Category: giving back

Autumn is in the Air in Markleeville – Here’s a Beary Good Update!

AHH, the sweet, cool wind. Those regularly scheduled afternoon breezes…The robins are here. It feels almost like normal here in the heart of the California Alps. After weeks of fires, and fire related ca-ca, it’s a relief. That’s not to say it’s over. We know fire-season isn’t, yet it feels good so we’ll take it.

AND what perfect timing…It’s Fall!

ONE of our fall traditions here in Alpine County is a good old-fashioned clean-up day.

AND so it was that last Saturday a bunch of us Markleevillians, and Woodsfordsians, some Mesaites; and even some Gardnervillians, too, found ourselves banding together, whacking, pulling and pleading with various bushes, trees, and weedings. I know, weedings is a bit of a stretch, but work with me, k?

WE hit up Markleeville, Hope Valley, Hwy. 88 and Hwy. 89 (litter pick-up on these highways some of us have adopted), picked up piles of pallets and gobs of glass. Old can dumps, and loads of biomass (mostly pine needles), along with what seemed at times like entire pieces of automobiles, were collected too.

MO Loden, former (sad 😭 that you’re leaving but congrats on the new gig, Mo!) Watershed Coordinator for the Alpine Watershed Group herded all of the cats and organized our big ol’ event. Click here, by the way, to see a more recent pic of the gang, and learn a little more about Mo, and AWG.

AFTERWARDS it was lunch at the Library Park (courtesy of Outwest Cafe – thank you Buzz, Jamie and Joey!). Was a nice group, many of whom stayed to visit. Unfortunately for me, like I said, fall is in the air. And that means…

CHORES around the house. Things like covering holes recently made by some electrical panel work, raking pine needles, and clearing dirt and debris from around the generator so we can be ready for the Public Safety Power Shutoff (that fortunately never came). But, those winds sure did. In fact, earlier that day, when out on Hwy. 89 doing the Adopt-a-Highway schtick, I looked back toward town and saw the topsoil blowing from the forest floor (no more vegetation post-fire) and it was insane. With the howling winds, blackened bushes and trees with no tops, it felt and looked apocalyptic.

GAWD, I hope we haven’t turned the corner. I don’t want to be a dinosaur.

Image courtesy of space.com.

SERIOUSLY, Mark? This post is going to the dark side, man. Let’s move on. Fall isn’t a bummer. It’s a beautiful time of year here in the Sierra. Sure, some of the forest is gone but a lot of it is intact. Take, for example, this photo, which I took last night.

SUNDAY we saw a bit more of what’s to come while having a nice lunch at Wylder Resort in Hope Valley. Sitting on the deck (it was a little windy) in the aspens, with our friends, one of whom we hadn’t seen since Christmas of ’19, felt so good.

THE food was great. Even with the 7000′ foot tax and the various service fauxpas. “No I ordered the tuna on ciabatta and the potato salad, not the tuna on greens with potato salad.” “She ordered the ham and onion quiche, not the veggie quiche.” “Sorry, we’re out of the ham & onion.” It was almost comical yet we laughed and continued to reminisce.

STILL, the staff did an admirable job. The two free glasses of wine and extra potato salad helped smooth things over. As did the Bloody Mary’s prior.

WE forgot about the pandemic (even though we talked about it) and the fires (ditto); and we just reveled in the day, and each other, and our friendship. It was a special afternoon, indeed.

Speaking of Special Afternoons

THERE’S one coming up this Saturday, the 25th. The Candy Dance is happening in Genoa (and we’ve gone every year), but we’ve got our own little “Aspen Day with Friends of Hope Valley” thing going on, so we’ll be hanging there instead. Candy Dance Sunday maybe.

THERE’S a famous comedian, Mark Lundholm, making the trek to town the same night. Woo, hoo, big shit happening here in Alpine County let me tell you. There’s more to come too. Click here to check out the Chamber’s events calendar.

Riding?

Riding, you say. Yeah done some of that. There seems to be a little less wind most days and the air has been clear – although last night we saw some 150’s again, this time from the fires to the south, in the Sequoia Nat’l Forest. Will it end?

THERE I go again. Dark side. Back to cycling…

Alta Alpina members were wowed with a windless night at last Thursday’s Diamond Valley Road Race. I didn’t get to see it or race it, though, dang it 🙁 ).

I haven’t been quite so lucky but the riding has been good nonetheless. Check out last week’s post if you haven’t seen it. Great day on pebbles (and sand, and rocks and Pinenut dirt). As for here… Not too many cars and fall temps (32 yesterday a.m.) make for some great riding.

