Category: advocacy

Forest Health Here in the California Alps Is Scary – What Can We Do About It?

JUST last week Blue and I went on of our favorite rides – up to Raymond Meadow Creek, or more aptly where Raymond Meadow Creek crosses under Hwy. 4 (on the north side of Ebbetts Pass). We also hit up Wolf Creek Road (and got a 9th place cup on Strava!), another of our favorites.

I’VE ridden the first long segment of this particular ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 times. Similarly, I’ve ridden much of the area’s segments (thanks Strava for capturing that data) dozens and also in some cases, hundreds of times.

  • Ebbett’s north, nineteen (19) times.
  • Kingsbury Grade, nine (9) times.
  • Luther Pass, only four (4) times (on my bike). In the car I’ve done it hundreds of times – it’s the primary route to S. Lake Tahoe.
Before and after…pre-Tamarack Fire (when Roscoe was a road bike) on the left; post-Tamarack Fire on the right.
It’s important to note, too, the apparent healthy forest on the left, really isn’t. Too much understory and too crowded (among other things). Two big reasons that many of our forests, as well as so many others around the globe, have burned with the ferocity and intensity they have.

MRS. California Alps and I have been here almost six (6) years – October 28th is our six-year anniversary. We’ve seen much of the area over many different seasons, as you can imagine. Editors note: I must give a shout out to Mama (mine) California Alps – who’s been here since the summer of 2018.

My Point?

WELL, you’re probably with me already…Our forests are in trouble. We’ve known this for a long-time I suppose but these last couple of years it’s been even more apparent, or more aptly put (at least for us) it’s become outright scary.

The year before we came here it was the Washington Fire. That’s Colorado Hill, near Monitor Junction. It was burned in that fire and seven years later it still looks like this.

LAST year it was the Tamarack and the Caldor. And I’m only talking about the local fires. We’ve all seen it. It’s happening all over the world.

Climate Change Certainly Hasn’t Helped, Either

NOW I’m no academic. Some college but definitely no forestry-related education. I can’t talk to the trees. Okay I do but they don’t talk back. I do hug them, though. The rub here however, is that there are fewer of them to hug. Or in some rare instances, too many of them to hug.

The forests are not happy.
I have thousands of miles of riding around and in them to know it.
To feel it. To see it.
It’s changing.

AND so I found myself, after reading the NY Times guest essay “Yvon Chouinard Is the Founder of Patagonia. He’s Also My ‘Dirtbag’ Friend” thinking that Yvon Chouinard was way more than a mountain-stud, he was a gift to humanity for putting those buckets of Patagonia ducats where his boca is, as he has done for most of his life. When he announced that he was donating Patagonia’s ownership to a trust with profits earmarked to address climate change, I was touched. That, I thought, will make a difference.

HERE at California Alps Cycling we’re not quite as flush as Patagonia but we do what we can. I asked my myself could we do more though? We’ve given many a dollar to local non-profits, Calbike, USA Cycling, the California State Parks Foundation, and others. I suspect you’ve done much the same. Thank you, by the way.

LET’S be clear, however, “not quite as flush” means we make slightly more than zippo from our CAC Shop. It’s a labor of love and a way to spread the gospel of cycling and of the CA Alps. I still need, and truly love, my day job. Made even more special because I get to do it from here. It’s that job and Mrs. California Alp’s part-timer that sustains our Chalet.

HENCE my argument to Mrs. California Alps:

“This cause is a righteous one honey and since we really don’t make enough money from CAC to make a huge difference in our day-to-day, why not donate what we do make to the forest?”

MY biggest supporter, pictured above doing her turn at the booth earlier this year, agreed.

And so forests are going to be our cause.
Our local forests.
The H-T (Humboldt-Toiyabe); the Stanislaus, the El Dorado.
And perhaps others.

WE’VE set up a new page for that reason: Contribute to the Cause. You may have seen it on our navigation menu at the top of our website. Editor’s note: Stripe, the payment processor we use to take donations, is putting a percentage of their dough to climate change, so just a little more goes a little further.

