Category: community

Siloing in the Sierra. Or, Trying to Reach Enlightenment. Or, Hey, Can We Have a Convo?

THINKING differently? Re-focusing our energy holistically? Integrating? Teaming up? How do we harmonize our efforts and what would the focus of those efforts be? Here at California Alps Cycling I sometimes forget that part of our mission is to “advocate for cycling AND the outdoors.” That “and” is the important part, and over the last several months some of the organizations for which I volunteer have started working towards that end. Many of us have begun (ok, some like ESSRP got there long ago) to realize that we all have one thing in common: the Sierra. There’s that focal-point.

IT’S a different way of thinking for me and it comes from my experiences (some of you have had similar ones I suspect) during the last fifteen years or so of my professional life. Working in silos, or trying not too, is one of the corporate world’s most vexing problems. And one day it hit me. We’re doing that here too in some ways. I hear what you’re thinking. DUH, it’s not just a corporate problem, Mark.

TRAILS associations focusing on trails built just for hiking, for example. Bike coalitions slightly missing the mark about OHVers, groups that often have more political clout, and have shared goals with their two-wheel brethren. Mountain bikers and gravel riders perhaps not contemplating that rock climbers, and cowboys (cow-persons? Too woke? Tee, hee.) use the same trails they do, and so by building to “their specs” in addition to “bike specs” we end up preserving, and serving (stewardship…yeah, baby) that same common ground with one common voice, for similar needs.

THE needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one, right?

RECENTLY, I caught myself missing the mark. Forgive the self-gratifying pun. During the last couple of District 10 Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (D-10 BPAC) meetings I was championing an idea of Becky DeForest’s, former director of the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce. She suggested the committee consider opening the gates on Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 (Ebbett’s and Monitor, respectively) for cyclists and pedestrians AFTER the snow has been cleared but BEFORE the gates were opened to vehicles. We’ve had, and continue to have, some great back & forth on this subject and we’re not done quite yet. My point, though, is about snowmobiling on those same roads and my thougthlessness in first seeking to understand before being understood. Said I during one meeting, “They get to use the roads when the gates are closed but we don’t. Isn’t that a double standard?”

Road closed sign and open gate showing snowmobile tracks on highway 4 in alpine county. ebbetts pass. markleeville

TURNS out ‘bilers have to get permits. So maybe the answer, I realized, is a permit process for bikes and peds too? We’ve got more in common than we don’t, and in many instances we cyclists, hikers, snowshoers and walkers share those same roads. How can we work together to further our common goals rather than work in those dang silos? That should have been my question and it took one of Caltran’s operations gurus to make me see the error of my ways.

NONE of this is malicious. In fact, just the opposite. Most volunteer groups are just so uber-focused on their missions. Their visions. For any of these groups that build and maintain trails and gravel it’s even more important to have that global view. Read this post, by the way, for some insight on that.

monk holding a prayer beads while looking afar

ENJOYING the outdoors isn’t partisan either is it? Being good stewards of the land isn’t blue or red, right?

NOW, we’re not there yet. Un-siloing that is, but I feel a bit of a shift. At least in the organizations in which I volunteer.

In order to further that endeavor, 😉 I did a bit of googling and came across this handy list of ways to “conquer silo mentality,” courtesy of engagebay:

  • Nurture a Unified Vision
  • Use Collaboration Tools
  • Improve Socializing and Cooperation in the Workplace
  • Encourage Remote Work
  • Define Shared Accountabilities
  • Set Common Goals
  • Create Cross-Functional Teams

IS it just me or could we apply some of these principles not only to our volunteer work but also to, oh I don’t know, our interactions with our neighbors? Could we make some progress in Congress if we embraced some of these principles?

C’mon, man, this isn’t The Twighlight Zone.

ACTUALLY, it is. We’ve lost the art, definitely so in the political arena, of civil discourse. I’m seeing and hearing some of that locally, too, on an issue that’s on the ballot next week. It’s getting personal and it shouldn’t be. Disagreement shouldn’t mean disassociation. We’d make a lot more progress if we all left some of our own personal baggage out of the conversation.

FIRST, though, we need to have that conversation. On so many fronts and on so many different levels. Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I wrote this post and admittedly it is a bit of a rambler. Some self-serving cathartics I guess. One of the benefits of having a blog. You can technicolor yawn your feelings onto the page if you’re so inclined.

AS I think about it, it is from a bit of reflection (and drug-induced haze?) on my recent prostate surgery. Bam, just thought I’d slip that in there. Last Wednesday it was and as I write this post I’m still dealing with the post-op fun, and I know there’s more to follow. Yet I can’t help but be grateful for the fact that in the end it was, among other things, a unified vision between my doctors to address my issue (BPH), collobaration between different offices to get to the RIGHT OUTCOME (aquablation), and cross-functional teams (surgeons, doctors, nurses, dieticians, etc.) that helped me, and will continue to help me, heal. I’ll follow up on my progess, and if you are also a BPH-suffering-cyclist, maybe a future post, or this past one, will add some value.

OKAY, I hope all of this resonates with you in some way and I do thank you for indulging me. If it does strike a chord with your fine self then there’s some common ground RIGHT THERE that WE can pay forward. And if it doesn’t that’s okay too.

HAVE a gnarly, super-excellent, scary day tomorrow and…

HOW about let’s throw some ideas in the air with some friends (old ones, or new)? Something spooky-good may come down?

man holiday love people

Advocacy. Bikes. Community. Our New Tagline and a Renewed Purpose

WHEN we formed California Alps Cycling in 2017 the reason for doing so was a simple one: how do we share the beauty, diversity and amazing outdoor opportunities this area has to offer?

