Category: rides

Some Ride-Related News From Markleeville – And Other Goings On

WE’VE gotten some small amounts of snow here in the California Alps over the last few days; certainly not as much as we’d have liked but it’s something. Better news on that front from the higher climes, however.

SOME backcountry (and other skiing) was to be had over this weekend, said Justin, my trusty physical therapist and backcountry skiing fanatic, last Friday.

bluebird with ornamental plumage resting on twig

I’M sure he was hitting it yesterday and I’d imagine he’s out there today, as any self-respecting mountain athlete (or any snow lover for that matter) would be on this bluebird of a day. 🙂

BULLITT the mountain bike is asking me to take him out for a spin today and I think I’ll oblige. Going to be some mud-slingin’ for sure!

That Ride-Related News

THE road cycling lately has been glorious, notwithstanding the slush, and plow-pellet induced sludge, and therefore requisite cleaning and lubing (whine, snivel). I was able to get outside early in the week and on one ride it felt downright balmy! Only a base tee under the jersey and no arm-warmers!

SINCE then we’ve had a couple light snow events, as I mentioned at the start of this post, so I’ve been partaking of the paincave lately. Segue…

SPEAKING of inside…I was able to test ride the “Fatbiking in the Snow” ride recently and I’m happy to say you Fulgaz subscribers will soon be able to particpate.

BE on the lookout for the “Pick n’ Mix” release tentatively scheduled for March, said Peter the Engineer.

MONITOR and Ebbetts remain closed (Monitor at the junction and Ebbetts just past Silver Mountain City) but once we get a bit of melt of yesterday’s dusting the riding on Monitor should be pretty good. Ebbetts, being much less exposed, will remain slushy in some of the shadier areas for awhile and I suspect we won’t get much plowing done any farther up towards the pass until April.

Those Other Goings On

COMMUNITY meetings continue on several fronts as we continue to recover from the Tamarack Fire. Trails continue to be a big part of the discussion and their rebuilding in time for the spring and summer season are a priority. We’re looking holistically at trail usage and focusing on hiking, riding and equestrian in our planning. Things are certainly going to look different out there as the forest starts its long return to health, yet it’s still the Sierra and a lot of it wasn’t burned.

THE images above are certainly heart-breaking. I remind folks though, that a lot of the area wasn’t torched and once you get past Monitor Junction to the south, or Pickett’s Junction, to the west, you won’t see a lot of fire-related damage. The forest is nothing if not resiliant.

MRS. CA Alps points out in a “making lemonade out of lemons” kinda way that the vistas are more expansive without so many trees. She’s right and it helps to look at it that way; still so very sad to see. And lets be honest, the density of the forest was, and still is, part of the problem. Thousands of years of native americans weren’t (and aren’t) wrong, you know?

OUR rivers, streams and lakes are looking good, though, and many of the latter, like Silver and Caples, are still frozen over. We’re working hard on repairing infrastructure like Turtle Rock Park and Grover Hot Springs State Park. Plans for the “fishing opener” are in the works, we’ve got a new addition to our local Fish & Game Commission, and we’re starting to think more about native fisheries and how we can restore them. Segue…😉

SPEAKING of restoration, the county has been awarded a grant of approximately $1.8 million that will be used to help private landowners here in Alpine Co. with their recovery efforts. Work on that front continues on a fast pace.

AS does tree-clearing…

BY the way, if you haven’t checked out the Alpine Chamber’s website recently, please take a gander. Lots of great information about things afoot here in Alpine County including summer events like Music in the Park, the Bear Valley Music Festival and Hermit Fest.

WELL, it’s off to wash Blue. I promised him he’d get a bath before I took his bro out for a ride. It’s 41; starting to warm up to today’s high of 42. Won’t be just a base layer and jersey today, I guess.

STILL, it could be worse.

ENJOY your Sunday and have a fantastic week!

Fat Tire Fun, Some Mug Shots and a Special Sighting

WHILE we were hoping that the storm of a couple weeks ago was going to open that storm door, alas that has yet to happen. We’ve gotten a drizzle here and there (a whopping .01 inches of rain yesterday) and some snivelings of snow, but the “big white” has yet to materialize.

THERE is, however, a glimmer of hope. We’ve got a system coming in tomorrow, and last week, on one of my usual rides – the cattle guard just below the 7000′ mark – there was still a bit of snow on Highway 4. The gate at Wolf Creek Road was closed (and Ebbett’s Pass remains closed as well).

A few of us, including a silver-haired stud-muffin who was coming up as I was headed down, took advantage though, and enjoyed that car-free zone.

Fat Tire Fun on the Middle Fork

FARLEY was a happy camper, as was his rider, during our little jaunt up to Grover Hot Springs State Park and requisite trek back towards the village, this time though via the banks of Hot Springs Creek. Formerly known, at least that’s the local lore – I’ve got to look that up – as the middle-fork of the Carson River, it’s a sweet little burbling brook of a stream.

