Southern Pacific Crest
Denis Kertz, ©2010
My friend Dave
picked me up and drove me to
After checking in
my first priority was to pick up my bike which I had previously shipped via
Amtrak Express so it was waiting for me at the Amtrak Station. The station was downtown and I had previously
used Google Maps to show me it was 5 miles.
If I had arrived a couple hours earlier I would have considered
walking. A taxi didn't seem reasonable
since downtown was about twice as far from the Courtyard as the airport and I
couldn't imagine paying something on the order of $30. Fortunately, the Courtyard was on
The train station was confusing and I had to ask a couple folks how to find the baggage area. As I was wandering around, a conductor was loudly lecturing passengers about rules as a train was about to pull in. Given the ferocity of his lecturing you would have thought his passengers were a bunch of thugs but the conductor did give me good advice. He told me to catch the guy who was unloading the baggage from the train that had just pulled in. Within a few minutes this guy located my bike and delivered it to me. The Amtrak bike boxes are rather flimsy and one end of the box was open but there was no damage. Then all I had to do was attach my pedals and handlebar and I was set to go.
As I was getting my bike ready the train pulled out of the station. Suddenly I was the only person around and the baggage area was closed. I didn't realize it but the station was gated at both ends at the track level and the only way out was through the station. But the baggage guy knew that and he hung around to let me in the station so I could get out. It was only then that I realized how close I had come to not getting my bike today. It wouldn't have been a great disaster if I had to wait until tomorrow but it would have been a bummer.
It was an easy ride
back to the Courtyard heading south on
For last year's
trip I had bought 2 new Continental Top Touring 700x37 tires. The front tire still had plenty of tread but
the rear tire was about half way worn.
So I decided to replace it with a new tire. I did that last Sunday when I rode my bike to
Chicago Union Station to have my bike shipped to
After that I ate at a nearby Subway but it was bad timing. There was a couple ordering ahead of me and they took forever to order, seemingly oblivious to 6 others waiting behind them.
After eating I went about organizing and packing all of my stuff. I also fiddled around with my cyclocomputer and found that the main unit just needed a new battery.
Finally, I got
logged on to the Internet. Earlier I had
tried and my Linux PC couldn't get in.
So I called a tech support number and the guy got me hooked up. That allowed me to do some basic research
on my route tomorrow, a challenging
climb on the
One thing I've
always liked about Courtyard is their breakfast buffet and I took advantage of
it. I expected I was going to need all
the help I could get since I had to climb about 4500' today. I left about 8:20 after finishing my packing
and headed south on
Continuing south, I
could have kept on
After seven miles I
There were a few
scenic viewpoints looking back towards
At the summit there was a full parking lot for the trail that led to the Mt Rose Peak climb. It looked like everybody had decided Labor Day Monday was the day to make this climb. After a few minutes checking out the exhibits in the parking lot area, I took off only to find that the campground was closed. At first I thought they meant it was full but it was shutdown, apparently for reconstruction.
This meant I had no
choice but to continue on to
In town I stopped for a cold drink at a food mart and learned that there were no nearby campgrounds. Riding a little further I found a visitor center where the campground situation was confirmed. I was also told that there was only one motel in town and motel selection was better heading in the opposite direction, which I was in no mood for. The only motel was just ahead and I reluctantly decided to stay there even though it cost $99. I just wasn't sure what I would find or not find if I headed in the opposite direction.
There was a Chinese restaurant not too far away by walking and I picked up a takeout order. It wasn't the greatest but there was a lot of food and that was what I needed. My room was okay but not to the tune of $99 but it did have a nice flat screen TV where I watched the Boise State vs Virginia Tech football game.
I took advantage of the continental breakfast at the motel. I loaded up on cereal, oatmeal, and bread and managed to stuff myself. It didn't hurt that no one else was around to watch this spectacle.
It was a chilly morning so I delayed departure until close to 9:00. I only had about 20 miles to go to my destination – Zephyr Cove – but the wind was supposed to blow about 20 mph so I wanted to avoid that.
The first 5 miles were along the lake with lots of nice views. Then the road veered inward a bit and the lake played peek-a-boo with the trees. The road also started climbing as well. Finally, the road veered totally away from the lake and there was some serious climbing for about 3 miles. All in all, I climbed almost 1,000 feet to the junction with US50. From there US50 descended fairly steeply with a nice shoulder and rejoined the lake front. The rest of the way to Zephyr Cove was fairly easy riding.
I arrived in Zephyr Cove around noon. This was a resort area with a beach at the cove and a large campground. It cost $32 for a walk-in tent site although it was a ride-in site for me. There were only a few tenters so I got a fairly decent site.
There was a restaurant along the road where I had fish and chips that cost almost $20 with tip. Nothing is cheap here except for the free Internet access. After eating I wandered around the area and spent some time at the beach.
