Category: deathride

The 41st Deathride – One Rider’s Experience

TEN days has passed since the 41st Annual (kinda) Deathride (aka The Tour of the California Alps). We’re starting to relax a bit here in Alpine County, yet at the same time we’ve begun preparing for next year’s ride. Not kidding.

THAT, however, is a story for another day.

TODAY we have a guest blogger! Amador County resident, and Deathrider Bill Condrashoff. I’m pleased to put forth, for your reading pleasure, Bill’s story about his “day of death.” Editors notes: First, let’s be clear. No one has ever died on the Deathride. Second, the following words are all Bill’s and they WERE NOT edited for clarity or whatever else some news programs might say. That wouldn’t be fair to Bill. It’s his story, and a good one at that. I did take the liberty of throwing in a few photos, though.

IT’S been 3 years since I rode the Death Ride and I missed it. I was in my 50s last time. So I thought I’d see if could still do it in my 60s. I wasn’t planning to better my best or even go for a fast time. I was just going to try to finish. I mentally prepared myself for being passed by the young riders and to just let it go. I’d be happy enough just being out there enjoying what I like to do. Then I got a call from my riding friend Kevin, who was going to come out and enjoy the festivities for old times’ sake. He wanted to know when I would be riding through Markleeville. I told him I would come through between 3 and 4PM. He couldn’t accept that for an answer and convinced me I would be there by 3PM for sure. So he was going to look for me between 2:30 and 3:30PM.

I didn’t know anyone else riding it this year. It was going to be a hot one. I was ready to ride at 5AM but ended up starting at 5:04 or so. Close enough. With the hot weather predicted for later, I knew I had to get in and out of the back side of Monitor Pass as quickly as possible so as not to get fried in the desert. Each side is about 3,000 ft of climbing.

Riders coming up the Eastern side of Monitor pass. Near the Mono/Alpine Co. county line.

When I started, it was about 65 degrees and my legs felt good. I was pedaling up Monitor in a matter of minutes. Most people knew it would be hot and started when I did. I was in a sea of riders just before sunrise. It was calm and all you could hear was the sound of heavy breathing, tires rolling over the pavement and an occasional conversation. Then the grade got steep and the sound of hundreds of bikes downshifting filled the rocky canyon. I was in my lowest gear but not too bad off. As we went up, I could see the sunshine start to cover the mountains around Ebbetts Pass. It looked a long way off and later the ride was going 15 miles beyond Ebbetts before riders would turn around. Of course, at this moment, I was headed AWAY from that pass. Then I realized I needed to get my head in a good place to be able to succeed. That meant having some fun along the way and paying attention to how my legs were feeling.

Before I knew it, I was over the first pass and it was time to have some fun. I gulped some salt tabs and chased them with fluid then started to pass some riders before the unthinkable happened. Some dude passed me going downhill! It was still shallow near the top for a while, but I decided it was time to have some of that “fun along the way”. So, I chased. I might seem like a thin man, but for a cyclist on the Death Ride, I’m a big boy (gravity is my friend on descents). I was up to him pretty quick and I got by him just before the grade got steeper and the spectacular view of the desert appeared. I could see his shadow racing mine on the pavement. He wasn’t just going to let me go ahead. I focused on my line and how to avoid the hundreds of bikes around us. He stayed with me in the twisties and that impressed me because I know the road very well. A couple of times I saw what looked like his shadow riding off the road over the cliff. But, it would always come back where I could see it. Left, right, left, right, pass 12 riders at a time, left, right, left, right, pass 12 more. Then after we came around a righty, and just before a lefty I saw something that scared me. It was guy with a camera standing on the double yellow center line taking photos at the apex of the turn! I could go left or right of him. Both options seemed bad at the speed I was going. So, I braked and went right of him (on the slower line) and the rider making the shadow passed me. I thought “Ok, it’s still a long way down and I have gravity on my side.” After a slower turn, I got back up to him and made a slingshot pass using his draft. It was pretty straight after that so the bigger boy wins, and that was me. At the bottom he was as jacked as I was. We averaged 42 for 7.5 miles with a max of 50mph. We talked about it halfway back up the climb out of the desert before he went ahead of me. 

IT was quite a bit warmer on Monitor Pass the second time over. But, it wasn’t too bad. I still had a good attitude. I pretty much had the second descent to myself and it is less fun to go fast without traffic. So, I decided not to push my luck and conserve energy (and blood). As I started up Ebbetts Pass, Shadow Rider passed me and we discussed how he got behind me. He had taken a nature break. We rode a little while then we both stopped at Wolf Creek for my first water stop. 5 miles up the road he passed me again on the steep stuff. By then the bike traffic was thinning a lot. This told me that I was doing well. It was like the good old days of the 2010s. I kept trying to extrapolate the time I would get to Markleeville because I knew I would be slowing down as I rode. It seemed like I would get there before Kevin left.

