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!

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!

Markleeville Musings – Here and There on Hump Day

BLUE and I were on a ride just last week where I took this image of him goofing off a bit near Monitor Junction. ‘Twas a beautiful spring day and the excitement of getting outside took over so he made the leap up and hung out for a bit. 😉

A Bit Of Easter Anyone?

IT was wonderful to get together with family over the Easter holiday. First time the crew has made it up here to the heart of the California Alps since that virus reared its ugly head.

Exact opposite of ugly…

Our two Grand Nieces post-egg hunt. Was an awesome weekend of eats, walks, laughs and eggs. Hope you and yours had loads of bunny-fun, too!

Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC)

The goals of the D10 BPAC align with Caltrans’ core values: Engagement, Equity, Innovation, Integrity, and Pride, as well as Caltrans’ three foundational principles: Safety, Equity and Climate Action.

Bob Highfill – Public Information Officer, Caltrans District 10

CALTRANS District 10 hosted the second meeting of this groundbreaking committee on April 13th and yours truly did a presentation for the group about the Tamarack and Caldor Fires recovery efforts happening here in Alpine County.

BASED on comments in the chat (yup, was a virtual meeting), the presentation was an eye-opener for those who had not seen the damage, and was well received. Lots to do still, but lots has been done already, including some tree planting, seeding and of course dead tree 🙁 removal.

SPEAKING of tree planting…I’ll be joining a bunch of other volunteers this Sunday, May 1st, for another round of seedling sowing.

CONGRATS by the way to Charles Carroll, Associate Transportation Planner at District 10, on being elected Chair of the committee. Applause as well to Rob Williams, of the Motherlode Bicycle Coaltion, on being elected Vice-Chair.

CALTRANS’ Carson Transportation Management Systems Project

Speaking of Caltrans…It held a virual public meeting last week about this project, which “proposes to install traffic management systems and roadside safety improvements in and around the Kirkwood and Carson Pass area at 13 various locations in Amador, El Dorado, and Alpine Counties on State Routes 88, 89, and 4. The scope of work includes changeable message signs, streetlights, vehicle detection systems, closed-circuit television camera systems, roadway weather information systems, highway advisory radios, extinguishable message signs, and maintenance vehicle pullouts.”

SPEAKING of eye-opening…PUBLIC comment was vociferous, especially regarding the signage and the impact those signs would have on areas such as Hope Valley and Markleeville.

COMMENTS are due by May 2nd so if you have something to say about it, let Caltrans know.

Ebbetts And Monitor Passes

ON my ride last week (the same one that I snagged those pix of Blue playing hangbike) the gates were closed at Monitor Junction so no cars could make their way over the passes. Bikes on the other hand…

LET’S just say that I can understand why Hwy. 4 is still closed.

Levels of sediment and rocks showing on Hwy. 4, likely from the Carson as it cut its way through thousands of years ago. Rocks and boulders have come down and can be seen along the side of the highway.

Quite a bit of rockfall (the boulder detritus on the road is just out of frame in the pic. above) and some trees down on the road as well. Since we received some weather here recently I’m guessing there is still some snow up there to be cleared, too.

MRS. California Alps just got back from S. Lake Tahoe and she let me know that signage there indicates Monitor Pass is open. My bet is that Ebbetts will also open soon, perhaps this weekend.

Speaking Of Weather

I caught these quail sheltering from the snow last week. Can you say “hunkered down?”

Last But Not Least

IN yet another sign of spring we spotted this bruin heading towards town on Monday.

Looking pretty porky so early in the season I must say, but hey, that’s how I felt after Easter. Burp.

MY uncle and I spotted this violet springing forth from the ash while on a hike Easter Sunday near HQ.

Happy hump day to you! Have a great backslide into the weekend, and an even better weekend!

An Ode to Mrs. California Alps Cycling – On Her Birthday

MY wife Patricia has been my greatest supporter, my rock-steady soigneur, since we first got together over 30 years ago.

WHETHER it be helping out at the Ride & Walk 4 Art just last month, or at the Deathride, or at the myriad other events I’ve attended, she’s always there with a word of encouragement, a bit of decorating advice or just a smooch.

MY girl doesn’t miss a beat, nor does she fall asleep, when I regale her with my V02 max or power numbers.

SHE doesn’t mind either, hosting a big ol’ party for a bunch of California Alps Cycling members, and listening to our watt woes, and hearing about our hill-climbing prowess (or not).