It was overcast when I packed up in the morning. As I rode through the campground a guy walking a dog stared in amazement at my bike and load and gave me a thumbs up. I locked my bike up outside the restaurant without thinking and then noticed there were no lights on. The door said opening time was 8:00 am. I wasn't prepared to wait 35 minutes so I moved on. Originally I figured it would be cheaper to find breakfast in town but yesterday I saw this place had all-you-can-eat pancakes for $7. I was pretty sure I could make that a good deal for me.
On my way to town I spotted a grocery store and I found my powered milk for breakfast. I also picked up a paperback for reading. Just before the turnoff to 207 a hotel/casino advertised a $4 breakfast special so I stopped for that. I got 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, and 2 strips of bacon which was barely adequate.
Finally, just after
9:00 I took off. I didn't expect a long
day to my destination,
The summit was at
5987 feet and then, according to a sign, a 9% downhill for 8 miles. I put my jacket back on for the descent. I took my time to enjoy the view. It was also very windy with some gusting
which made it prudent to keep the speed under control. At the bottom I took 88 north to where it
ended at 395 and then took 395 south the rest of the day. 395 immediately took me through
I stopped for a
break in Gardnerville before heading out at noon. Leaving Gardnerville the riding was
difficult. It was very windy with
occasional gusts of wind that wanted to blow me into the traffic lane. Fortunately, it was only a few miles until I
Just past the
turnoff to 208 I had another short climb.
When I crested the climb
In the cafe I got
my first serious inquiry about my trip.
This guy had ridden from
It was a couple miles east along the north end of the lake to the Topaz Lake Campground. The campground was virtually deserted with only 2 other RVs in the campground. It cost $18 for a tent which was no great bargain but at least that included a shower. The bad news was that it was extremely windy with nothing to break the wind coming across the lake. It was almost impossible for one person to erect a tent. I had to stake down 2 ends of my tent first while keeping the ground cloth under the tent. As soon as got the tent erected I dumped my panniers in the tent to provide ballast to hold it down. The good news was that the wind quickly dried out my shorts and jersey after I rinsed them out when I took my shower.
There was a hill just outside the campground that blocked the view of a good part of the lake so I hiked up the modest hill to get a better view. There was a bench on top and that would have been a good place to spend some time enjoying the view on a less windy day. Then I retired to my tent for some respite from the wind.
Sometime around 7pm last night I noticed the wind had eased off and was no longer threatening to blow my tent down. Throughout the night the wind came and went but when it blew it didn't blow as ferociously as it did late in the afternoon. I hoped that was a good sign.
When I woke in the morning the sky was clear and the wind calm. That was a relief. I packed up and rode the 2 miles back to the highway. The last third of a mile was a bear of a climb, steeper than what I had climbed before and its only saving grace was that it was a short climb. I went back to the casino restaurant and had 3 large pancakes so it was a good breakfast.
I left about 8:40
and in a short distance I entered
In a few miles I
passed the turnoff to 89 and
As I was riding along a Porsche with a bicycle on a rooftop carrier came from behind and then slowed right next to me. I assumed the driver wanted to talk to me about my fine cycling form but then he sped up and took off. Maybe he was intimidated. Then about 20 minutes later he returned and this time slowed and asked if I had seen another cyclist and I said no. At that he took off and I never saw him again.
Finally, I reached
the flat Devil's Gate Summit, 7519’, and began an easy descent to
I ate at a small
hamburger place and then rode to the library where I was able to access their
WiFi and take care of email and other miscellaneous. Since I was getting close to
about the different campground locations, I discovered I could get a Sunday
night reservation at Tuolumne Meadows.
That didn't solve my problem of needing 2 nights in the valley but I
figured I better grab that and hope something else came through. This was a real disappointment to be this
I finished my
Internet activities just as the library was closing at 5pm. I rode 2 miles north to the
It was very chilly in the morning at 6500’. My guess is it was close to freezing. I packed up and headed into town for breakfast. I picked the first place I saw, a cafe right at the south edge of town. It looked popular and it proved to be a good choice. It wasn't a large place and it filled up while I was there. I had 3 large pancakes that were very good.
By the time I left around 8:30 it had warmed up enough to be reasonable riding weather with my jacket. This was all familiar territory that I had ridden last year but it was still scenic riding. After 9 miles the climbing started to Conway Summit at 8143’, the highest summit on US395. This was steeper climbing than yesterday and I chugged along at 4-5 mph while taking in the scenery.
When I reached the
summit there was a steep downhill for a half mile or so that was interrupted by
an overlook of Mono
It was still fascinating to read about
Just on the other
side of the lake there was a visitor center that advertised
Buoyed with that more positive outlook I rode into Lee Vining, a small tourist town with a population of about 250 with a number of motels. I stopped at a motel with a coffee shop that provided WiFi access to take another shot at finding a reservation in the valley. This time I got lucky and was able to get 2 nights at the Upper Pines campground. Almost as good, these reservations cost me only $10 with my senior pass. I knew my senior pass would get me into the park for free but I was unaware that I would get 50% off my camping fees. This fortuitous turn of events improved my outlook greatly.
Since today was
Friday and my Tuolumne reservation was for Sunday night, I decided I would camp
some place on the
I could see this
was getting more expensive by the motel.
I decided to ride through town and make sure I matched up each motel
against my list. As luck would have it,
the cheapest place was first and I noticed the office was open. So I inquired about Saturday and was told
they didn't take reservations but they were happy to take my money when I said
I was paying a day in advance for a Saturday night room. So things had improved a couple quantum from
the low point yesterday when it was unclear that I would be able to stay in
At that point I
rode south out of town to pick up the
I waited until 7:00
when the sun started peeking over the mountains to get up. I was in no hurry since I was just going to
ride back to town and take the rest of the day off to rest up for the climb to
I had expected the
I figured I would eat at the bar but the bar was virtually full and folks were drinking. There was an open booth so I claimed that and had a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. There were more folks in this place of some group evidenced by their jerseys. As I was eating a guy asked me if I was doing the Sierra Cascades route and I told him I did most of that last year and was finishing it off this year. He was also a cyclist. Then he told me the group was the Mono E Clampus Vitus group that was dedicated to the historical preservation of this mining area. Every year they erected some monument and this year the monument was the blue tarp covered hunk I saw earlier where the lookout tower used to be. This group was also dedicated to having a good time and they were doing a good job of that.
While I was eating I saw a group of about 10 cyclists taking off on a ride. As I finished my breakfast another group of cyclists was congregated outside where my bike was locked up. So I managed to chat with them a bit before they took off. I told them I would give them a head start and catch up later.
The shortest way
back to town was east to 395 but I chose the scenic route by retracing my ride
from yesterday. This was fairly easy
since the ride was mostly a gradual downhill with a couple short, steep
downhills. I rode past
When I got back in town I found the cycling group I had chatted with earlier. I accused them of cheating since that was the only way they could have beaten me back to town. I learned they were from the Bay Area and were going to be riding around for two weeks and heading down to Bishop in a few days. I retreated to my favorite coffee shop for an hour or so of Internet access.
The one downside to my cheap motel was they didn't open until 4pm so I couldn't check into my room until I got a room key. So I had some time to kill and spent some time in the local library which was part of the local high school and wasn't much of a library. At 3pm I rode back to the motel to wait and someone showed up about 3:15 and I got my key and checked in.
I took advantage of my day off by doing some laundry and some food shopping. I also learned from a poster that tomorrow was the 30th Annual Tioga Pass Run, billed as a 12.4 mile run with only one hill. I wondered how a run would work with traffic since I doubted that the road was very wide. Later I ordered a pizza from a place right across the road and settled in for the night.
I walked to the
nearby restaurant and had 3 large pancakes.
With the big climb to
I picked up 120 to
It was a very scenic but hard climb. Usually you can't see where the climb is going but in this case you could see the road heading uphill along the side of the mountains. It is also often the case that the climb doesn't look that steep even though your legs tell you that it is. This time after about 9 miles there was a great view looking back down and you could see clearly how much climbing was involved.
Near the top I rode
Then up ahead there
was a line of cars and I couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I
realized it was the queue for entrance to
Overall, I finished the climb in just over 3 hours total time and a little less than 3 hours actual riding time at a blistering 4.4 mph with almost 3100 feet of climbing.
From the pass it was a nice 8 mile descent to Tuolomne Meadows, my destination for the day. The road had no shoulder but I really didn't need one since I was moving at a pretty good clip. It was a ride through the pines with the intoxicating pine aroma. Although I had a reservation at the campground, I wouldn't have needed one since a sign said camp sites were available. This campground only allows half of its camp sites to be reserved and the others are first come first served. I got a reasonable site and set up camp with my food, as required, in the bear locker.
Then I took off and
checked out the small visitor center and the store which also had a grill. For the afternoon entertainment I picked a
loop trail that took me to
Descending on the other side of the loop, a side trail took me to the Lembert Dome. The dome was accessible from the east side but the west side was a very steep drop off. It was a great view from the top and well worth the climb. I watched several other climbers head off towards the sheer side and thought maybe there was a way down, which would have led me right back to the parking lot. However, I saw a couple of real rock climbers who said there was no way down. I took their word for it and retraced my route on the side trail.
When the loop trail reached the road, I just walked along the road to get back to my parking lot. At that point I was hungry so I rode back to the grill and had a hamburger and fries for $9. Then I retired to my camp site and ate some more from my personal food supply.
It was a chilly morning but not surprising at 8600 feet. It took a while for the sun to climb over the mountains so I lingered getting up, plus the grill didn't open until 8am. When I got to the grill there was a line extending outside and service took a while. I settled for an egg biscuit sandwich with ham that was pretty decent.
The ride to
After Olmstead Point the ride was along a pine lined road. There were a few short climbs and a steep, nearly 4-mile climb. Outside those climbs the road had to do a lot of descending to lose 4600 feet. On some of the descents I was averaging 30+ mph and almost not impeding and following traffic. The descents were nice because they didn't get out of control and the road was mostly well paved with good sight lines.
