Category: road conditions

Winter is Afoot in the California Alps – Here’s a Snowy Update!

Finally. Some snow. So good to see the white stuff coming down this past weekend. It wasn’t a piddly amount either – we received about 8” here at California Alps Cycling HQ and so we had to break out the snowblower!

Riding Behind Those Gates

CalTrans closed the gates at Monitor Junction last Friday in anticipation of the coming storm and so access to Monitor Pass and Ebbetts Pass, and as it turns out, Sonora Pass, was restricted.

The above image, at Hwy. 4 and Wolf Creek Road, was taken earlier this year and I post it up here to point out the difference between the simple “Road Closed” signs and the extra “Pedestrians, Bicycles, Motor-Driven Cycles Prohibited” signage. The former is what we cyclists, hikers, fisherpersons like – it means no cars to worry about and so it’s generally safe to do your thing. When that extra sign is posted though, it’s an indicator that there is heavy equipment, road repairs, snowblowing, etc. going on and it’s NOT SAFE to go behind the gates. This I learned in speaking with CalTrans.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there is no vehicular extraction if you have a mechanical once you’ve gone over to the other side. I personally have done a bit of walking over the last several years, once when I had a chain break and once when I double flatted and so I learned this lesson the hard way.

Curt Prater, one of our FB followers, gets credit for this part of our update by the way. He and I struck up a conversation after he saw our post on the closure. He loves riding behind those gates and he reminded me that I do too.

Just be prepared and be safe about it, okay? It does come with some risk.

Some Sobering News…

Unfortunatley, there’s been a Covid-19 outbreak here in Alpine County. As of this morning the total number of cases is 26, with one (1) hospitalization and thankfully, no deaths. Up until last month we only had three (3) but we, like many other counties in CA, are now ticking up. It’s an important reminder that even though we’re all growing tired of the virus, it is not growing tired of us. On the contrary, I fear it’s taking advantage of that fatigue. With the holidays approaching it’s up to all of us to keep up the good fight. Please wear a mask and stay safe.

Snow covers the rocks of Hot Springs Creek and if you look closely you can see those squirrel prints to the left of the frame.

Switching Tacks…

Let’s talk about food and suds for a minute. One of my colleagues on the Chamber Board is Patrick Sarni, owner of the 7800 Bar & Grill in Kirkwood. He’s opening on December 1st in anticipation of the December 4th opening of Kirkwood. Patrick, like most small business owners, especially those in the food service industry, has put everything he has into his business so let’s help him, and others like him, have a successful opening, and season, safely!

Ditto for the Out West Cafe here in Markleeville. Joey and Danelle Daly, who also own DollFace Cheesecakes, have recently opened in the former Alps Haus Cafe location. I overheard a patron raving about the cheesecake and will be ordering one for Thanksgiving.

Snow covered rocks and icy waters of Hot Springs Creek.

The Mad Dog Cafe at Woodfords Station also has good grub (and cerveza) and I heard from a reliable source (Jennifer Quillici, owner) yesterday that they will be the ONLY snow-park permit vendor in Alpine County this season. She said they should have the permits in about a week.

And definitely don’t forget about the J. Marklee Toll Station and the Cutthroat Brewing Company. The latter, as you may know, just opened this past summer.

A small pool in Hot Springs Creek. Ice skating coming soon!

While it’s not about food and suds, it’s also worth noting that The Bear Valley Adventure Company has posted on its website a projected XC Ski and Snowshoe opening of November 27th! We’re looking forward to some ‘shoe’n and I’m hoping to get in some cross-country skiing, too. First, I need some lessons though. 😉

Should be an interesting season with Covid-19 in play but as long as we all keep up with those best practices we can make it a safe one. As it turns out I just saw an email from our County Health Officer, Rick Johnson, in which he advises to BOLO for an update next week after the state releases its tier assignment. Like I said, interesting season…

Some New FulGaz Rides are in the Works

I’ve noticed quite a few riders tackling some of the rides I filmed earlier this year. Yesterday I did the Ebbetts South Ascent, the shortest of the Deathride climbs, as a quick warm-up for some core work, and saw that 52 riders have ridden it since it went live. Cool!

