By Lynn Davison and Robert Gay

Early on November 9th, 110 very fit riders set of to pedal the dirt and gravel between Patagonia and the border in the Spirit World 100 bicycle race. The race drew about 150 visitors to town. The riders, who came from 22 states and one Canadian province, were challenged to finish either the 100-mile or 50-mile loop within ten hours. Gus Amado, who grew up in Patagonia, took first for his age group in the 50-miler. 

These riders call themselves “gravel riders” rather than “mountain bikers,” since they prefer unpaved roads and have gearing and accessories for gravel rather than the rugged “single-track” trails, stream beds and boulder courses favored by mountain bikers. 

Zander Ault and Heidi Rentz, both veteran riders, operate the Spirit World 100, a gravel road race event for the town of Patagonia. The night before the race Chef Ault and his crew designed a meal for 140 visitors, both riders and their families and friends at the new local venue, the Warehouse, behind Gathering Grounds. 

Patagonia local resident, Tomas Jonsson set up a rustic bar on the race course, the final stop before the last push home. The Spirit World 100 organization calls this spot “The Boomshakalaka Bar.” After the race, on Saturday night, there was a big picnic in the town park celebrating a successful day of riding. 

The Spirit World 100 partnered with Patagonia local nonprofit, Borderlands Restoration Network for this event. “It’s a great event,” said Kurt Vaughn, Borderlands Executive Director, “as we are committed to building a restoration economy. The Spirit World 100 brought over 150 people to Patagonia for two to four days to enjoy our remarkable landscape and natural resources. They contributed to the local economy and are all now ambassadors for our region.” 

Ault added “we’re very excited to work with Borderlands in the coming years. We have many ideas on how to grow this for Patagonia and make a distinctive impact financially with the sustainability of the region clearly in mind. The town has come to know us, and we’re thrilled to help promote the proper management of the region’s public lands for future visitors who come to explore by bike. This type of impact won’t happen overnight, but we’re in it for the long haul.” 

Because of the omnipresent beauty of the Sonoita Creek and Patagonia Mountain areas, the challenging and little-used gravel road choices, and the friendly and helpful locals, Patagonia remains a powerful attractant. The visitors’ patronage of local businesses while enjoying the region helped the Spirit World 100 race event clearly exemplify the ecotourism backbone of the region’s nature-based economy. 

Spirit World 100 organizers have scheduled next year’s gravel road race event for Nov. 5 – Nov. 8, 2020. Online registration opened on Nov. 29, 2019. Details will be available at www.thespiritworld100.com.