Nice ride, that fire-tire bike… So forgiving on just about anything. Trek isn’t kidding IMO about it being the mountain bikers fat-bike. Very nimble. Light action, too, and as for mud…What mud?

WHAT I think would have been an issue, certainly on the gravel bike and perhaps even on the MTB, (see this “peanut butter post”) was nuffin’ for those puffy tires on Farley.

I can’t wait to get him out on the snow. Perhaps you’d like to join me? Hit me up and let’s make a plan!

Markleeville Mug Shots

WE pulled these just today from the wildlife camera behind the chalet.

THIS hambone we’ve named “Little Blackie” (after the heroine’s horse in True Grit – either version); that image in the left frame helps me cast my mind back to that Louis Gossett, Jr. line in “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

Stop eyeballing me, bear!

A Special Sighting

OUR resilient river (or creek, depending…) never stops surprising us. We get special sightings almost every day. A Great-Blue Heron cruises us regularly, a Belted-Kingfisher, too. And just last week it appeared to be more of a boiling caldron of black goo. Okay, maybe a little hyperbole but not too far off, really.

OTTERS, though? That one I wasn’t expecting. Okay, full disclosure…only one otter, but still, it really was a river otter! Right there. On our river. Of course I didn’t have a camera, or a phone, and it was too far away to get captured on the wildlife cam.

otter drifting on log on river
Photo by David Selbert on Pexels.com

THAT’s not my picture, no. Was definitely one of those, though. No, it was not a beaver, Mom. I can say so without any qualm.

SHE’S such a skeptic.

IT was a wild week indeed, here in the California Alps.

Here’s hoping you had a wild one too (in a good way), and that the coming week brings you many pleasant surprises.

Deathride Doodling? The Devil is in the Details!

BEEN doodling on the Deathride data that matta? Figuring out what you’ll need in order to tackle the Tour of the California Alps?

HERE are a few facts that may help in that regard.

FIRST of all (read aloud using deep lawyerly voice here) in the interest of full disclosure, for those who are not aware, California Alps Cycling LLC is not affiliated in any way with the Tour of the California Alps, more commonly known as the Deathride.

SECONDLY, I am a member of the board of directors of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, owner of the Deathride, so when I use we in this post, I mean the Chamber, or the Deathride, not California Alps Cycling, LLC.

GET it? Got it? Good! 😉

OKAY, appreciate you letting me clarify that; you can go back to your normal voice now. Let’s move on!

I had a little back & forth recently with my friend and CAC member, Charlie, the other day, where he asked on behalf of his cycling group, The Pain Gang, what the start and cut-off times were for the big event on July 17th. ‘Twas that convo. that gave me the idea for this post. Thanks Chuckles!

Mountain Iris’ in bloom at Scossa Ranch on Hwy. 4 about 10 miles south of Markleeville. Just took this photo today.

No More Carson

YUP, in case you weren’t aware, Carson is no longer the last big climb of the day. That honor instead falls to Hwy. 4 from just east of Lake Alpine, up and over that side of Pacific Grade (‘cuz you’ve already done the other side), into Hermit Valley and then up and over Ebbett’s Pass (for the 2nd time).

Yes, the Roads are Closed

“THE course will be closed to traffic from Markleeville through all sections of climbing, with a turnaround point at Lake Alpine where participants will head back to the finish at Turtle Rock Park.”

Staggered Start

“THE event officially starts at 5:30 am. Riders will be in a staggered start from that point forward. Any riders on the road before that time are riding at their own risk, and aid stations may not be open when you arrive.”

Rules of the Ride & the Road

THEY include more such nuggets, including: “How long do I have to complete the course to qualify for the all-pass finisher’s jersey? Riders have 13 hours, from 5:30 am – 6:30 pm to complete the course and apply for the finisher’s pin and jersey, aka “Tombstone Club.'”

THERE’S a link to all of the rules, including those having to do with Covid-19 protocols, on the Deathride site.

DO read up.

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Riders (and their families)

IT’S going to be bike-archy! We’ll likely have 2000 riders or so and that means things will be packed to the gills with cycling energy (and lots of bodies). Hotels and camping are already filling up. The Creekside Lodge is long sold-out of rooms for that weekend but Woodford’s Inn still had rooms when I checked Saturday. Not sure about the Carson River Resort, or Wylder (formerly Sorenson’s), but it’s probably worth checking in with them just in case.

Stonefly, Out West Cafe, J. Marklee Toll Station, and Cutthroat Brewing Company will all be hopping so make your reservations early where you can, otherwise, put those patience helmets on.

