The last two days have built my character even more. From my drone-surveilled campsite to Truckee was about ten miles of up and down. After Truckee it was flat for a bit, then up.
The endless climb up to Emerald Bay was worth all the character. Clots of fellow tourists oohed and aahed over the revelation of Lake Tahoe from on high. The traffic was light to nonexistent and for the first time in close to three thousand miles there were no logging trucks or 18-wheelers, and hardly any junk haulers.
I dropped into South Tahoe and then to Meyers; from there I took S. Upper Truckee Road and began scouting for sleeping quarters in earnest. From Truckee the complexion of the route, which from Astoria, Oregon had been rural￼. The homes ranged from magnificent to palatial, and shitty pick-them-ups vanished, replaced by Rage Rovers, Mercedes, and BMW uber alles. As I rode along I got worried about finding a spot; the riverside was all homes and private land.
After a few miles the homes ended and forest service land began. I found a beautiful site and set up camp. After that I crawled into my tent, exhausted, having started at 8:30 and finished riding at 5:00. Since I have to be back in LA by October 3, the lollygagging has been replaced by the reality of big days with incessant ascending.
With no cell coverage I didn’t even try to blog and used it blissfully as an excuse to turn in. By 6:00 I was in bag.
That’s when I heard the jingling of dogtags. I unzipped the fly and looked out. A nasty woman was filming me with her camera.
“You know it’s illegal to camp here, don’t you?”
“You should. ‘No camping’ signs are everywhere.”
“Everywhere but here.”
“I’m calling the ranger. They kick people out of here all the time.”
“Tell him I said ‘Hi.'”
“You think that’s funny?”
“I think you’re funny.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. Your money is showing. And it has smeared your mascara and stained your heart.”
Then she did something I thought they only did in books. She actually shook her fist at me.
“Night!” I said, and zipped back up, knowing that there wasn’t a USFS ranger in California working past 6:00 pm.
Nonetheless I made sure to start early the next day and was rolling by eight. The road turned into an immediately ugly climb, the steepest I can remember since the Lost Coast debacle. I got to the top and climbed again for mile after character-building mile. By 10:30 I was in Markleeville, where I second breakfasted on Ben & Jerry’s, and resupplied my dwindling food cache.
This was a perfect time to add ten pounds of cargo because I was at the beginning of the climb to Monitor Pass. It was hard beyond belief, 17 miles of hard climbing, two of which I had to paperboy. It took a little over two character-filled hours.
The descent was faster and more exhilarating than Lassen but nowhere nearly as pretty. I was busting 50 mph in places, and blew down the ten miles to US 395. I was now on the eastern side of the Sierras, where it was blazing hot, I was almost out of water, and was now pedaling into a headwind so stiff I could barely make 5 mph for several miles.
I reached Walker dehydrated and destroyed, stopping at a county park to eat and drink. I had two English muffins with pb, then finished off the fake Oreos, a pack of Hostess Donettes, and a pint of milk.
Reinvigorated, I found that the headwind had gone to bed and I was again pedaling uphill through a canyon. It was cool and gorgeous, rocky and stark after the lushness of the western slope. By 4:30 I was thinking camp, so I pulled off and found a spot under the pines not too far from the river.
It didn’t take long to fry up the rest of the bacon, boil coffee, and go to bag. Tomorrow more character is on order. Tioga Pass is open and it looks like I’ll get to ride back over the spine of the Sierras onto the Western slope.
More character, doubtless.
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