What’s even better is this email I received from a FulGaz subscriber last week. Froylan wrote: “I wanted to thank you for the wonderful job you did to film the climbs of the Deathride. I have participated in that event for a number of years and of course I miss not riding the event this year, but thanks to you and Fulgaz (love the app for rides) I can re-live the event at home.” He made my day and also asked about Kingsbury Grade, which is on my list, but not yet filmed.

I have, however, recently filmed three (3) rides around Big Blue (aka Lake Tahoe) as well as one from Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake (with some fall colors). I’m processing them now and should get the files to FulGaz by the end of the week for their processing. Stay tuned as you’ll soon have a chance to partake on those rides too, along with Froylan!

Closing Things Out With a Couple Nature Videos

A turkey social in the snow
An early a.m. (this morning) visitor – a gray fox.

And on this Veteran’s Day I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to all the veterans (including my Grandpa who served in WWII), their families and those currently serving. Thank you SO MUCH for your service and sacrifice!

Stay safe, be well and let’s kick some passes’ asses! Whether that be by bike, snowshoe, ski or snowmobile.

Thinking of Riding Around Lake Tahoe? Here’s What You Should Know

Lake Tahoe is the largest Alpine Lake in North America, and is the second deepest lake in the United States. The lake is 22 miles long, 12 miles wide and about 72 miles around, with an average depth of 1000 feet! It’s one big ‘ol lake and last Friday one of my riding buddies and I tackled it by bike in the counter-clockwise direction.

The first person, by the way, to name the deepest lake in the U.S. by commenting on our Facebook page, will receive a CA Alps Cycling t-shirt.

Never having ridden around the lake before I wasn’t sure what to expect. Yes I had driven it by car but I never really thought about what it would be like by bike, other than amazingly beautiful and scenic.

Well, as Gomer Pyle would have said: “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

Image courtesy of imgflip.com

While it was a beautiful day and the lake seemed a deeper blue than normal, as did the sky (perhaps due to the lack of smoke we had become used to over the last several weeks) it was quite the eye-opener to actually ride it.

Here’s What I Learned

  • There ain’t a whole lot of room on the shoulder(s). In fact in some sections of road there ain’t any!
  • Many sections of road are in a state of disrepair with some nasty bits of asphalt (or lack thereof) ready to surprise you. Yeah, our roads in CA could use some work, I know that. Still…
  • There’s more traffic than I expected. I was thinking it wouldn’t be too bad on a Friday, during the late morning into the afternoon, but I was wrong.
  • Can you say tourists? This was somewhat of a “doh!” moment certainly and I mention it in order to point out that tourists are doing their job – gawking. They are not looking out for cyclists and in some instances I noticed they weren’t even looking out for themselves.
  • Okay, you’re right…it’s not just tourists that don’t pay attention.
  • There are a huge amount of hiking trails to be found in and around and that generates more traffic and more pedestrians.
  • Many people park on the side of the road either for convenience or due to necessity and that means cyclists need to BOLO for doors!

Take a look at this ~8 minute video to get a sense of what I’m “talking” about. This clip starts just after D.L. Bliss State Park and ends just past Emerald Bay. You can catch a glimpse of Fannette Island and I should also mention that there is some “blue language” (hey, that’s appropriate!) about 2/3 of the way through the clip. Color commentary…

A little glimpse into what you’ll experience when you do the Lake.

Some Other Tidbits

  • We road it counter-clockwise as I mentioned early on in this post. Why? We thought it safer; you’re on the mountain side not on the lake side (there are some steep drop-offs) so if something goes amiss you won’t have to try and rappel (or get help rappelling) back up.
  • Plan on somewhere around four (4) hours to complete the loop. Sure, some will be faster and some will be slower. We took the slow-boat approach and so it took us about 4.5 hours.
  • There is about 4000′ of climbing over the course of the approximately 72 miles of riding. Mostly rollers but there are a couple decent climbs – one from D.L. Bliss State Park towards Emerald Bay (some of this section can be seen on the above video clip) and another from Cave Rock up to the Highway 50/28 intersection.
  • There are hosted event options (next year) such as America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and Tour de Tahoe. Check out Bike the West for those.
  • There are a lot of good grinds around the lake. We stopped at Sonney’s BBQ Shack near Emerald Bay and had the most AMAZING turkey clubs we’ve EVER HAD. I kid you not.

So as I told my family and some friends post-ride, you have to be on your game to do this ride. Unless you stop for the sights I suggest you keep your eye on the ball as there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for boo-boos.

