Sacramento bicyclists commemorate historic 1917 ride

Watch these Sacramento bikers take off on a 150-mile commemorative ride to Tahoe

Jeff Barker organized the ride to celebrate a record-breaking 1917 ride from Sacramento to Echo Summit by cyclists Eugene Hepting and Abbie Budd.
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Jeff Barker organized the ride to celebrate a record-breaking 1917 ride from Sacramento to Echo Summit by cyclists Eugene Hepting and Abbie Budd.

A group of Sacramento area bicyclists took off on a 150-mile ride on Oct. 20 to commemorate a similar record-breaking ride taken in 1917.

Jeff Barker, 49, of El Dorado Hills organized the Centennial Ride to honor the 100th anniversary of Eugene Hepting and Abbie Budd’s bicycle trip from Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe. The 1917 ride broke a long-standing record at the time for the fastest ride from Sacramento to Myers Station in South Lake Tahoe, according to newspaper clippings from the Center for Sacramento History.

“The whole idea was, let’s commemorate that ride,” Barker said. “Let’s see if we can put it together, because the bikes they rode in 1917 were pretty primitive compared to what we have now. The conditions weren’t all that good.”

The ride will take Barker’s group up the mountain towards Echo Summit in South Lake Tahoe. There was snow throughout the Sierra last night, but Barker said he and his group would be fine as long as they don’t hit more than 3 inches of snow along the way. He added that the previous night’s rain made for dust-free trail conditions along the first leg of their journey.

Barker was about 60 miles into the trip as of 2:30 on Friday when he stopped at Missouri Flat Road for lunch.

Hepting and Budd’s route was about 106 miles, but much of their riding was along what is now Highway 50. To avoid busy traffic, Barker plotted a similar route that hugs the highway and runs about 150 miles.

The 2017 route will take riders from the American River Parkway to the El Dorado Trail onto some rough Pony Express trails that will bring the cyclists up to the summit. The original end point for the ride, the Tallac Resort, is no longer standing, so today’s riders will finish at The Beacon in South Lake Tahoe.

Barker was inspired to honor the “two intrepid adventurers” after seeing a photo of Budd in front of the Echo Summit sign after he and Hepting broke the record to Lake Tahoe in 17 hours and 29 minutes. The original sign is no longer there, but Barker erected a replica sign for riders to take their photo with after they complete the ride.

Barker was extremely excited when he learned about the historic ride, and sent out an email on Oct. 19, 2016, to other riders to see who would be interested in joining him to commemorate the 100-year anniversary. One of the bicyclists who answered the call was Justin Leech.

“Jeff Barker really appreciated the historical value of what (Hepting) had done, so this was kind of a neat way to get people together and commemorate that,” Leech said.

Leech and Barker were joined by riders of all ages, including Folsom Parks and Recreation Director Robert Goss, to celebrate Hepting. The group was in good spirits despite the hard ride ahead, and was joking that they only had 14,500 feet to climb.

The riders took off from behind the First United Methodist Church on Jazz Alley between J Street and 21st Street, some on mountain bikes and some on cyclo-cross bikes. They decided on the starting location after Barker found a photo of the original Sacramento Wheelmen clubhouse in 1916 and recognized the tower of the church next door. Barker and his group will take a break Friday night in Pollock Pines before setting off on the more difficult second half of the journey as they make their way up to Echo Summit on Saturday.

Hepting’s legacy in the Sacramento area extends far beyond cycling. Hepting’s photographic record of buildings around Sacramento is the most expansive of his time, and his collection is the second most utilized at the Center for Sacramento History behind the Sacramento Bee archive, according to photo archivist Rebecca Crowther.

“Hepting literally went around on that bicycle and went down every street and took photos,” Crowther said. “He was the Google Street View for Sacramento.”

The Centennial Ride participants plan to return on Saturday night from their ride by car.

Emily Zentner: 916-321-1074, @emilymzentner

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