On July 29 we began our big biking expedition of the summer. Since we suffered through a miserable spring and early summer, we had very few miles on the bike. We opted therefore to do a fairly short series of rides. We chose Lake Tahoe as our destination.

July 30-31, Salem, Oregon

But before the Tahoe riding, we planned to stop in Salem for Spencer’s 40th reunion. We stayed with our friend Cheri from Camp UKANDU and introduced her to the best dessert in the world, Coconut Bliss. We arranged to meet some classmates in South Salem for a ride on Friday the 30th.

We started that day riding with Mark Williams, a consultant living in  the Bay Area. We headed out south of town toward Parrish Gap. That should have been a clue. Gaps are only necessary if there are hills. And there were hills.

a_elevation-Salem.jpgMark was training for a century ride with 8,000 feet of elevation gain, so he wanted mileage and hills. We went up short steep patches that were 18% grades. Yipes. Then we went on Summit Loop Road. Oops. It was a 2 mile long stretch of 10-14% with intermediate patches of 20%. (Click thumbnails to see elevation details.) That almost did us in. It did cause Mark’s rent-a-bike to slip the chain which I was able to fix.

Eventually we got back into valley riding, crossed the Buena Vista Ferry and met up with Jim Stovall and Mandy DeLeon. They started out later and did a shorter loop. Mandy, from the flatlands of Corpus Christi, was struggling on the hills they’d faced. So our pace dropped quite a bit. It was fun to visit and ride the backroads to Independence. There we got some smoothies and headed home.

We’d taken so much time that Mark, Sheila and I had to rush back to get ready for setting up the reunion. So we ended up taking a short cut at the end. Oh boy, more 20% grade! When we got to Mark’s house, we were whupped. At 48 miles and 2525’ elevation gain, it was a substantial ride.

The reunion was nice. That’s us at the BBQ. We saw lots of old friends and had many great visits. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. There were about 100 of our class of 650 there. If you’re interested in viewing reunion photos they’re posted at www.southsalem1970.com. Saturday we had a BBQ picnic which 40 alums attended. It was more casual and an easier place for visiting.

August 1-5

On Sunday we drove to Klamath Falls. On the way we stopped for lunch at Salt Creek Falls, the second highest cascade in Oregon. It was lovely. We decided to try to get in a 25 mile loop when we arrived at K Falls. We’d loaded a course into our Garmin GPS unit and set off to follow it. It was working pretty well. We were challenged by the late afternoon headwinds and heat, but were enjoying the ride. Suddenly, we were back at the start point. We’d only turned 15 miles. Somehow we cut off a 10 mile loop. Oops. No matter, we’d driven for 4 hours or so already so this was bonus mileage.

Monday we were going to drive to Tahoe. But I’d discovered a Rails-to-Trails path behind our motel. We decided to ride it and explore before we checked out of our hotel. It was an easy 8 miles to the end. We opted to add more miles before we turned around. We tried to make a loop following our noses and some farmer’s directions. a_tahoe-map.jpgAfter going 18 miles, we asked some roadside workers about how to get back to K Falls. They pointed back down the road we’d just traveled. Rats! We were 18 miles from home and an hour and a half from checkout time. We cruised back the way we came. Ended up with 35.5 miles and an average speed of 16.2! Not bad for a couple of geezers. And it was another bonus ride.

Spent the rest of the day driving through high desert country. Lots and lots of nothing was all we saw. Oh, yes, there was also road construction. Fortunately we had a 12 CD set of songs from the 60s and 70s to occupy us. (Thanks Peggy!) We got into our motel in Kings Beach (north shore of Lake Tahoe) and prepared for the real riding of the trip. We mapped out a course and loaded it in the GPS.

Tuesday the 3rd we drove over to the Tahoe-Truckee airport to start our ride. That 12 mile drive consisted of a 3 mile hill with 10+% grade all the way up. We were very happy to NOT ride it. Of course, it turned out the route we planned was almost as bad. We went through neighborhoods outside of Truckee which had climbs that were long and ranged from 10-18% grades. Isn’t there anything level in this state? (Yes, I know, we are in a mountain range, but sheez!) We certainly figured out how emigrant parties in the 1840s got stuck here.

We circled Donner Lake, then climbed higher to the Tahoe ski area. On a road called “Schussing” we finally got our payback. It was a long, curvy, fast ride. We just took the lane and let ‘er fly. Eventually we caught up with Hwy 89 and headed back to the airport. It had been a 31 mile day with 1900’ of gain.

We were back early enough to walk down to the lake for a plunge and a bit of a lay around. We read our books and baked. This is a beautiful spot. The lake is so blue and so clear! And there were real beaches of sand! It’s just like being at the ocean, except the water’s warm, the air toasty, and there are mountains all around. (Can you tell I grew up with the Oregon coast as a measuring stick?)

The next two days were set aside to circumnavigate the lake. We got a late start on Wednesday because we thought we only had about 20 miles to ride. As it turned out, they were some of the most challenging miles we were to face.

Our first challenge was that our Tandem Talk broke down during the first hour. Amazingly, we found a Radio Shack right on the route. But nothing they sold fixed the problem. With Spencer’s hearing loss, this was a bit of a problem. But we soldiered on.

Immediately we came to a long, long, long, long, climb. We’d started around 6200’ elevation (did I mention all the riding is at altitude?) and climbed to 7100’. Then we connected with Nevada Hwy 50 for a 45 mph drop down the other side. We still had lots of ups and downs, but we were in South Lake Tahoe by 3:30. We’d knocked off another 32 miles and 1700’ of climbing.

Again we sat by the lake for a while watching the paragliders, paddleboats and jetskis. Then we had a filling Indian dinner with enough carbs to keep a tour rider going.

Thursday the 5th we wanted to get an earlier start because the day was due to be longer and we wanted to get done before the afternoon heat. As we were heading through Southshore, we were passed by a trio of singles heading out for a training ride. We caught them and rode together for a couple of miles until a downhill let us separate from them. They caught us on the big climb of the day to Inspiration Point. It was an epic climb, too. It had switchbacks and long steady grades. At one point we were riding a ridge that was only as wide as the 2 lane road. On one side, far below, was Lake Tahoe. On the other side, not quite so far below was Cascade Lake. And no place had a shoulder wider than 4 inches. Sheila rather sternly asked me to take more of the lane so she wouldn’t have to look at the cliffside.

We had another big climb before dropping down to the west shore of Tahoe. It was all boats and rental homes with the forest marching to the shore. The beaches were rocky instead of sandy. We got to Tahoe City and were suddenly in a traffic jam. We scooted along the edge of it, but the backups on our 2 lane road literally went for miles. We were glad for our two-wheeler.

Finished the day by 1:30, 40 miles and 1700’ of climbing. All in all we had done 204 miles on our trip and more than a mile of climbing. It wasn’t nearly the longest tour we’d ever done, but it was challenging. Especially the 100 miles in the Tahoe area. Biking at altitude really takes it out of you. Plus, two of those days had us carrying full panniers! To celebrate our return, I took a nap while Sheila read Eat, Pray, Love. It was glorious.

On the way home we stopped in Portland to visit with family and play some pinochle then sprinted home Saturday night, rather then waiting until Sunday. Thanks to our generous neighbors Morrie was none the worse for our absence. It’s such a blessing to have fellow cat-lovers in the building to exchange cat-care with.