Bear Valley

SINCE the course now takes riders into the western side of Alpine County, staying or eating there (or both) may be an option. Keep in mind there is no shuttle service provided so you’ll need to work out those logistics yourself.

HERE’S a link to Cabins & Lodges in Bear Valley. Bear Valley Adventure Company, run by friend and fellow Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce Board Member Aaron Johnson, is a great source of information too, especially if you’re going to work in some gravel or MTB riding while you’re in town.

AND, you can check out dining options by clicking on this link.

We’re Looking Forward to Seeing You!

WE’VE missed you and are so excited to welcome you back for the 40th anniversary of this iconic ride. You’ve got a few more weeks to get those cycling legs ready and then it will be time to kick some passes’ asses!

SEE you soon! And please…travel safely.

It’s Another Springtime Thang Here in Markleeville

WE’VE been in denial here at California Alps Cycling HQ, aka Chalet Schwartz. Well, at least we were. Not anymore, though. Reality has set in and so has spring!

WHILE we had hoped for a miracle March, unfortunately we had no such luck, and so we’ll just have to accept the fact that spring has come to the California Alps (and elsewhere). It’s a tough thing, enduring spring here in the heart of the Sierra but we’ll just have to persevere.

The Birds are Back in Town!

IT all starting hitting home, so to speak, last Thursday evening as our local coyote – we named it Wiley of course – made its way along Hot Springs Creek and our meadow, without having to trudge through the ice and snow that recently finished its ritual thaw.

FRIDAY brought in our resident pair of California quail and on the same day we saw the chickens. No, not wild chickens. They belong to our neighbors (Linda & Gordy) just west of us and they let the girls out to scratch around the meadow. It seems though that they’re doing it just a bit more gleefully than usual.

THAT same day, the hummers showed up. Anna’s first, as is the norm, but soon the Rufous’ and Calliopes will be here.

THE Mallards too, have arrived. Mrs. Mallard is just out of the frame as Drake Mallard stands guard.

ROBINS, crows and Steller’s jays are all gathering nesting material and the chipmunks and ground squirrels have recently come out of hibernation, too. No bears yet but I’m sure that will change soon enough. And, we’ve got flickers, turkeys, herons, vultures and dippers as well!

YUP, in case you didn’t know before, you do now. This is a great place to do a bit of birding.

Ahh, Riding With Less Layering

MY gravel bike ride up Hwy. 4 (towards Monitor Pass) to, and a bit up Leviathan Mine Road on Sunday was glorious! There were a few other riders taking advantage of the closed road, too. I did have a chance to connect with one rider who had just come down from the pass. Clear all the way to the top, he said.

Whispy clouds over the Carson-Iceberg, and Hwy. 89, as seen from just above Heenan Lake.

THE gate will soon be open (saw those gigantic snow blowers on the side of the road Sunday) and then it’s just a matter of time before Ebbetts (and other Sierra passes) opens too.

YESTERDAY I partook of my second gravel ride of the spring season – a short but sweet trip up to, and in, Grover Hot Springs State Park.

AS you can see, the sky was as blue as my jersey and both Roscoe and I were very happy to be gravelin’.

Can You Say Fishing?

FISHMAS starts April 24th but that hasn’t prevented people from fishing now. The river is a bit chocolately (another sign of spring) but it should soon be its clear, cool, self. Click here for a few more particulars courtesy of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

ALPINE county will soon be opening up to the public I’ve heard and we’re all excited to welcome you!

SOCIAL distancing and masking is still required inside our businesses but it’s pretty easy to deal with when outside, and there’s lots of outside here in Alpine Co.

OOPS, I almost forgot to mention the spring wildflowers that will soon be popping. Don’t miss that either!

BE safe, stay healthy, travel respectfully, and we hope to see you soon.

Deathride News – Virtual and Actual

AS I mentioned in last week’s missive…COMING to a theatre near you: a virtual version of the Tour of the California Alps – Deathride. It begins on April 2nd!

I’VE also got some news about the real version, which takes place on July 17th.

Read on McRider…

Virtual Version

MEMBERS of California Alps Cycling, including yours truly, will be taking part in this epic event and we hope to see you as well. Be on the lookout for an invite to our Strava club so you can earn some bragging rights, and CLICK HERE to register. And if by chance you can spare a few more ducats (there is a donation option) we’d sure appreciate it. Ruptured vinyl here…Our little community, like many others, perhaps even yours, has taken a big hit event-wise due to the pandemic and the Deathride, which was canceled last year, is our biggest revenue source at the Chamber. Thank you in advance for your support.

LET me give you just a bit more background…

LAST year I filmed all of the climbs of the Deathride. GoPro mounted on the stem, top tube pack with an extra battery and a bit of trial and error. I rode them on my Emonda so had to pay the piper if you will, and if you listen closely you can hear my cycling gesticulations as I grind. I promise though, nothing X-rated. I recorded them so that riders, including me, could tour the area anytime, from anywhere – the beauty of FulGaz. For a complete list of all of “my rides” take a look at last week’s post.

