RECENTLY, Mrs. California Alps Cycling has taken a shine to my KICKR and the Fulgaz account connected thereto, and has been doing some sightseeing in preparation for this year’s Tour de France.
WHILE she’s been jumping on the trainer here and there for a few weeks, it hasn’t been until recently that she has really become aware of a benefit of riding in the pain cave she hadn’t paid attention to before: sightseeing!
SURE we get to see some amazing scenery here where we ride (as I suspect you do too), as witnessed by the image at the top of this post, but to be able to ride inside and not just watch sports, or cooking shows, or your avatar, or all of those avatars in front of you for that matter, is a game-changer.
INSTEAD, you get some fascinating glimpses of other parts of the world, and the people in them going about their daily lives.
FOR my wife, it’s been an almost transcendent experience.
SHE now looks forward to getting on the bike and checking out a new locale. It also has given her renewed motivation; some days she saves the ride for later and then resumes it the next day so she can get farther into the course or conquer that little roller that she didn’t have the poop to conquer the previous day.
FOR me, though, it’s always been about the workouts. As you know, I’ve spent countless hours on the trainer, in that pain-cave, either on Zwift or Fulgaz, getting my groove on.
Icicles outside? Riding inside!
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the scenery, whether it be real or virtual, and the air guitar sessions are pretty righteous, but until until my wife started sharing her perspective (e.g. the interesting buidlings, the pretty flowers, the people walking nearby), I’d never thought of it as a way to sightsee.
THAT shared experience is perhaps that best ROI, though. We’ve been enjoying recounting our adventures with each other. She doesn’t glaze over quite so easily when I start talking watts and rollers and I have a renewed sense of appreciation of my surroundings, albeit virtual ones, and even find myself craning my neck to see things on the screen I wouldn’t normally notice.
I’VE even caught myself waving to the locals and other cyclists!
WE’RE going to get my “other-half” and fellow tourist her own Fulgaz account and she’s already talking about budgeting for her own trainer so we don’t have to switch bikes so often.
EVEN better, we’ll be able to ride some of the routes together! Fulgaz does have a group ride option!
Kudos for us at the end of that Pingvallavatn ride.
SO, if someone you know needs a little incentive, or you just want to share more of what you love, maybe you need to show them some love and go on a little day trip together somewhere in France, or Africa, or Australia.
LET’S put this on the table right away…I am a fatike neophyte so definitely take what I’m about to tell you in that context. Please. Still, I do know a bit about the local conditions so a little of what I learned during last week’s adventure was somewhat of a surprise.
T’WAS a crisp and clear morning last Monday as I provided the plan to Mrs. California Alps (always have a plan, including return time and such) and then headed out to Monitor Junction on Farley the Faithful. It was about 30 degrees fahrenheit at departure.
First Lessons, Grasshopper
Fatbikes are kinda slow. Sorry Farley. But they (you) are. Having done that ride out to Monitor Junction hundreds of times prior on a much faster roadbike, it was a bit agonizing. We didn’t want a shuttle out there, though; after all, it was a weekday and we wanted to take advantage of the fact there was no traffic – not hardly a car, and not one snowmobile, to be seen.
I was surprised by how hard it was to peddle over the washboardy snow. And it was a bit like riding in sand in some parts, too. Traction was an issue; fishtailing and pedaling at high-revs for almost the entire time, though, I was able to stay upright. For the most part. 😉
CHECK out this one-minute video for a visual glimpse, and auditory gander…
What I Wore
I decided to go with the same gear I would use in frigid weather on the road bike. Here’s my list:
Castelli NanoFlex cold weather tights – not sure of the exact model
DeFeet Woolie Boolie socks (plus an additional hiking sock)
Castelli Rosso Corso cold weather long sleeve jersey – again, not sure of the model but it had those wetsuit/waffle-like panels in front (see image below)
Pearl Izumi Gloves – thick suckers they were, and plenty warm
Neck thingy – Yeah, Castelli
Craft skull cap with Gore windstopper panels
Giro helmet with visor
Camelback Mule (no, the water in the exposed hose did not freeze)
Specific boots, however, I did not have. My Lowa hiking boots – waterproofed of course (the same boots I wear snowshoeing) – however, did the trick. You definitely need boots for those times you have to get off the bike, which for me, notwithstanding a couple nature-breaks, was due to some deep patches of snow and one or two gawking-stops.
THE night before the ride I picked up some good tips, at it turns out, from fat-bike.com. I think I’ll put some of those Lake MXZ400 boots on my wish list. If I can find a pair of 50’s, that is. Editors note: I ride Lake shoes on the road bike and just love their fit, comfort and Speedplay compatibility.
