Category: weather

What’s Happening Here in Markleeville Since the Tamarack Fire? Here’s Some News

IT’S Monday night, August 30th, and I’m thinking about what’s happening here in the California Alps, which includes one of the jewels of the world, Lake Tahoe. These fires…it’s surreal and they’re taking on an almost human quality. Or should I say a demon quality?

I’M a firm believer in balance and so I understand, and welcome in the right circumstances, fire. And water (thinking of you New Orleans). I also believe that we are reaping what we have sewn. Not going to go there – down that “climate change is here, damnit” path – that is. Oh wait…

SO, as I was saying. Life around here since July 16th has been strange. Scary, anxiety-ridden, angry, sad, happy, fulfilling, disappointing, unhappy, pissed-off, irritated, STRANGE. I don’t recall ever feeling such a range of emotions over such a short period of time.

NONETHELESS, life goes on. And we go on and try to be normal as best we can. Since Sunday, we’ve had these little windows of fresh air in the middle of this smoke-filled firestorm that has seemingly targeted the area.

GREEN AQI all day today, for example. It’s eery…Just a few miles away, to our northwest, is a nasty looking smoke plume from the Caldor Fire. I took the pic at the top of this post yesterday (Sunday), on my way home from a ride up Hwy. 4. There was a “good-air window” and I took it. I cut the ride short, though, as the smoke seemed to be pushing in. That is what I saw from Monitor Junction on my way back to HQ.

This is what I saw this morning, looking north towards Lake Tahoe from Hwy 4. at Raymond Meadow Creek.

If you look closely you can see the smoky haze in the distance.

OH shit. That doesn’t look good, I said to myself. Been saying that a lot lately…Also been attending a lot of live fire-briefing events on Facebook.

AND constantly checking Twitter or other sources for the latest intel while trying to separate the wheat from the chaff as I go.

NEVERENDING. And last night, Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I began thinking about yet another evacuation. Just 6 miles away, in the Mesa Vista area of Alpine Co., they’re on an evacuation warning. The fire has reached Christmas Valley and has made its way into South Lake Tahoe so the way things are going, we figure, we could be under evacuation warnings sometime soon ourselves. Hopefully not but we are getting good at it. Something I hoped I’d never say.

In Other News…

OUR internet is working again and that’s making life much more liveable. I remember when internet was a nice-to-have (yes, I’m old…er) but today it’s a must have, IMHO. Yet so many people less fortunate than I don’t have it. We learned through this experience that good internet (and cell service) is as necessary as power and water. Eye-opening for sure.

THE Markleeville General Store is still closed. 🙁 Sad but true. Repairs and such post-fire.

OUTWEST Cafe, as well as the Toll Station, and the Cutthroat, are open.

FISHING is pretty much non-existent. There have been no plants since before the fire and there is hardly any camping here since our national forests are closed, but the Carson River Resort is open and based on what I’ve heard, pretty booked up.

AIR quality? you ask. We feel guilty. Honestly. The air here has been great this entire week. What I saw Sunday never made it any farther south and I got out for a ride this morning. It was so pretty I almost forgot what was happening in South Lake.

RED flag warnings there (and here too), but the wind that is making the Caldor Fire do what it’s doing is pushing the smoke to our north and east.

This was a/o 2:45 p.m. today.

WATER is an issue, too. Since our watershed was hammered pretty hard, and we have limited resources, at this point we’re on water restrictions with limited outside watering. Thankfully that recently changed. Up until about ten (10) days ago landscape watering was not allowed at all. Small (yet big) victory.

WE’VE been invaded by bears! Well that’s not really true. They were here first. Nevertheless they are more prevalent and getting a bit more brave. Earlier this week my neighbor’s car was torn up pretty well. First time since we’ve lived here that I’ve seen that.

THEY, like other fauna, are hungry and since so much of the surrounding forest was torched, animals and birds are coming to any oases they can find. Lucky us (kinda), we’ve got one. The wild-turkeys, with their youngins, are especially welcome.

