one that wasn’t in, in snow and winter. And so he came out here and, and yeah, we got Brennan words coming up from, from the Marin County and, and, and had a great showdown last year with some really strong writers.

Yeah.

[00:22:13] Craig: Yeah. It’s, it’s been, it’s been fun to watch the kind of growth, and I, I think you’ll continue to see people get attracted to it. Again, it’s just good part of the calendar. Mm-hmm. , clearly it’s got enough ca like enough quality terrain and racers up there to make it a, a worthwhile early season test of your fitness.

[00:22:32] Ben: Yeah, exactly. This next year though, the calendar has become quite a bit more competitive on my, my day because Belgian Waffle Wright has. That they are gonna be holding a, an event in Arizona on the same weekend. So the, so now the work is for me to try to, you know, attract these, these pros to come to my event over, over heading to Arizona, which, I mean, March in Arizona sounds pretty good to me but but yeah,

[00:23:00] Craig: yeah, yeah. I think there’s room for, you know, if you put on great events, , there’s room for multiple events on the same day at the end of the day. Mm-hmm. , there’s people looking for different things. I think you also mentioned over email some, some initiatives that you’ve put forth and maybe some changes in how you’re kind of rolling people out during the day.

Do you wanna talk about some of those 20, 23 initiatives?

[00:23:21] Ben: Yeah, absolutely. So yeah, there’s. There’s been some chatter amongst the, the female racers. Now a lot of them like to see how they stack up, up, up against the men, but there’s also been a decent amount of chatter about how unsafe it is for them to try to be going out there and competing in these, these massive, this mass participation events that that have a ton of guys that they’re trying to jockey with.

And so this next year if as long as we get enough in the field to make it worthwhile, we are going to ship the women off 15, 15 minutes ahead of the men’s race so that they don’t have to go deal with that first sector and the chaos associated with that. They will, we’ll also be able to give them a chance to, to kind of highlight the women and, and announce who’s here and who’s competing and, and, and give their sponsors a sh a shout out and.

and then, then we send them off and then we can go about bringing the guys up 15 minutes later. And then, you know, I just ahead

[00:24:21] Craig: a follow up question on that, Ben, when you, when you think about that first sector, is there elevation, is there technicality? What do you imagine happening during those first 15 minutes that allow the women to sort of have a sense of more autonomous racing for that portion?

[00:24:37] Ben: Yeah, so the first sector is, is I, I wanna say it’s about six miles. It’s relatively flat. The first, the first quarter of a mile last year was in relatively loose gravel, and then it got pretty nice and smooth after that. So, so the first quarter of a mile it was, it was pretty chaotic. It was pretty dusty, and, and it was definitely, If you weren’t in the preferred two lines, you know, you are out in some, some loose gravel and so, so yeah, I, it made for a hairy first couple of minutes of the race and, and the race ha at that point was already on.

I, I think the original attack with with Adam and Br Brennan was right before they went onto that sector, so it was already full race mode. So yeah, it was extremely hectic.

[00:25:26] Craig: Yeah, it’s interesting. And before I ask this next question, I wanna state, I don’t know the right answer to this mm-hmm. and I think.

Over time, it’s gonna evolve, and it may even be on an event by event basis, but as the women are, are set out 15 minutes ahead and granted it will give them a clean look at that first sector and the ability for some women to attack one another and perhaps to kind of stretch out the field. At some point the front end of the men’s race is going to start interacting with those female athletes out front.

And I don’t know if you’ve gotten this feedback from the women. As the, as the elite men start to come through, obviously there’s gonna be women who have fitness who attempt to glom onto some wheels and, and kind of get caught up in the momentum of the men’s peloton. How do you kind of imagine that playing out?

[00:26:16] Ben: That’s a great question. And I think, I think it’s one that I’m gonna look, I’m gonna probably look to a few of our, our professional ladies that are coming in to help guide me on that. So, so the big question is like, do we do. tell them like, Hey, don’t jump on wheels. This you’re in your own little race.

