Post-Surgery Discipline, and A Deathride Planning Update

Discipline, my sensei once told me, was not necessarily about when (or how hard) to practice, but when not to. Those words of wisdom do ring true, even more so today as I backslide to 60, yet heeding them is sometimes a challenge.

Wax on, wax off can also be interpreted to mean “practice on,” “practice off,” or “ride bike,” “don’t ride bike,” and even “lift that,” “don’t lift that.”

BECAUSE, three (3) weeks + since the “big ‘blation” (TURP by aquablation) I haven’t been able to lift much (no more than 10 pounds for the first 10 days) nor get any serious cardio (no strenuous activities, including sex, for 3 weeks). Strenuous sex? Really? Ah, the old days…

NO bike riding either, inside or out, until cleared by the doctor (that happens today, hopefully).

SO I’ve truly put into practice Mr. Arioto’s words of all of those years ago. For the first 7-10 days or so it wasn’t that hard. Now though, 3 1/2 weeks out, it’s getting harder. As I told Mrs. California Alps Cycling yesterday, I’m getting fatter and my fitness is getting worse. My CTL is dropping like a rock and my scale indicates those rocks are hiding somewhere within my expanding self.

I’M trying to eat less, and I did a good job of that as well for those first couple of weeks, and I’ve been walking, which can be agonizingly slow for a fervent rider, and make’s my bum right knee unhappy, but it has helped, and it’s especially enjoyable due to some good tunes and the snowy scenery.

ADMITTEDLY, I’m not real good at this type of discipline. Thankfully I won’t have to practice it much longer and I’m so ready to get back on the bike.

Dealing with the recovery (esp. since I had some complications) hasn’t been pleasant. I’m on the mend now, though, and feeling good. The plumbing is getting back to normal and that not-so-fun part is aways behind me. I’m thankful, too, for good health insurance, good robotics 😉 , good doctors and good drugs.

Let this horse out of the gate!

Deathride Planning

BASKING in the glory of this year’s successful ride, monkey now off our (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) back, has been wonderful. We gave ourselves some time to celebrate. Short-lived that time was, though, as we’ve already begun planning for the 2023 ride.

THAT “big schnozzola photo,” by the way, was taken during this year’s ride – I’m just below Raymond Meadow Creek on Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass).

WE’VE got to finalize our expo. location and are trying to find one other than Turtle Rock Park. We received a lot of feedback from riders after this year’s ride that hanging out there for the expo wasn’t the best experience. From vendors to volunteers we all agree and so we’re brainstorming ideas and doing a bit of outreach. If we have to go back to “TRP” again we’ll do our best to make it look less like a burnt-moonscape. Things are looking better post-Tamarack Fire. Greening up, more dead trees removed and snow on the ground.

Spring could be glorious with the grasses and flowers!

WE’RE hoping to work out a deal with a local cycling club to take on our warehouse and aid station logistic coordinating responsibilities. We’ve had volunteers take on this role in the past (and they’ve all done an outstanding job), yet we realize that to kick things up a notch we need to find professionals to fill this role, and pay accordingly. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to work out a partnership soon with this great group. Stay tuned!

PERMITS are another behind the scenes process that must be handled. Every year, we and other ride organizers, need to gain the necessary permits from various agencies (e.g., Alpine Co.; Caltrans; CHP; USFS, etc.) and that process too, has started. The great feedback we received this year from these agencies, and the support they’ve (and the riders) voiced for this years course, especially how safe it was, means we’ll be DOING THE SAME CLIMBS IN 2023. Monitor x2, Ebbett’s x2 and Pacific Grade x2. I’ll be riding it in 2023 and am looking forward to getting back to some serious training. I think we’ll have a few other CAC riders out on the course next year too.

VOLUNTEERS are a huge part of the Deathride and 2023 is no different. We’ve got the usual amazing folks already raising their hands, and at the suggestion of one of our captains, are going to expand the roles of the group captains to be more involved in the planning stages of the ride. Another “up our game” plan.

RIDE or course director is another “T” that must be crossed and admittedly that search has been a bit “interesting.” Our beloved Curtis Fong, while agreeing to continue to be our mentor and advisor, wouldn’t let us brow beat him into the role, and another gentleman we had hoped to hire declined due to his crazy, busy schedule. So, the search goes on. We’ve got some other very talented people to talk to, though, and we’ve talked to some local project management talent as well so we’re confident the right person or persons will come along.

WE are aware of some merchandise delays from this year’s Deathride, including jerseys, and are actively working with the merchant to resolve the problem. We’ve been short-staffed, but our new office manager started yesterday. It will, however, take her some time to get up to speed. In the meantime feel free to reach out to me. My contact info. is on our “About Us” page.

WE’VE got lots of balls in the air right now, as you can see. Par for the course this time of year. It’s an exciting, scary and nervewracking time, and IT’S WONDERFUL!

IT’S going to be another great ride! Registration open’s New Year’s Eve! Mark those calendars, k?

HAVE a happy, happy, Thanksgiving!

TWO of our local feathered friends, Wavy Beard on the left and Stumpy on the right, suggest that perhaps you enjoy beef, pork or a vegan/vegetarian option.

AS we told them though, while the suggestion is understood we’ll be eating turkey. Just not you!

Siloing in the Sierra. Or, Trying to Reach Enlightenment. Or, Hey, Can We Have a Convo?

THINKING differently? Re-focusing our energy holistically? Integrating? Teaming up? How do we harmonize our efforts and what would the focus of those efforts be? Here at California Alps Cycling I sometimes forget that part of our mission is to “advocate for cycling AND the outdoors.” That “and” is the important part, and over the last several months some of the organizations for which I volunteer have started working towards that end. Many of us have begun (ok, some like ESSRP got there long ago) to realize that we all have one thing in common: the Sierra. There’s that focal-point.

IT’S a different way of thinking for me and it comes from my experiences (some of you have had similar ones I suspect) during the last fifteen years or so of my professional life. Working in silos, or trying not too, is one of the corporate world’s most vexing problems. And one day it hit me. We’re doing that here too in some ways. I hear what you’re thinking. DUH, it’s not just a corporate problem, Mark.