I’VE participated in a couple FulGaz Fondos and they are fun! Leaderboards and a course map on your display, while you ride through the scenery, make it an immersive experience. If you haven’t tried FulGaz, whether it be as a subscriber or a “Fondo-er”, you really should check it out.

BY the way, you will not need to be a FulGaz subscriber to particpate. The Chamber will send you a code once you sign up for the Virtual Tour.

Again, starting the 2nd day of April. And again, you can get more details AND register here.

Actual Version

ALPINE County’s Planning Commission recently approved the permit for the Deathride to be CLOSED on both Highway 89 (Monitor Pass – like it has been) and Highway 4 (Ebbetts Pass – like it has been).

WITH one exception…

THE ride will NOT INCLUDE CARSON PASS this year but instead will go farther down Highway 4 to just before Lake Alpine and then back up and over, to eventually finish at Turtle Rock Park. Yup, Pacific Grade x 2. Ouch! The route will be shorter (just about 103 miles) but will still have ample climbing (~14000 feet) and therefore lots-of-weakness-leaving-the-body opportunities. 😉

IT’S going to be so sweet to only have to worry about cars between Turtle Rock Park and Monitor Junction. Alpine County Public Health has been a partner throughout this process and continues to be. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that the ride is dependent on our progess with the pandemic. Fingers crossed we’ll all be climbing on July 17th.

WE’RE currently working on an extra event or two around the Deathride as well. Part of our mission it to bring back that fondo-like experience and while we don’t want to over-promise right now we’re looking to host a kids/family type event the day before, or even the day of the event, to give rider’s families something to so while we’re out there enjoying the beauty of the California Alps.

A kid’s MTB race (maybe even one for the big kids), a safety clinic/fix-it clinic, a yoga class, and a course on Native American art, culture and influence are all being discussed. We’re hoping to have this event at the Hung A Lel Ti reservation here in Alpine County.

Some cool giveaways are also in the mix!

IDEALLY your appetite is now whetted!

HERE’S hoping we’ll all have some images of our own to add from this year’s Tour of the California Alps. I’ve never ridden Pacific Grade so am really looking forward to that. And, to signing the poster!

Remind me I said that when you see me on the course in July, k?

IN the meantime, we’re looking forward to seeing you in April. So please be safe, stay healthy and get those climbing legs ready!

Riding in Peanut Butter – Gravelly Lessons Learned

MY ride last Thursday was quite an adventure: a slippery, sloppy, peanut-buttery, very short (as it turns out) ride on the East Carson River Trail, just outside of Markleeville.

“Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure.”

NO doubt Selene! Yeager, that is… Her words from “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training and Grit You Need to Crush It” certainly ring true. More so today than last month when I wrote another post about gravel. That post, “A Brief What and Where,” didn’t include the trail to which I’m writing about today so do give it a read when you get a chance; it has a few more gravel grinding factoids for you.

It All Started Innocently Enough

ROSCOE (II, a 2017 Domane 600 Series Disc) and I headed out from HQ here in Markleeville on an almost 60 degree day knowing that some mud was possible — but unlikely or at least navigable we thought after a couple weeks of dry weather.

THE trail starts at Hangman’s Bridge, just about two (2) miles from Markleeville, and I had hiked it before. A few little rollers to kick things off, and a couple others about half-way out, but other than that it’s a fairly flat, non-technical out-and-back trail that tracks the East Fork of the Carson River for about 3 1/2 miles or so. Click here to check it out on All Trails.

THAT first pitch wasn’t rideable (at least for me) so I kicked things off with a little hike-a-bike. Little did I know then that I would get a bit more of that (hike-a-bike that is) pretty quickly.

I was having a great time riding through the squishy, pine-needley (is that a word? not sure) muck and was really enjoying the sound of my tires hitting that squishiness. Some fish-tailing, some mud-splattering, some big ol’ rocks and some pine cones; all of which made for some serious, shit-eating grin kinda fun. Roscoe and I were really enjoying ourselves and then we hit IT and as soon as we did we knew we were in a bit of a pickle.

The path from whence we came – that track that looks a little like a thread was ours. ‘Twas okay as long as we were moving. Then we hit that patch of thick peanut butter mud.

Now What?

THERE was no more progress to be made and I had to dismount. It all went very much downhill from there and it was a veritable laugh-riot. I was cackling like a madman as I surveyed the scene. I had seen mud but I had never experienced THIS MUD.

MY wheels would not move. No problem, I thought. I’ll just grab one of these sticks and clear ’em out. Snap. Okay, let’s try another one. Snap. No joy there. I need a better (not necessarily bigger) stick. Again I tried. Crack.

