Too much heat, not enough shoulder

August 9, 2019

Jeff dropped me off at the top of Lassen Pass today. He’d offered me a ride up there, and I was happy to skip the 2000’ climb on narrow winding roads on cliff sides, battling RVs for space. I took the very twisty downhill fairly slow because my head was in a fog. I stopped to look at some bubbling mud pits and other interesting volcanic features.

I didn’t feel all that great and wanted to cut the day super short, but I kept riding. Lots of little hills and two big hills made the general downhill feel like a general uphill. I wasn’t totally stoked, and bonked hard right near Canyon Dam and stopped at a questionable hot dog stand for food. The calories made me feel better and I kept moving forward to more downhill that felt like uphill. After some towns and ranches, a windy downhill took me into a beautiful canyon. A semi was tailgating me in the road, and I crossed into a pullout on the other side of the road to let it pass.

I rounded a few more corners, and to my amazement I saw Jeff and Sharon examining a map on the side of the road. We were so happy to run into each other and spent the rest of the day riding together. I was tired, but willing to keep going with company. My knees started hurting a bit but I kept riding. We rolled into Quincy and I ate a foot long sub in a sitting. That night we camped at some really nice fairgrounds. Today was my biggest mileage day yet, 83 miles.

August 10, 2019

I took off ahead of Jeff and Sharon this morning to beat the heat going up Lee Summit. The climb was considerable and my saddle sore was painful, but in the end it was fine. Twenty-something miles took me to Graeagle, an adorable mountain biking town. I stopped at a coffee shop for a cappuccino and chocolate pecan pie. Next I headed over to an ice cream shop and the owner gave me an affogato on the house because he was excited about my trip. The young guy at the gas station was also excited and I told him what to look at to get started with bike touring.

Affogato: ice cream with a shot of espresso

After Graeagle, dark clouds started building and I was fighting a strong headwind and crosswind. One more big hill through an unnamed pass, and a nice down took me into a valley. I pedaled along the valley, clouds still threatening above until one finally broke and dumped on me for a few minutes. About 15 miles from Sierraville, my knees started shooting with pain and I cycled as gently as I could into town. I had lunch at a Mexican joint and another cloud dumped rain. Thankfully, the weather was moving out pretty fast, and I very gingerly cycled to Sierra Hot Springs just a few miles away, paying close attention to my knee pain.

I set up camp near the springs and hopped into one nearby for a soak. Jeff and Sharon rolled in a few hours later. They’d gotten hailed on! Not a great weather day. I found a salad bar at the cafe on the property, and was delighted to eat a giant plate of veggies.

August 11, 2019

I had breakfast with Jeff and Sharon this morning. I was staying another day at the Springs to rest my knees. They were taking off today. After they left, I spent the morning talking with Arena, a mountain biker I’d met yesterday. There was no sense of urgency today, a nice change of pace. I went to the cafe downstairs and feasted on another large salad. Appetite temporarily sufficed, I walked over to the main soaking pool. Everyone was naked, so I joined them. A man swam over and asked me out to dinner, which was extremely awkward considering we were both naked. A few other dudes felt a need to talk to me about vibrational healing and submarines disappearing into different universes, so I left to the medication pool, where talking is prohibited.

After a good soak and a shower, I cooked dinner and chatted into the night with Arena over dessert. 

August 12, 2019

Arena made me breakfast this morning and we  went to the hot pools for one last dip. She drove me to the top of the hill (my knees were thankful), and we hugged goodbye. 

Testy drivers and no shoulder kept me looking at my rear view mirror. Classic 89. I found a bike path at the edge of town and made my way to a local grocery for lunch. I ran into Arena walking out and we said goodbye all over again. I really liked the feel of Truckee, and I’d love to come back in the winter.

On the way out of Truckee, I ran into a bike tourist who’s been riding for two years. Pretty impressive! He looked weathered.

A headwind slowed me down, but the hill up to Tahoe was relaxed for a hill. A bike path took me along the Truckee River for several miles, and the water invited me to jump in. I had to say yes, and I felt like a new person after the dip. The bike lane turned once it reached the shores of Lake Tahoe. I was quite impressed at how beautiful and long the path was. Way to go, Tahoe! Cycling is way more fun when you don’t have to worry about cars.

