Category: education

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

Thinking of Filming Some Rides? Here are a Few Things to Consider

Like some of you I suspect, I’ve been wanting to film some of my rides for my own archives, and to share with friends and family (and perhaps become the latest YouTube sensation). Hey! It’s good to have big hairy audacious goals, you know?

As it turns out, because of the cancellation of the Deathride this year (the ride would have taken place this Saturday) due to the pandemic, I’ve been given a unique opportunity to fulfill that dream: filming rides in the California Alps for FulGaz. FulGaz? you say. Check out these posts from March of last year or January of this year, or click on the image below, for more on that most excellent app.

Okay, so back to the Deathride thing…Our (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) forward thinking Exec. Director came up with the idea of having some sort of event, or events, to keep riders engaged while we waited for July of 2021 to do the actual 40th Anniversary Resurgence Tour (of the California Alps, that is – it’s other name as you may know).

I shouldn’t say much more because that’s her cat to let out of the proverbial bag, but one of the concepts we came up with is to offer virtual rides of some sort. Having spent some time (especially in the winter) on the trainer I had experience with FulGaz and so I volunteered to reach out to them.

We’ve since begun the process of putting together a Deathride library!

I’ve filmed a bunch of rides over the last month or so for that endeavor and I’ve learned a lot, some of it the hard way.

Here are my suggestions with the hope you too could be the next Francis Ford Coppola.

Get the Right Ca-Ca

As in equipment.

  • My GoPro6 wasn’t going to cut it so I went with the GoPro8 Black.
  • The mount needs to be ON YOUR BIKE and it needs to be CENTERED unless you want to see the bars, or your shadow, etc. I went with an integrated K-Edge mount. This was, by the way, a FulGaz recommendation.
  • If you are having another rider film a ride for you make sure you know their set up so you can adjust if needed.
  • Have back up power. The GoPro battery will give you only about an hour. I attached a small top tube pack to the bike and ran the cable from the camera to the bag and so I can get about 4 hours.
  • Make sure your microSD cards have enough memory. I’m using 128GB cards.

Get the Right Angle

Take a look at these two images:

See what I mean about the mount? And, to reiterate, it’s not just the mount you need to be concerned with; make sure you have the right balance of road to sky. FulGaz recommends centering the horizon vertically in the image. The GoPro8 has a very cool feature that makes this easier – preview. You can look real time through the camera via the app on your phone while on site!

Get Good Internet

This is one I learned the hard way. Our internet here at HQ in Markleeville is not NEARLY what we had in San Jose. It uploads as slowly as molasses in winter.

Here’s me the day after I filmed my first ride: “I’ve got a great video of a bitchin’ ride and I’m ready to upload it to Google drive so the crew at FulGaz can download it and start processing it tomorrow. Sweet!”

WHAT? 60 FRICKIN’ HOURS TO UPLOAD A RIDE?

AYFKM!? Sound it out. You’ll figure out what it stands for…

The files are large, like many, many GBs large, so account for that!

Aren’t there some options? I’ve tried a few things, sure, but here in Markleeville those options are limited. I gave a couple local businesses (faster internet in town) and the Starbucks in Gardnerville, NV (30 mins. away) a shot and it was much better (tongue firmly planted in cheek). Sixteen (16) hours instead of 60. Ouch.

Needless to say I can’t do 16 hours at a Starbucks! So my current approach is to leave the Mac on and uploading for as long as it takes and then go off and film the next ride (or work on the honey-do list); the team at FulGaz has other work they need to do anyway, okay?

Get Some Help

FulGaz does have a support page and on it they do have a video that was helpful. In my back and forth with their engineering and release team, however, I also obtained a written guide. The latter I use as a checklist before every ride.

Some hints:

  • Bike computer features we cyclists enjoy, like auto-pause for example, are problematic when trying to sync up the video with the .FIT file. Turn off auto-pause when filming.
  • If you stop for a nature break or some food you need to back up about 20 meters when you begin again. That will allow you (or them) to more easily edit the gap, as it were.
  • Visual cues, like waving a hand in front of the camera when you start and stop, are helpful. I like to look at the camera just before I start. That gives the editor their visual cue and lets me confirm that the camera is rolling.

So What Have We Learned Grasshopper?

