JANUARY was wild and wooly here in the heart of the California Alps. Many of us residents of Alpine Co. – certainly everyone I know – were a bit “snow-shocked” from those nine (9) dances with water we had here in the Golden State. Blowing snow, shoveling snow, chipping away ice, trying to get propane; and dealing with roof leaks caused by the enormous quantity and type of snow (sierra cement for the most part – heavy and wet) combined with the freekingly freezing temperatures kept yours truly, and our neighbors, especially busy.
HERE’S what we awoke to on New Year’s Day!
IT didn’t end there. Just about a week later we made the network news as the next storm made its way through the Sierra.
AND just a couple days later…
JUST a week after that it was still dumping that wonderful white stuff. I can say that now, “wonderful” that is, but admittedly I was big-time whining. I’m smiling here because I was thankful I had such an awesome snowblower, and I was listening to some good tunes, and I was getting closer to being done for the day.
FINALLY. We got a bit of a break and I was able to get outside for a couple rides. More importantly, I was able to give my VERY SORE hands, wrists and shoulders a break and send my friend Arthur Itis home for a few days. Still, even with all the “snow-work” I was able to ride 387 miles last month. All but 37 of those miles were inside as it turns out. I finally ordered the rim strips and stems I needed, though, to get my fatbike ready for some snow. Hoping to get Farley set up soon so I can partake in some of that POW all my cycling friends are enjoying.
HERE are Roscoe and I on one of those two (2) outside rides. This one from HQ here in Markleeville, up to, and just past Monitor Junction.
THEN it was Blue’s turn. A bluebird day (and not too cold – high 30’s) reward for our Diamond Valley Loop ride.
WHILE I’m happy to be back on the bike in earnest, and stoked to see my fitness trending up, I must admit that I’m jealous of my cycling friends who are having some of the best skiing of their lives up here in the Sierra, at least that’s what they’re “saying” on Strava.
I need to learn how to ski. Thinking nordic, not alpine. But hey, maybe I should first get my backside outside on those snowshoes.
IT’S just so easy to jump on the trainer, and it’s warmer. Am I getting a bit soft in my old(er) age? Not sure but I can tell you that I, and my neighbors, are definitely looking forward to spring!
NEXT week…Some updates on our advocacy efforts, some deathride news, and some headlines from the community.
THE Alpine County Resource Advisory Committee held its first meeting in November. The “RAC” as it’s referred to, was convened by the Carson Ranger District and it consists of individuals who represent specific interests in the Alpine County area of the California Alps region of the Sierra Nevada.
THOSE specific interests, and those reps when appointed (after being recommended by local USFS personnel) are placed into certain categories, e.g., commercial recreational activities; commercial or recreational fishing groups; regionally or locally recogonized enviromental organizations; Native American tribes, etc., in order to bring broad ranging backgrounds, perspectives and abilities to the Committee.
CATEGORY A includes “Developed Outdoor Recreation, Off-Highway Vehicle Users, or Commercial Recreation Activities” and that’s where I, and hopefully you too, come in.
REPRESENTING hikers, bikers, OHVers and other recreaters — not re-creators 😉 — (ref. Cat. A lingo above) is now my privilege, I’m happy to write, as I am one of the thirteen (13) appointed public members of the RAC. Thanks, Secretary Vilsack!
The purpose of each RAC is to improve collaborative relationships among the people that use and care for the National Forests and to provide advice and recommendations to the Forest Service concerning projects and funding consistent with Title II of the SRS Act.
Excerpted from United States Forest Service, Secure Rural Schools Advisory Committees, CHARTER
From The Title II Guide…
THE funds may be used for projects that have broad-based support and with objectives that include:
road, trail, and infrastructure maintenance or obliteration
soil productivity improvement
forest ecosystem health improvements
watershed restoration and maintenance
wildlife and fish habitat restoration, maintenance, and improvement
noxious and exotic weeds control
native species re-establishment
OUR RAC advises on, and recommends for, projects in Alpine County, in the Eldorado, Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to obtain some funding for various projects that benefit these forests within our little county.
Per David Griffith, of the Alpine Biomass Collaborative: “possible project ideas could include such things as trail and trailhead improvements, toilets, campgrounds and campground improvements, new or improved signage etc.”
CURRENTLY there is approximately $200,000.00 available with an possiblity of $15-30k per year after that. Projects must be submitted by February 1, 2023 at 4:30 p.m. in order to be considered for this round, which ends in June of 2023 (FY 2022-2023).
Benefitting More Than Just U.S. Forest Service Land
Matt Dickinson, Sierra Zone GIS Specialist for the Carson District, explains it this way: “In the language of the actual law, there is no indication that it is only Forest Service lands. So, [the RAC] should be able to approve projects if they show a benefit to any federal land.”
OUR goal is to get as oodles and oodles of projects submitted so that we have a robust, perpetual list on which to vote. Since the initiative is ongoing projects that don’t get chosen initially can be considered in future years, so why not have as many in our back pockets as we can, right?
Projects Approved How?
HERE’S Matt again…
There has to be a quorum of members in order to recommend projects.
To move a project forward there would have to be a majority vote of yes within each of the three membership categories. If any one of the three groups votes no then the project does not move forward, as required by the committee charter.
Funding would need to be decided by a simple majority of members. The options for funding include – fully fund the project; fund only a portion of the project; fund only a portion of the project now, but recommend the remaining funds be approved if additional funding becomes available; or recommend a project for funding above the amount requested if the project has the capacity.
Finally, by a majority vote, projects would need to be ranked in order to determine the priority of which projects get funding with the current funds available and which ones would be funded first when more money becomes available.
OUR next meeting is February 28, 2023 and it’s at that meeting that we will begin the vetting process and vote on projects that have been submitted to date.
SO, spread the word! Share a link to this post on your social media. Part of an organization that could benefit from a project or projects? Let your leadership know. Know someone or some group that fits the bill? Give ’em a heads up.
THANKS and have a great 2023! Let’s start it off with a big bang for our CA Alps forests.
I don’t know about your family of course; our family, or families (my side and Mrs. CA Alps’ side) though, do the name-drawing-gift-exchange thing. That means list exchanges with your “gift-partner” in various forms and formats – some of us text ’em; some of us email ’em and some members of the family (pointing my virtual-finger at you bro) just don’t cooperate at all – no list provided.