SOME charred forest awaits you but none after Monitor Junction if you want to take a ride up to Ebbetts Pass (my fav).

Fall colors starting to show on Hwy. 89 (looking south towards Monitor Junction).

BEER also awaits you (at the Cutthroat)! And some leaf-peaping. And some grinding (food or gravel). Speaking of grinding (the edible kind), did I tell you that the Salettis, from Gardnerville, bought Stonefly? Our landmark eatery is soon to go Italian. I’m already salivating. The locals who had been to their restaurant in G’Ville are talking them up big time! Can’t wait for some wood-fired lasagna, or that famous coconut cake! Oh boy.

SO, onward we go Alpine County, and you too, I hope. It’s a new season and a new day and this shitty stuff? It shall be displaced by the good vibes, laughter, color and light, of fall.

COME on up for a visit! That’s kinda the whole point of this post, after all. And be sure to let us know you’re coming. We’ll join you for a ride. Or hoist a beer with you. Or just say hi.

HAPPY AUTUMNAL EQUINOX!

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.

After-Action Report on the Inaugural Curtz Lake Trail Day

THE weather was wonderful (okay it got a bit warm in the afternoon), the trails were in tip-top shape and the hikers were happy.

‘TWAS a good day in the heart of the California Alps!

THE ATA

THE Alpine Trails Association, of which I’m the rookie officer-at-large, held the event yesterday.

OUR program included some Washoe history; some trail-tools training; a bit of orienteering and compass-cognition; some trail-bike (gravel, MTB, eMTB) background; and most importantly – this was after all a trails day – several hikes.

Special shout-outs go to the event organizer and ATA Director Jim Haen (center-right of frame, facing the map), and Irvin Jim, the Chairman of the Hung A Lel Ti here in Alpine County (center-left of frame with the black shirt).

THERE was face-painting for the kids (I went with a Deathride theme as you can see), both large and small.

AND other crafty and informational things were also available in our little mall.

IT seemed like a reunion at times, with so many locals gathered to celebrate our fairly new sense of freedom, enjoy the beauty of our region and to give thanks to those who have been stewards of this land for thousands of years (the Washoe) and to those who have taken up that mantle much more recently.

AS Jim wrote this morning: “Thank you for making yesterday special. My first objective was to celebrate the construction of the Interpretative Trail by the handful of original builders still with us – Andy, Jim Mc, Kevin, Rhonda and Rich; and to expose this great area to more local families. On those counts the day was a resounding success.”

INDEED it was, Jim!

THERE were approximately 40-50 on hand (not bad for a county of about 1100, right?) and everyone learned a lot. Over-acheiver Jim 😉 has already made some suggestions on how we can improve the event next year. Yup, the work has already begun and we’re looking forward to seeing more folks next year, including you perhaps!

IT’S All About Stewardship

AS many of you loyal readers know, we’re big on that here at CAC and have put our skin in the game, as it were, since we’ve been here. A big part of that has been our past participation in the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), and I bring that up because it has recently put up a fantastic page entitled “CAMP LIKE a PRO in the Eastern Sierra.”

CHECK it out here.

AN Unexpected Ride

WE realized during after one docent-led hike had taken off down the trail that our docent didn’t have his radio. With no cell service at Curtz Lake communicating with him was impossible at that point. No problem. Bessie (my wife’s eMTB) to the rescue!

OFF I went down the trail and I caught up with the group post-haste. No need to put on lycra or special shoes and no worries that I was more appropriately appareled for hiking than riding.

A great use of an eMTB (or other e-Bikes) I thought. Having one on hand for events like this was an unexpected benefit and it got me thinking about more such uses, e.g. as a sweep for organized hikes, rides or walks or a way to deliver emergency first aid or communication when that otherwise might not be possible.

CERTAINLY others have considered this already; for us, though, it was an eye-opener!

HATS off to my colleagues at the ATA! You are all amazing individuals and I’m so glad to be a part of the Association.

AFTER all, trails don’t just build themselves and they need to be maintained so that all of us can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

THANKS for reading and see you out on the trail!

Siren? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Siren!

NEITHER do the Washoe.

AS I understand it, the siren dates back to the early twentieth century and was erected in order to “tell” the Washoe people that it was time for them to get off the streets of Minden, NV, and surrounds, and go home. It still blares its racist message everyday at 6:00 p.m. if you can believe that!

The first time my wife and I heard it we thought it was some sort of test of an emergency siren.

NOT hardly!

