What was going to be the first Death Ride for Bill Magladry, turned out to be the last “Death Ride” for his truck. Bill and eight of his cycling friends from Reno had planned to ride the 40th Anniversary event together. The Death Ride and the Alta Alpina Challenge are the two premier cycling events in the California Alps.
This year's route would go over Monitor Pass twice and then to Lake Alpine and back; over 14,000 feet of climbing in 103 miles. Bill and his friends had trained for months, and he had new tires for his bike. They were all ready to meet the challenge head-on, rookies and veterans alike.
Although the smoke cloud loomed large, there was no official concern for the approaching fire when Bill left his truck at 4:45 p.m. on Friday, July 16th. They had planned for months to camp at the Carson River Resort and parking was limited there.
After having dinner at their Resort campsite, they were told to evacuate at 7 p.m. The Tamarack Fire was now official. Bill felt his vehicle would be safe, parked as it was right next to the Forest Service Headquarters. Rather than going back through the fire zone, the group decided to camp up on Monitor Pass.
They were informed they had to leave Monitor at 10:15 p.m., so they broke camp again and went farther south, to Highway 108 along the West Walker River. When Bill went back to Woodfords the next day, expecting to go in and get his truck, the CHP informed him it had burned. The officer showed him a photo of the charred skeleton, making it clear his vehicle had been consumed by a raging inferno.
“Of the list of things I would have done differently with 20/20 hindsight in my life, this does not even make the top 50,” Bill commented. His priorities are right. “Compared to the loss of this beautiful land, forest, community, and animals, the loss of my truck is a drop in the bucket,” he said. Although Bill had made a specially designed folding plywood bed softened by carpeting, and had just installed a camper shell, it was still “just a possession.” His attitude? “Forget it and move on,” said Bill succinctly.
He was surprised to see photos of his truck had made national news. Since I passed his vehicle on a daily basis, I observed that there were always at least three different groups who were stopping to take photos of it. It captured the essence of the fire: unexpected, unrivaled, and unrestrained. The Tamarack
Fire burned through Alpine County in California and Douglas County in Nevada, voraciously consuming everything in its path.
A life-long athlete, Bill played soccer and tennis in high school and was a cross-country ski racer in college. He loves downhill and backcountry skiing, mountain and road cycling, horse packing and backpacking. He is also a certified expert fly fisherman and therefore is very concerned about the environmental impact of the fire. He now shares his passion for the area working with the Carson Valley Visitors Authority.
He feels fortunate to live a mere 20 minutes from Turtle Rock Park and has camped there often. His appreciation for the wilderness in both Alpine and Douglas counties has deepened over the years and will not change as the mountain lands slowly regenerate over the next decades.