TRAILS associations focusing on trails built just for hiking, for example. Bike coalitions slightly missing the mark about OHVers, groups that often have more political clout, and have shared goals with their two-wheel brethren. Mountain bikers and gravel riders perhaps not contemplating that rock climbers, and cowboys (cow-persons? Too woke? Tee, hee.) use the same trails they do, and so by building to “their specs” in addition to “bike specs” we end up preserving, and serving (stewardship…yeah, baby) that same common ground with one common voice, for similar needs.

THE needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one, right?

RECENTLY, I caught myself missing the mark. Forgive the self-gratifying pun. During the last couple of District 10 Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (D-10 BPAC) meetings I was championing an idea of Becky DeForest’s, former director of the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce. She suggested the committee consider opening the gates on Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 (Ebbett’s and Monitor, respectively) for cyclists and pedestrians AFTER the snow has been cleared but BEFORE the gates were opened to vehicles. We’ve had, and continue to have, some great back & forth on this subject and we’re not done quite yet. My point, though, is about snowmobiling on those same roads and my thougthlessness in first seeking to understand before being understood. Said I during one meeting, “They get to use the roads when the gates are closed but we don’t. Isn’t that a double standard?”

Road closed sign and open gate showing snowmobile tracks on highway 4 in alpine county. ebbetts pass. markleeville

TURNS out ‘bilers have to get permits. So maybe the answer, I realized, is a permit process for bikes and peds too? We’ve got more in common than we don’t, and in many instances we cyclists, hikers, snowshoers and walkers share those same roads. How can we work together to further our common goals rather than work in those dang silos? That should have been my question and it took one of Caltran’s operations gurus to make me see the error of my ways.

NONE of this is malicious. In fact, just the opposite. Most volunteer groups are just so uber-focused on their missions. Their visions. For any of these groups that build and maintain trails and gravel it’s even more important to have that global view. Read this post, by the way, for some insight on that.

monk holding a prayer beads while looking afar

ENJOYING the outdoors isn’t partisan either is it? Being good stewards of the land isn’t blue or red, right?

NOW, we’re not there yet. Un-siloing that is, but I feel a bit of a shift. At least in the organizations in which I volunteer.

In order to further that endeavor, 😉 I did a bit of googling and came across this handy list of ways to “conquer silo mentality,” courtesy of engagebay:

  • Nurture a Unified Vision
  • Use Collaboration Tools
  • Improve Socializing and Cooperation in the Workplace
  • Encourage Remote Work
  • Define Shared Accountabilities
  • Set Common Goals
  • Create Cross-Functional Teams

IS it just me or could we apply some of these principles not only to our volunteer work but also to, oh I don’t know, our interactions with our neighbors? Could we make some progress in Congress if we embraced some of these principles?

C’mon, man, this isn’t The Twighlight Zone.

ACTUALLY, it is. We’ve lost the art, definitely so in the political arena, of civil discourse. I’m seeing and hearing some of that locally, too, on an issue that’s on the ballot next week. It’s getting personal and it shouldn’t be. Disagreement shouldn’t mean disassociation. We’d make a lot more progress if we all left some of our own personal baggage out of the conversation.

FIRST, though, we need to have that conversation. On so many fronts and on so many different levels. Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I wrote this post and admittedly it is a bit of a rambler. Some self-serving cathartics I guess. One of the benefits of having a blog. You can technicolor yawn your feelings onto the page if you’re so inclined.

AS I think about it, it is from a bit of reflection (and drug-induced haze?) on my recent prostate surgery. Bam, just thought I’d slip that in there. Last Wednesday it was and as I write this post I’m still dealing with the post-op fun, and I know there’s more to follow. Yet I can’t help but be grateful for the fact that in the end it was, among other things, a unified vision between my doctors to address my issue (BPH), collobaration between different offices to get to the RIGHT OUTCOME (aquablation), and cross-functional teams (surgeons, doctors, nurses, dieticians, etc.) that helped me, and will continue to help me, heal. I’ll follow up on my progess, and if you are also a BPH-suffering-cyclist, maybe a future post, or this past one, will add some value.

OKAY, I hope all of this resonates with you in some way and I do thank you for indulging me. If it does strike a chord with your fine self then there’s some common ground RIGHT THERE that WE can pay forward. And if it doesn’t that’s okay too.

HAVE a gnarly, super-excellent, scary day tomorrow and…

HOW about let’s throw some ideas in the air with some friends (old ones, or new)? Something spooky-good may come down?

man holiday love people

Forest Health Here in the California Alps Is Scary – What Can We Do About It?

JUST last week Blue and I went on of our favorite rides – up to Raymond Meadow Creek, or more aptly where Raymond Meadow Creek crosses under Hwy. 4 (on the north side of Ebbetts Pass). We also hit up Wolf Creek Road (and got a 9th place cup on Strava!), another of our favorites.

I’VE ridden the first long segment of this particular ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 times. Similarly, I’ve ridden much of the area’s segments (thanks Strava for capturing that data) dozens and also in some cases, hundreds of times.

  • Ebbett’s north, nineteen (19) times.
  • Kingsbury Grade, nine (9) times.
  • Luther Pass, only four (4) times (on my bike). In the car I’ve done it hundreds of times – it’s the primary route to S. Lake Tahoe.
Before and after…pre-Tamarack Fire (when Roscoe was a road bike) on the left; post-Tamarack Fire on the right.
It’s important to note, too, the apparent healthy forest on the left, really isn’t. Too much understory and too crowded (among other things). Two big reasons that many of our forests, as well as so many others around the globe, have burned with the ferocity and intensity they have.

MRS. California Alps and I have been here almost six (6) years – October 28th is our six-year anniversary. We’ve seen much of the area over many different seasons, as you can imagine. Editors note: I must give a shout out to Mama (mine) California Alps – who’s been here since the summer of 2018.

My Point?

WELL, you’re probably with me already…Our forests are in trouble. We’ve known this for a long-time I suppose but these last couple of years it’s been even more apparent, or more aptly put (at least for us) it’s become outright scary.

The year before we came here it was the Washington Fire. That’s Colorado Hill, near Monitor Junction. It was burned in that fire and seven years later it still looks like this.

LAST year it was the Tamarack and the Caldor. And I’m only talking about the local fires. We’ve all seen it. It’s happening all over the world.

Climate Change Certainly Hasn’t Helped, Either

NOW I’m no academic. Some college but definitely no forestry-related education. I can’t talk to the trees. Okay I do but they don’t talk back. I do hug them, though. The rub here however, is that there are fewer of them to hug. Or in some rare instances, too many of them to hug.

