Looking for Some Fall Color Rides? Here are a Few Options!

It’s definitely that time of year…the aspens are glowing here in the California Alps! While some areas have a bit more color than others you really can’t go wrong right now with the blue, almost purple sky, the clean air, the great fishing and for you leaf-peepers, those “poppin’ trees!

Hwy. 4/Ebbetts Pass

I snapped this image yesterday on my way up Highway 4; right in our back yard here at California Alps Cycling! This photo was taken but a few miles outside of town and as you can see, there is still some room for improvement.

The next 1-2 weeks should do it! Farther up the mountain there were more splashes of color, including some oranges and reds and there were quite a few “wow-moments” on Sunday when CAC members Greg Hanson, Rich Harvey and I took a ride up to Raymond Meadow Creek.

Blue Lakes Road

I did cheat a little bit here…this image was actually captured in October of 2018. I did ride up Blue Lakes Road from Hope Valley just last Thursday expecting to see more of the same but alas, just little patches here and there. I was disappointed because I had rigged up the GoPro for a FulGaz shoot; I ‘spect we’ll see sigificant progress in the next week or so, however, and am planning on taking another shot at it. But even if I do, you need to check it out for your fine-self!

Speaking of Hope Valley, the colors at or close to Sorensen’s, now known as Wylder, are AMAZING; one reason I started the session I mentioned above in Hope Valley. But with just a few exceptions there just wasn’t a lot of there, there. Give it a few more days…

Hwy. 89/Monitor Pass

This photo was taken on Monday, October 5th, while we were road trippin’ on Loope Canyon Road. The road is just off Highway 89 on the way up to the eastern side of Monitor Pass and there was just a smidge of color then. I haven’t had a chance to make my way back up but knowing what I know about the area there are, or will be, some nice patches of glow above Heenan Lake, as well as a bit farther up around the 8000′ mark.

And thanks to our friend Mario Carmona (that’s him on the left), who rode up there last Friday, here are a couple of photos that do the area some justice.

Now since we’re in Markleeville I am partial to this particular area, BUT no post on fall colors would be complete without mentioning our brothers and sisters to the south, specifically Mono County.

Mammoth

I had the opportunity last October to ride the June Lake Loop and it was a great ride. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, you should and you should do it NOW according to what I read on Mono County’s fall color report (of Oct. 6th). Jeff Simpson, by the way, gets credit for the above photo, which was taken off (on?) Lodbell Lake Road. You’ll see his gallery on the link I’ve provided. It’s definitley worth a look!

So Get Out There and Get You Some!

While seeing them via car is fun, riding through colors like this is sicknasty.

Of course you could hike or walk (or ride a horse – I bet that would be sweet!) through them too but IMHO nothing beats doin’ the fall colors by bike, whether that be on the road, on the gravel or on the trails.

The fishing right now here on the East Fork of the Carson is kick-ass by the way. I talked to our Fish & Game Chairman, Todd Sodaro, last week and he let me know they have just planted a whole bunch of whales, one was over 10 pounds! I’m going to see about getting some fish in the freezer here soon.

And, as for grub…The Cutthroat is fully open and has both outdoor and indoor dining going on. Try the Deathride pizza if you can as I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’ll be looking for the smoke coming out of your ears!

In a couple more weeks we’ll have a new place for munchies too – the Out West Cafe. It will be in the same location where the Alps Haus once was and should be opening by the end of the month.

Markleeville Creek – image courtesy of Greg Hanson

So come on up, down, over or whatever and get you and your family some fall color karma, some leaf-peepin’ miles, some good grub and maybe a trout or two for the grill. Please remember, though, to do it safely, with the appropriate masking, hand-washing and distancing (i.e. follow those best practices).

See you soon?

Ps. California Alps Cycling is not responsible for you loosing your brain in all of Mother Nature’s splendor. You’re assuming all the risk when it comes to activities such as these and we’d hate to see your trip cut short, or worse, because you bit off more than you could chew or forgot to pay attention. Thanks, my lawyer said he feels better now.

