At 75, Death Ride is still an attraction
Road closures on Highway 89 over Monitor Pass and Highway 4 over Ebbetts Pass will be in effect on Saturday. From 5-7:15 a.m., the road will be closed to traffic from the Markleeville Courthouse to the junction of Highway 89 and Highway 4. Monitor Pass will reopen to vehicle traffic at noon. Ebbetts Pass will reopen at 3 p.m. Highway 89 from Woodfords to the Markleeville Courthouse will remain open. Motorists are asked to adhere to posted speed zones and early morning parking crews.
More than 3,000 cyclists — of all shapes and sizes, riding a variety of machines, and of all ages — will be on the roadways of Alpine County Saturday for the 37th annual Death Ride, Tour of the California Alps.
Hosted by the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce, the Death Ride features 129 miles and 15,000 feet of climbing over 8,314-foot Monitor, 8,730-foot Ebbetts and 8,580-foot Carson passes. The course includes both sides of Monitor and Ebbetts to create a five-pass challenge that will be completely ready after the opening of Ebbetts Pass last week. The opening is a result of California Department of Transportation road crews working to clear and repair Highway 4 due to heavy snowfall this winter.
And even with his 76th birthday on the horizon, Gardnerville resident Lavon Wiseman is coming back for the ninth straight year. And again he will be joined by his son, Scott, who has participated in the Death Ride each year since 2010.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s very organized,” Wiseman said. “My son comes over from California has come over every year since 2010 and we do the Death Ride.”
This not a race, but rather a test of endurance and of personal goals. Not everyone rides the 129-mile distance, either, because participants have their choice of one-, two-, three- four- and five-pass options.
Wiseman, who turns 76 in September, has completed the five-pass distance in each of his previous attempts at an event that annually attracts participants from across the nation and world. Wiseman plans to depart from the start at Turtle Rock Park — located between Woodfords and Markleeville — at 5 a.m. on a ride he expects to take 12-14 hours, including rest stops. The route also finishes at Turtle Rock Park.
“What I try to do is finish. There are cutoff times that you have to meet, otherwise they won’t allow you to continue,” he said, adding with a chuckle. “Every year that goes by, I’ll probably want to start a little bit earlier to make sure I make the cutoff times.”
Wiseman was introduced to the Death Ride by colleagues when he was still working for Pacific Gas & Electric in California.
“I worked there for 31 years and a couple of the guys did the Death Ride, so in 2006 I came over and joined them,” he recalled.
There have been other personal benefits, he added.
“My medical labs have never been better since I’ve been biking,” Wiseman said. “They’re better now than they were 15 years ago. So, for no other reason than health, it pays off to ride the bike.”
Wiseman gives credit to Big Daddy’s Bicycles & Fitness in Gardnerville with supporting his riding. Furthermore, Wiseman offers a simple reason for why he keeps returning for the Death Ride.
“It’s just the satisfaction of accomplishment,” he said. “That’s really what it is.”
Throw in the added attraction of Alpine County’s beautiful scenery, not to mention the view of all those cyclists, Wiseman describes the Death Ride as a special occasion.
“When you get up on the backside of Monitor, you can see the road that comes up and, obviously, there are cyclists all over the road,” he said. “It’s really quite a sight.”
Oh, and what is his favorite part of the ride?
“The finish,” Wiseman said, laughing.