Spring has Sprung Here in the Heart of the Sierra

Finally…The Brewer’s Blackbirds have arrived here at California Alps Cycling HQ! A sign of spring for certain!

A Brewer’s Blackbird showing off the iridescent blue that is so cool.

We’ve also seen robins, yet another sign, and just this week, our first hummingbird visitors – an Anna’s and a Rufous.

The Aspens are starting to bud and the rivers and streams are flowing (almost raging). There are waterfalls a plenty and the lakes are starting to thaw. And, that shiny, bright orb in the sky can be seen most days.

Most importantly, at least from my perspective, I can get some serious riding in – outside. Just last Sunday, fellow CA Alps Cycling member Chris Schull and I, did just that! We started in Genoa (best bar around), went up to Spooner Summit, around part of Lake Tahoe, up Luther Pass and into Hope Valley, back down Woodford’s Canyon (Hwy. 88) and then, after fighting serious headwinds most of the day, we were blessed with a screaming tailwind all the way back to Genoa. We both PR’d 40k in about 57 minutes! My previous was about 1:07. We froze our hineys off for most of the day but that last leg was wondrous – you probably could have scraped bugs from our teeth due to our ultra-wide smiles.

‘Twas a great day indeed!

Click here to check out my Relive video of the ride.

So, if you haven’t made plans to come up to the Sierra soon, I strongly recommend it. Fishing season on rivers and streams opens on April 27th and there are myriad Earth Day celebrations, clean-ups and festivals happening everywhere.

In fact, as part of our mission to “help the communities in which we live, work and ride” we are taking part in a clean-up day on May 5th. We’ll be doing some garbage pick up on the 3-mile stretch of Hwy. 89 that we’ve adopted, as well as some other work around Markleeville along with other members of the community and the Markleeville Enhancement Club (founded by my friend, and former Co. Supervisor, Mary Rawson and me). We’d love to have you join us. Let me know if you’re interested by commenting on this post, or send me an email (mschwartz@californiaalpscycling.bike) if you prefer.

In other news…

The Alpine Trails Association is making plans to work on the Thornburg trail, once the snow clears, and I’ll be out there doing what my crew chief tells me to (with my new Pulaski). Al’s Got Gas has recently opened (used to be Markleeville Gas) thanks to our friends, and local philanthropists John and Karrie Baker. They are getting ready for their grand opening on the 27th and not only will they have fuel, but also fishing supplies, fun things to do for the kids, and FatBike rentals (with tours led by yours truly).

I’m also VERY EXCITED to announce that we’ll be opening our first retail outlet at Al’s. We’ll have tees, jerseys, bibs and vests, cinch packs, and decals for sale. Stop on by and get some fuel, munchies and cycling schwag!

Another plug for the Bakers…They also own the Alps Haus Cafe (awesome sammies and soups, and cold beer) so you can get some good grub, too.

Hope to see you soon…

We hope you too are partaking in the wonders of Spring and hope to see you soon here in Markleeville. Let me know when you’re coming up. I’d be happy to show you around.

Climb! the California Alps

For years, like many of my friends, I have been riding bikes. Mostly road bikes but I do some mountain biking as well and have been known to ride my wife’s hybrid as well – especially when I don’t want to gear up.

I’ve gotten to be a better rider over those years, mostly because I’ve lost some poundage but also due to the shear volume of riding, with the associated climbing that comes with living and riding in the California Alps.

I’ve found, though, like many of you I suspect, that I pretty much “just ride.” Yeah, I’ve used a heart rate monitor for years and I’ve been active my entire life, even when I weighed over 300 pounds, but I never really paid attention to the data and until about two (2) years ago I never had a power meter.

So, as I added my big events to the calendar this year, the first one being the Wildcat 125 in Chico next month, I decided I needed to do more to improve my climbing. An ad or an email, I can’t remember which, that I received earlier in the year touted a new book: “Climb!” by Selene Yeager and the editors of Bicycling. The sub-title reads: “conquer hills, get lean, and elevate every ride.” So I went ahead and bought the book and read it from cover to cover.

What an awesome book! It has several plans in Chapter 12 and I decided to do “The 8-Week My-Base-is-Built-So-Let’s-Roll! Hill-Climb Plan.” It’s a combination of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), steady-state intervals, endurance rides, easy rides, and rest days. In other words, exactly what I wasn’t doing! By the way, as it happens, just yesterday Selene posted a blog article on HIIT workouts. Click here to check it out.