OKAY, let’s pause for a moment, I said to myself, and look at the shoes. Holy sludge Batman, this stuff is incredible! There was no way any stick was going to clean out this caca.

I realized at this point that we were doomed, Roscoe and I. And yes, that is hyperbole. We weren’t really doomed but the ride sure was. At least we were fairly close to the trailhead. So, I swallowed my pride and called for extraction. Luckily, I still had cell service so that made it easier. I also had, if needed though, my inReach Mini. So if I had too…

For more on that little gadget of wonder, by the way, take a gander at this post. I think it’s the most valuable thing I carry when I’m riding, or hiking, or snowshoeing, or pretty much doing anything here in the California Alps, or any adventurous location for that matter!

We then did a little hike-a-bike, Roscoe and I, laughing (just me) all the way, and my lovely assistant (and wife) Patricia was there lickety split.

Those Lessons Learned?

THE ride that I hoped for instead turned out to be an afternoon of shoe and bike washing and the first thing I learned was that regular water (i.e. from a garden hose) does not work on this stuff. That cold water just made the mud harder.

LESSON #2: When you are riding a road bike (albeit an endurance-oriented, Paris-Roubaix tested model) made a gravel bike with the simple addition of some gravel tires, mud is a problem. It wasn’t designed with enough clearance like today’s true gravel bikes. Sand, check. Loose dirt, check. Rocks, check. Gravel, check. Mud, negatory. Better clearance is better!

LESSON #3: SPDs can be problematic in the muck. I did have a small swiss-army knife in my kit but it would have been a long slog to use that little thing to clear out everything to the point where I could actually ride. I should have installed those hybrid pedals (SPDs on one side, platform on the other) before I left.

LESSON #4: Use warm water (and brushes) to clean off the caca. Like I said earlier, that cold water just made things worse. I even had to use a steel brush to clean off the tires. Thankfully I have a big ‘ol laundry sink in the bathroom off the garage so I was able to apply that hot H20 liberally. Still, it took a surprising amount of time.

LESSON #5: This one I had applied before: wadded up newspaper in those wet shoes make for fast, efficient drying. I cleaned the shoes before I started on Roscoe, by the way, and did so in the sink, with warm water and a nylon brush.

IN case you’re wondering…Yes, I did clean the chain (I use Park’s Cyclone Chain Scrubber) and lubed it as well. Roscoe needed a bath anyway.

  • Time actually riding the bike: ~ 22 minutes
  • Time cleaning the shoes and the bike: ~ 2-3 hours

ROSCOE and I are still laughing about that day’s adventure. It was pretty much an epic failure of a ride I admit, but those lessons learned? Priceless.

ESPECIALLY as we gear up and train for more gravel riding. Lots more learning to do, to be sure.

YOU?

Cycling Events in 2021? Here’s What on Our List

2020 was not a very event-full year, at least in terms of “real” bike events. Sure, many of us, yours truly included, did some virtual events/tours, and even some racing, but it wasn’t nearly the same as being there with a bunch of riders that were suffering (or not) right along with me.

And the after parties…I really miss those!

SPEAKING OF EVENTS

AT the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce we’ve continued to work on the 2021 Deathride and are optimistic that we can pull it off. I’m on the periphery if you will — the actual work is being done by our Executive Director, Becky DeForest-Hanson, and our Ride Director, Curtis Fong — so I won’t go into much detail but suffice it to say there’s a good chance IMHO that we’ll be riding those iconic California Alps climbs in July.

WE’VE also been talking with the folks at FulGaz about doing some sort of virtual Deathride in the first quarter of 2021! Something along the lines of the Bay Area Virtual Fondo, perhaps. It would give you veteran Deathriders a chance to do some training in the pain cave prior to the big day. And for any of you who haven’t done the ride you’d get a chance to wet your wheels, so to speak. Remember, we’ve filmed all of the climbs (and some other local rides too) so you’ll be able to experience the real thing…virtually ;-).

BIKE the West’s America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Tour de Tahoe are on my list. Well, at least one of them is…And I’m looking forward (admittedly with a bit of trepidation) to my first gravel grinder: Stetina’s Paydirt, in September of 2021.

ON a somewhat tangential note

RECENTLY I participated in a virtual meeting involving several bike coalitions and representatives of Caltrans District 10. Rob Williams, outreach manager at the California Bicycle Coalition (aka CALBIKE) set up and facilitated the meeting, which was primarily focused on us all getting to know each other a bit and devising a plan to work together moving forward.

IT was a great get-together and nice connections, and in several cases, reunions, were made. More on that in a future post.