At Crane Flat, 120
continued west and I picked up the
When Big Oak Flat
reached the valley floor the road divided into two one-way roads, one on each
side of the
In most parks when
folks are stopped along the road and pointing it's to identify wildlife. In
I rode into the
valley and headed for
After setting up my
tent my first priority was food so I walked to
I started the day with a breakfast buffet. It opened at 7am and there was a line waiting when I got there at 7. I did my best to get my money's worth.
My camp site was
within walking distance of the trail to Vernal and
I lingered for a while at the top since I spent so much effort getting to the top. Then the descent proved to be about as hard as the ascent. I had to be careful with some of the steps which had a layer of sand. The last thing I needed was to slip and twist an ankle, which would be easy to do since my cycling sandals don't provide any ankle support. I was really glad I had started this trip early. On my way down there was a near continuous stream of uphill hikers.
I got back around
12:30. I should have ridden my bicycle
to the trail start because when I got back to camp I just jumped on my bicycle
and rode to the
I rode on to the
With that I decided
at near 3pm my best bet was to head back to the
After that, the next most important thing was food and I had another chicken burrito plus some ice cream from the store. Never mind that it was a pint of Haagen Daz – it was on sale so I had no choice.
At my campsite my
next door neighbors queried me a bit on my trip. They were impressed that I had come up
A strange thing happened last night. A little after 10pm, which was quiet time, someone pulled up next door and had their lights on which woke me up and distracted me. I assumed they were friends of my next door neighbors. However, in the morning I discovered a vehicle parked in my drive and a tent erected on my site. I was flummoxed that someone would be so brazen as to do that. They had to have known that I had the site occupied even though I didn't have a vehicle.
However, I was meeting my friends Jim and Leslie at 10:30 at the Tunnel View today and I didn't have time to decide what I should do about my invaders. I packed up early to make it to the breakfast buffet by 7am. In contrast to yesterday, there was no line and I got right in. That was probably because they had 2 cashiers rather than the single one yesterday. I loaded up and took off a little after 8am.
I figured about an hour and a half to make Tunnel View but I wanted to leave a little more time to check out any sights along the way. The best sight was the morning sun glinting off the granite walls in the valley. There were also a couple deer out for breakfast.
I made it to Tunnel View a little before 10am. Tunnel View is known for its view of the valley including El Capistan and Half Dome. It was a popular spot for others to visit including a couple bus stops. So it was a good place to be stuck waiting. Jim and Leslie were about a half hour late because they got delayed by road construction, the last one right at Tunnel View. Leslie came walking up to the view area while Jim was stuck in the vehicle waiting to able to advance and turn into the parking area.
We unpacked my bike
and loaded the bike sideways in the SUV and took off for Glacier Point. By ferrying me to
Glacier Point was
packed with vehicles and people. And it
was no wonder. The viewpoint was
spectacular from 3,000 feet above the valley floor. The Upper and
Too soon it was time to move on and we drove back to 140 where I loaded up my bike and took off south to Wawona and Jim and Leslie headed back to the valley to spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the valley before heading home.
I felt almost guilty riding the downhill 12 miles to Wawona. I did have to climb 500 feet to Tunnel View in the morning but that was the only difficult part of the day. 140 to Wawona was under construction and it was narrow with no shoulder but going downhill helped me to minimize my impedance on traffic. There was a place where we had to wait a while but once going I was able to keep up with the traffic on the twisting road.
The Wawona campground turned out to be pretty nice. There were several cars at the entrance and it looked like a couple must have gotten turned away without reservations. I got a fairly nice site up on a hill.
After setting up I rode the mile into Wawona to see what was there. I saw a library sign and decided to check it out to see if it had Internet access and it turned out to be difficult to locate. When I did finally find it it was closed even though the library hours said it should have been open. The “downtown” along the road had only store. With nothing of interest I returned to my camp site and settled in for the night, fighting off mosquitoes.
I packed up and rode the mile to Wawona. I figured the grocery store was my only option for breakfast but I discovered the Wawona Hotel which was built in 1876 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The hotel was an old style classic Victorian hotel with wrap around porches. It advertised breakfast so I stopped there. The hotel was a little classier than I was used to and their breakfast buffet at $15.25 reflected that but it was a nice breakfast experience. As usual I loaded up on food.
That was good
because the road climbed right off the bat, about 1,000 feet over 4 miles. That was so enjoyable that I added a couple
more miles of climbing for extra credit.
Okay, I missed the turnoff on 41 heading south out of the
This was followed
by a nice descent until I took the turnoff to
Then just beyond
the lake I noticed I wasn't on Road 222.
So I backtracked just about 1/3 mile and discovered I should have taken
a hard left turn to continue on 222 whereas my map said to take a left at a Y
and the intersection was certainly not a Y.