The forests are not happy.
I have thousands of miles of riding around and in them to know it.
To feel it. To see it.
It’s changing.

AND so I found myself, after reading the NY Times guest essay “Yvon Chouinard Is the Founder of Patagonia. He’s Also My ‘Dirtbag’ Friend” thinking that Yvon Chouinard was way more than a mountain-stud, he was a gift to humanity for putting those buckets of Patagonia ducats where his boca is, as he has done for most of his life. When he announced that he was donating Patagonia’s ownership to a trust with profits earmarked to address climate change, I was touched. That, I thought, will make a difference.

HERE at California Alps Cycling we’re not quite as flush as Patagonia but we do what we can. I asked my myself could we do more though? We’ve given many a dollar to local non-profits, Calbike, USA Cycling, the California State Parks Foundation, and others. I suspect you’ve done much the same. Thank you, by the way.

LET’S be clear, however, “not quite as flush” means we make slightly more than zippo from our CAC Shop. It’s a labor of love and a way to spread the gospel of cycling and of the CA Alps. I still need, and truly love, my day job. Made even more special because I get to do it from here. It’s that job and Mrs. California Alp’s part-timer that sustains our Chalet.

HENCE my argument to Mrs. California Alps:

“This cause is a righteous one honey and since we really don’t make enough money from CAC to make a huge difference in our day-to-day, why not donate what we do make to the forest?”

MY biggest supporter, pictured above doing her turn at the booth earlier this year, agreed.

And so forests are going to be our cause.
Our local forests.
The H-T (Humboldt-Toiyabe); the Stanislaus, the El Dorado.
And perhaps others.

WE’VE set up a new page for that reason: Contribute to the Cause. You may have seen it on our navigation menu at the top of our website. Editor’s note: Stripe, the payment processor we use to take donations, is putting a percentage of their dough to climate change, so just a little more goes a little further.

TAKE a peak and if you can help, please do. Please spread the word, too, if you don’t mind. Whether it’s this cause or another, or perhaps a good article or book, or just to inform a friend or colleague.

SWEAT equity will remain a big part of what we’re about. Cleaning highways, building trails, volunteering our riding time for various causes and boards…Giving back to the communities where we live, work and ride. We’ll keep doing those things.

AND from now on, with your help, we’ll also spread a little more green to organizations and individuals that help that green.

STAY tuned for more information, and future reports on our efforts.

IN the meantime, if you want to learn more, please check out our friends at the Alpine Biomass Collaborative. They do more to educate us locals about forest health than anyone else, and their recent presentation by Dr. Malcolm North was another catalyst of the cause. They will be one of the new beneficiaries of our ours.

HOW about you? Ready to follow Yvon’s lead?

Descending the Charity Valley Trail – With a Mountain Biker’s Eye

‘TWAS the last Saturday of July when members of the Alpine Trails Association (ATA) joined members of the Tahoe Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) for a trails work day on the Charity Valley Trail, one of the prettiest trails in the California Alps.

I was looking forward to finally getting to use my back (most work days fall on a weekday and so my bizdev hat, rather than the hardhat, must be worn) and my new McLeod, and as the officer-at-large (some might say large officer) of the ATA I was excited about our first opportunity to look at one of the most popular trails here in Alpine Co. from the perspective of mountain bike trail-builders (call them trail building mountain bikers if you wish).

WE were also eager (anxious is a better word) to see what damage the Tamarack Fire had wrought on our beloved trail. None of the team had been down the east face of the trail since then.

Here’s what we saw. So much devastation yet we were encouraged by the green carpet of ferns and other flora.

OUR group was certainly diverse. Four old guys (at 58 I was the youngest) from Markleeville and Woodfords, and nine young dudes (including a father and son, with mountain bikes), some of whom hailed from the bay area, some of whom from the Tahoe area and one (our co-leader, Gabe Tiller) joined us from up Oregon way, although he was a bay area boy prior as I recall.

IT’S definitely worth mentioning that among other things Gabe is a director of the Orogenesis Collective (“a new way on old ground”), an ambitious endeavor to connect 7300 km of bikepacking trails, from the Cascades Trail, to the Baja Divide. A big reason he was in the area…Alpine County is/could be a part of that system and this event was one of several stewardship camps that Gabe and team set up towards that end.

After intros all around it was a tool and safety orientation. This was after all, a full blown, USFS sanctioned event, which meant that full on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) was required.

A few members of the team, including co-leaders Gabe (2nd from right) and Andy (far right), as we were getting oriented.

That involves wearing shoes that cover the feet (boots for many of us, including yours truly), long pants, long shirts, and gloves, and donning hard hats and safety glasses.

IT was a hot mofo that day! In the nineties… 90ish in the Sierra is like 100ish in the city. The air here is so dry and you’re a bit closer to ol’ Sol as well. As such, we carried lots of H20, and our other co-leader, Andy, had a filter, too. There were myriad tools to carry: from McLeods to Pulaskis, loppers to handsaws, one pole saw and two battery powered hedge trimmers, one with a big ol’ backpack battery-pack.

CHRIS, who joined us at the falls, was the maninal that carried that. Was a very cool rig and it was obvious to this trail-building neophyte, if it wasn’t already, that this crew was serious.

Here’s a video I took of a chunk of the trail and it includes a glimpse of Chris and his unit. 😉

IT was a long day, too. We didn’t really cut ourselves any slack because of the heat. Hey! We had a mission and any day in the Sierra after all…

STILL, our PPE definitely made things more challenging, yet I could certainly see the value of said gear. We were handling sharp instruments and some big rocks, and consistently dodging over-hanging branches and under-hanging shrubbery.

YOU can get a sense of what it was like by taking a gander at the little video below. It’s us beginning to transform a “hiker’s line” to a “biker’s line.”

AND several other images of the crew at work…

ABOUT 1/2 way through the day we found ourselves at the falls, or pools (both really), for a break and for some, a dip. (Photo on the right courtesy of Jeff Glass, of TAMBA).

WE arrived back in Grover Hot Springs State Park about 3:30 p.m. and found our shuttles waiting. We had dropped some vehicles there in the a.m. for our return trip back to the trailhead at Blue Lakes Road, and we had a couple volunteers (Mrs. California Alps Cycling and Momma California Alps Cycling) augment our caravan as well.

