When it comes to bike rides, I can't think of a more pleasant 50 miles than riding around Bear Lake. The first time I did it was about a year ago. It was pretty difficult for me at the time, but since then, I’ve made about a dozen more trips around.

It’s always cooler at lakeside than here in the valley, the course is mostly flat with some rollers on one side, and if you time it right, the whole east side is shaded while the sun comes up.

So when I saw the invitation to participate in the Bear Lake Monster Century, which took place on July 9, I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride this course and do so with a couple hundred other of my not-so-closest friends. It also didn’t hurt that it happened to be the same weekend we were already planning to be there.

Unfortunately, because it’s July and a popular month for boaters, the course doesn’t circle the lake as I had hoped. It starts and ends in Montpelier, Idaho, and takes in about half of the lake on the east and north sides.

The nice part about this ride is the variety of distances for cyclists of any riding ability. If you’re tough enough, the “Monster” ride is the one for you. You can choose 75 or 100 miles, and these distances take a detour from the flatness of the valley and head up toward Minnetonka Cave.

This climb adds about 2,000 feet total, and definitely puts the “monster” in the Bear Lake Monster Century. The climb starts out gradually, and I actually thought to myself, “I must be riding stronger ’cause this isn’t so bad.” That optimism quickly disappeared as the second half of the detour became much steeper.

The legend around Laketown is that there is indeed a monster in the lake, similar to Loch Ness in Scotland. However, there were many of us who were convinced we saw it around the 28th mile, toward the top of the climb.

After a brief stop with lots of carbo-loaded goodies, we flew back to the water’s edge and east past North Beach. Luckily, the monster hits you early and the rest of the course is smooth sailing.

Not everyone who signs up has the opportunity to meet the monster. The 100-kilometer and 50-mile riders avoid the pain and misery (and the thrill of the descent). But once the longer riders reach the bottom of the hill, everyone enjoys the same course.

This being the first year of the ride, I was amazed at the amount of support, organization and participation. There was ample water, sports drinks and other goodies at the numerous aid stations located along the course. They were manned by well-behaved high schoolers earning funds to support the Bear Lake High School football team.

I must say, if you happen to be looking for an amazing vacation, some sweet raspberry shakes and a very pleasant bike ride, this is one to put on your calendar for next year. And who knows, maybe you, too, can see the Bear Lake Monster.