YOURS truly keeps a perpetual wish-list going, with links for ease of shopping, so I can provide it at the drop of a helmet. It’s also a good way to keep track of things that I know I’ll likely have to buy for my fine-self; some of the things we bike riders need or want are just too expensive for those dispensation-dealing limits.
ALONG those lines I thought I’d provide you with a glimpse of some of the items I’ve spoiled myself with, a couple of which have really made big impacts on my riding.
Specialized’s Power Pro Saddles
AT up to $275 a pop they are pricey, and so I’ve had to pace myself budget-wise, but I think they are the best saddles around. Short-nosed, with an integrated saddle bag option, I’ve purchased one for each of my bikes, most recently the Power Arc Pro Elaston for my eMTB. I did a review of the saddle a couple years ago so you can get some more details in that post.
ABOUT two years later I am still just as impressed with these saddles as I was when I first docked my derriere onto one. More importantly, the saddle has made an impact on my riding: no more numbness or chaffing and a better position on the bike resulting in more comfort and power over the long run.
Giro’s Synthe MIPS II Helmet
HOW many helmets do you have? That’s a question that my bud ‘Toph recently posed. The answer? Five, all but one of which are Giros. Not all helmets fit all noggins the same, and mine, defined by my nephew as a big-hat head (he’s a supply officer for the U.S. Navy) prefers the bigger-bucketed Giros. I’ve got a lot of dome above the ears and so the deeper-dish helmets are what I need. I’ve gone through quite a few of these and am thankful that Giro has maintained (and improved on) the line for many years.
YES you need to replace your helmet regularly, so if you, like me, have a considerable cranium to insert into said helmet consider spending the ~$200 ducats and getting one of these bad boys.
Lake’s CX 400 Line of Shoes
MY big ol’ feet (50 euro size) are hard to fit. Before I discovered Lake’s CX402 (the 403 pictured above is the latest iteration of the line) I was a Sidi devotee. Years ago, when I had my first bike fit, I learned that I had my cleats too far forward and so my bike-fitter suggested Speedplay pedals because the Sidi line of shoes that I rode at the time did have a special plate that would allow for even more setback.
AFTER riding that set up for a few years, Josh, my gearhead at Competitive Cyclist, turned me on to Lake’s CX402 because it had a Speedplay (4-bolt) shoe. Bolting the cleat directly onto the shoe substantially reduced that stack height and made walking on the shoe much less wobbly.
COMBINE that with heat-moldability and those oh so supple kangaroo uppers and you’ve got a shoe that could change your cycling (and MTB) life, especially if you’ve got unique foot-size needs like moi. With an approximate $500 price point it’s not a choice that should be made lightly but if shoe issues have been challenging for you the Lake’s are definitely worth a try.
Garmin’s Varia RVR315 Rearview Radar
THIS little piece of equipment has made the most substantial impact on my riding this past year and it’s surprisingly inexpensive IMHO. The RVR315 goes for about $150. Garmin does produce other variations of this radar, including the newest, the RCT715, which has a light and a rearview camera, but even for this Inspector Gadget that’s one or two features too many.
BATTERY suck is another consideration. That light and camera could reduce battery life faster than the Manx Missle sprints in the TDF and on longer rides that would be no bueno.
NOW in the interest of full disclosure I didn’t buy this unit. My buddy Rich had an extra and browbeat me (nicely) into making a trade with him for it. He got a stunning Pedal Mafia vest (check out our shop) and I in turn picked up this little wonder.
IT interfaces with my Wahoo and other devices (e.g., Garmin head units and watches) and gives a visual cue as to the speed at which the vehicle, or vehicles, is/are approaching. It also beeps and provides both audio and visual all-clears. Additionally, you can set up vibration alerts.
I’VE tested it out now for quite some time and my neck is much happier. Sure, there are times I still feel the need to look around my shoulder but not nearly as often. I’ve learned to trust that radar; it’s made me even more relaxed on the road, and it picks up bikes too so if you’re racing you can “see” the competition coming.
PERFECT for riding here in the California Alps! I can see where it might be slightly aggravating when used in high-traffic areas, however, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking of making the radar-leap.
THAT’S a wrap!
SO there you go…Butt, head, feet and air. Something for each of the important parts and a bit of tech. to help you keep those parts safe.
HAPPY Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Felice Navidad and Happy New Year. Feel free to spoil yourself whether you celebrate any or all of these holidays. You deserve it, right?
Discipline, my sensei once told me, was not necessarily about when (or how hard) to practice, but when not to. Those words of wisdom do ring true, even more so today as I backslide to 60, yet heeding them is sometimes a challenge.
BECAUSE, three (3) weeks + since the “big ‘blation” (TURP by aquablation) I haven’t been able to lift much (no more than 10 pounds for the first 10 days) nor get any serious cardio (no strenuous activities, including sex, for 3 weeks). Strenuous sex? Really? Ah, the old days…
NO bike riding either, inside or out, until cleared by the doctor (that happens today, hopefully).
SO I’ve truly put into practice Mr. Arioto’s words of all of those years ago. For the first 7-10 days or so it wasn’t that hard. Now though, 3 1/2 weeks out, it’s getting harder. As I told Mrs. California Alps Cycling yesterday, I’m getting fatter and my fitness is getting worse. My CTL is dropping like a rock and my scale indicates those rocks are hiding somewhere within my expanding self.
I’M trying to eat less, and I did a good job of that as well for those first couple of weeks, and I’ve been walking, which can be agonizingly slow for a fervent rider, and make’s my bum right knee unhappy, but it has helped, and it’s especially enjoyable due to some good tunes and the snowy scenery.
ADMITTEDLY, I’m not real good at this type of discipline. Thankfully I won’t have to practice it much longer and I’m so ready to get back on the bike.
Dealing with the recovery (esp. since I had some complications) hasn’t been pleasant. I’m on the mend now, though, and feeling good. The plumbing is getting back to normal and that not-so-fun part is aways behind me. I’m thankful, too, for good health insurance, good robotics 😉 , good doctors and good drugs.
