Thinking About a Gravel Ride in the Pinenuts? Here’s What You Should Know

OR perhaps more appropriately entitled: Here are some lessons I just learned. Yesterday, in fact. Since Stetina’s Paydirt was postponed, and Chris and I had planned on riding it, we decided to do some of the course.

WE left open the possibility we would do the entire route (~63 miles and 4700 feet of climbing) but it turned out that bite was more than we could chew. We did, however, get in 42 miles and about 2800 feet of climbing.

GRAVEL riding is hard. Not that we didn’t know that. Still, the experience is enlightening; you never know what you’re going to get. Or what’s going to get thrown at you.

The Weather Was Amazing!

IT had been so long since we had experienced clean air and average temps. A light breeze, about 65 degrees at the start (8:30 a.m.) and nice clouds and light winds all day long. It did get hot towards the end of the ride but the breeze kept it bearable.

Lesson #1 – Leave early and beat the heat!

HAD we been out on the course for much longer it would have been a different story.

Running Out of Water Made It Even More Epic!

Easy to say when you end up getting lucky and finding a spigot with 8 miles or so to go. We had just come off Sunrise Pass Road when my Camelback put forth no more liquid. Well, I thought, it’s only another 30 minutes or so and we’re on the pavement so…And there it was. The red handled goddess of H2O. So lucky.

Lesson #2 – Bring more water than you think you’ll need.

I had a frame-pack and could have carried another bottle at least but I figured 3 liters (~100 ounces) would be enough. It wasn’t. We were out there almost four (4) hours afterall and on the road I would certainly have needed more; and riding on gravel is more taxing. Duh!

Speed Is Your Friend

MOST of the time. We had put in a good chunk of time climbing out of Brunswick Canyon so when we hit Sunrise Pass Road we opened it up and flew down some of those long sweeping downhills.

Lesson #3 – Gravel and rocks are not tire friendly.

NOT that we didn’t know that but when I saw that Stan’s geyser shooting out of Chris’ rear wheel I knew a stop was eminent. It was pretty frickin’ cool though; watching and hearing that thing go.

Okay, I’ll just put this back on the bike and we can get out of this sun!

TOO much speed can make it harder to see some of those “sharpies.” That’s why, when out in gravel country, you need to carry a bit more gear than you might otherwise.

BETWEEN us we had:

  • Two (2) tires
  • Four (4) tubes
  • Four (4) CO2 cartridges
  • Two (2) pumps
  • Two (2) mini-tools
  • Okay, you get the idea.

HERE’S what I forgot:

  • Sunscreen
  • Stan’s (Chris did have this)
  • Stem remover (Chris had this too)
  • Rag (neither of us had this but I did have some paper towels).

Lesson #4 – Bring what you’ll need for the worst-case scenario!

Paper towels, for example, come in handy, and not just for napkins. They have myriad uses and they are more durable than TP if you get my drift.

AS for sunscreen, we should have brought some for sure. That was a bonehead move. What made it even more bone-headed (on my part) was that I didn’t hose down very well at the start.

DIDN’T even get the legs. Regretting that today. I wore a cap so I didn’t spray the top of my head. So when I wanted to take the cap off…Yeah, it stayed on.

To Pack or Not to Pack?

I went with the frame-pack and the CamelBak yesterday. That was good and bad. Good in that I could carry extra stuff, including the tubes and tire, and a sandwich. Bad in that the frame-pack rubbed on my legs a bit. Another 20-30 miles or so would not have been ideal.

THE CamelBak was especially good because I could drink water much more easily. Most of the gravel sections on this route were pretty technical (at least for me) so not having to pull a bottle to hydrate was groovy. On the bad side…the tube kept coming unseated from its dock. That was a bit irritating.

Lesson #5 – Test and adjust your gear before the big ride.

IT’S not like I didn’t know that. Still, being an experienced roadie, yet a neophyte gravelleur, means I didn’t account for the time that I would spend on the road, er trail.

NOTE to self: About ten (10) miles on hour is your average on gravel. This is not pavement! Got it, Mark? Good!

Sand Can Be Fun

Three hours in and still smiling. What a great day in the Pinenuts!

TO me, that sand is the funnest part of gravel riding. Not so much so at the end of a long day but still…I just love the challenge of staying upright. All that core work comes in handy here let me tell ya!

Lesson #6 – Gear down, pedal, and take as much weight off the bars as you can.

THEN just go with the flow. And remember that driver’s trick and turn into the skid. And did I say pedal, pedal, pedal?

Know Where You’re Going!

ESPECIALLY if you’re directionally challenged like I am. So either load the course on your computer, or have a guide (like I did), or both. Thanks ‘Toph! Old school (like a paper map) works too, by the way.

AND, don’t forget to let your person(s) know what you’re doing, where you’re headed and approximately when you’ll be back.

The Last Two Lessons?

  • Don’t take yourself, or the day, too seriously.
  • Hang on and just enjoy the ride.

THIS ride was really the first time I embraced that gravelleur mantra and so I laughed when in the past I would have whined; and I relaxed and sang along with the music when things looked too hairy or scary.

SO there you have it…Chris & Mark’s most excellent gravel adventure. I hope my takeaways come in handy. As always, though, it’s up to you to do your homework and be prepared.

