I found out that my wife’s uncle, Mel Smith, passed away. The picture below is of Mel. The Smith family is very tight-knit and laugh together, play together, cry together, and support each other in times like these. I remember the way they rallied around Stephanie and I when we lost a child in October 1995.
I will be taking a couple days off from the Foundation to the Future Tour to attend the celebration of Mel’s life in Las Vegas, then start pedaling again from where I got picked up.
On Sunday morning, I will ride into Redlands and will pedal to the Redlands Cyclery. I will depart there at 2pm and ride over Crafton Hills and up Yucaipa Blvd to the Yucaipa Bike Center, where we will have a little welcome reception around 4pm. Stop on by!
As I’ve headed south on my journey, I’ve been criss-crossing the Cascades and the Sierras from west to east and back as I’ve headed south. After crossing the Mojave Desert, I am now crossing a transverse mountain range, the Angeles Mountains. Upon leaving the Palmdale area, I started a surprisingly steep and long climb up Fort Tejon Rd. and the Big Pines Highway. With over 5000′ of elevation gain, I reached Jackson Lake. I had been planning on camping here,thinking I had 6-7 miles of climbing still to go, but found out from a local that most of the climbing was behind me.
So I decided to continue on because it was only early afternoon. In Wrightwood I grabbed lunch and then made a short climb out of the valley and started a 10% downhill on a rough road through Lone Pine Canyon. To link up with the old Route 66 and descend into the valley below, I had to pedal a dirt road for about 6 miles, and crossed the Pacific Crest Trail one more time. Getting excited to be in familiar surroundings. The end of the tour is almost here!
Monday morning began with a ride along Bena Road which parallels the railroad route up into the Tehachapi Pass, then leaves the tracks and climbs steeply up to Keene. I ate lunch at the Keene Cafe, then continued climbing up the Woodford Tehachapi Rd to the overlook of the Keene Loop. This is an engineering feat in which the railroad tracks spiral up in circles to keep the grade manageable for loaded trains to make it up to Tehachapi. The road then climbed high above Highway 58 before dropping down into town.
I stayed the night at Steve and Vicki Harp’s house; mutual friends of John and Sandy Jones. We had never met, but connected immediately. They took me out to dinner with their business partners, Chris and Terri. We went to pizza and I put down an embarrassing amount of food; we all ate up and talked and had a great time. Steve and Vicki then took me on a driving tour of the surrounding areas- Cummings Valley, the prison, and Woodford West BMX/skateboard Camp. I want to thank them for being great hosts.
Tuesday I climbed south out of the Tehachapi Valley and up through the windmill farms. Then it was a long descent past the edge of the Mojave Desert and across the Antelope Valley. As the day wore on the wind increased and I fought a headwind all the way into Palmdale. Tomorrow I will tackle the Angeles Mountains.
Some highlights of the day were passing the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, a scripture sign on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and a green alfalfa field in the middle of the desert.
Saturday morning I still had a touch of vertigo, but needed to keep moving. I decided to stay in the valley and take farm roads and take it easy. I have forgotten what a long ride on level ground was like! I pedaled through vineyards and orchards of fruit and nut trees, occasionally passing through small farm towns. The miles ticked by and the thought came into my mind that I should do a century. Although the head continued to be woozy, the legs felt good from the day off. When I got close to Visalia, I decided to call the Blaney’s, a YCS family that moved up this way. I got Carolyn on the phone and low-and-behold, they were in Yucaipa visiting! So we missed each other, but I said hello to their town of Exeter as I rode through. Wrapped the day up with 105 miles.
This week has been HOT. Triple digits every day, and it’s a challenge to stay hydrated when your water bottles have 100 degree water in them. Every gas station or general store I go by, I ask to fill up my bottles with ice from their fountain drink machines, and they last about 90 minutes until they are back to outside temps.
Sunday, I had another hot day pedaling to Bakersfield. The vertigo was almost gone this morning, so I’m hoping its working its way out of my system. The route was rolling hills and hot again, and their were no services between Porterville and Bakersfield so the water bottles were very hot. Tomorrow sends me into the mountains again, as I will be climbing up to Tehachapi, about 4000′, where hopefully it will be a few degrees cooler!
