2023 Stagecoach Sideshow Restrospective

Stagecoach Sideshow Winter Soldier Edition

We’d been receiving a steady stream of emails from folks dropping out in the week leading up to the ride. One email read: “I guess I’m gonna give up my Sideshow spot… I have chilly ‘n’ sloppy here at home all the time!”

Idyllwild got more snow than most locals could remember. Steve from Idyllwild Heat recalled seeing this much snow in the 1960’s & 70’s but not since then, he said. It was a LOT and it was all melting off into waterways as we prepared for the ride start… and the forecast called for yet another big storm; the 11th “atmospheric river” of the season.
Meg & I scrambled to re-write the entire route for more favorable (less unfavorable?) conditions both for rider comfort and also for better trail sustainability. We checked with various land managers and knowledgeable folks and came up with the route I’ve been calling Stagecoach Winter Soldier route. This’ll likely be the go-to route for touring riders facing storms in the future, and possibly for the Grand Depart riders next week as well.

The start list was comprised of 30 riders; the majority of them veterans of other high-level bikepacking events & Stagecoach finishers– hearty folks who could ride well in a variety of conditions and might not need as much guidance as Grand Depart starters. We met at Idyllwild Brewpub Thursday night to discuss our plans and solve the issue of the coming storm– we knew we’d all have to be off course by Monday afternoon/evening as the forecast was calling for a solid 2-3 days of cold, wet, hyptothermic conditions after then. We came up with various ways to curate & re-route our experience for the conditions.

The new route includes singletrack outside Idyllwild that’d been missing since the Mountain Fire of 2013, and several new pieces of doubletrack through Garner Valley…. all of which was nearly saturated, but not muddy. Several large water crossings, and general slowness of the conditions put us about 1-1/2 hours behind schedule arriving in Anza. Coyote Canyon was a pleasure to ride and the desert below greeted us with warm-but-not-hot afternoon temps and a nice rest in Borrego Springs. Several riders took their time in the desert towns before Fish Creek (the Iron Door was a popular spot on St Patricks Day!) and from there the routes we all took more closely resembled a chaotic mess than an organized route. Some folks cut out San Diego by crossing to Ramona, others popped over to Julian for their famous apple pie and rejoined the route in Warner Springs. Others (myself included) loitered in the desert a while for the great camping & hot springs opportunities, and Blake Bockius even made a desert loop before re-routing himself back up to Idyllwild via Coyote Canyon. One rider– Drew Raney– completed the ENTIRE course on a respectable race pace and is counted as the sole finisher of the full course on the Sideshow. As I type this, I know of only 2 other riders still on route; Cedar Kyes of Esker Cycles and his riding buddy left Alpine this morning en route to San Diego where they intend to pull out.

This Sideshow format is in flux; likely to evolve for next year. Stay tuned; I’m sure we’ll come up with even more ways to have fun with it.

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