Riding in the snow is not as easy at it looks
Snowshoeing gear, cold weather cycling gear, etc., works well (hey, east coast, midwest friends, I know you’ve got advice. Lay it on us!)
The ROI is well worth it. On a bike, in the snow, on a day like that…Priceless!
IF you’re a Fulgaz subscriber, by the way, be on the lookout!
I filmed the entire ride, from Monitor Junction to the bridge and back, and then back to Markleeville. About 10 miles (not all in the snow, but lots of “snow views”).
WE leave you with these parting shots and the promise that we’ll continue to hone our skills with the hopes that we can provide more fatbiking adventure stories in the white stuff in the near future.
LAST weekend’s storm dumped about six (6) inches here at HQ in a 36-hour period! Reminiscent of the first winter (that drought buster) we spent here in the California Alps (2016-2017), this storm was a hair-raising reminder of that particular season of rain and snow that seemed to never end. Let’s hope the pattern continues.
Images of Hot Springs Creek (fka the Middle Fork of the Carson). Clockwise from top left: From this year’s recent storm – swollen and blackened (from the ash); after the storm with detritus dropped at the high-water mark; a raging, chocolately version from the winter of 2016-17; from the winter of 2016, before the storm-door opened.
THERE was a definite difference this time, however: this storm came post-Tamarack Fire. That difference was apparent in several ways.
Alpine Co. Unified Command cautioned all of us to have three (3) days worth of supplies in case we were “locked-in” and also warned us to be prepared to evacuate.
The Sheriff’s office staged a trailer of quad runners at the fire station across the street just in case debris or mudslides blocked access to Hot Springs Road. Forward thinking as usual…Thankfully though those “runners” weren’t busted out.
The sandbag station at the fire station was re-supplied and frequently visited. Not by us as it turns out; since it was across the street we decided not to load up bags unless we absolutely needed them.
The water was black (instead of the usual chocolate milk to which we have become accustomed) from all the ash being washed downstream.
WELL, as you might imagine, we weathered the storm and all has returned to some semblance of normal here in Markleeville (and beyond). Hope the same holds true for you.
The Clean-Up Has Begun!
NORMAL these days frequently includes the sounds of chainsaws, log-haulers, bob-tails and other heavy equipment rolling up and down Hot Springs Road and Highway 89 between Woodfords and Markleeville. It’s a good thing (albeit somewhat sad and depressing at the same time); dead trees being removed, batting and such being laid down…Stuff like that.
MANY organizations and community leaders have met, and are continuing to meet, including tomorrow night and Tuesday. We continue to work hard to bring the area back to what it should be. It will take some time, and some of us may not see it, but the process has begun.
Fishing, Peeping and Riding
THE Carson is back to its clear, swiftly moving self and there have been more fishermen (and women) casting their lines recently. Haven’t heard of, nor seen, any whales being taken out, but hey, any day fishing, right? The weather has been glorious since the storm. We’ve even had a couple high-60 days!
FALL colors abound and they seem especially florescent this year. The leaves are dropping but there’s still a few leaf-peeping opportunities here and about. There are patches of red, orange and yellow on Monitor, Ebbetts, Blue Lakes and today I heard that the Walker, Coleville area (Walker River fishing! Oh, boy!) was glowing.
MONITOR is open so you can come here and do some riding in Alpine Co. and Mono Co.
FYI, as of Friday, Highway 4 heading from Markleeville to Ebbetts Pass was closed at Centerville Flat. That’s the campground at Wolf Creek Road. I did ride past the gate several miles to Scossa cow camp – there are NEVER any cows camping there, though -and there is snow on the road. Not sure when (if) they’ll open that gate but fingers crossed we’ll not get too many more chances to try and make the pass this year.
WE need that snow, you know!?
WE’RE off to the annual Halloween parade here in town. Trick or treating is a bit challenging in our little mountainous area so the sheriff’s office closes the road into town, the fire department volunteers fire up the trucks, the kids put on their costumes; and they all parade into town from the library where we greet them with cheers, and gobs of candy.
I’LL have to bring an adult beverage or two to wash down that chocolate.
STAY safe, ride on and let’s kick some spirits’ asses. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
NOPE, they’re not hear yet; at least not in force like they were in the featured image above (taken at the Alpine/Mono Co. border in June of 2019), but they’re coming!
THE flowers are just starting to raise their heads and fingers crossed we’ll get a good pop soon. My guess is that within the next several weeks we’ll start to see more color than we are today. We’ve got lots of yellows, some purples and a few reds but it’s certainly not yet what it can be.
