Tag: markleeville

Some Ride-Related News From Markleeville – And Other Goings On

WE’VE gotten some small amounts of snow here in the California Alps over the last few days; certainly not as much as we’d have liked but it’s something. Better news on that front from the higher climes, however.

SOME backcountry (and other skiing) was to be had over this weekend, said Justin, my trusty physical therapist and backcountry skiing fanatic, last Friday.

bluebird with ornamental plumage resting on twig

I’M sure he was hitting it yesterday and I’d imagine he’s out there today, as any self-respecting mountain athlete (or any snow lover for that matter) would be on this bluebird of a day. 🙂

BULLITT the mountain bike is asking me to take him out for a spin today and I think I’ll oblige. Going to be some mud-slingin’ for sure!

That Ride-Related News

THE road cycling lately has been glorious, notwithstanding the slush, and plow-pellet induced sludge, and therefore requisite cleaning and lubing (whine, snivel). I was able to get outside early in the week and on one ride it felt downright balmy! Only a base tee under the jersey and no arm-warmers!

SINCE then we’ve had a couple light snow events, as I mentioned at the start of this post, so I’ve been partaking of the paincave lately. Segue…

SPEAKING of inside…I was able to test ride the “Fatbiking in the Snow” ride recently and I’m happy to say you Fulgaz subscribers will soon be able to particpate.

BE on the lookout for the “Pick n’ Mix” release tentatively scheduled for March, said Peter the Engineer.

MONITOR and Ebbetts remain closed (Monitor at the junction and Ebbetts just past Silver Mountain City) but once we get a bit of melt of yesterday’s dusting the riding on Monitor should be pretty good. Ebbetts, being much less exposed, will remain slushy in some of the shadier areas for awhile and I suspect we won’t get much plowing done any farther up towards the pass until April.

Those Other Goings On

COMMUNITY meetings continue on several fronts as we continue to recover from the Tamarack Fire. Trails continue to be a big part of the discussion and their rebuilding in time for the spring and summer season are a priority. We’re looking holistically at trail usage and focusing on hiking, riding and equestrian in our planning. Things are certainly going to look different out there as the forest starts its long return to health, yet it’s still the Sierra and a lot of it wasn’t burned.

THE images above are certainly heart-breaking. I remind folks though, that a lot of the area wasn’t torched and once you get past Monitor Junction to the south, or Pickett’s Junction, to the west, you won’t see a lot of fire-related damage. The forest is nothing if not resiliant.

MRS. CA Alps points out in a “making lemonade out of lemons” kinda way that the vistas are more expansive without so many trees. She’s right and it helps to look at it that way; still so very sad to see. And lets be honest, the density of the forest was, and still is, part of the problem. Thousands of years of native americans weren’t (and aren’t) wrong, you know?

OUR rivers, streams and lakes are looking good, though, and many of the latter, like Silver and Caples, are still frozen over. We’re working hard on repairing infrastructure like Turtle Rock Park and Grover Hot Springs State Park. Plans for the “fishing opener” are in the works, we’ve got a new addition to our local Fish & Game Commission, and we’re starting to think more about native fisheries and how we can restore them. Segue…😉

SPEAKING of restoration, the county has been awarded a grant of approximately $1.8 million that will be used to help private landowners here in Alpine Co. with their recovery efforts. Work on that front continues on a fast pace.

AS does tree-clearing…

BY the way, if you haven’t checked out the Alpine Chamber’s website recently, please take a gander. Lots of great information about things afoot here in Alpine County including summer events like Music in the Park, the Bear Valley Music Festival and Hermit Fest.

WELL, it’s off to wash Blue. I promised him he’d get a bath before I took his bro out for a ride. It’s 41; starting to warm up to today’s high of 42. Won’t be just a base layer and jersey today, I guess.

STILL, it could be worse.

ENJOY your Sunday and have a fantastic week!

Snowfall in the California Alps – A Welcome Sight

WELL, it finally happened; a good snowfall that is, and among other things it helped make the unsightly remnants of the Tamarack Fire a bit more sightly. Those blackened trees look much better with a coating of snow.