FOR now though I’d like to direct you to an article that was recently published (Rob was the author, by the way) on Bike Valley to Sierra, entitled “40 Years of Cycling the California Alps.” It’s a nice little missive and besides other data that matta, has links to some other events in District 10, which includes Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

WHAT’S on your list? Feel free to share by commenting on this post, or on our Facebook page.

HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Please stay safe and healthy and keep training so we can all kick some passes’ asses next year.

Together.

In person.

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part Two

MY saga continues…’Twas day three (3) of my Markleeville stay and I had some business to attend to today: a visit with the staff at the Alpine County Superior Court.

AS I mentioned in last week’s post, working with the courts (mostly in CA but also in other states) was my day job and so I had planned to stop in and introduce myself to the CEO (in court parlance CEO stands for Court Executive Officer) and the clerk(s) at the Markleeville Courthouse.

Unfortunately my timing was off a bit so my check-in would have to wait a day. I did, however, snag this image from the steps of the courthouse.

SINCE I had some time to kill I thought I’d stop in at the Intero Real Estate office a few doors up, and just for shits and giggles (my actual thoughts at the time), ask about the house on Hot Springs Road. I met Sarah Chichester that day and we talked about the house (it had been on the market for some time) as well as land in the area. It was she that gave me a reality check about the expense of putting in water and power on a vacant piece of property. I told her why I was here and that at this point I wasn’t at all serious about buying the house but I asked if I could take a look anyway.

SHE was so friendly (just about everyone here in Markleeville is that way I later learned) and immediately picked up the phone. “Sure,” she said, “we can head on over. The owners are both home and are expecting us.”

THE SIGNS CONTINUE

SO off Sarah and I went, about a mile from town to the house. There I met Pat and Rich, the owners. Oh, and the sign? It was Pat (her name, really). Pat is my wife’s name! They gave me a tour of the entire house and property and a bit of history too. Pat and her first husband built the place in 1976. After about 40 years here she was ready for warmer climes, she said, and so they were going to move to Florida, where they already had a beachfront condo. But, she told me, they had to find the right people first. They felt very strongly that the next owners had to care about the land and surrounds as much as they did; there was a lot of history here and not just theirs, but generations of settlers, and before that, the Native American Peoples.

Chalet Schwartz before it was Chalet Schwartz. We took this shot about 3 weeks after I first saw the house and property. Just past, and a bit left (south as it turns out) of the white trailer, is Hot Springs Creek, fka the Middle Fork of the Carson River. As you can see, Pat and Rich were prepping the U-Haul.

IN fact, there is a grinding rock on the property and yes, that was yet another sign. My wife and I love Native American lore/karma/energy, whatever you want to call it!

MY FIRST TRIP UP

I had meetings beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3, 2016, so I had to get moving early so I could get up to Ebbetts Pass and back. I had estimated about two (2) hours round trip (not too far off) and so was on the road about 7:00 a.m. It was hot that summer so the morning was cool, not frigid, like it is today. Still, I did have some arm warmers and a base layer on, and a shell for the descent.

MY wife and I talked the night before about the possiblities. Could we afford to buy the house now as a second home? We decided that no, we could not keep our San Jose home and have a 2nd home in Markleeville (or anywhere else for that matter). She floated this idea, though: perhaps we could move there? She only had about a year or so left before she retired and I was already a remote worker and accustomed to working from home. Nah, that’s crazy. We can’t do that! Still, the thoughts kept coming…

ANYWAY, off I went. I stopped for a photo at Monitor Junction (the image at the top of this post) and as I got back on my bike I remember thinking: could we actually move here? I kid you not that right at that moment I had my first eagle sighting (a bald eagle it was) here in the CA Alps! It flew directly over head as if to answer my question. Yes, you could, said the eagle. Yet another sign…

AS I road up, and up, and up the mountain I was astounded by the beauty of it all. The river, the mountains, the trees and THAT SKY…

Man, what a place!

EBBETTS PASS – AND YET ANOTHER SIGN

THAT last mile or so from Kinney to the pass isn’t an easy one but I knew I was close and so it didn’t matter how tired I was. I did have to go to work, even if was in the river cabin, so no more dawdling allowed, I said to myself. I arrived at the pass and took the requisite selfies to document my success. As I was taking a few more moments to revel and reflect, a pickup pulled up next to me and the driver asked if I knew where the trailhead to the PCT was. No, I said, it was my first time in the area and I had no clue. The passenger then leaned forward and cocked his head to say thanks and I couldn’t believe it, it was my friend (and former dentist) Mike!

“Mike Forster!” I said and he then recognized me. It had been several years since I had seen him; I knew he had a place in South Lake, though, and over the years he was often there. He was just as surprised as I was and said he didn’t recognize me at first because I had lost quite a bit of weight. What are the odds, eh? For us to connect again at this exact moment in this amazing place.

If that wasn’t a sign (and a BIG ONE) then what was!?

