Month: August 2020

An Update on the ESSRP and the Visitor Connection Working Group

Last year, as some of you may recall, the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), “a unique public/public partnership between the United States Forest Service and local agencies,” kicked off. One of “those publics” is the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, one of many regional agencies involved in the project, and yours truly is a representative for the ACCoC.

This update expands on last year’s December post so for a bit more context/information click here and take a gander at that missive before you read on.

The mountains near and behind Mammoth Lakes as seen from the Lake Crowley area during the 2018 Mammoth Gran Fondo. Just a portion of the region on which this initiative is focused.

The partnership, covering roughly the area from Inyo County to Alpine County, began before Covid-19 became part of our lives and so we were initially able to meet in person. That has since changed and we now meet via Zoom. The initiative is comprised of four (4) tracks or programs:

  • Regional Recreation Stakeholder Engagement
  • Climate Adaptation and Resilience Assessment
  • Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience
  • Project Development and Prioritization for Funding
The first meeting of the “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” working group.

Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience

This post is about that third track/program: “the Visitor Connection Working Group (VCWG).”

It all started in October of 2019 when the Chamber was invited to be a part of this effort in order to help “develop a regional strategy to connect with our Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience.” As Kristy Williams, Project Manager, put it: “We arenโ€™t talking about how to get more people here.  We are going to discuss the unique recreation, culture, stewardship, and tourism opportunities that exist here in the Eastern Sierra โ€“ and determine how, as a region, we communicate these opportunities to our visitors, including opportunities for stewardship.”

There are about thirty of us, give or take, that are working on this track and we’ve done quite a bit of work, from developing the visitor persona; to devising some particular words and phrases that we feel represent the area and the people who live, work and visit here; to (and this was what we did at our most recent meeting, which took place last week) selecting images that represent those words or phrases.

Speaking of images…One of the bitchenest (is that a word?) things you can do in the Eastern Sierra is ride a bike. This was me finishing the medio route (70 miles) of the Mammoth Gran Fondo in 2018. The MGF is just one of many organized rides (the Deathride is another) that take place in the Eastern Sierra annually.

It’s a Zoom ‘Thang

How are we doing all of this, you ask, without meeting in person?

It’s amazing what can be done with Zoom. Thanks to the incredible staff of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, we don’t just yak as a group or look at slide decks the entire time. The meetings are highly collaborative and open and all ideas and thoughts are welcome. A distinct aspect of these sessions in my mind is the break-out room, or rooms. Several groups are formed and then we are magically and virtually transported (thanks Mr. Wizard) into these rooms with our colleagues.

It’s in those rooms where a lot of the heavy lifting is done.

Last week, our group (and there were three (3) others, groups that is, doing the same thing) was tasked with reviewing approximately thirty images that describe these words – MEMORIES – TRADITION – CONNECTION. Not an easy task by any means but the idea is that these images, from all four (4) groups, would be part of a package given to a team that would then “translate” them into our deliverables, which are things like brochures, handouts and videos that can be used to educate and inform visitors to the Eastern Sierra. Sorry, I can’t show you any of the images; they are top secret for now (and I didn’t take any screenshots).

Skin in the game…

As I wrote (as did Kristy in her email to me) in December it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just about marketing to get MORE PEOPLE to the region. In fact, that’s what it’s least about. It’s really about getting people who are already here, or coming here, to be MORE INVOLVED. And having skin in the game is a vital component to that approach. Meaning:

  • Are visitors educated on what to do and how to act? For example, are they aware of best practices like where to poop (a big topic at our December 2019 meeting) and how to “leave no trace?”
  • Do visitors care about the region?
  • Do they want to help improve and maintain it?
  • Are they willing to educate their families, peers and friends about it?

More to follow…

Yup, it’s not a done deal yet. We’ve got several more meetings, the last of which takes place in February of next year. And we are just one group of many within the larger group. That means there are still lots of cats to herd and work to be done so that we can best utilize that grant money. In the long run that means selecting approximately eight (8) projects. Perhaps that means updated or new bathrooms for some deserving park or community. Maybe it’s about signage and kiosks that describe a particular route or feature. It could be something related to off-road vehicles (the kinds with engines). TBD. Once a project is vetted and approved, however, it will be up to the “winner” to get the funding and execute.