MORE importantly, the white gift from above is a good start (albeit one that is a bit later than we’d prefer) to what (fingers crossed) could be a decent winter season.

SINCE moving to Markleeville in the summer of 2016 we’ve experienced two (2) good winters: 2016-2017 and 2018-2019. We had only one serious dumping of snowflakes last year and we feared we were going to have another dry winter this year. While it’s certainly too early to prognosticate, we’re cautiously optimistic that this year will be different.

MARSHAWN, our two-stage snowblower purchased last year, is finally getting to do some beast-mode blowing this year. My neighbors suspected it was that purchase that canned last year’s snowy season. While I wish I was that powerful, however, I’m not. Marshawn is, though, and he moved these recent snowdrifts with ease. No choking on the Sierra cement, and that dude can throw it let me tell ya!

SNOWBLOWERS were something I had only heard of, or seen on post-east coast blizzard highlights on the news, before we moved here. Initially I figured I’d just shovel the white-stuff. It would be a good work out I told myself. Well, after about two (2) weeks of that, and the sore shoulders and back that came with it, I made a call to Sears and picked up our first snowblower. A one-stager it was but it did the trick.

UNTIL last year that is when the snow got so heavy and deep that we realized it was time to upgrade. That’s where Marshawn came in and it was the wife who named him. If fact, he’s such a beast that he took out (Honey, it wasn’t me, it was Marshawn!) one of our deck pickets and also cut out a nice chunk of one of the 4×4 posts. I definitely need some more practice managing Mr. Beastmode. Let’s hope I get plenty in the days and weeks to come.

That’s Marshawn and me cutting a rug just yesterday.

AS for riding, I’ve got a plan there as well. Farley (read this post for more info. on him) and I are looking forward to our first fatbike foray out on the trails. Fingers crossed we can get out there this weekend, if not sooner.

WHILE it’s an agreeable alternative to riding outside, the pain cave isn’t quite the same. It is, however a must-have here in Markleeville, and other snowy regions I suspect. I also find that for the most part I can do a better job at structured workouts on Zwift or FulGaz; it’s challenging to do sprints, intervals, HIIT and such when you’re climbing as soon as you leave the house.

Avalanche warnings are coming fast and furious lately, too. This recent snow on a weak snowpack is cause for concern and yesterday we received some advice to stay out of the backcountry for a few days. Good advice indeed. An avalanche is NOT a good thing to experience (stating the obvious I suspect), especially when you’re not trained in what to do or don’t have the right equipment, or both. This weekend, Mrs. CA Alps Cycling and I will be attending our first avalanche course. It’s not the full blown outside experience but it’s a start and we’re looking forward to learning more about snowslides.

RIDING a road bike in snowy and icy conditions can be a kick, though, as long as the roads are plowed. If the gates are closed at Monitor Junction it can be a sublime experience with no cars to worry about. On the other hand extraction can be an issue so you really need to be comfortable in those conditions, have the necessary emergency gear and make sure “your people” know exactly where you’re going and when you’ll be back.

I’LL follow up with a post-ride post on my fatbike experience once I’m brave enough to take the plunge.

IN the meantime, if you do decide to confront the crystally conditions yourself, whether it be on a bike, snowmobile, snowshoes, skis or what have you, please be prepared and most importantly

BE CAREFUL.

I’D like you to be able to keep reading my posts, k?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Other News…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With That Said…

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

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

Deathride 2021 – After-action Report

WELL, this isn’t exactly the after-action report I’d hoped I’d be writing; rather than regaling you with tales of the ride I am instead addressing the Tamarack Fire’s impact on the ride.

LAST Friday I, along with a bunch of other vendors, were at the Expo and basking in the glory of the next day’s event when at approximately 2:00 p.m. we noticed a plume of smoke rising to our southwest. In speaking with the local LEOs (Alpine Co. Sheriff’s Dept. deputies) on site I learned that it wasn’t the Henry Fire, but instead a new fire, what would later become the Tamarack Fire.