MY legs were sore! Frankly, pretty much all of me was. It’s one thing riding a bunch of miles on the road and certainly another hiking, mcleoding, bouldering, cutting, trimming and digging trail.

STILL, what an awesome trek! We all learned something and we made some new friends, too. Such a deal.

I’LL leave you with a bunch more pix from the day.

FOR even more snapshots, including OROGENESIS PROJECT’S Charity Valley Stewardship Campout 2022 Flickr album, click here. You can donate to the Bikepacking Roots cause here, by the way.

A big shout out to Gabe for helping lead the event, and for teaching us newbies and experienced trail builders alike to look at those lines differently.

NOW if I could just learn to ride some of ’em…

Debris Flow Dancing Here in Markleeville – Another Challenge for Alpine County

OUR wild ride started about ten (10) days ago here in California Alps Cycling country. Things have been in disarray since, made all the better (not!) by some extended travel time, and other challenges, and so my apologies for not getting this report out a bit sooner.

NONETHELESS…

‘TWAS Wednesday, August 3rd, about 3:00 p.m. That’s when the skies opened up, and within hours the waves of mud and debris came tumblin’ down Markleeville’s Main Street (aka Hwy. 89).

THERE I was, sitting on said Hwy. 89 just north of town, at the temporary light constructed by Caltrans, just after giving blood (1 gallon milestone, by the way!) in Minden, NV. Another car was coming up the hill in the one lane that was available for travel – hence the light – and I was surprised at how much, and how fast, that puddle it just passed through, was growing. Then I noticed the mini-boulders on the road.

AND then I looked up and saw the water, rocks and mud beginning to flow from the scarp above me. “This isn’t good,” I said aloud. Then I began yelling at the light to change (there were no more cars stopped opposite me). Also aloud, and with some, as you might imagine, colorful language.

IT didn’t change fast enough (that detritus above was getting chunkier) and there were no cars coming up, so off I went. Just over a mile and home I was. The rain was just getting started as it turns out. I learned a little later that Mom came in ahead of me. She had hitched up her wagon to go to town (Gardnerville, NV – just so. of Minden) and do some shopping at the general store, i.e., Raley’s. 😉

WE both got home about 3:30 p.m. Thunderstorm-palooza then began in earnest.

This was the scene on Friday, after much of the mud had been removed.

2.2 Inches In About An Hour!

OUR weather station’s console read “It’s raining cats and dogs!”

HERE’S a little little video to give some sense of the rain rate and intensity.
That’s Hot Springs Road between us and the fire station across the street.

Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I had seen that message before but not displayed for so long and not with so much associated ca-ca (i.e., sticks, mud, pinecones, etc.) in the run-off outside. I donned my foul weather gear (including hard hat) after awhile so I could do some cleaning and clearing in order to keep things moving the right way. My wife and I did a lot of whoa!-ing and holy-s*&t!-ing, let me tell you.

DIDN’T know how bad it was in town until the next day…

MARKLEEVILLE’S Post Office parking lot the day after – and this was after much of the mud was cleared away. Still, needed my muck boots to pick up yesterday’s mail. We were shocked when we got into town. We had some idea that it was going to be a mess, but this? Not on our radar…

“WHAT can I do to help?”

I heard that. Thanks so much for asking. Here’s a link to the Markleeville Business Reslience Fund.

SO many have been so generous already and if you too can help out, please do. Our little county doesn’t have much of a tax base (1100 people in the entire county) so grants, donations and the like are so very helpful.

MAKE a donation of $50.00 or more and I’ll send you a t-shirt as a small token of appreciation. Go big ($200 or more) and I’ll send you a windvest. Just send me an email with a screenshot and I’ll follow up with ya!

WE are grieving (again) but we are NOT wallowing so please don’t feel sorry for us. We, like so many communities throughout the world, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

OKAY, so back to the story…

THURSDAY afternoon it was. I found myself filling sandbags with so many of my friends. Everyone had rallied at the fire station so bags could be positioned in town to protect the buildings from what was supposed to be the next wave. Thankfully it didn’t come. It might, however, this week, and if not, IMHO it’s likely to occur before summer’s end. We’re resilient though if nothing else, and more importantly there are a lot of skilled, Sierra-forged individuals – with heavy equipment 😉 – in the area.

Deep mud, and silt, and debris. Pretty much everywhere.

WE needed all the help we could get. And that help also came in the form of two (2) bay area fire departments making the trip to Markleeville and spending several days helping us dig out.

THANK YOU Menlo Park F.D. and Oakland F.D!

What’s Next?

ABOUT another week of going over Monitor Pass to get to Nevada or South Lake Tahoe, for one. We’ve all been doing that since the 3rd, but the temporary bridge over the ~20 foot gap on northbound Hwy. 89 should be in place by the 22nd. Just this past Friday the sheriff’s escort started, though, so we can get in and out via a side-road constructed just for that purpose. Twice a day only, between 7-730 a.m. and 6-630 p.m.

Otherwise it’s a southbound trip down Hwy. 89 then east up and over Monitor Pass and then north on Hwy. 395 only to turn west in Gardernerville and head up Hwy. 88 to Luther Pass where it’s north again to Big Blue.

SO, what is usually about a 40′ trip to So. Lake Tahoe takes about two (2) hours! No fun. Especially when at the 1.25 hour mark you end up at Woodfords Junction, six (6) miles north of Markleeville.

RECOVERY is also on the agenda.

Events continue, lives go on.

GROVER Hot Spring’s waterfall beckons (and the campground is open)…

I did a mountain bike ride up to and around the park, followed with about a 1/2 mile hike up to the falls.
A special treat it was to dunk my head under one of those “little drips.” From town it’s only three (3) miles or so up to the park. There’s a nice spur trail too, to get you into the park – Charity Valley East. Check it out!

EBBETT’S Pass is still rideable…

Was a beautiful ride last weekend for my 19th ascent up the south/east side.

Like I Said, Grieving, Not Wallowing

ALPINE County is still one of the most beautiful places in the Sierra.

AS the saying goes, one (1) person per square mile (it’s actually .6754 persons), and you!

DON’T give up on us. We’re not going anywhere and we’re looking forward to seeing you again soon.