Do you have ideas for improving recreation in the Eastern Sierra? Infrastructure? Access? Programs?

Click here if you do, or if you just want to learn more, you can do that too!

We’re all in it for the long haul and if we do our jobs well then we’ll define the Eastern Sierra as the next Moab or Grand Canyon. A place where generations of us can continue to ride our bikes, climb mountain peaks or granite walls, take our grandkids 4-wheelin’ and catch some big ol’ fish. Before we get there, though, there is more work to be done.

Cycling in the Sierra? Here are Some Things You Should Consider

Having spent most of my life cycling in the San Francisco Bay Area I was very accustomed to the conditions there and so was well prepared when I hit the road. When we moved up to Markleeville in the winter of 2016, though, I quickly learned that what worked “in the flats” did not necessarily translate to the Sierra Nevada.

Several months ago I posted an article entitled “Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know.” This follow-up post expands on that one a bit with some more specific recommendations.

Equipment

Top row: Jersey pocket. All the items except the tube fit in that pouch on the right.
Middle row: That Lezyne carbon fiber pump is mounted on the bike.
Bottom row: All of these items fit in the saddle bag. Notice the chain pin inside the patch kit.

Sure, most experienced cyclists carry some sort of mini-tool, a patch-kit, Co2 cartridges, etc. but it’s important to have some redundancy where you can. Some examples:

  • Two (2) tubes instead of one. I was bombing down Hwy. 4 a couple years back and hit a pothole. I double flatted and had only one (1) tube. The patches I had wouldn’t work as the holes were too big; had to call for extraction.
  • Tire boot, duct tape (or both). I don’t carry an extra tire but I do have a tire boot and some duct tape wrapped around an old toothbrush handle. On one particularly frigid morning I put the duct tape around my fingertips – the gloves I had were not doing the trick.
  • Chain pin. Ideally you’re checking your chain wear regularly but even then, ca-ca occurs. I learned this the hard way, too. A pin in my chain starting coming out while on a ride (I hadn’t checked my chain in awhile) and I couldn’t get it fully inserted with the chain tool. Again, I had to call for extraction.
  • Sat-com. Speaking of calling for extraction…How do you do that with no cell service? I mentioned this in that “Climbing Mountain Passes” post, too but it bears repeating: cell service is basically non-existent in the mountains. Now that’s not to say I don’t carry my cell, I do, but having a device like the Garmin inReach Mini will allow you to communicate with “your person” when you are out of cell range, and its SOS feature could save your life. The monthly subscription for the basic plan is relatively inexpensive (about $12.00 a month).
  • Identification and dinero. I hope this one is a no-brainer for most of you yet I’ve heard of some who don’t carry one or the other. Not only do I carry my driver’s license but I also carry my medical insurance card, my debit card and some green. And, speaking of redundancy, I wear a Road iD. In my case, just the ID itself, on the band of my Garmin fenix.

Footwear and Clothing

Yours truly, in jersey, vest and neck gaiter (bibtights and boots not shown), in front of a snowbank across Hwy. 4 just south of Silver Mountain City, this past winter.

Foul weather in the mountains is not always cold, or stormy weather IMHO. Heat and sun can also foul up a good ride. Here’s a bunch of suggestions:

  • Cycling boots. No, I’m not referring to those lycra-type shoe or toe covers. I’m talking full on, waterproof, boots. With sleet, rain, mud and road spray I’ve found that shoe covers just don’t cut it. I invested in a pair of Sidi Gore-Tex Cycling Shoes (ankle-high boots, really) and my feet don’t get cold or wet.
  • Cold weather socks. Add some wool socks, like DeFeet’s Woolie Boolie and you’re golden.
  • Neck gaiter/tube. I’ve got several types of these, some lighter, like Buff’s and some heavier, like Castelli’s Arrivo 3 Thermo Head Thingy. Keeping that neck warm is key to keeping those colds away and it can be used for the noggin as well. Once, when I forgot my vest, I stashed it under the front of my jersey to help ward off the winds a little during a descent.
  • Vest or jacket. When you head out from 5000′ and it’s 85 degrees it’s easy to forget that it can often be 20-30 degrees colder at the top of that climb. A vest or jacket, especially if you can strap it to your bike somewhere so you can save some pocket room, can make the difference between a shivering descent and one that is much more comfy.
  • Extra gloves and hat/cap. First, let me say that I’m a dripper; one of those “two-towels under the spin bike kinda guys” so when I’m doing long climbs things can get a bit schweaty. I’ve learned to carry an extra set of gloves, cap and oftentimes an extra gaiter, and will exchange the sweat-soaked pieces for the drier ones once I reach the summit.
  • Climbing bibs (or shorts) and jersey. Like I wrote at the start of this paragraph, in my book foul weather isn’t always cold or wet (or snow). It can also include heat (or wind). I’m a Castelli devotee and so I went with their Superleggera bibshort and Climber’s 3.0 jersey. I climbed Hwy. 4 to Ebbetts Pass last week, when it was a tad warm, and what a huge difference those items made! So much so that I checked my shorts a few times to make sure they hadn’t split at the seams. Nope, just the material doing its job. Breezy!

Weather

Thunderheads, other cloud formations, and rainbows, over Diamond Valley just this past Monday.

Having an understanding of regular weather patterns, e.g. daily t’storms, regular wind patterns, is helpful when cycling in the California Alps (and other locals for that matter).

  • Get some intel. from a local rider, club or bike shop so that you know that right now, for example, up Tahoe way daily thunderstorms are a regular thing. Getting caught on Carson Pass during a hailstorm isn’t pretty. Just ask our friend James Hurst who experienced just that on the Deathride a couple years ago.
  • Check the forecast before you head out and prepare for the worst-case scenario. I like Weather Underground, in large part because they have a network of folks all over the country who have personal weather stations. That allows you to get weather data closer to where you are or will be. Yup, we have a weather station here at HQ so you can get Markleeville weather realtime.
  • Know what to do if the shit hits the fan. Are there places to shelter? What do you do if a thunderstorm (and the associated lightning) happens where/while you’re exposed on some mountain road?

Be Prepared

The Scouts have it right. Be prepared. Or said another way, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Having the right equipment, understanding and addressing footwear and clothing options, and getting a handle on the weather are all key to having a good ride or perhaps avoiding catastrophe when you are cycling — or gravel riding, or mountain biking, or hiking, or backpacking, or 4-wheeling, or fishing…

Okay, you get the idea. Gear up, be ready, be aware, and enjoy the day!

Deathride 2021 – Five Reasons You Need to Attend

As you know, we had to postpone the Deathride, aka The Tour of the California Alps, until next year, due to the pandemic. We were looking forward to the ride, which was to take place on July 11th, for so many reasons. Alas, it was not to be this year so let’s talk about why you need to be here next year.

Reason #1 – It’s an Amazingly Beautiful Area!

Especially one to ride a bike in…And, in case you forgot, you can ride about 70% of the course without worrying about cars.

Take a look at these photos we’ve taken, some of which are from past rides:

Reason #2 – It’s the 40th Anniversary of THE RIDE!

Yeah, ’twas to be 40 this year but since the ride didn’t happen then next year is the BIG 4-0! The ride will be extra special for that reason but also because:

  • We have a new executive director at the chamber and she ROCKS!
    • She and her staff have a renewed energy and direction
    • They’re already doing cool shit, e.g the Ghost Ride.
  • We have a professional ride director (Curtis Fong of Bike the West) and he has an AMAZING staff.
    • These are the same individuals who put on America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and the Tour De Tahoe.
    • We’re talking professional traffic control and mapping, radio communications throughout the course, sweeps, and course marshals
    • The Bike the West team has experience with hosting events in the Sierra that is second to none!