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Since this is a blog that is pretty much devoted to all things cycling, it is a rare day, and a challenging one, when other than mentioning cycling in this paragraph, I don’t mention cycling, or mountain biking, or gravel riding, or something related thereto in the remainder of the post.

Okay, I’m glad I got that out of my system.

‘Twas This Bear That Made Us Go There

Hey Boo-boo…Where’s that pic-a-nic basket?

Or not go there, if you will. Our friendly neighborhood bear (one of them anyway) has visited us quite a bit this summer and fall and was the inspiration behind this “different post.” We’re pretty sure it’s one of two, approximately 3-year old cubs (are they still cubs at that age?), but we’re not sure if it’s the formerly golden fleeced cub we’ve shown you before, or its sibling. As you can see it’s a well-fed bear and it appears to be ready for the winter hibernation. Looking closely at the video you’ll notice that it does eyeball the bird seed-feeder (aka bear crack) that is hanging from the stair landing rail on its way up to see about that picnic basket.

The black bins that it sniffs are full of recycling and it now knows (because it has opened them previously) that there are no grinds in there. As it approaches the window we think it got wind of, or heard, my wife working inside at the dining room table, hence the abrupt turnaround and departure. The feeder, by the way, is taken in every night. Yup, if you’re going to do the seed-feeder ‘thang in bear country you’ve got to be diligent.

We remind ourselves often that yes, we do live in bear country, and to be honest we think that’s pretty cool, but it does come with responsibility. We don’t feed the bears and do chase them away when we see them.

Loope Canyon and Leviathan Mine Road Recon

In case you hadn’t guessed it, I’m switching tacks now.

This past Monday the little woman and I decided to do a bit of 4-wheelin’ and explore a couple of local fire roads that we thought might have some potential. Loope Canyon Road intersects with Highway 89 (on the way to Monitor Pass from the western side) as does Leviathan Mine Road, and as it turns out Loope Canyon also intesects directly with Leviathan Mine Road. Since I am not mentioning “you-know-what” in this post I won’t say that it might be a good route for well…you know.

We were able to travel from Loope Canyon Road (some pretty nasty gravel, er rocks, on that bit let me tell you) to Leviathan Mine Road (much nicer, fairly graded road with one exception) and from there we made our way to U.S. Highway 395 in Nevada.

This oil drum, by the way, is on Leviathan Mine Road at the CA/NV border. It seems appropriate, and a bit hilarious we thought, that it is shot full of holes.

The entire route was about 22 miles with over 3000 feet of elevation gain. The section from 395 up to Highway 89 (just above Heenan Lake) covered almost 15 miles and included about 2000 feet of climbing. Some possibilities we think; just need to figure out whether we do a loop, a hill climb or something in between. Won’t be this year so we’ve got some time to figure it out. If you have any suggestions do feel free to share!

In the meantime I’ll leave you with these views from HQ of Hot Springs Creek, aka the middle fork of the Carson River. It’s low but it’s still flowing and today a flock of Pinyon Jays decided to do a group dunk and preening session. Ahh, fall…my favorite season here in the California Alps…

We wish you and yours well and hope you’re successfully weathering the various storms, some figurative, some literal, that are taking place in our world today.

Please stay healthy and safe!

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of imgflip.com

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

Here’s What I Learned

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

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

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

Some Other Tidbits

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

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

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

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

I’ll BOLO for your report!

Deathride Dreaming? Need Some Ride-Inside Options? Check These Out!

As you likely know by now I’m a FulGaz devotee. That’s not to say I don’t use other “inside apps”, I do. Lately though, FulGaz (FG for short), has been my go-to. With the FulGaz French Tour now complete — my stats: 26:53:40 hours, 221 miles and 50,017 feet of climbing — and the smoke for the wildfires still lingering somewhat, I’m now looking forward to riding all of the Deathride climbs (and other local rides) from the pleasure of the pain cave.

And next week (Tuesday the 29th to be precise), I’ll have my chance and so will you!