TAKE a peak and if you can help, please do. Please spread the word, too, if you don’t mind. Whether it’s this cause or another, or perhaps a good article or book, or just to inform a friend or colleague.

SWEAT equity will remain a big part of what we’re about. Cleaning highways, building trails, volunteering our riding time for various causes and boards…Giving back to the communities where we live, work and ride. We’ll keep doing those things.

AND from now on, with your help, we’ll also spread a little more green to organizations and individuals that help that green.

STAY tuned for more information, and future reports on our efforts.

IN the meantime, if you want to learn more, please check out our friends at the Alpine Biomass Collaborative. They do more to educate us locals about forest health than anyone else, and their recent presentation by Dr. Malcolm North was another catalyst of the cause. They will be one of the new beneficiaries of our ours.

HOW about you? Ready to follow Yvon’s lead?

Markleeville Musings – Here and There on Hump Day

BLUE and I were on a ride just last week where I took this image of him goofing off a bit near Monitor Junction. ‘Twas a beautiful spring day and the excitement of getting outside took over so he made the leap up and hung out for a bit. 😉

A Bit Of Easter Anyone?

IT was wonderful to get together with family over the Easter holiday. First time the crew has made it up here to the heart of the California Alps since that virus reared its ugly head.

Exact opposite of ugly…

Our two Grand Nieces post-egg hunt. Was an awesome weekend of eats, walks, laughs and eggs. Hope you and yours had loads of bunny-fun, too!

Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC)

The goals of the D10 BPAC align with Caltrans’ core values: Engagement, Equity, Innovation, Integrity, and Pride, as well as Caltrans’ three foundational principles: Safety, Equity and Climate Action.

Bob Highfill – Public Information Officer, Caltrans District 10

CALTRANS District 10 hosted the second meeting of this groundbreaking committee on April 13th and yours truly did a presentation for the group about the Tamarack and Caldor Fires recovery efforts happening here in Alpine County.

BASED on comments in the chat (yup, was a virtual meeting), the presentation was an eye-opener for those who had not seen the damage, and was well received. Lots to do still, but lots has been done already, including some tree planting, seeding and of course dead tree 🙁 removal.

SPEAKING of tree planting…I’ll be joining a bunch of other volunteers this Sunday, May 1st, for another round of seedling sowing.

CONGRATS by the way to Charles Carroll, Associate Transportation Planner at District 10, on being elected Chair of the committee. Applause as well to Rob Williams, of the Motherlode Bicycle Coaltion, on being elected Vice-Chair.

CALTRANS’ Carson Transportation Management Systems Project

Speaking of Caltrans…It held a virual public meeting last week about this project, which “proposes to install traffic management systems and roadside safety improvements in and around the Kirkwood and Carson Pass area at 13 various locations in Amador, El Dorado, and Alpine Counties on State Routes 88, 89, and 4. The scope of work includes changeable message signs, streetlights, vehicle detection systems, closed-circuit television camera systems, roadway weather information systems, highway advisory radios, extinguishable message signs, and maintenance vehicle pullouts.”

SPEAKING of eye-opening…PUBLIC comment was vociferous, especially regarding the signage and the impact those signs would have on areas such as Hope Valley and Markleeville.

COMMENTS are due by May 2nd so if you have something to say about it, let Caltrans know.

Ebbetts And Monitor Passes

ON my ride last week (the same one that I snagged those pix of Blue playing hangbike) the gates were closed at Monitor Junction so no cars could make their way over the passes. Bikes on the other hand…

LET’S just say that I can understand why Hwy. 4 is still closed.

Levels of sediment and rocks showing on Hwy. 4, likely from the Carson as it cut its way through thousands of years ago. Rocks and boulders have come down and can be seen along the side of the highway.

Quite a bit of rockfall (the boulder detritus on the road is just out of frame in the pic. above) and some trees down on the road as well. Since we received some weather here recently I’m guessing there is still some snow up there to be cleared, too.

MRS. California Alps just got back from S. Lake Tahoe and she let me know that signage there indicates Monitor Pass is open. My bet is that Ebbetts will also open soon, perhaps this weekend.