I woke up Thursday morning and as soon as I moved to sit up, the whole world started spinning and wouldn’t stop. I was experiencing an intense bout of vertigo- I soon became nauseous and was dry-heaving on my hands and knees outside the tent. It took me two hours to pack up camp. I was wobbly on the bike, so I walked it up to Tunnel View to see if I could get a ride up the hill.
Enter Layton. He was on his way to hike out at Glacier Point and stopped to text his wife at the Tunnel View turnout. He graciously offered to take me to Wawona. At the store, I hung out for a couple hours, asking for a ride from a few people, but got no takers. I kept drinking and eating and decided to try to ride. Although still a little dizzy, I was better than earlier. I climbed up to the Mariposa Grove and South Entrance. The line of cars to get in to the park was over a mile long!
I passed the Tenaya Lodge, where Stephanie and I have stayed, then began a mostly downhill ride to Oakhurst. After another break I decided to head out toward the San Joaquin Valley and take a day off. It was a harrowing ride on the 41, with an intermittently disappearing shoulder and lots of traffic. Up and down and on and off the road due to traffic, I finally reached the intersection of the 41 and the 145 as the sun was going down. Javier pulled over and told me he was on his way into Madera, so I hitched a ride and found a room. I was exhausted, but the dizziness had slowly receded throughout the day.
I woke up the next morning with the room spinning all over again. I holed up for the day and again, my equilibrium slowly stabilized as the day went on. It wasn’t as bad as yesterday, and hopefully it will be better tomorrow. I’m guessing I might have an inner ear infection. Makes for miserable touring.
I think Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz said, “There’s no place like Yosemite.” I know, she said “home,” but as I pedaled through the park all day I thought God created a very special place that reflects beauty, awesomeness, majesty, and I kept thinking “there’s no place like Yosemite.”
I started the day with the climb up the eastern scarp of the Sierra Nevada to Tioga Pass. It was steep and consistent , all the way from Lee Vining to 9945′. But I would rank it easier than Monitor, which had some sections that got steeper. The weather was beautiful and I stopped frequently for photos (also a good excuse to catch my breathe).at the top, the rangers just waved me through and I descended down to Tuolumne Meadows, where I ate lunch. I talked to some folks doing the John Muir Trail; talked to a Danish couple about good day hikes in the area (sent them to Cathedral Lake); and talked to Harvey from New Jersey who is close to retirement and wants to get into cycle touring.
There was a surprising amount of climbing in the high country as I left Tuolomne and headed toward Yosemite Valley. Climbs out of the meadow, after Tenaya Lake, a long climb up to White Wolf, and a shorter on before dropping to Crane Flat. Saw a small fire on the rim just west of Yosemite Creek, which was barely flowing. The descent into the Valley was steep and fun, keeping up with the traffic and staying away from the little stone wall that is all there is between you and the Merced River far below.
In the Valley it was VERY congested and all the campgrounds were full. I tried unsuccessfully to share a site with someone, visiting multiple sites in Lower Pines and Camp 4; in addition, the rangers were really active at sweeping out the “extras” from the camp. If you didn’t have a tag for your tent ( I didn’t, having got to the camp after the kiosk closed at 6pm), you were told to clear out fast or get cited and fined.
I ended up cycling back down the valley, then up toward Tunnel View, where I dry-camped off the road a ways. Hung my bags from a tree limb to keep my food away from the bears.
Yosemite is one of those places that moves you by it’s beauty and size. It stirs one to think of bigger things; it reminds me of Romans 1:20 which reminds us that these places point to their Creator, and we are to acknowledge and worship Him, not the creation. My heart was filled with worship today, even as I was grinding up some big grades.
Sunday was a great day off at my parents in Placerville. Had mom’s homemade lasagna and froze some for Monday.
Early Monday, we drove back to my pick-up point in Woodfords, said goodbye to dad and mom, and started over the hill to Markleyville and the climb up Monitor Pass. The climb went from scrub oak, through pines, and finally aspen, topping out at 8314′.