Let this horse out of the gate!
BASKING in the glory of this year’s successful ride, monkey now off our (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) back, has been wonderful. We gave ourselves sometime to celebrate. Short-lived that time was, though, as we’ve already begun planning for the 2023 ride.
THAT “big schnozzola photo,” by the way, was taken during this year’s ride – I’m just below Raymond Meadow Creek on Hwy. 4 (Ebbett’s Pass).
WE’VE got to finalize our expo. location and are trying to find one other than Turtle Rock Park. We received a lot of feedback from riders after this year’s ride that hanging out there for the expo wasn’t the best experience. From vendors to volunteers we all agree and so we’re brainstorming ideas and doing a bit of outreach. If we have to go back to “TRP” again we’ll do our best to make it look less like a burnt-moonscape. Things are looking better post-Tamarack Fire. Greening up, more dead trees removed and snow on the ground.
Spring could be glorious with the grasses and flowers!
WE’RE hoping to work out a deal with a local cycling club to take on our warehouse and aid station logistic coordinating responsibilities. We’ve had volunteers take on this role in the past (and they’ve all done an outstanding job), yet we realize that to kick things up a notch we need to find professionals to fill this role, and pay accordingly. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to work out a partnership soon with this great group. Stay tuned!
PERMITS are another behind the scenes process that must be handled. Every year, we and other ride organizers, need to gain the necessary permits from various agencies (e.g., Alpine Co.; Caltrans; CHP; USFS, etc.) and that process too, has started. The great feedback we received this year from these agencies, and the support they’ve (and the riders) voiced for this years course, especially how safe it was, means we’ll be DOING THE SAME CLIMBS IN 2023. Monitor x2, Ebbett’s x2 and Pacific Grade x2. I’ll be riding it in 2023 and am looking forward to getting back to some serious training. I think we’ll have a few other CAC riders out on the course next year too.
VOLUNTEERS are a huge part of the Deathride and 2023 is no different. We’ve got the usual amazing folks already raising their hands, and at the suggestion of one of our captains, are going to expand the roles of the group captains to be more involved in the planning stages of the ride. Another “up our game” plan.
RIDE or course director is another “T” that must be crossed and admittedly that search has been a bit “interesting.” Our beloved Curtis Fong, while agreeing to continue to be our mentor and advisor, wouldn’t let us brow beat him into the role, and another gentleman we had hoped to hire declined due to his crazy, busy schedule. So, the search goes on. We’ve got some other very talented people to talk to, though, and we’ve talked to some local project management talent as well so we’re confident the right person or persons will come along.
WE are aware of some merchandise delays from this year’s Deathride, including jerseys, and are actively working with the merchant to resolve the problem. We’ve been short-staffed, but our new office manager started yesterday. It will, however, take her some time to get up to speed. In the meantime feel free to reach out to me. My contact info. is on our “About Us” page.
WE’VE got lots of balls in the air right now, as you can see. Par for the course this time of year. It’s an exciting, scary and nervewracking time, and IT’S WONDERFUL!
IT’S going to be another great ride! Registration open’s New Year’s Eve! Mark those calendars, k?
HAVE a happy, happy, Thanksgiving!
TWO of our local feathered friends, Wavy Beard on the left and Stumpy on the right, suggest that perhaps you enjoy beef, pork or a vegan/vegetarian option.
AS we told them though, while the suggestion is understood we’ll be eating turkey. Just not you!
THINKING differently? Re-focusing our energy holistically? Integrating? Teaming up? How do we harmonize our efforts and what would the focus of those efforts be? Here at California Alps Cycling I sometimes forget that part of our mission is to “advocate for cycling AND the outdoors.” That “and” is the important part, and over the last several months some of the organizations for which I volunteer have started working towards that end. Many of us have begun (ok, some like ESSRP got there long ago) to realize that we all have one thing in common: the Sierra. There’s that focal-point.
IT’S a different way of thinking for me and it comes from my experiences (some of you have had similar ones I suspect) during the last fifteen years or so of my professional life. Working in silos, or trying not too, is one of the corporate world’s most vexing problems. And one day it hit me. We’re doing that here too in some ways. I hear what you’re thinking. DUH, it’s not just a corporate problem, Mark.
TRAILS associations focusing on trails built just for hiking, for example. Bike coalitions slightly missing the mark about OHVers, groups that often have more political clout, and have shared goals with their two-wheel brethren. Mountain bikers and gravel riders perhaps not contemplating that rock climbers, and cowboys (cow-persons? Too woke? Tee, hee.) use the same trails they do, and so by building to “their specs” in addition to “bike specs” we end up preserving, and serving (stewardship…yeah, baby) that same common ground with one common voice, for similar needs.
THE needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one, right?
RECENTLY, I caught myself missing the mark. Forgive the self-gratifying pun. During the last couple of District 10 Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (D-10 BPAC) meetings I was championing an idea of Becky DeForest’s, former director of the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce. She suggested the committee consider opening the gates on Hwy. 4 and Hwy. 89 (Ebbett’s and Monitor, respectively) for cyclists and pedestrians AFTER the snow has been cleared but BEFORE the gates were opened to vehicles. We’ve had, and continue to have, some great back & forth on this subject and we’re not done quite yet. My point, though, is about snowmobiling on those same roads and my thougthlessness in first seeking to understand before being understood. Said I during one meeting, “They get to use the roads when the gates are closed but we don’t. Isn’t that a double standard?”
TURNS out ‘bilers have to get permits. So maybe the answer, I realized, is a permit process for bikes and peds too? We’ve got more in common than we don’t, and in many instances we cyclists, hikers, snowshoers and walkers share those same roads. How can we work together to further our common goals rather than work in those dang silos? That should have been my question and it took one of Caltran’s operations gurus to make me see the error of my ways.
NONE of this is malicious. In fact, just the opposite. Most volunteer groups are just so uber-focused on their missions. Their visions. For any of these groups that build and maintain trails and gravel it’s even more important to have that global view. Read this post, by the way, for some insight on that.
ENJOYING the outdoors isn’t partisan either is it? Being good stewards of the land isn’t blue or red, right?