Speaking Of Weather

I caught these quail sheltering from the snow last week. Can you say “hunkered down?”

Last But Not Least

IN yet another sign of spring we spotted this bruin heading towards town on Monday.

Looking pretty porky so early in the season I must say, but hey, that’s how I felt after Easter. Burp.

MY uncle and I spotted this violet springing forth from the ash while on a hike Easter Sunday near HQ.

Happy hump day to you! Have a great backslide into the weekend, and an even better weekend!

The 2022 Deathride is On! And Other Exciting News

LAST Thursday night, the Alpine County Planning Commission officially approved the permit for the 2022 Deathride – Tour of the California Alps!

WHILE it is somewhat of a formality, it’s a necessary and important step to keep things moving forward towards the big day on July 16th. It’s during this meeting that letters of support from various agencies and entities are provided, traffic plans are perused and various other milestones are addressed. The Commission also takes into consideration any public comments, good or bad, in its decision.

SOME public comment was received and it was constructive and positive – warning of the lay of the land (er…road) in and around the Chickaree turnaround (just east of Lake Alpine – where riders will flip a uey and head back up Pacific Grade and then over Ebbett’s Pass for the second time 😳) and suggesting among other things ample warning signage, yet fully supporting the new route. Our ride and event directors were on hand to hear the comments and there is a plan in place to address the concern.

THANKS to the uber-preparation by the Alpine County staff and the Alpine Co. Chamber’s Executive Director, the meeting went smoothly and the Commission had no issues with approving the permit.

LIKE I wrote back in November, fingers crossed that this third try will fly, and as I suggested in January, it’s time to start training for the big day. I myself just finished a 4-week FTP training plan yesterday and was pleased to see that ol’ FTP trending up (from 290 to 297).

MORE importantly, I realized that the Training Peaks plan that I followed would be a good guide for those final weeks leading up to the Deathride. Ramping up for the first three weeks where that third week was the hardest…Then doing some recovery rides and short V02 max workouts for the final week, but finishing the week with two FTP tests; one last Saturday (8 minute test) and one yesterday (full on 20 minute test).

Replace those FTP tests with the ride is what I’m thinking…

YEAH I hear ya though, “the DR” is a whole lot harder than a one-hour FTP test so maybe just recovery rides that final week, eh?

IN any case, we’re all excited, as I’m sure you are, to get things rolling in terms of cycling events. The first one of the season (in the Sierra at least) takes place on March 20th in Calaveras county.

Cyclists and walkers will enjoy the rolling green hills and rural roads of West Calaveras County during the Calaveras County Arts Council’s Sixth Annual Ride & Walk 4 Art on March 20, 2022. With three bicycle ride choices—30, 45, and 100 miles—or a 4.5 mile walk along the shores of New Hogan Lake—there’s something for everybody.

Mother Lode Bicycle Coalition’s post of January 25th

WE’LL be there! You coming?

That Other Exciting News

Speaking of Mother Lode…Rob Williams, chairman of MLBC, and yours truly (along with other cycling and pedestrian advocates within District 10) have recently become members of Caltrans’ District 10 Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). We held our kick-off via WebEx on February 9th and there were over forty people in attendance! It was Caltrans’ idea, by the way, to engage with the community and it all started back in 2017.

FROM the BPAC Charter…

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) adopted the Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan: Toward an Active California in 2017 and the Mode Share Action Plan 2.0 in 2020, demonstrating a deep commitment to plan, design, construct, operate, and maintain walk and bike facilities across the state for people of all ages and abilities. District 10 has identified a need for regular input from diverse members representing walk and bike interests from all ages and abilities to support this work and established the D10 Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (D10 BPAC) for that purpose. 

The D10 BPAC provides strategic input, technical guidance, and process improvement recommendations to support achievement of the walk and bike safety objectives and multimodal network strategies in the 2020-24 Caltrans Strategic Plan. The committee also guides implementation of the Caltrans Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan: Toward an Active California at the District level, through the lens of the District 10 Caltrans Active Transportation (CAT) Plan. The D10 BPAC goals align with Caltrans core values: Engagement, Equity, Innovation, Integrity, and Pride. 