I had always enjoyed writing. I’ve practiced it since elementary school, thanks to Mom; and got another dose of “scrivinerspiration” a bit later in life, in junior high, thanks to Mrs. Giacomazzi. Working in the legal field my entire adult life also helped stoke the bug. I still chuckle today at the memory of one particular teacher at Lincoln Law School (I only did a year), Judge James Ware, who in our first class together urged us to write like normal people, without too many heretofores and whereafters. LOL.

SO that monkey had been on my back for awhile, and I had been wanting to start a blog, so the idea of this blog came to mind.

clear light bulb on black surface

THAT idea further coalesced when my wife and I had a conversation on our way to Gardnerville (Nevada) for a doctor’s appointment.

While she was in that appointment I took the first step and reserved the California Alps Cycling URL.

SINCE then I’ve ridden thousands of miles here in our beloved Alpine county and written thousands of words here in the CAC blog.

WE’VE done many days of adoptin‘ and many weekend clean-ups. I’ve spent many weeknights and weekends volunteering (and the associated off-line hours that comes with that) on various boards and committees while at the same time not really understanding the direction I was truly headed.

I guess you could say I was conflicted, or rudderless perhaps is a better description. Not seeing the sign(s), maybe, not paying attention to what the universe was trying to tell me; thinking at one point that I might open a shop, or run tours. Wait, still willing to do that. Now or when I retire. 😉

photo of pathway surrounded by fir trees

EARLY on I also had dreams of perhaps making a living selling really cool, Alps-branded gear. I still sell the gear but I’ve come to realize it’s about the brand, it’s been about the brand, and not necessarly the CAC brand, but the alps brand, the alpine brand, the Sierra Nevada brand, the giving-back-to-the-community-and-surrounds brand.

I’M fortunate enough to have a great employer that among other things, promotes work-life balance. It’s because of my job, I often remind myself, that I can continue to give back to this place that has such a special aura.

LIKE I wrote in my last post, this place needs our help and that help comes from many sources.

Looking west towards Poor Boy Road from Hwy. 89. cleared and many burned ones still standing. Photo taken this past spring.

BTW, when I write “this place” I’m referring to the Sierra Nevada, and not just to the east slope of the Sierra, but the west slope too. And the foothills, which run for hundreds of miles on that west slope, the portion of which just west of us here coincidentally, is known as the “Motherlode.”

Motherlode Bicycle Coaltion

IT was my recent interactions with Rob Williams, Ben Cook and Todd Berg, board members of MLBC, that truly got those turbines to turn, if you will. Rob (Motherlode’s founder) and I have worked together on the District 10 Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) this past year and we’ve had many conversations around events like the Deathride, Mr. Frog’s Wilde Ride and the Ride & Walk 4 Art. Riding bikes, grandkids (his), cats (mine), Markleeville, e-Bikes, gravel riding, and other subjects have been bantied about, too.

AND so it was I found myself talking to Ben and Todd a couple weeks ago while I was in San Jose on a business trip. “Rob said you may be interested in joining our board”, said Ben. That took me a bit by surprise because I had told Rob I’d be willing to get involved. But hey, when you raise your hand and volunteer…

WE three (Ben, Todd and I) hit it off, though, and an invite to Motherlode’s Vision Session would be forthcoming. They held that “vision quest”, as I called it, just last Tuesday. I’d just come from another community meeting, after an arduous workday, and was a bit worn out. I joined virtually, as did a few others, but the majority of the group went to Carl’s house in Columbia. It didn’t take long for the energy in the room to consume me, and the rest of the group.

PART of the meeting outcome was the concept of combining forces, as it were, by bringing Alpine County and the central Sierra into what Motherlode had already begun. Joining the “foothill fold” made so much sense and I was stoked to be able to be a part of something that we all hoped would have some serious legs.

NOW it’s not quite that simple. IT never is. It’s going to take some work (including my assigned homework). It always does.

IN my mind, though, I just saw THE SIGN.

WE (California Alps Cycling) needed to focus our energy differently. We needed to be, not just act like, a coalition. We needed to continue to build on what we had started even though until then we didn’t realize what that was. We needed to be that advocacy-focused, community-oriented, education-friendly organization that our Prana was telling us to be.

SO, as we continue to navigate away from that original retail model to something more like (maybe exactly like) a non-profit model, we’ll be changing things around a bit. A new look for our website, edits to some of our pages; an updated mission. All of these I suspect, and more.

MAYBE even a – gasp! – board of directors.

WHAT started as a getting-to-know-each-other conversation between my wife and I, at the home of two skeptical individuals who both later became friends, Fritz and Nancy Thornburg, has years later come into laser-focus. Now it’s up to us to execute.

WE’LL look to you dear readers, and local riders, and upstanding friends, and friendly advisors, and especially you conscientious contributers, to remind us of that from time to time.

Ps.

We’ll try not to be patronizing or preachy, and if we already have, for that we apologize. We also promise to continue writing about the groovy things that happen around here (and the not so groovy), as well as things to do, see and hear while you’re here, because without you we’d run out of volunteers. 😉

Lastly, just because “cycling” is in our name, that doesn’t mean we’re only about bikes. We promise to advocate for all responsible outdoor recreationists, especially you friendly OHVers who often look at Chris and me in confusion, yet frequently ask if we need anything, when you see us riding our gravel bikes where you drive your toys. Drive on, drivers!