WE (vendors, organizers, etc.) kept doing our thing and hoped that the fire would be knocked down quickly.

IT was such a great time talking with riders who knew me and came by to introduce themselves and tell me how much they enjoyed reading about our adventures in the California Alps. I was making some sales, and giving riders tips on what to expect the next day.

AT about 3:00 p.m. I called in for extraction from the Expo as the fire was looking pretty nasty. The below image is what I saw when I got home. We already had items staged and go-bags handy so we began gathering other items in anticipation of the forthcoming evacuation.

The fire just getting going on the afternoon of Friday, July 16th. In the photo it’s about 2.5 miles southwest of our home/CAC HQ.

ACROSS the street, at the firestation that temporarily became Deathride central, the team was still hard at work loading the trucks for distribution throughout the course. We had yet to receive the evacuation order. These pics were taken Thursday.

MY family and I, along with our cats, as well as the residents, campers, riders and other visitors, were all evacuated safely and calmly at approximately 5:00 p.m. thanks to the great planning and swift and efficient execution of the evac. plan by the Alpine County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Alpine Co. Volunteer Fire Dept.

WE were heartbroken. Not just for the riders and the community but also for the Deathride team that had worked so hard to get us to this point. Life can be cruel. No ride last year due to the pandemic and this year, the day before the ride…

The after…Our booth was destroyed but some anchors are still holding. 🙂
Notice the blackened forest behind.

AS usual, though, the community rose to the challenge as did Curtis Fong (Ride Director), Di (Asst. Ride Director) and their teams. On Sunday, the day after the ride was supposed to take place, we were unloading trucks at the Douglas County Senior Center (evacuation central). There were cases of watermelons, bananas, oranges, PB&J sandwiches, drinks, snacks and more that the Chamber donated to the community. Becky DeForest, Exec. Director of the Chamber, and I, moved items from inside the trailers so that others could shlep them into the center.

Hot spot map as of 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

ON the other side of the county, Terry Woodrow, one of the county supervisors (her district includes Bear Valley) was, in addition to her usual duties, distributing water to fire crews in the area.

WE are so grateful that there were no deaths or serious injuries and as of the writing of this post (Weds. a.m.) that is still the case.

IF you’d like to help out, the Chamber has set up a GoFundMe page. Click here to go there.

FOR the latest information on the fire, click here to view the Tamarack Fire page on Facebook, the official page set up by Alpine County.

PLEASE send thoughts and prayers to all of those effected by this tragedy, as well as those throughout the country, and world, dealing with their own emergencies.

Deathride Doodling? The Devil is in the Details!

BEEN doodling on the Deathride data that matta? Figuring out what you’ll need in order to tackle the Tour of the California Alps?

HERE are a few facts that may help in that regard.

FIRST of all (read aloud using deep lawyerly voice here) in the interest of full disclosure, for those who are not aware, California Alps Cycling LLC is not affiliated in any way with the Tour of the California Alps, more commonly known as the Deathride.

SECONDLY, I am a member of the board of directors of the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, owner of the Deathride, so when I use we in this post, I mean the Chamber, or the Deathride, not California Alps Cycling, LLC.

GET it? Got it? Good! 😉

OKAY, appreciate you letting me clarify that; you can go back to your normal voice now. Let’s move on!

I had a little back & forth recently with my friend and CAC member, Charlie, the other day, where he asked on behalf of his cycling group, The Pain Gang, what the start and cut-off times were for the big event on July 17th. ‘Twas that convo. that gave me the idea for this post. Thanks Chuckles!

Mountain Iris’ in bloom at Scossa Ranch on Hwy. 4 about 10 miles south of Markleeville. Just took this photo today.

No More Carson

YUP, in case you weren’t aware, Carson is no longer the last big climb of the day. That honor instead falls to Hwy. 4 from just east of Lake Alpine, up and over that side of Pacific Grade (‘cuz you’ve already done the other side), into Hermit Valley and then up and over Ebbett’s Pass (for the 2nd time).