That got me back on track to
So I rode on and
began what a sign said was a 9% downhill to
After checking in to a pretty nice room, I walked downtown to a Mexican place for a reasonable burrito meal and bought some drink and an ice cream cookie at the grocery store on the way back. Then I had fun trying to connect to the Internet. The coffee shop had WiFi and had 2 versions. Joe gave me the password for the free version but I couldn't get it to work. I suspected there was an issue with upper vs lower case so I tried variations but none worked. So I called Joe and he said he would check on the password. About 30 minutes later he came to my room and signed me up on another network that provided 24 hours access but cost him $10 to do so. I thought that was pretty good service since it looked like my PC wouldn't work with the other network for some reason.
After that, I did
some more work on a work issue that may take a couple more sessions to
complete. Then I did some research on
With that additional info I rested for the night.
There wasn't a real breakfast place in town so I grabbed a egg sandwich from the coffee show below and a muffin, a much smaller breakfast than the breakfast buffets of the last 3 days. It was already fairly warm when I left around 8:45 in contrast to previous days that always started off at least a bit cool.
Today's route was
through the Sierra foothills on different roads with ups and downs. I must have hit the morning rush because
there was a surprising amount of traffic in basically a rural area. I rode Lodge,
The scenery of the
I was really dragging in the morning. All of the climbs seemed to just wear me out and I wasn't sure how far I would make it today. The road around the lake was well above the lake so I passed up the couple opportunities to stop at a grocery store because it would have required a steep descent to the lake level and then a steep ascent to get back to the road. Instead I rode all the way to Piedra and stopped there at almost 1pm. I took a good long break and had my second breakfast and a large cold drink. That seemed to help somewhat.
When I took off
near 2pm, I was supposed to turn on Elwood but I never saw a sign. So I continued on a road that looked like it
had to be the right road since it followed along a river. After riding a while and never seeing a road
sign I became very suspicious when I saw a bike route sign. Then I checked my GPS and could tell I was
well of course. However, I saw I was
headed towards 180 which was called the
The problem was the
missed turn probably cost me about an hour but it was also nice because it was
on the FLATS and it was enjoyable to just be able to cycle away without
dying. It turned out I was on a road
Things were great
until about 6 miles from
Finally, I crested
the hill and coasted about a mile and a half to
Later, I used RideWithGPS.com to compare my actual route with my map’s route and found I did about an extra 15 miles but they were flat miles so my estimate of an extra hour of riding was about right. I also figured I did a little less climbing, but not much, but the climbing was also a little less steep. Still, I’m sure if I had a conscious choice to make I wouldn’t have taken the longer route.
I noticed my rear tire appeared to be low yesterday when I crossed the cattle grates so I pumped it and the front tire up before I left the motel. Then I rode a little over 4 miles up the road to Clingan’s Junction where there was a restaurant open for breakfast. I had the tall stack of 4 pancakes which were fine but more like 3 large pancakes. Today figured to be a hard day with about 5,000 feet of climbing so I wanted all the breakfast energy I could get.
I needed to be
careful today since my route kept me off of 180 as much as possible and I
couldn't afford any routing mistakes like yesterday. Right away I left 180 and picked up
I ground my way up to Pinehurst by 1pm and stopped for a couple of sodas at the bar/store. After a substantial break of at least 30 minutes I picked up 245. 245 was not quite as steep as the other roads and I could have enjoyed it somewhat except for the flies. It did help that 245 had a fair amount of shade to protect me from the warm sun.
My real fear was the flies would be dangerous when I got on to the busier 180. When I reached 180 I was seriously considering whether I should try to hitch a ride. Certainly, if someone had stopped and offered a ride I would have been happy to accept. Nevertheless, I started riding on 180 and battling the buggers. Then mysteriously the flies disappeared. Maybe they can handle only a certain altitude and that got rid of them. In any event it was a great relief to be able to ride the rest of the way without bother.
I stopped at the
park entrance booth to pay my $0 fee using my
After setting up I
rode back to the village and the
I grabbed an expensive burger at the restaurant and then retired to my campsite for the night.
My campground was
at the turnoff to the Grant Tree so when I packed up I headed straight for it
at about 7:30am. It was a mile downhill,
further than I expected but there was only one other car in the parking
lot. The trail around the Grant Tree was
paved so I rode my bike since no one else was around. The Grant Tree is the 2nd largest
tree in the world measured by volume (not by height) and it’s the widest tree
in the world. It was once thought to be
2000 years old but its age is now estimated as 1650 years old. It is named after Ulysses S Grant, the 18th
President of the
I climbed back to
the main road and headed for breakfast.
I had decent pancakes, eggs, and ham with the ham a surprising thick
slab of ham. Afterwards I took a quick
trip through the
The road was narrow
with generally little shoulder but there was little traffic. I stopped at a couple of turnouts and was
rewarded with views of smoke and smog from the
There weren't very many scenic places to stop so I was focused on getting down the road. When I thought the route was relatively flat and would be an easy day I didn't try to predict how far I would make it or want to go. Then when it became obvious this would not be an easy day I wanted to make Lodgepole, a small village with a campground. However, this campground is one of only two in the Kings Canyon/Sequoia area that takes reservations. It normally fills during the summer and weekends in September. I was counting on it not being full on a Sunday evening. Still I wanted to get there reasonably early to make sure I could get a campsite.