Or, or like year number two, when we had wave starts they just were able to jump on whatever they wanted to. And, and so I, I don’t know the answer to that question, but we as. By the time we roll off on race day, I hope to have a, a very clear explanation to all the racers about what we’re, what we hope to see out there.

[00:26:58] Craig: Yeah, I think that’s a good, that’s a good approach. I mean, obviously like the women should be leading this conversation about what makes sense, I suspect, but don’t know that, you know, they will think it’s fair game to grab wheels. Like it’s, it’s implausible that over a hundred mile day mm-hmm. . Racers are gonna work with racers.

That’s just sort of the nature of bike racing, right? So it’s hard to imagine everybody’s saying like, okay, we all agree cause it’s just gonna be super hard to police. But I just think it’s interesting and I, again, like I’ve, I’ve seen a number of races attempt this approach where they’re giving a 15 minute head start.

We’ve obviously seen the co-mingled starts. We’ve seen lots of different derivatives of this, and I do think that as a community, as we put these offers out there, it’s just important to be open and say like, Hey, we don’t know what the right solution is. But potentially after the year of 2023, at a bunch of these tests, if you will, going out and getting feedback from women, we’ll arrive at something that makes sense, that still has that community feel, but elevates the safety, elevates the ability for the sport to high.

Female athletes as much as oftentimes the ma male athletes get

[00:28:15] Ben: highlighted. Exactly. That’s been, that’s definitely been my initiative for the, for the last several years is, is to try to, to, to give these ladies a, a chance, I mean, . We originally had ideas of doing a, a reverse discrimination prize purse because, you know, women’s cycling has been so underfunded or, you know, the rewards or or prize money was, was so minuscule compared to, to the men’s races that, that that we wanted to like highlight that as, as one of the things, we have a prize purse for the women only.

but with permitting in California, that’s not allowed. , you can’t have discriminatory prize purses anymore, which is great for, for women across all the different events. But but yeah, we’re trying to highlight these ladies and, and probably some of ’em have a harder time, you know, making the same kind of sponsorship money as, as a, a guy of similar skills.

So,

[00:29:07] Craig: yeah. Yeah, it’s certainly an interesting problem and I think the important thing is, people are talking about it. And again, that the, the women who are involved are having the lion share of opinion and we can just use their opinions as guidance as it relates to the race in its entirety. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm.

And so, how large of a field do you typically see at the Shasta Gravel hogger hugger?

[00:29:30] Ben: Yeah, so last year we had 400 people take the sign up for the race, and then we had about 335, I wanna say that actually went across our start line. So yeah, I mean that’s kind of, that’s kind of where we were last year.

We, we have grown every single year that we’ve been in existence, so hopefully, you know, we can see something north of 500 this year.

[00:29:52] Craig: And great. When, when we, I mean we’ve talked through what to exper, what to expect in terms of the course terrain and what type of equipment you’d like to see people ride at the end of the event.

What does that experience look like if someone’s making time to spend their weekend up with you at, in Shasta, what, what expectations should they have after the race?

[00:30:12] Ben: Yeah, we definitely wanna try to bring the party to the after. After the race. So yeah, we have a burrito truck last year and most likely they’ll be back again this year.

So nice big burrito to finish off the day. Beer and and then of course, everyone telling their war stories, so. people hung, hung around until dark last year. And so yeah, there’s a, there’s a nice little after party. Last year we had a band the brothers Reid, and they absolutely killed it. But I found like most people weren’t paying attention to the band.

They were. Telling their war stories. And so probably not gonna bring a band back. We’ll just be playing, you know, some good music in the background and, and let the racers chat about what they, what happened out there, . Nice.

[00:30:56] Craig: And so give the listener a few benchmarks. So if you were coming from San Francisco, for example, how, how long does it take to get up to Shasta or if you’re coming from somewhere in Oregon?