The descent was fun- felt like an airplane coming in for a landing. After about 10 miles of fairly flat riding in the Antelope Valley, it was back to climbing up the Walker River Canyon and over Devil’s Gate Pass at 7519′. After almost 6000′ of climbing, I rolled into Bridgeport and camped about a mile south of town at a fishing camp, where I had a friend join me for the evening: Charlie, the camp caretaker’s dog.
In the morning as I was changing my socks, I was surprised to see my colorful toe. I had smashed it on the bed at my parents as I was getting ready to go Monday morning and it was sore, but because my bike shoes are so stiff and I use the ball of my foot to pedal, it wasn’t too painful. It just goes along with the sprained wrist as a nuisance that will eventually go away.
Tuesday’s ride was a climb up to Conway Summit. At the base of the climb, I decided to stop at an RV park that had a little cafe and fuel up. I ordered a short stack of pancakes but what came out was the largest pancake I’ve ever seen- fully filling the 12″ plate it was served on! With a full stomach, up I rolled.
Topping out at 8138′ the view to the south is filled with Mono Lake. Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda in a basin that has no outlet to the ocean. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake. These salts also make the lake water alkaline. This desert lake has an unusually productive ecosystem based on brine shrimp that thrive in its waters, and provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds that feed on the shrimp.
As I descended, the wind off the lake really picked up and before I knew it I was down to 4 mph as I climbed by the lake and up to Lee Vining.
Each of the next few days include thousands of feet of climbing. I pedaled up Tioga Pass in 1986 on a road bike while training for the Badwater to Whitney ride; it will be interesting to try it fully loaded with a touring rig.
Saturday started with a gorgeous ride along the southwest section of Lake Tahoe from Meek’s Bay to Rubicon Bay to Emerald Bay and finally into South Lake Tahoe. The blue water rivaled Crater Lake in the mid-morning sunlight. I was stopping frequently for photos; had a great conversation at Inspiration Point with John and George, recruiter and assistant basketball coach respectively, at William Jessup College in Rocklin, CA. About 8 miles later, they passed me on highway 89 and did a hand off of a V8 Fusion drink.
Aftera bite to eat in Meyers, I climbed the steepest section I have encountered so far on the tour, following the Upper Truckee Rd. over Luther Pass. At the top of the pass, I met my dad and mom, Joe and Joann, and they leap-frogged with me to Woodfords, where they picked me up for a planned day off.
About six miles from Woodfords, at the intersection of highways 88 and 89, I unintentionally became part of a cycling event- The 33rd Annual Death Ride. This is a 129 mile cycling event with 16,000′ of climbing, going over and back on Monitor Pass and Ebbett’s Pass, then finishing with a fifth climb up Carson Pass. I jumped right into the roadies with my touring rig and got lots of thumbs-ups and did my share of shouting out encouragement as well. I just wonder if any of the riders thought I was actually part of the ride and doing it fully loaded- that would be truly insane!
At the Woodfords aid station, I pulled in and packed up my gear and headed off for a day’s rest at my parent’s in Placerville. We went to dinner at Sizzler (Yucaipa misses you, Sizzler!) and oh my, a steak and all-you-can eat salad bar allowed me to savor something besides freeze-dried dinners!
Sunday, we went to the worship service at Calvary Chapel Placerville and it was great to be spiritually nourished by a message from God’s Word. Our Creator made us body, soul, and spirit, and it is important to take care of all aspects of our person. This bike tour is allowing me time to get in great physical shape, to think deeply and plan for the future, but also to pray and meditate and read the Bible and listen to what God wants to say to me. I have visited three churches on my trip so far and I’ve been blessed by each message and the people I’ve met.
My day off is not over; dad is napping in his recliner, mom is going through ads in the Sunday paper, and I’m blogging and packing up for the next week of cycling. I’m looking forward to a visit from my sister Jennifer and her family and mom’s homemade lasagna for dinner! Then it’s a good night’s sleep and back on the road tomorrow.
The next week will be, I believe, the most challenging of the tour: Monitor, Devil’s Gate, Conway, Tioga in the first three days, then ups and downs of thousands of feet daily including a 6,500′ climb up to Sequoia and King’s Canyon by next Sunday or Monday.