The ups and downs continued and I finally made Lodgepole around 2pm and I had no trouble getting a camp site although the campground looked pretty full. After setting up camp I grabbed a bite to eat in the village. Then with some time on my hand the obvious thing to do was to visit the Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in the world by volume and named after the American Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman.
It was a couple
miles down the road with some climbing and then maybe another mile off the road
to a parking area with more climbing. I
was just thankful I was doing this on an unloaded bike. It was a fairly easy walk to the Sherman Tree
which is on the northern edge of the
The way back to camp was almost all downhill. The village had showers available for $3 so I took advantage of that to not only shower but to rinse out my riding clothes for another day of riding. But the grill was closed so I had to eat from my food stash.
It was a fairly
cool morning, somewhere in the 40s, and it was going to take a while for the
sun to come over the mountains blocking the sun from my campsite. So I packed up and rode the half mile or so
When I left the
campground I retraced my route yesterday to the Sherman Tree parking lot
turnoff so I had a little climbing to do.
At that point I entered the
After the initial climbing, I basically had to lose about 4,000 feet to leave the park and some more elevation loss after that. However, there was some road construction and I had to wait at one point for about 45 minutes to get through. The road was shut down in that area for all traffic and traffic was let through one-way once at the beginning of each hour. While waiting I talked to the traffic controller guy to make sure I would be okay on a bicycle (which I was because it was all downhill). I had seen a small black bear just before the stop area so I asked him about bears. He said he usually sees 6-7 bears each day. Turns out there were a lot of berries along the road and the bears were gearing up for the winter. Then a few minutes later we saw a bear up the road above us. He was just ambling along the road side until a vehicle came along and scared him into the bush.
The section where the road construction was underway was very twisty and winding. I followed the pace car and had no trouble keeping up since he went very slowly. However, I had to use my brakes constantly to keep my speed under control. When the pace car turned off, I pulled off to let all the vehicles behind me pass. Then I stopped a couple of times on the way down to make sure my rims didn't get too hot from braking.
With almost all
downhill riding, I cruised into Three Rivers, named for the 3 forks of the
Lemon Cove wasn't a
great destination but there weren't really any other camping options. The traffic controller guy had suggested
Shortly after the lake I stopped at a food mart at the intersection of 198 and 216 where I met a retired park ranger with a long gray beard. He asked a lot of questions and I got a little worried when he started asking about how much my bike and panniers cost. I think he would have talked forever but I finally begged off to get something to drink. While I was in the store he got distracted by a gas customer and I was able to make my getaway.
Just a couple miles down the road was Lemon Cove, a rural town of 300 surrounded by cattle ranches and citrus groves. Not quite a mile south of town was a private campground where I got a site for $15 which wasn't too bad. One good thing was its little store had used paperbacks. I was almost finished with my current paperback and needed to get something else so used paperbacks were just the ticket.
After setting up my tent I rode back to town for some chimichangas at the store which were pretty decent. Then the store had some ice cream bars that were 2 for $1 which would have been senseless to pass up so I didn't. One was a coconut bar and the other a cookies and cream bar. Both were very good but a little messy leaving my hands sticky.
Back at camp I worked on my bike. Earlier in the day I noticed that my rear tire seemed a little soft and it was when I tested the pressure with my fingers. Having only pumped it up a couple days ago it had at least a slow leak. While I was messing with the bike I first cleaned my chain, figuring I was going to get dirty hands any way. Then I took the rear tube to the men's restroom and stopped up one of the wash basins to test for the leak. I found one leak that was very slow, maybe a bubble every 5-10 seconds and then I found another nearby that was about every second. I debated tossing the tube but then decided to patch the more substantial leak and see how that worked.
After my maintenance work was complete, I showered and used the WiFi for Internet access. The store/Laundromat was closed but there was a concrete patio with an outdoor electrical outlet that worked just fine.
Being about 6000 feet lower than the last couple of nights it was somewhat warmer sleeping and I never zipped up my sleeping bag. In the morning I rode back to town for milk for my cereal breakfast since there wasn't any breakfast place around,
I rode another 5
miles south on 198 which had a good shoulder but a lot of noisy traffic. Then I turned on to
When I made it to
the top I had to take it easy going down because the road was a little rough in
places. I also had to turn on
actually off route about a mile but I needed a break because I had another 3000
feet of climbing to
When I took off it
was almost 2pm. The full climb ahead of
me was about 6000 feet and
started okay on 190 winding its way along the contours of the mountain. The early part followed the
A little further
the road crossed over a small hydroelectric facility and climbed steeply for
several miles. Then things got really ugly with the Return
of the Flies II. Earlier there were one
or two flies that were pestering me and they were easy to deal with. Then the flies called in for reinforcements
and I started battling hoards of flies, worse than the climb to
Interestingly, when I stopped for a break the flies seemed to take a break too. Maybe they thought that was only fair or that I was more potent with 2 arms free to ward them off. But after I started riding they would find me again. It was really annoying to have these hoards buzzing around my face. The best thing would have been to out run them but that was impossible when I could only climb at 3-4 mph. A few times the climb relented and I was able to pick up a little speed and leave the buggers behind but that was only for a few short stretches.