AFTER all Hwy. 89 into Markleeville will be open next Monday! You can buy me a beer. I’ll pick up the second round.

And…

LET’S KICK SOME PASSES’ ASSES!

The 41st Deathride – One Rider’s Experience

TEN days has passed since the 41st Annual (kinda) Deathride (aka The Tour of the California Alps). We’re starting to relax a bit here in Alpine County, yet at the same time we’ve begun preparing for next year’s ride. Not kidding.

THAT, however, is a story for another day.

TODAY we have a guest blogger! Amador County resident, and Deathrider Bill Condrashoff. I’m pleased to put forth, for your reading pleasure, Bill’s story about his “day of death.” Editors notes: First, let’s be clear. No one has ever died on the Deathride. Second, the following words are all Bill’s and they WERE NOT edited for clarity or whatever else some news programs might say. That wouldn’t be fair to Bill. It’s his story, and a good one at that. I did take the liberty of throwing in a few photos, though.

IT’S been 3 years since I rode the Death Ride and I missed it. I was in my 50s last time. So I thought I’d see if could still do it in my 60s. I wasn’t planning to better my best or even go for a fast time. I was just going to try to finish. I mentally prepared myself for being passed by the young riders and to just let it go. I’d be happy enough just being out there enjoying what I like to do. Then I got a call from my riding friend Kevin, who was going to come out and enjoy the festivities for old times’ sake. He wanted to know when I would be riding through Markleeville. I told him I would come through between 3 and 4PM. He couldn’t accept that for an answer and convinced me I would be there by 3PM for sure. So he was going to look for me between 2:30 and 3:30PM.

I didn’t know anyone else riding it this year. It was going to be a hot one. I was ready to ride at 5AM but ended up starting at 5:04 or so. Close enough. With the hot weather predicted for later, I knew I had to get in and out of the back side of Monitor Pass as quickly as possible so as not to get fried in the desert. Each side is about 3,000 ft of climbing.

Riders coming up the Eastern side of Monitor pass. Near the Mono/Alpine Co. county line.

When I started, it was about 65 degrees and my legs felt good. I was pedaling up Monitor in a matter of minutes. Most people knew it would be hot and started when I did. I was in a sea of riders just before sunrise. It was calm and all you could hear was the sound of heavy breathing, tires rolling over the pavement and an occasional conversation. Then the grade got steep and the sound of hundreds of bikes downshifting filled the rocky canyon. I was in my lowest gear but not too bad off. As we went up, I could see the sunshine start to cover the mountains around Ebbetts Pass. It looked a long way off and later the ride was going 15 miles beyond Ebbetts before riders would turn around. Of course, at this moment, I was headed AWAY from that pass. Then I realized I needed to get my head in a good place to be able to succeed. That meant having some fun along the way and paying attention to how my legs were feeling.

Before I knew it, I was over the first pass and it was time to have some fun. I gulped some salt tabs and chased them with fluid then started to pass some riders before the unthinkable happened. Some dude passed me going downhill! It was still shallow near the top for a while, but I decided it was time to have some of that “fun along the way”. So, I chased. I might seem like a thin man, but for a cyclist on the Death Ride, I’m a big boy (gravity is my friend on descents). I was up to him pretty quick and I got by him just before the grade got steeper and the spectacular view of the desert appeared. I could see his shadow racing mine on the pavement. He wasn’t just going to let me go ahead. I focused on my line and how to avoid the hundreds of bikes around us. He stayed with me in the twisties and that impressed me because I know the road very well. A couple of times I saw what looked like his shadow riding off the road over the cliff. But, it would always come back where I could see it. Left, right, left, right, pass 12 riders at a time, left, right, left, right, pass 12 more. Then after we came around a righty, and just before a lefty I saw something that scared me. It was guy with a camera standing on the double yellow center line taking photos at the apex of the turn! I could go left or right of him. Both options seemed bad at the speed I was going. So, I braked and went right of him (on the slower line) and the rider making the shadow passed me. I thought “Ok, it’s still a long way down and I have gravity on my side.” After a slower turn, I got back up to him and made a slingshot pass using his draft. It was pretty straight after that so the bigger boy wins, and that was me. At the bottom he was as jacked as I was. We averaged 42 for 7.5 miles with a max of 50mph. We talked about it halfway back up the climb out of the desert before he went ahead of me. 

IT was quite a bit warmer on Monitor Pass the second time over. But, it wasn’t too bad. I still had a good attitude. I pretty much had the second descent to myself and it is less fun to go fast without traffic. So, I decided not to push my luck and conserve energy (and blood). As I started up Ebbetts Pass, Shadow Rider passed me and we discussed how he got behind me. He had taken a nature break. We rode a little while then we both stopped at Wolf Creek for my first water stop. 5 miles up the road he passed me again on the steep stuff. By then the bike traffic was thinning a lot. This told me that I was doing well. It was like the good old days of the 2010s. I kept trying to extrapolate the time I would get to Markleeville because I knew I would be slowing down as I rode. It seemed like I would get there before Kevin left.

I got to the top of Ebbetts feeling pretty worked over. I thought “If I ride over the top, will I be able to climb out of there?” Editor’s note: Even though he was pretty worked over that skeleton is not Bill. This photo, in fact, was taken during the 2018 Deathride. It is, though, at Ebbetts Pass.

AND that’s not the worst of it. Pacific Grade Pass is new to the Death Ride this year. After you go down the back of Ebbetts, you go up Pacific Grade’s 24% slopes. This was sure to lessen my chances of getting back out of the hole I was about to ride into. Against my better judgement, I went for it and Pacific Grade felt steeper than ever. That road tests you at the start with some short 20% grades followed by shallower grades. Then back to steep, then not so steep. Just when you think you’re past the worst of it, the road seems to disappear in front of you. The first right hand switchback is so steep and sharp that it looks like the end of the road. But, it just turns so sharp that it looks like a dead end. Too bad it wasn’t. I would have been happy to turn around at that point. Standing in my lowest gear, wishing I had three more, I could feel the last of my legs slowly being left on the road. On the steep grade, each time I thought I would need to stop, the slope would ease off just enough to keep me from quitting. Before I knew it, it was over and I was at Mosquito Lake on Pacific Grade Pass.

