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Cycling To and Around Lake Tahoe, August 10 – 13, 2005
from Joe Shami
We cycled to Lake Tahoe in three days from Castro Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area – five of us did (three men and two women) – and then on the fourth day, cycled completely around the popular lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains between California and Nevada.
Shortly after the beginning of the third day, Friday, we were joined by another member (male) of our cycling club, and on the fourth day, Saturday, by six additional members (four men and two women); so there were 12 of us cycling the 72 miles around the lake on Saturday. Throughout the trip, we were supported by a non-cycling club member in a SAG (Support and Gear) “wagon,” and on the final day, by a second SAG wagon, driven by one of the wives, accompanied by two children.
The cycling club at that time was called the Royal Ground Velo Raptors of Montclair Village, Oakland, CA. For the past five years, it has been an informal, unnamed cycling and social group that meets at the Royal Ground Coffee House in Montclair. Last month, it was formally incorporated and now has its own identifying red-and-white club jersey with an artist’s rendition of a cycling dinosaur on the front, which aptly represents me (at age 71). However, most of the others are almost 20 years younger. (Incidentally, there are separate male and female representations of the dinosaur, since the female uses makeup.)
The tour can be described as follows:
Day 1 – Castro Valley (elev. 269’, south of Oakland) to Ione, CA (elev. 315’ in the Sierra Foothills “gold country”): 128 miles with 3,835 ft. of climbing in temperatures as high as 102 degrees F.
Day 2 – Ione to Kirkwood, CA (elev. 7800’, a ski area in the Sierra Nevadas) via the Shenandoah Valley and the Mormon Emigrant Trail: 79 miles with 10,275 ft. of climbing in brutally HOT temperatures.
Day 3 – Kirkwood to Kings Beach, CA (elev. 6375’ on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe): 72 miles with 3,927 ft. of climbing in relatively moderate temperatures.
Day 4 – Kings Beach to Kings Beach, around Lake Tahoe: 72 miles with 3,300 ft of climbing in pleasant temperatures, except very warm at the end.
Grand Total: 351 miles with 21,437 feet of climbing in four days.
We arrived home by automobile on the fifth day, Sunday. Five of the twelve cyclists elected to go kayaking on Lake Tahoe on Sunday before driving home, but not me.
The first three days’ cycling were organized and led by club member Kevin McTighe, the same leader as in my two Yosemite stories of 2004 and 2005 and last year’s Fall Colors Tour. The participants for the entire four days were (alphabetically): Brent F., Joe S. (myself), Kevin M., Miss Linda G., and Teri J. Our SAG driver was Leslie M. Except for Brent, all of us had cycled together many times before and had completed the three above-mentioned tours with Kevin. Brent did his first ascent of Mt. Diablo with our group two years ago and had separately completed progressively harder centuries since then. Joining for the third and fourth days was Greg T., a strong cyclist three years younger than me.
Joining on the fourth day for this year’s annual “circumcycle” around the lake were: Dennis C. (organizer), Valerie H., Steve and Deborah K., Dale P., and Peter S. Our second SAG driver was Jeanne P., wife of Dale.
Not cycling this year but making their cabins at Lake Tahoe available were Ron and Chris S. and Myles L. Thanks also to Dale and Jeanne P. and to Peter S. for making their cabins available too.
DAY 1, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10 – CASTRO VALLEY TO IONE
With excitement as well as some concern as to what had I gotten myself into, I rose at 2:30 a.m., because I needed to complete my packing, and we were due at Kevin’s house in Castro Valley at 5:30 a.m., a 45-minute drive from my house.
The little dog across the street from Kevin began barking endlessly when I arrived exactly on time, as it had done before our Yosemite trip, despite my attempts to be very quiet. Everyone else was already there or parking near me. Even Steve and Deborah K. showed up to send us off, though they would not be cycling with us until Saturday; they had traveled from Montclair at such an early hour just to see us off. (They would be starting their own trip to Tahoe the same day with their kayak and two recumbent bikes, planning to relax, read, and paddle the kayak on the lake through Friday; then they would join us in cycling around it on Saturday and go kayaking some more on Sunday.)
After loading our luggage into Leslie’s SAG wagon, we five cyclists left Kevin’s house (elev. 269’) at about 6:20 a.m. in cold fog that required wearing a rain shell.
Castro Valley to San Ramon, Livermore, Tracy
Along with the fast, early commute traffic, we climbed Crow Canyon Rd out of Castro Valley and then Norris Canyon Rd in San Ramon, staying together. Norris Canyon turned out to be the longest steep climb and highest altitude (elev. 974’) of the day. I was fortunate to be fresh when I labored up it. (I thought about the cyclists in the Devil Mountain Double Century, which I’ve never attempted, who climbed this at the end of 200 miles!)
Afterward, there were three smaller climbs somewhere on Alcosta/Crow Canyon/Camino Tassajara/Highland/Manning/etc. before we reached our first rest stop at a gas station on Vasco Rd in Livermore (elev. 500’) just before the Altamont Pass, having come 30.8 miles. Leslie in the SAG wagon was there. We left at 9:38 a.m., climbing the Altamont Pass (elev. 735’), and enjoyed the steep descent afterward into the flat San Joaquin Valley (elev. 30’) at Tracy. Kevin got a puncture at 50 miles in Tracy while leading us on Grant Line Rd. We waited while he fixed it. The day was already beginning to get hot.
Tracy to Lathrop
Now Kevin’s knowledge of the area was invaluable because he knew of a short, overgrown bike path, not on my maps, that would enable us to get easily from Tracy to Lathrop, passing under I-205. To reach it, we turned left onto W. Berry Ave from Grant Line Rd – there was no street sign at the corner — and then took a dead-end street called W. Canal Blvd. This led to the overgrown, narrow asphalt path that was there to service some kind of utility, such as a buried cable or pipeline. It enabled us to connect with the end of S. Manthey Rd, Lathrop, a frontage road for I-205, and to take that road beside I-205W into Lathrop.
While innocently waiting for us by the side of S. Manthey road in her black SUV, Leslie was challenged by a female sheriff who called for backup before interrogating her. Poor Leslie was a bit traumatized by the incident. We speculated that this might be a drug-dealing area where she was waiting. We had lunch immediately afterward in the parking lot of a gas station on E. Louise Ave, Lathrop, a rather un-scenic area with traffic flowing all around us. And it was terribly hot! We had come about 55 miles.
Lathrop to Manteca and Linden
After about eight miles on uninteresting Louise Ave heading east and passing over State Route (SR) 99 in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, we turned left onto Jack Tone Rd, Manteca, and traveled north for 11 miles. This was an extremely busy two-lane road with a narrow shoulder that came and went and with lots of heavy truck traffic related to farming activity. Cycling on this busy road made me realize how much we depend on truck traffic for agriculture and how the increases in the price of diesel fuel will impact the entire economy.
All the others were ahead of me and out of sight, except for Miss Linda, who was visible in my sideview mirror. We turned right on Copperopolis, left on Milton, and left on Duncan, passing by walnut and almond orchards and an owner’s lovely house with scores of beautiful rose bushes to reach SR-26.
Our next formal rest stop was at 80 miles at a nice supermarket in Linden at SR-26 and Duncan that had a couple of attractive round picnic tables under umbrellas in a corner of the parking lot. Leslie bought roast beef, turkey, and ham, as well as Havarti (Danish) cheese and peppercini and rolled us “sandwiches” without bread (i.e., “wraps”), made of some or all of those ingredients. They were delicious and really hit the spot, along with a Pepsi! It was 102 degrees. We spent about 15 minutes there around 4 p.m. We were about two hours behind Kevin’s schedule but no-one cared, and I didn’t even know it, because that part of the route sheet wasn’t visible in my map case.
Linden to Valley Springs
When we resumed, heading east, the traffic on SR-26 was extremely heavy with all sorts of large, wide trucks with trailers, and there was no shoulder. Also, it was rush hour, and people were rushing home to Valley Springs, the next town. After three miles, we were more than happy to leave SR-26 for a somewhat parallel road called Shelton that was close to the Calaveras River and had lots of old, mature trees and nut orchards and very much less traffic. I remember relaxing in this stretch for the first time in many miles and finding the scenery attractive for one of the few times since the Bay Area. I also remember our faithful SAG wagon being stopped in a pleasant shady spot by a walnut orchard and Leslie filling my water bottle with ice and water there with all of us gathered around.