I got to the top of Ebbetts feeling pretty worked over. I thought “If I ride over the top, will I be able to climb out of there?” Editor’s note: Even though he was pretty worked over that skeleton is not Bill. This photo, in fact, was taken during the 2018 Deathride. It is, though, at Ebbetts Pass.

AND that’s not the worst of it. Pacific Grade Pass is new to the Death Ride this year. After you go down the back of Ebbetts, you go up Pacific Grade’s 24% slopes. This was sure to lessen my chances of getting back out of the hole I was about to ride into. Against my better judgement, I went for it and Pacific Grade felt steeper than ever. That road tests you at the start with some short 20% grades followed by shallower grades. Then back to steep, then not so steep. Just when you think you’re past the worst of it, the road seems to disappear in front of you. The first right hand switchback is so steep and sharp that it looks like the end of the road. But, it just turns so sharp that it looks like a dead end. Too bad it wasn’t. I would have been happy to turn around at that point. Standing in my lowest gear, wishing I had three more, I could feel the last of my legs slowly being left on the road. On the steep grade, each time I thought I would need to stop, the slope would ease off just enough to keep me from quitting. Before I knew it, it was over and I was at Mosquito Lake on Pacific Grade Pass.

THIS was my chance to rest on the easy pedal to the turnaround at Lake Alpine. Shadow Rider passed me here again and when he did he asked me how long I thought my ride was going to take. I said “If all goes well, 10 hours. If all goes not so good, 11 hours.” I saw him again at the turnaround and spent too much time talking and not enough time drinking. Rolling out of the rest stop, I could tell I was starting to lose power. But I told myself “just get over Ebbetts one more time and you can coast for 30 minutes.”

IT wasn’t much of a ride back to Mosquito Lake. But boy I felt it. After the lake, the drop down Pacific Grade is so steep that you have to get your weight behind your saddle, like on a mountain bike, or you can easily go over your bars when you try to slow for the hairpin turns. I needed to stall because I was so fried. So, I just went slow this time and kept all my blood on the inside by not falling.

The mountains and trees reflected in Kinney Reservoir (about a mile north of the pass). This photo was taken on my first ascent up to Ebbetts Pass (from Markleeville) in 2016.

THE last pass was Ebbetts and I was ready for a struggle and that’s exactly what I got. The pass isn’t that long or steep. What makes it so difficult is all the other climbs before it. Shadow Rider passed me for the last time and I never saw him again. I was crawling (at best) up the hill and just looking for a reason to stop when a guy on the side of the road asked me if I had a CO2 tire filler and if he could use it. That was my excuse! So I stopped with enthusiasm to help him. We got him going quicker than I wanted. Once I started rolling again I felt better. It was only about 500 ft of vertical up to the top from there. When I rolled over the top it was like standing on Everest to me. I was going to make it. My stomach was upset and, due to dehydration I wasn’t sweating anymore. But now it was all downhill for a long time. I filled all bottles for weight and for makeshift perspiration. I drank all I could and poured the rest over my head, front and back as I mostly coasted down towards where I started the day. The cooling plan was working pretty well for a while. But then the temperature started really going up when I dropped below about 7000ft elevation. All the gains I made the first 10 minutes of coasting were getting erased by the heat.

THE 5 miles of road along the canyon that leads to Markleeville were so hot and dry that I would get cotton mouth just 30 seconds after a swig of water. And now, my legs were starting to cramp. Through all of this, I realized I had a shot of finishing the ride in under 9 hours. Remember, 10 hours was my best case scenario. Imagine my surprise! The only obstacle between me and a 9 hour time was the last 20 to 30 minute climb, in nearly 100 degree heat with cramping legs and only about a pint of warm water.

I rolled into Markleeville and looked for Kevin (hopefully with tons of cold water). But, I was an hour ahead of my best predicted time and he wasn’t there yet. In order to beat 9 hours, I had 25 minutes to get up the last hill and figured I’d just see what happened. A woman standing in the street offered me a cold Gatorade. I stupidly said “no thanks” and rode by her. Just past her, I reconsidered and turned around and stopped next to her. She had just ridden both Monitor Passes and had a sense of how I felt. I poured the cold Gatorade into my bike bottle, thanked her and rode off. 50 feet from there, I saw Kevin just as he yelled my name. He had just gotten there and he was prepared. He had ice, cold water, and pantyhose to put ice into and hang around my neck as I rode. He knew all the tricks to beat the heat. Now it’s only 20 minutes to my 9 hour goal! I asked him if he thought I could get up that last hill in 20 minutes and he said “NO”. I still wanted to try, and told him I didn’t want to bother with the panty hose trick. He decided I could use a splash of cold water and poured what felt like an Ice Bucket Challenge cooler full of water over my head. I was yelling “heart attack, heart attack” without breathing out. It was so cold. I was freezing now. I thanked him and took off with 17 minutes to get up the hill. At first I still felt pretty drained so I just went at a pace I thought I could do and drank the Gatorade as fast as I could before it got warm. About halfway up the hill I could see the top. I still had 9 minutes. Then a guy about 50 feet ahead of me turned around and said “tailwind”. There was a tailwind, and it was a good one too. I still had goose bumps on my legs from the icing incident. I thought “I’m going for it.” I picked it up a notch, and seeing how the road got steeper at the end, I timed a last ditch effort to the finish. I watched the time get closer and closer to 9:00:00 on my Garmin. For the last 15 minutes I’d been telling myself not to ride for 9 hours and pull up a couple minutes over 9. So I grabbed a gear and really made sure. 8:58:05!