MY wife, my Mom and I were just on Monitor Pass last weekend and were hoping to see some mountain iris, mules ears, lupine and such, but alas, we were disappointed (with the lack of color but not with the view – see below).
AS I’ve alluded to before in many posts, there is a lot more to do here in the heart of the California Alps than ride bikes. Birding, hiking, leaf-peeping, and posey-sniffing are just a few of those other options.
IN fact, in case you missed it, check out this post from last month.
WELL it’s that time of year when many of us are waiting for things to clear snow-wise so we can get to training, whether on the bike or on foot.
SO, here’s a quick update!
I’VE warned you before but I’ll say it again: this pass is for the seasoned rider. The vehicle traffic is heavy, moves fast, and includes lots of hay trucks. Add to that the hairy, approximately five-mile section from Woodfords to Hope Valley and this ride will get your blood pumping (and not just from the climbing).
Still, it’s an iconic climb so I have to mention it.
I talked to a rider in Markleeville last Sunday who had just come down from the pass. The gate was still closed at Raymond Meadow Creek (7000′) but he had, as well as many other riders, jumped the gate and went on up. The road was clear of snow and Caltrans was clearing debris and filling some holes. He mentioned that he talked to riders who had come up from the Bear Valley side and they said the same thing: the western side is almost ready, too.
I have it from a very reliable source that it should be open by the end of the week.
LUTHER has not closed all winter (as is the usual unless it’s really nasty) and I’ve taken several trips over by car in the last few days.
THE road looks good and there is no snow.
BOTH the eastern side and the western side are open so no issues there. Go get you some!
Blue Lakes Road
AS of yesterday, Blue Lakes was open to the third gate so you can’t quite get to the actual lakes unless you jump the last two (2) gates. Not sure of the conditions past gate #3 so enter at your own risk (which is good advice ANYTIME you jump a gate). And you’re right, astute reader, Blue Lakes is not technically a pass but it’s a good climb (and a rip-roaring descent) for certain.
BE sure to have a back-up plan if you get a mechanical and extraction by vehicle is not an option!
Mountain Biking, Gravel Riding and Hiking
THERE are many, many trails here in Alpine County so I’m just going to mention three (3) of my favorites and let you do your homework if you wish to partake of any others. Check out AllTrails for some ideas.
Charity Valley Trail
IT’S a fantastic trail, best done IMHO from Blue Lakes Road DOWN to Grover Hot Springs State Park. Certainly for you hard core “gravelers” the up-direction is an option, but it’s some tough sledding so be sure to set your expectations properly and bring plenty of water and other necessary gear.
Thornburg Canyon Trail
ANOTHER trail that connects to Blue Lakes Road and as you might imagine, coming down is the easier option. It’s an approximately 14 mile out and back with 3600′ of climbing. I’ve not hiked nor biked the entire length of the trail but as you can see, it’s pretty. The above image was taken just a little ways from the Markleeville entrance. You can drive, walk or ride up Saw Mill Road to the trailhead.
THE Alpine Trails Association just met and we discussed the conditions of the trails. Suffice it to say there are still lots of downed branches and trees and other detritus on the trails, and likely still some winter ruts so be wary. The crews have begun work on getting the trails summer-ready but as far as I know we have not gotten to either Charity Valley nor Thornburg.
Wolf Creek Road
THE above photo of Wolf Creek Valley was taken in August of 2018, when it was a bit smoky here due to the wildfires that year, but I’ve heard the road is in pretty good shape and it is a great option for a gravel ride.
It’s been awhile since I’ve ridden the entire road but I do know that the first mile or so (from Hwy. 4) is paved, and then, as I recall, it’s about 5-6 miles of fire road from there over to the valley. There are some sections of rutted, boulder-strewn dirt so keep that in mind.
REMEMBER, activities such as these can be inherently dangerous (my lawyerly sub-conscience reminded me to tell you this) so take part in these adventures at your own risk.
Resources and Grinds
HERE’s a link to the Alpine Co. Road Dept. where you can get more info. on county road conditions here.
BEER? The Cutthroat Brewing Company is now open 7 days a week and you can partake of delictable eats like the Deathride Pizza.
THE J. Markee Toll Station is another wonderful option with a nice lawn where you can spread out and do some people watching. Don’t let the “hole-in-the-wall” appearance fool you; Sandy (chef and owner) and her son Tanner are excellent hosts. We were just there last weekend and and the food and service was awesome!
LAST, but certainly not least, is the Out West Cafe. This place is only open for breakfast and lunch but Joey (chef/owner) always has some unique dishes and his wife bakes the most amazing cheesecakes.