NOW, we’re not there yet. Un-siloing that is, but I feel a bit of a shift. At least in the organizations in which I volunteer.
In order to further that endeavor, 😉 I did a bit of googling and came across this handy list of ways to “conquer silo mentality,” courtesy of engagebay:
Nurture a Unified Vision
Use Collaboration Tools
Improve Socializing and Cooperation in the Workplace
Encourage Remote Work
Define Shared Accountabilities
Set Common Goals
Create Cross-Functional Teams
IS it just me or could we apply some of these principles not only to our volunteer work but also to, oh I don’t know, our interactions with our neighbors? Could we make some progress in Congress if we embraced some of these principles?
C’mon, man, this isn’t The Twighlight Zone.
ACTUALLY, it is. We’ve lost the art, definitely so in the political arena, of civil discourse. I’m seeing and hearing some of that locally, too, on an issue that’s on the ballot next week. It’s getting personal and it shouldn’t be. Disagreement shouldn’t mean disassociation. We’d make a lot more progress if we all left some of our own personal baggage out of the conversation.
FIRST, though, we need to have that conversation. On so many fronts and on so many different levels. Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I wrote this post and admittedly it is a bit of a rambler. Some self-serving cathartics I guess. One of the benefits of having a blog. You can technicolor yawn your feelings onto the page if you’re so inclined.
AS I think about it, it is from a bit of reflection (and drug-induced haze?) on my recent prostate surgery. Bam, just thought I’d slip that in there. Last Wednesday it was and as I write this post I’m still dealing with the post-op fun, and I know there’s more to follow. Yet I can’t help but be grateful for the fact that in the end it was, among other things, a unified vision between my doctors to address my issue (BPH), collobaration between different offices to get to the RIGHT OUTCOME (aquablation), and cross-functional teams (surgeons, doctors, nurses, dieticians, etc.) that helped me, and will continue to help me, heal. I’ll follow up on my progess, and if you are also a BPH-suffering-cyclist, maybe a future post, or this past one, will add some value.
OKAY, I hope all of this resonates with you in some way and I do thank you for indulging me. If it does strike a chord with your fine self then there’s some common ground RIGHT THERE that WE can pay forward. And if it doesn’t that’s okay too.
HAVE a gnarly, super-excellent, scary day tomorrow and…
HOW about let’s throw some ideas in the air with some friends (old ones, or new)? Something spooky-good may come down?
WHEN we formed California Alps Cycling in 2017 the reason for doing so was a simple one: how do we share the beauty, diversity and amazing outdoor opportunities this area has to offer?
I had always enjoyed writing. I’ve practiced it since elementary school, thanks to Mom; and got another dose of “scrivinerspiration” a bit later in life, in junior high, thanks to Mrs. Giacomazzi. Working in the legal field my entire adult life also helped stoke the bug. I still chuckle today at the memory of one particular teacher at Lincoln Law School (I only did a year), Judge James Ware, who in our first class together urged us to write like normal people, without too many heretofores and whereafters. LOL.
SO that monkey had been on my back for awhile, and I had been wanting to start a blog, so the idea of thisblog came to mind.
THAT idea further coalesced when my wife and I had a conversation on our way to Gardnerville (Nevada) for a doctor’s appointment.
While she was in that appointment I took the first step and reserved the California Alps Cycling URL.
SINCE then I’ve ridden thousands of miles here in our beloved Alpine county and written thousands of words here in the CAC blog.
WE’VE done many days of adoptin‘ and many weekend clean-ups. I’ve spent many weeknights and weekends volunteering (and the associated off-line hours that comes with that) on various boards and committees while at the same time not really understanding the direction I was truly headed.
I guess you could say I was conflicted, or rudderless perhaps is a better description. Not seeing the sign(s), maybe, not paying attention to what the universe was trying to tell me; thinking at one point that I might open a shop, or run tours. Wait, still willing to do that. Now or when I retire. 😉
EARLY on I also had dreams of perhaps making a living selling really cool, Alps-branded gear. I still sell the gear but I’ve come to realize it’s about the brand, it’s been about the brand, and not necessarly the CAC brand, but the alps brand, the alpine brand, the Sierra Nevada brand, the giving-back-to-the-community-and-surrounds brand.
I’M fortunate enough to have a great employer that among other things, promotes work-life balance. It’s because of my job, I often remind myself, that I can continue to give back to this place that has such a special aura.
LIKE I wrote in my last post, this place needs our help and that help comes from many sources.
BTW, when I write “this place” I’m referring to the Sierra Nevada, and not just to the east slope of the Sierra, but the west slope too. And the foothills, which run for hundreds of miles on that west slope, the portion of which just west of us here coincidentally, is known as the “Motherlode.”
AND so it was I found myself talking to Ben and Todd a couple weeks ago while I was in San Jose on a business trip. “Rob said you may be interested in joining our board”, said Ben. That took me a bit by surprise because I had told Rob I’d be willing to get involved. But hey, when you raise your hand and volunteer…
WE three (Ben, Todd and I) hit it off, though, and an invite to Motherlode’s Vision Session would be forthcoming. They held that “vision quest”, as I called it, just last Tuesday. I’d just come from another community meeting, after an arduous workday, and was a bit worn out. I joined virtually, as did a few others, but the majority of the group went to Carl’s house in Columbia. It didn’t take long for the energy in the room to consume me, and the rest of the group.
PART of the meeting outcome was the concept of combining forces, as it were, by bringing Alpine County and the central Sierra into what Motherlode had already begun. Joining the “foothill fold” made so much sense and I was stoked to be able to be a part of something that we all hoped would have some serious legs.
NOW it’s not quite that simple. IT never is. It’s going to take some work (including my assigned homework). It always does.
IN my mind, though, I just saw THE SIGN.
WE (California Alps Cycling) needed to focus our energy differently. We needed to be, not just act like, a coalition. We needed to continue to build on what we had started even though until then we didn’t realize what that was. We needed to be that advocacy-focused, community-oriented, education-friendly organization that our Prana was telling us to be.
SO, as we continue to navigate away from that original retail model to something more like (maybe exactly like) a non-profit model, we’ll be changing things around a bit. A new look for our website, edits to some of our pages; an updated mission. All of these I suspect, and more.