THIS was my chance to rest on the easy pedal to the turnaround at Lake Alpine. Shadow Rider passed me here again and when he did he asked me how long I thought my ride was going to take. I said “If all goes well, 10 hours. If all goes not so good, 11 hours.” I saw him again at the turnaround and spent too much time talking and not enough time drinking. Rolling out of the rest stop, I could tell I was starting to lose power. But I told myself “just get over Ebbetts one more time and you can coast for 30 minutes.”

IT wasn’t much of a ride back to Mosquito Lake. But boy I felt it. After the lake, the drop down Pacific Grade is so steep that you have to get your weight behind your saddle, like on a mountain bike, or you can easily go over your bars when you try to slow for the hairpin turns. I needed to stall because I was so fried. So, I just went slow this time and kept all my blood on the inside by not falling.

The mountains and trees reflected in Kinney Reservoir (about a mile north of the pass). This photo was taken on my first ascent up to Ebbetts Pass (from Markleeville) in 2016.

THE last pass was Ebbetts and I was ready for a struggle and that’s exactly what I got. The pass isn’t that long or steep. What makes it so difficult is all the other climbs before it. Shadow Rider passed me for the last time and I never saw him again. I was crawling (at best) up the hill and just looking for a reason to stop when a guy on the side of the road asked me if I had a CO2 tire filler and if he could use it. That was my excuse! So I stopped with enthusiasm to help him. We got him going quicker than I wanted. Once I started rolling again I felt better. It was only about 500 ft of vertical up to the top from there. When I rolled over the top it was like standing on Everest to me. I was going to make it. My stomach was upset and, due to dehydration I wasn’t sweating anymore. But now it was all downhill for a long time. I filled all bottles for weight and for makeshift perspiration. I drank all I could and poured the rest over my head, front and back as I mostly coasted down towards where I started the day. The cooling plan was working pretty well for a while. But then the temperature started really going up when I dropped below about 7000ft elevation. All the gains I made the first 10 minutes of coasting were getting erased by the heat.

THE 5 miles of road along the canyon that leads to Markleeville were so hot and dry that I would get cotton mouth just 30 seconds after a swig of water. And now, my legs were starting to cramp. Through all of this, I realized I had a shot of finishing the ride in under 9 hours. Remember, 10 hours was my best case scenario. Imagine my surprise! The only obstacle between me and a 9 hour time was the last 20 to 30 minute climb, in nearly 100 degree heat with cramping legs and only about a pint of warm water.

I rolled into Markleeville and looked for Kevin (hopefully with tons of cold water). But, I was an hour ahead of my best predicted time and he wasn’t there yet. In order to beat 9 hours, I had 25 minutes to get up the last hill and figured I’d just see what happened. A woman standing in the street offered me a cold Gatorade. I stupidly said “no thanks” and rode by her. Just past her, I reconsidered and turned around and stopped next to her. She had just ridden both Monitor Passes and had a sense of how I felt. I poured the cold Gatorade into my bike bottle, thanked her and rode off. 50 feet from there, I saw Kevin just as he yelled my name. He had just gotten there and he was prepared. He had ice, cold water, and pantyhose to put ice into and hang around my neck as I rode. He knew all the tricks to beat the heat. Now it’s only 20 minutes to my 9 hour goal! I asked him if he thought I could get up that last hill in 20 minutes and he said “NO”. I still wanted to try, and told him I didn’t want to bother with the panty hose trick. He decided I could use a splash of cold water and poured what felt like an Ice Bucket Challenge cooler full of water over my head. I was yelling “heart attack, heart attack” without breathing out. It was so cold. I was freezing now. I thanked him and took off with 17 minutes to get up the hill. At first I still felt pretty drained so I just went at a pace I thought I could do and drank the Gatorade as fast as I could before it got warm. About halfway up the hill I could see the top. I still had 9 minutes. Then a guy about 50 feet ahead of me turned around and said “tailwind”. There was a tailwind, and it was a good one too. I still had goose bumps on my legs from the icing incident. I thought “I’m going for it.” I picked it up a notch, and seeing how the road got steeper at the end, I timed a last ditch effort to the finish. I watched the time get closer and closer to 9:00:00 on my Garmin. For the last 15 minutes I’d been telling myself not to ride for 9 hours and pull up a couple minutes over 9. So I grabbed a gear and really made sure. 8:58:05!

THIS was about my 12th Death Ride. I’ve been trying to beat 9 hours and have never been able to do it before this ride. The new route is about an hour shorter than the old one. But still, I can now say that I did the Death Ride in under 9 hours! My rolling time was 8:38:XX. So I spent about 20 minutes not moving. The ride was 103.3 miles with 13,999 ft of climb. I averaged 11.9 MPH, maxed 51.3 MPH, averaged 156 watts for a total 1.4 kWHr of energy output. Now your electric bill of $0.60/kWHr doesn’t seem like such a high price, does it? My average heart rate was 133 BPM and max was 150 BPM. According to Strava, I was about the 50th finisher of all six passes.

I signed my name on the big Death Ride poster over the forehead of the skull, as usual. I burned about 5,000 calories, and I got it all back in the breakfast Benita made for me on Sunday morning. One last editor’s note: Only finishers get to sign the poster. Will you add your name next year?

CONGRATS, Bill! I think I can see your signature somewhere in there. 😉

WHAT a ride you had and what a great story. And a PR to boot. Sweet!

THANKS so much for sharing and we’ll see you next year for lucky 13!

Deathride 2022 – Il Finito

AFTER a two-year hiatus we finally pulled it off. Deathride 2022, with the new course into the Lake Alpine area, with Pacific Grade x2 added, was a MASSIVE success!

YOURS truly was not fit enough to attempt what Peter Stetina says is one of the hardest century-rides in the country, but I did spend this morning doing a bit of “ambassador-ing” on part of the course. I hit Hwy. 4 about the time the fastest riders were coming down from Monitor Pass and heading up to Ebbett’s Pass.

EVEN though those two HC climbs are challenging, and the sunshine and blue sky was brilliant, the smiles of the riders still lit up the road. After days of smoke-filled skies we were blessed by Ma Nature with clear air yesterday and today. Yeah, it’s hot (over 90 degrees fahrenheit today) but it wouldn’t be the Deathride without some sort of weather “event,” right?

THE riders I talked to while on the road today, and yesterday during the Expo., were so appreciative of the opportunity to attempt the ride yet again.

