The Death Ride! Best thing ever!

I’ll give away the punchline: though Alex and I both rode the Death Ride today, both of us are still alive. Even if Alex went to bed at like 8:30;)

This is a pretty darn amazing ride. For those of you who haven’t followed the link to it in any of the millions of my recent over-exuberant posts, it’s 130 miles of biking, with about 15,000 feet of elevation gain. That gain happens over 5 mountain passes–or rather, three passes, but you go up and down both sides of two of them, so it makes for 5 long trips up the mountains.

death ride elevation map(just to give you an idea, this is the elevation map they provide here)

It’s pretty epic, quite beautiful, somewhat difficult, and absolutely amazing.

Alex and I got up at 4am so we could eat breakfast and be biking by 5ish, just as it was getting light. Contrary to popular belief, the theory there was not to torture ourselves with another early start, but simply to get a bunch of the biking out of the way before it got too hot. Of course, the unforseen drawback is that we froze our asses off (well, our fingers, anyway) on the several-mile downhill before we started up the first side Monitor Pass. Someone later told me that his thermometer said it was 37 degrees when we started–which I can’t corroborate, but it sure felt cold.

death ride sunrise(the sun rises on the distant mountains as we climb the first side of Monitor Pass)

I have to admit my legs were a wee bit sore still when I started this ride, but luckily my scramble-down-Mt-Langley-braking-muscles are different from my propelling-myself-up-a-hill-by-bike muscles, so no problem.

There are many great things about this ride, but one of the best was probably the fact that it seemed like the entire town of Markleeville had set up along the course to cheer us on. People lined the road not only in Markleeville proper but all along the passes–especially Carson Pass, the last one–with cowbells, signs, and a ridiculous amount of good cheer. The volunteers, too, were amazing–after all this self-supported randonneuring I’ve been doing lately where I provide everything for myself, it was kind of a shock not only to pull into a rest stop at all, but to have a whole stockpile of food waiting for me as well as friendly volunteers offering to park my bike for me and fill up my waterbottles. It was almost too much for me to handle!

death ride volunteer(a helpful volunteer hands out ice cream at the top of the 5th and last pass. Super cute:)

Alex and I biked together for a fair portion of the ride, me going slightly faster on the uphills and him bombing the downhills like there was no tomorrow. Somehow we missed each other at a rest stop and I ended up getting to the top of Carson Pass maybe half an hour before him, all the while thinking he was ahead of me. But we finished it up together in fine style, about 11hrs after we started. Not too shabby.

siblings(aren’t we classy, posing in front of the bathroom at the top of Carson Pass;)

I’m curious about the stats for this ride. I’m always really sensitive to the women-to-men ratio, and, of course, it seemed ridiculously man-heavy. According to the Death Ride website, last year there were 545 women and a whopping 2,357 men–yikes! It definitely seemed like about that ratio this year too. I’m not sure how it is that I get more women into this, but for today it just meant that I made it a point to cheer for all the women I saw:)

Alex swears he’s never biking again after this, but I think that after a little rest he’ll be back to it in no time. heh. Right? :)  As for me, I’m just ridiculously psyched that I could make it down this year for the ride. It’s totally my scene–lots and lots of hills, many, many miles.

poster signing (the Death Ride ritual: signing the poster when you make it up the final pass. The stickers on my back show that I made it up the 5 passes–one sticker per pass)

Tomorrow, it’s back to Portland and normal life for me:) As ridiculously awesome as it’s been to adventure down here in California, I’m pretty psyched about that, too:)


  1. Congratulations on the ride– sounds like an excellent and scenic challenge!

    • Hey, thanks! It’s a pretty phenomenal ride. Totally worth the trip down and the hassle of shipping my bike around. :)

  2. Jen & The Anderson Clan

    Looks like an awesome ride, Stasia! Hooray for family adventures of all kinds! And I agree, we need more women out on bikes, with you all the way in cheering every one of them on. We miss you!

    • It may be about time for another Traverse City family adventure, eh? :) I bet the kiddos are HUGE now compared to last time I saw them. Give everyone a squeeze for me!!:)

      • Michael Stewart Anderson

        Yes…. you should come for a visit.
        How do you feel about snow?

        You could come for some snowshoing/cross country skiing/downhill skiing on what are really more like bunny slopes here. You should come for the VASA ski race. Jen will be racing again this year.

        • I feel great about snow!! Except that you’d have to outfit me with snow gear, since we weenies in Portland don’t really own that kind of stuff;)

          James and I will be in Laos for most of December so realistically I don’t know, though winter IS my slower time at work…

          Or maybe someday when you feel like bundling up a whole gaggle of people you can come to Portland! It IS kind of the promised land, and we do have an extra lots of room upstairs…:)

  3. Damn. I just did 32,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain over the course of nine days, and that was too much. Of course, I was touring, so I did have a loaded bike.

  4. Michael Stewart Anderson

    Makes our 2700 feet gain in the Ride Around Torch Lake this Sunday look paltry…. grrr…

    Someday maybe Jen and I can come out and do this ride with you if you are up for it again.

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