Month: September 2021

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

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

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

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

The Weather Was Amazing!

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

Lesson #1 – Leave early and beat the heat!

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

Running Out of Water Made It Even More Epic!

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

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

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

Speed Is Your Friend

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

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

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

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

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

BETWEEN us we had:

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

HERE’S what I forgot:

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

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

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

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

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

To Pack or Not to Pack?

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

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

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

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

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

Sand Can Be Fun

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

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

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

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

Know Where You’re Going!

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

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

The Last Two Lessons?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With That Said…

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

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