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Mountain News: A ski town, yes, but also a bicycle town

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Museum moves to California

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. —The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Museum is departing Crested Butte for the more populated and well-heeled setting of California's Marin County.

Both places claim to be the birthplace of mountain biking, but in different ways.

"Fairfax (a town in Marin County to which the museum is being moved) is the true birthplace of the sport," says Don Cook, co-director of the Hall of Fame.

"Klunkers were being used in Crested Butte at the same time for commuting around our pot-hole streets. In Marin, the sport aspect was a real focus. From there it grew into what is now known as mountain biking. Crested Butte was quick to pick it up, and the history exploded out here after about '76 with the Pearl Pass tour."

To the Crested Butte News, Cook further summarized the chronology as this: "They had the technology and we had the terrain."

By why move to California? Because Marin County wants it. It offered space and support for staffing. In Crested Butte, the museum seemed to be operated on a shoe string. Founded in the mid-1980s, its contents even went into storage for a few years.

Plus, there's this small fact: Marin County is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco and the Bay Area's 7.1 million residents. Crested Butte is four hours from Denver and the Front Range population of about four million.

Cook said that more than downhill skiing, mountain biking put Crested Butte on the map. Except, of course, for mining — but that's long, long gone. Unless, that is, the Wyoming company that owns the right to mine the molybdenum in nearby Mount Emmons finds a buyer. But that slow-moving story has been going on since the 1970s.

Keeping truckers off Teton Pass

JACKSON, Wyo. — In 1975, an entertaining ballad about an out-of-control truck carrying a load of chickens descending Colorado's Wolf Creek Pass into the town of Pagosa Springs hit No. 4 on the country music charts. The musician, C.W. McCall, later served for six years as mayor of Ouray, which sits at the bottom of Red Mountain Pass, another grip-your-handles crossing of the San Juan Mountains.

Well, Teton Pass is second to neither. The proof is in the number of truckers that have lost control and their 18-wheelers capsized while descending from the 2,570-metre pass.

Far lower in elevation than most crossings in Colorado, it is second to none of them in steepness. Sustained grades of 10 per cent are found on both sides of the pass. Vail Pass and the western side of the Eisenhower Tunnel are steep, too, with steady grades of seven per cent. Wolf Creek runs about seven per cent. But Teton has them all beat.

Truckers should know better, but if they read the conspicuous signs, they ignore them. Crossing the pass into Jackson Hole saves considerable time over the longer, more circuitous but safer routes. Year after year, trucks have screamed down the pass, occasionally overturning in Wilson, the hamlet in Jackson Hole located at the foot of the pass.

At last, the Wyoming Department of Transportation has an idea for discouraging truckers who ignore warnings for loaded trucks to take another route. The Wyoming Department of Transportation plans to install scales under the highway. Those weighing more than 60,000 pounds, the posted limit, will be alerted to turn around via overhead electronic signs. At the same time, state highway patrollers will be notified and the license plates of offending trucks will be photographed.

Wyoming is also installing a second device designed to reduce the deaths of truckers, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. A system of nets will be erected to catch trucks that roll from the highway onto steep, adjacent slopes.

One such network of nets, called an arrestor, is also in place in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains, near the town of Buffalo.

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