My lawyer would want me to tell you that California Alps Cycling IS NOT responsible for anything that might occur if you decide to ride it yourself. You assume all risk and should realize that cycling, especially in high-traffic areas, is inherently dangerous.

So, with that said, if you do decide to partake in one of the most scenic, and high-on-most-cyclist’s-bucket-lists, rides in the world, be wary, have fun, stop for some grub and take some time to look around (off the bike).

I’ll BOLO for your report!

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass – After Action Report

Here’s smiling at you! Sending good vibes and mountain energy from California Alps Cycling!

Well it’s been a great week of riding I must admit. Being furloughed has its benefits. I am one lucky dawg. I also recognize that many folks are not so lucky; some are sick or have died, some have lost loved ones, many are unemployed and many are working (some on the front lines – THANK YOU!). And yet life continues for me, and you, and most of us, albeit in this twilight zone. And so, writing a post about cycling two (2) iconic California Alps climbs this past week feels a bit weird. Nonetheless, for your reading (and cycling, if you’re coming our way) pleasure…

Ebbett’s Pass

Last Monday, April 27th, I partook, and I’m pretty sure I was the first cyclist up the mountain this year (my friend Bill Cassity said so!). It was a beautiful day (in the 60’s and 70’s), made even more beautiful by the fact that there were no cars on the road past Monitor Junction (see last week’s post for more on that).

There was no snow or other issues on/with the road until I got up towards Cascade Creek. There I found quite of bit of rock (a few large boulders but mostly small stuff) that had fallen from above, which made for slow going on the descent.

As I approached Kinney Reservoir I was excited for the photo op — the mountains and sky reflecting in the water are amazing — but felt like such a nit when I got there only to find a still frozen body o’ water. Skating anyone?

Yup! Still frozen. It is at about 8000′ after all.

I didn’t see any riders at all until I was coming down. And, again, that no motor vehicle thing is awesome! The pass will likely open soon (May 15th perhaps) so if you want to experience the climb, with no cars, like you only get on the Deathride, now’s your chance. It’s not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced, though, so please be aware of that, and be cautious.

Monitor Pass

Just this a.m. I climbed Monitor and it was not nearly as pleasant as my trip up Ebbett’s Pass earlier in the week. I knew it was going to be windy; conditions at HQ before I left made that pretty apparent, but it was particularly “sporty” today with lots of crosswinds and gusts and such. I did, however, get some help from a nice tailwind for a lot of the climb; it was especially welcome on that first real pitch of about 3.5 miles from Monitor Junction to the cattle guard at Heenan Lake. That’s really the toughest section on the western side of Monitor; once you’re above that guard it becomes a bit more manageable. And while Monitor is steeper than Ebbett’s it’s only about half as long…That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

Just about at the 8000′ mark. That’s the Carson Range in the distance behind me.

I’ve never seen Hwy. 89 to Monitor Pass so devoid of snow this time of year; it validates (not that I needed it) the recent “only 3% of normal” snowpack report. As you can see, there was no snow on the side of the road (and there was nary a bit (just a couple of small patches) at the summit, neither.

The wind seemed to get colder, and more vexing (that’s for you Rich) on the way down – it was so cold (and I brought a couple extra items with me for the descent) that I had to stop and warm up. I was shivering so badly that I was starting to shimmy (and shake) – not a good thing when you’re barreling down a mountain at high speed!

Anyway, I did survive the descent, which, with the exception of some gravel and other debris on the road closer to the bottom of the hill, and a few of those gusts, was uneventful. I was back at HQ by lunchtime and beer-thirty.

So, there you have it. Did I mention that climbing these passes, or any passes for that matter, is not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced? My lawyer told me to tell you that you assume all the risk if you decide to partake. Your loved ones would remind you to be careful (and I am reminding you too) and to keep in mind there’s no sag wagon behind those gates. And cell service? Forgettaboutit!

On that cheery note though…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Weekend Update – Two Alps Passes, The Deathride and Fishing

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had some news that I wanted to pass on. And, since I’m an old school SNL guy I thought I’d go with the “Weekend Update” reference (Aykroyd was the best anchor, IMHO).

