Month: December 2020

Cycling Events in 2021? Here’s What on Our List

2020 was not a very event-full year, at least in terms of “real” bike events. Sure, many of us, yours truly included, did some virtual events/tours, and even some racing, but it wasn’t nearly the same as being there with a bunch of riders that were suffering (or not) right along with me.

And the after parties…I really miss those!

SPEAKING OF EVENTS

AT the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce we’ve continued to work on the 2021 Deathride and are optimistic that we can pull it off. I’m on the periphery if you will — the actual work is being done by our Executive Director, Becky DeForest-Hanson, and our Ride Director, Curtis Fong — so I won’t go into much detail but suffice it to say there’s a good chance IMHO that we’ll be riding those iconic California Alps climbs in July.

WE’VE also been talking with the folks at FulGaz about doing some sort of virtual Deathride in the first quarter of 2021! Something along the lines of the Bay Area Virtual Fondo, perhaps. It would give you veteran Deathriders a chance to do some training in the pain cave prior to the big day. And for any of you who haven’t done the ride you’d get a chance to wet your wheels, so to speak. Remember, we’ve filmed all of the climbs (and some other local rides too) so you’ll be able to experience the real thing…virtually ;-).

BIKE the West’s America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Tour de Tahoe are on my list. Well, at least one of them is…And I’m looking forward (admittedly with a bit of trepidation) to my first gravel grinder: Stetina’s Paydirt, in September of 2021.

ON a somewhat tangential note

RECENTLY I participated in a virtual meeting involving several bike coalitions and representatives of Caltrans District 10. Rob Williams, outreach manager at the California Bicycle Coalition (aka CALBIKE) set up and facilitated the meeting, which was primarily focused on us all getting to know each other a bit and devising a plan to work together moving forward.

IT was a great get-together and nice connections, and in several cases, reunions, were made. More on that in a future post.

FOR now though I’d like to direct you to an article that was recently published (Rob was the author, by the way) on Bike Valley to Sierra, entitled “40 Years of Cycling the California Alps.” It’s a nice little missive and besides other data that matta, has links to some other events in District 10, which includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

WHAT’S on your list? Feel free to share by commenting on this post, or on our Facebook page.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Please stay safe and healthy and keep training so we can all kick some passes’ asses next year.

Together.

In person.

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Il Finito

SO it was that about two (2) weeks after I returned from my trip to Markleeville, my wife and I found ourselves en route to “my town” so she could see the house and property in-person for the first time.

WE decided that we would let it happen, or not, depending on how things felt once she saw the place, and met Pat and Rich. We also thought it prudent to look at other properties in the area just to be sure and so we asked Sarah to set up some walk-thrus. This was August 11th, 2016.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

MY wife fell in love with the place, the town and the people right away. Just like I did. The other homes we looked at were nice but none of them were “it” like the house on Hot Springs Road. Yup, ’twas yet another sign.

WE told Sarah (our realtor) “yes” and headed home right away. We had both taken just the one day off; we didn’t want to lose the house and we knew there was another offer on the table. On our way home, thanks to technology and our fast moving realtor, we signed the offer from the side of the road, on the Hwy 99/4 cloverleaf, as it turns out. Things were moving very quickly indeed!

SELLING OUR HOME IN SAN JOSE

MY Mom, who now lives on the property with us in her own little home, lived in San Diego at the time. She dabbled in the real estate business down in Sandy Eggo, as she sometimes called it, and had made some connections in the Bay Area when she lived there for a bit several years prior.

SHE reached out to her connections and found us a realtor that we hoped would help us sell our home. You see, Clara Lee, who did in fact become our realtor wasn’t sure she wanted to take on new clients at the time. She had just wrapped up an arduous deal with some folks who, shall we say, weren’t the nicest to work with and she was feeling pretty beat up.

MOM, however, can be pretty persuasive and convinced her to at least meet us. I kid you not, when we got home that day, Clara was waiting for us. It was an instant connection and Clara took us under her wing. She walked through the house and gave us advice (some of which we didn’t like) as to how to move forward. Nonetheless, we listened to her and we had the house painted, prepped, staged and ready within a few weeks.