With That Said…

WE’RE thinking about our friends and neighbors here in Alpine Co. (some of the county are on evac. warnings due to the Caldor Fire) and everyone else who has been effected by “our fire” as well as the Caldor Fire, and other fires raging, mostly in the west.

LIFE will get back to normal at some point. The new-normal I guess. Whatever that is.

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.

Today’s Forecast? Blizzard Conditions With a Chance of Zwift

Fulgaz is an option, too. Perhaps a Wahoo or Garmin workout instead? I dunno. I do know this, though:
the chance of moving lots of snow today (blowing, shoveling, etc.) is extremely high!

FOR now, since I’ve finished moving some of those flakes (so I could get the images for this post), I’m content to just blog away, watch the snow fall and revel in the fact that we finally have a shit-ton of that white stuff. About a foot or so since last night, with a lot more expected. Hallelujah!

AS a professional cyclist — written with tongue firmly planted in cheek — I have the luxury of not being too hasty in my decision making this morning (or any morning for that matter). “Professional cyclist,” at least in my case, is code for unemployed. My most excellent friend, Mr. Keno, gave me that moniker, around the summer of 2020 I think it was, because I was able to spend an extraordinary amount of time (and still am) training.

ALAS, I wish the situation was different. I do need to earn more ducats than I am currently but am appreciative of the EDD help and oh so cognizant that there are people far worse off than I.

Indeed, I continually wonder how I held down a full-time job, got those many homestead chores done, stayed involved in the community, and trained.

I did it, but as my wife points out, I was a lot more stressed. And admittedly I didn’t spend quite as much time working out then as I do now. That’s something that will change at some point; either I’ll be back into the corporate grind or working at the California Alps Cycling shop, or both, in the near future.

IN the meantime, I wish you a happy hump day and hope that you too got the weather you needed or wanted.

I’m off to the pain cave.

I’LL leave the icicles alone for now.

MAYBE later, when I’m doing some serious snow-moving, I’ll pull a few of ’em down and start my ‘cicle garden.

Decisions, decisions…

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!

Cycling in the Sierra? Here are Some Things You Should Consider

Having spent most of my life cycling in the San Francisco Bay Area I was very accustomed to the conditions there and so was well prepared when I hit the road. When we moved up to Markleeville in the winter of 2016, though, I quickly learned that what worked “in the flats” did not necessarily translate to the Sierra Nevada.

Several months ago I posted an article entitled “Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know.” This follow-up post expands on that one a bit with some more specific recommendations.

Equipment

Top row: Jersey pocket. All the items except the tube fit in that pouch on the right.
Middle row: That Lezyne carbon fiber pump is mounted on the bike.
Bottom row: All of these items fit in the saddle bag. Notice the chain pin inside the patch kit.

Sure, most experienced cyclists carry some sort of mini-tool, a patch-kit, Co2 cartridges, etc. but it’s important to have some redundancy where you can. Some examples:

  • Two (2) tubes instead of one. I was bombing down Hwy. 4 a couple years back and hit a pothole. I double flatted and had only one (1) tube. The patches I had wouldn’t work as the holes were too big; had to call for extraction.
  • Tire boot, duct tape (or both). I don’t carry an extra tire but I do have a tire boot and some duct tape wrapped around an old toothbrush handle. On one particularly frigid morning I put the duct tape around my fingertips – the gloves I had were not doing the trick.
  • Chain pin. Ideally you’re checking your chain wear regularly but even then, ca-ca occurs. I learned this the hard way, too. A pin in my chain starting coming out while on a ride (I hadn’t checked my chain in awhile) and I couldn’t get it fully inserted with the chain tool. Again, I had to call for extraction.
  • Sat-com. Speaking of calling for extraction…How do you do that with no cell service? I mentioned this in that “Climbing Mountain Passes” post, too but it bears repeating: cell service is basically non-existent in the mountains. Now that’s not to say I don’t carry my cell, I do, but having a device like the Garmin inReach Mini will allow you to communicate with “your person” when you are out of cell range, and its SOS feature could save your life. The monthly subscription for the basic plan is relatively inexpensive (about $12.00 a month).
  • Identification and dinero. I hope this one is a no-brainer for most of you yet I’ve heard of some who don’t carry one or the other. Not only do I carry my driver’s license but I also carry my medical insurance card, my debit card and some green. And, speaking of redundancy, I wear a Road iD. In my case, just the ID itself, on the band of my Garmin fenix.