Yes, the Roads are Closed

“THE course will be closed to traffic from Markleeville through all sections of climbing, with a turnaround point at Lake Alpine where participants will head back to the finish at Turtle Rock Park.”

Staggered Start

“THE event officially starts at 5:30 am. Riders will be in a staggered start from that point forward. Any riders on the road before that time are riding at their own risk, and aid stations may not be open when you arrive.”

Rules of the Ride & the Road

THEY include more such nuggets, including: “How long do I have to complete the course to qualify for the all-pass finisher’s jersey? Riders have 13 hours, from 5:30 am – 6:30 pm to complete the course and apply for the finisher’s pin and jersey, aka “Tombstone Club.'”

THERE’S a link to all of the rules, including those having to do with Covid-19 protocols, on the Deathride site.

DO read up.

Lots and Lots (and Lots) of Riders (and their families)

IT’S going to be bike-archy! We’ll likely have 2000 riders or so and that means things will be packed to the gills with cycling energy (and lots of bodies). Hotels and camping are already filling up. The Creekside Lodge is long sold-out of rooms for that weekend but Woodford’s Inn still had rooms when I checked Saturday. Not sure about the Carson River Resort, or Wylder (formerly Sorenson’s), but it’s probably worth checking in with them just in case.

Stonefly, Out West Cafe, J. Marklee Toll Station, and Cutthroat Brewing Company will all be hopping so make your reservations early where you can, otherwise, put those patience helmets on.

Bear Valley

SINCE the course now takes riders into the western side of Alpine County, staying or eating there (or both) may be an option. Keep in mind there is no shuttle service provided so you’ll need to work out those logistics yourself.

HERE’S a link to Cabins & Lodges in Bear Valley. Bear Valley Adventure Company, run by friend and fellow Alpine Co. Chamber of Commerce Board Member Aaron Johnson, is a great source of information too, especially if you’re going to work in some gravel or MTB riding while you’re in town.

AND, you can check out dining options by clicking on this link.

We’re Looking Forward to Seeing You!

WE’VE missed you and are so excited to welcome you back for the 40th anniversary of this iconic ride. You’ve got a few more weeks to get those cycling legs ready and then it will be time to kick some passes’ asses!

SEE you soon! And please…travel safely.

Bike the California Alps Virtually? Here are Some Options!

FIRST and foremost I’d like to announce the Death Ride Tour of the California Alps – Virtual Tour! We’ve (the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce) been working with FulGaz to put together this event and it takes place starting April 3rd!

A Few More Event Details

YOU loyal readers know that I’ve filmed a bunch of rides for FulGaz over the last year or so. Part of the library includes all five (5) climbs of the iconic Death Ride (formally known as the Tour of the California Alps):

  • Monitor West Ascent
  • Monitor East Ascent
  • Ebbetts North Ascent
  • Ebbetts South Ascent
  • Carson East Ascent

COME April 3rd you’ll be able to conquer all of these climbs from the pleasure of your pain cave! (If you’re a FulGaz subscriber you can tackle them already).

IT’S a great opportunity to do a bit of training, and if you haven’t done these climbs before, it’s a great chance for you to get a glimpse of what’s to come (fingers crossed) this July 17th. Heads up that this year’s “real ride” won’t include Carson Pass (at least that’s our plan) and will instead offer Pacific Grade. We’re still working out those details and of course the ride is dependent on how things progress pandemic-wise but we are cautiously optimistic, and we hope to see you this summer in Markleeville.

IN the meantime we’d love to have you fondo with us beginning April 3rd. They’ll be some cool prizes (winners will be selected randomly) and some bragging rights to be had as well. Registration isn’t open until March 1st, and we do have a few minor details to work out, BUT it’s sure to be a good, and relatively inexpensive ($35.00) time. You’ll be able to register here.

AND…as the title of this post mentions, there are some other alternatives too.

Markleeville Area

IN addition to the DR climbs noted above, you can also ride from Markleeville to the Snowshoe Thompson memorial out in Diamond Valley. There’s also a return route from Diamond Valley to Markleeville. The Alta Alpina Markleeville Time Trial is in the library too.