THERE was a broker’s tour on August 31st and about two (2) weeks or so later we held an open house and received a whole shitload (love that word – it always takes me back to that scene in Blazing Saddles) of offers. Needless to say, we took the best one and began the closing process.

OUR SAGA CONTINUES…

WE made several trips back and forth to Markleeville in the interim. We also bought a Subaru, and named it Clara, in homage to our Clara. And we purchased a little trailer for Clara (the car, not the realtor), too.

OF COURSE there was still a lot more to do! We got the movers set up, took care of more (endless?) paperwork and packed. And packed. And packed. And cleaned. And scrubbed. And buffed. For those of you who’ve gone through this process, you know what I’m talking about.

ON October 13th, my birthday as it turns out, I picked up the new Outback, and that night we had a celebratory dinner with Clara (the realtor, not the car). She gave us this little sign (uh huh, another one) at that dinner that hangs in our garage today.

ON October 19th we made our way up to Markleeville. The deal had closed! Not without a whole lot of last minute drama (title company style), some of which took place on the trip east. It was a wild ride in many ways…

The next day, I took my first ride up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park – October 20th, 2016.

A RAINY DAY MOVE

IT was pouring rain when we loaded up Clara (again, the car, not the realtor) and her trailer with the little things that the movers weren’t going to take, and our three (3) cats, Ditty, Louie and Tina, and drove to our new home. This was Friday, October 28th. I remember it well for many reasons but mostly because it happened to be on my Grandmother’s birthday. See what I mean about all these friggin’ signs. Uncanny!

I dropped off mi esposa and the bambinos and made my way back to San Jose, arriving around 9:00 p.m. or so. I had the last minute clean up to do; we just couldn’t get it all done in enough time for me to not have to make this last trip and gawd was I tired!

CAREFUL what you wish for, right?

HOME Depot was a necessary stop before heading back to our soon to be former home. I needed a few more boxes, tape and shrink wrap. I slept on the floor that night and in the a.m. I began the cleaning, and packed the car to the gills, spending most of that Saturday to get ‘er done. I left Silicon Valley for our new home just before 5:00 p.m. (that’s when I took that pic above of the Subie in the driveway).

I got in so late that night that we postponed the real celebration until the next day, October 30th and we did so in style. My dear departed friend, Joe Karotkin, turned us on to this “100 year old” orange liqueur a bunch of years back and we decided we wanted to break tradition and go with it, instead of some champagne.

SO, there you have it, our story of whoa!

Definitely not “woe.” Okay there were some “woes” in there but they were soon forgotten as we began our new life in the California Alps.

IT takes some work to live here. There’s snow and cold and ice and bears and mountain lions and small town politics and so on but we wouldn’t trade it for ’nuffin.

WE earned major kudos from the locals, now our neighbors and friends, by the way, for making it through that first winter (2016-2017 was the drought breaker as you may recall) without incident but with quite a bit of help.

After all, we were greenhorns. Not anymore though. We’re now Markleevillians!

Have a VERY Merry Christmas!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part Two

MY saga continues…’Twas day three (3) of my Markleeville stay and I had some business to attend to today: a visit with the staff at the Alpine County Superior Court.

AS I mentioned in last week’s post, working with the courts (mostly in CA but also in other states) was my day job and so I had planned to stop in and introduce myself to the CEO (in court parlance CEO stands for Court Executive Officer) and the clerk(s) at the Markleeville Courthouse.

Unfortunately my timing was off a bit so my check-in would have to wait a day. I did, however, snag this image from the steps of the courthouse.

SINCE I had some time to kill I thought I’d stop in at the Intero Real Estate office a few doors up, and just for shits and giggles (my actual thoughts at the time), ask about the house on Hot Springs Road. I met Sarah Chichester that day and we talked about the house (it had been on the market for some time) as well as land in the area. It was she that gave me a reality check about the expense of putting in water and power on a vacant piece of property. I told her why I was here and that at this point I wasn’t at all serious about buying the house but I asked if I could take a look anyway.