THIS was about my 12th Death Ride. I’ve been trying to beat 9 hours and have never been able to do it before this ride. The new route is about an hour shorter than the old one. But still, I can now say that I did the Death Ride in under 9 hours! My rolling time was 8:38:XX. So I spent about 20 minutes not moving. The ride was 103.3 miles with 13,999 ft of climb. I averaged 11.9 MPH, maxed 51.3 MPH, averaged 156 watts for a total 1.4 kWHr of energy output. Now your electric bill of $0.60/kWHr doesn’t seem like such a high price, does it? My average heart rate was 133 BPM and max was 150 BPM. According to Strava, I was about the 50th finisher of all six passes.

I signed my name on the big Death Ride poster over the forehead of the skull, as usual. I burned about 5,000 calories, and I got it all back in the breakfast Benita made for me on Sunday morning. One last editor’s note: Only finishers get to sign the poster. Will you add your name next year?

CONGRATS, Bill! I think I can see your signature somewhere in there. 😉

WHAT a ride you had and what a great story. And a PR to boot. Sweet!

THANKS so much for sharing and we’ll see you next year for lucky 13!

Deathride 2022 – Il Finito

AFTER a two-year hiatus we finally pulled it off. Deathride 2022, with the new course into the Lake Alpine area, with Pacific Grade x2 added, was a MASSIVE success!

YOURS truly was not fit enough to attempt what Peter Stetina says is one of the hardest century-rides in the country, but I did spend this morning doing a bit of “ambassador-ing” on part of the course. I hit Hwy. 4 about the time the fastest riders were coming down from Monitor Pass and heading up to Ebbett’s Pass.

EVEN though those two HC climbs are challenging, and the sunshine and blue sky was brilliant, the smiles of the riders still lit up the road. After days of smoke-filled skies we were blessed by Ma Nature with clear air yesterday and today. Yeah, it’s hot (over 90 degrees fahrenheit today) but it wouldn’t be the Deathride without some sort of weather “event,” right?

THE riders I talked to while on the road today, and yesterday during the Expo., were so appreciative of the opportunity to attempt the ride yet again.

THAT included my friend John K. from Chula Vista.

SO far the rider from London takes the cake for distance. All the way across the pond! Seriously? As I write this post from the Expo I’m waiting for him to stop by the booth so he can pick up his free California Alps Cycling cap. He’s definitely earned it. I also talked to riders from Colorado Springs, Maryland and Idaho. So many more came from so many places…How cool is that?

AND the volunteers…What a truly amazing and inspiring bunch of folks. From rest-stops to water-stops; from radio comms. to medical; from litter picker-uppers to booth staffers and registration signer-uppers…everyone was on their game and so welcoming of the ride and riders.

THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!

THE first finishers started coming in around 11:30 a.m. or so and the first woman rider came in about 12:30. That’s FAST! Way faster than anything I’ve ever done, or will do, that’s for certain. It’s now 3:30 or so and riders are still coming in. Sweat-stained jerseys and bibs, white coated from sunscreen in some cases, many of them a bit disheveled for sure, and yet such a sense of pride. As it should be.

Deathriders making their way up Hwy. 4 towards Ebbetts Pass. After they’ve done Monitor x 2. Video taken at Scossa Cow Camp. If you look closely you can see the “Scossa ladies” setting up a viking skit for the rider’s entertainment.

HUGE thanks to the sponsors of the Deathride, too. Talk about resilience! About twenty (20) came out, including us of course. We had coffee, schwag, beer and more thanks to their efforts.

A special tip ‘o the hat to Tamo and Nikki, founders/owners of ATAQ fuel, and one of our marquee sponsors. If you haven’t tried ATAQ’s products, by the way, you should. I’ve been using it since last year and I really like it. No gut issues and a plant-based product to boot!

SIERRA Nevada deserves special mention, too. They have supported the ride for years and continue to do so. And their beer is the best! Ahhh…

DID I mention that it’s hot? I guess I did but I’ll say it again. It’s toasty today. I can’t help but marvel at the attitudes of the riders. Yeah, you have to be fit but in the end, as my brother-from-another-mother would say, the Deathride is really a state of mind. We are truly blessed to have such support from riders all over the world.

THERE are still some riders on the course so those final data points are still TBD.

IF you were one of the many, whether you be a rider, volunteer, spouse or partner of a rider, you name it, a heartfelt thanks from the Alpine County community. We couldn’t have done it without you and we are so very grateful for the support.

RIDE on! See you next year!