Footwear and Clothing

Yours truly, in jersey, vest and neck gaiter (bibtights and boots not shown), in front of a snowbank across Hwy. 4 just south of Silver Mountain City, this past winter.

Foul weather in the mountains is not always cold, or stormy weather IMHO. Heat and sun can also foul up a good ride. Here’s a bunch of suggestions:

  • Cycling boots. No, I’m not referring to those lycra-type shoe or toe covers. I’m talking full on, waterproof, boots. With sleet, rain, mud and road spray I’ve found that shoe covers just don’t cut it. I invested in a pair of Sidi Gore-Tex Cycling Shoes (ankle-high boots, really) and my feet don’t get cold or wet.
  • Cold weather socks. Add some wool socks, like DeFeet’s Woolie Boolie and you’re golden.
  • Neck gaiter/tube. I’ve got several types of these, some lighter, like Buff’s and some heavier, like Castelli’s Arrivo 3 Thermo Head Thingy. Keeping that neck warm is key to keeping those colds away and it can be used for the noggin as well. Once, when I forgot my vest, I stashed it under the front of my jersey to help ward off the winds a little during a descent.
  • Vest or jacket. When you head out from 5000′ and it’s 85 degrees it’s easy to forget that it can often be 20-30 degrees colder at the top of that climb. A vest or jacket, especially if you can strap it to your bike somewhere so you can save some pocket room, can make the difference between a shivering descent and one that is much more comfy.
  • Extra gloves and hat/cap. First, let me say that I’m a dripper; one of those “two-towels under the spin bike kinda guys” so when I’m doing long climbs things can get a bit schweaty. I’ve learned to carry an extra set of gloves, cap and oftentimes an extra gaiter, and will exchange the sweat-soaked pieces for the drier ones once I reach the summit.
  • Climbing bibs (or shorts) and jersey. Like I wrote at the start of this paragraph, in my book foul weather isn’t always cold or wet (or snow). It can also include heat (or wind). I’m a Castelli devotee and so I went with their Superleggera bibshort and Climber’s 3.0 jersey. I climbed Hwy. 4 to Ebbetts Pass last week, when it was a tad warm, and what a huge difference those items made! So much so that I checked my shorts a few times to make sure they hadn’t split at the seams. Nope, just the material doing its job. Breezy!

Weather

Thunderheads, other cloud formations, and rainbows, over Diamond Valley just this past Monday.

Having an understanding of regular weather patterns, e.g. daily t’storms, regular wind patterns, is helpful when cycling in the California Alps (and other locals for that matter).

  • Get some intel. from a local rider, club or bike shop so that you know that right now, for example, up Tahoe way daily thunderstorms are a regular thing. Getting caught on Carson Pass during a hailstorm isn’t pretty. Just ask our friend James Hurst who experienced just that on the Deathride a couple years ago.
  • Check the forecast before you head out and prepare for the worst-case scenario. I like Weather Underground, in large part because they have a network of folks all over the country who have personal weather stations. That allows you to get weather data closer to where you are or will be. Yup, we have a weather station here at HQ so you can get Markleeville weather realtime.
  • Know what to do if the shit hits the fan. Are there places to shelter? What do you do if a thunderstorm (and the associated lightning) happens where/while you’re exposed on some mountain road?

Be Prepared

The Scouts have it right. Be prepared. Or said another way, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Having the right equipment, understanding and addressing footwear and clothing options, and getting a handle on the weather are all key to having a good ride or perhaps avoiding catastrophe when you are cycling — or gravel riding, or mountain biking, or hiking, or backpacking, or 4-wheeling, or fishing…

Okay, you get the idea. Gear up, be ready, be aware, and enjoy the day!