Every Tuesday, FG does an email entitled Top Up Tuesday and yesterday I received a preview of ours! The library includes all five (5) of the current Deathride climbs (Monitor East & West, Ebbetts North & South, and Carson East) as well as the climb up Blue Lakes Road and some additional nuggets:

  • Markleeville to Snowshoe
  • Diamond Valley to Markleeville
  • The Alta Alpina Cycling Club (AACC) Markleeville Time Trial.

So here’s your chance to virtually explore some of the rides of Alpine County, and you can do so for very little, or no, money.

How can I do that? you ask. FulGaz offers a 14-day free trial so if you want to hit ’em all up in two (2) weeks you can definitely go that route (no pun intended). After the trial period, it’s only $12.99 per month or $108.99 per year. And no, I don’t work for, nor am I being compensated by FulGaz. I just wanted you to be aware since the application is so bitchin’ and I’ve found that a lot of riders just don’t know about it.

The email will go out to subscribers next Tuesday, September 29th, and the rides will be live that day as well!

Now I put in a lot of miles (~6000 per year), mostly outside, so riding inside isn’t my first option – most of the time. I do find it a great way, however, to do certain workouts in a more controlled environment. By that I mean FTP tests, HIIT work and so on; some of those external forces (e.g. wind, heat, rain, smoke, etc.) can wreak havoc on that day’s plan.

So why not take them out of the equation?

For example, yesterday morning, when I wanted to do some sprints, every two (2) miles, on flat roads, I turned to Zwift. But, when it comes to hill charges, hill repeats or the like, I prefer FulGaz. There I can find steady climbs, or rollers, or both. The steady climbs, like those on the Deathride, are much more conducive to steady efforts if you get my drift. It’s hard to maintain a certain power level when you have to go downhill.

I’ve found it to be an immersive experience, too!

Put on some tunes and put your fine-self in the heart of the California Alps without the need to stuff those jersey pockets, figure out where you’re going to get water or worry about traffic.

And, if you’ve not yet experienced the climbs of the Deathride and so you’re not sure what to expect, these rides will allow you to get a bit of practice in before next year.

Just be sure to put down that sweat mat, turn on those fans and if you’re like me, have an extra kit standing by.

Enjoy the rides and…Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses!

Aches and Pains When Riding? Consider a Bike Fit!

If you’re like me, and most of the riders I know, you have some sort of issue with some part (of your anatomy) when riding. Sometimes it’s numbness in the nether-regions, sometimes it’s numbness in the hands, sometimes it’s burning in the feet and sometimes it’s some other nit somewhere else.

In the past I’ve dealt with several of these problems. Thanks to finding the right equipment and most importantly finding the right fit, though, that hasn’t been the case. Until recently…

Last year I ordered my first (and only) Project One bike from Trek: my boy Blue. Yup, that’s him below.

Blue, the wild mustang of Markleeville, named after Blue, one of leaders of a band of wild horses in the Pine Nuts.

It was an awesome experience, made even better thanks to the collaboration I had with Big Daddy’s Bike, Ski & Board (aka Big Daddy’s Bike & Brew I believe) in Gardnerville, NV.

Keith and crew did an awesome job helping me pick certain parts and speccing the bike and of course they assembled it as well. We pretty much nailed it! We did the basic bike fit — you know, elbows bent, not too extended in the cockpit, knees over the spindles using a plumb line — all that stuff, and the bike felt really good. I then double checked some measurements on my Domane and tried to replicate those as best I could on the Emonda.

After several thousand miles, however, I was still getting too much numbness in the hands and so I decided to quit putting off that professional bike fit.

I had one many years ago when I lived in the Bay Area and it was during those sessions that the bike fit technician suggested (among other tweaks) that I should invest in Speedplay pedals. Those pedals allowed for more set back than most (there’s a special plate that helps).