Well, I’m in the middle of week 5 and it’s making a huge difference. My power is up, my endurance is up and I’ve learned some new skills as well. Because of the weather here in the Sierra over the last several weeks I’ve had to do many of the workouts inside but thanks to Zwift and FulGaz, and my smart-trainer, that hasn’t been a problem. Last Sunday I got outside for my first ride in awhile and I killed it! Extra poop on the climbs, lower heart-rate while generating more watts, and I PR’d my Max Avg. Power (20 min.)!

So, if you haven’t checked out the book, and if you want to be a better climber, I recommend that you do. It’s a good read with lots of nuggets, and no, I’m not getting paid a cent by Bicycling for this “review.”

And if you have any climbing tips for your fellow riders, comment on this post and share them.

Last but not least, I wanted to let you all know that you can FOLLOW US now on Twitter! @bikedalps is our handle and we’d love to have you join the conversation!

Snowbound California Alps Cyclist Found in Australia

Well, okay, you got me. I’m not really in Australia, at least physically. I don’t know, is it still real if you’re there virtually? Don’t get me started on that philosophical discussion.

I did, though, ride the entire month of February, INDOORS! Crazy! The winter of ’16-17 (our first winter here) wasn’t this frozen or at least it didn’t seem that way. Reminds me of Game of Thrones. And as it turns out, I have yet to get outside for a ride this month. Yet…

Can’t even get this far up Hwy. 4 right now. This is the gate at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Rd. in January. As of today the closure is 4 miles North of Markleeville, at Monitor Junction! So much snow…

The title of this post is somewhat of an ode to my latest recommended app, Fulgaz. Different from Zwift, it allows you to do solo rides all over the world, including Australia. It’s not as competitive (I’ve yet to try the challenge feature as I just recently subscribed – after my 2 week trial) but it’s a nice compliment to Zwift, and vice-versa.

After riding a bit over 400 miles in February I was grateful to have both apps. And with an Apple TV combined with a bigscreen in my paincave, apps running on the Mac or the iPad (fewer, if any connectivity issues I’ve learned) – I set up a tripod with a laptop tray and so I’ve got a bit of mission control – and good tunes on the earbuds it’s not too bad at all. I go with Apple Music but there are myriad music options out there.

Here’s a little glimpse of my pain-cave, which doubles as a guestroom. Notice the high-tech fan and the custom towel rack? Hey, whatever works, right?

Here are some stats from my February:

Miles ridden: 425
Feet climbed: 24,703
Hours in the saddle: 21.73
Calories burned: 16190
Locales visited: Watopia (Zwift virtual “country”); Queensland and Victoria, Australia; New York City; Belgium; Marin Headlands (Marin Co., CA); Richmond, VA; Innsbruck, Austria; Buckinghamshire, UK; Colorado

What about you? What do you do to stay in shape when it’s too chippy to go outside? We’d love to hear from you. Comment on this post and share your advice!

In the meantime…Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! Even if they’re virtual. That’s what I’ll be doing today because guess what? It’s snowing. Again…

Crazy Weather Daze

My wife and I moved up here to Markleeville in October of 2016 – just before that winter kicked into high gear. My original plan in dealing with the snow was to shovel it. It would be a great workout I thought. That lasted about two (2) weeks. The call to Sears for the snowblower went out one morning and we picked up the ‘blower that afternoon. Major kudos to the inventor of that little gem!

Fast forward to this year, after a low volume winter of snow and rain last year, and as Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again! I don’t have any hard data to compare this year to last but from our persective (not just mine and the wife’s but other locals too) this year has been snowier and colder than that epic winter. As I write this post this morning it’s 2 degrees. We’ve seen several days of negative temps too yet I only recall one “minus-day” in the winter of ’16-17.

I also remember that I was able to ride a bit more outside during our first winter. Some of that was behind the locked gates at the junction of Monitor and Ebbett’s passes, which by the way I no longer do. I was a bit naive when I first arrived in the Sierra but after a couple mechanicals behind those gates I quickly realized that it wasn’t such a good idea – what if something went seriously wrong? Nonetheless, I was able to get up those roads that year. Not so, this year. There are feet of snow now whereas in that winter there was none!

Rocking the Mapei jersey on Monitor Pass. Winter of 2016.

Thankfully, there are cycling apps like Zwift and FulGaz that allow those of us who live in the colder climes to get those miles in. Sure, it’s not nearly the same as riding outside but it’s riding at least. Combine the apps with a smart-trainer and it’s pretty cool. In the interests of full disclosure I must admit that the technology can sometimes be a little frustrating. I’ve been going through some major gesticulations with my current trainer – getting the power calibrated correctly or making sure I have the right dongle can be a bit trying. In fact, my new trainer arrived yesterday. BOLO (be on the lookout) by the way for a future post on my (and other California Alps Cycling members) timely trainer tips and tribulations.