WE yakked for a bit but as I already told you, and then I told him, I had to get going. I had a meeting. I let him know where I was staying and he promised to stop by before he headed back to his place in Tahoe. He then took a better photo of me at the marker and his buddy took the photo of us (both below) before we parted ways.

THE TALE TERMINATES…NEXT WEEK

I hope you’ve found the story entertaining so far. I am certainly enjoying the re-telling of it but alas, I must keep you waiting for the conclusion until next week. I don’t mean to belabor the “sign thing” but there are still a couple more to come, mostly related to the specific hows of our exodus from Silicon Valley.

Until then, be safe, stay healthy and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

Gravel! the California Alps? A Brief What and Where

This past spring I took my first real foray into gravel riding. It was a challenging but oh so fun adventure. You can read about it here. Since then I’ve done a lot of thinking, and a bit of reconnaissance, on potential gravel ride routes here in Alpine Co., and as you can imagine there are many possibilities.

What is Gravel Riding?

I’m not really qualified to answer that question since I am by no means a gravel expert. Not even close. In fact I’m not very experienced on a mountain bike either. I’ve ridden over 6000 miles this year on my road bike yet I have only about 400 miles total on my mountain bike, and I’m a bit embarrassed to say, that’s in about 4 years. As for gravel riding, I’ve only done that three (3) times (but all this year at least!).

With that said, in my mind gravel riding is riding a road bike, with special tires, on trails or fire roads. I now know it’s not quite that simple but I think it’s a pretty fair one-sentence description. Selene Yeager, author of “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training, and Grit You Need to Crush It,” (which by the way is a good read and full of “gravelly” advice) writes that:

…”gravel is still up for intepretation. You know to expect some rowdy, even scary, stuff in a mountain bike race. You expect road races to have some technical turns. Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure. One person might imagine quiet, rugged, relatively smooth, if crunchy roads [my original expectation]. Another considers any unpaved surface fair game [the reality of gravel riding that I’ve come to know].”

She also notes that “if you’re brand new to riding unpaved surfaces on a drop bar bar bike, everything may feel a category tougher.” I can relate. She goes further by adding to examples (categories), originally crafted by Neil Shirley and “codified” in his Industry Standard to Gravel (ISGG). Check out the book or the ISGG for more on those cats.

Also check out this post on VeloNews, written by Pete Stetina, where he compares a WorldTour year to a Gravel year — really eye-opening!

Adventure Indeed!

As you’ve now read in that post from earlier this year, I didn’t set my expectations very well this past spring and now that I’m better at that I’m happier when riding gravel.

Here’s three (3) of the four (4) gravel rides I’ve done this year (there’s a link to numero quatro – not shown below – in the first paragraph of this post), one of which, Leviathan Mine Road, was technically not a gravel ride since I rode my mountain bike. But it could be and so I’ve listed it here. I hope to ride it on the gravel bike sometime between now and next spring/summer.

  • Starts at Highway 88 in Alpine Co., CA
  • I rode up to the lake, with a slight detour on the way
  • 11.61 miles round trip
  • 1:31:15 of moving time
  • 1542′ of climbing.
  • Starts at Jacks Valley Road in Carson City, NV
  • We road up to the Clear Creek Junction
  • 16.77 miles round trip
  • 2:11:39 of moving time
  • 1909 feet of climbing.
  • Starts at Hwy. 395 near Topaz Lake, in NV
  • I rode the Fuel up to the intersection of Leviathan Mine Road (LMR) and Loope Canyon Road (LCR)
  • 25.89 miles round trip
  • 2:29:44 of moving time
  • 2874 feet of climbing.

More to Come!

Admittedly I’ve barely scratched the gravel-riding surface but like the title of this post reads ’tis a brief what and where. Nonetheless I hope you found some of the “what” enlightening and some of the “where” inspiring. Pick your adventure, whether it’s one of my suggestions or not, and do some gravel.

It’s definitely more challenging than road cycling. In some (most) ways it’s harder than mountain biking (e.g. no shocks, smaller tires) but I’ve found that it’s also easier in terms of speed and nimbleness. I’ve got a lot more to learn but now that I’ve done a few rides, and gotten out of my own way a bit (those expectations, you know?) I’m certainly ready for more gravel!

How about you? Any tips or suggestions for some gravelly adventures?

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

Yesterday’s Adventure – Big Blue Redux and Filming FUBARs

Fall is giving way to colder temperatures, including some sub-freezing readings here lately, and so I’m working hard to get some of those special rides in, film some fall colors for FulGaz, and knock off some more of those honey-do list items before our epic winter (putting out those Game of Thrones vibes, if you get my drift) sets in.

As you may recall I published a post late last month about riding around Lake Tahoe (aka Big Blue), and one of our loyal readers, Roy Franz, urged me to try the ride again, this time on a weekday and taking the clockwise direction.

