Category: advocacy

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!