Ebbett’s Pass and Monitor Pass

From our FB post this past Wednesday: “Yesterday afternoon I had an email exchange with David Griffith, one of our Supervisors here in Alpine Co., and he told me that yesterday morning “the Board of Supervisors approved a letter requesting that CalTrans *not* open Monitor or Ebbetts Pass until May 15th. Should perceived danger from covid-19 recede it may open sooner. I was assured that it only applies to motorized vehicles so walkers, hikers and cyclists etc. should be exempt.” It should be safe to go past the gates on Monitor a/o today he said, but there is still snow plowing being done on Ebbetts, so walking, hiking and cycling is discouraged there – for now.”

David was kind enough to ping me yesterday to say the signs that prohibit pedestrians, bicyclists and motor-driven cycles (moped? e-bike?) had been removed.

Signage at Wolf Creek Road on April 21st. The gate is open as of today, though.

Monitor Junction, where highways 4 and 89 intersect, is north of Wolf Creek Road (the above image) and the gates there ARE CLOSED. However, the “peds, cyclists and mdc prohibited” signs are no where to be seen! Just like David said. So, you can ride both of those roads if you wish. Of course, you’re assuming the risk – flat or have a mechanical and depending on where you are it could be a long walk. As for a true emergency? No cell service much past town so if you don’t have a sat-phone or a buddy…

Nonetheless, I partook today, along with other riders and hikers, and road part way up Hwy. 4 (aka Ebbett’s Pass) and part way up Hwy. 89 from the Junction (aka Monitor Pass). Wasn’t into the Full Monty (yeah, another old-school reference but I won’t expand – Google it!) today so just did sections of each. Still, got about 3000′ of climbing in! The roads are in good shape, btw, with not too many rocks, no run-off and no snow.

If you do decide to come up to Markleeville keep in mind that public facilities are still closed, BUT Alps Haus, the J. Marklee Toll Station, and Stonefly are doing take-out so you can grab some grub! Oh, and so is the General Store (open, that is).

Deathride Resurgence

If you’ve signed up then you’re probably already aware…we (the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce and our Ride Director) decided to cancel this year’s ride. Postponing it was discussed but based on the fact that many other rides that have done that already, and therefore the ride saturation that may occur in the fall will be heavy, and because of the logistics of ordering merch. (had to do it now for July and push it back to July if we did a Sept. ride) that was not an option. We also wanted to be considerate of our community and didn’t want to inundate our little town and surrounds with thousands of people just after we recovered from the pandemic (if we had/have). So next year is the year of resurgence! Hopefully in many, many ways.

This years’ ride was canceled but the Resurgence Tour will occur on July 17th, 2021!

Fishing Season Postponed for Alpine, Inyo and Mono Counties

Our Chamber posted this up on its FB page this week:

We have received a lot of inquiries about the fishing opener, originally scheduled to kick off this weekend. Due to COVID-19 precautions and the limited resources in our small Eastern Sierra communities, the season opener has been delayed. “After talking with the county representatives, we agreed this was a necessary step toward being responsive to local needs in this public health emergency,” said CDFW Director Bonham. Read the full press release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife here: https://bit.ly/2KuMi64. Fishing is at the heart of Alpine County, and we are looking forward to the opener as much as our visitors.”

Looks like we’ll have to wait until as late as the end of May, depending…But, as it turns out, the delay is not such a bad thing since the water (at least on the East & West Carson) is moving too fast and looks too much like chocolate milk.

Looking downstream at the East Fork of the Carson from Monitor Junction.

So, there you have it – our little weekend update.

Now get out and get some and be sure to do it safely and with the proper distance, k?

Here and There in the California Alps – Part Deaux

Lots of things to talk about in this post: The Christmas Faire is coming; Grover Hot Springs has a new boardwalk; we’ve got some serious birding energy here including a first-time sighting; an amazing sushi bar in South Lake Tahoe; a patriotic visit with Snowshoe Thompson; a little bit of snow earlier in the week and a Deathride resurgence. Let’s get to it!

The Magical Markleeville Christmas Faire is this weekend!

A yearly tradition here in Markleeville but with an added twist this year: the Faire will be in the County Administration building so we all don’t freeze our hineys off like we have in the past. Things start with a pancake breakfast and there’ll be crafters, cookie decorating for the kids and Santa will be making an appearance too. Check out the Faire’s Facebook page for more information.