WHAT a wonderful opportunity to contribute, and one of the main reasons we formed California Alps Cycling; we wanted to (as part of our mission reads) “advocate for cycling and the outdoors.” The next meeting is in April and that’s when the real work will start I suspect.

STAY tuned for more info. and updates, and a BPAC website!

A Closed Roads Preview

I’LL leave you with a couple pix to whet your appetitite because as you know, with the exception of the stretch between Turtle Rock Park and Monitor Junction, the Deathride course will be closed to vehicular traffic.

WE had family in town for the Valentine’s Day weekend (catch up celebrations for Mom’s birthday, Christmas and New Year’s) and took the opportunity to go for a walk on Hwy. 89 from Monitor Junction towards Monitor Pass. The road is closed so lots of folks (walkers, cyclists, mountain bikers) are taking advantage of the scene.

JUST be sure NOT TO PARTAKE if you see signs that read “no bicyclists” or “no pedestrians” hanging on the gate. That means Caltrans has some heavy equipment in there.

AND, as I’ve cautioned many times before in this blog, make sure you have an extraction plan and such in case of emergency. ‘Nuf said.

LOOKING forward to kicking some passes’ asses with you this summer!

Be well, stay safe and ride on.

Siren? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Siren!

NEITHER do the Washoe.

AS I understand it, the siren dates back to the early twentieth century and was erected in order to “tell” the Washoe people that it was time for them to get off the streets of Minden, NV, and surrounds, and go home. It still blares its racist message everyday at 6:00 p.m. if you can believe that!

The first time my wife and I heard it we thought it was some sort of test of an emergency siren.

NOT hardly!

IN a recent article written by Kurt Hildebrand of “The Record-Courier” he references a quote from a letter written by Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey on August 6th, 2020 in which Mr. Smokey called on Douglas County and the Town of Minden, to silence the siren.

“This is not a noise complaint but an attempt to bring (resolution) to years of underlying racism and historical trauma and our town,” Smokey said. “The historical trauma of this piece of history has an effect on all generations of Washoe people, including the youth of today. It is a constant reminder of the oppression that was brought upon our ancestors.”

FOR a bit more context (there’s a bill, AB88, pending) click here to read the entire article (see page A4). And, no, we don’t buy the “it’s been re-tasked” argument.

The Sundown SIren Protest Ride

A friend of mine e-troduced me to Matt Niswonger, the organizer of the Sundown Siren Protest Ride, and Matt was kind enough to provide some more information:

  • This is a fundraiser ride. Everything (100%) donated to the link below goes to Washoe outdoor programs through their juvenile probation program. Donation is not mandatory but here is the link in case anyone wants to: https://www.pledgereg.com/tahoe-siren-fundraiser-ride.
  • The $48 registration fee is to help offset the cost of insurance and the video we are making of the event; as well as the pre-ride meal we are serving the night before at the riders meeting.
  • The ride involves about 5K feet of climbing and 20 miles – all on trails. Mountain bikes are recommended but it might be possible to ride a gravel bike. Matt says this is suitable for expert riders. “It’s a protest ride so we are not racing and will be mostly sticking together.
Map of the Sundown Siren Protest Ride course

WRITES Matt: “I really appreciate you raising awareness about this protest ride. I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has. If anyone wants to register there is still room for a few more. In case anyone has questions about the Minden sundown siren here is a petition I started with some info.”

WE REALLY APPRECIATE people like Matt, and my friend John Dayberry, and so many others, who are champions of what’s right. Matt can be reached, by the way, at matt@adventuresportsjournal.com.

I’LL be out of town next weekend or I’d be there. Editors note: I’m kinda glad; the course looks gnarly. 😉

Still, we’ll be sending in our donation (and signing the petition) and hope you can find some time to ride next Saturday, donate to a good cause, or both.

Coming May 25th! The Interregional Stakeholders Meeting and Workshop

OUR friends at the California Bicycle Coalition are hosting the final Interregional Cycling Tourism Community Outreach Workshop and Stakeholder Meeting at 5:30 p.m. P.T. on May 25th.