Eventually, we got to Milton Rd, Valley Springs, which took us eastward to a district called Jenny Lind, and from there we picked up the beginning of a lengthy, northbound residential street named Baldwin St., which had a lot of speeding traffic, including trucks, because it was a through street. We were on it for three miles, climbing all the time except for two short downhills, with a high point of 666 ft. The homes were modest with no outside landscaping but fairly large lots. A very large number of these homes were up for sale on the busy, noisy street, and much new construction was taking place. Valley Springs is booming! Local residents were arriving home from work at 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.
It was extremely hot! I was definitely the slowest in climbing the hills. I was in my ultra-low gear (30/29), just spinning away but at a reasonable heart rate. When I reached the intersection at Hartvickson Lane where we were to turn right, I found the rest of the group sitting in the weeds by the SAG wagon, taking an unscheduled break for food and drink at 97 miles.
From our seated viewpoint, we were looking up a very steep hill on Hartvickson Lane that we would have to climb once we restarted. Much of the traffic from Baldwin St. was also turning right onto Hartvickson for the same reason that we would be taking the road — It was a continuation in the same northerly direction, whereas Baldwin St. veered more to the northwest now. Wearily and reluctantly, I was the first to arise and leave the rest stop, cycling ever so slowly up that steep grade in the HOT sun. I think that Kevin and the others were starting to worry about me. Soon I was passed by everyone.
Swimming in New Hogan Lake
After two miles and a downhill, there was a sharp right turn onto Silver Rapids Rd. Leslie’s SAG wagon was stationed just beyond to make sure that no-one missed the turn. Finally, we were getting away from the rush-hour traffic. This road would eventually become Hogan Dam Rd, leading to the dam of the Calaveras River that creates New Hogan Lake. Our road was below the huge pile of rocks that formed the dam, so I had a good look at it while I climbed to an elevation of 820 ft. over six miles. I passed the observation point/parking area that I thought was supposed to be our rest stop, but no-one was there, because we had already taken our scheduled break. When I came to the next intersection, Leslie was standing beside her car, asking me whether I wanted to go swimming in New Hogan Lake or continue on to a Chevron station at SR-26 and wait there. I definitely did not want to go swimming now! I wondered whether I’d have enough energy to get to the end, let alone spend some on swimming. Leslie nodded and told me to join Miss Linda and Brent who were standing nearby with their bicycles. Apparently Kevin, Teri, and Leslie had decided to go “skinny-dipping,” and we other three would continue to the gas station and wait for them.
Inside the Chevron station near Hogan Dam Rd and SR-26 in Valley Springs, at 105 miles from the start, Miss Linda sat on a stool and laid her head down on a counter, while Brent sat tiredly on the stool next to her, looking out the window at the bikes. I bought a yogurt smoothie and then another. It was great to be off the bike. It was 6 p.m. We were waiting for about 20 minutes but no-one complained.
Eventually, Leslie showed up and told us to continue cycling and that Kevin and Teri would catch up with us. She told how a family had come upon them while they were in the lake and had to be asked by Teri to go away so that they could leave the water without “any trauma to the family,” as Kevin put it.
I mentioned that I was itching badly from what I thought was an insect bite on my right shin. Thinking quickly, Leslie suggested that they might have some cortisone anti-itch ointment for sale right there at the gas station. She was correct. We found a single, dusty tube of Cortaid hidden away on a lower shelf. How I appreciated that soothing ointment in the following days, as my shin turned all red from poison oak and itched terribly!
Valley Springs to Pardee Dam
Now Brent, Miss Linda, and I headed for Pardee Dam, which dams the Mokelumne River to create Pardee and Comanche Reservoirs. When we came to a fork in the road, we took the correct branch, but Kevin and Teri, who were somewhere behind us, went the other way. Then we came to signs at the entrance to East Bay Municipal Utility District’s Pardee Recreation Area at Pardee Reservoir that confused us. I believed that we should turn left there into the recreation area, but Brent, put off by the “Private Road” sign, thought that we should continue straight. So Brent and Miss Linda went straight, while I circled many times, not knowing what to do. When I finally decided to follow the others, Leslie appeared telling me to turn around and go back. Then came Brent and Miss Linda, backtracking, followed by Kevin and Teri. The confusion was soon resolved and we all headed down the six-mile road to the dam and overlook. I was so glad I hadn’t wasted much extra energy going the wrong way, because we had come more than 110 miles now in the terrible heat, and I had no energy to spare.
We climbed up to 823 ft at 6:39 p.m. and descended to 640 ft. It was then that I saw the very steep but short climb ahead to the top of the dam. I was not happy to see that! Leslie was waiting for me in the SAG wagon at the bottom, and Kevin was waiting for me at the top. Obviously, they were both worried about me, since I was the straggler. I too was worried about me, but somehow I climbed that steep ramp up to 830 ft. and found myself atop the semi-circular dam at 7:04 p.m. There was actually a traffic light there, governing the one-lane road over the dam. The light was red in our direction, but there was a sign saying that bicycles and pedestrians could proceed with caution. There was no traffic as I crossed the dam. The road was rather bumpy, and I would have liked to take some time for sightseeing, but I was just too tired.
Pardee Dam to Ione
Now it was about eight miles downhill to SR-124 and two more to Ione. Kevin waited for me to make a key turn onto Stoney Creek Rd/Buena Vista, but somewhere in this stretch, Brent made a wrong turn and had to backtrack. We were all so fatigued!
Ahead of me, Teri was becoming concerned that Miss Linda was pushing herself too hard after her recent bout in the hospital during the Yosemite trip and urged her to ride the SAG wagon for the few remaining miles to Ione, since she had already completed 200 km, which may have been a record distance for her. Miss Linda refused, so Teri prevailed on Kevin to persuade her. When I found them, there was a firefighter next to a fire engine outside a fire station talking to them, and I heard that Miss Linda had finally been persuaded to ride to the Ione Hotel from there. I resumed cycling and ended up being the first to arrive at the hotel, but Teri was right behind me. The elapsed time since we started from Kevin’s house was 13 hours and 26 minutes.
Historic Ione Hotel
The interior and floors of the historic Ione Hotel were made of beautiful wood, nicely restored, and there was a lovely wooden staircase with old-style bannisters. There were Persian rugs on the floor. Out of respect for the attractive setting, I removed my cycling shoes and proceeded in my socks. We all had individual rooms, because there was only a single queen-size bed in each room. But they couldn’t find a key for my room, despite telephone calls to the manager. After a half hour of impatient waiting, I was finally given a housekeeping key, which would open other rooms too, I suppose. All the rooms in this hotel were on the second floor. Mine was terribly hot, and both windows were screwed shut. So I played with the thermostat, trying to get some cooling. The bathroom fan was working though, so I contented myself with that while I showered in the pleasant tiled shower. There was a modern toilet that replicated an old water closet that you flushed by pulling the chain. I was happy that my room was at the back, away from the busy main street where State Routes 124 and 104 came together, with lots of noisy truck traffic making turns outside the hotel.
We all met for supper in the dining room downstairs at the agreed time (9 p.m.). There was only one other table in use, and that party soon left. We had friendly conversation and a good meal. I was pleased with my grilled salmon and mashed potatoes.
During supper, we had a disagreement over the elevation at Ione. My Suunto altimeter watch was registering 315’, barely more than our starting point at Castro Valley, but the others believed Ione to be much higher, and the waitress said it was 1100’. So the next day, I recalibrated the altimeter to add 800 ft. However, when I got home after the trip and looked up the elevation of Ione that I had recorded during the Sierra Century, I found that the real elevation was indeed around 300’.
Our waitress told us that the jobs in the area are primarily service jobs. She has a second one performing maid service, for which she sometimes charges $130. Also, her mother supports herself the same way. They love living in the area.
It was 10:30 p.m. when I retired after a 20-hour exhausting day that covered 128 miles of cycling with 3,835 ft. of climbing in temperatures as high as 102 degrees.
On reading a draft of this report, Kevin said “I didn’t realize it was so hot. I do recall moving out of the sun and into the shade at EVERY stop, however. I was able to stay quite cool with my usual wet hat, wet scarf, iced water bottles (which I frequently use for showers as well as for drinking during climbs) and iced wrists.”
DAY 2, THURSDAY, AUGUST 11 – IONE TO KIRKWOOD
Ione to Plymouth
We met at the hotel dining room at 5:30 a.m., as planned, for a small breakfast prepared for us by the hotel manager, who had come in especially for us. It was sort of like a continental breakfast – choice of banana, orange, English muffin, cinnamon roll and coffee – and it cost $5.