MAYBE even a – gasp! – board of directors.
WHAT started as a getting-to-know-each-other conversation between my wife and I, at the home of two skeptical individuals who both later became friends, Fritz and Nancy Thornburg, has years later come into laser-focus. Now it’s up to us to execute.
WE’LL look to you dear readers, and local riders, and upstanding friends, and friendly advisors, and especially you conscientious contributers, to remind us of that from time to time.
We’ll try not to be patronizing or preachy, and if we already have, for that we apologize. We also promise to continue writingabout the groovy things that happen around here (and the not so groovy), as well as things to do, see and hear while you’re here, because without you we’d run out of volunteers. 😉
Lastly, just because “cycling” is in our name, that doesn’t mean we’re only about bikes. We promise to advocate for all responsible outdoor recreationists, especially you friendly OHVers who often look at Chris and me in confusion, yet frequently ask if we need anything, when you see us riding our gravel bikes where you drive your toys. Drive on, drivers!
JUST last week Blue and I went on of our favorite rides – up to Raymond Meadow Creek, or more aptly where Raymond Meadow Creek crosses under Hwy. 4 (on the north side of Ebbetts Pass). We also hit up Wolf Creek Road (and got a 9th place cup on Strava!), another of our favorites.
I’VE ridden the first long segment of this particular ride somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 times. Similarly, I’ve ridden much of the area’s segments (thanks Strava for capturing that data) dozens and also in some cases, hundreds of times.
Ebbett’s north, nineteen (19) times.
Kingsbury Grade, nine (9) times.
Luther Pass, only four (4) times (on my bike). In the car I’ve done it hundreds of times – it’s the primary route to S. Lake Tahoe.
MRS. California Alps and I have been here almost six (6) years – October 28th is our six-year anniversary. We’ve seen much of the area over many different seasons, as you can imagine. Editors note: I must give a shout out to Mama (mine) California Alps – who’s been here since the summer of 2018.
WELL, you’re probably with me already…Our forests are in trouble. We’ve known this for a long-time I suppose but these last couple of years it’s been even more apparent, or more aptly put (at least for us) it’s become outright scary.
The year before we came here it was the Washington Fire. That’s Colorado Hill, near Monitor Junction. It was burned in that fire and seven years later it still looks like this.
LAST year it was the Tamarack and the Caldor. And I’m only talking about the local fires. We’ve all seen it. It’s happening all over the world.
Climate Change Certainly Hasn’t Helped, Either
NOW I’m no academic. Some college but definitely no forestry-related education. I can’t talk to the trees. Okay I do but they don’t talk back. I do hug them, though. The rub here however, is that there are fewer of them to hug. Or in some rare instances, too many of them to hug.
AND so I found myself, after reading the NY Times guest essay “Yvon Chouinard Is the Founder of Patagonia. He’s Also My ‘Dirtbag’ Friend” thinking that Yvon Chouinard was way more than a mountain-stud, he was a gift to humanity for putting those buckets of Patagonia ducats where his boca is, as he has done for most of his life. When he announced that he was donating Patagonia’s ownership to a trust with profits earmarked to address climate change, I was touched. That, I thought, will make a difference.
HERE at California Alps Cycling we’re not quite as flush as Patagonia but we do what we can. I asked my myself could we do more though? We’ve given many a dollar to local non-profits, Calbike, USA Cycling, the California State Parks Foundation, and others. I suspect you’ve done much the same. Thank you, by the way.
LET’S be clear, however, “not quite as flush” means we make slightly more than zippo from our CAC Shop. It’s a labor of love and a way to spread the gospel of cycling and of the CA Alps. I still need, and truly love, my day job. Made even more special because I get to do it from here. It’s that job and Mrs. California Alp’s part-timer that sustains our Chalet.
HENCE my argument to Mrs. California Alps:
“This cause is a righteous one honey and since we really don’t make enough money from CAC to make a huge difference in our day-to-day, why not donate what we do make to the forest?”
MY biggest supporter, pictured above doing her turn at the booth earlier this year, agreed.
WE’VE set up a new page for that reason: Contribute to the Cause. You may have seen it on our navigation menu at the top of our website. Editor’s note: Stripe, the payment processor we use to take donations, is putting a percentage of their dough to climate change, so just a little more goes a little further.
TAKE a peak and if you can help, please do. Please spread the word, too, if you don’t mind. Whether it’s this cause or another, or perhaps a good article or book, or just to inform a friend or colleague.
SWEAT equity will remain a big part of what we’re about. Cleaning highways, building trails, volunteering our riding time for various causes and boards…Giving back to the communities where we live, work and ride. We’ll keep doing those things.
AND from now on, with your help, we’ll also spread a little more green to organizations and individuals that help thatgreen.
STAY tuned for more information, and future reports on our efforts.
IN the meantime, if you want to learn more, please check out our friends at the Alpine Biomass Collaborative. They do more to educate us locals about forest health than anyone else, and their recent presentation by Dr. Malcolm North was another catalyst of the cause. They will be one of the new beneficiaries of our ours.
‘TWAS the last Saturday of July when members of the Alpine Trails Association (ATA) joined members of the Tahoe Mountain Biking Association (TAMBA) for a trails work day on the Charity Valley Trail, one of the prettiest trails in the California Alps.
I was looking forward to finally getting to use my back (most work days fall on a weekday and so my bizdev hat, rather than the hardhat, must be worn) and my new McLeod, and as the officer-at-large (some might say large officer) of the ATA I was excited about our first opportunity to look at one of the most popular trails here in Alpine Co. from the perspective of mountain bike trail-builders (call them trail building mountain bikers if you wish).
WE were also eager (anxious is a better word) to see what damage the Tamarack Fire had wrought on our beloved trail. None of the team had been down the east face of the trail since then.
Here’s what we saw. So much devastation yet we were encouraged by the green carpet of ferns and other flora.
OUR group was certainly diverse. Four old guys (at 58 I was the youngest) from Markleeville and Woodfords, and nine young dudes (including a father and son, with mountain bikes), some of whom hailed from the bay area, some of whom from the Tahoe area and one (our co-leader, Gabe Tiller) joined us from up Oregon way, although he was a bay area boy prior as I recall.