So my story of woe continues…I’ve not ridden outside at all this month. While there have been a couple days where it might have been warm enough (if you call 25-30 degrees warm enough) there was either too much ice on the roads or too much snow on the shoulders (the road’s, not mine). I’ve logged just over 300 miles this month and have done so in such places as Australia, Belgium, Innsbruck, Watopia, London and the Marin Headlands. All virtually of course.

Happy Saturday to you all! Today I think I’ll go to a new destination – after I set up my Wahoo Kickr. If you hear me cussin’ you’ll know why. I’ll leave you with this little ‘cicle, as opposed to cycle, video. Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! Even if they’re virtual passes.

I’ve seen lots of icicles in my days here but none quite like this one.

Current Road Conditions in the Heart of the California Alps

One of my Strava friends recently asked on one of my posted rides if the gates for Monitor and Ebbett’s Pass were open. That question made me realize I hadn’t posted an update on the local road conditions lately. So, here’s one!

Four recent rides

Since last Sunday I’ve toured the area around Markleeville and ridden in or to Diamond Valley (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Woodfords), Wolf Creek Road (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Monitor Pass and Hwy. 4 from Monitor Pass up a portion of Ebbett’s Pass) and Crystal Springs Road (Hwy. 88 from Woodfords up a small bit of Carson Pass) and have this to report:

  • Diamond Valley – Snow on the sides of the roads but no ice on the roads themselves. Lots of “snow plow dirt” and other detritis on the shoulders though.
  • Wolf Creek – Ditto – heading up Ebbett’s to Wolf Creek you’ll see some small slides, with assorted rocks and boulders, though. Not too “bouldery” on the roads themselves but certainly some. On one ride earlier this week I heard, and then saw, some rock coming down one of the hills onto Hwy. 4. A bit disconcerting…
  • Wolf Creek Road itself is gated/closed.
  • Crystal Springs – Easy going on Hwy. 88 with only the plow detritus on the shoulders. No ice on Crystal Springs Road.
  • Monitor Pass is closed for the winter. The gates at Hwy. 395 and at Hwy. 4/89 are closed.
  • Ebbett’s Pass is closed for the winter. The gate at the Hwy. 4/89 junction is open, and the sign nearby reads the road is closed seven (7) miles ahead (Raymond Meadow Creek), HOWEVER, the road is actually closed 2.5 miles from the junction (at Wolf Creek Road). It’s likely that the gate will be closed at the junction at some point in the near future though, as more snow is forecast for this weekend.
  • Carson Pass is open.
  • Luther Pass is open.

Pix of some of those roads

The lucky shot

Sam (could be Samuel or Samantha) the bald eagle (as we’ve named it) posing for a pic near the Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 junction.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! More snow is on the way so please remember to ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

The disclaimer

The information and content on this page, as well as any other California Alps Cycling (CAC) page or materials, is general in nature and must be used with an understanding of your capabilities and expertise. Please be sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set as CAC is not responsible for any injuries to you, your companions or your equipment.  Additionally, while we strive to provide accurate, timely and complete information, it is subject to change and therefore CAC is not responsible for the accuracy thereof.   

How About a Hike for a Change?

The Burnside Lake Trailhead sign on Hot Springs Road in Markleeville, CA
Just a couple miles up the road from
California Alps Cycling’s HQ, and only 3 miles from Markleeville, you’ll find the Burnside Lake Trailhead.

After a long day, or long week perhaps, a day off the bike can rejuvenate the spirit and rest those weary legs. And, you can take the family along, too. As someone who, like many of us cyclists I suspect, gets a little obsessive about miles, training, VO2 max, FTP and the like, I often need to force myself to do something off the bike.

Charity Valley Trail to Grover Hot Springs

The trail starts here! Just three (3) miles from California Alps Cycling HQ you can begin your trek to Grover Hot Springs State Park. It’s a nice, easy hike (with some little ups and outcrops) of about a mile into the park. From there, as you can see from the sign, you can make the hike (it’s also a nice trail run) to Burnside Lake or Charity Valley. There are other options as well once you’re in Grover. The entire Charity Valley Trail, if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, is about eight (8) miles in length, with a moderate difficutly rating (per the Carson Ranger District).

We Locals Love our Parks

In the Winter 2018 print edition of Parklands, the California State Parks Foundation’s rag, there’s a little write up about Grover: “Thanks to 75 volunteers and a $5000 grant, the Native Plant Demonstration Garden underwent a number of improvements, such as irrigation and invasive weed removal. Trash pickup, raking and clearing fire rings also helped enhance the Grover Meadow area.” The locals are also supported by organizations such as the Alpine Trails Assocation and the Alpine Watershed Group.

