Month: October 2023

Graveling in Great Basin – How a Short Loop Turned Into a Long OaB

MRS. California Alps Cycling and I finally got out the door last Sunday, and started our oh so overdue vacation. A two (2) week roadtrip to Great Basin National Park, Zion National Park and Capitol Reef National Park, with other Mighty Five parks hit up as time allows.

OF course some bike riding would be involved. Initially we had planned on bringing a road bike, a gravel bike and an e-MTB but after a consultation with Momma California Alps, and a bit of good natured ribbing from same about the sheer quantity of gear we were bringing, we went with the latter two (2) only.

GETTING in fairly late to Baker, NV, and checking in to the Stargazer Inn and Bristlecone General Store with Liz and Rachel, left us no time to do anything that night, except watch our beloved Niners open a can of whoop ass on those Cowboys. A great way to start the vacay, for sure!

ON Monday the trip started in earnest (after a leisurely morning due to our late night of celebrating both the whooping, and the start of the trip) as we “excurzed” into the park and hit up one of the Lehman Cave tours – the Grand Palace.

DAY two (2) was reserved for a bit of a.m. gravel riding for me (and reading for Mrs. C.A.) and then a trip up to the bristlecone pines in the afternoon.

STRAVA had a nice route suggestion of about 13.5 miles. Head east and just outside of town I’ll turn onto National Forest Development Service Road 589 (“development“should have been my first clue), and then head up a bit towards either Rowland Ranch Road or Baker Creek Road, either of which connects to Lehman Caves Road (the main road into the park). From there a super straight Champs Elysses kind of decent, but longer, back to the main highway and the hotel.

I headed out about 8 a.m. with plans to be back by 10 a.m. so we could get up the the Wheeler Peak/Bristlecone trailhead by lunch time for a picnic before the hike.

‘TOPHER would have, and still will, have my ass. You didn’t upload the ride to your bike computer? Nope. I’m good. I’ll just follow the road(s) and signage. They’ll be marked like they are in our neck of the woods. WRONG.

MISSED the turn to NFDS 589. Not really my fault, though, there are a lot of dirt roads out in these parts.

I turned back and found the road and up I went for a blissful couple of miles, and then a bit of steep stuff, and then a fork in the road. I whipped out my phone and checked where I was – yup, that right fork is the one. Off I went.

STEEPER and rockier IT went. Definitely some hike-a-bike sections…at least for me. Some nice roads still, though, as you can see.

ROWLAND Ranch Rd. must be coming soon, I tell myself. I’ve already gained about 1000 feet after all. Hmmm, maybe I passed it? Yeah, that makes more sense. I’ll just keep going to Baker Creek Road. Off I went.

BUSHIER and more overgrown IT went. None of my maps apps had the sufficient detail, either because this was not a trail/road, or the signal wasn’t strong enough to handle all of those damn packets, or both. Then inspiration struck. I’ve got a signal and can make a call! I’ll call M.C.A., she’s got internet at the hotel, and she can tell me exactly where I am.

AFTER some frustration on both sides, either due to her lack of understanding of technology, or my lack of patience, or both, we hung up. I have an Apple Watch and a Wahoo ELEMNT Roam. If nothing else I’ll just hit “back to start”, I told her. I hate doing that though so the bushwhacking continued. Oh, and I neglected to mention to you loyal reader, that I had been pushing my bike for the last 1/2 mile or so.

HUBRIS is the word that comes to mind. Panic was another. I was rocking the first and holding back the second. I’ve got to be just below NFDS Rd. 590. I just went past both of those other roads and now I just have to bushwhack a bit farther and I’ll hit it. Again I call the Mrs. We can’t tell how close I am to 590. “Have you crossed Baker Creek yet?”, she asks. Well, I did go over a creek a bit ago. That must have been it. “Then you’re just below the road.” Off I went.

NON-EXISTENT IT went. Brush piles told me I was in an area where they were cutting up those ladder fuels for winter burning, which meant I had to be close. Now I’m carrying the bike over logs and brush, and gathering some decent scratches (battle scars, arrgghh) on the lower legs, too.

NOW I did learn a trick some time ago from a hunting-sensei, Fred Weitlauf. He taught me that most people get lost because they never look behind them as they walk. I had been doing that at least, and I had my computers, so I’m not really lost.

UNLIKE Scott or Chris, I am severely DIRECTIONALLY challenged. As such, learning to use the technology would be of utmost importance. See mistake #2.

APPLE WATCH – Yes, you can retrace your steps but you have to start it so it knows where to return you. Idiot! Me, not the watch.

WAHOO ELEMNT ROAM – Correct me if I’m wrong (please!) you technoheads out there, but one problem is this: you have to be on a route (see mistake #1) to navigate back to the start of the route.