Grover Hot Spring’s New Boardwalk

I got out for a hike last week and did part of the Charity Valley Trail (from Hot Springs Road to Grover Hot Springs State Park), trekked around the park’s meadow and then took the boardwalk back the way I came. The park is always a great place to visit, especially the hot springs and now with the new boardwalk there’s one more thing to check out!

Birds, birds and more birds

It all started with the sighting of a rare bird in these parts – the Yellow Browed Warbler. Our little town of Markleeville was invaded by birders from throughout the state – they were hoping to add the bird to their lists. The Record Courier (Minden, Gardnerville and Carson City, NV) did a little write up. Click here to take a look.

A few weeks ago, we spotted an Osprey here at HQ (click here to read that post) and there have been visits from other birds since, including the Evening Grosbeak. Having been here three (3) years this was the first time we had seen these happy birds – a flock of about 20-30 tweeted their way across the meadow, perhaps enjoying the morning sun. And our regular herd of turkeys is back, too.

It’s not [always] about the beer

That’s not to say I didn’t have any when my wife and I visited The Naked Fish in South Lake but the beer definitely WAS NOT the highlight of the meal. Yes, beer can be a meal but I often like it as an accompaniment to food – food. In this case, some of the best, most unique sushi we’ve had. The hamachi was glorious (so buttery) and the uni was briny, kelpy, rich-flavored goodness. And that poke bowl…I’m salivating now as I recall how good that was! The way they prepare the sushi, though, is perhaps the real highlight – works of art that you almost don’t want to eat.

Flags (er, flag) flying at the ‘Shoe’s place

As many of you loyal readers and Strava followers know, Diamond Valley is one of my favorite places to ride. I did what I call the Diamond Valley Ewes (not the sheep, no, but two half-loops – but how does one write two yous, as in the letter?) which took me past Snowshoe’s place twice. The second time around I stopped to visit, as I usually do.

First snow (kinda…we had a little in Sept) of the season

It wasn’t much but it was enough to close Ebbett’s, Monitor, Sonora and Tioga Passes here in the California Alps. According to the CalTrans QuickMap app just now, they are all still closed with the exception of Monitor. It’s pretty darn cold here so it appears winter is on the way. We’d appreciate it, though, Ma Nature, if you’d give us a break or two before the big snow starts.

Deathride resurgence

The ride is under new management! The Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce owns the ride (as it has for years) but this year we’ve (I am a board member) decided to take it to a new (different) level. We’re hiring a professional ride director and are exploring things like alternate route options, or additions. We’re also looking at making it more of a Fondo and adding a bit of a retro vibe. We’re still working out some of the details so stay tuned for more information about our Ruby Anniversary Edition. It’s going to be a blast!

Well, there you have it! I told you there was lots going on here in the heart of the California Alps. Here at California Alps Cycling we count our blessings every day. Living, working and riding in such an awesome place is a privilege that we don’t take for granted. We hope to see you here for a visit soon. In the meantime, let’s kick some passes’ asses! Assuming they’re still rideable.

Deathride After-Action Report and Other Goings-On Here in the California Alps

I had hoped to post this up just after the Tour of the California Alps, which took place almost two weeks ago now, on Saturday, the 13th. Unfortunately, I picked up a bit of a cough, brought on by a little trip to the Southland the Tuesday prior, and it put me out of commission. Note to self: Don’t get in one of those shiny, jet-powered tubes filled with other germ-carriers, fly to a big city and hang out in a meeting for two (2) hours with a sick colleague also in the meeting, especially the week before the Deathride.

Thankfully it didn’t hit me so hard that I couldn’t do some of the ride. I was able to get four (4) passes done but Carson just wasn’t possible. Just couldn’t get any air as the day wore on; 40 more miles and another ~4000 feet wasn’t going to happen. So, I had to abandon and leave my brother from another mother, and California Alps Cycling member, Scott Keno, to finish without me, which he did. Two (2) other members, Roy Franz and Joe Watkins, also finished, and a couple other members, Greg Hanson and Rich Harvey, conquered one, or both sides, of Ebbett’s. Congrats boyz!

While I don’t have the official stats yet from the Alpine Co. Chamber, I heard that there were approximately 2000 sign-ups and about 900 5-pass finishers! Based on what I know about previous years that’s a higher percentage than in the past. Lots of strong riders out there this year! The weather cooperated; it didn’t get too hot or windy until later in the day. Still challenging for those on Carson but it could have been much worse as highs in the 90’s were expected. Congratulations to all you Death-riders! Whether you did 1, 2, 3, 4 or all 5 passes you should be proud.