IN a recent article written by Kurt Hildebrand of “The Record-Courier” he references a quote from a letter written by Washoe Tribal Chairman Serrell Smokey on August 6th, 2020 in which Mr. Smokey called on Douglas County and the Town of Minden, to silence the siren.

“This is not a noise complaint but an attempt to bring (resolution) to years of underlying racism and historical trauma and our town,” Smokey said. “The historical trauma of this piece of history has an effect on all generations of Washoe people, including the youth of today. It is a constant reminder of the oppression that was brought upon our ancestors.”

FOR a bit more context (there’s a bill, AB88, pending) click here to read the entire article (see page A4). And, no, we don’t buy the “it’s been re-tasked” argument.

The Sundown SIren Protest Ride

A friend of mine e-troduced me to Matt Niswonger, the organizer of the Sundown Siren Protest Ride, and Matt was kind enough to provide some more information:

  • This is a fundraiser ride. Everything (100%) donated to the link below goes to Washoe outdoor programs through their juvenile probation program. Donation is not mandatory but here is the link in case anyone wants to: https://www.pledgereg.com/tahoe-siren-fundraiser-ride.
  • The $48 registration fee is to help offset the cost of insurance and the video we are making of the event; as well as the pre-ride meal we are serving the night before at the riders meeting.
  • The ride involves about 5K feet of climbing and 20 miles – all on trails. Mountain bikes are recommended but it might be possible to ride a gravel bike. Matt says this is suitable for expert riders. “It’s a protest ride so we are not racing and will be mostly sticking together.
Map of the Sundown Siren Protest Ride course

WRITES Matt: “I really appreciate you raising awareness about this protest ride. I’m happy to answer any questions anyone has. If anyone wants to register there is still room for a few more. In case anyone has questions about the Minden sundown siren here is a petition I started with some info.”

WE REALLY APPRECIATE people like Matt, and my friend John Dayberry, and so many others, who are champions of what’s right. Matt can be reached, by the way, at matt@adventuresportsjournal.com.

I’LL be out of town next weekend or I’d be there. Editors note: I’m kinda glad; the course looks gnarly. 😉

Still, we’ll be sending in our donation (and signing the petition) and hope you can find some time to ride next Saturday, donate to a good cause, or both.

A Bike Shop in Markleeville? Tell Us What You Think!

It’s always been my dream to own a bike shop. When we started California Alps Cycling back in 2017 we thought that perhaps it could someday morph into a brick & mortar business and come spring of 2021 it just might!

And that’s where you come in…we’d like to know what you think about the concept.

  • What would you like to see in the shop?
  • Do you think we should rent bikes?
  • Should we offer tours?
  • Would you frequent such a business?

First, Some Background

For those of you who’ve visited Markleeville in the last couple of years you may recall our little gas station: “Al’s Got Gas, Bait and Tackle.”

This is Al’s, in its early stages, before it had signage and such.

The station has been open 24/7 for awhile now but the convenience store (right side) and the retail shop (left side) have not been open for the past year, for the most part because the owners have been too busy with their day jobs. They have reached out to us and suggested we take over Al’s and put in some sort of shop as well.

So we’ve been talking about doing something along the lines of what our friends at Bear Valley Adventure Company do, e.g. rent bikes, repair bikes, sell souveneirs, sell basic outdoor gear – and not just cycling gear – and host the town’s gas station.

Side note: BVAC is light years ahead of where we would be when we opened but our hope is that we too could eventually offer some winter sport activities as well.

In case you weren’t aware, 95% of Alpine Co. is public land and there are TONS OF THINGS TO DO HERE IN THE WINTER but no real organized events. Coincidentally, the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce has formed a working group to try and remedy that and yours truly is a member of that group.

But, I digress.

Participants lined up at the starting line at last year’s Earth Day Kid’s Bike Race.

Making a Difference

The image above says it all, at least from our perspective. Yours truly, and fellow CAC member Chris Schull, wrenched on the kid’s bikes in the a.m. so they could race ’em in the afternoon. To see those furiously peddling legs…Those smiles…What a day it was!

We believe we’ve already made a small difference in our community but we’d like to do more.

  • We want to help people with their bikes.
  • We want to educate.
  • We want to advocate.
  • We want to host group rides.
  • We want to sponsor events.
  • We want to help our community continue to grow (but keep our small town, alternative to South Lake Tahoe, vibe).
  • Oh, I should mention that while we’d like to sell bikes that’s likely not possible due to several factors but hey, you never know…

What do you think?

Can you help us reach the finish line?

We’d like to hear from you, our loyal readers, our members, our customers and perhaps you, our future customers.

