Category: weather

It’s Often Windy Here in the California Alps – Why is That?

As a San Jose native, I was very familiar with the wind patterns. I lived in South San Jose for many years and could plan my rides knowing pretty well how the wind would blow: Go out early and get the tailwind on the way home. Go out later in the afternoon and get the headwind on the way home. Certainly this did depend on the direction of my ride but for the most part I could easily predict the patterns.

So, what’s the deal here? Well, thanks to “A Sierra Club Naturlist’s Guide” by Stephen Whitney I’ve found some answers. 

Mountain winds: “Winds and breezes passing over a rugged mountain range such as the Sierra follow tortuous courses over and around ridges, up and down canyons, through gaps in the crest. Eddies set up by the irregular terrain blow here and there in vigorous gusts that rattle trees and shrubs one minute only to abruptly die down the next. In the protection of a large boulder or grove of trees there may be scarcely any wind at all, while just a few yards away, in a more exposed area, it howls furiously.”

Wind-driven clouds in the CA Alps

Okay, so that makes sense. It’s somewhat analogous to the flow of a river. Rocks = rapids. Eddies are often downstream of those big rocks and flat water can bee seen where there aren’t any big rocks to interrupt the water’s flow.

Let’s dive a little deeper, though. Why is it that I can head up Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass) with a headwind and then not get that tailwind on the way back? Okay, sometimes I do get the tailwind but it’s not consisent like it was in Silicon Valley. Well, Mr.Whitney has a bit more information in that regard. It’s about mountain breezes, valley breezes and the mountain ranges “intrusion” into the tropopause

“On a warm summer morning the air next to the ground surface is heated and rises. Cooler air nearby moves in to replace it and rises in turn. This movement is felt during the day as an upslope breeze.” Typically, he writes, this starts about three hours after sunrise and reaches its peak during the hottest hours of the day and then it tapers off again around dusk. This is a valley breeze.  “At night, cool air flows downslope, creating the mountain breeze.”

Dust off those cobwebs and cast your mind back (thanks Paul Sherwin) to those high school science days (daze?); here’s some additional data: “Wind speed increases over mountain crests and through canyons and passes because air – like any fluid – accelerates when forced through a narrow passage. As a volume of air moves upslope, it is increasingly squeezed between the mountains and the tropopause, the inversion layer acting as a lid on the lower atmosphere. Since the volume of air remains the same as it squeezes over the mountain crest, it becomes elongated.” Okay so that means it picks up speed. Makes sense. He goes on to write that “air forced to squeeze through a canyon or mountain pass is accelerated in much the same way.”

So, there we have it! Mountain winds, mountain breezes and valley breezes combined with the myriad canyons, crests, passes and that ol’ tropopause challenge those of us who cycle in the California Alps. It’s a rare day when we have no wind and due to the topography you can’t count on consistency. If you ride here then you, grasshopper, like I, need to learn to embrace the wind. 

Ride safe out there and let’s kick some passes asses!™ Even the windy ones…

Fall Colors and Blue Lakes – A Great Birthday Present!

Last Saturday, my bud and fellow member Chris joined me for my “55 on my 55th” ride out to Blue Lakes. My wife and I had driven part of the road but when we were there the gate was closed so we couldn’t make it back to the actual lakes. So, when Chris suggested we do something different for my b-day, I thought “yeah, Blue Lakes would be good.

It was one of those rare days when the stars align and everything comes together. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part any day on the bike is a good day. This day, however, was particulary awesome. The sky was clear and oh so blue, the fall colors

Self-portait in Hope Valley - Blue Lakes Road.
Beauty fall day on Blue Lakes Road.

were a colorin’ (yeah, could have used some more reds, I agree), the wind wasn’t bad, and the temperature wasn’t too cold. We did wait until for dust-off until 10 a.m. to give things a chance to warm up. Low 20’s at HQ early in the morn’ but by the time we left we had a balmy 40 degrees or so.

We started the day climbing out of Markleeville — which is the usual for me since either direction I choose is “up” — north towards Woodfords. From there, it was up Carson Pass and into Hope Valley and then a left turn put us on Blue Lakes Road. Traffic was the usual up Carson but once we got to Blue Lakes Road it died out significantly. It was at that point that the day turned from good to amazing.

Yellow and orange aspens seem to glow in the sunlight.
The fall colors were rocking. The wind was just a bit of a breeze. The cars had taken a hiatus and it was just a picture perfect day.

We did intermission at Lower Blue Lake 1d8wt4c9QayssZaX1U5z4g(just about 28 miles from our starting point) and from there it was just a couple of minor bumps before the long downhill to Woodfords. We were so looking forward to lunch at Sorenson’s Resort (and beer…maybe a couple of beers) but they were packed so no dice there. Tried Hope Valley Cafe but it was cookies only (even with beer that didn’t quite do it for us). The third try was the charm, though and we landed at Mad Dog Cafe in Woodfords for some beers and paninis (The Pioneer for Chris and the Turkey Pesto for me). Lip-smackin’ good those paninis were. And the beer was cold and well…it was beer so happy we were. There is no try, there is only do…Sorry, I have a place in my mind where I go time to time (great Tom Petty song, that one).