An Inspirational Deathride Video – and Other Alpine County News

101 days and counting until the Tour of the California Alps, menacingly, yet lovingly referred to as the Deathride. When you’re on the course, especially on climbs 5 or 6 – this year there are six of those bad boys – you might feel like you are close to death, but thankfully no one has ever died on the Deathride.

The tertiary try is the charm we hope! 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic. 2021 “flamed out” because of the Tamarack Fire. Let’s go 2022!

THE Alpine County Chamber of Commerce has just issued a press release and an amazing and inspirational (we think) promotional video. We’ve never done anything like this before (at least that I’m aware of) regarding our beloved “DR” so it’s yet another first from the Deathride team.

HUGE kudos to Becky DeForest, Exec. Director of the Chamber, for herding the necessary cats to get it done.

GET’S me fired up when I watch it and I’m certainly honored that several California Alps Cycling members, including yours truly, are in it!

LET me know what you think. If you were waffling, did it change your mind? If you had never considered riding it, are you now? Will you perhaps share it on your social media channels to get others excited?

Some Tree Planting and a Community Clean-up

THE above images are courtesy of the Markleeville Water Company. They show some members of CalFire and the California Conservation Corps doing the “seedling shuffle.” 😉

READ their post for some more information on this planting, which took place just over two (2) weeks ago. It also has some links to register for the tree plantings that will take place on April 9th (this Saturday) and May 1st, so if any of you have some spare time and would like to help us with our restoration efforts please do sign up. We’ve love to have you!

MARKLEEVILLE’S Enhancement Club (MEC) has scheduled its Spring Clean-up for Saturday, May 14th. This all-volunteer beautification committee will be doing some work in and around town, picking up trash and biomass, trimming trees and bushes, picking up litter on two (2) Adopt-a-Highways stretches of Highway 89 (California Alps Cycling’s section from Turtle Rock Park to Camp Markleeville and Alpine Watershed Group’s section from Camp Markleeville to Monitor Junction), and doing a bit of landscaping and such at Al’s Got Gas (our local fuel depot).

RIDE here? Hike here? Boulder here? Here’s yet another chance to give back. Email me if you’re interested and I’ll add you to the list.

Other Upcoming Events

WE’VE got a few other things in the works this year, on both the East Slope (east of the Sierra crest – Hope Valley, Markleeville, Woodfords) and the West Slope (west of the Sierra crest – Bear Valley, Kirkwood).

HERE are some ideas:

  • Live Music at Cutthroat Brewing Company – Fridays 6 – 8 p.m., Markleeville
  • Women’s Fly Fishing Retreat – May 13th -> 15th at Wylder Hope Valley
  • High Sierra Archery Shoot – June 11th -> 12th at Bear Valley Resort
  • Ebbetts Fest – June 12th – Benefiting the Ebbett Pass Scenic Byway Asssocation
  • Music in the Park – Starting June 25th, Alpine Co. Library, Markleeville
  • Bear Valley Music Festival – July 22nd, Bear Valley
  • Stargazing – August 27th, Alpine Co. Airport, Markleeville

FOR specific details on these events, and to peruse other options, go to the Events Page of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.

Last But Not Least – Our Local Passes

MONITOR Pass is open!

Ebbett’s Pass should be soon based on the Caltrans activity I noticed on a lunchtime ride yesterday; a beauty day here in the California Alps. That’s me in front of Raymond Meadow Creek (RMC), at the 7000′ mark of Highway 4, just below Silver Creek Campground, on the Ebbett’s Pass Highway.

I chatted for a few minutes with a trio of mountain athletes from Sacramento before I turned around and headed back down the mountain. These dudes had just come back from behind the “7000′ gate” and were hanging out basking in the glory of their day’s adventures. They told me the road was just plowed but they didn’t get all the way to the top so not sure how far up the snow was removed. It was cool to see some skis, a mountain bike and a gravel bike nearby. Talk about being Alpine!

COME and get some! And remember to check our local weather and air conditions page for current weather and air quality before you head up, down, in or over.

SEE you soon!

Training for the Deathride? Here’s the Number One Thing You Should Do

CLIMB! And, climb some more. And when you think you’ve done enough climbing, do even more. Here in the California Alps climbing is pretty much par for the course; head out the door and you’re on some sort of incline (or decline).

Yesterday, I had the pleasure (and pain) of riding up the west side of Monitor Pass (this view is from just above Heenan Lake) and was reminded that there is no subsitute for climbing if you’re training for a ride with lots of elevation gain.

SURE, I’ve been training hard, with lots of paincave sessions, including HIIT, V02 max, and more, and some of those sessions focus on things such as building endurance, “rocking the rollers” and sweet-spot training (SST); yet I realized while “out on course” that even though my strain is up significantly from the previous week, I’m just not climbing enough.

THIS past week, including yesterday’s adventure, I rode about 116 miles with almost 11,000 feet of elevation gain.

THE DeathrideTour of the California Alps does that in one day, though, and while yesterday’s ride was 36 miles with over 4000 of climbing, I asked myself could I do that three or four more times.