Reason #3 – It’s Markleeville’s Largest Fundraiser

The Deathride is the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce’s largest annual/regular influx of ducats, by far. Sure that helps us continue to support the ride, and our amazing staff and members, but most importantly it (riders, really) pumps a whole lot of money back into the community. Without the ride this year our community has taken a big hit (as have many others, no doubt, some much worse) and therefore so have many of the organizations that we help.

Last year we pumped about $90,000.00 back into community businesses and nonprofits, including the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Alpine County Fish & Game ($ for fish plants is a fairly large chunk of our budget).

Reason #4 – Pacific Grade Instead of Carson Pass

Now before we get too excited (and I know…some of you purists want to keep Carson) let me caution you that a new route into Bear Valley (the ride won’t go quite that far but close) is NOT YET APPROVED.

The map and profile of Peter Stetina’s FKT ride on the proposed new DR route for 2021.
103.41 miles, 5:15:45 moving time (AYFKM?!), 14027 feet climbed

Curtis and team began the process of working with the various stakeholders, including Caltrans, the CHP, the Alpine Co. Sheriff and Alpine Co. Fire, last year and the discussions were fruitful. Most importantly, everyone got to know each other a bit better. There are many things to consider in order to pull off an event of this magnitude and so there is still work to be done and discussions to be had. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that we can get this new route approved for 2021.

That brings me to reason number 5…

Reason #5 – Because Peter Stetina Says So

Yesterday Pete rode the new course and set the current FKT (Fastest Known Time) – see the map and profile above. I hadn’t met Mr. Stetina (this guy definitely deserves “the Mr.”) until yesterday but I had heard lots of good things about him and I’ve followed him on Strava for some time.

He’s an extraordinary gentleman and giver of his time, name, energy and largesse. Yesterday was no different. As I understand it he didn’t have much time to prepare since Curtis, Becky and team made this little event happen pretty quickly. Still, he spent most of his day riding this course and promoting all the area has to offer, for no compensation from us (other than some little gifts of appreciation).

From L to R: Pete’s trusty steed; Di (Bike the West); Pete; and Becky (DeForest-Hanson, Executive Director of the Alpine Co. Chamber).

In Pete’s own words…

A screen grab from Peter Stetina’s Strava post on his Deathride FKT attempt of 8-11-20.

Oh, and perhaps there’s one more reason, or twenty-seven reasons actually, for you hard-core Deathriders to attend.

There are now twenty-seven, yes, you read that correctly, 27!!! KOMs that you can attempt to take back.

For this mere mortal that will never happen but perhaps you have it in you?

What About Covid-19?

Certainly we’re thinking positively in that we are planning on not having to social distance on July 17, 2021.

Let’s hope this virus has been vanquished by then, for many more important reasons than this ride, which in the overall scheme of things, with people dying, losing their jobs and suffering immense heartbreak, is trivial.

Still, it’s something to hope for, train for and pray for…

We hope and pray that we’ll see you here next year!

Stay safe, ride on and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ (and the virus’ ass, too) Asses!

Markleeville Missive – News from About Town

Another week, another hump day! Today, though, is a bit more exciting than the usual hump day because it’s the soft opening of the Cutthroat Brewing Company! While most Markleevillians are over the top excited, including yours truly, we also must deal with a bit of controversy – the Thin Blue Line flag. The flag is not shown in the image below but it is hanging, along with the American flag, outside the bar now, and it is causing quite a stir.

Admittedly, yours truly has been behind the proverbial 8-ball on the controversy surrounding the flag so I did a bit of research on Wikipedia for this post. I found this:

“The term is derived from the Thin Red Line, a formation of the 93rd Highland Regiment of Foot of the British Army at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, in which the Scottish Highlanders stood their ground against a Russian cavalry charge. This action was widely publicized by the press and recreated in artwork, becoming one of the most famous battles of the Crimean War. The name is now used for firefighters today.”

