Tag: featured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Givin’, Fixin’, Ridin’, and Spectatin’ in the California Alps

The last several weeks have been a lot of work, but with lots of fun times, too. I haven’t had much time to blog but I finally came up for air so here’s a run-down of our recent activities here in the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

Markleeville Spring Clean-up and Cinco de Mayo Celebration

It all started on the anniversary of that famous (infamous?) day, which commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza. It is not a celebration of Mexican independence, as some mistakenly think. Okay, there’s your history lesson for today. Thanks Wikipedia!

Here in Markleeville, it was our chance to do our first clean up of the year and do a bit of commemoratin’ ourselves (after the work was done, of course). Eighteen (18) intrepid volunteers, including your truly, my wife and California Alps Cycling co-founder, Patricia, joined us, as did our club mother (and my Mom), January. In fact Mom gets the kudos for the excellent salsa and guacamole that we munched on post-work day. I brought the cerveza, though.

We mowed, weed-whacked, lopped, trimmed, picked-up and well, you get the idea. We tackled Markleeville Park (as we have affectionately named a vacant lot in town), Coyan Park, and Heritage Park. We picked up a bunch of limbs, branches and such that had accumulated by one of our welcome signs and we picked up trash – on the section of highway we’ve adopted between Turtle Rock Park and Camp Markleeville, which includes town.

Several bags of trash, a bike helmet and a totally thrashed mile-marker (snow blower got it I think) were part of the haul. We made about three to four trips to the local bio-mass pile, too. Lots of mass to bio, if you will. A shout out to Karrie and John Baker, of Alps Haus and Al’s Got Gas, Bait & Tackle, here in town for their support (as always). Quick plug – We have some CA Alps Cycling schwag for sale (it’s a consignment ‘thang) at Al’s so stop on by and grab some (and get some gas and tackle while you’re at it)!

Washoe Earth Day Celebration

The following Saturday (last weekend, May 11th), Chris (Schull, legacy member) and I met at the Hung a Lel Ti gym as we had lots of bikes to repair. The day had been a long time coming with the associated planning that comes with such big events. Susan Jamerson and team did a bang up job getting ready for the event, with a bicycling focus added to the day. Part of that included a repair station so that kids could get their bikes fixed up for the races that were to come. I spent the previous week or so gathering donations (prizes for the race winners) from local merchants and friends as well as prepping and packing the gear, tools, stands, tables etc. that we’d need for the repair center.

Chris & I arrived about 8:30 a.m. and we already had some repair candidates waiting. Hung A Lel Ti Chairman Irvin Jim met us upon arrival and he and a few of the riders helped us unload and then we set to work. Was quite the trip down memory lane as the bikes we worked on were not what we were used to riding, at least now that we were old (er). These were bikes we rode as kids! Too fun. We mostly fixed flats and such but there were other repairs needed too – from brakes to derailleur hangers and many points in between. We figured we wrenched on about 12-15 bikes and we got them all done in time for the races, which started at 10:00 a.m. It was great watching the kids race and we basked in the knowledge that we helped them be able to do that.

What an awesome place to ride

After our hard, but oh so rewarding day acting like bike mechanics, it was time for some us time! We headed up Ebbett’s Pass to Raymond Meadow Creek for a “chat n’ ride” as I call it. Nary a car was seen so we were able to yak and take in the scenery without much trouble.

Then, on Monday (just a few days ago), we took it one step further and rode Monitor Pass; my second trip up the mountain since the Friday before. It’s a hard climb but we figured it would be a good way to start the day because we planned on finishing it by watching the Amgen Tour of California come into So. Lake Tahoe for the finish. Get it? We suffer in the a.m. and then drink beer and eat while we watch the pros suffer in the afternoon!

The Amgen Tour of California

Off to Tahoe we went. We kicked things off with some suds and sammies at Artemis; we hung out at the bar and enjoyed the vibe before we walked a couple miles up to Heavenly to avoid the crowds, or so we thought. Fortunately for us (and other race-watchers) there wasn’t much of that. Unfortunately, if you get my drift, there wasn’t much of that. Too bad – seeing these athletes do their thing is an amazing experience. Anyway, compared to last year it was a piece of cake. In fact, we realized about 2/3 of the way there that we could have just driven on up and parked near the start/finish/festival. By then, though, it was too late. We were committed!

We got to the start/finish in plenty of time to have a brew (see above) and check out the vendors and schwag. The weather was perfect and I don’t think there’s a better place to watch a bike race. You still have some time to check out some of the race, yourself. The women’s race starts today which means you can watch two races! And, of course, there’s the Giro happening too! And, on top of all the wonderful cycling coverage, there’s basketball and hockey playoffs for those so inclined. I’m into the Warriors but have yet to watch the Sharks play. I will though; I have to represent since I’m a San Jose native. Exciting times for sure! At least for some of us, right?

Check us out on Facebook!

That’s right, we finally got our arses in gear and set up our FB page! We also have a Twitter feed and have begun setting up our Instagram page. It’s not easy trying to find the time and I appreciate your patience, loyal reader, as we continue to build and “social-ize.”

Thanks for reading, especially this post. I know it’s a bit long-winded.

We’d love to know about your adventures! Comment on this post so other followers can partake and perhaps live vicariously through you.

Be safe out there

In closing, just a little reminder to be safe in whatever outdoor activities you do. Have the right gear, get the right training, do the right research and you’ll have the right fun! Ride on!?

Clearing Those Passes in the California Alps

Last Tuesday, April 2nd, I attended the Alpine Co. Board of Supervisors meeting here in Markleeville and one of the presenters was Dan McElhinney, CalTrans’ Acting Director for District 10.

Among other things, Dan brought us up to speed on CalTrans’ plans to clear snow from three (3) major Sierra passes: Monitor, Ebbett’s and Sonora.