Here’s a bunch o’ photos from the day (and a couple from the Expo the Friday before)

From our perspective here at California Alps Cycling we couldn’t have had a more successful weekend (well, it would have been nice to not get that cold but that’s life, eh?). The Expo was hugely successful! We sold out of our cinch-packs for the bag drop and we got great reviews on the drop itself, too; we turned some folks onto our jerseys, vests, bibs and decals, and we had many great conversations with riders. Thank you so much BTW, to those of you who came by our booth, and especially to those that partook of our bag drop or bought other schwag. We are grateful. We also handed out (free of charge) some Smart Cycling Quick-Guides, which we purchased from the League of American Bicyclists. Based on what our booth-goers told us, most of them were going to go to kids and grand-kids of riders, which is what we had hoped. Getting to those neophyte riders early is key we think and it’s one of the things we feel very strongly about – cycling education that is. Don’t you agree?

We’ll be back next year and have already started planning. Hope to see you then! Be on the lookout (BOLO) for our Deathride 2020 page (we retired the 2019 page earlier this week) where we’ll post up that data that matta for next year.

In other news…

Earlier this week, we joined other members of the Markleeville Enhancement Club (Mark’s the secy-treasurer) for a bit of weed-whacking, branch-trimming and litter pick-up at Heritage Park. If you’re interested in a bit of history, click here to read a 2016 article about Jacob Markley (’twas he that our town was named after) and the park.

Lighting and thunder visited us in earnest yesterday (first real storm of the season). We had about .30 inches of rain fall here at HQ and a few strikes did torch some trees, one here on Hot Springs Road and one out on the Mesa area, near Woodfords. Thanks to our firefighting professionals, though, they were quickly extinguished.

Last, but not least, there is some road work being done on Dixon Mine Road (off Wolf Creek Road) until November but it looks like Wolf Creek Road itself will remain open.

So there you have it loyal reader. The latest happenings here in our little slice of heaven. This Sunday, by the way, Mark is going to join other members of the Alpine Trails Association (yup, he’s a member, too) for a nice hike on the Charity Valley Trail, from Blue Lakes Rd. to Grover Hot Springs State Park, so we’ll post something on our blog next week on that. Stay tuned.

Happy weekend to you! Get out and enjoy the outdoors and let’s kick some passes’ asses! whether that be by foot, horseback, bike or some other form of transpo.

The Deathride Cometh to the California Alps

I still can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post and that the Deathride is less than a week away! Certainly my day job has been taking a lot of my time, but that’s understandable, especially lately (typical mid-year craziness combined with regular craziness- I won’t bore you, you likely have similar woes) but as I cast my mind back (RIP Paul Sherwen) to the past few weeks (months?) I realize the time-warp is mostly due to training for the ride itself. Well, okay, here at California Alps Cycling we’ve also been doing a bit of prepping for the exposition (can you say “cool schwag?“), and we’ve been getting our ducks in a row for the bag drop, too. Check out our Deathride page for more information on that and THANK YOU to those that have signed up!

Okay, Before I Continue – The Roads are Ready!

I’ve spotted the Caltrans crews out and about our local highways recently doing a bit of sweeping and other clean-up. The place is looking good!

I rode up to Ebbett’s Pass on Sunday, June 30th, and other than a few errant rocks (it’s a constant here) the road looks great. The snow was mostly gone, and no doubt will be completely gone come next Saturday. Oh, and Kinney Resevoir is no longer an ice rink!

Just this past Saturday, I rode both sides of Monitor Pass; it was a glorious day! I’m not saying it wasn’t painful, it was, especially that eastern side. BUT…the weather was perfect (it’s probably going to be a bit hotter next Saturday) and the wildflowers were popping! There should still be plenty left for the ride next week. I’ve lived here almost three years now and I’ve never seen Monitor looking so pretty so if you’re riding next Saturday be sure to look around.

As for Carson Pass, well I have to admit I haven’t had a chance to ride that one lately. Member and co-founder (and wifey) Pat, drove over to the Bay Area today (poor thing) though, and she reported that the road was good. It will be even better Saturday the 13th since it will be “staffed” with volunteers and riddled with riders. I did ride a portion of Blue Lakes Rd. last month, however, and thoroughly enjoyed the descent therefrom!