Tell us what you think.

Don’t hold back.

We really want to know!

Honest.

An Update on the ESSRP and the Visitor Connection Working Group

Last year, as some of you may recall, the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), “a unique public/public partnership between the United States Forest Service and local agencies,” kicked off. One of “those publics” is the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, one of many regional agencies involved in the project, and yours truly is a representative for the ACCoC.

This update expands on last year’s December post so for a bit more context/information click here and take a gander at that missive before you read on.

The mountains near and behind Mammoth Lakes as seen from the Lake Crowley area during the 2018 Mammoth Gran Fondo. Just a portion of the region on which this initiative is focused.

The partnership, covering roughly the area from Inyo County to Alpine County, began before Covid-19 became part of our lives and so we were initially able to meet in person. That has since changed and we now meet via Zoom. The initiative is comprised of four (4) tracks or programs:

  • Regional Recreation Stakeholder Engagement
  • Climate Adaptation and Resilience Assessment
  • Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience
  • Project Development and Prioritization for Funding
The first meeting of the “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” working group.

Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience

This post is about that third track/program: “the Visitor Connection Working Group (VCWG).”

It all started in October of 2019 when the Chamber was invited to be a part of this effort in order to help “develop a regional strategy to connect with our Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience.” As Kristy Williams, Project Manager, put it: “We aren’t talking about how to get more people here.  We are going to discuss the unique recreation, culture, stewardship, and tourism opportunities that exist here in the Eastern Sierra – and determine how, as a region, we communicate these opportunities to our visitors, including opportunities for stewardship.”

There are about thirty of us, give or take, that are working on this track and we’ve done quite a bit of work, from developing the visitor persona; to devising some particular words and phrases that we feel represent the area and the people who live, work and visit here; to (and this was what we did at our most recent meeting, which took place last week) selecting images that represent those words or phrases.

Speaking of images…One of the bitchenest (is that a word?) things you can do in the Eastern Sierra is ride a bike. This was me finishing the medio route (70 miles) of the Mammoth Gran Fondo in 2018. The MGF is just one of many organized rides (the Deathride is another) that take place in the Eastern Sierra annually.

It’s a Zoom ‘Thang

How are we doing all of this, you ask, without meeting in person?

It’s amazing what can be done with Zoom. Thanks to the incredible staff of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, we don’t just yak as a group or look at slide decks the entire time. The meetings are highly collaborative and open and all ideas and thoughts are welcome. A distinct aspect of these sessions in my mind is the break-out room, or rooms. Several groups are formed and then we are magically and virtually transported (thanks Mr. Wizard) into these rooms with our colleagues.

It’s in those rooms where a lot of the heavy lifting is done.

Last week, our group (and there were three (3) others, groups that is, doing the same thing) was tasked with reviewing approximately thirty images that describe these words – MEMORIES – TRADITION – CONNECTION. Not an easy task by any means but the idea is that these images, from all four (4) groups, would be part of a package given to a team that would then “translate” them into our deliverables, which are things like brochures, handouts and videos that can be used to educate and inform visitors to the Eastern Sierra. Sorry, I can’t show you any of the images; they are top secret for now (and I didn’t take any screenshots).

Skin in the game…

As I wrote (as did Kristy in her email to me) in December it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just about marketing to get MORE PEOPLE to the region. In fact, that’s what it’s least about. It’s really about getting people who are already here, or coming here, to be MORE INVOLVED. And having skin in the game is a vital component to that approach. Meaning:

  • Are visitors educated on what to do and how to act? For example, are they aware of best practices like where to poop (a big topic at our December 2019 meeting) and how to “leave no trace?”
  • Do visitors care about the region?
  • Do they want to help improve and maintain it?
  • Are they willing to educate their families, peers and friends about it?

More to follow…

Yup, it’s not a done deal yet. We’ve got several more meetings, the last of which takes place in February of next year. And we are just one group of many within the larger group. That means there are still lots of cats to herd and work to be done so that we can best utilize that grant money. In the long run that means selecting approximately eight (8) projects. Perhaps that means updated or new bathrooms for some deserving park or community. Maybe it’s about signage and kiosks that describe a particular route or feature. It could be something related to off-road vehicles (the kinds with engines). TBD. Once a project is vetted and approved, however, it will be up to the “winner” to get the funding and execute.

Do you have ideas for improving recreation in the Eastern Sierra? Infrastructure? Access? Programs?

Click here if you do, or if you just want to learn more, you can do that too!

