Cross county Bicyclist recalls El Dorado county
Cross county Bicyclist recalls El Dorado county
Sunday August 12, 2007, 25 miles (40 km) - Total so far: 3,990 miles (6,422 km)
Today the challenge is to get over Carson Pass, the last significant barrier to San Francisco. The pass is about 14 miles from Woodfords and involves a climb of about 3,000 feet. The road rose immediately and steeply out of Woodfords. I'm thinking it can't be this bad the entire distance. And it wasn't. There were places where the climb was simply tedious instead of awful. But this was clearly the last big one!
What was clear was that I was not in NV any more. Tall trees and raw granite were the major sights now Easy to see how this mountains area attracted the attention of the likes of John Muir and Ansel Adams.
Toto, this isn't Nevada any more
Even the rivers look different. This is the Carson River, clear and blue, tumbling noisily over rocks, and leading up the mountain.
Carson River NV
It was slow going. I stopped frequently to drink, eat and rest. I watched with clenched jaws as car after camper trailer after motorcycle, and the occasional double trailer truck piled high with tons of bailed hay zoomed furiously up the road sounding like an invading air force. Vehicles moving at speed are not quiet, and really change the character of a national park. Also, it was depressing to hear these vehicles downshift to climb the last three miles. It meant that the road was getting steep again.
But, finally, the summit appeared, almost anticlimactically, because tall trees shrouded the views and you really could not see very much at all. A ranger station and the much anticipated green summit height sign were the marks of success.
Carson Pass CA 8574 feet elevation
It took about three and a half hours to get to the summit. I celebrated by talking with the forest service volunteers and going into the woods to eat another Cliff Bar, my primary source of nutrition on the road, and contemplate the road down to the sea.
Wooded trail at Carson Pass CA
At the summit I was joined by two guys who had spent the night camped in someone's yard a few miles east of Woodfords. Troy and Devin were from the San Diego area but had flown to NYC to ride to SF. We shared the thrill of being almost there.
Troy and Devin, westbound
They have a schedule to meet. Troy's mother wants him back home to join the family on a trip to Bermuda. So they have to get going. They are faster than I am, and I am planning on proceeding slowly from here - I have done so well getting this far I have time to burn before my scheduled trip conclusion at the Pacific Ocean. I will enjoy the relaxed pace.
Part of the slow pace was enforced by the road. While losing altitude overall, the route climbs significantly three more times before Placerville. It is a regional peculiarity that the west side of the Sierra's is sort of like a big ball of crumpled newspaper. Yes, it goes down to the sea, but from the viewpoint of an ant traveling along, it is lots of ups and downs along the way. For this reason there are no rivers traveling from the vicinity of the pass west to the ocean. There is no unobstructed path for one to follow. In summary I climbed over 1,500 feet after the pass and down 6000 feet to Placerville. It will be the same, I fear, all the way to the Pacific.
But pretty. Here's the lake near Kirkland, just over the pass.
Kirkland Lake CA
And here is a look over one of the valleys.
"Descent from Carson Pass"
Carson Pass is one of several gateways to CA, and not the lowest. But it was a busy area funneling covered wagon, stage coach and even train traffic across the mountains. For me with a bike and a modern road, the trip was easy. The idea of doing this on dirt and gravel with horses or oxen is simply hard to imagine.
Lunch was a priority and the fist opportunity was a small place just outside the national park. The owner told me that I was the first customer since breakfast, that he had not done the morning dishes yet, that his place was 30 miles from anywhere, and the cooler was unreliable so forget the menu, what kind of burger did I want? Despite all the grousing he produced a wonderful cheeseburger with fries and I was very grateful.
The rest of the ride to Placerville was up and down. More down than up, to be sure, but very challenging ups. When I get back to VA I will. Want to see what its like to ride a bike up hills with no panniers. I'm sure it will be different.
At Somerset, along the way to Placerville, I again saw Troy and Devin. They were taking a different, and more direct route to Placerville than the ACA had picked. I stuck with the ACA route and was rewarded with a poorly maintained road with steep hills, but little traffic. I imagined local bike club enjoying every foot of the numerous climbs, competing with each other to be fastest through the course. Then. They had not been doing this daily for the last two months. Still, it was a pretty and quiet spot, and I really appreciate that.