The short answer = NO. At least not yesterday. 🙁

As you can see by my happy, yet very sweaty mug, that first big pitch was hard.

MONITOR east, Ebbetts north and south (or west and east depending on your preference), and Pacific Grade (twice) would still be yet to come on July 17th. Yowza, there is work to be done!

THANKFULLY, we’ve all got more time. IMHO, and based on previous experience, right about now (3-4 mos. out) is when you should start ramping 😉 up your training. And it’s not just about the climbing… Your secondary focus should be on time spent in the saddle.

IF you are going to tackle the entire ride, you’re looking at a full day on your steed.

BACK in 2017, when I finished all of the climbs, I was on the bike for about ten (10) hours and my elapsed time was twelve (12) hours!

VENTURING on a velocipede for that amount of time takes a serious toll on the bod., and takes some getting used to, so don’t skimp. And, if you’re not already thinking about it, be sure to address your future nutrition needs by practicing what, and how much, you eat and drink.

EXPERIMENTING with new bars, gels or drink mixes the day of is a recipe for disaster!

So Now What?

WELL, for me that means heeding my own advice and hitting those hills and mountains more often, and taking on longer rides. I would guess that applies to you as well.

ANOTHER aspect of training that I’m working on is the gear. You may have noticed that I was wearing an USWE hydration pack. Amazing piece of equipment by the way – pretty darn comfy and it DOES NOT move. I am not planning on wearing it for the Deathride but I am going to have it on for May’s Paydirt here in the Pine Nuts. And, yes, sharp-eyed reader, Roscoe is a gravel bike. So it was a double-duty deed, if you will, yesterday – got some climbing in and did it on the bike I’ll be riding in May, with the gear and grub I’ll be hauling.

I’m thinking a 50-60 mile ride on dirt will be a similar experience to a century on the road and so I see some benefits to training for Pete Stetina’s ride now, while also keeping that next big day in July, in mind.

NEED some other ideas? Search “climbing” on this blog for myriad posts on the subject. If you’re a neophyte I’d especially call your attention to this post as well as this one.

The snow is melting and the rivers and creeks are rising and getting chocolately. This is the East Fork of the Carson near Monitor Junction.

AFTER all, spring has sprung so it’s time to get cracking!

WE’RE looking forward to riding with you in July (or sooner perhaps), and the community is getting ready for your visit.

BE sure to make those reservations early, by the way. There are fewer resources around due to last year’s Tamarack Fire.

RIDE on, be safe, and climb, climb, climb!

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.

Begin the New Year With a Bang – Start Your Training For This Summer’s Deathride

REGISTRATION for the 2022 Deathride – Tour of the California Alps has opened! I’m already registered (first thing yesterday morning) and today begins the start of my training; primarily for this “Grandaddy of Them All,” but also for Stetina’s Paydirt (May 21st), and later in the year, the Mammoth Gran Fondo (September 10th).

Challenge yourself to the premier cycling event in California.  The route offers over 14,000′ of climbing,  103 miles, and up to six (6) HC Alpine climbs.  This ride is sure to challenge you, inspire you, and leave you wanting more.

I penned a post in November about what we at the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce hope will be a successful third try at the 40th Annual Tour so if you are perhaps looking for more inspiration, or a bit of addtional information, give it a look-see.

FOR me personally it’s time to shed some of those winter layers of lard, or at least start the rendering process. I took a rest day yesterday, somewhat forced due to the overnindulgence of the night before, and so today begins the work.

Signs of things past; and things to come…

IT was a travesty of epic proportions, last year’s cancellation, yet we have weathered the storm (figuratively and literally) here in Alpine Co. That’s not to say the drama is done by any means, what with Omicron raging, winter fires in Colorado and so much more angst, and anger, throughout our world.

STILL, our Alpine Co. communities have risen to the challenge, as have so many more, and have refused to give in or give up. We continue to bang our heads against the wall, if you will, but we, like you I suspect, have hard heads.

SO let’s get to it and approach the day, the training, and the year, as Coach Harbaugh would say, with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.

THOSE passes are calling, after all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Tour of the California Alps – Third Time’s the Charm?

YEAH, you’re right, there have been thirty-nine (39) charms really since the Deathride began. It’s those last two (2) attempts that have been problematic. Perhaps then we should say then that it’s the 3rd attempt for the 40th Annual Ride that’s the charm?

OF course, we haven’t had the ride yet so fingers crossed this tertiary try will be that trinket.

THE Alpine County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors (full disclosure: I’m a member of the board), along with our Executive Director, Becky Hanson, met last week to discuss, among other things, the 2022 Deathride.

HERE’S what you should know:

  1. The ride will take place on Saturday, July 16th, 2022
  2. The course will be the same as last year’s; no Carson Pass but instead Pacific Grade x 2
  3. Early registration price = $139.00
  4. Registration will open in January!

BECKY has been hard at work dealing with the aftermath of this year’s evacuations (I still can’t believe we had to cancel the day before the ride), swag bag distributions and most recently, insurance claims.