THE other problem I’ve discerned – again, all help appreciated – is that you have to know how to use the shit. Those three (3) dots on that map screen give you options, including as I’ve just learned while writing this post, one that is “retrace to start.”

WHAT a knucklehead.

HONEY, I say as I call her to tell her I’ve made the smartest decision I’ve made all day. “I’m heading back to where I started.” I’m running out of road, er trail, and I’m no where near anything, other than those amazing views.

BACK I went, and just like my wonderful wife said, it was really fun because I could enjoy the vistas, and the ride. Some more hike-a-bike back to the road, then off I went.

AFTER those few sectors of babyheads (which for me meant walking again), down and sweet IT went.

1828 feet of stress-free (kinda) descent it was, and at last I saw that water tower and knew I was going to survive. My sould began to rise. Yeah, a bit dramatic but that Bob Seger song (Roll Me Away) came to mind so I went with it.

  • 13.6 miles
  • 2255 feet of ascent
  • 1:55 ride time
  • 3 hours elapsed time
  • 3 phone calls
  • Many WTFs
  • Several “dumbshits!”
  • Oodles of fun, nonetheless
  • Countless giggles (raging laughter, really) from M.C.A.

WE did make it to the top of Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive about 1:30 p.m., give or take. This after a lovely picnic on the patio of the Stargazer.

PARTAKING of lunch in town made sense at that point because it gets cold up there (the trailhead is just under 10000’ of elevation) and due to my extra-lengthy sojourn we would likely get there too late to enjoy the mild part of the day

TURNS out I was right, on this occassion at least – it was cold and windy. 🤣

IN my defense, had there been better signage and such we would have been there sooner!

All The Rides I Did Not See

CREDIT first of all to Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See. A great read, wherever you may be.

IT’S been an interesting cycling season here in the California Alps, for me at least. I’ve ridden about 3300 miles so far this year. My goal of 6000 miles is unreachable at this point, especially since I was not able to complete any of the four (4) rides for which I registered. Four sounds like a good number so I’ll shoot for a still respectable 4000 miles.

SO, let’s have some fun and give a shout out to each of those rides of which many of you perhaps were actually able to complete.

CURTIS Fong has turned this ride over to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society after many years. A huge shout out to Curtis, Di Bolton, and many others, who opened their doors to the Deathride team last spring so we could get a glimpse into, among other things, how an efficient registration process was run. It helped us up our game and we were oh so grateful.

Another bib number that I didn’t get to rock out on the course. Oh well, at least I got my schwag.

AS for the ride, while I had hoped that I could still participate. Alas, June 4th came way too soon, and Mr. Lung was not yet up to the task. That visit from an unexpected guest – namely a sub-segmental pulmonary embolism, in May, set me too far back. Thankfully it was just a little emboli in a lower section of the lung. Could have been a much more exciting adventure. Check out this post for a bit more detail.

THE name AMBRR is apropos, by the way. For those that haven’t had a chance to ride around Big Blue you should definitely make it happen. I prefer the clockwise direction, but riding in either direction won’t disappoint. Check out one of our most popular posts, “Thinking About Riding Around Lake Tahoe – Here’s What You Should Know” for some tips. There is also a video-snippet that will give you a sense of the terrain and the views. We rode it counter-clockwise that day and IMO that’s the easier direction, both mentally and physically. Going clockwise puts you on the lake side rather than the hill side and adds the climb out of Incline Village to Spooner Lake, and so it’s a tad more challenging. The rollers will keep you honest in either direction!

ORIGINALLY scheduled for June 10th, the ride was pushed back to July 1st due to the crazy-ass winter we had here in the Sierra. This was the second year I wasn’t able to compete in this bad boy. I was optimistic that several more weeks would do it but my breathing was still compromised and the legs did not have the necessary juice.

THANKS to a deferment this year I’m signed up for next year. And since I deferred, unlike the other rides, I did not pick up my bib number nor my schwag, hence this photo instead.

LAST year ’twas Mr. Knee that decided no dice on this one. This year ’twas Mr. Lung. Oh, those body parts…

THIRD time’s the charm?

WHAT did I miss? A beauty ride (so I’m told) in the Tahoe National Forest with landmarks such as Sardine Peak, and segments with names like “Dirty Dog Section” and “Later NERRRRRDS.” The long route, which is still my target, is 76 miles with 6800 feet of climbing. Quite a few of my “Strava buds” competed and did well (congrats to them). Reports were that it was an awesome Sierra day and based on the fine weather here in Markleeville I can imagine. The heat had not set in yet like it did just two (2) weeks later.