Before starting the day, we were all exhausted from our previous day’s effort in the heat. When Miss Linda told me that she was not going to cycle, but rather was going to take a “buffer” day for recovery, I felt that I wanted and needed to do that too. But how would we manage with just one SAG wagon, which was already full with luggage, food and supplies, if the two of us had to ride in it with our bicycles and there was no bicycle rack? And what would we do if Brent also needed to ride for part of the way? Leslie and Miss Linda assured me that we could manage, and they carefully packed the SAG wagon to make room for me and my bicycle, just in case I needed to use it. I sincerely appreciated their efforts, but now I was all the more determined to try to complete the day on my own two wheels, despite the pain and fatigue.
I told Kevin I was starting a few minutes early so that I would not be delaying the group at Plymouth when we stopped for the real breakfast. So I headed off alone for the 11 miles north to Plymouth, starting on SR-124, which had a decent shoulder but a rough, gravelly surface, like a typical county road. After five or six miles, Brent passed me; then came Kevin and Teri, riding well together.
After eight miles, I made the right turn onto SR-16 and picked up SR-49N. Now I was on familiar territory from having ridden the Sierra Century through the “gold country” last June. In three miles I was in Plymouth and in contact with the others. We paused outside the diner where we were supposed to eat, but nobody was hungry yet, so we decided to proceed after saying hello to some other cyclists. I thought I recognized one of them, a fit-looking older cyclist wearing a 2004 Sierra Century jersey, who said he was 80 and a Sacramento Wheelman, but I had probably just seen him before and never spoken to him.
Plymouth to River Pines
Immediately after the diner in Plymouth, we made the right turn onto Shenandoah Rd, also known as Amador County Route E16. Two miles later, we turned right onto a parallel bypass called Shenandoah School Rd, and the pleasure began. We were on a lovely two-lane road with little traffic that went past a number of small wineries in the Shenandoah Valley. There were beautiful rolling hills – some fairly steep. I was followed for a mile or so by a garbage truck that was going from winery to winery, and it would catch up to me on the steep uphills. But eventually I got away from it and had the world to myself for a couple of miles in a beautiful setting. This is what cycling is really about! In addition to the wineries, there was a nursery that grows flowers.
When I reached the intersection with Shenandoah Rd, the SAG wagon was there, and Miss Linda told me that a critical line had been omitted from the route sheet and that I must turn right there. So I obeyed. This road was wider with a bit more traffic but still beautiful. I understand now after looking at a map that I had simply rejoined the original road from Plymouth, CR-E16, after enjoying the short bypass. Soon we would be in River Pines, and once we left there, the road’s name would change from Shenandoah Rd to Mt. Aukum Rd in Somerset, but it would still be CR-E16.
River Pines to Pleasant Valley
The SAG wagon was waiting at the hamlet of River Pines, and we all took a break there for food and drink. I had been there in the Sierra Century.
I was extremely concerned about the next part. I had scouted the terrain in my car a month ago while traveling to and from the Death Ride. Our journey from Mt. Aukum to Pleasant Valley would include a very long, steep hill with no shoulder and logging trucks, carrying huge loads of about ten pines apiece, all cut to the same standard length. Also the route from Pleasant Valley to Sly Park would have an even longer hill of about four miles. Then there was the Mormon Emigrant Trail. It would go from 3,500’ elevation at Sly Park in Placerville to about 7,900’ near Kirkwood. But there was some additional elevation to be cycled due to rolling hills. At the time, I expressed my concerns only to Kevin in an e-mail because I didn’t want to discourage the others. So Kevin and Teri actually cycled this part of the route last week without telling us (to preview it, and without any support!), and Teri told me privately that she considered it extremely difficult, even with her new lighter bike and all her recent training. Neither was surprised when I told them at the end of Day 2 that we had climbed 10,200 ft.
So I continued on CR-E16, past the Somerset district called Mt. Aukum and past Omo Ranch Rd, where we had turned off in the Sierra Century for the notorious climb of Slug Gulch. Somewhere in Mt. Aukum along this stretch, we saw some beautiful exotic animals that we later thought were alpacas. Before the really big climb, we had a reunion with the SAG wagon and each other. Then, while climbing the very steep long hill, I remember passing over the Middle Fork of the Consumnes River at a scenic turn. I also remember lots of high-speed traffic and heavy logging trucks and other wide-load trucks squeezing me as I toed the white line at the edge of the road while struggling to keep my front wheel straight on the slow, steep climb.
With relief, I entered the supermarket parking lot at Pleasant Valley, where Leslie and Miss Linda were applauding as I arrived, along with Kevin and Teri who were already there. Brent was not far behind me. Leslie had bought the lightly roasted potato wedges from the supermarket deli that I had enjoyed so much on my previous auto trip, and they were a hit with the others too.
Pleasant Valley to Mormon Emigrant Trail
Pleasant Valley, my map seems to indicate, is not a town but merely a crossroads in Placerville. Historically, it was named by the Mormons as a meeting place for those interested in forming a wagon train to take men back to their families in Salt Lake City after completion of the construction of Sutter’s Mill in Coloma in 1848.*
From the supermarket parking lot, we watched all the trucks turning left to continue onto Pleasant Valley Rd, away from CR-E16, now called Sly Park Rd, that we would be taking, heading east. We were under the impression that the big climbing before the Mormon Emigrant Trail was all over, but we were wrong. Sly Park Rd was a relentless, winding, steep four-mile climb that seemed to go on forever. In my Volvo, it did not seem so bad, but on my bike, it was very much worse than I was expecting.
At one point, a pickup truck passed me with flashing lights and a sign warning of a WIDE LOAD. The driver was gesturing for me to get off the road. I wasn’t intending to comply. A few minutes later, I heard the noise of a massive truck engine coming around the curve behind me, and after looking in my sideview mirror, I immediately got off the road completely — the only time in the entire four days. All the traffic stopped in the oncoming direction. A really large earth-mover bulldozer was being transported — so wide that it was hanging well over the white line demarking the right side of the road. That’s the kind of traffic we had to contend with!
I followed Sly Park Rd to the top of the hill in Pollock Pines to Sly Park State Recreation Area, which includes beautiful Jenkinson Lake. Incidentally, the park is named after James C. Sly, a member of a Mormon party that camped there in 1848, while waiting for the results of a search for missing scouts, who later turned up dead at Tragedy Springs (on SR-88), killed by Indians.*
Leslie and Miss Linda were waiting in the parking lot just in front of the ranger station where one had to pay toll to use Jenkinson Lake and the recreation area. However, there was free parking for 15 minutes, and the SAG wagon must have milked that for 45 minutes. When I asked Leslie if she had a soda, she immediately walked across the street to a market and bought me one, even though I tried to stop her. That’s the kind of support we had! We also had delicious fresh fruits, such as grapes, cherries, watermelon, pineapple, bananas, apples, etc., dried peaches, ice for the water bottles, bottled water, energy bars, Gu packages, roasted potatoes, etc. The menu was endless. I’ll never be satisfied with “ordinary” century food again.
Then it was off to the Mormon Emigrant Trail, backtracking a quarter mile to reach the beginning of it.
Mormon Emigrant Trail to Kirkwood Mountain Resort
This segment of the Mormon Emigrant Trail is about 26 miles long. It goes from Sly Park Rd, Placerville (elev. 3,500’), to SR-88 not far from Kirkwood (elev. 7,880’). It is designated as Forest Route 5 through the Eldorado National Forest and also as Alternate US-50. It has two wide lanes, good pavement and good shoulders.
But it was very hot on the Trail, especially at the lower end, and to my dismay, there was frequent, noisy truck traffic in both directions. Especially frequent in our direction were truck cabs carrying their rear wheels. Apparently, these were the log carriers that had delivered their loads and were now heading back to the SR-88 end of the forest to pick up more logs that would lie between the cab and the rear wheels. It was disheartening to see all the logging that is taking place in the national forest, but I hope it really does reduce the fire danger.
Kevin and Teri disappeared ahead very soon. Brent and I struggled on, climbing continually, passing each other from time to time. Brent was having the same type of “hotfoot” problem I was. While my solution was to unclip a foot from the pedal and cycle with my heel or arch for a short time to let the blood circulate to the numb toe(s), Brent preferred to stop and take a breather.
Over the course of the four days, I tried all kinds of solutions to mollify my aching toes, such as taping them with moleskin or foam cushions, changing socks from thick to thin and vice versa, removing socks altogether, mixing my two shoe pairs, adding or removing foam inserts in my shoes, and putting an orthotic in my right shoe. On the Mormon Emigrant Trail, my toes were so sore from all the pressure of the climbing that I tried a new solution: cycling with a running shoe on my right foot while my left foot was clipped into a cycling shoe. With the unclipped running shoe, I could pedal with my arch or heel. I did 15 miles of climbing that way till I reached SR-88 at the end of the Mormon Emigrant Trail and then put my right cycling shoe back on for better control on the continuing climb up busy SR-88 to Kirkwood. (But at least my right toes had been rested.)