I rented a kayak for an hour and paddled out into the deep blue with my bag of snacks. I soaked in the sun and munched on little cracker sandwiches layered with apricots and cheese. Still hungry, I stopped at a general store for dinner and rode up a heartbreakingly steep hill to camp. I struggled mentally and physically up that hill, and fast moving traffic didn’t help. I turned into DL Bliss State Park, camp for the night, and spotted Sharon and Jeff’s bikes. Reunited again! We ate pie and fell asleep by 9:30.

August 13, 2019

I hiked to a view point over the lake this morning before heading out.

With Sharon at an overlook over Lake Tahoe

The roads were busy with RVs and gawking tourists, so I kept a close eye on my back mirror for safety. A nice downhill spit me onto a bike bike path and I was happy to take that into South Lake Tahoe. The town was a lot less ritzy than the rest of Tahoe. I rode into a coffee shop in an old strip mall, expecting a way different scene. It was a nice shop regardless, and the baristas told me to grab poke at the butcher across the way. The butchers storefront didn’t look all that great, but I walked in and was delighted to find that it was a lovely place with really great food. I ate my tuna on the sidewalk of the strip mall. A sketchy looking dude in a wife beater walked by and I found myself feeling indifferent. This reaction was a milestone for me, because just a month ago I would have felt unsafe and unsettled somewhere like this. I’ve felt a lot less scared these past few days.

A bit more bike path to the town of Meyer, and then I turned off on a side road to cycle up Luther Pass (I call it Lucifer Pass). The road was lined with second homes, then it thinned into a steep one-lane road that wove through the woods. I rode past a lovely campground and popped out on the 89, finishing the uphill on a tiny shoulder. I rode half the downhill and stopped at a coffee shop for marionberry pie and ice cream. Jeff and Sharon caught up to me and we took the rest of the down together. I hit my fastest speed yet at 48 mph. Not too far from camp, there was a convenience store and I grabbed chips and salsa to share post-ride.

One more hill, then we turned off into camp and tore into the chips and salsa. Jeff and I cooked dinner together, and the three of us feasted on sausages and veggies.

August 14, 2019

I was out of camp before Jeff and Sharon were even out of their tent this morning, getting an early start in anticipation of blistering heat and two passes. 

A road cyclist caught up to me quickly and cycled by for a few minutes, asking about my trip. Apparently, Monitor Pass was a tough one. He left me with the words, “you’re strong, you go, girl!”, and I felt ready to tackle the pass. Not a great shoulder, but very light traffic and stunning views. The first few miles were rideable, but then the road got unbelievably steep.

A different cyclist rode up behind me and promised me the angle let up in less than a mile. I walked and rode the bike until I reached a meadow, views getting more beautiful the more I rose in elevation. A car stopped and two retirees cheered me on. At summit, I smooshed a lemon bar in my face and hopped back on the bike, trying to escape the flies.

The downhill was out of this world. I was really high up, higher than anything else around, and I could see peaks, valleys, streams, crags… everything below me. The road hairpined down and I was drunk with joy from this epic landscape. I popped out into the 395, excited to be done with the non-existent shoulders of the 89 forever.

The valley temperatures were rising and I stopped for a quick burger in Walker. High of 103 today and it was around noon already. I had to get the heck out of here and move into the cooler temperatures of higher elevations.

I started up Devil’s Gate Pass, sweating profusely. I kept myself fed and hydrated, but my legs turned to jello and I found myself walking my bike up the hill. Miles passed by slowly and I wasn’t feeling great in the heat. I had to keep stopping in the shade of trees to cool off for a sec, then kept walking up. A mom pulled over and offered me a ride. She dropped me off a few miles up at the summit and I rode into Bridgeport. The down into the valley was even more beautiful than the one this morning, and I cried tears of joy, mooed at nearby cows, and cheered out loud. Big, snow-capped mountains surrounded the valley.

I stopped at a brewery in Bridgeport for a beer, then I put down a bag of kettle chips and an ice cream bar for first dinner. I cycled to nearby Travertine Hot Spring up a dirt road and my thighs were screaming at me to stop. It was way too hot to get in the springs, but I walked around and enjoyed the beauty of the area.

Once it cooled off, I lethargically cranked out 5 more miles to an RV campground. Annie, the host, gave me everything I needed for a nice shower and I did laundry for the first time since Ashland in southern Oregon.