The last few days I have continued pedaling down harrowing, mostly shoulderless highway 89. The countryside is beautiful, alternating between climbs up forested ridges and dropping into valleys with lakes, reservoirs, or ranches.
On Wednesday, I passed Lake Almanor and caught my last backward glance of Mt Lassen. I stopped in the little town of Greenville for lunch and ate in the old Wells Fargo building built in 1860. I then entered the Indian Creek Canyon- hairy cycling with lots of logging trucks and no shoulder. But I was following the route of the transcontinental railway and saw the incredible engineering that went into its construction and was thinking of the thousands of Chinese laborers who built it; the railway is suspended on the wall of the canyon.
After spending the night outside Quincy, another quaint town, I climbed Lee Summit and followed the Feather River through Graeagle, over another pass, then into a large valley where I encountered two cowboys herding cattle. I stopped to watch their expertise with their horses and the control they had in directing the stock.
I climbed a ridge to a remote campsite and was entertained for the evening by a pair of chipmunks burrowed in an old tree stump. One was Mr. Cautious, disappearing every time I twitched; the other was Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, venturing out and about my camp looking for just one more morsel. I shared a couple almonds with them and Happy sat on the stump and chowder down while Cautious grabbed his and jumped into the stump.
This morning, after a short climb, I dropped into Truckee and met a former student of mine, David Bunker, and his infant son Dylan for lunch. It was great to catch up; he comes from a wonderful family, the Bunker clan, and has a beautiful family of his own.
Following the Truckee River, I passed Squaw Valley, home of the VIII Winter Olympics, and rode the Truckee River Bike Trail which follows the first few miles of the river from its origin at Lake Tahoe and extends a ways down the west shore of the lake as well. There were HUNDREDS of people floating the Truckee- looked like a lot of fun. I have a campsite at Meeks Bay about 100 yards from the shoreline. It’s a huge site that could fit a 50′ rig; it looks funny with just my bike and two-man tent set up. Last night they had two bears in camp…I’ll keep you posted.
After leaving Mt Shasta, I climbed up to Snowman’s Hill Summit at 4470′ then had a long pleasant descent to McCloud. Then the fun began…the road’s shoulder disappeared. And a lot of logging traffic appeared! The road was only wide enough to accommodate two vehicles and nothing more. So I had to ride with a constant eye in my rear-view mirror; every time a vehicle was coming up behind me, I had to judge it’s distance, whether there were more than one, how big it was ( car, truck, RV, semi) and then make the same calculations for any vehicles approaching from ahead. If it looked like they were going to pass within 100 yards of me, I had to bail out onto the shoulder and stop to give them enough room to safely pass each other.
In the afternoon, just after passing the bridge over Britton Lake, I had semi’s coming in both directions and no place to go, so it was a bail out into soft volcanic cinders which swallowed the tires and over I went. Sprained the left wrist, but thankfully I can still ride. And thank God for protecting me. I stopped at Burney Falls State Park and got some ice and wrapped the wrist with athletic tape. Burney Falls are some of the most beautiful falls you’ll ever see. While there I talked to some through hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail who were resupplying; they left the Mexican border on April 19 and are expecting to take 6 months to complete it. I’ll take my 6 week version!
Today (July 9) I left my campsite at Bridge Campground on Hat Creek and passed a sobering reminder to be alert: a ghost bike on the side of the road for a cycle tourist who died last year on this shoulderless road.
Today was the ascent of Lassen Peak. I climbed up to the National Park entrance and the truck traffic stopped. I pedaled up and up and up- vistas began to unfold. I put the bike in my granny gear and stopped frequently to take pictures. iI finally topped out about 5:30pm after 40 miles of climbing at 8511′. Then it was bombs away down the south side of the volcano, stopping for more photos. At one spot there was geothermal activity and mud ponds- reminded me of Yellowstone.
Got into camp about 7:20pm, set up, ate the rest of my ham sandwich and berrie pie from lunch, drank about a half gallon of fluids, and took a shower! The wrist is sore. I’m looking forward to getting off this narrow road in about three days.