Training in the Sierra

Alright, I feel better now. You’ve got the latest intel and I’ve whined about how busy I’ve been. So, onward we go. Preparing for a ride of this magnitude takes months. My wife has been so supportive, as spouses and partners of cyclists have to be, and I’m grateful that the ride is under a week away.

As you may recall from one of my previous posts, I’ve done a bit of research and in applying said nuggets I’ve become stronger and faster, and I have more endurance too. So in the last several weeks, I’ve done an organized ride and a bunch of other “tests” to keep those legs lean and mean and keep my confidence high.

Tollhouse Century (part of the Climb to Kaiser)

The “organized test” took place on June 22nd. I was joined by my brother from another mother, and CA Alps Cycling Legacy Member, Scott (aka Scotty) Keno. It was a really fun day on the bike, made more so because we were joined by three other riders: Dan, Robert and Scott. It was great having the company; it made the day go faster, and so did the pulls! Click here for a Relive video of our day, including a couple “interesting” moments/photos. Short answer = We passed the test. I was really stoked that I was able to do the ride so quickly, and with fewer and shorter rests. All that training definitely paid off! Check out this post; it’s a little reminder of how I got here. You can follow the same plan and perhaps get the same (or better!) results.

The other tests

This ride was the first test, if you will. The other two tests were Ebbett’s and Monitor. So, I’ve done three out of the five and I’m feeling good. Now, it’s on to those other trials: recovery, rest and patience. The latter is not one of my strong suits but I’m learning. Learning how to pace myself. Learning how to take better care of the bod’ and most of all, learning how to enjoy my time on the bike more. Did an active recovery ride today and tomorrow it’s a rest day. I’ll do a couple walks this week and maybe an easy spin on Thursday so I’ll be rested for Saturday. Then I can let these horses outta the gate!

What about you?

You coming to Markleeville next weekend? Perhaps you’re already here? If you answered in the affirmative to either then we look forward to seeing you Friday at the Expo and Saturday on the road. If not, then we wish you well in your next adventure, crucible, challenge, or whatever it is you want to call it.

Now…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Update on Two Passes in the California Alps

Just this a.m. I spoke with CalTrans about the current conditions on Monitor Pass (Hwy. 89) and Ebbett’s Pass (Hwy 4). Here’s the latest:

Monitor Pass

CalTrans is hoping to open it by this Thursday. There’s about 6″ of snow up there now and with this a.m.’s snow (yup, more of the white stuff fell just this morning) it’s not likely it will be open before then.

Ebbett’s Pass

With the water on the road from the recent rains and snow melt, sheets of ice have formed making it a bit more time consuming to get the equipment up to where it needs to be. In some cases, the crews need to wait until later in the a.m. to begin their work.

There is also a lot of sand, rock and mud on the road, and between Hermit Valley and Lake Alpine, there’s still about 6′ to 8′ of snow, including a bit of Sierra cement, and ice, in places. The CalTrans crew based in Woodfords has made it through to Hermit Valley and the crew on the other side is making its way there now with the hope that the two crews will meet in the very-near future.

The initial plan was to have Ebbett’s open by Memorial Day but that’s now up in the air. You can get up to the 7000′ mark (Raymond Meadow Creek) currently, though. There’s a couple nice pitches just north of the RMC bridge so don’t worry, you can push some watts and get that heart rate up.

Stay off the passes when the roads are closed

A reminder from CalTrans that those road closures are there for everyone’s safety. There are crews and heavy equipment up there and they’re not looking for cyclists or hikers, so it’s a bit dicey to go behind those gates. It also may get you a ticket if the CHP catches you – and it would be a moving violation too, meaning traffic school or points.

Be cautious – they’ll open eventually

There will be time for us all to get up there and enjoy these, and other passes in the California Alps, so please be patient. For me that means a bit more trainer time. I’m taking advantage and doing some HIIT and steady-state intervals to build my strength and stamina for what’s to come. I wish you well on your training and remind you to ride safely.

We’ll be able to kick some passes’ asses soon enough.