WE’LL be there and hope to see you too!

IT’S a fantastic chance to make your opinion known!

AS Rob Williams, CalBike’s Community Outreach Manager, wrote in this recent post, you too can “help shape the future of cycling tourism.”

We need your help to learn as much as we can about these Showcase and Trails. We’re relying on you, an actual cyclist who has ridden the roads, knows the proposed bike trails, and to tell us what needs to change and what that change should look like. We want our proposals to reflect the experience and needs of bicyclists and lead to real progress in making Northern California a premier cycling destination.”

You will join other stakeholders—recreational cyclists, business owners, tourism, civic leaders, and government officials—who all want to encourage cycling for a better local economy, and a healthy resource for residents and visitors alike. We strongly encourage you to participate in this exciting and ground-breaking opportunity to shape the future of cycling recreation in Northern California.

WE, along with other Alpine Co. stakeholders, participated in one of the five initial meetings CalBike held in Caltrans’ District 10 last month. It was well attended and lots of good ideas and information were shared.

WHAT a unique opportunity to contribute to the cycling landscape of the region!

LET’s keep the vibe going!

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE MEETING on Tuesday the 25th at 5:30 p.m.

SEE you then!

Feel free to download the cycling club flyer or meeting info. in the meantime.

Honey I’ve Sold the Car – And Bought You an eBike

THE look on my wife’s face as she yelled “TURBO” must have been pretty sweet. I can only imagine it, though, since I was her sweep.

SHE has since named her bike “Bessie.” The sister of “Beast,” my eBike. They are both Treks. I’m a loyal “Trek-for-life” fan. There are reasons for that but that’s a story for another time. Or not.

ANYWAY, Bessie and Beast are Class 1 eBikes (thanks REI for the webinar a couple weeks back – I now understand those classes) BUT they are much more than that. A bit of context: I had originally purchased these beefy full-suspension Rail 5 29ers back in November when the bike shop was still a gleam and I had planned on renting them out – alas no more. This too perhaps another story for another time…

BACK to the bikes…Having decided not to rent them but instead keep them for ourselves, we have discovered that

They are MIRTH MACHINES!

I’VE heard what some people say: eBikes are not pure. They’re not “real” bikes. They’re cheating. Okay, on the cheating part. If you’re racing and not telling other racers. Roger that. Oh and there’s the “they tear up the trails” argument. They can, but that’s the rider not the bike doing the tearing. Right?

WHEN I posted that piece last year about the bike shop, I boosted it (i.e. placed an ad) on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. All but one. The detractor wrote something like “any shop that rents eBikes won’t get my business.”

I just don’t understand that.

THE laughter and shrieks of joy that I’ve heard from my spouse has made me laugh and giggle and has been enlightening. I’ve seen other riders, and talked to them too. Riders who either wouldn’t be riding, or if they were riding, they wouldn’t be riding THAT TRAIL, or climb, or…well you get the idea. It would be too hard or too far. But riding eBikes with my wife has really resonated, and it’s what gave me the idea for this post.

WITH eBikes, it’s not too hard or too far, and for older bike riders, or riders who can’t keep up with their riding partners, eBikes are a GAME CHANGER.

BEAST allows me to cast my mind back, too. It’s so very reminiscent of those feelings from the days of my youth, jumping dirt berms and homemade ramps on my yellow, sissy-bar equipped, Schwinn 5-speed.

IT’S impossible not to smile when riding an eBike. I’m talking bugs-on-your-teeth smiling. I just love zipping around on Beast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Moped. There is some work involved. I’ve yet to really run Beast through his paces but that will come. Right now it’s a way for me to enjoy a rest day and ride with “the wifey.” And since she’s a novice, or more appropriately put, out of practice, I can do the sweep thing and be her wingman.

That’s me and Beast on one of our first rides together. Mud splatter on glasses, bugs on teeth and just a whole bunch of fun!

Hey! Just thought of this: as she gets more comfy I’m thinking I’ll grab the road bike every once in awhile and have her motopace me. Yet another plus!

