Category: safety

Thinking About a Gravel Ride in the Pinenuts? Here’s What You Should Know

OR perhaps more appropriately entitled: Here are some lessons I just learned. Yesterday, in fact. Since Stetina’s Paydirt was postponed, and Chris and I had planned on riding it, we decided to do some of the course.

WE left open the possibility we would do the entire route (~63 miles and 4700 feet of climbing) but it turned out that bite was more than we could chew. We did, however, get in 42 miles and about 2800 feet of climbing.

GRAVEL riding is hard. Not that we didn’t know that. Still, the experience is enlightening; you never know what you’re going to get. Or what’s going to get thrown at you.

The Weather Was Amazing!

IT had been so long since we had experienced clean air and average temps. A light breeze, about 65 degrees at the start (8:30 a.m.) and nice clouds and light winds all day long. It did get hot towards the end of the ride but the breeze kept it bearable.

Lesson #1 – Leave early and beat the heat!

HAD we been out on the course for much longer it would have been a different story.

Running Out of Water Made It Even More Epic!

Easy to say when you end up getting lucky and finding a spigot with 8 miles or so to go. We had just come off Sunrise Pass Road when my Camelback put forth no more liquid. Well, I thought, it’s only another 30 minutes or so and we’re on the pavement so…And there it was. The red handled goddess of H2O. So lucky.

Lesson #2 – Bring more water than you think you’ll need.

I had a frame-pack and could have carried another bottle at least but I figured 3 liters (~100 ounces) would be enough. It wasn’t. We were out there almost four (4) hours afterall and on the road I would certainly have needed more; and riding on gravel is more taxing. Duh!

Speed Is Your Friend

MOST of the time. We had put in a good chunk of time climbing out of Brunswick Canyon so when we hit Sunrise Pass Road we opened it up and flew down some of those long sweeping downhills.

Lesson #3 – Gravel and rocks are not tire friendly.

NOT that we didn’t know that but when I saw that Stan’s geyser shooting out of Chris’ rear wheel I knew a stop was eminent. It was pretty frickin’ cool though; watching and hearing that thing go.

Okay, I’ll just put this back on the bike and we can get out of this sun!

TOO much speed can make it harder to see some of those “sharpies.” That’s why, when out in gravel country, you need to carry a bit more gear than you might otherwise.

BETWEEN us we had:

  • Two (2) tires
  • Four (4) tubes
  • Four (4) CO2 cartridges
  • Two (2) pumps
  • Two (2) mini-tools
  • Okay, you get the idea.

HERE’S what I forgot:

  • Sunscreen
  • Stan’s (Chris did have this)
  • Stem remover (Chris had this too)
  • Rag (neither of us had this but I did have some paper towels).

Lesson #4 – Bring what you’ll need for the worst-case scenario!

Paper towels, for example, come in handy, and not just for napkins. They have myriad uses and they are more durable than TP if you get my drift.

AS for sunscreen, we should have brought some for sure. That was a bonehead move. What made it even more bone-headed (on my part) was that I didn’t hose down very well at the start.

DIDN’T even get the legs. Regretting that today. I wore a cap so I didn’t spray the top of my head. So when I wanted to take the cap off…Yeah, it stayed on.

To Pack or Not to Pack?

I went with the frame-pack and the CamelBak yesterday. That was good and bad. Good in that I could carry extra stuff, including the tubes and tire, and a sandwich. Bad in that the frame-pack rubbed on my legs a bit. Another 20-30 miles or so would not have been ideal.

THE CamelBak was especially good because I could drink water much more easily. Most of the gravel sections on this route were pretty technical (at least for me) so not having to pull a bottle to hydrate was groovy. On the bad side…the tube kept coming unseated from its dock. That was a bit irritating.

Lesson #5 – Test and adjust your gear before the big ride.

IT’S not like I didn’t know that. Still, being an experienced roadie, yet a neophyte gravelleur, means I didn’t account for the time that I would spend on the road, er trail.

NOTE to self: About ten (10) miles on hour is your average on gravel. This is not pavement! Got it, Mark? Good!

Sand Can Be Fun

Three hours in and still smiling. What a great day in the Pinenuts!

TO me, that sand is the funnest part of gravel riding. Not so much so at the end of a long day but still…I just love the challenge of staying upright. All that core work comes in handy here let me tell ya!