ON that note, here’s a partial excerpt from her email to our Deathride Family, sent yesterday…

While it has been a lengthy process to iron out, we are pleased to inform you that the riders who stuck with us through the 2020 postponement, and to date have not cancelled their registration, will receive a partial refund of registration fees from imATHLETE. 

We do not know the exact date that refunds will go out, but we do know that it will be a credit to the card used to register. In the situation where that card is no longer active, an electronic check will be issued (again, by imATHLETE). It is not a full refund, but we were very pleased to finally get to a resolution and hope this helps you, our loyal riders.

DEATHRIDERS are a special lot, no doubt. I’ve only attempted the ride three (3) times, and completed it once, so I’m really just a rookie. Many of you riders, including my bruddah, Scott Keno (that’s him there with bib no. 1619), have completed it every time they’ve attempted it and have done so many, many times. Scotty has done 8 or 9, I can’t remember. I’m sure there are some of you out there who’ve got even more impressive stats.

IT’S not just the physical feat itself that makes me have so much respect for you TOTCA riders, though. It’s your fortitude. Your friendliness. Your patience. Your support. Your attitude.

LIKE you I suspect, I’ve done many fondos, many centuries; a shitload of organized rides. Yet this one is special. It’s different.

IT’S the location, the elements (you know what they say…If you don’t like the weather here in the Sierra, just wait five (5) minutes), the climbing and the volunteers; but mostly it’s the comraderie.

It’s just a such a special gig.

ALTA Alpina Cycling Club is arranging a training series, cleverly called the “Brush with Death,” for the spring time, so be on the lookout for that announcement.

WE – I’m a member but have no skin in this training series game; the club leadership gets credit for that – tried to do so last year but the pandemic put the kibosh on those plans.

MAYHAPS we’ll do the same here at California Alps Cycling. A few early jaunts over Ebbett’s Pass, Monitor Pass and Pacific Grade couldn’t hurt, right? Okay you’re right, it will hurt but in a good way. If nothing else, we’ll know what level of pain to expect. 😉

SO we’re going to keep at it, and hopefully we’ll actually have the ride next summer, and we’ll see you all again at the Expo.

THIS time though let’s kick some passes’ asses sans those pyrocumulus clouds that are in the pic. at the top of this post, k? I took that photo, by the way, from Carson Pass (that’s Red Lake) the day the ride was supposed to happen.

RIDE on. Be safe. Stay healthy and we’ll see you next year!

What’s the Number One Rule of Cycling? It’s Not What You Think

IT’S “If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen.”

Last week was a week of climbing here in Markleeville. In honor of the Deathride I did three of the five climbs of the legacy DR (i.e. with Carson Pass). Virtually. On Fulgaz. And yes indeedy, I do plan to do the other two this week.

Without high-speed (ahem – even when we have internet here in Markleeville I wouldn’t call it “high-speed”) internet, though. Thanks to a previous hint, courtesy of Fulgaz during its French Tour, I had downloaded all the climbs to my Apple TV (ATV) so I could ride them w/o internet connectivity. Note to self: When our super-fast DSL is back online, download a bunch more rides for future use.

I had to chuckle after ride number 2. Changed kits for the next one and this thought, with the associated Tom Hanks voice, came into my head: “There’s no coasting in (on?) Fulgaz.” Just like there’s no crying in baseball. Well I guess I could have done some coasting on those downsides of the rollers but I was too busy building up speed for the upcoming upsides!

Bad Air = Ride Inside

WITH all the smoke about from the wildfires I’m not really too excited about riding outside. I was able to get a couple rides in the week before last, in the blue-mountain air, but sadly, not so this week.

Not quite as pretty as it usually is at El Dorado Beach (South Lake Tahoe) That wildfire smoke is having a regional impact.

OKAY, so anyway…Friday was Carson Pass with its just over 3000′ of climbing, pain cave fans, and portable A/C, a blazin’! Was a hard ride; I pushed it. Sunday last I did two (2) more. Ebbett’s South (from Hermit Valley up to the pass) and after a short break, Ebbett’s North from Monitor Junction to the top. Those bad boys gave me another 4700′ of climbing.

AND earlier in the week I did one easy ride on Fulgaz, but it did give me another 719 feet of climbing. Hey, it all counts damn it!

Why Am I Telling You This?

I’LL get to the point. After we realized we wouldn’t have our bad-ass internet for awhile we went out and bought our fine-selves a cell-signal booster. Works pretty well. Went from two bars to three, or four. Smart guy here…Just keep reading…Tethered my cell iPad to the computer. Functional. Irritating, especially at certain times of the day, but functional.

I could blog. As long as I didn’t upload photos. That I had to do up at Whorehouse Flats. Yes, you read that correctly. ‘Twas apparently named thusly because there was a house of ill repute located there back in the day. In any case, it has a direct line of sight to Hawkins Peak, where the (only) Verizon cell tower is located, and so there I can upload images. Even though I have the same number of bars as I do at home with the so-called boosted signal.