In Placerville I stayed at the first reasonably priced motel, and ate at a Mexican American restaurant both in a strip shopping center anchored by a Discount Grocery and a Dollar General.. The restaurant specials, all from the American menu, included blackened halibut with mango salsa, surf and turf, a NY strip steak and lobster tails. Amazing. My choice, from the Mexican side, was carnitas - pulled pork with guacamole, pico de gallo, and beans. The meal was superb: the best presentation of carnitas I can recall. And in a discount strip mall? Things are looking up!
To bed. And dream about getting into San Francisco. Coming soon.
Today I simply moved the puck as it were. I got a slow start, between calling folks to tell them that I've arrived in California, and journal stuff, and my fifth flat tire. Same culprit as before - those tiny steel belt reinforcing wires. This one was embedded in the tread and just barely reached the tube at all. I patched the tube, reassembled the wheel, and headed downtown about noon.
Placerville was having a craft fair that closed Main St. I browsed through the booths, but my real interest was finding a café for lunch. This was not difficult as the historic downtown is filled with little spots offering espresso, smoothies and sandwiches. The one I picked was in a passage leading from the sidewalk, among a number of places selling incense, bath oils, stationery and flowers. As the owner was assembling the sandwich, he asked whether I wanted sprouts on it I asked for the sprouts. Now I know I'm in California.
Back in the street fair I met a small group of "Bike and Build" riders. This is a national, church sponsored program that recruits college- aged riders to go on a bicycle tour and stop every five days or so to contribute to a building effort, similar to the Habitat for Humanity organization. This folks I met were a part of 31 riders who had left Rhode Island and were headed for San Francisco. Theirs is a fully supported tour: trucks carry their gear from town to town, their meals and lodging are arranged, mostly through churches, schools and community groups. They carry only lunch and water with them when they ride. Most are riding lighter road bikes designed to be fast. I'm both a little jealous and a little smug. I'd like all that help, but I feel like I'm doing a "real" cross-country tour. Silly. These folks are having an extraordinary summer they will never forget - as am I.
The routed they took is not the ACA route. I was surprised to learn they crossed NV on I-80 instead of US-50. I suspect their route had more gradual grades, and more traffic, and was still a challenge for crossing the hot desert. When I asked what they enjoyed about the trip, the common response was that they enjoyed the bike riding, and also seeing places they'd never been to. One guy, learning I'd been riding alone since Pueblo, commented that he had sometimes wanted to ditch the bike and hitchhike home. He wondered how I kept my positive attitude with no one to talk to. My answer, of course, was the larger purpose of the ride as a charity event, and my dedication to seeing it through on behalf of the many people also involved - people with MS and many, many donors. Quitting has never been a real option.
When I finally took my leave from Placerville the sky was clear, the sun was hot and I slathered sun block on dreading the coming roast session. As soon as I was free of the crowds of the fair, and away from the intense highway traffic, insulated once again by an ACA selection of a back route with little traffic and lots of hills, I found myself relaxing into the pedaling cadence and feeling strongly at peace. I was really enjoying being underway on the bike and seeing the scenery move by at a leisurely rate. The breeze of pedaling and the partial shade of overhanging trees made conditions comfortable. I guzzled water. The ride was lovely. Even the hills were reasonable. I felt good. I might come to enjoy bicycle touring yet.
The ride into Folsom was hilly, with the road curving endlessly as it took me from one little valley over some ridge and into some other little valley Green Valley was the name of the area, and there were many lovely homes along the way. To the left the rolling hills partially covered with golden, dormant grass, gave me my first preview of the look of coastal California, which looks similar.
Finally the big earthen dam that creates Folsom Lake was towering over me to the right. With my experience with failed dams and flooding in Kansas, I looked with a sense of dread at the height of the structure and the town below.
It was not far to the hotel, and to a wonderful dinner at a downtown restaurant. The staff there was very taken with my bicycle story and gave me a loaf of delicious Italian bread for my travels the next day.
All along the way, people on this trip have been wonderful, and the best part of the journey.
Tomorrow some electronics shopping in Sacramento, and then on to Davis. The prongs on the electrical adapter that recharges my cell phone failed and I need a new one.
No pics today, just stories. Getting close. Can't wait to see the ocean.
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