Updated: July 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm
The 65th annual Pikes Peak Range Ride was the shortest in history: 30 minutes long, down 12 downtown blocks.
Usually the several hundred men, many real ranchers and cowboys along with urban cowboys out of their downtown offices for the five-day ride, hit the trail after the street breakfast that kicks off the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo events. This time they rode only through downtown.
The disastrous Black Forest fire had sparked, and "out of respect for our community and our Range Riders who were impacted," the ride was canceled for only the second time in its 64-year history, said Range Riders President Ted Severn. The first time was because of the Hayman fire in 2002.
Last year the Waldo Canyon fire struck in June, during the Range Ride. Severn said he will never forget coming down from the mountains to a panorama of flames and smoke. Several Range Riders had been rushed from the ride site early to be closer to their endangered homes.
This year took a more profound toll, Severn said. "About 35 Range Riders were involved in the swath of fire and several lost their homes. Probably double that number were assisting those in trouble."
Altogether, 511 homes were lost in the fire.
Severn said one grateful Range Rider told him that just as the evacuation call came in, he and his family looked out to see neighbors and Range Riders pulling onto his property with horse trailers. Trailer after trailer after trailer. The ranch's animals were loaded up and rushed away in all different directions.Some of the family's material possessions were trucked away instantly. This Range Rider's ranch was one of the properties that burned to the ground.
"I think it was the community and the Range Riders at their best," said Severn. "People helping people, friends helping friends, first responders, firefighters, assistance from all the churches. It was just outstanding."
The three traditional Range Ride events that were held were the street breakfast, the Range Ride women's luncheon - only fellows go on the ride and the gals have their own social event - and the after-ride dinner on the Sunday, when the riders traditionally return. The dinner was June 23 and Severn called it "a Black Forest victory party."
Special Black Forest collections brought in $5,300 at the breakfast as well as $2,000 at the women's luncheon. A donation of $1,000 was made at the after-ride dinner.
Among the after-ride traditions was the salute to the group's "Empty Saddles," Range Riders who died the past year: Bill Scott, Brad Bent, Bud Shepard, Bill Sausser, Gene Vories and Dr. A.L. "Little Doc" Ingerick.
Receiving 60-year pins were Chuck Brown and Rex Bennett.
Gary Ziegler, who, as ride director, had spent a busy year planning an event that existed until one week before the ride, had one duty he especially enjoyed: designing the official saddle for the ride. He was speechless when his name was drawn as winner of that one special saddle.
Another tradition is the naming of the Range Riders' Silver Spur honoree, an outstanding member of the community who has had a major impact. The 2013 winner was University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak (award story: http://tinyurl.com/n9kzqjt)