Monday, August 26, 2013

Fun in the car!

8-15-2013  Midpines
Today was a busy day of running around. We got up late and took a long bus ride to Merced. We found a real taco stand and enjoyed a nice lunch. We also picked up our rental car, shopped for lots of food and drove back to Midpines. I don't know if it's a good idea to rent new cars. Now Esther wants a new car with a touch screen and lots of buttons.It even connected to her phone.
Esther in a New Car

It was nice to buy more than you can carry on a bike though. It was hot in the valley; high 90’s would be my guess. It made the ice tea taste real good. Tomorrow we are off to Kings Canyon and the Sequoia National Park.

8-16-2013  Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park

We packed the car with all our stuff (Lots of it!) and headed south to see two more National Parks. We are going to drive an arc-shaped route thru both parks, entering from the north on CA Rt. 180. We first headed to the Kings Canyon Visitor Center and asked for some suggestions. We then drove north to the Old Kings Canyon Lodge, then back south into Sequoia along the Generals highway. I must say we were so happy to do the climb into the park along Rt. 180 in a car! It was a really steep and long climb up and over to the lodge. We stopped at a vista called the Junction View and enjoyed the view.
Front Porch of the Kings Canyon Lodge

Old Gas Pumps at the Lodge (One was Unleaded!)

Kings River Canyon from the Junction Viewpoint

Next we stopped to see the General Grant Tree, the third largest tree in the world. These Sequoia trees are so large they don’t photograph well. We tried.

General Grant Grove

General Grant Tree

Large Sequoia Log

Inside a Large Sequoia Log

Next we headed into Sequoia National Park to see the largest tree (or for that matter, the largest living thing!) on earth. The General Sherman tree is 2200 years old and 274 feet high.

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree Base ..

And Looking Up

All of these really large and old trees grow near here, and they are really something to see in these groves.
The Road Splits to go Through a Grove of Sequoias

The final eye popping feature today was the descent out of Sequoia along CA Rt. 189. The road drops several thousand feet down a twisty road for miles and miles. Again we were glad to be in a car. We finally got down to Visalia by dark and got a room.
Looking West from the Eleven Ridges Viewpoint

CA Rt. 189 Twists and Drops going West.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yosemite and done!

8-14-2013 Yosemite Village, CA to Mid Pines, CA

We slept in today and took the YARTS bus down to Midpines late this afternoon. The camp we were in last night is a staging area for climbs and wakes up early. The groups started leaving about 3AM, and when we got up most of them were gone. We spent the day visiting the sites here in the valley. The Yosemite Valley is surrounded by sheer rock cliffs which go up thousands of feet. We took a lot of photos.
The View from our Campground
Upper Yosemite Falls, No water...
The South Face of El Capitan
Half Dome
More Vertical Rock
We learned that the road to Midpines was fast, congested, and in a narrow canyon for miles. We smiled on the bus when we saw that first hand. Rt. 120 was also detoured about 15 miles south of the park  due to a huge landslide. So we are done! At least with the cycling part… Tomorrow we will take a bus to Merced  and pick up a car. That will speed things up!

Esther in a Midpines KOA Cabin


8-13-2013 Lee Vining, CA to Yosemite Village, CA

The 40 minute bus ride up to the park went without a hitch. Since we took the bus, we did not have to pay the five dollar a person park entry fee either. What a deal.
The road to Tioga Pass from the Bus

The ride across the park was very scenic. The traffic was busy in spots, and was risky in a few, but we lived through it.
Lembert Dome near Tuolumne Meadows
Tenaya Lake

Climbers above Tenaya Lake
 The view of Yosemite Valley from Olmsted Point

The last part of the ride, from the Crane Flats junction into Yosemite Village, was a thrill. It was a fast descent down a busy road through tunnels and sharp turns. We could go as fast as the cars, so we blocked the lane and enjoyed the ride down. There is a small turn-out after a tunnel which was very congested that we stopped at for the view. This was a good time not to be a car.
The view of the descent into Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel Vista. 
We finally rolled into the Village, with El Capitan bright with late afternoon sun.