Do your homework, get or have good internet, make sure you have the right angle of the dangle and while it will take some investment on your part, get the right equipment. Do these things and you too can become a filming guru (or at least move in that direction).

That’s a wrap.

Only another 73 hours to go until my latest ride is ready for download at the other end. Sigh.

Wind, Wind and More Wind

Why is it that the headwind on the way out isn’t a tailwind on the way back? How come those crosswinds turn to headwinds? Why does wind seem to come screaming down one little canyon from the east but on another canyon just up the road it comes from the west?

As a local rider and friend, and member of CA Alps Cycling said to me some time ago (and he’s lived here for decades): “The wind can be a bit vexing here, can’t it?” So, true, Rich. So very true.

I originally published this post in November of 2018. After some recent “howlers” here in the California Alps though — including a ride just last week where the crosswinds were so strong I had to lean in so much I felt like I was riding at a 45 degree angle — I thought it might be time to re-post it. So here ’tis, a little trip down a windy, memory lane.

As a San Jose native, I was very familiar with the wind patterns. I lived in South San Jose for many years and could plan my rides knowing pretty well how the wind would blow: Go out early and get the tailwind on the way home. Go out later in the afternoon and get the headwind on the way home. Certainly this did depend on the direction of my ride but for the most part I could easily predict the patterns.

So, what’s the deal with that moving air here in the Sierra Nevada?

Well, thanks to “A Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide” by Stephen Whitney, we’ve got some answers. 

Mountain winds: “Winds and breezes passing over a rugged mountain range such as the Sierra follow tortuous courses over and around ridges, up and down canyons, through gaps in the crest. Eddies set up by the irregular terrain blow here and there in vigorous gusts that rattle trees and shrubs one minute only to abruptly die down the next. In the protection of a large boulder or grove of trees there may be scarcely any wind at all, while just a few yards away, in a more exposed area, it howls furiously.”

Wind-driven clouds in the CA Alps

Okay, so that makes sense. It’s somewhat analogous to the flow of a river. Rocks = rapids. Eddies are often downstream of those big rocks and flat water can be seen where there aren’t any big rocks to interrupt the water’s flow.

Let’s dive a little deeper, though. Why is it that I can head up Hwy. 4 (towards Ebbett’s Pass) with a headwind and then not get that tailwind on the way back? Okay, sometimes I do get the tailwind but it’s not consistent like it was in Silicon Valley.

Well, Mr.Whitney gives us a bit more information: It’s about mountain breezes, valley breezes and the mountain ranges “intrusion” into the tropopause

“On a warm summer morning the air next to the ground surface is heated and rises. Cooler air nearby moves in to replace it and rises in turn. This movement is felt during the day as an upslope breeze.” Typically, he writes, this starts about three hours after sunrise and reaches its peak during the hottest hours of the day and then it tapers off again around dusk.”

This is a valley breeze.  

“At night, cool air flows downslope, creating the mountain breeze.”

Dust off those cobwebs and cast your mind back

To those high school science days (daze?), that is…

Here’s some additional data: “Wind speed increases over mountain crests and through canyons and passes because air – like any fluid – accelerates when forced through a narrow passage. As a volume of air moves upslope, it is increasingly squeezed between the mountains and the tropopause, the inversion layer acting as a lid on the lower atmosphere.”

“Since the volume of air remains the same as it squeezes over the mountain crest, it becomes elongated.” Okay so that means it picks up speed. Seems reasonable…He goes on to write that “air forced to squeeze through a canyon or mountain pass is accelerated in much the same way.”

In doing a bit more googling today, I came across this article from the Smithsonian. I don’t recall discussing the Bernoulli Principle in Bio 1 (or any other bio or science courses I took in high school or community college), but if I did it’s been too many years or perhaps it’s due to mistakes of a misspent (not all of it, I swear) youth. Nonetheless, it’s on point! The principle, not the misspent youth…

Mountain winds, valley breezes and mountain breezes

So, there we have it! Mountain winds, mountain breezes and valley breezes combined with the myriad canyons, crests, passes and that ol’ tropopause challenge those of us who cycle in the California Alps.

It’s a rare day when we have no wind and due to the topography you can’t count on consistency. If you ride here then you, grasshopper, like me, need to learn to embrace the wind. 

Ride safe out there and let’s kick some passes asses!™ Even the windy ones…

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!