I have really long (14.5) feet and was getting too much hot foot because, as it turns out, the spindle was in front of the ball of my foot, thereby putting too much pressure on the toes and the nerves therein. I’m still riding Speedplays today and have been able to find some Euro size 15s that are Speedplay (aka 4-hole) specific, so no more need for that extender base plate and therefore the stack height that goes along with it.

Fast forward to today; last week to be more precise. After doing a bit of research I decided to go to Barton Ortho and Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Blue and I met with Harrison, a physical therapist and professional bike fitter. After a short interview it was on the bike for a look-see.

Harrison set up lasers to check knee alignment first and noticed my knees were coming in towards the top tube on the upstroke. We then checked my feet – yup, I’m a pronator – happens when we get older. Those arches go away. Some shims inside of the shoes and a re-check and it was much better.

We then took a look at my knee extension and seat position. Guess what? My seat was just a bit too high (we dropped it about 1/4 inch) and the nose was down 3 degrees. Both of those things made me put more pressure on the hands. And, as it turns out, that seat position was also putting a bit too much stress on the hips and lower back. Ah, that’s why the sore lower back maybe? Notwithstanding the knee issues it could cause… Seat down, nose up. Good to go.

A Bit of “Table-work”

Off the bike I got and on the table I went for a leg length and flexibility check. Both legs measured the same length so that was good. Flexibility was pretty good too but Harrison did notice some tightness in the left hip as well as the right ankle. A couple things to work on, certainly.

Next…I have a follow up appt. in the coming week and among other things I’m going to get fitted for some orthotics and report back on how things are going so far. Unfortunately, due to the smoke, I’ve not been able to ride outside but thanks to FulGaz (see last week’s post) I’ve managed to test out the new fit every day.

Here’s What I’ve Experienced so Far

While hand numbness is still there it’s MUCH LESS than it was. With my upper body size I put more weight on the bars than those of you who are much lighter and that’s not going to change. What could change, though, is my abdominal strength. Another reason it’s good to talk with a professional: I’ve been working on the lower back thinking that pain was due to lack of strength there. On the contrary, and somewhat counterintuitively, it’s my abs that need the work.

In other news…Back pain? Gone! Power? Up! Left/right balance? Better! Connection to the bike over all? Much improved! Oh, and the price? $250.00. For both sessions.

A bargain IMHO.

So if you are having some of these same botherations than you too are a candidate for a professional bike fit.

Get one and there’s no doubt you’ll be more blissful on the bike!

Let me know how it goes.

Smoky Where You Are? Here’s How You Can Mix Things Up

I’m a California boy, born and raised, and like you I suspect, have never seen anything in my 56 years like we’re seeing now with these fires. I’ll leave the hows and whys to the scientists and instead offer a glimpse into how I’m continuing to ride as well as what else I’m doing to stay engaged and fit.

The FulGaz French Tour

This tour has been my primary source of entertainment since the end of August. BTW, I’ve previously published a handful of posts that mention FulGaz so check those out too if you’re so inclined. It’s a great application and currently it’s even better with the addition of the FulGaz French Tour.

The Tour kicked off on August 28th, the day before the Tour de France started, and the idea, as you can imagine, is to ride twenty-one (21) stages by September 18th. Virtually. Just like the “real tour.” Not the same stages, no (there are some), but no less challenging, at least so far.

Last week I climbed over 17000 feet, with all but 3000 of it from the smokeless confines of Chalet Schwartz here in Markleeville!

Quick chest thump…

Thanks to the extra climbing that comes with the FulGaz French Tour, I was numero uno in climbing for the week in Alta Alpina’s 2020 Social Distancing Road Race Series. Sweet!