El Capitan
It was an adventure finding our campsite, as hiker-biker sites are not advertised. With a lot of friendly help, we found our camp and just collapsed. It was a long day and we are tired. It was nice to be with people who understand Bear etiquette. 20 plus tent sites and not a speck of garbage around. It was a quiet night.
Climbers Camp at North Pines Campground 

Monday, August 19, 2013

August 10 thru August 12

8-10-2013 Topaz Lake, NV to Bridgeport, CA

Today was a little longer by design, but almost no traffic at all. The busiest part of the day was the Casio parking lot, which was full of motorcycles and people trying to get on the road. We cycled a couple of miles up to Nevada Rt. 208 to Wellington, through warm desert.

Off to the Desert on NV Rt. 208

The vehicles vanished as we got on NV Rt. 338. This road climbed very gently along the Walker River to the Sweetwater Summit. The Sweetwater Mountains are to the west of us here, and are very scenic.

Sweetwater range along NV Rt. 338

After the summit, we descend to the California border, then climbed back up CA Rt. 138 to the Bridgeport Reservoir. The Reservoir is pretty low this time of year, leaving a large meadow at the west end. At last we roll into Bridgeport, and find our room.
Bridgeport Reservoir  

We are staying in an old and famous hotel, the Bridgeport in.  It has community bathrooms, no AC, and really steep stairs up to the rooms. The price was right, and we ate at The Barn. It was recommended to us and it was good! I like these places that make big Burritos. After dinner we noticed that the old historic Court House was being taken over by swallows.

The Historic Bridgeport Courthouse and Jail

Maybe we should not have cut the government so much.

8-11-2013 Bridgeport, CA to Lee Vining, CA

Today we started out going south down Rt. 395 toward Conway Summit. The road was narrow, fast, and full of trucks again. We got so spoiled yesterday… We did get a shoulder as the climb started, and that really helped. Marty had two fun things happen today, one was his birthday and the other was a broken bike! I am using an old rear hub from a tandem, and it uses a freewheel, not a free hub and cassette like most modern bikes. I had been hearing a small knock every now and again, and did not find the source of it until now. The cassette somehow came off of the freewheel, and it came to a noisy stop. We did manage to get it back together. It does thread on, but it would only thread on a little, not all the way. It turned out to be good enough to get us to Lee Vining. Just after the Conway summit there is a vista of Mono Lake and the valley below.
Conway Summit Vista

Mono Lake Vista from Rt 395.

Along with the breath taking view of Mono Lake, there is a length of guard rail covered with stickers from around the world.
Guard Rail Stickers

As many people were taking pictures of the guard rail  as there was people photographing the vista. Lee Vining is a tiny town right at the base of the road up to Yosemite. We are in a nice little camp ground and will sleep on a lawn for the first time in weeks. Plush!

8-12-2013 Lee Vining, CA

Today we are taking a day off to rest up for the last push into Yosemite. And a nice day it was! Our endless streak of sunny days continues. We wandered around town today, which was only an half hour long walk, and had a big cup of coffee. I did improvise a spanner wrench to try and tighten my freewheel. I think it will last a few more days. Mono Lake is really interesting. It is very salty (2-3 times more salt than sea water) and is full of brine shrimp. It is a huge breeding ground for birds, with most sea gulls in this area of the country being born here. It is also in the middle of the California water wars. Years ago the rivers feeding the lake were diverted to supply Los Angeles, and the lake level dropped dramatically. Since then the water extraction has slowed down and the lake is rising, but not to original levels. The mineral rich waters also form limestone features called Tufas, formed as springs bring minerals into the lake and react with the lake water.
Tufas in Lake Mono

We talked to many people about the big climb up to the park (Tioga Pass, 9950’), and we found that the road is too narrow and too busy. We also found that the regional bus service will bring us up to Tuolumne Meadows inside the park for three dollars, bikes and all! That should make the climb go better!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Things are moving faster (In a car)!

Hi! Remember us? We are alive and well and staying the night in Visalia, CA. We are going northwest to the bay area today, and I'm going to get caught up. So we are at ...

8-8-2013 Meyers, CA to Markleeville, CA (Grover Hot Springs State Park)

Today we took two more alternate routes, and they both worked really well. The first was to go to the end of Upper Truckee Road South, which brings us to within 4 miles of the Luther Pass summit. It was very nice but really steep at the end.