WE’RE still masking up here when appropriate but with so many outdoor options it shouldn’t be too challenging to follow those best practices.
LET me know if you’re coming to town. Perhaps we can get a ride or hike in!
OH and by the way…if you’d like to check out some of these climbs (and other local rides, including some Tahoe rides) from the pleasure of your pain-cave then check us out on FulGaz. Just login and search “Schwartz.”
Fall is giving way to colder temperatures, including some sub-freezing readings here lately, and so I’m working hard to get some of those special rides in, film some fall colors for FulGaz, and knock off some more of those honey-do list items before our epic winter (putting out those Game of Thrones vibes, if you get my drift) sets in.
As you may recall I published a post late last month about riding around Lake Tahoe (aka Big Blue), and one of our loyal readers, Roy Franz, urged me to try the ride again, this time on a weekday and taking the clockwise direction.
And so it was that yesterday I found myself in Stateline, NV, on a fairly brisk morning (about 45 fahrenheit), gearing up to do just that.
Prepping for the Shoot
Yesterday morning I was up at o’dark thirty so that I could prep. my gear and the bike and get the GoPro mounted and ready. There is a little bit of work involved to make sure the camera angle is good, the battery back-up is charged and the top-tube pack that holds the back-up, cable and tool is not flopping around. A bit of “tape-work” is also needed in order to secure the cable to the bike, and to keep the GoPro’s battery and cable connection secure as well.
Before I headed out I used the very cool preview feature to make sure that the horizon was where it should be on the camera and I also double checked the settings too, or so I thought.
The plan was to record the entire ride in three (3) manageable sections, each approximately 1.5 hours long.
Stateline to Meek’s Bay
Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
Incline Village back to Stateline
All geared up. Settings good. Camera angle good. Power button pushed. Requisite beep heard. Hand waved in front of camera to signal the start for FulGaz’s engineers. Off I went.
Switching tacks for just a moment; let’s talk biology. There are a few times during the year that for whatever reason I seem to lose a lot of water weight. Typically a few days after hard efforts or too much mexican food. That salt, you know? I wasn’t expecting this day to be one of those but that’s the way the water works I guess, especially when you have (as my friend Mike would say) a bladder the size of a peanut.
A bit more context…If you do stop while filming a ride for FulGaz (FG) then you just go back about 20 yards from where you stopped and start again. I make a mental note of those instances so I can pass that info. on to FG. The team then edits that section out and for the most part you don’t even notice.
So, after about five (5) stops in the first 30 minutes, I was getting frustrated. Really bladder? Now? Today? Seriously? I kept doing my thing, and re-starting and apologizing to Klaus (their lead-dawg engineer), by commenting during the video. Finally, Mr. Bladder had gotten rid of the excess fluid and I was able to get to Meek’s Bay without another stop.
Beep. Upon my arrival I pushed the button and heard that comforting sound that acknowedged I had in fact stopped recording. I also stopped the ride on my Wahoo and saved it as well; the .fit file then syncs up nicely with the video. It’s also important to toggle off auto-pause or things get a little screwy, and to my credit I did do that. What I didn’t do, though, was look at the camera before I took off from Stateline.
Had I done that I would have noticed that I was in photo mode instead of video mode!
Yup, that’s what the FUBAR portion of this post’s title is all about. After all of that prepping, nature-breaking and riding from Stateline to Meek’s Bay I had NOTHING! Zippo! Nada! Oh well, I thought, at least it was an amazing day so far and I did have a section of this section recorded (when Chris and I did the counter-clockwise route in late September) so I’ll just use that. Still…shit! Or FUBAR! You pick.
Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
I planned on redeeming myself on this portion of the ride and what a BEAUTIFUL segment it was! Not too much climbing and a lot of the course was really close to the water so it should be a really pretty video. I made it to Incline without another bio-break and had a nice encounter (seriously) on the way with a Placer Co. deputy sheriff who pulled up next to me to remind me that two (2) ear buds is not better than one (1) when on a bicycle.
Frankly I’m a bit anxious to look at the clips for fear of another SNAFU (see “FUBAR-link” above) but based on what I saw on the GoPro’s screen (fingers crossed) I got this one so on to the next.
Incline to Stateline – The Finish
There’s a bit of climbing to get up and out of Incline so it was somewhat of a taxing finish but I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to come from such a beautiful place to Stateline with its casinos and such. However, just after I went throught the tunnel at Cave Rock I heard a telltale series of beeps from the camera that indicated that either the battery had died or the media was full. Shit, again. And again, the oh well…If nothing else the FG ride will be Incline to Cave Rock. We shall see. Still not brave enough to look.