So far I’ve ridden the following stages:

  • Stage 1, Col de Turini – 9.29 miles, 3555 feet of climbing
  • Stage 2, Monaco Grand Prix Circuit – 16.21 miles, 1089 feet of climbing
  • Stage 3, Col du Galibier – 11.17 miles, 3998 feet of climbing
  • Stage 4, Harrogate Street Circuit, UCI Worlds 2019 – 8.48 miles, 821 feet of climbing
  • Stage 5, Luz Ardiden – 8.39 miles, 3379 feet of climbing
  • Stage 6, Ninove to Ghent – 23.03 miles, 785 feet of climbing
  • Stage 7, Lac de Cap de Long – 8.39 miles, 3398 feet of climbing
  • Stage 8, Els Angels – 9.05 miles, 1490 feet of climbing
  • Stage 9, Col du Chaussy, 6.19 miles, 2457 feet of climbing

I’ve still got eleven (11) more to do by September 18th and those stages include the Col d’Aspin, the Col d’Izoard, the Tour of Romandie TT, Six Laps of London, the Col du Telegraphe, and Mont Ventoux (that one’s going to be the hardest and longest I fear). It all wraps up with the Alpe d’Huez!

A challenging stage race to be sure. Oh, and did I mention that there is live tracking as well as stage results for each stage, and a GC too? After nine (9) stages I’m 94th out of 115; 11h 41m 44s of time on the bike so far. The leader of the GC after the same stages: 6h 26m 13s. Overachiever!

Other Options

Don’t forget strength training! I try to get two (2) workouts in a week, focused mostly on my upper-body and core. In the above pic are some of the systems of suffering I utilize. Take note of the red medicine ball, a “no-bounce,” which among other things lets me do squat and slams without the ball bouncing up and hitting me in the mug. Some Bowflex dumbbells, an inexpensive bench, a regular medicine ball and some kettlebells are the other items you see.

On the cycling and running front there is of course that ol’ standby, Zwift, which has certainly been getting a lot of press (and paying heavily for it I would imagine) during the Tour de France. I’m so thankful for my DVR – watching all of those commercials would be painful.

I’ve recently started using TrainingPeaks and it too has workouts of which one can partake. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading “Training + Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan and Stephen McGregor and it syncs up nicely with TrainingPeaks.

Wahoo’s application has some “good grinds” (not the food kind, sorry) too and there are myriad others, including TrainerRoad and Strava. And, here’s an article from PC mag that provides some additional data.

I should mention that the FulGaz French Tour allows riders to do more than one stage a day, and out of order, if you so choose. I’ve taken advantage of this on a couple occasions by doing a flat(ter) warm-up stage before a climbing stage. A double whammy!

Some Additional Suggestions

Especially if you’re going to put in some long rides/hours on the trainer:

  • Extra kits, or at least a jersey, depending on how much you sweat, that are accessible from the bike so you can change mid-stage if you need.
  • Same with water – fill some extra bottles beforehand.
  • Food is good. I made a turkey and cheese sandwich after one stage and to save time ate it during the next stage. It also made it feel more like I was doing a “real event.”
  • I hooked up a portable A/C unit because without it, things got a little steamy in the cave. Combine it with a couple fans, especially if you have a smaller workout room like I do.
  • Lastly, speaking of fans…I just started doing this and it works well: Put a fan behind you and one in front. That backside breeze lessens the drips and it just feels nice.

One last bit of advice: Get a bike fit. I spent a couple hours doing just that yesterday. The fitter, also a physical therapist, made some adjustments to my seat and my shoes and after just one ride I can already feel the difference. The jury is still out on whether or not what we did is good enough or if I need more; time will tell. Still, it was something I had been avoiding because of the time it takes but I thought why not do it now? it’s too smoky to ride outside anyway!

What about you? What are you doing? Any suggestions for your fellow readers? Let us all know by commenting on this post.

The Social Distancing Racing Season Comes to a Smoky End

This morning I got a little glimpse into what Smoke Eaters did, or in some cases still do, when I tackled the last race of the season, the Diamond Valley Road Race. When I got home my wife crinkled – or wrinkled, you choose – her nose at the smell that permeated my clothes, helmet, you name it.

To my credit, for what that’s worth (I’m a knucklehead) I did check the AQI before I left. It was in the green here at HQ and in Alpine Village (where the race started) so even though it was showing over 150 in Diamond Valley I went for it. I thought the wind might be blowing east based on those two green readings but that was not the case; it was coming in from all directions.