ONCE you’ve done that, then go ahead, plan that gravel adventure. If you have as much fun as we did then my work is done! 😉

What’s Happening Here in Markleeville Since the Tamarack Fire? Here’s Some News

IT’S Monday night, August 30th, and I’m thinking about what’s happening here in the California Alps, which includes one of the jewels of the world, Lake Tahoe. These fires…it’s surreal and they’re taking on an almost human quality. Or should I say a demon quality?

I’M a firm believer in balance and so I understand, and welcome in the right circumstances, fire. And water (thinking of you New Orleans). I also believe that we are reaping what we have sewn. Not going to go there – down that “climate change is here, damnit” path – that is. Oh wait…

SO, as I was saying. Life around here since July 16th has been strange. Scary, anxiety-ridden, angry, sad, happy, fulfilling, disappointing, unhappy, pissed-off, irritated, STRANGE. I don’t recall ever feeling such a range of emotions over such a short period of time.

NONETHELESS, life goes on. And we go on and try to be normal as best we can. Since Sunday, we’ve had these little windows of fresh air in the middle of this smoke-filled firestorm that has seemingly targeted the area.

GREEN AQI all day today, for example. It’s eery…Just a few miles away, to our northwest, is a nasty looking smoke plume from the Caldor Fire. I took the pic at the top of this post yesterday (Sunday), on my way home from a ride up Hwy. 4. There was a “good-air window” and I took it. I cut the ride short, though, as the smoke seemed to be pushing in. That is what I saw from Monitor Junction on my way back to HQ.

This is what I saw this morning, looking north towards Lake Tahoe from Hwy 4. at Raymond Meadow Creek.

If you look closely you can see the smoky haze in the distance.

OH shit. That doesn’t look good, I said to myself. Been saying that a lot lately…Also been attending a lot of live fire-briefing events on Facebook.

AND constantly checking Twitter or other sources for the latest intel while trying to separate the wheat from the chaff as I go.

NEVERENDING. And last night, Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I began thinking about yet another evacuation. Just 6 miles away, in the Mesa Vista area of Alpine Co., they’re on an evacuation warning. The fire has reached Christmas Valley and has made its way into South Lake Tahoe so the way things are going, we figure, we could be under evacuation warnings sometime soon ourselves. Hopefully not but we are getting good at it. Something I hoped I’d never say.

In Other News…

OUR internet is working again and that’s making life much more liveable. I remember when internet was a nice-to-have (yes, I’m old…er) but today it’s a must have, IMHO. Yet so many people less fortunate than I don’t have it. We learned through this experience that good internet (and cell service) is as necessary as power and water. Eye-opening for sure.

THE Markleeville General Store is still closed. 🙁 Sad but true. Repairs and such post-fire.

OUTWEST Cafe, as well as the Toll Station, and the Cutthroat, are open.

FISHING is pretty much non-existent. There have been no plants since before the fire and there is hardly any camping here since our national forests are closed, but the Carson River Resort is open and based on what I’ve heard, pretty booked up.

AIR quality? you ask. We feel guilty. Honestly. The air here has been great this entire week. What I saw Sunday never made it any farther south and I got out for a ride this morning. It was so pretty I almost forgot what was happening in South Lake.

RED flag warnings there (and here too), but the wind that is making the Caldor Fire do what it’s doing is pushing the smoke to our north and east.

This was a/o 2:45 p.m. today.

WATER is an issue, too. Since our watershed was hammered pretty hard, and we have limited resources, at this point we’re on water restrictions with limited outside watering. Thankfully that recently changed. Up until about ten (10) days ago landscape watering was not allowed at all. Small (yet big) victory.

WE’VE been invaded by bears! Well that’s not really true. They were here first. Nevertheless they are more prevalent and getting a bit more brave. Earlier this week my neighbor’s car was torn up pretty well. First time since we’ve lived here that I’ve seen that.

THEY, like other fauna, are hungry and since so much of the surrounding forest was torched, animals and birds are coming to any oases they can find. Lucky us (kinda), we’ve got one. The wild-turkeys, with their youngins, are especially welcome.

With That Said…

WE’RE thinking about our friends and neighbors here in Alpine Co. (some of the county are on evac. warnings due to the Caldor Fire) and everyone else who has been effected by “our fire” as well as the Caldor Fire, and other fires raging, mostly in the west.

LIFE will get back to normal at some point. The new-normal I guess. Whatever that is.

Been Waiting for California Alps Cycling Merch? It’s Finally Here!

YOU’VE seen it at the Deathride. You’ve seen it on our blog. Maybe you noticed it in our photo gallery and you’ve asked yourself: “How do I get me some of that?”

WELL, the wait is over! You can now purchase your California Alps Cycling gear from our new online store!

CASTELLI jerseys, bibs and windvests are available (with some supplies limited) as are our new decals.

AND we’ve got tees, too. No, not those kind of tees! The kind you wear. The kind that are soft and comfy and are perfect for showing off your passion for cycling in the mountains; pre-ride, post-ride or just ‘cuz.

THE gear has been tested extensively, especially the bibs, jerseys and vests. In the cold. In the heat. In the wind. On century rides (including the Deathride). We’ve worn it and in some cases worn it out – in a good way. Cycling clothing does wear out and IMHO good gear wears out before it rips, tears or frays. That’s certainly been my experience.

ADMITTEDLY, our store has been a long time coming. Too long, in fact. Nonetheless I’ve finally gotten off my backside and gotten ‘er done.