FOR a bit of context…these rides were all filmed in the summer of 2020, as were the Deathride climbs.

Lake Tahoe aka Big Blue

These rides went live just last week!

THE screen grab above is from the announcement email that was sent to all FulGaz subscribers. Here’s what’s available:

  • DL Bliss State Park to Camp Richardson
  • Meeks Bay to Incline Village
  • Incline Village to Glenbrook

Unfortunately, due to a my error, I didn’t film the section from Glenbrook to Meeks Bay. I thought I did but you’ll have to read that post for the back story. Suffice it to say it’s on my list.

Other California Alps Virtual Ride Options

YOUR sharp eyes may have caught the reference to Hope Valley in that screenshot above. I filmed that ride on October 22, 2020 and even though the fall colors weren’t as glorious as I’ve seen in the past, they were/are still pretty awesome. You’ll definitely want to check it out!

YOU can also do just the Blue Lakes Road Ascent, which is part of the Hope Valley to Lower Blue Lake ride, but shorter, and not quite as vibrant color-wise since it was filmed in July, 2020 (on Independence Day actually). If you pay close attention you can catch some shots of Old Glory on this ride.

How Can You Do These Rides?

LIKE the last sentence reads…

JUST search “SCHWARTZ” on FulGaz for the complete list. I thought of saying “May The Schwartz Be With You” here but I’ll leave that up to Mel.

YES, you do need to be a FulGaz subcriber to enjoy these rides. Keep in mind that there is a 14-day free trial though so you can check them out relatively risk free. FulGaz offers some great rides, including group rides, as well as coaching and training options too, so if you’re like me and doing a lot of riding inside, it’s another great option, or addition.

BTW, you WILL NOT need to be a subscriber to ride the Virtual Deathride. You’ll get a special code that will give you access for that event.

Feedback Has Been Positive So Far

Chris from the United Kingdom wrote that “those rides have made me feel really connected to a place I love.”

Curtis from Michigan said “It’s great to relive the Death Ride and riding around Tahoe even though I haven’t done them in person for a decade now.” Curtis also asked about that “missing link” from Glenbrook to Meeks Bay.

Jim from New England had this to say a week ago: “Great ride Mark, did the Meeks bay one last night and it was super nice given the current winter in New England. Thanks for uploading it!”

Lastly, a bit of praise from Bob (whereabouts unknown): “Mark you made me homesick. I lived in South Lake Tahoe for 12 years riding every single mountain bike trail, every dirt road, and every road event from “America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride” to the “Death Ride “. Thanks for giving me the chance to ride Tahoe again. 👍👏”

I can’t thank you enough Chris, Curtis, Jim and Bob, for taking the time to ride ’em and especially for letting us know what you thought. It makes the effort so worthwhile when I get this kind of feedback.

There you have it…some virtual choices for you and your faithful steed.

So let’s kick some passes’ asses! Virtually…

Right now, with the exception of Carson, they’re all closed for the winter anyway, but the gates are open and you won’t see any snowplows in your pain cave.

Riding in Peanut Butter – Gravelly Lessons Learned

MY ride last Thursday was quite an adventure: a slippery, sloppy, peanut-buttery, very short (as it turns out) ride on the East Carson River Trail, just outside of Markleeville.

“Gravel remains largely undefined, which is exactly the point. It’s supposed to be an adventure.”

NO doubt Selene! Yeager, that is… Her words from “Gravel! The Ultimate Guide to the Gear, Training and Grit You Need to Crush It” certainly ring true. More so today than last month when I wrote another post about gravel. That post, “A Brief What and Where,” didn’t include the trail to which I’m writing about today so do give it a read when you get a chance; it has a few more gravel grinding factoids for you.

It All Started Innocently Enough

ROSCOE (II, a 2017 Domane 600 Series Disc) and I headed out from HQ here in Markleeville on an almost 60 degree day knowing that some mud was possible — but unlikely or at least navigable we thought after a couple weeks of dry weather.