I should have called for extraction but you know how that goes – I was committed, or more aptly put,
should be (committed that is)!

Some Background

The season started on April 19th and due to the pandemic the first few races of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club’s (AACC) COVID-19 Social Distancing Race Series were slotted to be time trials. We had hoped, as many of you likely did in April, that we’d be so over this by now. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and so all of the remaining races (twenty in all) were done as time trials. Click here, by the way, if you’d like to read my initial post of April 23rd on this subject.

On my way home after the Fredricksburg TT (August 27th). Had a really good race!

I should point out that the racing season doesn’t really end until this Sunday, and perhaps it will be extended if the smoke continues to be an issue. I was a minute slower today than I was back in April, maybe because of the smoke, or maybe for another reason…See the “What I learned” section below for more on that. Nonetheless, I could race the course again as I have until at least Sunday, but there are still many more racers to go, many of whom are FAST. So, right now I’m not too motivated to put that on my calendar; in addition to looking for work-work, I’m also doing the FulGaz French Tour (more on that next week), so this professional cyclist (as my brother from another mother calls me) is a bit busy.

What I’ve Learned

  • For a nervous, have no clue what I’m doing first-time racer, this format was perfect!
  • I was able to ride against the clock, as opposed to other, more-experienced racers, and so was less intimidated.
  • I still had to race every week and so preparation, including rest, nutrition and hydration, was very necessary. BTW, I still need more practice on the prep. part.
  • I have a tendency to go too fast and hard on the out-leg. I’ve really only been able to keep those horses in the gate for one race, the week 15 Foothill TT, and on that day I was 27″ behind at the turn but made up 42″ on the return leg. That discipline helped me beat my previous PR by 15 seconds!
  • I have to think more strategically/tactically: One rider re-did the Luther TT a few days after he and I raced to a tie. He smoked me on his re-do and so earned more points for that second effort.
  • I still need to cogitate more creatively. E.G., should I ride in the a.m., afternoon, or evening since weather and wind conditions do change? I’ve been paying more attention to what the big dawgs do so that next year…
  • It was so fun and engaging, even riding solo!
    • Seeing how others did, what they did and when they did it was cool (and helpful).
    • Bragging rights (I did beat my nemesis ONCE) are part of the equation.

Here’s some other images from some of my races. Sorry but no snot-dripping, coughing up a lung, sweat soaked Mark photos. You’re welcome!

Looking forward to the official points totals and hoping I’m still in the Top 10. So honored to be put in the A group for my first year of racing and am planning on being even better next year.

The totals a/o week 17. And I only missed one race!

Thank you to my fellow members of the Alta Alpina Cycling Club for helping me take my riding to another level!

Big thanks too, to the first responders who are out there on the front lines right now trying to keep us all safe from this uber-crazy year of wildfires.

Looking forward to a superior – and fingers crossed, a smokeless, no masks or social distancing required – racing season, next year.

An Update on the ESSRP and the Visitor Connection Working Group

Last year, as some of you may recall, the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), “a unique public/public partnership between the United States Forest Service and local agencies,” kicked off. One of “those publics” is the Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce, one of many regional agencies involved in the project, and yours truly is a representative for the ACCoC.

This update expands on last year’s December post so for a bit more context/information click here and take a gander at that missive before you read on.

The mountains near and behind Mammoth Lakes as seen from the Lake Crowley area during the 2018 Mammoth Gran Fondo. Just a portion of the region on which this initiative is focused.

The partnership, covering roughly the area from Inyo County to Alpine County, began before Covid-19 became part of our lives and so we were initially able to meet in person. That has since changed and we now meet via Zoom. The initiative is comprised of four (4) tracks or programs:

  • Regional Recreation Stakeholder Engagement
  • Climate Adaptation and Resilience Assessment
  • Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience
  • Project Development and Prioritization for Funding
The first meeting of the “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” working group.

Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience

This post is about that third track/program: “the Visitor Connection Working Group (VCWG).”