IT’S definitely worth mentioning that among other things Gabe is a director of the Orogenesis Collective (“a new way on old ground”), an ambitious endeavor to connect 7300 km of bikepacking trails, from the Cascades Trail, to the Baja Divide. A big reason he was in the area…Alpine County is/could be a part of that system and this event was one of several stewardship camps that Gabe and team set up towards that end.
After intros all around it was a tool and safety orientation. This was after all, a full blown, USFS sanctioned event, which meant that full on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) was required.
That involves wearing shoes that cover the feet (boots for many of us, including yours truly), long pants, long shirts, and gloves, and donning hard hats and safety glasses.
IT was a hot mofo that day! In the nineties… 90ish in the Sierra is like 100ish in the city. The air here is so dry and you’re a bit closer to ol’ Sol as well. As such, we carried lots of H20, and our other co-leader, Andy, had a filter, too. There were myriad tools to carry: from McLeods to Pulaskis, loppers to handsaws, one pole saw and two battery powered hedge trimmers, one with a big ol’ backpack battery-pack.
CHRIS, who joined us at the falls, was the maninal that carried that. Was a very cool rig and it was obvious to this trail-building neophyte, if it wasn’t already, that this crew was serious.
Here’s a video I took of a chunk of the trail and it includes a glimpse of Chris and his unit. 😉
IT was a long day, too. We didn’t really cut ourselves any slack because of the heat. Hey! We had a mission and any day in the Sierra after all…
STILL, our PPE definitely made things more challenging, yet I could certainly see the value of said gear. We were handling sharp instruments and some big rocks, and consistently dodging over-hanging branches and under-hanging shrubbery.
YOU can get a sense of what it was like by taking a gander at the little video below. It’s us beginning to transform a “hiker’s line” to a “biker’s line.”
AND several other images of the crew at work…
ABOUT 1/2 way through the day we found ourselves at the falls, or pools (both really), for a break and for some, a dip. (Photo on the right courtesy of Jeff Glass, of TAMBA).
WE arrived back in Grover Hot Springs State Park about 3:30 p.m. and found our shuttles waiting. We had dropped some vehicles there in the a.m. for our return trip back to the trailhead at Blue Lakes Road, and we had a couple volunteers (Mrs. California Alps Cycling and Momma California Alps Cycling) augment our caravan as well.
MY legs were sore! Frankly, pretty much all of me was. It’s one thing riding a bunch of miles on the road and certainly another hiking, mcleoding, bouldering, cutting, trimming and digging trail.
STILL, what an awesome trek! We all learned something and we made some new friends, too. Such a deal.
I’LL leave you with a bunch more pix from the day.
FOR even more snapshots, including OROGENESIS PROJECT’S Charity Valley Stewardship Campout 2022 Flickr album, click here. You can donate to the Bikepacking Roots cause here, by the way.
A big shout out to Gabe for helping lead the event, and for teaching us newbies and experienced trail builders alike to look at those lines differently.
OUR wild ride started about ten (10) days ago here in California Alps Cycling country. Things have been in disarray since, made all the better (not!) by some extended travel time, and other challenges, and so my apologies for not getting this report out a bit sooner.
‘TWAS Wednesday, August 3rd, about 3:00 p.m. That’s when the skies opened up, and within hours the waves of mud and debris came tumblin’ down Markleeville’s Main Street (aka Hwy. 89).
THERE I was, sitting on said Hwy. 89 just north of town, at the temporary light constructed by Caltrans, just after giving blood (1 gallon milestone, by the way!) in Minden, NV. Another car was coming up the hill in the one lane that was available for travel – hence the light – and I was surprised at how much, and how fast, that puddle it just passed through, was growing. Then I noticed the mini-boulders on the road.
AND then I looked up and saw the water, rocks and mud beginning to flow from the scarp above me. “This isn’t good,” I said aloud. Then I began yelling at the light to change (there were no more cars stopped opposite me). Also aloud, and with some, as you might imagine, colorful language.
IT didn’t change fast enough (that detritus above was getting chunkier) and there were no cars coming up, so off I went. Just over a mile and home I was. The rain was just getting started as it turns out. I learned a little later that Mom came in ahead of me. She had hitched up her wagon to go to town (Gardnerville, NV – just so. of Minden) and do some shopping at the general store, i.e., Raley’s. 😉
WE both got home about 3:30 p.m. Thunderstorm-palooza then began in earnest.
This was the scene on Friday, after much of the mud had been removed.
2.2 Inches In About An Hour!
OUR weather station’s console read “It’s raining cats and dogs!”
Mrs. California Alps Cycling and I had seen that message before but not displayed for so long and not with so much associated ca-ca (i.e., sticks, mud, pinecones, etc.) in the run-off outside. I donned my foul weather gear (including hard hat) after awhile so I could do some cleaning and clearing in order to keep things moving the right way. My wife and I did a lot of whoa!-ing and holy-s*&t!-ing, let me tell you.
DIDN’T know how bad it was in town until the next day…
MARKLEEVILLE’S Post Office parking lot the day after – and this was after much of the mud was cleared away. Still, needed my muck boots to pick up yesterday’s mail. We were shocked when we got into town. We had some idea that it was going to be a mess, but this? Not on our radar…
SO many have been so generous already and if you too can help out, please do. Our little county doesn’t have much of a tax base (1100 people in the entire county) so grants, donations and the like are so very helpful.
MAKE a donation of $50.00 or more and I’ll send you a t-shirt as a small token of appreciation.Go big ($200 or more) and I’ll send you a windvest. Just send me an email with a screenshot and I’ll follow up with ya!
WE are grieving (again) but we are NOT wallowing so please don’t feel sorry for us. We, like so many communities throughout the world, just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
OKAY, so back to the story…
THURSDAY afternoon it was. I found myself filling sandbags with so many of my friends. Everyone had rallied at the fire station so bags could be positioned in town to protect the buildings from what was supposed to be the next wave. Thankfully it didn’t come. It might, however, this week, and if not, IMHO it’s likely to occur before summer’s end. We’re resilient though if nothing else, and more importantly there are a lot of skilled, Sierra-forged individuals – with heavy equipment 😉 – in the area.