The Moral of the Story
Roy was oh so right. What a day of riding in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Clockwise, on a weekday that isn’t a Friday is definitely the ticket. There was much less traffic, the view from the lake side of the road is much better (there are some drop-offs but nothing too scary) and there were fewer tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I like tourists. I realize some don’t right now and I get that, too. IMHO they infuse the area with much needed ducats, yet it seems that sometimes they leave their brain at home, especially when confronted with such amazing scenery.
As for the FulGaz Faux Pas’, what can I say? Apparently I left my brain at home too. I’ve never (add saracastic tone here) done that when I’m doing the tourist thing.
The beauty of it, though, is that I can head back anytime before winter rears its oh so wonderful head and take another whack (or two or three) at it. Looking forward to that!
It’s definitely that time of year…the aspens are glowing here in the California Alps! While some areas have a bit more color than others you really can’t go wrong right now with the blue, almost purple sky, the clean air, the great fishing and for you leaf-peepers, those “poppin’ trees!
Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass
I snapped this image yesterday on my way up Highway 4; right in our back yard here at California Alps Cycling! This photo was taken but a few miles outside of town and as you can see, there is still some room for improvement.
The next 1-2 weeks should do it! Farther up the mountain there were more splashes of color, including some oranges and reds and there were quite a few “wow-moments” on Sunday when CAC members Greg Hanson, Rich Harvey and I took a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek.
Blue Lakes Road
I did cheat a little bit here…this image was actually captured in October of 2018. I did ride up Blue Lakes Road from Hope Valley just last Thursday expecting to see more of the same but alas, just little patches here and there. I was disappointed because I had rigged up the GoPro for a FulGaz shoot; I ‘spect we’ll see sigificant progress in the next week or so, however, and am planning on taking another shot at it. But even if I do, you need to check it out for your fine-self!
Speaking of Hope Valley, the colors at or close to Sorensen’s, now known as Wylder, are AMAZING; one reason I started the session I mentioned above in Hope Valley. But with just a few exceptions there just wasn’t a lot of there, there. Give it a few more days…
Hwy. 89/Monitor Pass
This photo was taken on Monday, October 5th, while we were road trippin’ on Loope Canyon Road. The road is just off Highway 89 on the way up to the eastern side of Monitor Pass and there was just a smidge of color then. I haven’t had a chance to make my way back up but knowing what I know about the area there are, or will be, some nice patches of glow above Heenan Lake, as well as a bit farther up around the 8000′ mark.
And thanks to our friend Mario Carmona (that’s him on the left), who rode up there last Friday, here are a couple of photos that do the area some justice.
Now since we’re in MarkleevilleI am partial to this particular area, BUT no post on fall colors would be complete without mentioning our brothers and sisters to the south, specifically Mono County.
I had the opportunity last October to ride the June Lake Loop and it was a great ride. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you should and you should do it NOW according to what I read on Mono County’s fall color report (of Oct. 6th). Jeff Simpson, by the way, gets credit for the above photo, which was taken off (on?) Lodbell Lake Road. You’ll see his gallery on the link I’ve provided. It’s definitley worth a look!
So Get Out There and Get You Some!
While seeing them via car is fun, riding through colors like this is sicknasty.
Of course you could hike or walk (or ride a horse – I bet that would be sweet!) through them too but IMHO nothing beats doin’ the fall colors by bike, whether that be on the road, on the gravel or on the trails.
The fishing right now here on the East Fork of the Carson is kick-ass by the way. I talked to our Fish & Game Chairman, Todd Sodaro, last week and he let me know they have just planted a whole bunch of whales, one was over 10 pounds! I’m going to see about getting some fish in the freezer here soon.
And, as for grub…The Cutthroat is fully open and has both outdoor and indoor dining going on. Try the Deathride pizza if you can as I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll be looking for the smoke coming out of your ears!
In a couple more weeks we’ll have a new place for munchies too – the Out West Cafe. It will be in the same location where the Alps Haus once was and should be opening by the end of the month.
So come on up, down, over or whatever and get you and your family some fall color karma, some leaf-peepin’ miles, some good grub and maybe a trout or two for the grill. Please remember, though, to do it safely, with the appropriate masking, hand-washing and distancing (i.e. follow those best practices).
See you soon?
Ps. California Alps Cycling is not responsible for you loosing your brain in all of Mother Nature’s splendor. You’re assuming all the risk when it comes to activities such as these and we’d hate to see your trip cut short, or worse, because you bit off more than you could chew or forgot to pay attention. Thanks, my lawyer said he feels better now.