It all started in October of 2019 when the Chamber was invited to be a part of this effort in order to help “develop a regional strategy to connect with our Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience.” As Kristy Williams, Project Manager, put it: “We aren’t talking about how to get more people here.  We are going to discuss the unique recreation, culture, stewardship, and tourism opportunities that exist here in the Eastern Sierra – and determine how, as a region, we communicate these opportunities to our visitors, including opportunities for stewardship.”

There are about thirty of us, give or take, that are working on this track and we’ve done quite a bit of work, from developing the visitor persona; to devising some particular words and phrases that we feel represent the area and the people who live, work and visit here; to (and this was what we did at our most recent meeting, which took place last week) selecting images that represent those words or phrases.

Speaking of images…One of the bitchenest (is that a word?) things you can do in the Eastern Sierra is ride a bike. This was me finishing the medio route (70 miles) of the Mammoth Gran Fondo in 2018. The MGF is just one of many organized rides (the Deathride is another) that take place in the Eastern Sierra annually.

It’s a Zoom ‘Thang

How are we doing all of this, you ask, without meeting in person?

It’s amazing what can be done with Zoom. Thanks to the incredible staff of the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation, we don’t just yak as a group or look at slide decks the entire time. The meetings are highly collaborative and open and all ideas and thoughts are welcome. A distinct aspect of these sessions in my mind is the break-out room, or rooms. Several groups are formed and then we are magically and virtually transported (thanks Mr. Wizard) into these rooms with our colleagues.

It’s in those rooms where a lot of the heavy lifting is done.

Last week, our group (and there were three (3) others, groups that is, doing the same thing) was tasked with reviewing approximately thirty images that describe these words – MEMORIES – TRADITION – CONNECTION. Not an easy task by any means but the idea is that these images, from all four (4) groups, would be part of a package given to a team that would then “translate” them into our deliverables, which are things like brochures, handouts and videos that can be used to educate and inform visitors to the Eastern Sierra. Sorry, I can’t show you any of the images; they are top secret for now (and I didn’t take any screenshots).

Skin in the game…

As I wrote (as did Kristy in her email to me) in December it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not just about marketing to get MORE PEOPLE to the region. In fact, that’s what it’s least about. It’s really about getting people who are already here, or coming here, to be MORE INVOLVED. And having skin in the game is a vital component to that approach. Meaning:

  • Are visitors educated on what to do and how to act? For example, are they aware of best practices like where to poop (a big topic at our December 2019 meeting) and how to “leave no trace?”
  • Do visitors care about the region?
  • Do they want to help improve and maintain it?
  • Are they willing to educate their families, peers and friends about it?

More to follow…

Yup, it’s not a done deal yet. We’ve got several more meetings, the last of which takes place in February of next year. And we are just one group of many within the larger group. That means there are still lots of cats to herd and work to be done so that we can best utilize that grant money. In the long run that means selecting approximately eight (8) projects. Perhaps that means updated or new bathrooms for some deserving park or community. Maybe it’s about signage and kiosks that describe a particular route or feature. It could be something related to off-road vehicles (the kinds with engines). TBD. Once a project is vetted and approved, however, it will be up to the “winner” to get the funding and execute.

Do you have ideas for improving recreation in the Eastern Sierra? Infrastructure? Access? Programs?

Click here if you do, or if you just want to learn more, you can do that too!

We’re all in it for the long haul and if we do our jobs well then we’ll define the Eastern Sierra as the next Moab or Grand Canyon. A place where generations of us can continue to ride our bikes, climb mountain peaks or granite walls, take our grandkids 4-wheelin’ and catch some big ol’ fish. Before we get there, though, there is more work to be done.

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!

Deathride 2021 – Five Reasons You Need to Attend

As you know, we had to postpone the Deathride, aka The Tour of the California Alps, until next year, due to the pandemic. We were looking forward to the ride, which was to take place on July 11th, for so many reasons. Alas, it was not to be this year so let’s talk about why you need to be here next year.

