Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Return to Markleeville or Tour of the California Alps part II


This weekend we went back up to the Sierra. I took Dan to his race early Saturday morning and headed off on the bike to climb Carson Pass, the final pass of the death ride route. The climb is in three parts over about 14 miles. First a climb up to Pickett's junction from Woodford. Next, a very gradual grade winding through a mountain meadow. Finally, the 1500 foot climb up to the summit of the pass. None of this is particularly steep except for a bit in the last mile or so.

I had a most enjoyable climb! Car traffic was minimal due to my early start and the air was quite clear despite the forest fires in the area. I reached Pickett's junction and pedaled through the meadow enjoying the view (pictured above).

The steeper bit started next, and my pace slowed due to the grade, a moderate headwind and the effects of altitude on my heart rate. I stopped to admire the view of a mountain lake, then made my way to the top. There I hung out a bit, chatting with a college student who was riding from Indiana to SF. He had climbed the pass in a 38-21 gear, towing a 40 lb loaded trailer. Oh, to be young again...

Then the descent. I hit 54 mph on the upper region, aided by a tailwind. And maintained a fairly fast pace back to Diamond Valley, where I hung around the race and tried to hand up water bottles to guys in Dan's club. After the race, we headed back to Markleeville for ice cream, a visit to the hot springs and some lolling around the river by our campsite. Nice!

We woke up Sunday to dense smoke, apparently from the fire near Yosemite. We decided to ride to Minden taking backroads, about a 25 mile trip each way. As we climbed up gorgeous Airport Rd, we wondered why this hadn't been included in the road race. The answer was provided when the road turned to dirt! It seemed quite rideable so we proceeded, winding past another pretty lake and up and down some short climbs. The surface was pretty firm, though there was severe washboarding on some of the descents. Made me excited for cross season! The scenery was gorgeous and it always feels adventuresome to ride on dirt on the road bike!






























We hit pavement again on Diamond Valley Road, and rode for a few miles to the next turn onto Mud Road. Where was the road??? It turned out to be little more than a dirt cowpath, or at least that's how it seemed to me as I was a bit hot and thirsty at that point. So I vetoed further progress on dirt and we decided to turn back to Markleeville. We rode back on the reverse of the Diamond Valley course. There was a stiff headwind and the smoke was very smelly. I was becoming tired and at the edge of a grumpy bonk. After crawling up the hill to Turtle Rock (at least I was crawling. Dan was gliding as usual, damn him), we descended into Markleeville. There I recovered my good mood after a drink and snack and some time resting on the porch of the general store.

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