Then There’s That Environmental STUFF

AS I alluded too earlier in this post, REI held a great webinar a couple weeks back. My wingwoman and I attended. We learned a lot. It also got me thinking…I don’t drive that much anymore. Sometimes Clara, my Outback — hey, what can I say, I like to name shit, okay? — sits in the garage for days. In this case she’s named after our realtor. Clara, our realtor, not the car, had our backs – you can read more about her here if you’re so inclined but suffice it to say “Clara” was an obvious name for the car.

MOVING on. My Mom needs a new car. I don’t need a car. I have an eBike that I can use to go to town for the mail and such and I can also ride it on trails. And my wife has a 4WD Colorado so really, we’re good. Oh, and Mom lives on the property so I’ll still be able to visit Clara. She’s a cool car. I’m going to miss those paddle shifters let me tell you. But Mom says she’ll let me drive her if I get to jonesin’ for those paddles.

WHAT we’re doing, though, is reducing our three-car family to a two-car family. And that’s pretty sweet. I know that means they’ll be days when one of us could be left alone at home without a car. Not a big deal necessarily but in the mountains, especially during fire season, something we’ll have to plan for/consider.

AND, we’ll save on various expenses, including fuel, insurance and maintenance. As it turns out, CalBike agrees.

IN a recent post about its E-Bike Affordability Bill, AB117, there’s a good quote: “E-bikes are one of the best ways to replace car trips with clean, green transportation.” I guess I knew that but I’ve been focused on eCars not bikes. Tesla and BMW and Toyota and others have been getting all the press. Especially Tesla.

BUT eBikes…That’s an apple I like. And so I’m all in. Well, mostly in. It’s not like I have a cargo eBike.

Wait…Honey!?

A Bike Shop in Markleeville? Tell Us What You Think!

It’s always been my dream to own a bike shop. When we started California Alps Cycling back in 2017 we thought that perhaps it could someday morph into a brick & mortar business and come spring of 2021 it just might!

And that’s where you come in…we’d like to know what you think about the concept.

  • What would you like to see in the shop?
  • Do you think we should rent bikes?
  • Should we offer tours?
  • Would you frequent such a business?

First, Some Background

For those of you who’ve visited Markleeville in the last couple of years you may recall our little gas station: “Al’s Got Gas, Bait and Tackle.”

This is Al’s, in its early stages, before it had signage and such.

The station has been open 24/7 for awhile now but the convenience store (right side) and the retail shop (left side) have not been open for the past year, for the most part because the owners have been too busy with their day jobs. They have reached out to us and suggested we take over Al’s and put in some sort of shop as well.

So we’ve been talking about doing something along the lines of what our friends at Bear Valley Adventure Company do, e.g. rent bikes, repair bikes, sell souveneirs, sell basic outdoor gear – and not just cycling gear – and host the town’s gas station.

Side note: BVAC is light years ahead of where we would be when we opened but our hope is that we too could eventually offer some winter sport activities as well.

In case you weren’t aware, 95% of Alpine Co. is public land and there are TONS OF THINGS TO DO HERE IN THE WINTER but no real organized events. Coincidentally, the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce has formed a working group to try and remedy that and yours truly is a member of that group.

But, I digress.

Participants lined up at the starting line at last year’s Earth Day Kid’s Bike Race.

Making a Difference

The image above says it all, at least from our perspective. Yours truly, and fellow CAC member Chris Schull, wrenched on the kid’s bikes in the a.m. so they could race ’em in the afternoon. To see those furiously peddling legs…Those smiles…What a day it was!

We believe we’ve already made a small difference in our community but we’d like to do more.

  • We want to help people with their bikes.
  • We want to educate.
  • We want to advocate.
  • We want to host group rides.
  • We want to sponsor events.
  • We want to help our community continue to grow (but keep our small town, alternative to South Lake Tahoe, vibe).
  • Oh, I should mention that while we’d like to sell bikes that’s likely not possible due to several factors but hey, you never know…

What do you think?

Can you help us reach the finish line?

We’d like to hear from you, our loyal readers, our members, our customers and perhaps you, our future customers.

Tell us what you think.