Hump Day Update from Markleeville – Beer, Fishing and Weather

Happy hump day! I hope this post finds you and yours happy, healthy and safe. I thought I’d take moment and provide an update on some goings on here in the heart of the Sierra. I’ve got some news about cerveza, the 411 on the trout fishing in and around Markleeville and a bit of info. on the weather front.

Oh yeah! Local brew coming…

You may have seen our Facebook post of last week but when it’s about beer it’s always worth repeating as far as we’re concerned! For those of you who recognize the Cutthroat name you know that the “brewing company” addition is new.

So is the sign – remember that ol’ fish sign? A cutthroat trout it was and it’s where the bar got its name. I’ve heard some crazy stories about what the bar used to be, including the bras that were nailed to the ceiling.

The new owners, though, have decided to go in a different direction with a more family friendly pub and their own brew! They are working hard to get “Markleeville’s Cheers” open soon and we can’t wait. Markleeville brew will come later on.

4 lb. + trout-whales

I caught these babies in Silver Creek last month. I took the pic right after I caught the second one and as you can see I was a bit excited. Screamin-excited! I would have had three (I swear) but the first one spit the hook just as I was getting the net under it.

Overall, the fishing has been pretty good this season and the trout that Todd Sodaro, Chair of Alpine Co. Fish & Game, has planted, have been large, lovely and oh so tasty. He gets them from Oregon and they have a nice pink/orange flesh and are more flavorful than the white-fleshed trout that are also around.

Last Friday he planted another batch of these beauties (East and West Forks of the Carson) and the average weight was 4 pounds!

I took a ride up Highway 4 this a.m. and was pleased to see that the chocolate milk of Monday was gone; the clear, green water that we, and trout prefer, was back. Apparently many fisherpersons got the word – there were lots of them out there so come and get ’em before they are on someone else’s grill!

Stormin’ Norman weather lately

This image doesn’t do what we’ve had the last couple days any justice – even General Schwarzkopf would be impressed.

In the above photo the clouds are beginning to form (this was just over HQ, by the way) but lately we’ve seen increased activity and severity. Today is supposed to be the worst day so far this season with the potential for large hail, big winds and flooding in some regions, especially burn-scarred areas like those that exist around the Numbers Fire. There were reports of quarter-sized hail yesterday!

For the most part, I must admit, we locals are welcoming the cool, damp and windy aspects of the storms. It’s been so frickin’ hot! We are however wary of the potential fire danger and so it’s a mixed bag for sure. Thoughts, prayers and good vibes go out to everyone who may be affected by these storms, or any storms for that matter.

And to the firefighters and others battling the blazes, we salute you. Your courage and fortitude, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, is inspiring.

As I sit here punching these keys I’m hearing the rumbling, and the blue has disappeared. Haven’t seen any lightning today, though. Yet.

My wife just reported from Woodfords (just above Alpine Village) and said there was some hail but that it had petered out by the time she got to the Fredricksburg area.

This is our typical weather pattern for this time of year – I have to remind myself of that sometimes; being born and raised in San Jose I didn’t get much thunderstorm experience. Around the Eastern Sierra, though, you can almost set your watch by it.

Brings back memories…Two years ago, James, one of our members who was riding the Deathride, was caught in a downpour, with bonus hail, as he descended from Carson Pass. You never know what you’re going to get here in the California Alps so it’s good to always be prepared.

Speaking of prepared…

If you do decide to come to Markleeville and partake be sure to bring, and more importantly wear, your face coverings.

We are strictly adhering to that requirement and ask that all visitors do the same. The virus, though, like the weather, shall pass. Especially if we all do our part.

Stay safe, drink beer, catch fish, enjoy the weather and go and kick some passes’ asses!

Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know

I’ve lived here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada for about 3 1/2 years now and in that time I’ve tackled our “Big 3” (Carson, Ebbett’s, Monitor) a bunch of times (well except for Carson Pass), and I’ve done some of the lesser known climbs as well. The below tally is by no means a comprehensive Sierra Nevada list but it gives me enough experience to offer some advice as to what to be wary of when you’re climbing big mountains here in the California Alps.