Deep mud, and silt, and debris. Pretty much everywhere.
WE needed all the help we could get. And that help also came in the form of two (2) bay area fire departments making the trip to Markleeville and spending several days helping us dig out.
THANK YOU Menlo Park F.D. and Oakland F.D!
ABOUT another week of going over Monitor Pass to get to Nevada or South Lake Tahoe, for one. We’ve all been doing that since the 3rd, but the temporary bridge over the ~20 foot gap on northbound Hwy. 89 should be in place by the 22nd. Just this past Friday the sheriff’s escort started, though, so we can get in and out via a side-road constructed just for that purpose. Twice a day only, between 7-730 a.m. and 6-630 p.m.
Otherwise it’s a southbound trip down Hwy. 89 then east up and over Monitor Pass and then north on Hwy. 395 only to turn west in Gardernerville and head up Hwy. 88 to Luther Pass where it’s north again to Big Blue.
SO, what is usually about a 40′ trip to So. Lake Tahoe takes about two (2) hours! No fun. Especially when at the 1.25 hour mark you end up at Woodfords Junction, six (6) miles north of Markleeville.
TEN days has passed since the 41st Annual (kinda) Deathride (aka The Tour of the California Alps). We’re starting to relax a bit here in Alpine County, yet at the same time we’ve begun preparing for next year’s ride. Not kidding.
THAT, however, is a story for another day.
TODAY we have a guest blogger! Amador County resident, and Deathrider Bill Condrashoff. I’m pleased to put forth, for your reading pleasure, Bill’s story about his “day of death.” Editors notes: First, let’s be clear. No one has ever died on the Deathride. Second, the following words are all Bill’s and they WERE NOT edited for clarity or whatever else some news programs might say. That wouldn’t be fair to Bill. It’s his story, and a good one at that. I did take the liberty of throwing in a few photos, though.
IT’S been 3 years since I rode the Death Ride and I missed it. I was in my 50s last time. So I thought I’d see if could still do it in my 60s. I wasn’t planning to better my best or even go for a fast time. I was just going to try to finish. I mentally prepared myself for being passed by the young riders and to just let it go. I’d be happy enough just being out there enjoying what I like to do. Then I got a call from my riding friend Kevin, who was going to come out and enjoy the festivities for old times’ sake. He wanted to know when I would be riding through Markleeville. I told him I would come through between 3 and 4PM. He couldn’t accept that for an answer and convinced me I would be there by 3PM for sure. So he was going to look for me between 2:30 and 3:30PM.
I didn’t know anyone else riding it this year. It was going to be a hot one. I was ready to ride at 5AM but ended up starting at 5:04 or so. Close enough. With the hot weather predicted for later, I knew I had to get in and out of the back side of Monitor Pass as quickly as possible so as not to get fried in the desert. Each side is about 3,000 ft of climbing.
When I started, it was about 65 degrees and my legs felt good. I was pedaling up Monitor in a matter of minutes. Most people knew it would be hot and started when I did. I was in a sea of riders just before sunrise. It was calm and all you could hear was the sound of heavy breathing, tires rolling over the pavement and an occasional conversation. Then the grade got steep and the sound of hundreds of bikes downshifting filled the rocky canyon. I was in my lowest gear but not too bad off. As we went up, I could see the sunshine start to cover the mountains around Ebbetts Pass. It looked a long way off and later the ride was going 15 miles beyond Ebbetts before riders would turn around. Of course, at this moment, I was headed AWAY from that pass. Then I realized I needed to get my head in a good place to be able to succeed. That meant having some fun along the way and paying attention to how my legs were feeling.
Before I knew it, I was over the first pass and it was time to have some fun. I gulped some salt tabs and chased them with fluid then started to pass some riders before the unthinkable happened. Some dude passed me going downhill! It was still shallow near the top for a while, but I decided it was time to have some of that “fun along the way”. So, I chased. I might seem like a thin man, but for a cyclist on the Death Ride, I’m a big boy (gravity is my friend on descents). I was up to him pretty quick and I got by him just before the grade got steeper and the spectacular view of the desert appeared. I could see his shadow racing mine on the pavement. He wasn’t just going to let me go ahead. I focused on my line and how to avoid the hundreds of bikes around us. He stayed with me in the twisties and that impressed me because I know the road very well. A couple of times I saw what looked like his shadow riding off the road over the cliff. But, it would always come back where I could see it. Left, right, left, right, pass 12 riders at a time, left, right, left, right, pass 12 more. Then after we came around a righty, and just before a lefty I saw something that scared me. It was guy with a camera standing on the double yellow center line taking photos at the apex of the turn! I could go left or right of him. Both options seemed bad at the speed I was going. So, I braked and went right of him (on the slower line) and the rider making the shadow passed me. I thought “Ok, it’s still a long way down and I have gravity on my side.” After a slower turn, I got back up to him and made a slingshot pass using his draft. It was pretty straight after that so the bigger boy wins, and that was me. At the bottom he was as jacked as I was. We averaged 42 for 7.5 miles with a max of 50mph. We talked about it halfway back up the climb out of the desert before he went ahead of me.
IT was quite a bit warmer on Monitor Pass the second time over. But, it wasn’t too bad. I still had a good attitude. I pretty much had the second descent to myself and it is less fun to go fast without traffic. So, I decided not to push my luck and conserve energy (and blood). As I started up Ebbetts Pass, Shadow Rider passed me and we discussed how he got behind me. He had taken a nature break. We rode a little while then we both stopped at Wolf Creek for my first water stop. 5 miles up the road he passed me again on the steep stuff. By then the bike traffic was thinning a lot. This told me that I was doing well. It was like the good old days of the 2010s. I kept trying to extrapolate the time I would get to Markleeville because I knew I would be slowing down as I rode. It seemed like I would get there before Kevin left.
I got to the top of Ebbetts feeling pretty worked over. I thought “If I ride over the top, will I be able to climb out of there?” Editor’s note: Even though he was pretty worked over that skeleton is not Bill. This photo, in fact, was taken during the 2018 Deathride. It is, though, at Ebbetts Pass.
