Sunday, September 28, 2014

4 days across the Sierras

Summary with Links to GPS:

Day 1 - South Lake Tahoe to Topaz Lake - Friday, 9.5.14: (52.42 miles, 3071 feet) Pictures
  • This can be divide into 3 distinct experiences:
    • Near Tahoe - It's an urban ride. The traffic decreases as you move away, but there's some large industrial vehicles you are sharing the road with until you get over Luther Pass. 
    • Over Luther Pass and down into Nevada - Over the top begins the most beautiful section. Peaks surround the high meadows. It's a fast down hill on highways until you get into Nevada. 
    • Nevada's desert floor to Topaz Lake - There was a section of isolated road that turned dirt road, running beside an Indian Reservation. 
  • Overall this is on highway for the most part and those highways are sometimes uncomfortable due to cars, trucks, and the way they drive (fast).
  • The first section of the ride is a Tahoe favorite, but that mostly due to it's accessibility. If you live in Tahoe, either side of the lake, there are limited road-bike options. Luther Pass is one.
  • The town near the Indian Reservation is drier. Bad food options and the feeling of economic desperation. 
  • I stayed at http://www.topazlodge.com/. Highly recommended. Clean, view of the lake, run by hardworking people, it's not the "Bay Area" crowd you'll find there. RV's, Bikers, families and retirees on vacations. 
  • Perfect weather.
  • Tired at the end of the day, but not over done. 
  • 2 biggish climbs on the day.

Day 2 - Lake Topaz to Bear Valley  - Sat, 9.6.14 (53.2 miles, 7,651 feet) Pictures
  • Maximum effort day. One of the hardest days on a bike I've had.
  • There are three significance summits/climbs in order
    • Monitor Pass 9.8 miles, 3,122 vertical (5,192 to 8,314 ft.)
      • If you were doing one of these in day, Monitor Pass would probably be the hardest. Although it's hard to say with one personal data point, including all three on the same day. 
      • Monitor starts with a steady 5-6% taking you through a canyon. When you get to the first opening, there's a range that you can mistake as the top of the Serrias. It's a tall ridge line, but far to close. 
      • There's an nearly empty desert valley to your left. As you climb, the view improves until you're looking back on what you've done in with a little pride. 
      • Around mile 5 of the climb you reach the first of 3 heartbreaking false summits. Nope, that ridge line is not the top. Nor is the next. Since exiting the canyon, It's prescient 6-10% to this point. After the second false summit you get a little grade break, but it's a long way up.
      • It's a beautiful drop from Monitor to Hwy 89/4 split that begins Ebbetts Pass climb. In the distance, to the middle left; you'll have sight of Highlands Peak. You are going over on it's right. Looks big and it's actually bigger. 
    • Ebbetts Pass 13 miles, 2,933 vertical (5,797 to 8,730 ft.) 
      • Ebbetts starts out 3-4/5-10%. There's a lovely river that runs along it. At the 89/4 split, I stopped to pump water and saw a guy pulling out a bigger than expected clean trout. 
      • Don't be fooled by the long lead in put the valley. You are going up. It comes in pitchy kicks. Around mile 28, it goes up hard. Mile 29, I had the first cramp of the day and walked the first section. Yep. More walking will happen.
      • Mile 33.85, I was completely cooked and had to stop and pump water from the stream again. At this point, I'm starting to worry about making and finding a the hotel (with reservations) before bad things happen... like they close for the night or it becomes night.
      • Mile 35 is the summit. RELIEF... you're probably going to make it. At this point, you've got to be careful of pushing to hard or quickly against the pedals. Retaliation will come in the form of cramps running up your calves and hamstrings.  But, I'm happy that this is the top and looking forward to a long downhill.
      • This is the part that really left a mark. It goes down, but there's sections you have to pedal all the way. It's one of those pitchy downhills that doesn't feel down at all when your tired.
      • Then at mile 40, heart break... it starts up again. At this point, I was mad at the road.
    • Pacific Grade Summit  2 miles, 894 vertical (7,157 to 8,051 ft.)
      • Then at mile 42, you're off the bike. It's the steep part of the "Pacific Grade". There's a mile of about 1000 ft that's unridable steep. Even without the rest of effort this day, I don't think I could ride up that on any bike. People were stopping as they went by asking if I wanted a ride and commenting on how a looked "a like ragged".
        •  It's such a small piece on the map, you don't pay attention to it. It just looks like something you can get over quickly. Yeah, I made that mistake.
      • From here's it's more of the near completely downhill until you get to Bear Valley. Luckly after Alpine Lake, it is actually downhill to the finish.
      • It was mostly dark by the time I got in, my light was just about to lose battery, dinner was very bad (there was a hotshot team there) and took forever. 
  • A day so hard and long, it's beyond description.

Day 3 - Bear Valley to Jackson - Sunday, 9.7.14 (69.85 miles, 2,795 feet) Pictures
  • Beautiful Day. Perfect weather with light winds at the top. Super hot (90s++) at the bottom.
  • It's downhill, mercifully after yesterday, for the first 40 miles, but not always downhill. Without that start, it would have been hard to finish 70 miles.
  • The top is tall green trees and light traffic. The bottom is foothills highways. There's some big fast moving cars that aren't used to see bikes... and some of them are a little pissed off about it.
  • At mile 56-63 and 67-69 there are a couple of fairly tough climbs that are hard way to end a 70 mile day.
Day 4 - Jackson to Sacramento Amtak - Monday, 9.8.14: (51.30 miles, 1,063 feet) Pictures
  • It's mostly downhill or flat the whole day. There are a couple of bumps and you are peddling all day and it is almost five hour effort in heat.
  • On these highways (especially the 89 section) there are some large vehicles, driven by people that are not used to seeing a bike... and a little pissed off too. These are people that spend far too much time in their cars/trucks. Worse as you get closer to Rancho Murieta are the people living in the golf course housing developments.... the "gated communities" are a cancer in many ways. Compassion, nor empathy, are not words to describe them. These people of extreme entitlement have lost all connection to world around them.
  • There's a long section of 104 that crosses isolated, rolling, grass lands. When you're not looking out for speeding cars, it's unusual and beautiful.
  • The outskirts of Sacramento are not bike friendly. The downtown is a little better, but not by much... which is a shame for a capitol city.
  • I got lucking, pulling into a Capitol Corridor train 10 mins before it left. Perfect. An interesting and comfortable ride back into the Bay Area. Linking onto BART at Richmond and Caltrain at San Mateo, I could walk off the final train right at home. It was excellent.