Clearing Those Passes in the California Alps

Last Tuesday, April 2nd, I attended the Alpine Co. Board of Supervisors meeting here in Markleeville and one of the presenters was Dan McElhinney, CalTrans’ Acting Director for District 10.

Among other things, Dan brought us up to speed on CalTrans’ plans to clear snow from three (3) major Sierra passes: Monitor, Ebbett’s and Sonora.

They are planning on starting on Monitor next week and expect that it will take about 10-14 days to clear the many feet of snow that have accumulated. They’ll begin work on Ebbett’s and Sonora soon thereafter, or perhaps simultaneously, depending on resources. Apparently there is about 20′ of snow, with the associated ice that comes with months of freezing temperatures, on Ebbett’s and so, of the three (3), it will likely take the longest.

CalTrans assured the Board, and the public in attendance, that it will work VERY HARD to have all three (3) passes cleared by Memorial Day. Mr. McElhinney, and Clinton Neeley, the Maintenance Supervisor for District 10 (he’s based in Woodfords and was also at the meeting), both understand the importance of the work that needs to be done. With fishing season fast approaching, and the Deathride coming in July, clearing these passes, and clearing them ASAP, is vital. Monitor Pass, as the Board Chairman, David Griffith reminded us, is especially important since it is a vital connection between Hwy. 395 and Hwy. 89 – when it’s open, travelers can take the shorter route into Markleeville and then into Tahoe. When it’s closed our little town becomes a cul-de-sac and since much of our income is derived from tourism, that impacts our local businesses.

Here at California Alps Cycling, we’ve developed a nice relationship with Clinton and his crew; we work closely with them on our Adopt-a-Highway program. We’re so appreciative of the tough, sometimes dangerous work that they do. I personally make sure to tell them that whenever I see the crews working on roads I’m riding and I always salute them when I see their trucks or plows passing by.

So, when you see the crews out there, please let them know how much you appreciate the work they do. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to kick those passes’ asses!

Current Road Conditions in the Heart of the California Alps

One of my Strava friends recently asked on one of my posted rides if the gates for Monitor and Ebbett’s Pass were open. That question made me realize I hadn’t posted an update on the local road conditions lately. So, here’s one!

Four recent rides

Since last Sunday I’ve toured the area around Markleeville and ridden in or to Diamond Valley (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Woodfords), Wolf Creek Road (Hwy. 89 between Markleeville and Monitor Pass and Hwy. 4 from Monitor Pass up a portion of Ebbett’s Pass) and Crystal Springs Road (Hwy. 88 from Woodfords up a small bit of Carson Pass) and have this to report:

  • Diamond Valley – Snow on the sides of the roads but no ice on the roads themselves. Lots of “snow plow dirt” and other detritis on the shoulders though.
  • Wolf Creek – Ditto – heading up Ebbett’s to Wolf Creek you’ll see some small slides, with assorted rocks and boulders, though. Not too “bouldery” on the roads themselves but certainly some. On one ride earlier this week I heard, and then saw, some rock coming down one of the hills onto Hwy. 4. A bit disconcerting…
  • Wolf Creek Road itself is gated/closed.
  • Crystal Springs – Easy going on Hwy. 88 with only the plow detritus on the shoulders. No ice on Crystal Springs Road.
  • Monitor Pass is closed for the winter. The gates at Hwy. 395 and at Hwy. 4/89 are closed.
  • Ebbett’s Pass is closed for the winter. The gate at the Hwy. 4/89 junction is open, and the sign nearby reads the road is closed seven (7) miles ahead (Raymond Meadow Creek), HOWEVER, the road is actually closed 2.5 miles from the junction (at Wolf Creek Road). It’s likely that the gate will be closed at the junction at some point in the near future though, as more snow is forecast for this weekend.
  • Carson Pass is open.
  • Luther Pass is open.

Pix of some of those roads

The lucky shot

Sam (could be Samuel or Samantha) the bald eagle (as we’ve named it) posing for a pic near the Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 junction.

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! More snow is on the way so please remember to ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses!

The disclaimer

The information and content on this page, as well as any other California Alps Cycling (CAC) page or materials, is general in nature and must be used with an understanding of your capabilities and expertise. Please be sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set as CAC is not responsible for any injuries to you, your companions or your equipment.  Additionally, while we strive to provide accurate, timely and complete information, it is subject to change and therefore CAC is not responsible for the accuracy thereof.