Of course that is by no means the entire story. Wikipedia expands on its article by describing the controversy thusly: “Critics suggest that the “thin blue line” symbolism represents an “us versus them” mindset that heightens tensions between officers and citizens and negatively influences police-community interactions, by setting police apart from society at large.”

I get that. Especially in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I can also understand that for some it has no significance other than to show respect to police and other first responders. The co-owner of the bar told several of us that recently. Her husband is a deputy sheriff here in Alpine Co. so it has a different meaning to her (and to him too I suspect). By the way I know them both well and they are fine individuals who care DEEPLY about, and give generously of their time and money to, our community.

So, what to do? Some in town are writing letters and boycotting the establishment. I respect that. My wife and I are not taking that stance, however. We decided that first and foremost we are going to support our friends who have worked so hard to get “our Cheers” open. We want to hear what others have to say, see what the vibe is at the bar (outside seating only due to Covid-19), and see how things develop.

I’m curious though…What do you think? Am I being naive? Just uninformed? Are others over-thinking it? Does it make me a racist if I don’t boycott the bar?

Would love your thoughts so please share — comment on this post or hit us up on Facebook.

In Other News

That heading reminds me of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” and I realize it is somewhat of an awkward segue after the previous topic. Still, I did want to share a few other things – the first of which is bad, and good.

I’ve officially joined the ranks of the unemployed. Boy it feels weird to “say” that. After being on furlough since March, my position, like many others at my former company, was eliminated. I had worked there over eleven years and it’s the first time I’ve been unemployed. Ever. I’ve got some feelers out, though, and I’m optimistic about a potential consulting gig. I’m also looking it as an opportunity to take my passion for cycling to another level. Send me good vibes, k?

California Alps Cycling now has twenty members! Perhaps that’s not a lot compared to other clubs or organizations but for us it’s a big deal. Huge thanks to Phil Harvey for making the leap and being #20. It’s a relatively cheap investment ($40.00) and by being a member you help support our cycling causes here in the heart of the Sierra. And, you can get a free shirt too!

This is just one of our designs/colors. We’ve got three (3) others as well. If you’re interested in earning that shirt and at the same time helping raise cycling awareness here in Markleeville and surrounds (we have several non-cyclist members by the way) go to our membership page, fill out the form and send us your hard-earned ducats via PayPal.

Your support is oh so valued!

116 Facebook followers and counting! We’re grateful to those of you who are on that list. We also just hit 62 followers on Instagram. Thank you “grammers” ;-).

Not earth shattering numbers compared to others but to us it’s MASSIVE NEWS! One of the perks of being on furlough was the ability to spend more time socializing California Alps Cycling and it’s nice to see those efforts paying off.

Now what? Well, that’s one of the things I’m trying to figure out. Like many of you riding bikes is my passion. My happy place. My escape. And it has been for most of my life. How can I pay that forward? Can I make a living doing it? All questions to be answered in the positive I hope.

From last Sunday’s ride…Markleeville to Route 207 (Kingsbury) and over Daggett Summit to S. Lake Tahoe. Then up and over Luther Pass into Hope Valley and back to town. Was an awesome, about 70 mile, ride!

That brings me to a question, or questions, for you loyal follower:

  • Would you be willing to pay for personal cycling tours here in the Markleeville area?
  • Would you come here and partake of a gravel ride or fondo of some sort? Maybe the weekend before the Deathride, for example?
  • What would be most important to you? Cost? Schwag? Takeaways (i.e. learning new skills)?
  • If you’re answer, or answers, are in the negative, for what reason or reasons?

We’d love your input especially since we realize that some of you (hopefully not too many) are likely in the same boat.

Have a Great Rest of the Week!

As always I appreciate you taking the time to read what I write. Today’s main topic was not one I had planned on penning but it would have felt strange to just gloss over the “elephant in the room.”

As for the other subjects… T’was a mix of catharsis, positivity and queries and I eagerly await your input on all!

Wishing you and yours a safe, happy and non-controversial (or controversial if that’s your happy place) remainder of the week. And while we’re at it, have a fantabulous weekend, too.

— Mark