SHE was so friendly (just about everyone here in Markleeville is that way I later learned) and immediately picked up the phone. “Sure,” she said, “we can head on over. The owners are both home and are expecting us.”

THE SIGNS CONTINUE

SO off Sarah and I went, about a mile from town to the house. There I met Pat and Rich, the owners. Oh, and the sign? It was Pat (her name, really). Pat is my wife’s name! They gave me a tour of the entire house and property and a bit of history too. Pat and her first husband built the place in 1976. After about 40 years here she was ready for warmer climes, she said, and so they were going to move to Florida, where they already had a beachfront condo. But, she told me, they had to find the right people first. They felt very strongly that the next owners had to care about the land and surrounds as much as they did; there was a lot of history here and not just theirs, but generations of settlers, and before that, the Native American Peoples.

Chalet Schwartz before it was Chalet Schwartz. We took this shot about 3 weeks after I first saw the house and property. Just past, and a bit left (south as it turns out) of the white trailer, is Hot Springs Creek, fka the Middle Fork of the Carson River. As you can see, Pat and Rich were prepping the U-Haul.

IN fact, there is a grinding rock on the property and yes, that was yet another sign. My wife and I love Native American lore/karma/energy, whatever you want to call it!

MY FIRST TRIP UP

I had meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, so I had to get moving early so I could get up to Ebbetts Pass and back. I had estimated about two (2) hours round trip (not too far off) and so was on the road about 7:00 a.m. It was hot that summer so the morning was cool, not frigid, like it is today. Still, I did have some arm warmers and a base layer on, and a shell for the descent.

MY wife and I talked the night before about the possiblities. Could we afford to buy the house now as a second home? We decided that no, we could not keep our San Jose home and have a 2nd home in Markleeville (or anywhere else for that matter). She floated this idea, though: perhaps we could move there? She only had about a year or so left before she retired and I was already a remote worker and accustomed to working from home. Nah, that’s crazy. We can’t do that! Still, the thoughts kept coming…

ANYWAY, off I went. I stopped for a photo at Monitor Junction (the image at the top of this post) and as I got back on my bike I remember thinking: could we actually move here? I kid you not that right at that moment I had my first eagle sighting (a bald eagle it was) here in the CA Alps! It flew directly over head as if to answer my question. Yes, you could, said the eagle. Yet another sign…

AS I road up, and up, and up the mountain I was astounded by the beauty of it all. The river, the mountains, the trees and THAT SKY…

Man, what a place!

EBBETTS PASS – AND YET ANOTHER SIGN

THAT last mile or so from Kinney to the pass isn’t an easy one but I knew I was close and so it didn’t matter how tired I was. I did have to go to work, even if was in the river cabin, so no more dawdling allowed, I said to myself. I arrived at the pass and took the requisite selfies to document my success. As I was taking a few more moments to revel and reflect, a pickup pulled up next to me and the driver asked if I knew where the trailhead to the PCT was. No, I said, it was my first time in the area and I had no clue. The passenger then leaned forward and cocked his head to say thanks and I couldn’t believe it, it was my friend (and former dentist) Mike!

“Mike Forster!” I said and he then recognized me. It had been several years since I had seen him; I knew he had a place in South Lake, though, and over the years he was often there. He was just as surprised as I was and said he didn’t recognize me at first because I had lost quite a bit of weight. What are the odds, eh? For us to connect again at this exact moment in this amazing place.

If that wasn’t a sign (and a BIG ONE) then what was!?

WE yakked for a bit but as I already told you, and then I told him, I had to get going. I had a meeting. I let him know where I was staying and he promised to stop by before he headed back to his place in Tahoe. He then took a better photo of me at the marker and his buddy took the photo of us (both below) before we parted ways.

THE TALE TERMINATES…NEXT WEEK

I hope you’ve found the story entertaining so far. I am certainly enjoying the re-telling of it but alas, I must keep you waiting for the conclusion until next week. I don’t mean to belabor the “sign thing” but there are still a couple more to come, mostly related to the specific hows of our exodus from Silicon Valley.

Until then, be safe, stay healthy and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part One

‘TWAS a warm (ok, hot) summer day in July of 2016 when I packed up my bike and other necessessities, and headed for Alpine county, for a week (almost) at the Carson River Resort.

