Monday, April 07, 2008

Day Ride Toward Reno

I have a lot to learn about planning rides in California. After about an hour of interstate and some two lane highway, which was a small price to pay for getting to the roads I suspected I would find on the way across the Sierra Nevadas, I spotted snow in the approaching mountain peaks. I pressed on figuring that even if I had to turn around, it would still be a good day of riding.

It ended up taking me about 2 hours to clear the interstate and the flatland traffic at Jackson, CA. By this time I had already enjoyed what is becoming a staple of my forays into this scenic state. I had run past the windmills along I-580 in Livermore and had taken in a new set of rolling grass covered hills as the bike and I steadily climbed toward the snow.

In Jackson the changes became more abrupt and the road started winding its way upward via the path of least resistance. Kit Carson first navigated this pass that became a crucial link across the Sierras for the Pony Express. I encountered my first roadside snow at 4500 feet and thought to myself "This won't be so bad." That was before I realized that the road kept climbing to 8000 feet.

I had dressed for temperatures between 50 - 70 degrees F because I left the house at about 10 AM after the chill was out of the air. Normally things warm up around here by about 2 and by 5PM it is in the high 60s or maybe low 70s. Well, in the valleys at least. Up in the passes things are a little different.

When I stopped for lunch, I put on my heavy gloves. The temperature was in the low 50s. At 5000 feet, I checked the temp again and it was in the low 40's. At 6700 feet I had had enough and stopped to put on my jacket and pant liners which are good to the low 30's. Good thing too because when I checked before I re-mounted the bike, it was 36 and it stayed that way for quite some time.

I continued climbing past the signs that declared the area an avalanche hazard and past the swing gates that are permanently installed for the inevitable times when the road must be closed. Dodging just a few ice boulders in the road (rocks really) I eased my way to the top and then down the other side of the pass into the Diamond Valley.

My route called for a right turn on CA 89 which I took, but as I made the turn I saw what I had expected to see ever since first spotting the snow on the distant peaks. The passes back to the other side of the mountain range were closed along HWY 4. I figured I was lucky to get this far and continued down the road a little while until I found a beautiful little trout stream where I shot a few pics before heading back the way I came.

This turned out to be a great ride because it had 170 miles of smoothly paved roads filled with gentle sweepers and a few hair pins along for good measure. On the way over the pass the first time, I rode between 50 - 60 mph taking in the tall pines, snow fields and beautiful vistas. On the way back I picked up the pace a little and really enjoyed the bikes capabilities on these winding roads.


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