Editors note: The clot has resolved and things seem to be getting back to normal cardio-wise. The doctors have told me that it can take up to a year to rebuild that lung fitness. I’m trying to be patient and in the interim I’ve certainly done my part to support the medical community. 🙂

BIB #1; one of the perks of being a ride director! I must admit that by the time I got my rider packet I already knew I was not going to ride any of the route, so I claimed numero uno for my scrapbook.

LET’S be honest. This is one of the toughest centuries out there and so there was no way I was going to be able to conquer the entire course anyway, with only a couple months into my recovery, but I had hoped that I could do one or two climbs.

DURING the safety and tactics meeting however, I had my comeuppance. As Curtis, Michael and Paul reminded me, as the RD I was the last line of defense, if you will, in the decision making process, and so I needed to be on site. And someone needed to call in the road closures (and subsequent openings) to CALTRANS. Since everyone else on the team was doing the heavy lifting that job went to me.

NONETHELESS, this was not a bitter pill to swallow. Why? Well…

We moved to Markleeville because of the Deathride (you can read more about that history in several posts I wrote – just search “Mark in Markleeville”). I finished all of the climbs (including Carson that year) in 2017. In 2018 I had a foot injury so was only able to complete three (3). In 2019 I picked up a nasty cough the day before the ride so bagged only four (4) that year (there were only five (5) climbs up until 2022), and had it not been for my riding companion, and brother from another mother, Mr. Keno, I probably would not have even done that.

2020 never happened due to the pandemic and in 2021 it was the Tamarack Fire that did us in. The day before the ride no less. 🙁

2022 did go off, though, the first year of the new course over the crest and into the west slope of the Sierra, and I had some fun that year doing some “ambassador-ing.” Read more about this one here.

FULL circle…From moving here due to “the DR” to being the ride director and leading the team that helped us take this ride to an entirely new level was an honor that I’ll never forget. My “scraps” are even more meaningful than had I ridden it, and I’m oh so thankful for the privilege.

CAN you say “hot?” How about “scorching?” As we jokingly say, and said, it wouldn’t be the Deathride without some sort of weather-related adversity. We’ve had heat, hail, thunderstorms and more over the forty-one previous editions. This 42nd edition was no different with its hellish heat. Check out this post for my report.

BASED on the look of many of the riders who came in, I’m kinda glad I didn’t take on that challenge. I would have been thoroughly baked, or sagged, or both.

SINCE I won’t be the ride director next year (that honor will fall to some other lucky dawg) I did sign up for 2024. Thinking I’ll tackle the Ebbett’s and Pacific Grade climbs only, though.

BY the way, registration is open in case you were not aware. The team decided to get that going on October 1st and early bird pricing is available until December 31st. And, there’s a $20.00 discount if you’ve ridden it before. Take advantage and sign up now!

SEPTEMBER 9th it was and I remember it like it was yesterday. LOL. I was still not up to snuff and so over the course of several weeks I had downgraded from the Gran Fondo (full century), to the Medio, about 70 miles, to the Piccolo (approx. 40 miles).

I was excited with the idea that I would at least ride in one (1) of the four (4) rides I had signed up for this year.

MY wife joined me and we got a hotel for the night before. I meticulously packed my gear, cleaned my bike (a clean bike is a fast bike, right?), got my nutrition nailed down and was ready to rock.

THE morning of we awoke to a decent rain. WAIT!

Puffy jump suits? WTF? These guys were heading somewhere on the morning of the MGF.

I had my cold weather gear but Mr. Meticulous forgot his rain jacket and his rain boots, or at a minimum, his shoe covers. What a knucklehead! I was feeling pretty good though, so I gave it some thought. 40 miles, 2-3 hours, wouldn’t be too bad. I could handle some soggy socks and shoes and the cold for that long, couldn’t I?

NOPE. I wussed out and we decided on a nice breakfast and a trip to Devil’s Postpile instead.

WHAT an amazing place! The wildflowers were popping, too. That was a big bonus for my other half and we posey-sniffed our way down to “the pile” and back up again, and then we hit up the June Lake Loop on our way back to the East Slope.

Howdy from the scree-pile. That’s Mrs. CA Alps and me enjoying our visit. As you can see, the storm had cleared by the time we, and another couple, took each other’s photos.

I’VE already signed up for next year and I won’t forget to pack that rain gear.

FINGERS crossed I’ve put in my time these past couple of years with medical issues and up and down fitness, and so I’m optimistic that 2024 will be the “Year of Mark.”

I’VE learned a lot about my body (and mind) over this period of angst and anxiety, and will continue to work on the recovery, both physically and mentally.

SEE you out on the gravel (and road) in 2024!