Neither does she turn a deaf ear when we loudly articulate every inch of our death-defying (kinda) descents.

She’s always willing, too, to cheerfully drink Bloody Mary’s with me; even on a freezing-ass cold, super-windy, Monterey Bay day. You can’t see ’em but there must have been five (5) heaters around our table that day.

She puts up with my goofiness and boy-child behavior, and even giggles (sometimes) when I guffaw at my gas-passing.

WATCHING every day and every hour of the Tour de France with me? Yup, she does that. Replays of cross races on Flobikes? She’s there! Stealing my issues of Velonews and Bicycling? Totally.

TOLERATING my incessant, and admittedly irritating, coaching when she’s on the bike in the paincave and just wanting to watch Pachinko? That’s my uber-patient wife.

HANGOUT with me while I race, and cheer me on at the finish? Yup.

BE my support crew while I film rides for Fulgaz? You betcha! Editors note: On the Carson Pass ascent (east side) her leapfrogging me was particularly welcome, and at one point there’s a special pic. of her as she closely examines some plant life with PictureThis, a very cool plant identifider app.

She too can be a bit whacky and frankly I think she rocks the goggles.

AND she also warms my cockles. Easy now, I hear your snickers.

THE best part? She’s mine and I’m hers.


IT’S your day today, my wonderful wife, so feel free to peruse every aisle of Costco without me cracking the whip or complaining about how slowly people sometimes move.

GO ahead, stop at Jack in the Box for that fish sandwich. I won’t give you a hard time about the fat or sodium content. Cross my heart.

THANK you for being you, my sweet.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CUPCAKE!

chocolate cupcake with white and red toppings
Photo by Jess Bailey Designs on Pexels.com

An Inspirational Deathride Video – and Other Alpine County News

101 days and counting until the Tour of the California Alps, menacingly, yet lovingly referred to as the Deathride. When you’re on the course, especially on climbs 5 or 6 – this year there are six of those bad boys – you might feel like you are close to death, but thankfully no one has ever died on the Deathride.

The tertiary try is the charm we hope! 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic. 2021 “flamed out” because of the Tamarack Fire. Let’s go 2022!

THE Alpine County Chamber of Commerce has just issued a press release and an amazing and inspirational (we think) promotional video. We’ve never done anything like this before (at least that I’m aware of) regarding our beloved “DR” so it’s yet another first from the Deathride team.

HUGE kudos to Becky DeForest, Exec. Director of the Chamber, for herding the necessary cats to get it done.

GET’S me fired up when I watch it and I’m certainly honored that several California Alps Cycling members, including yours truly, are in it!

LET me know what you think. If you were waffling, did it change your mind? If you had never considered riding it, are you now? Will you perhaps share it on your social media channels to get others excited?

Some Tree Planting and a Community Clean-up

THE above images are courtesy of the Markleeville Water Company. They show some members of CalFire and the California Conservation Corps doing the “seedling shuffle.” 😉

READ their post for some more information on this planting, which took place just over two (2) weeks ago. It also has some links to register for the tree plantings that will take place on April 9th (this Saturday) and May 1st, so if any of you have some spare time and would like to help us with our restoration efforts please do sign up. We’ve love to have you!

MARKLEEVILLE’S Enhancement Club (MEC) has scheduled its Spring Clean-up for Saturday, May 14th. This all-volunteer beautification committee will be doing some work in and around town, picking up trash and biomass, trimming trees and bushes, picking up litter on two (2) Adopt-a-Highways stretches of Highway 89 (California Alps Cycling’s section from Turtle Rock Park to Camp Markleeville and Alpine Watershed Group’s section from Camp Markleeville to Monitor Junction), and doing a bit of landscaping and such at Al’s Got Gas (our local fuel depot).

RIDE here? Hike here? Boulder here? Here’s yet another chance to give back. Email me if you’re interested and I’ll add you to the list.

Other Upcoming Events

WE’VE got a few other things in the works this year, on both the East Slope (east of the Sierra crest – Hope Valley, Markleeville, Woodfords) and the West Slope (west of the Sierra crest – Bear Valley, Kirkwood).