[00:31:05] Ben: Yeah, I, I mean, you can get, I think it’s about four hours from Portland down. And then similar from, from the Bay Area maybe a little bit less because there’s 45 minutes, I guess to here. But so yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a pretty easy drive. I wouldn’t suggest doing it before a 9:00 AM start, but you probably could from the Bay Area if you were got up nice and

early.

[00:31:28] Craig: Yeah, I was gonna ask that. Are people typically staying overnight in Shasta, the nights before?

[00:31:32] Ben: Yeah. The, there’s Yreka is the closest town with hotels. That’s only about a 10 minute drive or probably even less than that. And there’s plenty of hotel rooms there. A lot of people stay in weed and Mount Shasta, which Are also great places, but I wanna say 25 to 40 miles away.

Okay. 25 to weed. So, so yeah, there’s more like rental properties. If you’re like doing a VRBO or Airbnb or something like that, there’s more in the Mount Shasta area. That tends to be a little more of a, of a recreation type town. So, so there’s, yeah, there’s plenty of options. But the thing, one of the things that we’ve.

Every year so far is in the parking lot. Next to the, the start finish line is, is plenty of room and we’ve allowed camping on site. So if you van camping, RV camping, if you can get your, if you can get your rig in there and, and not get stuck, then, then and then yeah, it’s have at it free. Yeah.

[00:32:29] Craig: For a hot second there. I just had in my mind, oh, it’s in Mount Shas. The mountain of Shasta is obviously covers a vast area, and certainly, yeah, again, remembering my, my, my trips up to Oregon. Once you get past Shasta and Shasta, the town, and on the other side of the mountain, amazing, spectacular views of Mount Shasta through that valley.

[00:32:51] Ben: Yeah, we we’re kind of, we’re, we’re almost all north of Mount Shasta, so I mean, we, we go down and we touch weed, which would, I would kind of say is like the southern part of the Shasta Valley. And then Mount Shasta would be further south and more like on the side of the mountain. And so if you want the great views of the mountain, then the North, north Valley is where you want to be.

And we. . Oh, just so many. Incredible. If the, if the mountain is out as they like to say, it’s, it’s absolutely stunning from many, many different spots on on the course. Some, some have even said it’s distracting. It’s, it’s so, It’s so beautiful.

[00:33:32] Craig: So yeah. Yeah, I would agree. It’s one of the like the beautiful things about driving through that valley, which often seems like a, it takes forever, but the nice thing is you’ve got that amazing mountain view the entire time.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Cool. Well, I’m super glad to finally get you on the show, Ben, to talk about this event. I love the sounds of it. I love that area. Like I totally recommend it from a, a visual perspective and everything you’ve talked about, the writing makes me believe that it is a great early season event.

[00:33:59] Ben: Yeah, I sure hope so. And, and hope to see this thing continue to grow through, through the next couple of years. So hope to make some nice announcements here soon about cool people that are attending. So people are starting to finalize their. Schedules for this next year and, and yeah, hope to make some announcements.

Right

[00:34:17] Craig: on. And I’ll throw the gravel hugger.com link in the show notes so people know how to find you. But they can also just search Shasta gravel hugger and they’ll get to the right location.

[00:34:27] Ben: Absolutely. Super easy. Yep. And if you wanna find out a little bit about what the race is We have a race recap on YouTube.

You can also just google Shasta gravel hugger on YouTube and, and there’s a 20 minute recap of what happened last year and we hope to do something similar this next, next year to, to kind of give everyone a feel of what, how the race goes. So,

[00:34:49] Craig: awesome. Thanks, man.

[00:34:51] Craig Dalton: That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of the gravel rod podcast. Big thanks to our sponsor hammerhead and the hammerhead kuru. To computer. And huge thanks to ben for coming on i’ve been curious about the shasta gravel hugger for awhile and was happy to learn more about At The event.

Until next time here’s to finding some dirt under your wheels.