I never would have thought of doing something like that until I heard the story of Mike Dunn of Benicia Bicycle Club, who arrived to do the Death Ride for the first time last July only to find that he’d forgotten his cycling shoes at home. He ended up doing the entire 129 miles with 15,000 ft. of climbing in his Nike street sandals. What an accomplishment! So if he could do that, I should have a better chance of doing just 15 miles with one cycling shoe, I concluded. (See Mike Dunn’s interesting account at the reference below.)**
It was boring cycling on the Mormon Emigrant Trail. The scenery, though pretty, was uniform for the entire distance. It consisted of closely spaced pines — all of the same species. To ease our boredom in the oppressive heat, Brent and I eventually got together and chatted about many things. That made the miles go faster. Brent was familiar with the interesting history of the Mormon Emigrant Trail, having researched it before the trip, and was able to relate it to me. He pointed out that the Trail follows a ridgeline and that it never crosses water anywhere, so there are no bridges. It was built by a group of Mormons as they made their slow and laborious ascent over the Sierras by wagon train back to their families in Salt Lake City after completing jobs in California. The opening of the Trail provided the first east-west road for wagons into Northern California.*
It was such a pleasure to see Leslie and Miss Linda at frequent intervals. I can’t say enough about how much we appreciated their presence and support, especially in this very difficult phase, as they shuttled back and forth between Kevin and Teri (at the front) and Brent and me (at the back). At the end, Kevin and Teri reached Kirkwood when we were still seven or eight miles behind.
The temperature cooled down to 75 degrees when we reached breezy high elevations near SR-88. On reaching SR-88 at 5:43 p.m. at the outskirts of Pioneer, CA, I waited for Brent and was joined by the SAG wagon. It had taken me 5 hrs and 31 minutes to traverse the Mormon Emigrant Trail, averaging only 4.5 mph, barely more than a fast walk, but my maximum speed was 36 mph on one of the rolling descents.
Brent and I stayed close together on SR-88. He was very familiar with Kirkwood and its environs, having skied there very often and recently. There was a climb, a downhill, and a final climb. Leslie and Miss Linda were waiting for us at the bottom of the downhill for our final SAG stop of the day. I believe this was near Silver Lake. All four of us were in great spirits!
Kevin McTighe listed as one of the highlights of his entire trip: “Sitting on the dam at Silver Lake, viewing the jagged mountains and lake scenery, watching fish jump out of the water. Not only was the scene stunningly beautiful, it was at this point I felt certain the whole experience would be positive for everyone involved.”
Kirkwood Mountain Resort
When Brent and I entered Kirkwood, there was still snow atop the ski slopes. Near the entrance, Miss Linda met us driving the SAG wagon, telling us that Bub’s Pub, about two miles away, was about to stop taking food orders in ten minutes, and since we wouldn’t be able to get there soon enough, we should give her our orders so that she could drive back there and place them. She even brought along a menu for us to choose from. (How thoughtful!)
It was 7:54 p.m. when I stopped cycling. The elapsed time since leaving the Ione Hotel was 13 hrs, 3 mins. We had come 79 miles with 10,275 ft. of climbing in brutally HOT temperatures.
We had a tasty meal at Bub’s Pub at Kirkwood Village Center, sitting at the bar in a nice atmosphere near some other cyclists who were interested in our feat. Afterward, we made our way across the street together to the Kirkwood Mountain Resort, where we had accommodations on the second floor. It was now chilly and dark as we walked briskly across the street with our bikes.
My condominium room was identical to the one I’d had last year prior to the 2004 Death Ride, with the same view, so I felt like I was “coming home.” Immediately, my nose began to stuff up, as it had for the entire three days last year, whenever I was at Kirkwood. I thought then that I was coming down with a cold or the flu. Now I knew it was an allergy. When I mentioned my symptoms to the others, all of whose rooms were on the same side as mine, several said they had the same experience, so we were all allergic to the same thing, whatever it was. At breakfast the next day, Greg T. said that he experienced the same symptoms at his cabin, and he wondered whether the cause was goldenrod that was in bloom at this time of year.
The biggest problem was finding the “VIP” area, where we were supposed to park the SUV. It was not clear to us that it was outside, rather than in the garage. So Leslie, Miss Linda, and I wasted about 15 minutes, searching for our parking spot, since all the numbered spaces were in random order. But if we had left the SAG wagon in the garage, it could have incurred a $150 fine, since those spaces are reserved for condominium owners.
DAY 3, FRIDAY, AUGUST 12 – KIRKWOOD TO KINGS BEACH
Kirkwood to Hope Valley
This was by far the most enjoyable day. Although we climbed 3,297 ft., we descended 5,280 ft. (a mile in altitude!), and there were some real downhills, such as Carson Pass, Luther Pass, and Emerald Bay! But it wasn’t only the downhills that made the day enjoyable, it was the scenery, getting away from traffic in the morning, the cooler weather at high altitude, the relaxing breakfast, and the novelty of some of the places we visited.
The plan was for us to cycle first from Kirkwood to Sorensen’s Resort in Hope Valley, where we would meet Greg T. for breakfast. Then Greg would lead us on the old road (old SR-89) over Luther Pass, which is now a little-known bike path, and then on some backroads to U.S. 50 in South Lake Tahoe and then on to Camp Richardson.
It was cold at Kirkwood, requiring an outer layer of clothing, such as a rain shell. After helping to get some of the luggage to the SAG wagon, I left before the others at 6:54 a.m., fearing that I would be delaying their breakfast at my slow climbing speed. Miss Linda would be riding her bike again today.
After a short climb, I was awed by the beauty of Caples Lake that I was looking down at. It’s always beautiful, even when rushing by in a car, but in the early morning, it looked like a sheet of glass, and on my bike, with little traffic, I was able to savor its beauty as never before. In fact, the man for whom the lake is named was so enamored by this lake the first time he passed it, that he later brought his family from the Midwest to live there, establishing a trading post.
After (or was it before?) Caples Lake came the Kirkwood Inn, where I had breakfast when going home the day after the Death Ride last month. The rough-hewn, all-wood interior, as in pioneer days, was attractive and interesting. Even the bar chairs seemed to be handmade, as well as the huge beams supporting the roof. The only noticeably modern thing was the TV set at the bar that was tuned to the Outdoor Life Network as early as 8 a.m., the opening time. Today, I was simply passing by.
Next came the climb up the backside of Carson Pass (elev. 8,580’). It’s not a bad climb from the back — just 600 ft — compared to the front side, which I had climbed five weeks earlier as the fifth and last pass of the Death Ride. There were lots of memories as I passed the parking lot at the top, where I was awarded the coveted five-pass pin and the ice cream after such an exhausting struggle. It was now 8 a.m. Then came the descent! There was little traffic; I was fresh, and I reached 40.8 mph without even trying. I was enjoying it so much more than during the Death Ride, because I was exhausted then and it was cold, so I was worried about having an accident just from being very tired at the end of such a long day. Now Brent zoomed past me. In a few seconds, he had disappeared. Being a big man, he’s always very fast on the downhills, and he says he reached 48 mph.
To my surprise, I got to Sorensen’s Resort before everyone except Brent, because it was discovered after I departed from Kirkwood that Miss Linda’s bike had developed a flat tire overnight that had to be fixed. In Sorensen’s parking lot, I met Greg T. and wife Judy, who had driven there from their cabin. Greg was assembling his bike when I arrived, and Brent was chatting with both Greg and Judy.
Sorensen’s has an ambiance, as well as good food, that has brought me back there several times in the past two years. The accommodations are in single cabins, sprinkled on a hillside. We went into the cozy dining room which has only six tables, but five of them are large round tables, made from solid pine (either Jeffrey or Ponderosa). After first being squeezed at the largest table that was not in use, we were later able to move to the very largest of the round tables that comfortably seated all six of us, so we could all converse easily in a quiet, pleasant atmosphere. Everyone enjoyed the food, which is always good.
I mentioned casually that the treacle-coated almond-popcorn that was on sale at the counter was so good that I always ate the whole bag once I started, so not to let me be near it. Later, I was pleasantly surprised at the lunch stop at Camp Richardson when Leslie pulled out a bag for dessert. It was a hit with several of the other riders too.
Hope Valley to South Lake Tahoe
Incidentally, it’s interesting how the name “Hope Valley” came about. According to Anthony Belli, “After passing through the rugged Sierra Nevada Range, the [Mormon] wagon train camped at Hope Valley, which, according to Bugler’s diary, they named because here “they began to have hope” that they were going to make it to Salt Lake. (Hope Valley lies about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe with intersections of Highway 88 and 89).” * Today, Hope Valley is considered to be in Markleeville, CA.
It seems that I spent an hour and a half at Sorensen’s, arriving at 8:30 and leaving at 10 a.m. After breakfast, Greg led us back the way we had come, i.e., toward Pickett’s Junction, which is the intersection of SR-88 and SR-89, and back towards Carson Pass. But instead of turning right to go over Luther Pass on SR-89, we continued across the intersection toward Carson Pass on SR-88 to a parking lot on the right, where there is a toilet building. Next to the building is an overgrown bike path that was the old Highway 89 over Luther Pass. This is what Greg would be showing us. Nature has reclaimed much of the old road, and it is now just a narrow path. I had passed by this parking lot many times and never knew that there was a bike path there or a toilet or the remains of the old highway; neither did anyone else in our group. So it was exciting for all of us. Greg warned that there were a couple of spots where the path had some water or some sand that we’d have to traverse. There was lovely scenery as we climbed this circuitous two or three miles up to the top of Luther Pass (elev. 7830’). Teri listed this section as one of the highlights of her entire tour. The bike path came out at the summit of the new road, which had just been resurfaced. So we had a very smooth descent on the new SR-89, heading toward South Lake Tahoe. Everyone was in great spirits!
South Lake Tahoe to Kings Beach
With Greg as our guide, we deviated from the original route sheet. On descending Luther Pass, we turned left at South Upper Truckee Rd (officially in South Lake Tahoe) and followed this scenic, narrow, winding road for 4.7 miles to U.S. 50. However, about half way, the group stopped for a detour into the weeds to view the Pony Express Monument on Hawley Grade. I was the only one who stayed on the road, afraid I might twist an ankle walking on rough ground in my cycling cleats. Besides, my feet and toes were very sore. So I missed a plaque with some interesting history about the Pony Express route. Then, while I was still waiting on the road, Greg took the others by his cabin, which I didn’t know was so close. So I missed out on some interesting stuff. Later, Greg explained to me his understanding “that the Pony Express came up over Luther Pass from Woodfords past the Lake Valley House toll station and then up Hawley Grade for about six months in 1860.”
After passing through an attractive neighborhood on S. Upper Truckee Rd, we crossed U.S. 50 and continued on North Upper Truckee Rd. Somehow we got to Tahoe Mountain Rd and Fallen Leaf Rd, which took us to SR-89, alongside of which we took the parallel bike path counterclockwise for a short distance to Camp Richardson, our lunch stop. This was packed with tourists. So we were where the action was.
Leslie had staked out a picnic table at Camp Richardson, and she made a great lunch for us. Then we too acted as tourists, taking the bike path clockwise to the Stream Profile Museum, which is really a big, natural aquarium, where we saw rainbow trout swimming around and read about their spawning habits.
We proceeded on the busy bike path for as far as it would take us – a mile? Then we had to get back on SR-89 to head for Emerald Bay, touring the lake clockwise from South Shore to North Shore. We were going clockwise so as to be close to the lake. (I’m told that if you go counterclockwise, the views are blocked by the intervening traffic.) It had been 35 years since I cycled around Lake Tahoe, so it was really a new experience for me.
It was scary as we climbed the steep hairpin turns up to Emerald Bay, cycling on the white line marking the right edge of the road! There was no shoulder and a significant drop just a few inches away on the right, while heavy traffic, including a gasoline tanker truck with trailer, passed a few inches away on the left. But the view of Emerald Bay from Eagle Creek was spectacular when we had a chance to stop and enjoy it. We watched from above as a riverboat came into the harbor. Leslie was there with water, ice, and refreshments. Miss Linda insisted that we hike down the rocks to a waterfall called Eagle Falls. Some took photos while I sat on a nearby rock and massaged my feet and toes.
There was not much traffic after Emerald Bay and Inspiration Point up to Meeks Bay, so we enjoyed the descent. There was more traffic as we approached Tahoma, Homewood, and Tahoe Pines, then very heavy Friday afternoon traffic from Sunnyside to Tahoe City and gridlock at Tahoe City, where there is a junction of SR-89 and SR-28. Most of the time, I was cycling directly on the white line, since there was no shoulder. Nevertheless, some of us were shouted at by motorists. When there was a nearby bike path, they yelled at us to take the bike path. I’m a strong advocate of bike paths, but some of these were not the best thing when traveling long distances — They were short, intermittent, bumpy, circuitous, and crossed intersections with no priority. But I did try some of them – for survival, in some cases.
Our last rest stop was at Sunnyside. After that came the traffic bottleneck at Tahoe City. A short bike path is being constructed there, and that was contributing somewhat to the delays. Cycling on the white line, I was able to pass (on the right side) long strings of stopped cars, so I made much better time than they did. The traffic started to move again once I turned right onto SR-28 at Tahoe City. I proceeded on the North Shore to Cornelian Bay, Tahoe Vista, and finally Kings Beach. I had a reservation at a motel in Kings Beach, about a mile away from one of the cabins, and I had time to shower before I was picked up in the SAG wagon to go to dinner.
The elapsed time since I left Kirkwood was 11 hrs, 9 minutes, of which the actual cycling time was 6 hrs, 43 minutes.
We all met for dinner, as planned, at the Blue Agave restaurant (Mexican food) back in Tahoe City. In addition to the five of us plus Leslie who started at Castro Valley together on Wednesday and Greg who joined at Hope Valley this morning, present were: Dale and Jeanne P. with two children, Dennis C. (organizer of the forthcoming Saturday ride), and Steve and Deborah K., the couple who had seen us off at Castro Valley. Though we had our own booth area, the service was poor and slow, the food was mediocre, and the place was noisy. And to top it off, the manager followed us out the front door at the end, claiming that our group payment was $50 short. Hotly, Deborah insisted that she had put in $175, rather than just the $125 he had in hand, and that there had been many single dollar bills in her payment, which the manager did not have. Others witnessed that Deborah had counted the money several times and that there were indeed some dollar bills in it. We all went back inside. Neither side budged from its position. So the waiter who collected the cash was called. He admitted that he had already taken out $50 as his tip. With red face, the manager issued an apology, and we left indignantly, especially Deborah, resolving to go to Jason’s in Kings Beach after the Saturday ride, rather than return to the Blue Agave, as had been done in previous years.
DAY 4, SATURDAY, AUGUST 13 — AROUND LAKE TAHOE
I found a coffee shop called Java Hut a block from my motel. It was excellent! And busy! The coffee was great and they had a hot, fresh-baked, blueberry cream-cheese pocket that was so good, I had to get a second.
We left from the boat-launching ramp at the State Park at Kings Beach (elev. 6355’) at 8 a.m. after some confusion as to whether the start time was 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m. Arriving since yesterday’s dinner and now joining us were Peter S. and Val H. Not cycling today was Teri J., who did not enjoy cycling in traffic yesterday (Who did?); she would be hiking and swimming instead. Most of us were wearing our new red-and-white Royal Ground Velo Raptors jerseys. Steve had brought me mine the evening before.
Dennis had paired us up in a buddy system, since it is so dangerous riding around the lake with all the traffic on weekends. I was assigned to cycle with Greg, who is three years younger. Being slower than the others, we started immediately. We did great together, warning each other of obstacles and hazards, and our speeds are comparable, though he’s a better climber but more cautious on descents.
Very soon we crossed the state border into Nevada, where there are a couple of casinos. Once we turned right onto Lakeshore Blvd in Incline Village, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the size and beauty of the homes and their landscaping, and by the luxury and wealth displayed on the Nevada side, as well as by the fancy Hyatt Resort with its private covered bridge over the roadway, allowing guests to reach the beach without crossing the road. Many walkers were strolling along the 2-1/2-mile path next to the road, enjoying the posh neighborhood. (Most of Incline Village did not yet exist the last time I cycled around the lake 35 years ago.)
Soon we were passed by the “hotshots,” i.e., Dale P., Steve K. on his recumbent, and Peter S. The next pair of “buddies” to pass us was Dennis C. and Brent F., who had once worked together at the same company.