NOW it’s your turn.

IDEALLY buy some stuff (you can find the store link on the top right corner) and help us continue to support the cycling cause here in Markleeville.

I’D also like your feedback since I am kinda new at this online store thing. Do you have any suggestions as to how to improve the store? Are the prices right? Is the shipping reasonable? Etc., etc.

Would love to know that you think!

LASTLY, we need to make room for the new Pedal Mafia kits that should be here next month.

AS you may have read in our Deathride Dreaming post in June, we are changing tacks and going with the P.M. kits. They too have been tested. In fact, I just wore one yesterday and they are oh so comfortable.

And we’ll have caps and jackets to go along with the bibs, jerseys and vests!

LOOKING forward to seeing those colors on you! Order away and I promise I’ll get them shipped out to you as fast as possible; more easily done now that our humble little Markleeville Post Office is again open.

THANKS in advance.

Ride on, be safe, stay healthy and to quote Lester Holt: “Take care of yourself, and each other.”

Riding in the Mountains? Can I Give You A Few Unsolicited Bits of Advice?

THESE nuggets of wisdom are of the mechanical kind, as opposed to weather, clothing, climbing and other such tidbits I’ve blogged about in the past. When riding in the mountains or hills, really anywhere for that matter, these are the additional things that I focus on since there is nothing worse than listening to your own, or someone elses, noisy velocipede, especially on long climbs and descents.

THE idea from this post came to me last week when I was riding in South Lake Tahoe with a friend of mine and “that annoying rattle” reared its ugly head again.

Silence Those Rattles

nature animal reptile snake

LOOSE things rattle. Whether they be in your saddle bag, top-tube bag or jersey…Make them stop!

EVEN if you have grown accustomed to them your riding partners may not have.

DO yourself and your fellow riders a favor and quiet that bike where you can.

IN my case, that annoying rattle was my multi-tool in the seat bag. I thought I had fixed it but oh no, on that ride last Friday night it was back, like the Terminator. I had added some padding to the case the tool was in and figured that did it but as it turns out, upon further inspection I found one of the bolts had come loose.

A bit of tightening and ahhh, no more rattle.

CHECK for those unfastened, unattached or unsecured bolts, nuts, etc. and FASTEN, ATTACH and SECURE them.

Rattle and Hum is an astounding album; it’s the hum that should apply to our bikes, though, not the rattle, right?

‘NUF said.

Use Loctite

IN preparing the cockpit for filming I picked up a K-EDGE mount for Blue, one of my faithful steeds. It only took a couple rides of the Diamond Valley Loop to get that thing a rattlin’. Loctite to the rescue.

I’VE ridden hundreds of miles since applying the high strength version (and it’s been in my workbench for YEARS) and that mount has not loosened. At all.

THIS stuff, or some threadlocker like it, is gold.

Prepare for Bad Roads

ROADS here in the Sierra Nevada, as well as many, if not all of the coastal hills in which I’ve ridden, are generally crappy. Water, snow, heat, and those pesky vehicles 😉 all take their toll.

THINK about reducing tire pressure, adding dropper seatposts with suspension, or as my friend Mike did on his gravel bike, augment your trusty steed with a suspension stem.

TIRE size is another consideration. I rode 23mm tires for many years but switched to 25mm rubber rings a couple years back. The ride is more plush.

I could even go bigger.

AND as for tire pressure…higher pressure isn’t always better. I ride Continental Grand Prix 5000s and while the max pressure is listed at 120 PSI (8.5 BAR), the recommended pressure is listed as 95 PSI and 6.5 BAR. I pump up the rear tire to 90 PSI and the front to 80 PSI. And I’m a big boy at 230 lbs (104.55 kg for you metric-geeks)!

Keep Things Clean and Lubed

WHEN you can hear the chain, it’s time to lube it. Or perhaps replace it. Use that chain-checker! I use mine all the time but Jay at Big Daddy’s keeps catching me with bad chains nonetheless. I’ll try to do better, Jay.

I don’t do a good job keeping my bikes clean. I have to do better there as well. So, do what I say, not what I do. Keep it clean, like a Virgo would. You didn’t know that about Virgos? Ask my former roomie.

closeup and selective focus photography of toothbrush with toothpaste

GIVE that guy a bathroom and a toothbrush…Sparkling, let me tell ya!

SERIOUSLY, though, over a long ride, especially during a long ride, those squeaks, squeals, screeches and scrapes can be irritating for you, your riding companions and your bike.

TAKE some time (I’m talking to you, Mark) and lube that shit, will ya?

LUBE? you ask. Keith and Jay (and I) recommend Boeshield T-9. It’s not as neat and tidy as a wax job (Scott reminds me of this often) but it’s a helluva lot easier. Again, if you can hear that chain, it’s time to lube it. If you notice sluggish shifting or your trim just doesn’t seem to trim, it could be time to replace it.

Smiling and ready to race on rattle free, lubed, quiet, clean, bikes! Helmet adjustments needed prior to dust-off, though.

Alrighty, then. I hope you, and your friends and family, found these suggestions helpful, thought-provoking and on-point.

GOT some of your own? Share ’em! Please.

Memory Lane?

Click here for a post about cycling in the sierra and here for yet another, this one about climbing mountain passes.

THANKS for reading.