We’re all in it for the long haul and if we do our jobs well then we’ll define the Eastern Sierra as the next Moab or Grand Canyon. A place where generations of us can continue to ride our bikes, climb mountain peaks or granite walls, take our grandkids 4-wheelin’ and catch some big ol’ fish. Before we get there, though, there is more work to be done.

Deathride 2021 – Five Reasons You Need to Attend

As you know, we had to postpone the Deathride, aka The Tour of the California Alps, until next year, due to the pandemic. We were looking forward to the ride, which was to take place on July 11th, for so many reasons. Alas, it was not to be this year so let’s talk about why you need to be here next year.

Reason #1 – It’s an Amazingly Beautiful Area!

Especially one to ride a bike in…And, in case you forgot, you can ride about 70% of the course without worrying about cars.

Take a look at these photos we’ve taken, some of which are from past rides:

Reason #2 – It’s the 40th Anniversary of THE RIDE!

Yeah, ’twas to be 40 this year but since the ride didn’t happen then next year is the BIG 4-0! The ride will be extra special for that reason but also because:

  • We have a new executive director at the chamber and she ROCKS!
    • She and her staff have a renewed energy and direction
    • They’re already doing cool shit, e.g the Ghost Ride.
  • We have a professional ride director (Curtis Fong of Bike the West) and he has an AMAZING staff.
    • These are the same individuals who put on America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and the Tour De Tahoe.
    • We’re talking professional traffic control and mapping, radio communications throughout the course, sweeps, and course marshals
    • The Bike the West team has experience with hosting events in the Sierra that is second to none!

Reason #3 – It’s Markleeville’s Largest Fundraiser

The Deathride is the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce’s largest annual/regular influx of ducats, by far. Sure that helps us continue to support the ride, and our amazing staff and members, but most importantly it (riders, really) pumps a whole lot of money back into the community. Without the ride this year our community has taken a big hit (as have many others, no doubt, some much worse) and therefore so have many of the organizations that we help.

Last year we pumped about $90,000.00 back into community businesses and nonprofits, including the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Alpine County Fish & Game ($ for fish plants is a fairly large chunk of our budget).

Reason #4 – Pacific Grade Instead of Carson Pass

Now before we get too excited (and I know…some of you purists want to keep Carson) let me caution you that a new route into Bear Valley (the ride won’t go quite that far but close) is NOT YET APPROVED.

The map and profile of Peter Stetina’s FKT ride on the proposed new DR route for 2021.
103.41 miles, 5:15:45 moving time (AYFKM?!), 14027 feet climbed

Curtis and team began the process of working with the various stakeholders, including Caltrans, the CHP, the Alpine Co. Sheriff and Alpine Co. Fire, last year and the discussions were fruitful. Most importantly, everyone got to know each other a bit better. There are many things to consider in order to pull off an event of this magnitude and so there is still work to be done and discussions to be had. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that we can get this new route approved for 2021.

That brings me to reason number 5…

Reason #5 – Because Peter Stetina Says So

Yesterday Pete rode the new course and set the current FKT (Fastest Known Time) – see the map and profile above. I hadn’t met Mr. Stetina (this guy definitely deserves “the Mr.”) until yesterday but I had heard lots of good things about him and I’ve followed him on Strava for some time.

He’s an extraordinary gentleman and giver of his time, name, energy and largesse. Yesterday was no different. As I understand it he didn’t have much time to prepare since Curtis, Becky and team made this little event happen pretty quickly. Still, he spent most of his day riding this course and promoting all the area has to offer, for no compensation from us (other than some little gifts of appreciation).

From L to R: Pete’s trusty steed; Di (Bike the West); Pete; and Becky (DeForest-Hanson, Executive Director of the Alpine Co. Chamber).

In Pete’s own words…

A screen grab from Peter Stetina’s Strava post on his Deathride FKT attempt of 8-11-20.

Oh, and perhaps there’s one more reason, or twenty-seven reasons actually, for you hard-core Deathriders to attend.

There are now twenty-seven, yes, you read that correctly, 27!!! KOMs that you can attempt to take back.

For this mere mortal that will never happen but perhaps you have it in you?

What About Covid-19?

Certainly we’re thinking positively in that we are planning on not having to social distance on July 17, 2021.

Let’s hope this virus has been vanquished by then, for many more important reasons than this ride, which in the overall scheme of things, with people dying, losing their jobs and suffering immense heartbreak, is trivial.

Still, it’s something to hope for, train for and pray for…

We hope and pray that we’ll see you here next year!

Stay safe, ride on and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ (and the virus’ ass, too) Asses!

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

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!