Somewhere near this stretch, while cycling on her recumbent, Deborah K. saw a juvenile bear about to cross the road after scavenging at homes near the beach. (Remember, it was well after 8 a.m., in broad daylight.) Here’s her report:
“Early on the Saturday ride, I was bringing up the rear about 100 yards behind “Kevin’s Harem” [i.e., Miss Linda, Valerie and Deborah] on SR-28 just after the Lakeshore turn. A juvenile bear slowly rose up out of the grasses onto his rear feet. Standing about four feet tall with a scruffy “just slept-in” looking coat, he seemed to check for traffic and, startled by my recumbent bike just 20 feet away, ducked back down the hillside.”
After Incline Village, there was a welcome rest stop at Sand Harbor Beach Recreation Area with a lovely view of the lake and the California mountains and with four separate flush-toilets for use by both sexes. Kevin and “harem” caught up with us at this rest stop. Leslie was there with the SAG wagon. I was enjoying the Nevada side immensely.
Shortly thereafter we began the big climb up to Spooner Junction, going from 6358’ to 7119’, the highest elevation of the tour around the lake. Before reaching the summit, there was a false peak with a short subsequent downhill. But after the summit, we had a great descent! However, before starting today’s ride, we were warned to be especially careful about sewer grates extending from the shoulder into the right side of the traffic lane on the downhills in Nevada. So Greg and I were very good about warning each other of these hazards as we descended at speed. The traffic was still light enough so that we could descend in the middle of the traffic lane without getting anyone upset with us. Also, some of the descents were two lanes wide and well-surfaced, so it was a pleasure riding down them at speed without any threat from impatient traffic.
Just before Zephyr Cove, the road through the massive Cave Rock had been resurfaced, and several of our group mentioned that later, so it must have been in terrible shape previously if everyone noticed. I hadn’t been there in 35 years, but of all the things I remembered from my previous ride around Lake Tahoe, Cave Rock was the most prominent.
There is a lovely state park at Zephyr Cove, where we had our next rest stop. Steve K. was waiting near the entrance to direct us to where Leslie had staked out a picnic table on the grass in a pleasant area with a view of the lake. It was a very busy park, with youths playing volleyball above the beach, etc.
At the picnic table, there was all kinds of great food, such as watermelon, grapes, pineapple, etc. But the day before, Leslie had made something that I really loved: fresh Ciabatta bread smothered with lots of Philadelphia cream cheese and apricot jam. So she made some more for me today, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Then others tried it, and it was a hit! In fact, Peter S. listed it as one of his highlights of the day. Leslie said she was going to call it “Joe’s Energy Special.” I really think it gave me lots of energy on both days.
Greg left me near Stateline, NV, at 11 a.m. to return alone to his cabin near Luther Pass. He had completed the rest of the loop around the lake with us the previous day. Today, we climbed 1,570 ft together, averaging 12.8 mph, with a maximum of 40.7 mph. Greg later reported that he got back to his cabin at 12:10 p.m. and that his final stretch of approximately 16 miles was easy. His total distance for the two days was 102 miles, and his total elapsed riding time today was 8 hrs and 44 mins.
I was sorry to lose my riding partner, as I cautiously cycled alone through the extremely busy casino stretch of Stateline, NV, and South Lake Tahoe, CA, on U.S. 50. When I saw a bike path, I took it to get away from the awful traffic, but it took me into the Upper Truckee Marsh, several blocks away from where I wanted to be. After that, I stuck to the road, as unpleasant as it was. I made it a game to see how well I could “share the road,” cycling to my destination without delaying any of the traffic because of my presence. But hugging the white line meant that I didn’t have time for anything but a glimpse of the surroundings because I was concentrating so hard on “the driving.”
When I reached Camp Richardson and cycled past the hotel, someone called my name. It was Deborah. She and the other ladies, Val and Miss Linda, had stopped there with Kevin to use the rest room in the hotel. I was delighted to hook up with them. We used the same bike path we had used yesterday, but this time didn’t stop at the rainbow trout exhibit. Then we rode together on SR-89 toward Emerald Bay with me at the rear.
As we approached the climb of Emerald Bay, Kevin insisted that I go first, though I really wanted to bring up the rear, so I could warn the others of approaching traffic, since I was the only one with a mirror. But rather than argue with my former leader, I went first, and to everyone’s surprise, including my own, I climbed Emerald Bay faster than the ladies, who were really pretty fast, and I unintentionally got so far ahead that I found myself on my own once more, hugging the white line in heavy traffic as I was about to pass the next rest stop, when fortunately Dale P. spotted me and flagged me down. I think that this was at Inspiration Point. But to tell the truth, I’m having trouble separating what happened on Friday from what happened on Saturday on the same route. (Obviously, Dale, Peter, Steve, Dennis, Val, and Deborah weren’t there on Friday, so if they were involved in my recollection, it happened on Saturday.)
I left the rest stop with the “hot shots”: Dale P., Steve K., and Peter S. I kept up as best I could, and when they stopped for some reason, I even got ahead for a short time. But most of the time I rode alone, except for a period when Dennis C. caught up with me, and I enjoyed riding with him.
I found myself to be much more confident in the traffic today, and frankly, it seemed that the traffic was worse on Friday afternoon than on Saturday. First of all, there was much more truck traffic on the weekday, and secondly people were tense and impatient on Friday, trying to reach their destinations. They seemed more relaxed on Saturday. No-one yelled at me at all on Saturday. Nevertheless, Peter reported that there was a Ford Expedition that refused to move left while towing a wide boat that missed his trio by only a foot or two. And Brent too had a problem with a motorist, it was said.
There’s a lovely stretch of bike path close to the water’s edge somewhere between Homewood and Tahoe City that I really enjoyed on both days. I could see moored boats floating in the lake and people sunning on the pebbled beach, while I cycled relaxed on the bike path.
Like yesterday, our last rest stop was at Sunnyside. By now Miss Linda had called it a day. She had bought an apple fritter and offered to share it with me, but I was very cautious about consuming something unfamiliar on such a strenuous ride. I may have been the first to depart from this rest stop. I remember being passed later by the trio of Dale, Steve, and Peter on the North Shore, but I believe that I arrived at my motel before anyone else passed me.
I stopped at my motel room at 3:15 p.m., completing the entire loop in 8 hrs and 15 mins elapsed time, of which 5 hrs and 36 mins was actual cycling time. Average speed: 12.8 mph, max. 40.7 mph.
I showered, changed, and then walked the few blocks to Jason’s, which was between my motel and our starting point. Everyone was there except for Teri and Kevin and his “harem” (consisting only of Val and Deborah now). So Dennis and Brent had finished too, and Leslie and Miss Linda were there. We were outside the restaurant around a table on the grass overlooking the lake. Everyone was in great spirits though fatigued. There was a depleted pitcher of beer on the table. I had brought along my dirty, smelly cycling jersey so I could wear it and look and smell like everyone else in the inevitable photos.
A big round of applause erupted when Kevin, Val, and Deborah entered. This was Val’s first time around the lake, a goal she had trained for, and perhaps her longest distance. So she was very pleased with herself, and deservedly so! Teri came in shortly afterward, looking very fresh and relaxed after a day of hiking and swimming. Peter said later that one of his highlights of the day was drafting on Dale and averaging 18 mph.
Brent discovered that the way to get food was to go inside and order, then bring it outside. He had gotten himself a salad from the buffet that looked delicious, so I went inside and got one too. But I could have been just as happy with a hamburger. Others went in and got food and more beer. Jason’s was a great place!
Now I could go back to my motel and sleep and sleep and sleep. In fact, that’s all I have wanted to do for a week afterward.
DAY 5, SUNDAY, AUGUST 14 – DRIVING HOME
Miss Linda reported that she, Steve, Deborah, Kevin, and Teri kayaked on the lake all Sunday morning. They lunched at Jason’s until 4:00 p.m. and then cleaned up Ron and Chris S.’s cabin where they had stayed, before returning home in two vehicles, since Miss Linda’s car was already pre-positioned at Lake Tahoe.
As for me, after packing early on Sunday morning, I walked to the Java Hut for coffee and two more blueberry cream-cheese pockets. Although it was Sunday, and one gets stale pastry on Sunday in Montclair, Orinda, and Moraga, these pastries were warm and fresh-baked! What a treat!
Then, for the first time since arriving on Friday evening, I explored my motel grounds before it was time for Leslie to come and pick me up. It’s called Ferrari’s Crown Motel at Kings Beach. I was amazed to find that it’s quite nice. It has a private beach with a gorgeous restful view of the lake, set back from the highway, and a nice private swimming pool at the lake’s edge above it. It was a surprise to me and to everyone else who saw it (Leslie, Brent, Dennis) after entering from tacky, noisy, very busy highway SR-28 that my room was near.