SIDE NOTE: WHY, pray tell, does it seem to not boost when it’s really, really, supposed to frickin’ boost? Huh? Riddle me that, Batman!

ANYWAY, I’m telling you this to explain the constraints we’re under here without reliable internet. How the hell am I supposed to function without it? How am I supposed to sync my photos; upload my recent cycling quests to Strava; update Fitness Pal with the day’s caloric intake and hydration? C’mon man! It’s impossible and it’s just not fair.

The Gauntlet has Been Thrown Down

SO, here I was, a new member of Chris’s recent Sparks Cycling Challenge Group on Strava, of which the goal is 30000 feet by the end of the month, and I was sucking wind (or more appropriately writ perhaps, sucking elevation), but only because I hadn’t uploaded the past week’s rides! A ha! I had an idea.

I’LL just change my network settings and connect my ATV to my super-boosted iPad (now you’ll understand what I meant earlier about smart guy…) and upload them. Nope. Apple TV won’t recognize a cell hotspot. Makes sense I guess; too much bandwidth needed.

WAIT, I’ll upload them from my FulGaz app. on my iPad. Uh, no, I didn’t download them there. Smart guy downloaded them to the ATV.

WHAT’S next? This week I’m going to take the ATV into South Lake (Tahoe, that is) where I got a really sweet deal at Cowork Tahoe and rented a desk for a month (it’s a pretty cool place as it turns out) so I could do those parts of my job that require FAST internet (meetings, video-conferences, important ca-ca like that…).

I should be able to connect it to the WiFi there, and upload my rides to Strava so I can prove myself worthy. Key word = should. Another should…I should (would) be in 3rd place a/o today had my big week of climbing last week been included.

BUT you know what? If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen!

WE’RE supposed to have our super fast Markleeville internet back sometime before the end of the month. Until then it’s gadget hell. No Netflix. No Apple Plus. No Zwift workouts. No Fulgaz real-time rides. And most put-offingly, no Strava.

I guess if nothing else I can manually enter those rides but that feels like the easy way out, so I shall continue my quest. Maybe. I’m wearing myself out and perhaps I should instead save that energy for the bike.

For Related Musings…

Click here to read a previous post that, now that I look back, was a bit of foreshadowing to my latest travails.

Click here to read more about the Tour of the California Alps (aka the Deathride) climbs and other routes I filmed for Fulgaz.

Click here for a trip down memory lane and a post with some riding and hiking options here in Alpine Co., once the perverbial smoke clears that is – no parking or camping allowed on the local highways currently due to the ongoing Tamarack Fire.

AND a not so related musing but I wanted to share it nonetheless. In last week’s post I wrote briefly about the animal oasis here in the middle of the charred forest. Here’s more evidence of that:

STAY safe, watch out for bears, be good to yourself and others, and let’s kick some passes’ asses! Preferrably the non-smoky ones.

Coming Back to Life in Markleeville – It’s Been a Wild Ride

THE trip back to Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling headquarters, was a sobering and somber experience. So much of our forest was now blackened.

AFTER almost ten (10) days of being evacuated (from Friday, July 16th, through Sunday, July 26th) it was great to get back home. It was a surreal experience for sure; Markleeville and Marklee Village were oases in the middle of a charred forest.

WE were lucky…Our generator system did its job and kept my beer and other libations cold, our food fresh and our frozen grub, frozen. The Alpine Co. Sheriff’s Office, as well as other law enforcement, kept our home, and town, secure from both two-legged and four-legged creatures.

Firefighters

THOSE firefighters, though…What a group of individuals! They fought for our town, for our people, for our businesses and for our homes. When the fire blew up, almost overnight, they didn’t give up. They battled and battled. For days. What they did can really never be repaid. As I’ve told those that I have seen since – whatever you need, whenever you need it, we’re your huckleberries.

DOUGLAS County, Nevada, also came through in a big, big way. They opened their facility (the Senior Center in Gardnerville) and most importantly, they opened their hearts. Donations poured in, offers of places to stay for people and animals were proffered, and the kindness and compassion were palpable. To them we also owe a huge debt of gratitude.

WHILE we had power (thanks to Liberty Utilities hooking up a big-ass generator) we did not have internet. Too bad Frontier isn’t like Liberty, whose crews were on sight almost immediately, and even today they were at it. This time, dropping poles by helicopter. Frontier, on the other hand. Haven’t seen ONE truck. Not one. Not to be too cynical but I’m betting we’ll see a bill.

OKAY, enough negativity. Karma…

My Mental State

ADMITTEDLY, I’ve had a very hard time this past week. I tried to work on Monday but it was almost impossible without decent internet; my cell phone just didn’t have enough of a signal to act as a hotspot.

TO the rescue came our friends Mike and Eileen. They offered us their home in South Lake Tahoe for the week. And we are also oh so grateful for our dear friends Chris and Shyanne, who offered us their home in Spanish Springs last weekend as a little getaway. My wife and I, and our two (2) cats, took advantage and headed north for a couple days, leaving Mom and her cat, Baxter, in the hotel in Minden.