They are planning on starting on Monitor next week and expect that it will take about 10-14 days to clear the many feet of snow that have accumulated. They’ll begin work on Ebbett’s and Sonora soon thereafter, or perhaps simultaneously, depending on resources. Apparently there is about 20′ of snow, with the associated ice that comes with months of freezing temperatures, on Ebbett’s and so, of the three (3), it will likely take the longest.

CalTrans assured the Board, and the public in attendance, that it will work VERY HARD to have all three (3) passes cleared by Memorial Day. Mr. McElhinney, and Clinton Neeley, the Maintenance Supervisor for District 10 (he’s based in Woodfords and was also at the meeting), both understand the importance of the work that needs to be done. With fishing season fast approaching, and the Deathride coming in July, clearing these passes, and clearing them ASAP, is vital. Monitor Pass, as the Board Chairman, David Griffith reminded us, is especially important since it is a vital connection between Hwy. 395 and Hwy. 89 – when it’s open, travelers can take the shorter route into Markleeville and then into Tahoe. When it’s closed our little town becomes a cul-de-sac and since much of our income is derived from tourism, that impacts our local businesses.

Here at California Alps Cycling, we’ve developed a nice relationship with Clinton and his crew; we work closely with them on our Adopt-a-Highway program. We’re so appreciative of the tough, sometimes dangerous work that they do. I personally make sure to tell them that whenever I see the crews working on roads I’m riding and I always salute them when I see their trucks or plows passing by.

So, when you see the crews out there, please let them know how much you appreciate the work they do. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to kick those passes’ asses!

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

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

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

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

Wind-driven clouds in the CA Alps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt. Rose Snowshoe

Well, as our tagline: “Cycling, and more, in the Heart of the Sierra” implies, we don’t just cycle here at “CAC.” There’s so much more to do in the California Alps it would be criminal to focus strictly on cycling.

So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share this little missive about an outing I had outside of Reno, in the Mt. Rose Wilderness Area, just last Saturday.

My friends Chris and Shyanne Schull, along with another recruit, Sam (the man, of course) and I took off from the parking lot at the Mt. Rose Summit/Tahoe Rim Trailhead about 10:30 a.m. I now know this was a bit late for the distance we had planned to cover as our leader (Chris) gave us approximately 1.5 minutes to wolf down our lunch before we had to head back.

Chris having lunch with Kona and Java - Mt. Rose
Our fearless leader, Chris, eats his lunch under the watchful eyes of Java and Kona

Okay, I digress…

So, off we go with all of our gear and puppies in tow, and head up the trail a bit to put on our snowshoes. That in itself was a bit dicey for this first-timer, let me tell ya! All those straps and shit…While trying to keep my balance. In snowy ice. Or is that icey snow?

Alrighty, then…Shoes on. Check. Pack hoisted. Check. Poles in hand. Check. Oh, wait, gloves. Okay, gloves. Check. And now I have to pee. Pack off. Check. Up the hill to the trees while my companions wait patiently. Check. Download. Check. Gloves and jacket. Check. Pack back on. Check. Now, off we go. Finally!

 

As a lifelong mountain lover, but a city livver (sorry, “liver” just didn’t feel right) I have had many of those “OMFG this is so beautiful moments” but had never experienced ‘shoein’, or skiing or anything that would take me miles into the wilderness on my own two feet. I was really looking forward to this. I was in great shape and had done a lot of hiking and backpacking so I was prepared for what I knew was going to be a hard day “out of the saddle.” Wrong! Not prepared. Not by a long shot. Showshoeing is hard I learned. Some of that was the trail we chose (I whined to Chris a lot. I mean a lot. Sorry, Chris), some of it was technique (or lack thereof) and some of it was just being a greenhorn. In any case, once I got out of my own way (and the trail got easier) I got into the Zen of it all: the rhythm of my breathing, the crunch of the snow, the outrageous blue sky and the crystalline snow (reminded me of the mirrors of my youth if you get my drift). Ooh, good pun!

img_1821.jpg
One of the benefits of being the lantern rouge – good photos like this. Shyanne, Kona, Java, Chris and Sam ahead of me in the meadow just to the west of Tamarack Peak.

Alright, I’ll put that flashback away and get on with the story. Bullet points:

  • Hard work side-mountaining and cutting trail in showshoes…
  • Harder still when cross-country skiers are swooshing by you at an irritatingly fast clip,
  • and harder still when it goes on for several hours longer than you think.
  • Crap, was that another whine?

What I learned:

  1. Good, waterproof, boots are key.
  2. Snowshoes that are better at shedding snow are better because they don’t form ice-balls under the shoe. When that happens, it makes it really hard to walk.
  3. Snowshoeing takes a lot longer than you think.
  4. You sweat a lot so having good, lightweight, breathable gear makes life a whole lot better when “doin the ‘shoe.”
  5. It’s frickin’ awesome being out (like really far out, man) there, in snow country. It looks so much different.
  6. You’re right, compared to someone like let’s say a snow surveyor, I wasn’t even out there. Still..frickin’ awesome!
  7. Doing something other than cycling, when it’s too cold and icy to be outside so I’d be on the trainer, anyway. Oh, boy!
  8. Did I tell you that it was frickin’ awesome?

Mark snowshoeing in Mt. Rose. Lake Tahoe in the background.
Oh, yeah! What a day! Yours truly heading back to the barn and yup, that’s Lake Tahoe in the background.

Oh, if you want more data that matta, click here and check out my strava activity post.

My lawyer told me I need to tell you this too: Please check to make sure that any trails, roads, hikes etc. that you use are suited to your skill set. CAC is not responsible for any injuries.  Any information provided on this website is subject to change and CAC is not responsible for the accuracy of that information.