THAT included my friend John K. from Chula Vista.

SO far the rider from London takes the cake for distance. All the way across the pond! Seriously? As I write this post from the Expo I’m waiting for him to stop by the booth so he can pick up his free California Alps Cycling cap. He’s definitely earned it. I also talked to riders from Colorado Springs, Maryland and Idaho. So many more came from so many places…How cool is that?

AND the volunteers…What a truly amazing and inspiring bunch of folks. From rest-stops to water-stops; from radio comms. to medical; from litter picker-uppers to booth staffers and registration signer-uppers…everyone was on their game and so welcoming of the ride and riders.

THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!

THE first finishers started coming in around 11:30 a.m. or so and the first woman rider came in about 12:30. That’s FAST! Way faster than anything I’ve ever done, or will do, that’s for certain. It’s now 3:30 or so and riders are still coming in. Sweat-stained jerseys and bibs, white coated from sunscreen in some cases, many of them a bit disheveled for sure, and yet such a sense of pride. As it should be.

Deathriders making their way up Hwy. 4 towards Ebbetts Pass. After they’ve done Monitor x 2. Video taken at Scossa Cow Camp. If you look closely you can see the “Scossa ladies” setting up a viking skit for the rider’s entertainment.

HUGE thanks to the sponsors of the Deathride, too. Talk about resilience! About twenty (20) came out, including us of course. We had coffee, schwag, beer and more thanks to their efforts.

A special tip ‘o the hat to Tamo and Nikki, founders/owners of ATAQ fuel, and one of our marquee sponsors. If you haven’t tried ATAQ’s products, by the way, you should. I’ve been using it since last year and I really like it. No gut issues and a plant-based product to boot!

SIERRA Nevada deserves special mention, too. They have supported the ride for years and continue to do so. And their beer is the best! Ahhh…

DID I mention that it’s hot? I guess I did but I’ll say it again. It’s toasty today. I can’t help but marvel at the attitudes of the riders. Yeah, you have to be fit but in the end, as my brother-from-another-mother would say, the Deathride is really a state of mind. We are truly blessed to have such support from riders all over the world.

THERE are still some riders on the course so those final data points are still TBD.

IF you were one of the many, whether you be a rider, volunteer, spouse or partner of a rider, you name it, a heartfelt thanks from the Alpine County community. We couldn’t have done it without you and we are so very grateful for the support.

RIDE on! See you next year!

Twelve Days of Being Alpine – A Photo & Video Diary

IT all started in Woodfords on Friday, June 17th, with the Annual Diamond Valley School Bike-a-thon (and bike-rodeo). That “annual part” has been missing until this year but thanks to the hard work of many individuals, much cat-herding by one of them (not me), and major contributions from local businesses, non-profits, bike shops and bike clubs, the event was a huge success.

YOURS truly, and many others, including Michael from Alta Alpina (thanks Michael – couldn’t have done it without you!), worked for several nights prior to the big event, tuning up the kids bikes and getting the donated bikes ready, too.

New bikes ready for a new home. These were all donated by locals, businesses and non-profits. Over 30 of them going to new homes!
The kids getting ready to head out to Diamond Valley Road. Firefighter Paul will keep them out of trouble.

GIVING back to the community, especially to the kids, is one of our primary missions here at California Alps Cycling. I was especially pleased to find some whitewalls for Nick’s old Electra, and to see him ready to rumble, with a big ol’ smile, was oh so cool!

WRENCHING on these bikes was a great trip down memory lane, too, to the days when I was a youngster and worked on my own bikes with crescent wrenches, end-wrenches, cone-wrenches and such. No hydraulic brakes, discs, ceramic bearings, or carbon frames here!

GROVER Hot Springs State Park, you ask…Here’s a quick video of a gravel ride I took last weekend. I started at the pool, which unfortunately is not yet open due to damage from the Tamarack Fire. You’ll notice other damage as you peruse the video. Apologies for the video quality…I had to save it as 720p because after one hour plus of trying to upload the “1080 version” I received this response from WordPress: “Unexpected response from the server. The file may have been uploaded successfully. Check in the Media Library or reload the page.”

WELL, it didn’t, upload successfully that is, and so 720 it is/was. Let’s just say our internet here in Markleeville isn’t the fastest. 😉

The band Ismay, just one of the many great bands that entertained us last weekend.

Made all the more fun due to the fact that the guitarist and singer-songriter/lead vocalist are locals who have put their ducats where their bocas are and have already started helping us recover, and obviously feel strongly about giving back to our community.

Thank you Andy and Avery!

LET’s wrap it up with some fishing news…

It’s been good and it’s bound to get even better! The state planted some fish Monday and the County planted some last week.

A buddy of mine fished Hope Valley and over by Monitor Pass just this morning. He caught 16!

NOTHING finer than fresh-grilled trout, let me tell you. Come wet a line here in one of our many lakes, streams and rivers and fire up that grill!

HAVE an awesome Independence Day weekend, whatever you decide to do!

BE safe, and sane, and remember, the Deathride is in just over two (2) weeks. We’ll be out at the Expo on Friday and Saturday so be sure to stop by and say hi if you’re going to partake in the Tour of the California Alps. 103 miles and over 14000 feet of climbing. Type 2 fun for sure!

Markleeville Rising – Or…What’s Here And What’s Not

HAPPILY there’s much more of the “what’s here” than the “what’s not” but based on what we’ve heard anecdotally, there are some who think there’s more of “the not” and that’s just not the case. Sure, parts of Alpine Co., especially those hit hardest by the Tamarack Fire, are still grieving, but there’s NO WALLOWING here in the heart of the California Alps.

CERTAINLY, we lost many trees, that’s true. Many of them have been removed, mulched; or repositioned to mitigate erosion. Some of them still stand.

IT’S important to note though, that in terms of what’s visible from the highways, the damage is primarily isolated to areas of Hwy. 88, east of Hope Valley, and the section of Hwy. 4 between Woodfords and Monitor Junction. And as Mrs. CA Alps has so optimistically noted, in some places the views are indeed better.

Markleeville is still here! So is Bear Valley and so is Kirkwood. Blue Lakes Road was spared and Luther Pass took minimal damage (on the El Dorado Co. side). We are not a blackened county!