THE trail starts at Hangman’s Bridge, just about two (2) miles from Markleeville, and I had hiked it before. A few little rollers to kick things off, and a couple others about half-way out, but other than that it’s a fairly flat, non-technical out-and-back trail that tracks the East Fork of the Carson River for about 3 1/2 miles or so. Click here to check it out on All Trails.

THAT first pitch wasn’t rideable (at least for me) so I kicked things off with a little hike-a-bike. Little did I know then that I would get a bit more of that (hike-a-bike that is) pretty quickly.

I was having a great time riding through the squishy, pine-needley (is that a word? not sure) muck and was really enjoying the sound of my tires hitting that squishiness. Some fish-tailing, some mud-splattering, some big ol’ rocks and some pine cones; all of which made for some serious, shit-eating grin kinda fun. Roscoe and I were really enjoying ourselves and then we hit IT and as soon as we did we knew we were in a bit of a pickle.

The path from whence we came – that track that looks a little like a thread was ours. ‘Twas okay as long as we were moving. Then we hit that patch of thick peanut butter mud.

Now What?

THERE was no more progress to be made and I had to dismount. It all went very much downhill from there and it was a veritable laugh-riot. I was cackling like a madman as I surveyed the scene. I had seen mud but I had never experienced THIS MUD.

MY wheels would not move. No problem, I thought. I’ll just grab one of these sticks and clear ’em out. Snap. Okay, let’s try another one. Snap. No joy there. I need a better (not necessarily bigger) stick. Again I tried. Crack.

OKAY, let’s pause for a moment, I said to myself, and look at the shoes. Holy sludge Batman, this stuff is incredible! There was no way any stick was going to clean out this caca.

I realized at this point that we were doomed, Roscoe and I. And yes, that is hyperbole. We weren’t really doomed but the ride sure was. At least we were fairly close to the trailhead. So, I swallowed my pride and called for extraction. Luckily, I still had cell service so that made it easier. I also had, if needed though, my inReach Mini. So if I had too…

For more on that little gadget of wonder, by the way, take a gander at this post. I think it’s the most valuable thing I carry when I’m riding, or hiking, or snowshoeing, or pretty much doing anything here in the California Alps, or any adventurous location for that matter!

We then did a little hike-a-bike, Roscoe and I, laughing (just me) all the way, and my lovely assistant (and wife) Patricia was there lickety split.

Those Lessons Learned?

THE ride that I hoped for instead turned out to be an afternoon of shoe and bike washing and the first thing I learned was that regular water (i.e. from a garden hose) does not work on this stuff. That cold water just made the mud harder.

LESSON #2: When you are riding a road bike (albeit an endurance-oriented, Paris-Roubaix tested model) made a gravel bike with the simple addition of some gravel tires, mud is a problem. It wasn’t designed with enough clearance like today’s true gravel bikes. Sand, check. Loose dirt, check. Rocks, check. Gravel, check. Mud, negatory. Better clearance is better!

LESSON #3: SPDs can be problematic in the muck. I did have a small swiss-army knife in my kit but it would have been a long slog to use that little thing to clear out everything to the point where I could actually ride. I should have installed those hybrid pedals (SPDs on one side, platform on the other) before I left.

LESSON #4: Use warm water (and brushes) to clean off the caca. Like I said earlier, that cold water just made things worse. I even had to use a steel brush to clean off the tires. Thankfully I have a big ‘ol laundry sink in the bathroom off the garage so I was able to apply that hot H20 liberally. Still, it took a surprising amount of time.

LESSON #5: This one I had applied before: wadded up newspaper in those wet shoes make for fast, efficient drying. I cleaned the shoes before I started on Roscoe, by the way, and did so in the sink, with warm water and a nylon brush.

IN case you’re wondering…Yes, I did clean the chain (I use Park’s Cyclone Chain Scrubber) and lubed it as well. Roscoe needed a bath anyway.

  • Time actually riding the bike: ~ 22 minutes
  • Time cleaning the shoes and the bike: ~ 2-3 hours

ROSCOE and I are still laughing about that day’s adventure. It was pretty much an epic failure of a ride I admit, but those lessons learned? Priceless.