The Current Count

  • Carson Pass = 1
  • Ebbett’s Pass (N. – the Markleeville side) = 14
    (my favorite climb as you can see)
  • Ebbett’s Pass (S. – the Bear Valley side – from Hermit Valley) = 2
  • Geiger Grade = 1
  • Luther Pass = (S. – the Tahoe side) = 2
  • Kingsbury Grade = 2
  • Monitor (E. – the Topaz side) = 5
  • Monitor (W. – the Markleeville side) = 7
  • Spooner Summit (Hwy. 50 – E. – the Carson City side) = 2

That’s a total of 32 climbs on local mountains (or passes as they are also referred) for approximately 112,000 feet of climbing, or the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest almost four (4) times! Here’s some of what I’ve learned in all those hours and pedal revolutions.

Climbs up Mountains are Steep

Yeah, this may seem like a no-brainer but just last week, as I was climbing the west side of Monitor (the first 3.5 miles of which average close to 10%) I came across a few cyclists struggling to maintain any kind of cadence. I noticed that several did not have the right gearing (I ride a 50-34 in front and a 30-11 in back).

Lesson learned #1: make sure you have the right chainrings and cogset.

The Air is Thin

A couple riders told me as I passed (and they gasped for air) that they didn’t realize how hard it would be and that it was difficult to get any air. Some riders I’ve talked to like to come up and spend time here before they hit the climbs. Others come right up and do their climbing before their body realizes they’re here. In any case, be do your homework!

Lesson learned #2: address acclimatization.

Winds Can be Vexing

One of our members, Dr. Rich Harvey, commented on this post (which I wrote some time ago) and it was he that used the word “vexing.” So appropriate because here in the mountains there really are NO reliable wind patterns. Just yesterday I rode part-way up Ebbett’s Pass, into the wind. Did I get the tailwind on the way back? Nope. The wind shifted due to, among other things, the valley winds (explanation in that post).

Lesson learned #3: It’s a rare day that there is no wind and so set your expectations (and plan your wardrobe) accordingly.

The Climate can Change Quickly

There can be a temperature variation of 10-20 degrees between the start of the climb and the summit! And, in the summertime there are often afternoon thunderstorms. During the 2018 Deathride several of our riders were pelted with hail and rain on Carson Pass. This was in July and it was sunny here in Markleeville!

Just last Saturday I climbed Monitor. I brought an additional neck-gaiter and hat for the descent but it wasn’t enough. The wind came up and the temperature dropped while I was still climbing up to the summit. I did have a vest on, and arm-warmers, but I should have brought another jersey or vest. In the past I’ve done so (using a cinch-pack). This day, though, I didn’t follow my own advice and I was so cold on the descent I started to shiver badly enough that I had to stop and warm up before I could continue.

Lessen learned #4: Bring the necessary gear, or layer up, so you can deal with any adverse conditions that may arise.

There is No Cell-Service

We’ve all come to take cell service for granted. Here in Markleeville it’s really only Verizon that works. My wife and I had AT&T in San Jose but when we moved up here we quickly switched to Verizon. That doesn’t do diddly-squat up on Ebbett’s Pass, though, or even in some of the lower elevations. I carry a Garmin inReach Mini on my rides. Admittedly, I already had it before I moved up to the mountains because I’ve got a yellow-jacket allergy. But, had I not had it before I moved here I would have gotten it afterwards. Among other things (including an SOS feature) it allows me to send texts to my wife from anywhere in the world.

Lesson learned #5: Get a satellite communication device if you can and if you can’t (and I do this also) make sure you have clearly communicated to “your person” your route, your approximate return time and what to do “if you don’t hear from me by such and such a time.”

Cycling in the Mountains is an Awesome Experience

And one that is made that much better if you are prepared for what you’ll experience. Understand the topography; prepare for the thin air, wind and climate; and address communication. By following some of my lessons learned you too can have an awesome experience cycling in one of the world’s most amazing venues – the Sierra Nevada, and our little slice of heaven within, the California Alps.

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.

