Yuri Hauswald's Gravel Adventure

CamelBak's MultiBev & Chase Vest Take On #Vanlife

CamelBak Athlete, Yuri Hauswald has been part of the CamelBak family for years! He won the 2015 Dirty Kanza 200 in the muddiest/most gnarly conditions ever. Below, Yuri details an amazing trip he took with his wife Vanessa in their van through the Sierras.

I was a free range kid before raising free range kids was a thing. See, growing up on a farm in rural Petaluma, CA, in the early 70s, without a TV, meant that I spent plenty of time outdoors roaming the hills looking for adventure when I wasn’t doing ranch chores. No TV time also meant I spent countless hours satisfying my worldly wanderlust, and imagination, by thumbing through my parent’s exhaustive collection of National Geographic magazines, and in particular, a larger than life world atlas that looked like it belonged in a cobwebbed tomb from Indiana Jones. To my young imagination it was the big blue tablet, binding frayed and pages worn from years perusing its detailed and fascinating maps, tracing mountain ranges, rivers, deserts, state lines, and country borders with my fingers, imagining what it might be like to explore these far off lands. 


Turns out, forty or so years later, I still don’t own a TV, and while that ancient atlas is long gone, I continue to trace lines on maps to satisfy my sense of adventure, it just happens I now do it with two wheels. See, bikes and maps go together like peanut butter and chocolate: they’re great by themselves but BEST when used together! And lately I’ve been using the two to explore some prime gravel roads north of Tahoe City, CA, an area more known for mythical MTB trails like the TRT, Deer Creek,The Flume, or Yogi’s to name a few. 


An adventure day on the bike begins, at least for me, with a proper pour over coffee in my CamelBak MultiBev. With some local beans, I made my first cup of morning inspiration as I laid out the essential gear for a self-supported ride; hand pump, water filter, CO2s, spare tubes, tire plugs, chain lube, space blanket ( *gulp* just in case things get really sideways), sunblock, and an assortment of GU nutrition and other snacks were meticulously placed in my CamelBak Chase Vest. I savored the final sips of my morning brew in the crisp, piney morning air, consulted the map one last time, gave a quick hand check of my tire pressure, kissed my wife goodbye, and pushed off for the high alpine gravel adventure that lay ahead.


The plan was to explore a new route, one from Tahoe City to Loyalton, CA, “the loneliest town in America”, that traced as many dirt roads as possible. There was no warm up before hitting Bunker Road, a stout grind out of town, but once you’ve paid the price of the high altitude effort, you’re rewarded with the flowy berms of Ocelot Trail and onto the Fiberboard Highway, which is neither fiberboard or a highway, for a mile or so of broken pavement. I’d seen it on the map for years, and ridden by it countless times on my mountain bike, but road 06 is a gem, a scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs fun, dusty eight mile fire road descent through Tahoe National Forest that dropped me on the eastern edge of Truckee. I quickly rolled through downtown to Highway 89, the only extended pavement of the day, where I turned my steed north and put my head down to eat up as many miles, as quickly as possible, to get to the next section of dirt.


Gravel comes in many shapes, sizes, and consistencies, and, like sandpaper, has a variety of grits. I’d like to consider myself pretty well versed in gravel’s types, as I’ve experienced its various forms over the years, from the Flint Hills of Kansas to the lava fields of Iceland and the sandy pioneer roads of Oregon to the backcountry fire roads of Idaho, but I was surprised to discover a new type of gravel when I hit Cottonwood Road that I affectionately called “Sierra Butter”. This region was part of the continental crust that was dropped by the same fault that raised the Sierra Nevada eons ago, so maybe that explains why this ancient dirt is so tasty to pedal over. Imagine a ribbon of buffed dirt road, with tiny, smooth grooves like your favorite vinyl record, and miles of it, with stunning alpine vistas of the expansive Sierra Valley below. 


This unexpected buttery gravel road led me through some stunning high alpine meadows, and past more than a few scatalogical reminders that I wasn’t alone out there, which eventually teed into Bear Valley Road, the final chunky descent into Loyalton. The icing on the cake was meeting up with my wife and dog, who had found the only shady spot in town and were ready to discuss the day’s adventure over a frosty beer in the same perfect MultiBev vessel I made my coffee in that morning.


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