ESPECIALLY as we gear up and train for more gravel riding. Lots more learning to do, to be sure.

YOU?

Mark in Markleeville – How a San Jose Native Ended Up in the California Alps – Part One

‘TWAS a warm (ok, hot) summer day in July of 2016 when I packed up my bike and other necessessities, and headed for Alpine county, for a week (almost) at the Carson River Resort.

QUICK pause before I get into the meat of the story so I can give a shout out to my fellow blogger (I don’t know his actual name I realize) at Half Fast Cycling Club for prompting me, in his recent “Pandemic Tree post” of just two days ago, to write this story. He’s done the Deathride before and we were looking forward to meeting at this year’s ride but, well, you know how that ended.

Anyway…the story begins

IT had been a very stressful few weeks work-wise and between that, and the noise of the city, I was in desperate need of a mountain hit. Having grown up in San Jose I was used to heading to our local hills, or the Santa Cruz mountains on most occassions, but every year or so, like many Californians (or Nevadans for that matter) I suspect, I was privileged to be able to head to the Sierra.

THIS particular level of tensity warranted those big mountains but knowing what I knew about the summer season I feared I would find no accomodations. Camping would have been preferred but I had no vacation time so my compromise was to bring the necessary tech and work during the day and ride in the a.m., p.m. or during lunch. First, though, where to go?

Caples Lake as seen on my first trip to Markleeville.

YOSEMITE was my first choice. It is my wife, Patricia’s, and my, happy place. Well, it was. Now we live in our happy place. Not that Yosemite still isn’t…

AS you might have guessed, though, there were no rooms anywhere in the park.

MY next option was Mammoth. I had always wanted to go there so I did some searching and found a couple possibilities, but none of them had kitchens (or even “ettes”) and that wasn’t going to work. I wanted to cook my own meals.

HEY, I thought, how about Markleeville?

Before I continue with my saga, let me take you back a bunch of years, to my elementary school days (daze?), which is when I first learned of Markleeville.

MY grandparents on Mom’s side had a cabin in Arnold, CA (Lakemont Pines to be specific). We spent quite a bit of time there, both in the summer and the winter. During the winter we would often head up towards Lake Alpine for a bit of tubing and tobagganing. Traveling up Highway 4 towards Ebbetts Pass we would pass the mileage sign which showed the distance to Markleeville.

OF course being a young’n I said things to myself like “that town has my name” or “that town was named after me.” I remember thinking (did I ask? I don’t remember) it would be cool to see my town. I really don’t recall much more than that but knowing what I know now we couldn’t have gone to Markleeville very easily as Hwy. 4 would have been closed. So, we never made it and until this trip, I had never seen Markleeville before.

Back to present day, or 2016 to be more precise

I did some googling and called both the Creekside Lodge (no dice) and the Carson River Resort. When I asked the dude who answered the phone if they had anything available, especially on the river, he sort of chuckled and I sighed. No luck here either. Shit! But then he said: “Wait a minute…It looks like we have a cancellation. The river cabin is available but only this Sunday through next Thursday.” I’ll take it, I said!

AS it turns out, that was the first sign – from nothing anywhere to something in Markleeville. My town! 🙂

SO I packed up my gear, my bike, some food, of course some tequila and cerveza. I also brought some “nice clothes” as I planned on visiting the Alpine County Superior Court (building and maintaining relationships with courts throughout the state, country really, was part of my job description at the time) while I was there. I also loaded up the laptop and two monitors so I could fulfill my other employment-related duties.

A Sunday afternoon arrival

AFTER an uneventful, but longer trip than I expected (Markleeville, it could be said, is in B.F.E.), I arrived at my destination. The cabin however, was not ready, and Angel (the owner at the time) was very apologetic. No worries, I told her, I’ll just go for a ride up to that park in Markleeville that I saw the sign for – Grover Hot Springs.

BACK towards town I rode and I hung a left at Montgomery Street. At the fork in the road I stayed right and that put me on Hot Springs Road. As I headed towards the park I noticed a house (more like a cabin) for sale and made a mental note to pull the flyer and check it out on the way back, just to satisfy my curiosity.