A Tale of Two Towns – One on the California Coast, One in the California Alps

It’s been over two (2) years since I’ve been able to ride near the ocean so when I had an opportunity to head to Petaluma for a company BBQ last Friday I brought my bike so I could go for a pedal the next day. I’m lucky enough to work from home but I do make the pilgrimage to our corporate offices several times a year. In this case, not for a board room style meeting, or meetings, but instead for some fresh (and BBQed) oysters, burgers, good beer and great conversation. What a deal!

The next morning it was off to the little town of Marshall, including a trip down memory lane and up the iconic Marshall Wall.

From Petaluma to Marshall, down to Pt. Reyes Station and back past Nicasio Reservoir.

Back in 1998 I did the “Aids Ride”, now called the Aids/LifeCycle, and rode from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the course of a week. I raised some ducats for the cause as well. While training for that event I was introduced to this area north of The City (that’s what natives call San Francisco – don’t call it Frisco, k?). I’ve done a few rides in the area since but it had been quite awhile so I was pretty excited to ride “the wall” (that’s it in the profile above – at the 20 mile mark), and sniff Tomales Bay. The kelp, the sea (er, bay), the oyster farms…All combine for a wonderfully briny sensory experience. Add some fog to the start of the ride and I was in heaven. What a great morning on the bike! Made it back to the hotel in time to pack up, take a quick shower and get out of dodge so I could get home for cocktail time! Below are some images of that first adventure of the weekend, and here’s a little video to check out (including a few more pix) .

Some good grub and conversation awaited me at the Chalet (as we call it – hey we’re in the Alps after all!) thanks to my Mom and wife, and after an evening of story telling it was off to bed so I could get some rest before the next day’s adventure.

This time (no offense coastal hills) I was off to do a “real mountain” and I was curious to see what kind of shape the road was in.

I decided to milk it a little and went for a late morning start so I could let it warm up a bit. We’d been getting some thunderstorms recently (and still are) so I didn’t want to get caught on the pass too late in the day, though. Based on the weather forecast I thought I could squeak in my ride after the temps rose but before any chippy weather showed up. It didn’t quite work out the way I had planned, though. Read on.

From Markleeville to the start of the pass is fairly passe’ (ooh, like that pun). The real climbing starts at about mile 11 (from Markleeville, not Monitor Junction), with a pitch of about 10-12% just before Raymond Meadow Creek and the 7000′ mark. I had a great view looking south and could see some fairly ominous clouds forming. I kept telling myself that I could just bail if things got too hairy but I really wanted to get up the pass; it had just opened and I felt it was my duty!

I was excited to see Kinney Reservoir (images 6, 7 and 9 above) but when I came up over the rise, expecting to see a blue alpine lake and the reflection of the surrounding mountains and sky, I was instead greeted by an ice-rink! WTF? The lake was still frozen?! Now the temp had dropped significantly since I started but it was still a very manageable 55 degrees, and so I was surprised yet again, this time by the amount of snow still on the pass. Notice the snowbanks? Many of them were still covering signage and trailheads. In fact, because of that snowy obscurement I arrived at the top faster than I thought I would – I didn’t have those visual cues that I was used to.

I quickly ate a snack at the pass because it appeared that the weather was indeed coming in. Had I blown it and left too late? Would I be caught in a deluge, or worse yet see some lightning? So after an expeditious message to the wife (thanks to my Garmin inReach Mini, a bad-ass piece of equipment, btw) I headed back down the mountain. There was still some gravel and other detritus on the road so I was cautious on the descent and for the first few miles I got lucky – no rain. That changed though as I got to about the 7500′ mark. Down it came. At those speeds, raindrops sting! Thankfully it did let up so I wasn’t too spongy when I got to the homestead.

What a fantastic way to cap off my week! Here’s a few stats from the weekend:

Miles ridden: 90.6
Feet climbed: 7169
Hours on the bike: ~6

I’m hoping you’ve had, or will have, similar weekends of wonder. If you have, or do, and would like to share them by posting up your own adventure on our blog, let me know!

Ride safe and let’s kick some passes’ asses! this summer!

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.