California Expeditions Gives Auburn a Lift
Meet Thomas McGrady, owner and operator of California Expeditions, along with his trusty assistant, Cali.
"She's a crucial part of the business," McGrady said of the Jack Russell-Doxie.
Together the duo is making the American River Canyon more accessible to the people who love to spend time there.
The canyon -- with its rushing water, wild life and red trails lined with manzanita and evergreens -- is one of Auburn's greatest features, as evidenced by the number of cars parked along the road at the confluence on a Saturday morning. There are so many people visiting the canyon on a weekend that sometimes finding a parking spot can be tricky.
McGrady and Cali hope California Expeditions shuttle service will help solve the problem of where to park. You'll find their long white van and blue trailer parked near the ranger kiosk at Stage Coach Trail at the top of every hour, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, March to November.
McGrady is able to shuttle as many as 14 people as well as their mountain bikes in a loop from the confluence to several trailheads, the Raley's parking lot on Lincoln Way, or "your favorite bike shop."
Not only does the shuttle service improve parking in the area, it offers mountain bikers a quick and easy way to get to the top of the mountain, which they appreciate as cycling is one of those few times when everything going downhill is a good thing.
McGrady, who grew up in Cool and studied business at Chico State said he had the idea while working in New Zealand.
"New Zealand has a lot of really great bike towns where the economy has flourished because the community worked together to (welcome bikers)."
He realized that's exactly what Auburn needed to do.
"I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, 'Someone needs to start a shuttle service in Auburn,'" McGrady said. "And then I thought, 'Why does it have to be someone? Why can't it be me?'"
Two weeks later McGrady had a business plan and a one-way ticket back to California.
The 30-year-old always thought he'd work in an office, but from the time he was 16 he had a passion for mountain biking and being outdoors.
"I always have a million ideas bouncing around in my brain," McGrady said. "When I'm on a mountain bike they decide to organize themselves, and I'm way more productive afterward."
Recently, some of those ideas have included leading group mountain biking excursions and partnering with other tourism businesses.
On April first, McGrady received the call that his permit had been approved, and business has been steady since then. Some days are busier than others, but two recent conversations have proven to McGrady that he's made the right choice.
The first conversation was with a dad who was thrilled that his nine-year-old was able to go on two quality downhill rides with him, rides that his son never would have accomplished if he'd had to make the monster climb uphill.
The second conversation was with a mountain biker from Santa Cruz who'd seen McGrady's website and called to make a shuttle reservation and ask for a hotel recommendation.
"I hung up the phone and said 'Holy smokes! Auburn is becoming a destination and not just a place people pass on the way to Tahoe.'"
If you'd like more information about California Expeditions, call 530.863.3919 or visit the website.