BUT last Tuesday morning I found myself packing up. Again. My wife and I made the trek to South Lake. I thought it was the right thing to do (it was work-wise) but my psyche said otherwise. I found myself in tears Tuesday night, asking myself what the hell I was doing. I came to the realization that I needed to be home and so Wednesday, after a decent workday, I did go home.

BACK to South Lake I went Thursday but I couldn’t focus. I didn’t care. I had no spark; I was just flat. Was this PTSD?

IT wasn’t just the fire I now knew. It was the loss of the Deathride, the possible prostate cancer diagnosis (thankfully I found out the Saturday after we evacuated that it WASN’T cancer), the pandemic (and so no 2020 Deathride) and the almost constant fear of another fire. All of that combined with almost ten (10) days of worrying about our home took a serious toll on my mental health. I understood that I needed some help and I’ve since begun that process.

HERE I am a few days later and I’m certainly feeling more like myself. The anxiety is still there although it’s not as pervasive as it was. Getting back to a somewhat normal routine, including a ride yesterday and another today, has truly helped. Being home, getting some things put away, doing some household chores and putting it in some sort perspective has made a difference.

OUR local businesses, including the Cutthroat, have been closed, but today the Cutthroat was open. There’s a sign of recovery!

An Animal Oasis and a New Beginning

OTHER signs abound, too. Black-eyed Susan’s and their cheery blooms. A flock of mergansers on the East Carson. Two velvet-antlered bucks just across the road yesterday morning. Allen’s hummingbirds putting on a daily show just off the deck. And the bears. While they can be a bit of a nuisance (ask my neighbor whose freezer and garbage can they overturned yesterday), in a strange way their renewed presence is reassuring.

AND Tuesday is the first of many meetings that we Markleevillians will have as we begin the healing and rebuilding process. As a community.

THAT will be an oh so awesome start…

Deathride 2021 – After-action Report

WELL, this isn’t exactly the after-action report I’d hoped I’d be writing; rather than regaling you with tales of the ride I am instead addressing the Tamarack Fire’s impact on the ride.

LAST Friday I, along with a bunch of other vendors, were at the Expo and basking in the glory of the next day’s event when at approximately 2:00 p.m. we noticed a plume of smoke rising to our southwest. In speaking with the local LEOs (Alpine Co. Sheriff’s Dept. deputies) on site I learned that it wasn’t the Henry Fire, but instead a new fire, what would later become the Tamarack Fire.

WE (vendors, organizers, etc.) kept doing our thing and hoped that the fire would be knocked down quickly.

IT was such a great time talking with riders who knew me and came by to introduce themselves and tell me how much they enjoyed reading about our adventures in the California Alps. I was making some sales, and giving riders tips on what to expect the next day.

AT about 3:00 p.m. I called in for extraction from the Expo as the fire was looking pretty nasty. The below image is what I saw when I got home. We already had items staged and go-bags handy so we began gathering other items in anticipation of the forthcoming evacuation.

The fire just getting going on the afternoon of Friday, July 16th. In the photo it’s about 2.5 miles southwest of our home/CAC HQ.

ACROSS the street, at the firestation that temporarily became Deathride central, the team was still hard at work loading the trucks for distribution throughout the course. We had yet to receive the evacuation order. These pics were taken Thursday.

MY family and I, along with our cats, as well as the residents, campers, riders and other visitors, were all evacuated safely and calmly at approximately 5:00 p.m. thanks to the great planning and swift and efficient execution of the evac. plan by the Alpine County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Alpine Co. Volunteer Fire Dept.

WE were heartbroken. Not just for the riders and the community but also for the Deathride team that had worked so hard to get us to this point. Life can be cruel. No ride last year due to the pandemic and this year, the day before the ride…

The after…Our booth was destroyed but some anchors are still holding. 🙂
Notice the blackened forest behind.

AS usual, though, the community rose to the challenge as did Curtis Fong (Ride Director), Di (Asst. Ride Director) and their teams. On Sunday, the day after the ride was supposed to take place, we were unloading trucks at the Douglas County Senior Center (evacuation central). There were cases of watermelons, bananas, oranges, PB&J sandwiches, drinks, snacks and more that the Chamber donated to the community. Becky DeForest, Exec. Director of the Chamber, and I, moved items from inside the trailers so that others could shlep them into the center.

Hot spot map as of 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

ON the other side of the county, Terry Woodrow, one of the county supervisors (her district includes Bear Valley) was, in addition to her usual duties, distributing water to fire crews in the area.

WE are so grateful that there were no deaths or serious injuries and as of the writing of this post (Weds. a.m.) that is still the case.

IF you’d like to help out, the Chamber has set up a GoFundMe page. Click here to go there.

FOR the latest information on the fire, click here to view the Tamarack Fire page on Facebook, the official page set up by Alpine County.

PLEASE send thoughts and prayers to all of those effected by this tragedy, as well as those throughout the country, and world, dealing with their own emergencies.