Don’t hold back.

We really want to know!

Honest.

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

Pedalling During the Pandemic – an Imperfect Practice

If you’re like us, and the other cyclists, mountain bikers, gravel riders and e-bike riders we know, then you haven’t given up riding, or other outdoor activities, since our battle with Covid-19 began. Mark continues to ride, although he now carries some additional equipment he didn’t carry before. Note: he DOES NOT wear the mask while riding.

Mask and container, and a tube of hand sanitizer, make up Mark’s Covid-19 cycling kit. No gloves, though.

Other members of our merry band of troublemakers also continue to ride and as far as we know none of them are doing it Lone Ranger style – who was that masked man? Of course, that would be the WRONG type of mask to wear anyway, but hey we’re going with a bit of poetic license, k?

A New Dynamic

There’s a new and interesting dynamic on the road, paved or gravel, and the trail too. We’ve seen masks (only once) and no masks, big groups and little groups, social distancing and not so social, or more correctly stated not so distant, distancing.

What used to be a “approach the rider in front to say hi and yak a bit” is now a full-gas approach from behind, giving appropriate space in case of droplets, breath, or god forbid, actual phlegm, and then allowing at least six-feet of elbow-room, with a wave as we go by.

From “Medium’s” post of April 7, 2020.

That feels somewhat rude to us. Does the rider we just passed think we were waving hi or do they think we were being a-holes and emphasizing just how slow we thought they were? Hopefully the former. Perhaps a “howdy” or “beauty day” we just realized, would alleviate that confusion (or our consternation) — need to start doing that.

Just How Much Is Enough?

Speaking of appropriate space…Our friends over at PedalWORKS published a post (last month we think) that really hit home with us – 6 feet ain’t enough, riders! We tried to find that post and the appropriate link thereto but no dice.

So instead here’s a link to the post from which the above image is taken — Hey PedalWORKS, was this one of your sources? It looks familiar!

The Belgians and Dutch (’twas their study) have the cycling creds to be able to speak to this with some (ok, a lot of) authority. Here’s their highlight:

On the basis of these results the scientist advises that for walking the distance of people moving in the same direction in 1 line should be at least 4–5 meter[s], for running and slow biking it should be 10 meters and for hard biking at least 20 meters. 

20 meters? That’s 65.62 feet in case you were wondering!

Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s Social Distancing Series

We wrote about this last month but it’s worth mentioning again; the club continues to nail it!

Side note: As a member of this club, Mark’s been participating in this series and has just finished week #6. He loves the number nine apparently: four 9th places, one 10th place, and one snake-eyes. His goal is to finish the series in the top 10 and our math shows him at an average of 9.5 so far. Still a ways to go…

Advocates for Safety

We here at California Alps Cycling feel very strongly that as cyclists and riders we need to go the extra mile. No pun intended. We’ve seen so many photos on Strava, and elsewhere, that seem to indicate many, many individuals are taking a nonchalant approach by riding way to closely together or taking group shots where there is barely any distance between riders at all.

While we understand it may not be a perfect science, and that we could be a bit paranoid, we’re concerned that it sets the wrong example.

See our post from a couple weeks back where we speculate why some drivers hate cyclists. This “hey we’re too healthy, or pretty, or whatever, to get this thing” approach is adding fuel to that fire in our opinion.

What’s Your Approach?

Perhaps you can help…what is your club doing? What are you doing? Are you riding inside? Not riding at all? Wearing a mask? Holding your breath while passing another rider or posing for that group shot? Wearing an oxygen mask? What?

We’d love to hear how you’re dealing with the Covid-19 adversity. Or are you?

Why Some Drivers Hate Cyclists and What We Can Do About It

Well if you’ve ridden as much and as often as I have (and even if you haven’t) then you’ve likely gotten yelled at, or honked at, or worse. We’ve all heard those stories about “the worse” and my bet is that some of you may have experienced it. Lucky for me, I haven’t, and of course I hope I never will.