THE park was pretty sweet. I made another mental note to check out the hot springs before I left town and back down towards town I went. I stopped at the house and pulled the flyer. Being born and raised in San Jose I was blown away. That’s all? Seriously? I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t going for two to three times that! It sat on just under 1/2 an acre and there was a creek (Hot Springs Creek, formerly known as the Middle Fork of the Carson River) in the backyard. My wife and I had talked for years about having a little place in the mountains, on a lake or river, when we retired.

THIS was that place! Now we weren’t ready to retire yet but it got me thinking, is this another sign?

APOLOGIES but I’m going to have to stop here and leave you hanging. My saga, as it turns out, is just too long for one blog post.

NEXT week, part two.

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!

The Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership and its Potential Impact on California Alps Cycling

And no, I’m not talking strictly about the impact this project could have on our business. I’m referring more to the impact it can have on the Alps, and the Eastern Sierra region, as a whole. For more about California’s Alpine Zone though, click here for an overview, courtesy of the USFS.

The southern CA Alps – Looking towards Mammoth from near Bishop. Part of the amazing region on which this initiative is focused.

A little background…

The Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Partnership (ESSRP), an initiative that began in the spring of 2019 due to the largess of the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Governing Board, authorized “$618,750 of Proposition 68 funding to go to the Town of Mammoth Lakes (on behalf of the regional partnership) to administer the Sustainable Recreation and Tourism Initiative.”

The partnership could potentially implement the following, depending on the outcome of the review and prioritization that has begun to take place here in the Eastern Sierra:

  • New trails and facility planning and construction
  • New and existing “hard infrastructure” including bathrooms, pavement maintenance, water, sewer, other buildings
  • Maintenance and staffing of visitor centers
  • County/Town recreational infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation, and new project Identification and work program development
  • Project planning including environmental review
  • Permitting facilitation and clean-up

The Partnership not only includes the town of Mammoth Lakes, but also the counties of Alpine, Inyo and Mono as well as the city of Bishop. Two (2) regions of the United States Forest Service (USFS) are also involved. Click here to learn more.

The first meeting of the “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” working group. Yours truly is humbled to be a member of this group representing California Alps Cycling and more importantly, the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce.

What’s that mean for the California Alps and California Alps Cycling?

In our mind it means that visitors to the Alps, especially cyclists, gravel riders and mountain bikers (hey, this is a cycling blog after all!) could have more support when they visit. As some of you may know, infrastructure in Alpine County is a bit limited. I’m talking about public bathrooms, showers, and such. Our Chamber of Commerce, as well as other businesses in Alpine Co., do provide some of this but we need more. Other counties in the Alps (think Mono for example) do have better support systems but even they need additional support. As I’ve heard from some fellow attendees at our meetings, some of their infrastructure is a bit dated or limited. So, the idea behind this approximately two (2) year initiative is to vet and prioritize projects for which we can then seek grant money. “We” being the region, not just Alpine, or Mono, or Mammoth, for example. This regional approach will allow for much more comprehensive benefits. E.G. what helps Mammoth Lakes could help Inyo county; what Alpine county does or will do may be scalable to other areas.

Skin in the game…

It’s not just about marketing to get MORE PEOPLE to the region. It’s MORE 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 12-11 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…

As I mentioned earlier in this post, this is a two (2) year initiative so there is definitely more to follow. The next public workshop is on January 16th in Lone Pine. Then, in February, is the 2nd “Connection to the Eastern Sierra Visitor Audience” meeting in Mammoth. I’ll be attending both and will continue to provide updates on our progress. In the meantime, if you have anything to add, please let me know.

Happy New Year!

We wish you all a happy and healthy 2020 and we thank you for being a loyal reader of our blog and if you’re a member of California Alps Cycling, you get an extra THANK YOU! Together we can accomplish a lot. Ride safe and Let’s Kick Some Passes’ Asses! in the coming year. There are oh so many to choose from, right?