CROYDON -- What's likely been Morgan County's largest city since Thursday closed up shop Saturday with the 1,000-foot finale to the 11th Annual Widowmaker Hill Climb.
Organizers estimated the paying crowd as topping 2,500 by noon at the Widowmaker site just outside Croydon, eight miles east of Morgan City, the capital and largest city in the county of the same name.
Add in 886 motorcycle riders registered for the three days of climbs and their families staying in the trailer camp that has grown on the site here. Include an event staff of 135, the several dozen vendors and booths, and you can consider Morgan City's 3,687 population (per its webpage) as eclipsed by the town of Widowmaker Hill Climb.
And definitely include 12 EMTs and the AirMed helicopter organizer Moe Lund, a Woods Cross water company manager, arranged to have on hand.
After two days of shorter, and flatter climbs in the grades carved out of the hillside, the much anticipated 1,000-foot Championship Hill Climb capped off events about the same time the temperature peaks at 100 degrees.
The impossibly steep run ending on the rocky cliff face topping the hillside is somewhere in the range of a 50 percent grade, between a 45-degree angle and a 60-degree angle, Morgan County officials estimated.
The noise is deafening as the riders start out at the base, the revving engines throwing off an angry, almost psychotic growl to begin. It diminishes as the motorcycle climbs, to begin sputtering, then ending in a depressed moan as the bike stalls, spins into a ball of dust or topples sideways.
Riders were regularly reaching the 400-foot mark, several topping 700, with one of the few local riders, Cody Young of Morgan, giving one of the longest climbs at 668 feet.
But no one joined the 1,000-foot club Lund keeps track of on Widowmaker.info. No one new, anyway.
Of 4,500 attempts in the 11 years of the Widowmaker at the Morgan site, only 20 riders have "gone over the top." Saturday two of those repeated: Pete and Petey Krunich, a father-son team from Hayward, Calif. Both did it again. "They're not from this planet," Lund said.
And it's not likely the Widowmaker, in its years beginning in the 1960s on a site in Draper before moving here 11 years ago, has ever made a widow.
Lund said only one rider has ever died of his injuries, a 1978 death at the Draper site, marital status unknown.
Mike Stam of Ogden has been attending the Widowmaker since those early days in the 1960s. There were times at the Draper site where alcohol likely led to some injuries -- among spectators. "People would try to go up the hill for a better view," Stam said. "You'd see them roll their jeeps. Those were probably the only widowmakers."
Now it's a no-alcohol venue.
"My dad used to take me when I was a kid," Stam said. "This year I took him."
Also on hand was Team Salvation, a group of churchmen giving away free water bottles and spiritual support. "We open all the rider meetings with a prayer," said Don O'Lexey, studying for an evangelist ministry when he isn't working as a miner in Rocks Springs, Wyo.
Team Salvation is the only ministry allowed on the hill climb circuit because it's non-denominational, O'Lexey said.
Combining Christianity with motorcycles is his true passion, he said. "What we give is free and what we offer will set you free."