I knew when I
started this climb near 2pm that it would be a 3-4 hour climb. I finally reached civilization near
I rode another mile and took the turnoff to the campground. Shortly there was a store where I stopped again. I thought I would pick up some sandwiches since the previous store didn't have anything but this one didn't either. So I bought another 32 oz Gatorade, drank half of it and saved the rest for later.
Then the ups and downs to the campground turned out to be mostly ups, with one short but very steep climb. At least returning in the morning would be easier.
By the time I got to the campground I didn't care how good it was. I didn't investigate and picked one of the first sites I saw, set up, ate, and crashed for the night. Nearly 6,000 feet of climbing made for a hard day and the flies made it miserable for several hours.
With a big climb
ahead of me I wanted to get a good breakfast but the cafe didn't open until 9
so I didn't hurry packing up. Yesterday
my rear tire went low in the afternoon and pumping it up got me to
When I got to Mo's Diner a little past 8:30 I found the door unlocked so I walked in and got served. The 9am opening time was the winter time scheduled to start next week so the place had opened at 8am. I had 3 pancakes and an order of bacon and the bacon was 4 real slices of bacon.
I left about 9:15 and immediately started climbing. I had about 10 miles and about 3000 feet of climbing so I figured a minimum of 3 hours, perhaps 4. It was cloudy and that helped to keep it cool and helped the climbing but the low clouds hid the views. My elevation profile showed a constant grade for the climb so I was surprised that the climbing seemed easier than yesterday. Perhaps the overnight rest worked its magic. I ended up climbing to the summit in a little less than 2.5 hours without taking a break.
On the climb up a
guy in a SUV pulled over into a turnout and as I approached he stuck his head
out the window and turned to me and said “Do you do this every day?”. He said he saw me climbing yesterday and I
told him I had only made it to
As I neared the summit the sun started coming out. Just over the summit I stopped at a store/restaurant in Ponderosa. I wanted to get milk for a cereal breakfast but they were out of milk. They had some chicken gumbo soup that looked good so I had a bowl of that and rested.
Despite the cool weather with the clouds blocking the sun I had sweated and I was a little uncomfortable and a little chilled. The downhill run and a little sun helped to dry me out and make me comfortable. I also saw and smelled some more forest fire smoke but it never bothered me.
I rode 190 up to
the summit and then the road became the
A few miles later I
crossed over the Kern River and followed it the rest of the way to
I stopped at a
little motel/store place for a break and a bite to eat. Then I pretty much coasted the rest of the
way to Kernville, the first of 3 towns along the lake. In Kernville I took the main road through
town that became Burlando and that took me to
A particular highlight of the day was virtually no flies. I guess flies are not morning people and it was actually a reasonably pleasant climb to the summit without the bother of flies. There was a short stretch descending to Johnsondale where the flies tried to make a comeback but it was a breezy day and I was too fast going downhill so they could only make a token effort.
I got up early because I had a long day ahead of me. Unfortunately, there was no place, either camping or motel, to stay between Lake Isabella and Golden Hills, a distance of about 60 miles with LOTS of climbing. So I didn't have the luxury of dallying around.
I was packed and on
the road the 4 miles to the town of
I arrived in town and there was a cafe right on the corner of the main intersection. I had 3 pretty good pancakes. Then since there was the possibility I might not make the next town today I stopped for a few extra groceries just in case. When I pulled out my credit card to pay I noticed my Chase bank ATM card was missing. I could only guess that I had left it at the credit union ATM in Three Rivers a few days ago. That was the last time I used it and know I had it. If I hadn't been crunched for time as it was I would have called it in but I figured someone had already managed to get whatever cash they could from it if they were the dishonest type or had turned it into someone and reported it. So I figured it could wait until the evening.
I headed south out
of town at 8:30. I had 3 summits to
climb right off the bat and I started climbing the first one right away to get
out of the valley. It was a steep climb
with several switchbacks which afforded some nice views of
The second summit was a steep climb but not quite as much altitude gain. However, this summit held a surprise for me – food and drink. I was unaware of any access to food/drink until near the end of the day so this was a welcome surprise, looking like a mirage at first. I arrived at the summit around 11 which was perfect timing for my second breakfast. Since it would be a while until I could get more drink I scarfed down a Gatorade for good measure. I also wanted to top off one of my water bottles but the place had a problem with their plumbing. So the proprietress opened a gallon water jug for me, which was pretty good service.
Then I descended into a basin for a little bit of flat riding before climbing the third summit. This one had a steep part but it almost flattened out near the top so it was the easiest of the three. Descending was another story. It was about a 3000 foot descent but the hills were very steep. So the road had to follow the contours of the hills and gradually make its way in a curvy, twisty way to the bottom. I had to pretty much ride my brakes the whole way because I couldn't turn the bike loose.