Lesson #6 – Gear down, pedal, and take as much weight off the bars as you can.

THEN just go with the flow. And remember that driver’s trick and turn into the skid. And did I say pedal, pedal, pedal?

Know Where You’re Going!

ESPECIALLY if you’re directionally challenged like I am. So either load the course on your computer, or have a guide (like I did), or both. Thanks ‘Toph! Old school (like a paper map) works too, by the way.

AND, don’t forget to let your person(s) know what you’re doing, where you’re headed and approximately when you’ll be back.

The Last Two Lessons?

  • Don’t take yourself, or the day, too seriously.
  • Hang on and just enjoy the ride.

THIS ride was really the first time I embraced that gravelleur mantra and so I laughed when in the past I would have whined; and I relaxed and sang along with the music when things looked too hairy or scary.

SO there you have it…Chris & Mark’s most excellent gravel adventure. I hope my takeaways come in handy. As always, though, it’s up to you to do your homework and be prepared.

ONCE you’ve done that, then go ahead, plan that gravel adventure. If you have as much fun as we did then my work is done! 😉

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.

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.

Using Satellite in the Sierra Could Save a Life – Perhaps Even Your Own

Yesterday while riding Leviathan Mine Road on my MTB I was out of cell service and needed to contact my wife. In this case it was not an emergency, but what if it was?

Would I have been able to get help?

As you may recall, I published a post earlier in the year, “Climbing Mountain Passes – Five Things You Should Know” and in that post I referenced the Garmin inReach Mini that I’ve used for several years. While that unit is not technically a PLB (read on to learn about that distinction) “you can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.”

So instead of rescue authorities coming to look for me because I haven’t checked in with my person(s) I instead was able to message my wife and mom that I was okay, just taking longer than expected on the ride.

Had I had an emergency I could have triggered that SOS feature and been able to get help. That’s what PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), and their brethren, do okay? They allow you to get assistance in those areas where you can’t call 911.

As for PLBs…What are those?

Rick Wallace, of Tackle Village, reached out to me last week about a guide Tackle Village had recently produced entitled “How a PLB Can Save Your Life” and we struck up an email convo. about how we can each help other spread the word about these technologies.

As Rick wrote in his email to me: “To promote outdoor safety, we have put together this comprehensive and easy to read guide [that’s the link in the above paragraph]. We wrote this because many people who hike, fish, ski, camp or climb (including some of our friends) don’t realise the need to carry a PLB, and this causes unnecessary deaths every year. Personal Locator Beacons have saved an estimated 35,000 lives.”

I replied “I use a Garmin inReach, which I think is a PLB. Is it? It does have an activate-able SOS feature and allows me to send text messages to family and friends when my cell has no service,” and Rick responded:

“I think the Garmin inReach is a satellite phone as opposed to a PLB – slightly different. The PLB can only send a distress signal encoded with GPS co-ordinates – no text, no voice. Its advantage is in the longevity of the battery and the toughness of it and waterproofing.”

Ah, there’s that distinction. One allows for two-way communication while the other sends only an encoded distress signal.

Now I’m not sure just how long the battery life is on a KTI PLB but I can tell you that the battery life on the inReach is pretty good too.

For cycling, the inReach, or something small and compact like it, makes sense because it fits in a jersey pocket (along with other items). For hiking, backpacking and perhaps even skiing or snowshoeing I can see where a PLB would be a good alternative or compliment, though.

Wait, what about an avalanche beacon?

Good catch! That’s a different animal since it’s not a standalone unit; others with a similar device must be nearby to receive the signal it transmits and then find the location of that transmitting beacon via triangulation.

Fodder for a future post, I’m thinking, as I plan on taking up cross-country skiing this winter and having an avalance beacon could be a key piece of equipment for some of those endeavors.

Whatever you decide, cover your bases!

It’s especially important during these days of Covid-19.

Law enforcement, rescue authorities, you name it, are a bit pre-occupied nowadays so I’m sure that anything we can do to lessen their load would be appreciated.

Having a portable, satellite-enabled device, such as the inReach, or KTI’s PLB, could save searchers a whole lot of time if they have to come a lookin’, and in the case of an inReach or something similar, could prevent them from even having to be dispatched at all!

I know the volunteer firefighters, search & rescue, and paramedics here in Alpine Co. would be grateful for that!