Anyway, those six (6) miles from Woodfords to Markleeville were made just that much more pleasant because of our full stomachs (burp) and those IPAs (belch). Okay, I hear those of you who have ridden those bumps before groaning now but really, it WAS much more pleasant!

I’ll leave you with a few stats and a link to my Relive video.

Distance: 55.4 miles
Elevation gain: 4511 feet
Time on the bike: 4:00:35
Average speed: 13.8 mph
Eleven (11) Cat 4s and two (2) Cat 2s
Relive video: Click here.

Hamming it up in Hope Valley
Not sure what I was doing here. Just high from from those endorphins I guess.

For those of you on Strava, login and check out the full ride here.  Make the trek soon or you’ll miss what’s left of the colors and the not too chilly weather.

Remember, you can check out the weather and air quality here in the heart of the California Alps right on this site.

See you soon and feel free to contact me if you’d like any suggestions or need any help.

Now Let’s Kick Some Passes Asses!™

 

 

 

Winter is Coming to the California Alps

This past weekend I finally had to ditch the shorts. I’ve been in denial for a few weeks and kept countering those cold morning legs with layering up top but last Friday I gave it up and put on the sweats. Now that doesn’t mean we won’t get a few more fall opportunities to bare those gams, perhaps even later this week, but for now, the word of the day is “chilly.” 26 degrees here in Markleeville this morning! Last week we had just under .10 inches of rain but this week is expected to be clear. So, if you’re thinking about a visit to the Sierra you’ve still got some time to get one in! The fall foliage is here and is outrageous in some areas; Mammoth and Hope Vally to name just a couple.

What do do, what to do?

The California Alps cover a lot of real estate so from Mammoth to Lake Tahoe you’ve got many choices. Hiking, hunting, fishing (rivers and streams are open until next month), mountain biking and of course, cycling.  There’s also major opportunties for picture taking or other artistic endeavors. The Los Angeles Times pubished an article last month about our little town of Markleeville, and it had some good suggestions as well. Click here to check it out.

Other info. that may whet your appetite:

Mammoth Fall Colors

Alpine Chamber of Commerce “2 people per square mile…and you!”

Tahoe.com

Speaking of Lake Tahoe, here’s a pic of member Chris Schull enjoying a beauty day at the lake a couple weeks ago.

A cycling enjoying the day at Lake Tahoe.

Last week I decided to get off the trainer and get outside even though we had some rain slicked roads. I was sticking with the trainer because I just didn’t want to wash the bike, but among other things I really needed that feeling of the wind rushing through my helmet vents (no hair, other than my beard, for it to rush through). I thought I may catch a break and get back before the rain came but alas, no such luck. That will teach me to not wear those rain boots! No worries, though. Quick rinse and re-lube of the bike (Roscoe is his name), some newspaper stuffed in the Sidis, a hot shower and we were good to go.

These pix were taken about 10 miles up Ebbett’s Pass (from Markleeville) and you can just see some of those fall colors staring to pop.

Real time weather and air quality available

Remember, you can always get real time weather conditions here in the heart of the California Alps. We’ve got a weather station right here at HQ and just recently we’ve added an AQI unit so you can get that information as well. Go to our “Weather Conditions” page and check it out!

Whatever you decide, we hope to see you soon and remind you to be safe out there and don’t do anything outside your capabilities. You still have time, though, to Kick Some Passes’ Asses!™ and then enjoy some of the myriad other things that these California Alps have to offer!

A Little Update on Recent California Alps Cycling Activities

Welcome new members! We’re so pleased to add the following active members to our merry band of troublemakers:

  1. Scott Anderson
  2. Karrie Baker
  3. Mario Carmona
  4. Roy Franz
  5. Greg Hanson
  6. Richard Harvey
  7. Joe Watkins

Thank you all for joining. We look forward to our upcoming adventures together!

We’ve adopted a stretch of Highway 89 (from Camp Markleeville to Turtle Rock)!

As part of our mission, we help the communities in which we live, work and ride and so are very pleased to be able to help keep our local roads clean. We’ll be out doing a bit of litter pick-up later this week. Stay tuned for an after-action report.

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Yup, that’s us, we’ve adopted this stretch of Hwy. 89

Thunderstorms have been a daily ‘thang…

The weather here has been pretty crazy lately with a daily dose of thunderstorms. You can pretty much set your clock by them as they’ve been starting about 2:00 p.m. Yesterday’s storm dumped over a 1/2 an inch in just a few minutes with our weather station showing a rain rate at that time of about 3.84 inches per hour! Be sure to check out our Weather Conditions page regularly for real-time updates.

Jerseys, bibs and shorts will soon be arriving!

Thanks to many of you for your pre-orders. We’re working with Castelli now on finalizing our order and so we’ll soon have your stuff here. Once it’s arrived we’ll reach out to those that have ordered schwag and make final preparations for launch, (okay, shipping but I just liked how that sounded). Oh, and a bit of a surprise…wind vests! Check ’em out:

california alps cycling, cycling, sierra cycling, cycling in the wind
Our new windvest will supplement your cycling wardrobe nicely, we think.

Lastly, the road conditions, photo gallery and video pages have been updated. Take a look!

We wish you a wonderful week of cycling, mountain biking, hiking or just hanging out. Whatever floats your boat, eh? Be safe out there!