South Upper Truckee Road near Luther Pass

The climb to the summit was fine, light traffic and a shoulder. The second alternate was to take the old pass road down to the intersection of route 89 and 88.
Luther Pass end of the old highway (See it?)

This road is no longer maintained and is not open to cars. It is hardly more than a mountain biking trail that is paved, but the scenery was amazing. I took many pictures as we slowly descended. Along with washouts, the trees growing up through the roadbed were a challenge.
The View from the Old Highway

The Old Highway
We then descended down Rt. 89 to Woodfords, over to Markleeville, and finally up to Grover Hot Springs State Park.
Afternoon in Markleeville

The Park is really scenic. It also is in bear country, and had a bear incident the day we arrived. Some one left some trash in a camp site when they left (see a pattern?), and as the ranger was cleaning it up, a 400 lb black bear came up to him to help. No worries, the ranger and the bear were not hurt. This camp was bear vaults, and we were not bothered by any visitors.
Campsite in Grover Hot Springs State Park

As a side note, there are many other varmints here, and posters warning of chipmunks having the plague (Really).

8-9-2013 Markleeville, CA to Topaz Lake, NV

Today was a hard one, with Monitor Pass being the main objective. This is a shorter day by design, because the pass climb is steep.

Road To Ebbett's Pass (Don't go here!)

Some Color along the Road to Monitor Pass
We climbed 2600’ in nine miles. Ouch! We took our time and stopped many times to rest. We both think the altitude is winding us a little more than normal. Rather than intervals of distance, we did them by altitude in the steep sections.
Looking back at the road before Monitor Pass

Our normal interval was about 200’ of elevation. We did get up to the top, and then descended the really steep south side.
Monitor Pass

Yikes. We had wind gusts just to give us a little more fun, and descended over 3000’ in about eight or nine miles. We stopped twice to rest our hands and cool off our rims. At the bottom we rested and celebrated the end of Rt. 89. Good!
The view Down from Monitor Pass (Parachutes Ready!)

From there we cycled five miles north on US Rt. 395 to Topaz Lake.

White Pelicans in Topaz Lake

Topaz Lake from Nevada

We are staying at a Casino Motel in a room. The Casino is right on the Nevada border, and will give us a good start on tomorrow. We are taking an alternate route to avoid a dangerous section of US Rt. 395. It is a little longer, but has very little traffic. I just hope the coyotes and snakes are slower than us (Smile). We are just a couple of days away from Yosemite now, and getting near the end.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hello again from California! We are trying to catch up, but we are short on time tonight. So here we go...

8-7-2013 Tahoe City to Meyers, CA
A great scenery day, and getting to know Rt. 89 all over again. We left Tahoe City and followed a bike trail about half the way to South Lake Tahoe. Soon after the end of it, we had a short stretch of the Rt. 89 we have been on before. Narrow, twisty, high speed limit. But we got our shoulder back in time to enjoy the overlooks at the end of the lake. Emerald Bay is very scenic, and we could stop and park there only because we were on bikes. There was no car parking left. No worries. 
Emerald Bay View Point, South Lake Tahoe
Marty and Esther at Inspiration Point, South Lake Tahoe

We talked to a group of cyclists traveling together, and exchanged route notes. We stopped for lunch at Baldwin Beach and got free admission because we were on bikes. Good deal. 
Lunch at Baldwin Beach, South Lake Tahoe

After lunch, we started on one of the alternate routes suggested by the bike shop in Tahoe City. It worked very well! Low to no traffic and quiet. There were some challenges due to unmarked roads and a steep section, but no big deals. We only had to cross Rt. 50 to get to the campground, and that was enough for us. Once again we learned about trash and bears that night. Even after the camp lectures people about putting the trash in the bear proof dumpster, someone couldn’t get that done and we had a black bear come in and spread it around. I guess it had ribs in it. Yum. We had cleaned our camp really well and put everything inside the office. We had no visitors. We also could barely stay awake to 7:30 PM. Maybe the altitude? We are at 6300’. Or maybe just tired.