AND that’s not the worst of it. Pacific Grade Pass is new to the Death Ride this year. After you go down the back of Ebbetts, you go up Pacific Grade’s 24% slopes. This was sure to lessen my chances of getting back out of the hole I was about to ride into. Against my better judgement, I went for it and Pacific Grade felt steeper than ever. That road tests you at the start with some short 20% grades followed by shallower grades. Then back to steep, then not so steep. Just when you think you’re past the worst of it, the road seems to disappear in front of you. The first right hand switchback is so steep and sharp that it looks like the end of the road. But, it just turns so sharp that it looks like a dead end. Too bad it wasn’t. I would have been happy to turn around at that point. Standing in my lowest gear, wishing I had three more, I could feel the last of my legs slowly being left on the road. On the steep grade, each time I thought I would need to stop, the slope would ease off just enough to keep me from quitting. Before I knew it, it was over and I was at Mosquito Lake on Pacific Grade Pass.
THIS was my chance to rest on the easy pedal to the turnaround at Lake Alpine. Shadow Rider passed me here again and when he did he asked me how long I thought my ride was going to take. I said “If all goes well, 10 hours. If all goes not so good, 11 hours.” I saw him again at the turnaround and spent too much time talking and not enough time drinking. Rolling out of the rest stop, I could tell I was starting to lose power. But I told myself “just get over Ebbetts one more time and you can coast for 30 minutes.”
IT wasn’t much of a ride back to Mosquito Lake. But boy I felt it. After the lake, the drop down Pacific Grade is so steep that you have to get your weight behind your saddle, like on a mountain bike, or you can easily go over your bars when you try to slow for the hairpin turns. I needed to stall because I was so fried. So, I just went slow this time and kept all my blood on the inside by not falling.
THE last pass was Ebbetts and I was ready for a struggle and that’s exactly what I got. The pass isn’t that long or steep. What makes it so difficult is all the other climbs before it. Shadow Rider passed me for the last time and I never saw him again. I was crawling (at best) up the hill and just looking for a reason to stop when a guy on the side of the road asked me if I had a CO2 tire filler and if he could use it. That was my excuse! So I stopped with enthusiasm to help him. We got him going quicker than I wanted. Once I started rolling again I felt better. It was only about 500 ft of vertical up to the top from there. When I rolled over the top it was like standing on Everest to me. I was going to make it. My stomach was upset and, due to dehydration I wasn’t sweating anymore. But now it was all downhill for a long time. I filled all bottles for weight and for makeshift perspiration. I drank all I could and poured the rest over my head, front and back as I mostly coasted down towards where I started the day. The cooling plan was working pretty well for a while. But then the temperature started really going up when I dropped below about 7000ft elevation. All the gains I made the first 10 minutes of coasting were getting erased by the heat.
THE 5 miles of road along the canyon that leads to Markleeville were so hot and dry that I would get cotton mouth just 30 seconds after a swig of water. And now, my legs were starting to cramp. Through all of this, I realized I had a shot of finishing the ride in under 9 hours. Remember, 10 hours was my best case scenario. Imagine my surprise! The only obstacle between me and a 9 hour time was the last 20 to 30 minute climb, in nearly 100 degree heat with cramping legs and only about a pint of warm water.
I rolled into Markleeville and looked for Kevin (hopefully with tons of cold water). But, I was an hour ahead of my best predicted time and he wasn’t there yet. In order to beat 9 hours, I had 25 minutes to get up the last hill and figured I’d just see what happened. A woman standing in the street offered me a cold Gatorade. I stupidly said “no thanks” and rode by her. Just past her, I reconsidered and turned around and stopped next to her. She had just ridden both Monitor Passes and had a sense of how I felt. I poured the cold Gatorade into my bike bottle, thanked her and rode off. 50 feet from there, I saw Kevin just as he yelled my name. He had just gotten there and he was prepared. He had ice, cold water, and pantyhose to put ice into and hang around my neck as I rode. He knew all the tricks to beat the heat. Now it’s only 20 minutes to my 9 hour goal! I asked him if he thought I could get up that last hill in 20 minutes and he said “NO”. I still wanted to try, and told him I didn’t want to bother with the panty hose trick. He decided I could use a splash of cold water and poured what felt like an Ice Bucket Challenge cooler full of water over my head. I was yelling “heart attack, heart attack” without breathing out. It was so cold. I was freezing now. I thanked him and took off with 17 minutes to get up the hill. At first I still felt pretty drained so I just went at a pace I thought I could do and drank the Gatorade as fast as I could before it got warm. About halfway up the hill I could see the top. I still had 9 minutes. Then a guy about 50 feet ahead of me turned around and said “tailwind”. There was a tailwind, and it was a good one too. I still had goose bumps on my legs from the icing incident. I thought “I’m going for it.” I picked it up a notch, and seeing how the road got steeper at the end, I timed a last ditch effort to the finish. I watched the time get closer and closer to 9:00:00 on my Garmin. For the last 15 minutes I’d been telling myself not to ride for 9 hours and pull up a couple minutes over 9. So I grabbed a gear and really made sure. 8:58:05!
THIS was about my 12th Death Ride. I’ve been trying to beat 9 hours and have never been able to do it before this ride. The new route is about an hour shorter than the old one. But still, I can now say that I did the Death Ride in under 9 hours! My rolling time was 8:38:XX. So I spent about 20 minutes not moving. The ride was 103.3 miles with 13,999 ft of climb. I averaged 11.9 MPH, maxed 51.3 MPH, averaged 156 watts for a total 1.4 kWHr of energy output. Now your electric bill of $0.60/kWHr doesn’t seem like such a high price, does it? My average heart rate was 133 BPM and max was 150 BPM. According to Strava, I was about the 50th finisher of all six passes.
I signed my name on the big Death Ride poster over the forehead of the skull, as usual. I burned about 5,000 calories, and I got it all back in the breakfast Benita made for me on Sunday morning. One last editor’s note: Only finishers get to sign the poster. Will you add your name next year?
CONGRATS, Bill! I think I can see your signature somewhere in there. 😉
WHAT a ride you had and what a great story. And a PR to boot. Sweet!
THANKS so much for sharing and we’ll see you next year for lucky 13!