My Town Monday: The Oregonia Hill Climbs

Motorcycles as far as the eye can see! The blue one on the left is mine.

Oregonia is a normally-quiet little hamlet just outside of Lebanon, Ohio. But every year on the second Sunday in October, it’s overrun with bikers, biker wannabes, race spectators, and people who just want to party.

The Motorcycle Hill Climbs have been held annually at Powell’s Farm (no relation to me) since 1948. The Dayton Motorcycle Club has hosted the event since 1973. Local lore says that when the original owner passed away a few years ago, the will stipulated to his heirs that the property would be made available to host the Hill Climbs for the next 50 years. As far as I know, the event has been cancelled only once in its history, due to rain. It was rescheduled for the following Sunday, (which has happened more than once), but this one also had rain.

A view from the bottom of the Devil's Staircase

The big draw, of course, is the motorcycles. Not just the dirt bikes in the race, but those in the parking area. Thousands of motorcycles, of every shape, color, size, make and model, from the most plush touring bikes and trikes, to battered, historical fixer-uppers that are barely roadworthy. My husband and I rode up with the guy my husband does funeral work for – who rode one of the special edition Harley Davidson police bikes, with the purple flashing light for funeral use. He got some long looks, LOL.

Beer is sold at the Hill Climbs by the cup – and by the gallon. Years ago, the gallon jugs were numbered. I’m not sure what the purpose of this was, but by the time we arrived, typically between 11AM and noon, people with single- and lower two-digit numbers were usually passed out, jugs in hands or nearby. I had my own, ubiquitous jug – of water.

The races can be pretty exciting. The Oregonia Hill Climbs is the last race of the year for the AMA Pro Hill Climb Racing circuit. Called The Devil’s Staircase, the dirt track goes up something like a 40 degree incline, which doesn’t sound like much, until you try to walk up it. Then imagine riding a motorcycle! The hill is stepped, which presents the greater challenge: the rider must get up enough speed to crest the first step, fifty feet up, then slow enough to not wipe out. If the first step doesn’t cause a rider to wipe out, the ones near the top of the 330-foot hill sometimes do. The winning bikes in the Unlimited and Extreme classes make the climb in seven seconds or less.

Sometimes dirt clods go flying into the audience. One time several years ago, a rider lost it and his bike went over toward the audience. Usually about one in ten participants either drops his bike, or breaks a chain (with the same result). One motorcycle caught fire yesterday as it crested the top of the hill. But not to worry – fire fighters and medical crews were standing by at both the top and the bottom. (The fire was extinguished immediately, and neither rider nor bike were hurt.)

A lot of bikers come to Oregonia on the day of the Hill Climbs and don’t even attend the races – instead, they party on private property, or go to the Little River Cafe down the road – a historic bar/restaurant with lots of outdoor seating.┬áMy husband and I usually leave after the first couple of racing classes, in the interest of getting out before the drunks do. It’s not unusual for someone to get hurt leaving the Hill Climbs – unsurprising, considering the amount of beer served. Law enforcement is always present, too.

If you live in the area, have you ever been to the Hill Climbs? If not, is there an event like this in your hometown?

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4 Responses to \

  1. Aha! So, that’s why I see an influx of bikers around that time. I wondered if they were congregating for a national ride, but now I know. Bike Show.

  2. Actually, it’s a racing event, but now you know – second Sunday every October!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thanks so much for your story on Oregonia. I have been goin for 20 + yrs . Sends chills up my spine evry time i arrive !! What a good time !!!