HERE are some ideas:

  • Live Music at Cutthroat Brewing Company – Fridays 6 – 8 p.m., Markleeville
  • Women’s Fly Fishing Retreat – May 13th -> 15th at Wylder Hope Valley
  • High Sierra Archery Shoot – June 11th -> 12th at Bear Valley Resort
  • Ebbetts Fest – June 12th – Benefiting the Ebbett Pass Scenic Byway Asssocation
  • Music in the Park – Starting June 25th, Alpine Co. Library, Markleeville
  • Bear Valley Music Festival – July 22nd, Bear Valley
  • Stargazing – August 27th, Alpine Co. Airport, Markleeville

FOR specific details on these events, and to peruse other options, go to the Events Page of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.

Last But Not Least – Our Local Passes

MONITOR Pass is open!

Ebbett’s Pass should be soon based on the Caltrans activity I noticed on a lunchtime ride yesterday; a beauty day here in the California Alps. That’s me in front of Raymond Meadow Creek (RMC), at the 7000′ mark of Highway 4, just below Silver Creek Campground, on the Ebbett’s Pass Highway.

I chatted for a few minutes with a trio of mountain athletes from Sacramento before I turned around and headed back down the mountain. These dudes had just come back from behind the “7000′ gate” and were hanging out basking in the glory of their day’s adventures. They told me the road was just plowed but they didn’t get all the way to the top so not sure how far up the snow was removed. It was cool to see some skis, a mountain bike and a gravel bike nearby. Talk about being Alpine!

COME and get some! And remember to check our local weather and air conditions page for current weather and air quality before you head up, down, in or over.

SEE you soon!

Training for the Deathride? Here’s the Number One Thing You Should Do

CLIMB! And, climb some more. And when you think you’ve done enough climbing, do even more. Here in the California Alps climbing is pretty much par for the course; head out the door and you’re on some sort of incline (or decline).

Yesterday, I had the pleasure (and pain) of riding up the west side of Monitor Pass (this view is from just above Heenan Lake) and was reminded that there is no subsitute for climbing if you’re training for a ride with lots of elevation gain.

SURE, I’ve been training hard, with lots of paincave sessions, including HIIT, V02 max, and more, and some of those sessions focus on things such as building endurance, “rocking the rollers” and sweet-spot training (SST); yet I realized while “out on course” that even though my strain is up significantly from the previous week, I’m just not climbing enough.

THIS past week, including yesterday’s adventure, I rode about 116 miles with almost 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

THE DeathrideTour of the California Alps does that in one day, though, and while yesterday’s ride was 36 miles with over 4000 of climbing, I asked myself could I do that three or four more times.

The short answer = NO. At least not yesterday. 🙁

As you can see by my happy, yet very sweaty mug, that first big pitch was hard.

MONITOR east, Ebbetts north and south (or west and east depending on your preference), and Pacific Grade (twice) would still be yet to come on July 17th. Yowza, there is work to be done!

THANKFULLY, we’ve all got more time. IMHO, and based on previous experience, right about now (3-4 mos. out) is when you should start ramping 😉 up your training. And it’s not just about the climbing… Your secondary focus should be on time spent in the saddle.

IF you are going to tackle the entire ride, you’re looking at a full day on your steed.

BACK in 2017, when I finished all of the climbs, I was on the bike for about ten (10) hours and my elapsed time was twelve (12) hours!

VENTURING on a velocipede for that amount of time takes a serious toll on the bod., and takes some getting used to, so don’t skimp. And, if you’re not already thinking about it, be sure to address your future nutrition needs by practicing what, and how much, you eat and drink.

EXPERIMENTING with new bars, gels or drink mixes the day of is a recipe for disaster!

So Now What?

WELL, for me that means heeding my own advice and hitting those hills and mountains more often, and taking on longer rides. I would guess that applies to you as well.

ANOTHER aspect of training that I’m working on is the gear. You may have noticed that I was wearing an USWE hydration pack. Amazing piece of equipment by the way – pretty darn comfy and it DOES NOT move. I am not planning on wearing it for the Deathride but I am going to have it on for May’s Paydirt here in the Pine Nuts. And, yes, sharp-eyed reader, Roscoe is a gravel bike. So it was a double-duty deed, if you will, yesterday – got some climbing in and did it on the bike I’ll be riding in May, with the gear and grub I’ll be hauling.

I’m thinking a 50-60 mile ride on dirt will be a similar experience to a century on the road and so I see some benefits to training for Pete Stetina’s ride now, while also keeping that next big day in July, in mind.

