Monday, July 11, 2011

A Steel Wüleur's Death Ride

Sorry, no photos, just a story. (Lack of iPhone privileges)

Participating in the "Death Ride", has always been one one of those things I think I should do, but never made the whole-hearted effort to commit, register and plan a year in advance to "actually" do. However, at an impromptu gathering for former colleague, Matt Potter's bday at The Spokesman several weeks ago, per some casual dialogue about it, an invitation was extended - shit, I guess I'm riding the Death Ride. Wade guaranteed a slot in true "shoot-from-the-hip" fashion.

The week+ leading up to the event, my workload was heavy. I did not even get my head around it until 3:30 on the Thursday I left for The Sierras. Packed quick, got all my ducks in a row and headed out. Stayed at mom's in Murphy's Thursday night and headed towards Markleeville on Friday. Drove up Hwy. 4, over Ebbet's Pass - which gave good beta on road conditions - kinda beat up after heavy winter. Was still a fair amount of snow up high, but less then I expected. Always a beautiful drive.

Going into this, I was less concerned about the ride, figured some consistent big days in The Coastal Range and riding background would get me through, but more on logistics, and where I would spend the night prior. This was all new to me, and figured it would kinda of a shitshow with 3,000+ other participants converging on little Markleeville.

Got to registration, went through the protocol with my 2nd hand entry and all was clean. Upon walking out, I inquired to a young volunteer about some beta on camping, and what happened next was unforeseeable. He said "you can stay at our house if you want." What, you're kidding, right? "No, we let a group of people stay with us every year. Make yourself at home, here's the address."

Met up with Spokesman crew at registration and got there itinerary. Headed to this address, and sure enough, I was taken in by the Jackson household: John, Kim, Mason and Cole. These were the most generous and authentically nice people I have ever met. They take in a somewhat normal crew and straglers every year. $40 bucks gets you all meals, a bathroom and shower to use and heaps of downhome hospitality. Though a little awkward, I felt blessed to have fallen on such good luck. Made everything much smoother. I can't tell you how much I was moved by these people. If the world was full of folks such as this, it would be a better place.

The Ride:

So, I quickly learned if you leave after 5:ooam, you are starting later than most. Some start before 4:00am for christ's sake! But, the targeted time was 5:30 - hoping to connect with Spokesman crew, and you have to have lights if starting in the dark. Was having no part of that. Got out at approx. 5:40am - daybreak. And the ride was on. For those not familiar with The Death Ride, the official start is at Turtle Rock - a couple mile outside of Markleeville. The route meanders out of Markleevile, and starts up 1st pass, Monitor Pass, over the top, down the backside, then back over. The rout then heads to Ebbett's Pass (the gem of the ride), up and over into Hermit Valley and back over. Then back through Markleevile, out to Carson Pass, then back to Turtle Rock/Markleevile. Approx. 129 miles and 15,000+ of stiff climbing - Alpine style. They don't cal it the "Tour of the California Alps" for nothing. I jumped in in town, avoiding chilly descent down from Turtle Rock.

It was a trip to see thousands of riders out here, totally surreal. All shapes, sizes. abilities, etc. became evident right away. How are some of these folks going to do this? This is an event that showcases all the colors of cycling: good, bad, overdressed, bad fit, bad form, good nature, over-equipped, under-equipped, and on. But, everyone out there should be applauded - it's a big day on the bike.

So I settled into my own tempo and pace. I had no aspirations, just enjoy it and take in all in. Though, one is always driven by some sort of vanity. I soon realized, I am stronger than most out here. Gave some internal satisfaction that all the miles in the saddle have put me in a certain place with my cycling, and that gave me motivation.

Actually, per veteran beta, I had not planned on doing the whole thing. The word was, doing Carson Pass meant dealing with the road open to cars, wind, possible weather, and fatigue. I had ridden Monitor and Ebbett's smoothly, having passed 100's of riders and only being passed once. Felt pretty pleased by this, especially pushing the bigger gears - have only ever purposed a standard double, and 39-12 got me through. Came back into Markleeville and was ready to call it a day. But, a little bird told me. "you gotta do the whole thing the 1st time out." So yeah, I continued on. Mind you, the addition of Carson Pass is 1/3 of the ride. All I can say is I'm glad I decided to do the whole thing, though I was cursing Carson, a very long slog out of Woodford's to the pass. 16ish miles at 4-10mph at this point. The scenery made up for the suffering - The Hope Valley was completely alive. One pedal stroke at a time. I thought the pass would never come. But, it did with a cold ice cream waiting.

At he end of the day, this was was deeply satisfying and solidified what matters in life. Challenge yourself, exercise your passions and appreciate the generosity of good-natured people. The support and volunteers were amazing. This event is the biggest day of the year for this area and locals show it.

Thanks Death Ride for a better day than most. This Steel Wüleur is grateful. And yes, sick descents! 50+ mph bliss! Not for the nervous with 100's ascending simultaneously!

And, just to cap things off, pedalled around Lake Tahoe today - another classic. Mix it up!

- Apple

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