In short order I
approached the town of
Just as I reached
Caliente there was a railroad crossing that was blocked by an oncoming
train. I expected the train to pass on
to the east but then I noticed it curved around and made a big U turn. That's when I thought this was part of the
Tehachapi Loop, a famous railroad design to allow trains to make it up to the
After the railroad
crossing I made a right turn at but away from
For a ways my route
followed the train route. Then I
switched back on
When I left SR58 I
stopped at the store at
I continued a
fairly steep climb on the
At that point I had 5 more miles and about 600 more feet to climb. I finished the climb and descended into Golden Hills a little before 6pm. I found the Golden Hills Motel right along the road but when I stopped I wasn't sure it was still in business. It had a twisted decrepit sign that suggested it was closed and nothing suggested it was open. I almost continued on but figured I might as well check and found the office door was unlocked and someone responded to my entry.
I got a decent room for $45. The downside of this motel was it wasn't near any food places so I ordered out for pizza delivery. I managed to reward my body with a medium meat lover's pizza and 2 liters of coke. That seemed like the least I could do for the yeoman work my body had done for the day.
Then surprise of all surprises. I was sure this place wouldn't have WiFi but I found a WiFi signal when I checked. I did have to get a password from the office but I was happy to do that. Then I settled in for an evening of getting caught up on personal and work after being disconnected for a couple days.
One of the things I did was call Chase Bank and have them cancel my ATM card. I checked my accounts and nothing was amiss so no harm no foul other than the inconvenience of not having an ATM card. I discussed my options with Chase. I thought I could use my Chase VISA card for ATM withdrawals but I was told I couldn’t because I hadn't set it up with a PIN and supposedly I couldn't do that from the road. So I decided to sleep on this.
Surprisingly, I didn't sleep very well. I didn't get to bed until 11pm and with the long, hard day and comfortable bed I thought I would sleep very well but that was not the case. Eventually I wandered off to sleep but I got up several times to hydrate myself by drinking water although the water at the motel had a funny taste.
When I got up in
the morning I called Chase back and decided to arrange to have them ship a new
ATM card to a Chase branch location. I
thought that would be easy but then realized it was Friday and 2 business day
delivery put delivery at next Tuesday. I
wasn't sure where I would be then so I arranged to have it delivered to a Chase
branch location in
I left the motel and rode to downtown Tehachapi for breakfast. I found a place but when I was inside I discovered I didn't have my waist pouch with my money and valuables. I raced outside to my locked bike and didn't see the pouch in my pannier. About to have a major heart attack, I went inside again to look around to see if I could have misplaced the pouch. Nothing. With considerable dread I went outside to my bike again and with great relief found my pouch lying on top of my sleeping bag on my rear rack. Apparently when I was in the process of locking the bike I first retrieved the pouch and placed it on my sleeping bag and then retrieved my cable lock and locked the bike. Then I must have just walked inside forgetting that my pouch was still lying on top of my sleeping bag. That was a very nervous few minutes that I didn't need.
I had a decent
breakfast and then rode east to pick up the
Compared to other
climbs the climb to the ridge wasn't that hard, gaining maybe a thousand
feet. That led to a long descent, initially
very fast and then moderately fast as the downhill tapered off. This descent led a transition into the desert
It was easy
pedaling for much of the way and there were a couple of mini markets along the
way to provide a cold drink. Eventually
the road's name changed to
At that point I needed some better directions since I hadn't done my homework at the motel while I was connected to the Internet. I stopped at a LA county library with WiFi but couldn't use it since I didn't have a library card. However, the librarian decided to let me use her card number and password and I was able to research the two areas I wanted.
First, I wanted to find where the nearest Chase branch location was. I wasn't totally satisfied with the answer I got from Chase in the morning so I wanted to stop at a branch location and simply ask them if they could issue me a replacement ATM card. As luck would have it, there was a branch location right along my route. The other information I needed was where the motels were. This area was congested with the Palmdale and Lancaster cities and the motels were also near my route.
First I stopped at
the Chase branch location and was told they could issue a temporary ATM
card. I was hopeful but reserved and
then they discovered what I was told on the phone – that it couldn't be done
because the issuing state (CA) was not the home state (IL). At least I satisfied myself that I wasn't
being misled. And while I was there I
withdrew some cash to tide me over until I hopefully got a replacement card in
Then I continued on to the motel area. There were some expensive motels in the area but there was also a Motel 6 and an EZ-8 and I chose the latter for a room of $40. However, WiFi access was $5 extra so that somewhat mitigated the attractive price.
After a reasonable
lasagna dinner at a diner across the street that was more filling than I needed
after last night's pizza extravaganza I started researching tomorrow's
route. Tomorrow I was leaving the
Pacific Crest Trail route in favor of riding through Joshua Tree National Park
and on to
Today was a relatively easy day. Once the initial climb over the ridge east of Tehachapi was done it was easy pedaling although very warm.
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2010. All rights reserved.