Dennis loaded my bike in the rack atop his SUV next to Teri’s new bike and took some of my luggage. The rest of my luggage was put in Leslie’s SUV, and I rode with Leslie, whom I hadn’t known before this trip, but we certainly established a bond during it. Brent and his bike rode with Dennis. The two cars drove in convoy all the way back to Kevin’s house, with Dennis leading. Teri later expressed her gratitude that her precious new bike had arrived safely at Castro Valley.
Breakfast at Truckee
On the way home, the four of us had breakfast together at the Wagon Coffee Shop at Truckee. It wasn’t the first choice, but the place up the block that Dennis originally suggested had a very long wait. We were served by a cute, very efficient waitress, with a salty tongue. Dennis engaged her in conversation, and she told us she’d been fired three times in her 15 years there, but the last time, it was the other waitress Sheila’s fault. When the place fell apart without her, they always took her back. Before we parked, Leslie told me that Chris S. had bought a beautiful candle holder in Truckee and that she (Leslie) wanted to get one like it for her sister. It just so happened that the desired candle holder was displayed in the window next door to our breakfast stop, and Leslie bought it.
I witnessed a motorcycle accident and was able to help a bit on my drive home from Kevin’s house in my own car on Sunday afternoon. I was traveling leisurely at a slow speed of 25 mph on Redwood Road from Castro Valley toward Moraga, following a slow group of four motorcycles and being followed by another motorcycle with a couple on it. (Redwood Rd is popular with both bicyclists and motorcycles.)
Frankly, I was surprised to see the four motorcycles ahead going so slowly, but I wasn’t impatient and I was feeling very mellow, having accomplished all my personal goals. So I was following the motorcycles for a mile or two. It became obvious that these were novices, proceeding very carefully, but I didn’t mind. Suddenly, one of them skidded on gravel at a curve, even at that cautious speed, and went down. His female companion, right behind him, went onto the shoulder behind him to avoid hitting him and fell over on the gravel too.
I stopped immediately with my hazard lights flashing, but my car was still partly in the roadway on a sharp curve, and I worried about that. Someone shouted, “It’s leaking gasoline!” I rushed over to the male cyclist who was face down on the roadway and whose foot was trapped under the heavy bike. I tried to lift the motorcycle but couldn’t even budge it; it was much too heavy for me. I was really surprised at how heavy it was. Someone came to help me – I think it was the motorcyclist who’d been following me and was not part of the first group of four. Together we were able to lift the bike just enough so that the rider could wriggle his foot free. After extracting himself, he hopped around a bit in pain. I asked if he was OK. He seemed to nod, but I wasn’t sure about that and told him to remain quiet for a bit. His partner, the lady, had managed to get up OK but both bikes were still lying on the ground.
The man’s bike had leaked a lot of engine oil, perhaps all of it. The lady’s bike had leaked a small amount of gasoline. Worried that my car was going to be struck from behind, I got into it and left them, followed by the couple on the motorcycle. The original four looked completely stunned, just standing there, with no-one taking any action or saying anything as I left. But I didn’t think that there was anything more I could do for them.
Normally, I’m not sympathetic at all to motorcyclists, either as a car driver or as a bicyclist. But somehow I identified with these novices. Here they were, doing nothing wrong, proceeding cautiously, bothering no-one, and the next second, they’re both down on the road with their expensive machines damaged and their bodies subjected to injury. That’s just how it is in bicycling too!
Because of all the very heavy traffic we experienced throughout most of the ride, especially when circumventing Lake Tahoe, I would not have liked to try this ride without my sideview mirror! Yet I think that everyone else accomplished their rides without a mirror.
Until I find the perfect saddle – and I’ve been looking for a very long time! — I intend on future multi-day trips to take along a second saddle of different design, with the necessary tool to alternate saddles. Such a solution isn’t feasible in a single-day event such as a century, but on a multi-day trip, where there’s a SAG wagon following, it’s possible to have a second saddle at hand.
Our ever-present support was first-class: the food, the water, the ice, the drinks, the transportation. I couldn’t have been treated better if I were a Tour-de-France racer (and sometimes on this tour I imagined I was). Like them, I too had to get up when tired from the previous day’s effort and do new feats of physical glory.
Kevin said he was delighted just observing and being part of people’s first-time accomplishments, such as Brent’s completing the whole tour, Val’s completing her first tour of the lake, Leslie’s providing superb support for both the Tour and the “circumcycle,” etc. He wishes to thank Teri, Miss Linda, and me for participating in every tour he has ever organized for the club. He also thanks the cabin owners for hosting the group in their personal residences at Tahoe: i.e., Myles L., Dale and Jeanne P., Peter S., and Ron and Chris S.
Miss Linda summed it up well: “What a cycling venture from the Bay Area to the Lake! I am in awe of the human endeavor we all undertook.”
Joseph C. (Joe) Shami
* “Traveling the Mormon Emigrant Trail,” (September 2001) By Anthony M. Belli,
** “Shoeless in Markleeville” by Mike Dunn, Benicia Bicycle Club Newsletter, August 2005, p.13, www.BeniciaBicycleClub.org .
Mike Jacoubowsky’s ride description of Mormon Emigrant Trail with photos,
Wednesdays a casual and smaller group, meets at Nelly’s Java (Organic Coffee Tea) in Montclair at 1952 Mountain Blvd.(next to the Post Office) and we start riding at around 8:30 am. Come early to socialize.
Our basic mission on Wednesdays is to ride to Moraga for coffee. Our route is up Butters, to Skyline then east on Redwood Road down to Pinehurst, then Pinehurst to Moraga Road and into Moraga for coffee and snacks. We return via Moraga Road to Pinehurst, through Canyon and up the Pinehurst climb to Skyline.
Starting in Montclair, this ride is about 20 miles with 1600 ft of ascent
On Sunday our standard ride is a tour of the East Bay hills in Oakland and Berkeley, followeod by a cruise through Orinda and Moraga, ending with a climb up Pinehurst. We leave from Nelly’s Coffe shop, next to the Post Office in Montclair, wheels roll at 8:30 am sharp! Total distance if riding from Montclair is 33 miles with a bit less than 3000 ft of ascent.
Route Summary – for those familiar with the East Bay cycling routes – we ride from Montclair to Caldecott field (regroup), up Tunnel to Sibley (regroup), Grizzly Peak to Steam Trains (regroup), Grizzly Peak to Shasta then Wildcat Canyon/Orinda/Moraga (coffee and snack in Moraga), return via Pinehurst through Canyon.
A bit more detail
Starting from Montclair, ride North to Lake Temescal and take the bike path above the lake over to Broadway. Right onto Broadway and spin up to Caldecott field (regroup at Caldecott).
Cross the freeway and turn right onto Tunnel road and enjoy the views of the bay on your ascent. Stop at Sibley Park for a long regroup.
Leave Sibley and ride North on Grizzly Peak Blvd up to Steam Trains in Tilden Park for another regroup.
From Steam Trains continue north on Grizzly Peak to Shasta and go right on Shasta into Tilden Park – brief regroup just as we enter the park. Descend Shasta to Wildcat Canyon, and then right on Wildcat Canyon, past Inspiration Point, descending to Camino San Pablo, regroup again at the intersection.
South (right) on Camino San Pablo, through Orinda and on to Moraga, where we stop for coffee and snacks, usually visiting the farmer’s market, SiSi’s or the Ranch House – depending on the mood of the group.
Return from Moraga by going west on Moraga Road to Pinehurst, then right on Pinehurst, through Canyon and up the Pinehurst climb to Skyline.
Most Saturdays there is a ride designed for beginners which leaves from the Warehouse at 416 26th, Oakland (between Telegraph and Broadway. They meet at 8:45 and leave at 9am. These rides vary from one to several hours, all riders welcome!
Advice and Description of the ride up Mt. Diablo
-Joe Shami, Dec 2011
When riding Mt. Diablo in winter months, I strongly recommend bringing a knapsack with warm clothing, such as winter gloves, head warmer, a dry, long-sleeve undershirt if you intend to go to the summit, a light wind-breaker jacket, long pants (of course), and even a balaclava if you have one and silk glove liners. You may resent the extra weight while climbing, especially on that last 0.14 mile of 17% slope up to the Summit, but you may thank me on the descent, because your clothing will be wet from sweat by the time you reach the top, and you’ll be sitting motionless on the descent for a half hour, so one can get unpleasantly freezing.
Mt. Diablo is a difficult climb with three different weather zones, and the wind can be a big factor. There is an automated weather line (925-838-9225) that is updated every 20 minutes that gives the temperature and average wind condition at the summit, but it has been out of action for a couple of weeks with a busy signal and is right now.
