Saturday, June 14, 2014

America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride 2014

See my Gallery of America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride on Google+ 
Every year since I've had a channel I have been covering Bike The West's signature bicycling event America's Most Beautiful Bike ride; though, over the years I've varied dramatically on how I have chosen to cover it.  By tradition, I always cover the bicycle race on foot to give me a different perspective to the people who cover it on bicycle helmet cams or in a car.  Some years, like my 2013 video, I have done intensive planning to get every last detail of the race according to a plan; while in other years I have gone out with no plan at all with the goal of "seeing what I could find" like I did with random vlogging these events in 2012.    This year I tried to go for a mix of spontenaity and thoroughness to try to capture the best of both worlds.

This year, my only preparation was looking up the times of the race starts and the wagon train - Like in 2012 I deliberately made no plan of what I was going to do after capturing the race start at the Montbleu Resort at 6-8am; so I arrived just as the first heat was gearing up to leave the starting line from the Montbleu Resort and spent the first few starts trying to capture the enormous scale of 3,200 bicyclists all trying to start a race at the same time, before getting a few starting line interviews.

Following my usual custom of going west to capture the bicycles going through South Lake Tahoe I worked my way down Highway 50 from the state line to the traffic sign just before Wildwood Ave.  more or less repeating the middle opening of every previous year's video.  By tradition, I would usually have kept filming as I walked west towards Lakeview Commons and El Dorado Beach, and spent most of the late morning waiting there for the wagon train.

But then I thought to myself: "Wait, wasn't the point of going out with no plan having the freedom to change ideas?  What if I turned around 180 degrees and went East instead?"  The advantages were immediately obvious to my mind: instead of coping with not being able to keep up with an ever-thinning stream of stragglers, I would instead focus on filming my way east along US 50 and hopefully catch the wagon train much earlier in the day against a much prettier natural setting.

So, I put my tripod in my backpack and hoofed it back through Stateline as quick as I could, estimating that, though I was unlikely to see many cyclists on the east side of town at that phase of the race I estimated if I hurried I could catch the wagon train as it passed the natural surroundings of Khale Park.  At the park, I found an advance man for the Wagon Train waiting, who kindly informed me that the train would be a full hour's wait yet at that spot, so I kept going, knowing there were a great many natural settings I could shoot against; I walked to the top of the hill at Round Hill Pines beach, where I figured I could both get some of the first race leaders coming in to the last big grade of the ride and maximize the length of the wagon train parade by shooting it in a naturally slow spot going around the curve just below the top of the hill.  To my great shock I found that some of the bike riders (like the ones pictured above) had already beaten me even then.  I filmed extensively along that hill and then packed up and kept heading east as the bicycles kept whizzing by in small packs too widely separated to be all that compelling on film.

See my Gallery of scenic shots from Marla Bay and Zephyr Cove on Google+ 
As I came to the sound wall at Marla Bay, I decided that the best thing I could do was kill a little time off road until the race got a little thicker, so I detoured down through the wealthy lakeshore enclave to "steal" a few views of their marvelous private beach, and got myself pleasantly lost in the backstreets for a while until I found a place where I could hop the sound wall and get back on the road to Zephyr Cove Resort.

By the time I walked the additional couple of miles to Zephyr Cove, enough time had passed for the scarcity of thick packs of bicycles to no longer be a problem and I was pleased to find that not only was there a beautiful stand-up shot in front of the M.S. Dixie II (which would let me plug the Sternwheeler Races on camera) but also a good opportunity to catch some of the first large groups of bicycles to be passing that spot so early in the race.

By this point my batteries were dying and I was too tired to make it home, so I caught a ride back home to recharge, snapping a few creative shots of the bikes going by out the car window on the way home, where I had lunch and rested until my batteries were charged enough for me to have some chance of capturing the remainder of the race in something like full form.

By the time my batteries were charged and I was ready to go on to shoot my stand-up at Lakeside Inn, the traffic conditions had gotten much worse.  Since the Horizon, where AMBBR had been held every year since I started covering it, had closed for remodeling this year, the finish line had to be across the street at the Montbleu Resort; forcing the entire bicycle race to turn left across two lanes of traffic on US 50 at Lake Parkway.  This caused an enormous (and apparently unforseen) traffic jam from the finish line that backed up well past Lakeside Inn to Khale Dr. and beyond.

Click here for the America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride 2014 gallery if your browser does not support embedded Google+ posts.

Luckily, I was on foot, so I got to the Montbleu much faster than anyone in a motor vehicle possibly could have, even accounting for the fact that I stopped every few hundered yards to film the now thick crowds of bicyclists coming in towards the finish line.

  At the finish line, a celebratory mood permeated the air.  Since America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride is not officially a race, and I had long since missed the very first people to cross the line, I got a great reaction from practically everyone I asked to grant a finish line interview.

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