Sign indication the border between the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Grover Hot Springs.
Crossing over from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest into Grover Hot Springs. This photo was taken December 21, 2018.

Taking Some Time Off the Bike

Make a picnic lunch, grab the family and head out for a rest day (or a least a day off the bike). My wife and I did just that last month. In fact, it was our 22nd anniversary! We made some hot soup, loaded up the thermos and did the two-mile round trip to the park and back in the middle of my work day. Click here to watch a short video of our trek, complete with a “Gomer Pyle shot” of yours truly.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certainly more ambitious options if you’re not looking to get a lot of rest; the Burnside Lake Trail to Grover is just the start. From the park there are myriad hiking and, as you might have guessed from the park’s name, soaking options too. Well, okay, just one soaking option really unless you’re a polar bear. Still, that pool with its 103 degree mineral springs is an awesome way to finish a day, whether that be after your hike, after a ride or as many snow sports enthusiasts know, after a day on the slopes or in the backcountry.

Soak well my friends and remember that rest days are just as important as intervals and hill repeats!


Happy New Year from California Alps Cycling!

2018 was a good year here in Markleeville and I hope you all can say the same about your year. As I cast my mind back (RIP Paul Sherwen) to try and recall the year’s milestones I have to admit some of the details are a bit sketchy. Nonetheless, a massive thank you for your support and I herewith recap the year as best I can with the hope that it gives you a sense of pride in what we’ve all accomplished in a relatively short time.

Advocacy

Two days of spreading the gospel of cycling as I like to call it: One at the Deathride this past summer (when we officially launched C.A.C.!!!) and the other was at the Magical Markleeville Christmas Faire (MMCF).

At the first, our Club Mother, January Riddle, and I, spent some time talking with many riders, some first timers. I think we helped some of the neophytes better understand what was coming. Most importantly, we talked to many members of the community about what we cyclists do (on and off the bike) and why we do it.

At the second, during the MMCF, I brought in a bike and some winter gear so our neighbors could see what we ride and what we wear. I had many great conversations, including some with community leaders, and we also socialized our first advocacy piece, our Etiquettes and Statutes handout!

Community Service

As you may recall, we adopted the 3-mile stretch of Highway 89 from Camp Markleeville to Turtle Rock Park and it irks us something fierce when we see litter on “our highway.” We’ve been known to pull over to grab a lone piece of junk just to keep it pristine. We did two Adopt-a-Highway litter pick up days – both during the 2nd half of the year. Bags of garbage and detritus removed and lots of thumbs up from passers by received…

One of our founders and Club Wife, Patricia, with our Club Mother, January, after our first clean up day in July of this year.

Merch

Many of you have already purchased your kits, vests or tees and it’s much appreciated! We’ve also gotten some cool decals made and this coming summer, we’ll have some cinch bags (aka sackbacks, sackpacks, whatever you want to call ’em) available for our bag drop at the Deathride. Right now I’m working on an online catalog integration with Square and once that’s done (taking way longer than I had hoped) all California Alps Cycling merch will be available online. If something interests you in the meantime, email me at mschwartz@californiaalpscycling.bike and we’ll figure out how to get it to you. Members get at least 5% off so why not join our merry band of troublemakers too? Click here to learn more.

Members and miles

We now have sixteen (16) members and collectively we’ve ridden over 40,000 miles this year! That’s a lot of time on the bike and it’s a conservative number (I don’t have stats for all of us). Congratulations to all for a successful and crash free (serious crashes, at least) year.

Weather and Air

Our weather station went live this year, as did our AQI. Check out our Weather and Air Conditions page for some data that matta. It’s cold here today, by the way so I took the easy way out and Zwifted. Brrrr here, jungle there. Cool app., that Zwift.

2019 Goals and Wishes

Goals for California Alps Cycling this year include getting our catalog on line, hosting with aplomb (cool word, aplomb…) the bag drop at the Deathride, doubling our membership (spread the word, will ya?), sponsoring or participating in four (4) advocacy related events and having four (4) Adopt-a-Highway clean-up days. I’d also like to get our social media channels up and running and have a some group rides going too. Ambitous perhaps but as I like to say “You’ve got to have BHAGS (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals)!

Wishing all of you a safe and ass-kicking year on the bike (and any other endeavors in which you are planning on participating).

Happy New Year riders! Now, Let’s Kick Some Passes Asses!