A few years back, though, when I was riding the Mendocino Monster – and a monster it is, a driver intentionally plowed into a small group of cyclists out of frustration and rage (that’s what we were told, anyway). Thankfully, no one died. As I recall, though, at least one rider was taken to the hospital. One of my greatest fears when on the bike, if not the greatest: road rage.

Some Drivers are Just Shitheads

And there’s nothing we can do about that. Unfortunately. They, their friends and their family have to deal with that. I don’t envy any of them. It should be said, too, that some cyclists are also doody-heads (my friend’s son Mikey coined that term).

In any case, there’s not much that can be done for someone who is just an a-hole by nature; just give them a wide berth and figure that karma will take care of business.

Some Drivers Just Don’t Know

They don’t understand why we do what we do. They don’t know what it’s like to push themselves to the limit on a bike (or perhaps on a treadmill, or in a weight-room).

Most importantly, they don’t know the law (i.e. THE VEHICLE CODE). In CA, for example, they don’t know that V.C. section 21200(a) reads (in part): “A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle…”

They don’t appreciate that V.C. section 21760(c) reads: “A driver of a motor vehicle shall not overtake or pass a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway at a distance of less than three feet between any part of the motor vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator.

It’s not their fault; they just don’t know.

Some Cyclists Act Like Prima Donnas

We’ve got our carbon fiber, or titanium, or unobtanium bikes. We’re rocking the lycra with the bright, tight jerseys and the high-end shoes that sound like horses hooves when we’re getting that espresso. We’ve got our own lingo. We often ride in groups (well, maybe not so much right now) and don’t follow the “single-file please” best practice. Most times that’s just because we revert, as I tell some of my non-cyclist friends.

Some Cyclists Revert to Childhood

We can’t help but go back to the time when we were five and we could do whatever the hell we wanted on our Sting-rays! Sometimes, though, it’s because we feel or act like we’re privileged. Hey, we drive cars too! We pay our taxes! We’re entitled to the road as much as a car, damnit! While this may be true, when we harrumph about it too much or too loudly, we become the shithead.

What We Can Cyclists Do About It

First and foremost – we can engage, advocate and educate. We also need to listen. One of the first things I did when I wanted to start this little adventure called California Alps Cycling was reach out to one of my neighbors. Nancy Thornburg was a community leader (unfortunately we lost her on December 31st, 2017) and she was known for her outspokenness, but also for her fairness and kindness. When I called her to explain my idea she said something like: “you know we don’t care much for cyclists, right?” I replied that I did know that and it was exactly for this reason that I wanted to talk with her.

She invited me and my wife up to her and her husband Fritzes house, and we got to know each other. I explained why for example we don’t ride close to the fogline all the time and admitted that yes, periodically we were dolts on bikes. I also pointed out that most of us help our communities, do more than ride bikes (i.e. fish, eat at restaurants, shop at the general store, etc.) and that we also drive cars. She and Fritz related to me some of the things we do that pissed them off and I acknowledged she had a point. Several actually. We became friends. I miss her.

What Else Can We Do?

Participate. Without asking for anything in return. Be active in the community, whether that’s picking up litter (as you may know, we “own” a stretch of Hwy. 89 here in Markleeville and we do our Adopt-a-Highway routine several times a year) or clearing rocks from the road.

Empathize. Occasionally I’m a nut. I’m a distracted cyclist. I’m talking to my friend and I’m being an idiot. That guy should have been irritated at me. I would have been too!

Attend local events. Especially those that are not cycling related. It’s a great way to show you care and that you’re not just about the bike. Contribute your opinions, your time and if you can, your money. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Smile and wave more often. It sounds simple but I find most riders don’t do it enough, or at all. I salute the CalTrans drivers whenever they pass. I ALWAYS wave or acknowledge other riders and most of the time I smile and wave at cars (or the drivers thereof). When I don’t it’s because I shouldn’t, or can’t – i.e. a big wind gust; a sharp turn; I’m about to pop an eyeball on that climb.

What Do You Think?

Am I smoking something? Too simplistic? Right on? Have you had any run-ins that ended well because you took the high-road? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with your fellow readers?

I’d love to hear from you. I promise, I’ll listen. Even if you don’t ride a bike!