Reason #1 – It’s an Amazingly Beautiful Area!

Especially one to ride a bike in…And, in case you forgot, you can ride about 70% of the course without worrying about cars.

Take a look at these photos we’ve taken, some of which are from past rides:

Reason #2 – It’s the 40th Anniversary of THE RIDE!

Yeah, ’twas to be 40 this year but since the ride didn’t happen then next year is the BIG 4-0! The ride will be extra special for that reason but also because:

  • We have a new executive director at the chamber and she ROCKS!
    • She and her staff have a renewed energy and direction
    • They’re already doing cool shit, e.g the Ghost Ride.
  • We have a professional ride director (Curtis Fong of Bike the West) and he has an AMAZING staff.
    • These are the same individuals who put on America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride and the Tour De Tahoe.
    • We’re talking professional traffic control and mapping, radio communications throughout the course, sweeps, and course marshals
    • The Bike the West team has experience with hosting events in the Sierra that is second to none!

Reason #3 – It’s Markleeville’s Largest Fundraiser

The Deathride is the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce’s largest annual/regular influx of ducats, by far. Sure that helps us continue to support the ride, and our amazing staff and members, but most importantly it (riders, really) pumps a whole lot of money back into the community. Without the ride this year our community has taken a big hit (as have many others, no doubt, some much worse) and therefore so have many of the organizations that we help.

Last year we pumped about $90,000.00 back into community businesses and nonprofits, including the Alpine County Fire Safe Council and Alpine County Fish & Game ($ for fish plants is a fairly large chunk of our budget).

Reason #4 – Pacific Grade Instead of Carson Pass

Now before we get too excited (and I know…some of you purists want to keep Carson) let me caution you that a new route into Bear Valley (the ride won’t go quite that far but close) is NOT YET APPROVED.

The map and profile of Peter Stetina’s FKT ride on the proposed new DR route for 2021.
103.41 miles, 5:15:45 moving time (AYFKM?!), 14027 feet climbed

Curtis and team began the process of working with the various stakeholders, including Caltrans, the CHP, the Alpine Co. Sheriff and Alpine Co. Fire, last year and the discussions were fruitful. Most importantly, everyone got to know each other a bit better. There are many things to consider in order to pull off an event of this magnitude and so there is still work to be done and discussions to be had. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that we can get this new route approved for 2021.

That brings me to reason number 5…

Reason #5 – Because Peter Stetina Says So

Yesterday Pete rode the new course and set the current FKT (Fastest Known Time) – see the map and profile above. I hadn’t met Mr. Stetina (this guy definitely deserves “the Mr.”) until yesterday but I had heard lots of good things about him and I’ve followed him on Strava for some time.

He’s an extraordinary gentleman and giver of his time, name, energy and largesse. Yesterday was no different. As I understand it he didn’t have much time to prepare since Curtis, Becky and team made this little event happen pretty quickly. Still, he spent most of his day riding this course and promoting all the area has to offer, for no compensation from us (other than some little gifts of appreciation).

From L to R: Pete’s trusty steed; Di (Bike the West); Pete; and Becky (DeForest-Hanson, Executive Director of the Alpine Co. Chamber).

In Pete’s own words…

A screen grab from Peter Stetina’s Strava post on his Deathride FKT attempt of 8-11-20.

Oh, and perhaps there’s one more reason, or twenty-seven reasons actually, for you hard-core Deathriders to attend.

There are now twenty-seven, yes, you read that correctly, 27!!! KOMs that you can attempt to take back.

For this mere mortal that will never happen but perhaps you have it in you?

What About Covid-19?

Certainly we’re thinking positively in that we are planning on not having to social distance on July 17, 2021.

Let’s hope this virus has been vanquished by then, for many more important reasons than this ride, which in the overall scheme of things, with people dying, losing their jobs and suffering immense heartbreak, is trivial.

Still, it’s something to hope for, train for and pray for…

We hope and pray that we’ll see you here next year!

Stay safe, ride on and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ (and the virus’ ass, too) Asses!