BUT, you can get some of that at the Cutthroat Brewing Company. Fish, that is. And beer, and the best burgers for miles. One of today’s specials (salivating) was stuffed poblanos, and I’m talking with elk sausage and jalapeno cheddar.

THERE’S pickleball, tennis, paddleboarding and more courtesy of Bear Valley Adventure Company.

OUR friends at Outwest Cafe have opened a weekend (all summer long) pop-up taco stand (Tres Amiga Locas) next to the Toll Station – which is again open on weekends (for beverages only) and soon will be for meals I’ve heard – so you can grind on some outrageous tacos and wash them down with some uber-cold cerveza. Ahhh.

WHAT about Kirkwood, you ask. Good to go there, too. Discwood is open and the stargazing has been amazing.

AND Wylder (formerly Sorensen’s) in Hope Valley? No worries. Still throwing some good hash out of the cafe and hosting live music regularly. Did I mention their cabins? They’re cool, keen, phat and plush.

Ed. Note: For a comprehensive list of upcoming Alpine County events, look no further than the Chamber’s events page and click here to download a copy of our Visitor’s Guide.

West Fork of the Carson near Blue Lakes Road on the western side of Hope Valley.

WILDFLOWERS and grasses are beginning to carpet the forest floors that were once just ash; and the rivers, creeks and lakes are flowing and there’s some good fishing to be had. Catch ’em if you can! 🤓

Why Am I Telling You All of This?

WELL, last week several of my colleagues at the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and I were theorizing (“commiserating” works, too) as to why the registration numbers for the Deathride – The Tour of the California Alps were lower than expected, especially compared to the usual count just under two months out from the big day.

PANDEMIC related “recurring-cancelations-of-events-fatigue” perhaps? Yeah, there’s some of that. Many of us can personally speak to that dynamic: postponing registration, or not registering at all, for events that we would have in the past, for fear of them being cancelled yet again.

CONCERN over riding in potentially smoke-filled air, with yet another fire season looming? Another valid reason. And you’re right, climate change has made it so there’s almost no fire season anymore.

‘TWAS you, oh adventurer that caused me to tell this tale.

YOU let it slip that you thought we were a burned-out shell of our former self so I thought I’d try and set the record straight.

There is still a great atmosphere here – day and night.

Ed. Note: Captured this sunbow yesterday afternoon.

Safety note: I used selfie mode; the sun was the subject and I cropped out the part of my forehead that tried to photobomb Ol’ Sol.

The Challenge, And The Plea

SO, register for the Deathride. Don’t waffle. Tick that bad boy off your list. You know you have it in you.

OUR community needs you now more than ever (the ride provides the majority of our operating expenses by far). We’ve earned the good karma (we all have, right?) and as I wrote last fall, and as we all know so well, THE THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM.

WE’RE not as big as Emporia and our ride doesn’t get quite as many riders as that big ol’ gravel race they just had, but we’re just as friendly and welcoming and we have a little something extra.

Blue skies like you don’t often see, riding on some of the most iconic routes in the country; and mountains. Lots and lots of mountains.

COME on up and Be Alpine with us. Drown some powerbait. Get your paddleboard groove going on one of our many alpine lakes. Do some birding.

LIKE the image at the top of this post suggests…PARK IT (the car) AND RIDE IT (le’ bike)!

AND do us one more favor…Two actually.

Join our Strava Club, and tell your friends

that Alpine County is still here and

that they need to beat feet.

Raccoon feet photo undisputed proof that it was a local

Rocky hitting the hummingbird feeder. Remedied that…

The feeder comes in at night, like we know it should. 😬

Can Stronger Shoulders Make You a Better Rider? – Here’s What I’ve Learned

SHORT answer = YES! Powerful shoulders, and while we’re at it, a strong core, and good flexibility, are all beneficial when it comes to riding bikes.

AS you can imagine, there are other advantages to having “jacked scaps,” a concrete core and malleable muscles, some of which include:

  • Better bike handling
  • Fewer injuries
  • Less soreness
  • Faster recovery
  • Higher FTP
  • Greater endurance.

ESPECIALLY when standing and pedaling! We probably don’t give it much thought but that rocking motion when “dancing on the pedals” takes a good bit of upper body strength, and if you’re riding a course (like Stetina’s Paydirt – 9 days and counting!) that requires a lot of humping up (and flying down, too) rocky hills, it calls for even more muscle.

Chris says: “Yup, strong shoulders are helpful out here in the Pinenuts!”

THIS brings me to me. 😉 You may remember this post about shoulder pain that I published in February. Well, I’m happy (ecstatic, really) to tell you that my “shoulder-life” is much, much better nowadays.

THAT’S not to say it was easy, nor am I done; the work and focus must continue, as it should, especially for us older riders. After twenty-one sessions of physical therapy, though, and because I’ve put in the work, I’m pretty much pain-free.

THE biggest benefit(s)? Stronger shoulders and core; less fatigue in the upper body during, and post-ride; and better control of my mountain and gravel steeds. And some ROI realized on the road bike, too.

WHAT exactly, can you do, you ask. Here’s a few suggestions (tested by yours truly on a regular basis):

  • Regular (at least three times a week) shoulder and core work. The Crossover Symmetry bands are fantastic and give me a great all-around workout.
  • Fitball, Bosu ball and medicine ball exercises.
  • Stretching. So often neglected by many athletes…at their peril. Trust me, this is one of THE MOST important things you can do. There is no doubt in my mind that if I wasn’t as flexible as I am I would have been seriously injured many times over the years. Just look at professional athletes…
  • Don’t neglect the hammies and lower back. Squats, btw, work wonders for these often over-looked muscle groups.
  • Sprint intervals. Yesterday, for example, I hit Zwift Yorkshire and did about 10 laps of the Duchy Estate course. One ~20″ sprint on each lap produced a nice, all-around soreness today.
  • REST. It’s in CAPS for a reason and admittedly it’s something I still have trouble doing. Easier to just ride and hammer, you know? Today, though, no exercise at all. Read this post for some specific insight on that rest ‘thang.

BE sure to get input from your coach, personal trainer, doctor, what have you, though, k? Every body is different.

I’D hate it if you injured yourself trying to get stronger or more flexible.

I hope this article was helpful. Feel free to pass on any tips you might have, too. We’d love to share ’em.

TAKE care, be safe and go kick those shoulders’ asses!