QUICK pause before I get into the meat of the story so I can give a shout out to my fellow blogger (I don’t know his actual name I realize) at Half Fast Cycling Club for prompting me, in his recent “Pandemic Tree post” of just two days ago, to write this story. He’s done the Deathride before and we were looking forward to meeting at this year’s ride but, well, you know how that ended.

Anyway…the story begins

IT had been a very stressful few weeks work-wise and between that, and the noise of the city, I was in desperate need of a mountain hit. Having grown up in San Jose I was used to heading to our local hills, or the Santa Cruz mountains on most occassions, but every year or so, like many Californians (or Nevadans for that matter) I suspect, I was privileged to be able to head to the Sierra.

THIS particular level of tensity warranted those big mountains but knowing what I knew about the summer season I feared I would find no accomodations. Camping would have been preferred but I had no vacation time so my compromise was to bring the necessary tech and work during the day and ride in the a.m., p.m. or during lunch. First, though, where to go?

Caples Lake as seen on my first trip to Markleeville.

YOSEMITE was my first choice. It is my wife, Patricia’s, and my, happy place. Well, it was. Now we live in our happy place. Not that Yosemite still isn’t…

AS you might have guessed, though, there were no rooms anywhere in the park.

MY next option was Mammoth. I had always wanted to go there so I did some searching and found a couple possibilities, but none of them had kitchens (or even “ettes”) and that wasn’t going to work. I wanted to cook my own meals.

HEY, I thought, how about Markleeville?

Before I continue with my saga, let me take you back a bunch of years, to my elementary school days (daze?), which is when I first learned of Markleeville.

MY grandparents on Mom’s side had a cabin in Arnold, CA (Lakemont Pines to be specific). We spent quite a bit of time there, both in the summer and the winter. During the winter we would often head up towards Lake Alpine for a bit of tubing and tobagganing. Traveling up Highway 4 towards Ebbetts Pass we would pass the mileage sign which showed the distance to Markleeville.

OF course being a young’n I said things to myself like “that town has my name” or “that town was named after me.” I remember thinking (did I ask? I don’t remember) it would be cool to see my town. I really don’t recall much more than that but knowing what I know now we couldn’t have gone to Markleeville very easily as Hwy. 4 would have been closed. So, we never made it and until this trip, I had never seen Markleeville before.

Back to present day, or 2016 to be more precise

I did some googling and called both the Creekside Lodge (no dice) and the Carson River Resort. When I asked the dude who answered the phone if they had anything available, especially on the river, he sort of chuckled and I sighed. No luck here either. Shit! But then he said: “Wait a minute…It looks like we have a cancellation. The river cabin is available but only this Sunday through next Thursday.” I’ll take it, I said!

AS it turns out, that was the first sign – from nothing anywhere to something in Markleeville. My town! πŸ™‚

SO I packed up my gear, my bike, some food, of course some tequila and cerveza. I also brought some “nice clothes” as I planned on visiting the Alpine County Superior Court (building and maintaining relationships with courts throughout the state, country really, was part of my job description at the time) while I was there. I also loaded up the laptop and two monitors so I could fulfill my other employment-related duties.

A Sunday afternoon arrival

AFTER an uneventful, but longer trip than I expected (Markleeville, it could be said, is in B.F.E.), I arrived at my destination. The cabin however, was not ready, and Angel (the owner at the time) was very apologetic. No worries, I told her, I’ll just go for a ride up to that park in Markleeville that I saw the sign for – Grover Hot Springs.

BACK towards town I rode and I hung a left at Montgomery Street. At the fork in the road I stayed right and that put me on Hot Springs Road. As I headed towards the park I noticed a house (more like a cabin) for sale and made a mental note to pull the flyer and check it out on the way back, just to satisfy my curiosity.

THE park was pretty sweet. I made another mental note to check out the hot springs before I left town and back down towards town I went. I stopped at the house and pulled the flyer. Being born and raised in San Jose I was blown away. That’s all? Seriously? I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t going for two to three times that! It sat on just under 1/2 an acre and there was a creek (Hot Springs Creek, formerly known as the Middle Fork of the Carson River) in the backyard. My wife and I had talked for years about having a little place in the mountains, on a lake or river, when we retired.