STAY healthy; if it’s smoky outside, ride inside; be safe, and most importantly enjoy the ride (on a quiet bike).

What’s the Number One Rule of Cycling? It’s Not What You Think

IT’S “If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen.”

Last week was a week of climbing here in Markleeville. In honor of the Deathride I did three of the five climbs of the legacy DR (i.e. with Carson Pass). Virtually. On Fulgaz. And yes indeedy, I do plan to do the other two this week.

Without high-speed (ahem – even when we have internet here in Markleeville I wouldn’t call it “high-speed”) internet, though. Thanks to a previous hint, courtesy of Fulgaz during its French Tour, I had downloaded all the climbs to my Apple TV (ATV) so I could ride them w/o internet connectivity. Note to self: When our super-fast DSL is back online, download a bunch more rides for future use.

I had to chuckle after ride number 2. Changed kits for the next one and this thought, with the associated Tom Hanks voice, came into my head: “There’s no coasting in (on?) Fulgaz.” Just like there’s no crying in baseball. Well I guess I could have done some coasting on those downsides of the rollers but I was too busy building up speed for the upcoming upsides!

Bad Air = Ride Inside

WITH all the smoke about from the wildfires I’m not really too excited about riding outside. I was able to get a couple rides in the week before last, in the blue-mountain air, but sadly, not so this week.

Not quite as pretty as it usually is at El Dorado Beach (South Lake Tahoe) That wildfire smoke is having a regional impact.

OKAY, so anyway…Friday was Carson Pass with its just over 3000′ of climbing, pain cave fans, and portable A/C, a blazin’! Was a hard ride; I pushed it. Sunday last I did two (2) more. Ebbett’s South (from Hermit Valley up to the pass) and after a short break, Ebbett’s North from Monitor Junction to the top. Those bad boys gave me another 4700′ of climbing.

AND earlier in the week I did one easy ride on Fulgaz, but it did give me another 719 feet of climbing. Hey, it all counts damn it!

Why Am I Telling You This?

I’LL get to the point. After we realized we wouldn’t have our bad-ass internet for awhile we went out and bought our fine-selves a cell-signal booster. Works pretty well. Went from two bars to three, or four. Smart guy here…Just keep reading…Tethered my cell iPad to the computer. Functional. Irritating, especially at certain times of the day, but functional.

I could blog. As long as I didn’t upload photos. That I had to do up at Whorehouse Flats. Yes, you read that correctly. ‘Twas apparently named thusly because there was a house of ill repute located there back in the day. In any case, it has a direct line of sight to Hawkins Peak, where the (only) Verizon cell tower is located, and so there I can upload images. Even though I have the same number of bars as I do at home with the so-called boosted signal.

SIDE NOTE: WHY, pray tell, does it seem to not boost when it’s really, really, supposed to frickin’ boost? Huh? Riddle me that, Batman!

ANYWAY, I’m telling you this to explain the constraints we’re under here without reliable internet. How the hell am I supposed to function without it? How am I supposed to sync my photos; upload my recent cycling quests to Strava; update Fitness Pal with the day’s caloric intake and hydration? C’mon man! It’s impossible and it’s just not fair.

The Gauntlet has Been Thrown Down

SO, here I was, a new member of Chris’s recent Sparks Cycling Challenge Group on Strava, of which the goal is 30000 feet by the end of the month, and I was sucking wind (or more appropriately writ perhaps, sucking elevation), but only because I hadn’t uploaded the past week’s rides! A ha! I had an idea.

I’LL just change my network settings and connect my ATV to my super-boosted iPad (now you’ll understand what I meant earlier about smart guy…) and upload them. Nope. Apple TV won’t recognize a cell hotspot. Makes sense I guess; too much bandwidth needed.

WAIT, I’ll upload them from my FulGaz app. on my iPad. Uh, no, I didn’t download them there. Smart guy downloaded them to the ATV.

WHAT’S next? This week I’m going to take the ATV into South Lake (Tahoe, that is) where I got a really sweet deal at Cowork Tahoe and rented a desk for a month (it’s a pretty cool place as it turns out) so I could do those parts of my job that require FAST internet (meetings, video-conferences, important ca-ca like that…).

I should be able to connect it to the WiFi there, and upload my rides to Strava so I can prove myself worthy. Key word = should. Another should…I should (would) be in 3rd place a/o today had my big week of climbing last week been included.

BUT you know what? If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen!

WE’RE supposed to have our super fast Markleeville internet back sometime before the end of the month. Until then it’s gadget hell. No Netflix. No Apple Plus. No Zwift workouts. No Fulgaz real-time rides. And most put-offingly, no Strava.

I guess if nothing else I can manually enter those rides but that feels like the easy way out, so I shall continue my quest. Maybe. I’m wearing myself out and perhaps I should instead save that energy for the bike.

For Related Musings…

Click here to read a previous post that, now that I look back, was a bit of foreshadowing to my latest travails.

Click here to read more about the Tour of the California Alps (aka the Deathride) climbs and other routes I filmed for Fulgaz.

Click here for a trip down memory lane and a post with some riding and hiking options here in Alpine Co., once the perverbial smoke clears that is – no parking or camping allowed on the local highways currently due to the ongoing Tamarack Fire.

AND a not so related musing but I wanted to share it nonetheless. In last week’s post I wrote briefly about the animal oasis here in the middle of the charred forest. Here’s more evidence of that:

STAY safe, watch out for bears, be good to yourself and others, and let’s kick some passes’ asses! Preferrably the non-smoky ones.

Coming Back to Life in Markleeville – It’s Been a Wild Ride

THE trip back to Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling headquarters, was a sobering and somber experience. So much of our forest was now blackened.

AFTER almost ten (10) days of being evacuated (from Friday, July 16th, through Sunday, July 26th) it was great to get back home. It was a surreal experience for sure; Markleeville and Marklee Village were oases in the middle of a charred forest.

WE were lucky…Our generator system did its job and kept my beer and other libations cold, our food fresh and our frozen grub, frozen. The Alpine Co. Sheriff’s Office, as well as other law enforcement, kept our home, and town, secure from both two-legged and four-legged creatures.

Firefighters

THOSE firefighters, though…What a group of individuals! They fought for our town, for our people, for our businesses and for our homes. When the fire blew up, almost overnight, they didn’t give up. They battled and battled. For days. What they did can really never be repaid. As I’ve told those that I have seen since – whatever you need, whenever you need it, we’re your huckleberries.

DOUGLAS County, Nevada, also came through in a big, big way. They opened their facility (the Senior Center in Gardnerville) and most importantly, they opened their hearts. Donations poured in, offers of places to stay for people and animals were proffered, and the kindness and compassion were palpable. To them we also owe a huge debt of gratitude.

WHILE we had power (thanks to Liberty Utilities hooking up a big-ass generator) we did not have internet. Too bad Frontier isn’t like Liberty, whose crews were on sight almost immediately, and even today they were at it. This time, dropping poles by helicopter. Frontier, on the other hand. Haven’t seen ONE truck. Not one. Not to be too cynical but I’m betting we’ll see a bill.

OKAY, enough negativity. Karma…

My Mental State

ADMITTEDLY, I’ve had a very hard time this past week. I tried to work on Monday but it was almost impossible without decent internet; my cell phone just didn’t have enough of a signal to act as a hotspot.

TO the rescue came our friends Mike and Eileen. They offered us their home in South Lake Tahoe for the week. And we are also oh so grateful for our dear friends Chris and Shyanne, who offered us their home in Spanish Springs last weekend as a little getaway. My wife and I, and our two (2) cats, took advantage and headed north for a couple days, leaving Mom and her cat, Baxter, in the hotel in Minden.

BUT last Tuesday morning I found myself packing up. Again. My wife and I made the trek to South Lake. I thought it was the right thing to do (it was work-wise) but my psyche said otherwise. I found myself in tears Tuesday night, asking myself what the hell I was doing. I came to the realization that I needed to be home and so Wednesday, after a decent workday, I did go home.

BACK to South Lake I went Thursday but I couldn’t focus. I didn’t care. I had no spark; I was just flat. Was this PTSD?

IT wasn’t just the fire I now knew. It was the loss of the Deathride, the possible prostate cancer diagnosis (thankfully I found out the Saturday after we evacuated that it WASN’T cancer), the pandemic (and so no 2020 Deathride) and the almost constant fear of another fire. All of that combined with almost ten (10) days of worrying about our home took a serious toll on my mental health. I understood that I needed some help and I’ve since begun that process.

HERE I am a few days later and I’m certainly feeling more like myself. The anxiety is still there although it’s not as pervasive as it was. Getting back to a somewhat normal routine, including a ride yesterday and another today, has truly helped. Being home, getting some things put away, doing some household chores and putting it in some sort perspective has made a difference.

OUR local businesses, including the Cutthroat, have been closed, but today the Cutthroat was open. There’s a sign of recovery!

An Animal Oasis and a New Beginning

OTHER signs abound, too. Black-eyed Susan’s and their cheery blooms. A flock of mergansers on the East Carson. Two velvet-antlered bucks just across the road yesterday morning. Allen’s hummingbirds putting on a daily show just off the deck. And the bears. While they can be a bit of a nuisance (ask my neighbor whose freezer and garbage can they overturned yesterday), in a strange way their renewed presence is reassuring.

AND Tuesday is the first of many meetings that we Markleevillians will have as we begin the healing and rebuilding process. As a community.

THAT will be an oh so awesome start…

Six Days Until the Deathride! Here are 5 Things for Your Knowledge Base

IT’S going to be epic! Six categorized climbs in the heart of the Sierra. Just over 100 miles, with 14000 feet of climbing. Add the elevation, hot temps and some wind; and throw in a stray thunderstorm or two (fingers crossed that won’t happen but it often does) and that’s why this ride, formally known as “The Tour of the California Alps,” is nicknamed “The Deathride.”

I’VE done the ride three (3) times and finished it once. I’ve not ridden Pacific Grade, however, and didn’t get a chance to do so last weekend, so for those of you who are going to take that bite out of the burrito I wish you well!

Some Intel on the Other Four Climbs

MONITOR PASS west will be your first climb of the day. While fairly short (9 miles), the first 3.5 miles will test your mettle. The steepest part of the climb does have a couple flat spots where you can catch your breath and once you’re up to Heenan Lake it gets easier. That’s not to say it’s easy, though so pace yourself on that first pitch, and on the entire first climb.

MONITOR PASS east is typically a cooker. The sun rises from the east and so for those of you leaving Turtle Rock Park around 5:30ish, depending on your fitness and such, you’ll be heading up the east side around 8:00 a.m. or so. Not too hot but certainly not cool, either. There’s really no shade on this climb (except for Boy Scout Corner) so combine that with the rising sun and well, you get the idea. It’s important to stay hydrated!

EBBETT’S PASS north is my favorite local climb. It’s longer than either side of Monitor (13 miles as compared to 9) but not nearly as exposed, and up until you get to just below Raymond Meadow Creek, it’s not too hilly. The real climbing starts just below RMC (which is at the 7000′ mark), about five (5) miles in, with a 12% pitch, and from there you get lots of up, with some good rollers added for good measure.

That’s Kinney reservoir behind me. Took this selfie in August of 2016 – T’was my first trip to Ebbetts Pass and I was amazed that I had made it. Plus the view is pretty cool.

ONCE you get to Kinney Reservoir, it’s only a mile to the summit. Don’t get cocky, though, as there are a couple last minute rollers to challenge you.

A five (5) mile descent into Hermit Valley will give you a bit of a respite from the climbing, and the heat (it will definitely be getting toasty by then – high 80’s expected in Markleeville), but from there it’s up and over Pacific Grade – the first time.

THEN you get to turn around and come up the west side of PG. I’ve heard it’s a grinder so be prepared. Keep up your caloric intake throughout the morning so you’ve still got the poop left to pedal up that west side of Hwy. 4 and don’t forget to down that H2O when needed (or before, right?).

AS for that last five (5) miles from Hermit Valley to Ebbett’s Pass, that’s a section I know well, having ridden it quite a few times, including once for a FulGaz video. It’s short, yet sweet; rock candy kinda sweet. 😉 Once you’re topped out though, it’s a rollicking 13 mile descent to Monitor Junction; and from there, only about eight (8) miles to the finish.

REMEMBER, while the “passes” are closed to vehicles, there will be riders coming down while you come up and vice-versa so please keep it in your lane and pass slower riders with caution. For you fast descenders, stay in control of your steed and please BOLO for those riders who are on their way up.

Closed Roads – Ahhh

YUP, no cars on the climbs! BUT, let’s not forget that our four-tired friends will be in the lanes between Monitor Junction (MJ) and Turtle Rock Park (TRP).

I found that much easier to keep in mind on the leg from TRP to MJ whereas on the return leg I have caught myself spacing out and venturing into the lanes, forgetting after so many hours without cars, that there are indeed vehicles on the road after Monitor Junction, all the way into town and up to Turtle Rock. Do stay focused on that last stretch.

Road Conditions

RoadsideS around Turtle Rock Park are weed-whacked and ready for those of you who wish stake your claim on Hwy. 89.

I’VE been riding quite a bit lately on Hwy. 4, and some on Hwy. 89, and there are some small rockfalls and there were a few slides. Caltrans though, as usual, has things cleaned up nicely. There are always rocks of some sort on the roads aound here, however, so it pays to be vigilant, especially on the descents.

BRIDGEWORK is a popular thing right now in Alpine County, including two (2) projects in progress on the route. The Markleeville Bridge being the first, and the second bridge over Silver Creek on Hwy. 4 (about 10-miles from Markleeville) being the second.

WHILE we locals are excited about the work being done, especially the replacement of the Markleeville bridge, we’ll definitley wait until after the Deathride. And so will the crews. They’ll be back a week or two afterwards so no worries for the riders.

Air Quality and Weather Conditions

THE East Fork Fire is at 1136 acres and 95% contained. This one wasn’t too far from Markleeville so it was a bit disconcerting. CalFire was all over it though and so it’s no longer producing any smoke. The crews were stationed at Turtle Rock Park (another slight worry since that’s where the Expo and ride start/finish is) but they have recently departed.

THERE is a small fire in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, due east, and quite a ways from Lake Alpine. It’s the “Henry Fire” and is only 300 acres at this point, but only 13% contained. I didn’t notice any smoke on my ride this a.m., though.

THE Beckwourth Complex fire is sending quite a bit of smoke into Washoe Valley (Reno) but as of this morning it had not mades it’s way into Carson Valley or parts south.

IT’S been hot! I’ve been whining. But, based on the latest weather report it should be significantly cooler come next weekend. Thankfully. Be sure to bring lots of “hydrate-ables!”

Remember, you can get the current weather and air quality conditions right here!

Grinds, Swag and Tunes at the Expo

“Enjoy live music,  games, massage, and more! Friday meal options will be BBQ from Out West Café. Saturday after-ride meal will be traditional and local Indian Tacos. Complimentary after-ride ice cream for all participants.”

BEER of course will be quaffable, courtesy of the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Sierra Nevada.

THERE will be activities for the kittens, too! Click here and take a gander at the Deathride Expo Page.

Also note that “…packet pickup is Friday from 11AM-7PM, and on Saturday from 11AM-6:30PM.”

California Alps Cycling will have a booth, staffed by yours truly, and a couple other C.A.C. members who like me, have lots of local riding, fishing and bullshitting experience. I’ll have some vintage C.A.C. gear on sale. Cheap…Since new kits are on order.

Last but certainly not least…

A huge community effort goes into making the ride a success. From the crew captains to the members of the rest stops, many, many locals volunteer their time to make this ride what it is. Please do thank them when you seen them around and a big ol’ shout out to you too, dear rider. We couldn’t do it without YOU!

SAFE travels!

Deathride Dreaming Redux – 17 Days and Counting!

READY to join the Tombstone Club? That’s the name “the ride” has given to those riders who complete the entire course this year.

SAID phrase will be emblazoned on your jersey and you’ll be able to wear your own “mellow johnny” (that’s how my 2017 finisher’s jersey feels to me) for years to come.

Final Preparations

I stopped by the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce yesterday to handle some Deathride business (co-signing of a few checks for various vendors) and the team was hard at work putting labels on DR merch and handling some of those other last-mile items.

SPEAKING of final preparations…California Alps Cycling is a Silver Sponsor of the ride this year and I too am getting ready for the event – I’ll be at the exposition on Friday the 16th. As for Saturday…I’m not quite sure what my hours will be.

Me and my shadow taking a break on Hwy. 4 just south of Chalmer’s Mansion

At the Exposition

WE’LL have our kits for sale – with some deep discounts to be had since new ones are on order – as well as some tees and other goodies.

Current “vintage” jersey
The new kits and such, with an included homage to my adopted home town, Markleeville.

AND as you’ve likely noticed, we’re making the leap from Castelli to Pedal Mafia. I’ve been wearing the P.M. kit and it’s a cut above I must say – the quality of ASSOS with a better fit, especiallly for those of us who are not of the typical rider physique.

THE thermal jacket (top left) is amazing! I’ve worn it several times, including just yesterday. I left HQ at 6:30 a.m. and it was about 45 degrees. Did a 12.5 mile TT, uphill, so I was sweating pretty well at the turn around. The descent was initially chilly but the jacket was a wicking wonder and by the time I got back down it felt dry. And, it still kept Aeolus at bay. Perfect for riding in the Sierra, or other cold climes.

SADLY, I won’t have the new kits at the Deathride but you will be able to pre-order them.

WHETHER you can give us some of your heard earned ducats or not, please be sure to stop by our booth and have a chat.

New Bling for the Pick-em Up Truck

Yeah, it was time and Mike at Arrowhead Signs in Gardnerville, NV was a master of the install. ‘Twas he that helped me design what we call the “aspen logo” when we first launched California Alps Cycling. He’s also the one that designed this year’s Deathride logo. He’s been a great friend of the Deathride for many years. Thanks Mike!

The Deathride Slacker Ride

WE’RE going to do a MEMBERS ONLY group ride, starting at 8:00 a.m., on the day of the Deathride. I’m calling it “The Deathride Slacker Ride” and am giving it that nom de guerre not because we’re slackers in general but because we’re not doing the entire ride this year.

FOR various reasons (lack o’ fitness, injury, etc.) several of us just don’t have the juice. A ride up Hwy. 4 to Ebbett’s Pass (climb #3 of 6 on the day) will be just fine for our merry band of troublemakers. Please note that you must be registered for the Deathride (and have the requisite bib number) to participate. This mostly because I don’t want to “bandit” the rest and water stops.

AFTERWARDS we’ll head back to town, likely with a stop at the Cutthroat Brewing Company for a cold beverage, and then we’ll park our fine selves in town (or perhaps at Turtle Rock Park) and cheer on those riders that are fit enough to conquer the entire course.

BY the way, if you’re not a member and would like to become one we’d love to have you. It’s an inexpensive way to give back to the Markleeville and Bear Valley communities where we all ride. Go to our Membership page for more information.

Congrats to the Manx Missile

WHAT a stage that was yesterday! I’ve been a fan of Mark Cavendish since his early days but I really didn’t expect THAT! Such fortitude – to come back from years of trials and tribulations and get to “The Tour” is one thing. To win a sprint against some of the best riders in the world. Yowza!

My Cav. edition Jawbreakers, which have always inspired me and now even more so!

NEXT week I’ll post up some quick tips on four (4) of the six (6) climbs. Perhaps all six (6). I haven’t ridden Pacific Grade yet but am hoping to this weekend.

STAY tuned for that as well as the 411 on the weather and the fishing.

UNTIL then, stay safe, ride with passion and “Go Cav!”

After-Action Report on the Inaugural Curtz Lake Trail Day

THE weather was wonderful (okay it got a bit warm in the afternoon), the trails were in tip-top shape and the hikers were happy.

‘TWAS a good day in the heart of the California Alps!

THE ATA

THE Alpine Trails Association, of which I’m the rookie officer-at-large, held the event yesterday.

OUR program included some Washoe history; some trail-tools training; a bit of orienteering and compass-cognition; some trail-bike (gravel, MTB, eMTB) background; and most importantly – this was after all a trails day – several hikes.

Special shout-outs go to the event organizer and ATA Director Jim Haen (center-right of frame, facing the map), and Irvin Jim, the Chairman of the Hung A Lel Ti here in Alpine County (center-left of frame with the black shirt).

THERE was face-painting for the kids (I went with a Deathride theme as you can see), both large and small.

AND other crafty and informational things were also available in our little mall.

IT seemed like a reunion at times, with so many locals gathered to celebrate our fairly new sense of freedom, enjoy the beauty of our region and to give thanks to those who have been stewards of this land for thousands of years (the Washoe) and to those who have taken up that mantle much more recently.

AS Jim wrote this morning: “Thank you for making yesterday special. My first objective was to celebrate the construction of the Interpretative Trail by the handful of original builders still with us – Andy, Jim Mc, Kevin, Rhonda and Rich; and to expose this great area to more local families. On those counts the day was a resounding success.”

INDEED it was, Jim!

THERE were approximately 40-50 on hand (not bad for a county of about 1100, right?) and everyone learned a lot. Over-acheiver Jim 😉 has already made some suggestions on how we can improve the event next year. Yup, the work has already begun and we’re looking forward to seeing more folks next year, including you perhaps!

IT’S All About Stewardship

AS many of you loyal readers know, we’re big on that here at CAC and have put our skin in the game, as it were, since we’ve been here. A big part of that has been our past participation in the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), and I bring that up because it has recently put up a fantastic page entitled “CAMP LIKE a PRO in the Eastern Sierra.”

CHECK it out here.

AN Unexpected Ride

WE realized during after one docent-led hike had taken off down the trail that our docent didn’t have his radio. With no cell service at Curtz Lake communicating with him was impossible at that point. No problem. Bessie (my wife’s eMTB) to the rescue!

OFF I went down the trail and I caught up with the group post-haste. No need to put on lycra or special shoes and no worries that I was more appropriately appareled for hiking than riding.

A great use of an eMTB (or other e-Bikes) I thought. Having one on hand for events like this was an unexpected benefit and it got me thinking about more such uses, e.g. as a sweep for organized hikes, rides or walks or a way to deliver emergency first aid or communication when that otherwise might not be possible.

CERTAINLY others have considered this already; for us, though, it was an eye-opener!

HATS off to my colleagues at the ATA! You are all amazing individuals and I’m so glad to be a part of the Association.

AFTER all, trails don’t just build themselves and they need to be maintained so that all of us can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

THANKS for reading and see you out on the trail!

Deathride Doodling? The Devil is in the Details!

BEEN doodling on the Deathride data that matta? Figuring out what you’ll need in order to tackle the Tour of the California Alps?

HERE are a few facts that may help in that regard.

FIRST of all (read aloud using deep lawyerly voice here) in the interest of full disclosure, for those who are not aware, California Alps Cycling LLC is not affiliated in any way with the Tour of the California Alps, more commonly known as the Deathride.

SECONDLY, I am a member of the board of directors of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, owner of the Deathride, so when I use we in this post, I mean the Chamber, or the Deathride, not California Alps Cycling, LLC.

GET it? Got it? Good! 😉

OKAY, appreciate you letting me clarify that; you can go back to your normal voice now. Let’s move on!

I had a little back & forth recently with my friend and CAC member, Charlie, the other day, where he asked on behalf of his cycling group, The Pain Gang, what the start and cut-off times were for the big event on July 17th. ‘Twas that convo. that gave me the idea for this post. Thanks Chuckles!

Mountain Iris’ in bloom at Scossa Ranch on Hwy. 4 about 10 miles south of Markleeville. Just took this photo today.

No More Carson

YUP, in case you weren’t aware, Carson is no longer the last big climb of the day. That honor instead falls to Hwy. 4 from just east of Lake Alpine, up and over that side of Pacific Grade (‘cuz you’ve already done the other side), into Hermit Valley and then up and over Ebbett’s Pass (for the 2nd time).

Yes, the Roads are Closed

“THE course will be closed to traffic from Markleeville through all sections of climbing, with a turnaround point at Lake Alpine where participants will head back to the finish at Turtle Rock Park.”

Staggered Start

“THE event officially starts at 5:30 am. Riders will be in a staggered start from that point forward. Any riders on the road before that time are riding at their own risk, and aid stations may not be open when you arrive.”

Rules of the Ride & the Road

THEY include more such nuggets, including: “How long do I have to complete the course to qualify for the all-pass finisher’s jersey? Riders have 13 hours, from 5:30 am – 6:30 pm to complete the course and apply for the finisher’s pin and jersey, aka “Tombstone Club.'”

THERE’S a link to all of the rules, including those having to do with Covid-19 protocols, on the Deathride site.

DO read up.

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Riders (and their families)

IT’S going to be bike-archy! We’ll likely have 2000 riders or so and that means things will be packed to the gills with cycling energy (and lots of bodies). Hotels and camping are already filling up. The Creekside Lodge is long sold-out of rooms for that weekend but Woodford’s Inn still had rooms when I checked Saturday. Not sure about the Carson River Resort, or Wylder (formerly Sorenson’s), but it’s probably worth checking in with them just in case.

Stonefly, Out West Cafe, J. Marklee Toll Station, and Cutthroat Brewing Company will all be hopping so make your reservations early where you can, otherwise, put those patience helmets on.

Bear Valley

SINCE the course now takes riders into the western side of Alpine County, staying or eating there (or both) may be an option. Keep in mind there is no shuttle service provided so you’ll need to work out those logistics yourself.

HERE’S a link to Cabins & Lodges in Bear Valley. Bear Valley Adventure Company, run by friend and fellow Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce Board Member Aaron Johnson, is a great source of information too, especially if you’re going to work in some gravel or MTB riding while you’re in town.

AND, you can check out dining options by clicking on this link.

We’re Looking Forward to Seeing You!

WE’VE missed you and are so excited to welcome you back for the 40th anniversary of this iconic ride. You’ve got a few more weeks to get those cycling legs ready and then it will be time to kick some passes’ asses!

SEE you soon! And please…travel safely.