LUCERNE VALLEY — Picture postcard weather set the backdrop for the 10th annual Ride in the Rocks event Saturday morning.

According to organizers, 178 participants either biked, ran or walked one of five events. They included the tough 23- or 15-mile “Challenge Rides” that took the most determined riders through rugged desert terrain and steep dirt hills in the Lucerne Valley foothills, to the “Tame” 10-miler, “Family Ride” 5-miler, the “Krazy 8” 8K trail run/walk and “Filthy 15” 15K trail run.

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, sporting serious mountain bike gear, was chosen to ceremoniously start the 23-mile ride. Obernolte also donated $500 to sponsor a Lucerne Valley fifth-grader to attend the annual science camp in Big Bear.

Chuck Bell, who serves as president of the Lucerne Valley Economic Development Association, eschewed his normal 10-mile ride for a softer, gentler 5-miler. Bell’s late wife Julia Bell was a beloved educator who taught, served as principal of Lucerne Valley Elementary School and was elected to serve on the local school board. The Julia Bell Early Childhood Academy was dedicated in 2015 in Julia Bell’s honor.

Former Hesperia Councilman Thurston “Smitty” Smith helped promote the Ride in the Rocks. The previous Saturday the Victor Valley Bicycle Tour, which Smith also helped promote, had a turnout of nearly 300.

Several area high school teams used Saturday’s event as training. A group from Academy of Academic Excellence in Apple Valley ran in the event as training for the L.A. Marathon next spring. Four members and the coach of the Big Bear High School’s mountain bike team participated in the Challenge Ride. Other participants came from all over Southern California to ride.

The 10th annual event was the final Ride in the Rocks for organizer Millie Rader, who next year is handing the reins over to Sarah Alvarado, a competitive cyclist who currently is a photographer instructor at Victor Valley College. Rader and her husband David are lifelong Lucerne Valley residents who are among the most avid mountain bikers in town. David Rader is the safety coordinator at the local Mitsubishi Cement plant while Millie Rader serves as an administrator facilitator at the plant.

According to official event starter and emcee Victoria Kessler, who also is a competitive mountain bike rider, Ride in the Rocks began when Millie Rader approached her with the idea for a school fundraiser. The proceeds from the event — entrance fees range from $30 to $50 depending on the event and if the fee is paid early or on the same day — along with other donations go to help offset funding from the Mitsubishi Cement Corporation Educational Foundation for the science camp.

Besides donating thousands of dollars annually for science camp participation, the foundation provides mini-grants for Lucerne Valley teachers to purchase materials and equipment for their students, scholarships and other donations. Earlier this year, the Lucerne Valley Unified School District dedicated its new SmartLab at Lucerne Valley Elementary School as the “Bud Biggs STEM Lab,” named after the late H.O. “Bud” Biggs, who passed away last year.

To view photos of the event, visit

Source: Peter Day, Daily Press