THIS was that place! Now we weren’t ready to retire yet but it got me thinking, is this another sign?

APOLOGIES but I’m going to have to stop here and leave you hanging. My saga, as it turns out, is just too long for one blog post.

NEXT week, part two.

Gravel! the California Alps? A Brief What and Where

This past spring I took my first real foray into gravel riding. It was a challenging but oh so fun adventure. You can read about it here. Since then I’ve done a lot of thinking, and a bit of reconnaissance, on potential gravel ride routes here in Alpine Co., and as you can imagine there are many possibilities.

What is Gravel Riding?

I’m not really qualified to answer that question since I am by no means a gravel expert. Not even close. In fact I’m not very experienced on a mountain bike either. I’ve ridden over 6000 miles this year on my road bike yet I have only about 400 miles total on my mountain bike, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say, that’s in about 4 years. As for gravel riding, I’ve only done that three (3) times (but all this year at least!).

With that said, in my mind gravel riding is riding a road bike, with special tires, on trails or fire roads. I now know it’s not quite that simple but I think it’s a pretty fair one-sentence description. Selene Yeager, author of “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training, and Grit You Need to Crush It,” (which by the way is a good read and full of “gravelly” advice) writes that:

…”gravel is still up for intepretation. You know to expect some rowdy, even scary, stuff in a mountain bike race. You expect road races to have some technical turns. Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure. One person might imagine quiet, rugged, relatively smooth, if crunchy roads [my original expectation]. Another considers any unpaved surface fair game [the reality of gravel riding that I’ve come to know].”

She also notes that “if you’re brand new to riding unpaved surfaces on a drop bar bar bike, everything may feel a category tougher.” I can relate. She goes further by adding to examples (categories), originally crafted by Neil Shirley and “codified” in his Industry Standard to Gravel (ISGG). Check out the book or the ISGG for more on those cats.

Also check out this post on VeloNews, written by Pete Stetina, where he compares a WorldTour year to a Gravel year — really eye-opening!

Adventure Indeed!

As you’ve now read in that post from earlier this year, I didn’t set my expectations very well this past spring and now that I’m better at that I’m happier when riding gravel.

Here’s three (3) of the four (4) gravel rides I’ve done this year (there’s a link to numero quatro – not shown below – in the first paragraph of this post), one of which, Leviathan Mine Road, was technically not a gravel ride since I rode my mountain bike. But it could be and so I’ve listed it here. I hope to ride it on the gravel bike sometime between now and next spring/summer.

  • Starts at Highway 88 in Alpine Co., CA
  • I rode up to the lake, with a slight detour on the way
  • 11.61 miles round trip
  • 1:31:15 of moving time
  • 1542′ of climbing.
  • Starts at Jacks Valley Road in Carson City, NV
  • We road up to the Clear Creek Junction
  • 16.77 miles round trip
  • 2:11:39 of moving time
  • 1909 feet of climbing.
  • Starts at Hwy. 395 near Topaz Lake, in NV
  • I rode the Fuel up to the intersection of Leviathan Mine Road (LMR) and Loope Canyon Road (LCR)
  • 25.89 miles round trip
  • 2:29:44 of moving time
  • 2874 feet of climbing.

More to Come!

Admittedly I’ve barely scratched the gravel-riding surface but like the title of this post reads ’tis a brief what and where. Nonetheless I hope you found some of the “what” enlightening and some of the “where” inspiring. Pick your adventure, whether it’s one of my suggestions or not, and do some gravel.

It’s definitely more challenging than road cycling. In some (most) ways it’s harder than mountain biking (e.g. no shocks, smaller tires) but I’ve found that it’s also easier in terms of speed and nimbleness. I’ve got a lot more to learn but now that I’ve done a few rides, and gotten out of my own way a bit (those expectations, you know?) I’m certainly ready for more gravel!

How about you? Any tips or suggestions for some gravelly adventures?

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses!