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2002 Markleeville Death Ride
(Saturday, July 13 in Markleeville, CA)

See also my photo album from this ride.

This was my 4th Death Ride, and I was hoping to again complete it. I was a little bit nervous about finishing, though, as I'd injured my ankle on the Solvang Double and my knee on the Sequoia Century - not a great track record for the season! On the other hand, I was feeling much more relaxed about it, since I completed all 5 passes last year, and didn't really have anything to prove this time (but I still wanted to finish!).

Before the ride:

I took Thursday & Friday off from work to get up to the mountains early and spend some time acclimating and relaxing. I picked up my father, Barry, from my folks' place in Auburn, and we headed south on Hwy 49 to Placerville, where we had a carb-heavy lunch, then east on Hwy 50 to South Lake Tahoe, continuing south on Hwy 89 down Luther Pass (where we got rained on) to our campsite at the Carson River Resort. Due to a slight mix-up at the campsite, we wound up getting upgraded to a great riverside campsite. We went for a short ride partway up Monitor Pass to warm up our legs, then had a tasty spaghetti dinner at the only restaurant that was open in Markleeville. We met a fellow, Don, who was quite a character. We ate together and he talked of his adventures bicycling in France and the like. Lucky bastard! :)

We woke up early'ish on Friday morning and headed over to Turtle Rock to see if registration was open. We got there at around 9:30 only to find that registration didn't open until noon. Since there was nothing to do there, we drove up Carson Pass, visiting Caples Lake, Kirkwood Lake, Silver Lake, and Kirkwood Meadows. It was a very pretty drive, and we returned to Turtle Rock just before noon - perfect! Registration opened at noon sharp, and we were checked in with the usual Death Ride efficiency. After registering, we headed north to the Hewlett estate to meet up with the rest of the HP Death Ride team. I stopped briefly at Emerald Bay to admire the view, and we stopped at a grocery store to pick up the ice cream we had signed up to bring (7 half-gallons!). It was raining pretty heavily in Tahoe, and we hoped it wouldn't do the same on Saturday! Dinner at the estate was really tasty (and high in carbs, of course!). Afterwards, Walter Hewlett gave a quick speech, and everyone picked up their new jerseys (this year's HP Death Ride jersey is very cool!). I spent some time walking around the shoreline on the estate and enjoying the views from its piers. Some clever HP folks had rigged two tandems with skeletons, one of which even pedalled! We got back to camp a bit after 9. Two of Barry's colleagues from HP stayed at our site on Friday night, wanting to avoid the long'ish early morning drive from the Hewlett estate to Turtle Rock, and after they arrived and got all situated, we crashed out at 10'ish.

Monitor Pass:


We woke up at 4:45, suited up, had a quick breakfast, and were on the road at 5:20, roughly on schedule. The other HP folks had already left, wanting to get as early a start as possible. The nice thing about staying at the Carson River Resort is it is 2 miles from the turnoff to Monitor Pass, and avoids the sometimes very chilly descent from Turtle Rock to Markleeville. It was pretty Monitor Pass
Summit Rest Stop mild out, given the hour, which forecast a warm day. We soon turned onto Monitor Pass (Hwy 89), and were treated to a lovely sunrise. The climb was uneventful, though the middle section seemed steeper than I remembered it being. This was probably because I hadn't been doing terribly much hill-specific training due to injuries. There is a rest stop halfway up the pass, which we skipped, as its really not necessary. About an hour and a half after starting the climb, I arrived at the top, expecting to get my first pass sticker (they put stickers on your bib number for each pass you climb), but they had none, and said the sticker from the second pass would do double-duty. Guess the 1-pass riders didn't get any stickers at all... We only stayed a couple minutes at this stop, then continued on Hwy 89 past the summit marker, where we deferred the obligatory summit picture until the sun came up more. The descent of the east side of Monitor was a total blast as always. I think this is my favorite descent anywhere! I hit 54.6mph, and definitely could have gone faster if there weren't so many other riders on the road. One of Echo
Rest Stop these days I'll have to go there on my own and see how fast I can go. There are some cattle grates on the descent, but at 50+mph, they're easily bunny-hopped. The 10 mile descent took perhaps 15 minutes, and in no time flat, I was at the rest stop at the junction of highways 89 & 395.

I waited a bit for Barry to arrive (he has a more developed sense of mortality than I do :), snacked, and topped off my water bottles. I saw some of the HP riders I'd met at the estate the previous evening, and talked to them until Barry arrived. I thought I saw Felix from a distance, but he disappeared before I made my way over. I found out View from east Monitor Pass later that it was indeed him. We didn't stay long at the stop after Barry arrived, and we headed out in short order. The climb up the east side of Monitor wasn't too bad at all, though it was starting to warm up a bit. They had the usual running water stop halfway up the hill, and I stopped here to let Barry catch up. The usually superb views were slightly marred by visible smoke from a nearby fire, probably set by the lightning storms of the previous evening. A little ways from the summit, I saw a HP rider ahead, and decided to chase him down and see if I knew him. Turned out to be Walter Hewlett, and we rode together for a little bit, chatting about various stuff. He seems like a really nice fellow, absolutely without pretence. I thought it was somewhat funny riding with Walter Hewlett, wearing a HP jersey, while I was wearing my SunSpots jersey :) Like the west side, the climb up the east side of Monitor took around an hour and a half. I stopped at the summit marker, and when Barry arrived, we had someone take our picture (I look like a complete doofus - oh well!). Another exciting 50+mph descent later, and I was back to highway 4.

Ebbetts Pass:

It was a moderately quick ride northwest past the lunch stop (where 1 and 2 pass riders had lunch) to the rest stop at the start of the real climb up Ebbetts Pass. I waited for Barry for a few and availed myself of the provided munchies. Soon after Barry arrived, we rolled out. We separated pretty quickly, each riding the pace most comfortable to us, and I rode with some other nice HP folks for most of the climb. We were using each other to set and keep a consistent (but slow!) pace. It was obnoxiously hot by now (or felt it - it always feels much hotter than it is when I'm at altitude), and most of the scarce patches of shade had riders resting in them. A friendly cloud provided a few minutes of relief, but it soon moved on. I briefly stopped once to let my heart rate settle down, as it was closer to my lactate threshold Cyclists resting at Kinney Lake than I wanted it to be, then continued on my way. After a good while, I finally passed Kinney Reservoir, where there were a lot of riders relaxing and soaking up the lovely views.

I arrived at the summit of Ebbetts Pass with about 45 minutes to spare before the time cutoff, but I didn't want to linger, so I immediately headed down the west side after getting my sticker. Unlike Monitor, the descents of Ebbetts are not very fast, as the road is quite twisty, rather steep in places, and has some lousy pavement surfaces here and there that sneak up on one. Its still a fun descent, though, and I was soon at Hermit Valley and got my 4th pass sticker. Barry & I had agreed to meet here, so I relaxed a bit, ate, and sat in the shade in some thoughtfully-provided lawn chairs - ahhhhhh. It felt good to sit down for a little bit. I asked if they had any V8, but they had run out, so I had to make do with a cold Coke, which suited me nicely. Barry rolled in 25 minutes later, and after some more relaxing, we headed out. We agreed to meet at our camp, since neither of us were planning on stopping for lunch (takes way too much time with that many people around!), and neither of us were positive we were going to finish all 5 passes.

Climbing West Ebbetts Pass (Pass #4) The climb up west Ebbetts was a slow, hot one. Unlike the rest of the passes, most of the climb is extremely consistent, and, even moreso than the other passes, there's virtually no shade to be found anywhere. Near the bottom, I met a nice woman from Paradise, CA (near Chico), and we rode up the pass together, talking of our biking adventures. Turns out she has circumnavigated the globe (at least the non-ocean parts :) on a bicycle a few years back - wow! She was good company, and chatting with her took my mind off the climb. We briefly stopped a couple of times in the shade to cool down, and eventually arrived back at the summit.

I again spent almost no time at the summit rest stop, as I was starting to get concerned about making the final two time cutoffs. They appeared to be out of water at this rest stop - not good! Fortunately I didn't need any, and a car bringing more arrived just as I was leaving. I passed my west Ebbetts riding buddy on the descent of east Ebbetts, never to see her again. The descent of east Ebbetts is quite technical, and demands constant attention to descend swiftly and safely. Many years, someone crashes badly here and has to be airlifted out. This year was no exception from what I later heard :( A HP rider crashed, broke 6 ribs, bruised a lung, and sustained a lot of road rash, cuts and bruises. People are often less careful than they should be on this descent - stay sharp, folks! Near the bottom of Ebbetts I realized that I only had an hour to get to Woodfords and make the 4:00 cutoff for climbing the Woodfords Grade. This was a bit concerning, as I was a fair ways from Woodfords, however, I resolved to do my damnedest. I stopped very briefly at camp to top off my bottles and leave Barry a note saying what I was doing (I figured there was no way he was going to make (or want to make) the cutoff), but couldn't find a pen quickly, so on I went, hoping that he'd figure out what I was doing.

Carson Pass:

As I hammered towards Woodfords, I saw dark, threatening clouds in my rearview mirror, then lightning. I was glad to be off of Ebbetts, since that's where it looked like the storm was! There was a moderate headwind the whole way to Woodfords, but not too bad (it helps that its really windy where I do a lot of my training!). I didn't take any pictures for a couple of hours along this Picketts Junction Rest Stop stretch, as I was concentrating on making the checkpoints. I arrived at the Woodfords rest stop at 3:55 - 5 minutes to spare! The stop was pretty much closed up, and there wasn't any time to linger anyways, since I now had an hour and 20 minutes to get 7'ish miles up (and I do mean up) the road to Picketts Junction by its 5:15 cutoff. I was pretty sure I could make that, though, barring mechanical (or biomechanical!) trouble. Thankfully the headwind that frequently plagues this mini-pass was absent this year, and I made OK time. I stopped once to again get my heart rate down, and eventually arrived at Picketts Junction at 5:05 with a whopping 10 minutes to spare!

They had V8 here, which I greedily drank, as well as various other munchies. I ran into Mia and Lily, the lightless riders I'd met on this year's Davis Double. I heard a familiar-sounding horn around this point and looked over to see Barry driving my car by! He pulled in and said he'd wait for me at the junction in case the weather turned yukky and I wanted a lift back to camp - yay! Soon, a CHP officer announced that we had 5 minutes to get to the actual junction up the road a few hundred yards, so off I went. It was really nice to have the time pressure off, since there wasn't any real cutoff time for the rest stop at the top of Carson (as long as it was still daylight'ish!). I enjoyed the long undulating lead-in to the climb, which I was able to ride reasonably quickly. I was soon at the real climb, and going slowed considerably. I stopped several times to take pictures (really, it wasn't to take a break. Really!) Climbing Carson Pass Its a pretty climb, and I soon saw the long sweeping left curve that's just before the summit. Red Lake was to my left, looking rather unappetizing (and un-red for that matter!). My left knee started to bother me a little bit at this point, but I certainly wasn't about to quit this close to the top! Some descending riders shouted words of encouragement, and then I summited! The final rest stop is actually a couple hundred yards down the other side of the pass, and I rolled in and got my last sticker - woo hoo! Score is now Death Ride: 2 Adam: 2 :)

Carson Pass Rest Stop I ran into Mia and Lily at the summit again, and we talked briefly. I had a popsicle (even though it wasn't particularly warm by this point), sat down for a while, and generally enjoyed myself. After a while, I put on my windbreaker and headed down. Unfortunately my waterproof windbreaker (which I brought in case of showers) puffs up a lot when going fast, and has a parachute effect, so I wasn't able to best my top speed of 55.9mph from last year. The descent was really fast - no brakes required! In no time, I pulled into Picketts Junction. I didn't want a ride back from here, as the weather was holding, and the descent from Picketts to Woodfords is also quite speedy, so I put my windbreaker in the car, and rode on downwards. I hit 55.6, my max speed for this year's ride on this stretch, and soon re-met Barry and another HP rider at Woodfords, where I did load my bike up, not really having any desire to ride the 10'ish rolling miles back to camp. After dropping the HP rider off at his truck at our camp, we went back to Turtle Rock, where I got my 5-pass pin, signed the 2002 poster, and we pigged out on tasty chicken and potato salad.

After the ride:

I slept for 11 hours on Saturday night, waking up at 9. After breaking camp, Barry futzed with his tent, and we stuffed my car, and drove back to Auburn. It was somewhat slow going east from Echo Pass on Hwy 50 for no particular reason, but we gorged ourselves on omlettes and other edibles at Sweet Pea's in Auburn when we got back. From Auburn, it was a boring 2.5hr drive back to Fremont. I drove a total of 750 miles on this trip - a tad much! This was a great Death Ride - certainly the most relaxing one so far, and for once, I wasn't even a little bit sore afterwards! Guess that training thing really works, eh? :)

Sadly, I later found out that a rider passed away due to injuries sustained when his fork broke while descending Monitor Pass. This is the first casualty in the 20 years of the Death Ride :( Not a streak that needed to be broken.

Ride Stats:

Distance: 115.9mi
Total Time: 13h 48m
On-bike Time: 10h 43m
Average Speed: 10.8mph
Average Speed
(including stops):
8.4mph
Maximum Speed: 55.6mph, > 50mph on both sides of Monitor, and Carson
Total Climbing: ~16,000 ft
 
Difficulty: 5
Support: 5
Food: 4.5
Route: 5
Overall: 5

Other 2002 Death Ride Links:


Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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