Except for that 17% climb at the end, most of the rest of the climb is rarely more than 10%, but if you don’t have extra-low gears, you’ll certainly notice those long stretches of 8%, 9%, and 10%.
The altitude at the summit is 3849 ft; at the Junction, a possible turn-around point, it’s 2200 ft. When climbing Southgate, you’re protected by a ridge for the first 2.5 miles till you reach the Toll Gate at about 1500 ft. Then, it can become windier. The next Weather Zone is just above the parking lot at Juniper Campground at 3,000 ft. It’s not always worse above that. Sometimes, you’re above the fog at this time of year, and it’s warm and pleasant there, till you come back down into the sea of fog, which may not have burned off yet.
Once you enter the State Park on Mt. Diablo Scenic Blvd — the road you take from Athenian School — it’s about 5.75 miles to the Junction with Northgate Rd. Then it’s 4.5 tougher miles to the Summit. There are mileage marks every quarter mile by the side of the road. In addition, when climbing Southgate, you’ll see an initial marker with the number 59 (I think). Then you’ll see countdown numbers after that, counting down to zero, which is the Junction.
Watch out for absolutely terrible potholes in the one-mile stretch from Athenian School to the State Park entrance. Within the park, Southgate Rd is in good condition, as is Summit Rd. However, Northgate Rd (which you won’t be accessing tomorrow) is NOT in good condition and is harder and steeper and longer (6.5 miles once you enter the State Park from Walnut Creek).
When descending the mountain alone, I try to have a flashing headlight, because the greatest danger on a busy weekend is from stupid drivers who think they have the road to themselves and pass uphill cyclists on blind curves.
Short Version: We’ve been around for 75 million years. While other dinosaurs ran, we rode bikes.
Somewhat Longer Version:
1998 – Howard and Ron ride on Sundays. Back in July 1998 Howard Neal and Ron Scrivani decided to meet at the Royal Ground cafe in Montclair on a Sunday morning for a bike ride. That initial ride was from Montclair, over to Lk Temescal and then up Tunnel Road. They must have had a good time on the ride as they decided to continue to meet at 8:00 on Sundays and ride the same route. John Mayerhoffer soon joined them, and then Susie Larson. It wasn’t long before they met up with a group from Piedmont (including Pam Hertzer and John Malick) that joined the Sunday rides.
Of course, the group didn’t have a name at that time, and over the next few years friends and other riders joined the rides and in 2001 one of the riders, Jeff Sharp, announced that he was planning an 50 mile ride in Marin to celebrate his 50th birthday. Jeff and his family had reserved a house in Inverness, and he invited anyone who was interested to join him for the ride. It is rumored that 50 miles seemed to be an awfully long way, so in preparation for Jeff’s ride the group decided to extend their Sunday excursions to include Grizzly Peak, Wildcat Canyon, Orinda, Moraga and Pinehurst, which then became the standard Sunday loop.
2003 – Addition of the Wednesday Ride. Sunday morning isn’t always a convenient time to ride for everyone, and in the summer of 2003 Miss Linda and Sally Goodman organized the Wednesday morning rides. They wanted a group that was looser in organization and rode at a more mellow pace than the Sunday riders.
2004 – Marin Headlands – On January 4, 2004, to start the new year, the group embarked on a Marin Headlands ride which has since become the Veloraptors signature ride. Per Ron Scrivani, it is the same drill every year, the second weekend in January. We begin by taking BART to SF Embacadero and meet up at a set time (usually 9am), ride along the Embarcadero, through Fisherman’s Wharf, on to the Marina and Chrissy Field, through the Presidio and over Ft Point to the Golden Gate bridge. Then it is across the bridge and up to the headlands for a group picture. Riders then continue on or return home in a myriad of ways, some head back across the bridge and maybe brunch in the city, many ride on through Ft Cronkite to Sausalito for breakfast and return on the ferry, and if it is a nice day there is often a contingent that continues on to Tiburon for lunch and the ferry to SF. The first Marin Headlands ride had 13 riders, and has since grown to nearly 40 riders in 2012!
2004 – Multi-day rides -Yosemite and Vuelta a Colores. In May 2004 Kevin McTighe organized a ride to Yosemite. This was an ambitious ride, riding from Castro Valley to Jamestown on the first day and then from Jamestown to Yosemite on the second day. This ride has been repeated numerous times since then, encountering intense heat some years and snow and ice other years. Kevin also organized the first Vuelta a Colores (Fall Colors) ride to re-visit segments of the Markleeville, CA, “Death Ride” at the height of fall color in the Sierras.
2005 – Veloraptors incorporate. In 2005 this amalgam of riders decided to incorporate and created a non profit corp. By then there were at least a couple dozen regular participants in the Sunday morning rides. The name of the group was decide by a committee that met several times at Ron’s warehouse. Possible names included “Cyclopath Raptor Cranks” and the “Royal Grounders”, but they settled on “Royal Ground VeloRaptors.” The first officers of this non profit were: Ron Scrivani – President, Howard Neal – Secretary, Steve Kaminski – Treasurer. In December ’05 the board expanded to 7 members. Newbies to the board were Teri Jones, Susie Larson, Kevin McTighe, and Dennis Cathey.
Moreover, by 2005 the group had organized several “adventure” or “destination” rides. In May 2004 several members rode to the dedication and opening of the bike/ped path across the new Al Zampa Carquinez bridge, and in July 2004 Howard organized the first ride from Montclair to Napa. Also in 2004 Ron, Dennis Cathey, Robert Watts, and Howard did a “Circumcycle” around Lake Tahoe, when Dennis was bowled over by a dog dashing into the street about 2 miles before the finish (note, this was after a stop for tequila at Blue Agave in Tahoe City!).
2006 – Jerseys, Fundraisers and more. After incorporating and deciding on a name in 2005, Steve Kaminski headed up a committee to design a jersey, and then Steve with Greg Thomas designed shirts. Steve hired an artist (Janet White) to make the dinosaur drawing.
In 2006 the Veloraptors organized their first fundraiser – the Tour D’Oakland on Sept 10. This ride was a benefit for the Bay Area Outreach Recreational Program (BORP), and three or four Tour D’ Oakland rides have followed. Currently, the Veloraptors support BORP with a bike wash, first organized by Gordy Gilmore and now Randy Mellin. Every year several Veloraptors also participate in the BORP Revolution fundraiser ride, raising a minimum of $350 each to participate.
2006 also marked the first Veloraptor participation in the Year-Rounder sponsored by the Ultra Marathon Cycling Club. That year, Howard Neal took on the challenge of riding a century-a-month. In 2009, Howard, Randy, Robin Brumell and Susan Stewart all did the Year-Rounder. Steve Blair joined in 2010. Several other Veloraptors often join the Year-Rounders for all or part of these longer rides (min 90.1 miles).
2007 The Veloraptors assisted parents from Joaquin Miller (JM) with a fundraiser bike ride in March of 2007. This lasted for 3 years. The significance of the JM association is that the originators of this club were all a group of JM parents.
2008 In Dec. 2008 the group name was changed to “VeloRaptors Cycling Club” after the Royal Ground coffee shop closed its doors in Montclair.
Our mission is to promote fitness and a healthy life-style for members through bicycling and the use of bicycles for recreation, exercise, touring and transportation. The Veloraptors club also promotes a positive social environment for quality and lasting friendships among its members.
Veloraptors Cycling Club – Oakland (Montclair), California.
Weekly bike rides and various ongoing social get togethers.
Sundays we meet at the Nelly’s Java (Organic Coffee & Tea) in the Montclair Village at at 1952 Mountain Blvd.(next to the Post Office) for a ride up into the Oakland Hills and beyond. We have “no drop” policy and regroup at several spots along the way, including Sibley Park and the Steam Trains parking lot in Tilden Park. Several riders often continue on through Tilden Park, down Wildcat Cyn road, to San Pablo Dam Rd. We then turn South, cycle through Orinda and stop for coffee and pastries in Moraga. The return route is through Canyon and up Pinehurst.
Come early to socialize! Wheels roll at 8:30 am sharp !
Wednesdays a casual and smaller group, also meets at Nelly’s Java and we start riding at around 8:30 am. The Wednesday ride often goes out to Moraga for coffee and pastries, via Redwood Rd and Pinehurst.There are occasional outlying rides as well. Come early to socialize.
On Saturdays a group rides from the Warehouse at 416 26th, Oakland (between Telegraph and Broadway). This ride starts at 8:45am and often traverses the Bay Trail north to Pt. Richmond. All riders are welcome!