And so it was that yesterday I found myself in Stateline, NV, on a fairly brisk morning (about 45 fahrenheit), gearing up to do just that.

Prepping for the Shoot

Yesterday morning I was up at o’dark thirty so that I could prep. my gear and the bike and get the GoPro mounted and ready. There is a little bit of work involved to make sure the camera angle is good, the battery back-up is charged and the top-tube pack that holds the back-up, cable and tool is not flopping around. A bit of “tape-work” is also needed in order to secure the cable to the bike, and to keep the GoPro’s battery and cable connection secure as well.

Before I headed out I used the very cool preview feature to make sure that the horizon was where it should be on the camera and I also double checked the settings too, or so I thought.

The plan was to record the entire ride in three (3) manageable sections, each approximately 1.5 hours long.

  • Stateline to Meek’s Bay
  • Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
  • Incline Village back to Stateline

Rolling…Kinda

All geared up. Settings good. Camera angle good. Power button pushed. Requisite beep heard. Hand waved in front of camera to signal the start for FulGaz’s engineers. Off I went.

Switching tacks for just a moment; let’s talk biology. There are a few times during the year that for whatever reason I seem to lose a lot of water weight. Typically a few days after hard efforts or too much mexican food. That salt, you know? I wasn’t expecting this day to be one of those but that’s the way the water works I guess, especially when you have (as my friend Mike would say) a bladder the size of a peanut.

A bit more context…If you do stop while filming a ride for FulGaz (FG) then you just go back about 20 yards from where you stopped and start again. I make a mental note of those instances so I can pass that info. on to FG. The team then edits that section out and for the most part you don’t even notice.

So, after about five (5) stops in the first 30 minutes, I was getting frustrated. Really bladder? Now? Today? Seriously? I kept doing my thing, and re-starting and apologizing to Klaus (their lead-dawg engineer), by commenting during the video. Finally, Mr. Bladder had gotten rid of the excess fluid and I was able to get to Meek’s Bay without another stop.

Beep. Upon my arrival I pushed the button and heard that comforting sound that acknowedged I had in fact stopped recording. I also stopped the ride on my Wahoo and saved it as well; the .fit file then syncs up nicely with the video. It’s also important to toggle off auto-pause or things get a little screwy, and to my credit I did do that. What I didn’t do, though, was look at the camera before I took off from Stateline.

Had I done that I would have noticed that I was in photo mode instead of video mode!

Yup, that’s what the FUBAR portion of this post’s title is all about. After all of that prepping, nature-breaking and riding from Stateline to Meek’s Bay I had NOTHING! Zippo! Nada! Oh well, I thought, at least it was an amazing day so far and I did have a section of this section recorded (when Chris and I did the counter-clockwise route in late September) so I’ll just use that. Still…shit! Or FUBAR! You pick.

Meek’s Bay to Incline Village

I planned on redeeming myself on this portion of the ride and what a BEAUTIFUL segment it was! Not too much climbing and a lot of the course was really close to the water so it should be a really pretty video. I made it to Incline without another bio-break and had a nice encounter (seriously) on the way with a Placer Co. deputy sheriff who pulled up next to me to remind me that two (2) ear buds is not better than one (1) when on a bicycle.

Frankly I’m a bit anxious to look at the clips for fear of another SNAFU (see “FUBAR-link” above) but based on what I saw on the GoPro’s screen (fingers crossed) I got this one so on to the next.

Incline to Stateline – The Finish

Looking down at the emerald green waters of Lake Tahoe from Highway 89. This photo was taken just south of Incline Village.

There’s a bit of climbing to get up and out of Incline so it was somewhat of a taxing finish but I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to come from such a beautiful place to Stateline with its casinos and such. However, just after I went throught the tunnel at Cave Rock I heard a telltale series of beeps from the camera that indicated that either the battery had died or the media was full. Shit, again. And again, the oh well…If nothing else the FG ride will be Incline to Cave Rock. We shall see. Still not brave enough to look.

The Moral of the Story

Roy was oh so right. What a day of riding in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Clockwise, on a weekday that isn’t a Friday is definitely the ticket. There was much less traffic, the view from the lake side of the road is much better (there are some drop-offs but nothing too scary) and there were fewer tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I like tourists. I realize some don’t right now and I get that, too. IMHO they infuse the area with much needed ducats, yet it seems that sometimes they leave their brain at home, especially when confronted with such amazing scenery.

As for the FulGaz Faux Pas’, what can I say? Apparently I left my brain at home too. I’ve never (add saracastic tone here) done that when I’m doing the tourist thing.

The beauty of it, though, is that I can head back anytime before winter rears its oh so wonderful head and take another whack (or two or three) at it. Looking forward to that!