NEED some other ideas? Search “climbing” on this blog for myriad posts on the subject. If you’re a neophyte I’d especially call your attention to this post as well as this one.

The snow is melting and the rivers and creeks are rising and getting chocolately. This is the East Fork of the Carson near Monitor Junction.

AFTER all, spring has sprung so it’s time to get cracking!

WE’RE looking forward to riding with you in July (or sooner perhaps), and the community is getting ready for your visit.

BE sure to make those reservations early, by the way. There are fewer resources around due to last year’s Tamarack Fire.

RIDE on, be safe, and climb, climb, climb!

Some Ride-Related News From Markleeville – And Other Goings On

WE’VE gotten some small amounts of snow here in the California Alps over the last few days; certainly not as much as we’d have liked but it’s something. Better news on that front from the higher climes, however.

SOME backcountry (and other skiing) was to be had over this weekend, said Justin, my trusty physical therapist and backcountry skiing fanatic, last Friday.

bluebird with ornamental plumage resting on twig

I’M sure he was hitting it yesterday and I’d imagine he’s out there today, as any self-respecting mountain athlete (or any snow lover for that matter) would be on this bluebird of a day. 🙂

BULLITT the mountain bike is asking me to take him out for a spin today and I think I’ll oblige. Going to be some mud-slingin’ for sure!

That Ride-Related News

THE road cycling lately has been glorious, notwithstanding the slush, and plow-pellet induced sludge, and therefore requisite cleaning and lubing (whine, snivel). I was able to get outside early in the week and on one ride it felt downright balmy! Only a base tee under the jersey and no arm-warmers!

SINCE then we’ve had a couple light snow events, as I mentioned at the start of this post, so I’ve been partaking of the paincave lately. Segue…

SPEAKING of inside…I was able to test ride the “Fatbiking in the Snow” ride recently and I’m happy to say you Fulgaz subscribers will soon be able to particpate.

BE on the lookout for the “Pick n’ Mix” release tentatively scheduled for March, said Peter the Engineer.

MONITOR and Ebbetts remain closed (Monitor at the junction and Ebbetts just past Silver Mountain City) but once we get a bit of melt of yesterday’s dusting the riding on Monitor should be pretty good. Ebbetts, being much less exposed, will remain slushy in some of the shadier areas for awhile and I suspect we won’t get much plowing done any farther up towards the pass until April.

Those Other Goings On

COMMUNITY meetings continue on several fronts as we continue to recover from the Tamarack Fire. Trails continue to be a big part of the discussion and their rebuilding in time for the spring and summer season are a priority. We’re looking holistically at trail usage and focusing on hiking, riding and equestrian in our planning. Things are certainly going to look different out there as the forest starts its long return to health, yet it’s still the Sierra and a lot of it wasn’t burned.

THE images above are certainly heart-breaking. I remind folks though, that a lot of the area wasn’t torched and once you get past Monitor Junction to the south, or Pickett’s Junction, to the west, you won’t see a lot of fire-related damage. The forest is nothing if not resiliant.

MRS. CA Alps points out in a “making lemonade out of lemons” kinda way that the vistas are more expansive without so many trees. She’s right and it helps to look at it that way; still so very sad to see. And lets be honest, the density of the forest was, and still is, part of the problem. Thousands of years of native americans weren’t (and aren’t) wrong, you know?

OUR rivers, streams and lakes are looking good, though, and many of the latter, like Silver and Caples, are still frozen over. We’re working hard on repairing infrastructure like Turtle Rock Park and Grover Hot Springs State Park. Plans for the “fishing opener” are in the works, we’ve got a new addition to our local Fish & Game Commission, and we’re starting to think more about native fisheries and how we can restore them. Segue…😉

SPEAKING of restoration, the county has been awarded a grant of approximately $1.8 million that will be used to help private landowners here in Alpine Co. with their recovery efforts. Work on that front continues on a fast pace.

AS does tree-clearing…

BY the way, if you haven’t checked out the Alpine Chamber’s website recently, please take a gander. Lots of great information about things afoot here in Alpine County including summer events like Music in the Park, the Bear Valley Music Festival and Hermit Fest.

WELL, it’s off to wash Blue. I promised him he’d get a bath before I took his bro out for a ride. It’s 41; starting to warm up to today’s high of 42. Won’t be just a base layer and jersey today, I guess.

STILL, it could be worse.

ENJOY your Sunday and have a fantastic week!