South Shore – Upper Truckee River Rd – Hwy 89 – Hwy 88 – Kingsbury Grade (Wednesday – June 27, 2012)

This is the short version, i’m relaxing now watching a cute movie (“Fools Gold” w/ Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey and Donald Sutherland, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fool’s_Gold_(2008_film)) after a nice walk to the beach and some great, authentic and reasonably-priced Mexican food at a local neighborhood Taqueria.

Before that i was feeling pretty hammered, having just completed another solo ride, this time on a route roughly 1/2 of this coming Saturday’s Alta Alpina Wild Sierra, 3-pass century. OK, maybe it would have helped if I had started earlier than 9:00 a.m. (from South Lake Tahoe near Stateline), and it’s also true that my 110 mile route will leave from Turtle-Rock Park at 7:30 (rather than high noon, or more accurately, 12:45 p.m., when I finished my sandwich on the shady porch of Woodford’s deli and market… but i’m getting ahead of myself.

Originally, i’d planned on leaving here as close to 6 a.m. as possible, to get a lead on the heat climbing Kingsbury; unfortunately, I didn’t wake up until after 7:00. So after stumbling around for a few minutes and washing out all the congestion from my sinuses, I made our oatmeal and beverages (coffee for me, tea for Ben), then headed to the front office of the hotel for a plate of fruit, 2 glasses of orange drink, and hard-boiled eggs to share, another cup of hotel coffee w/ cocoa mix to go. OK, i admit it, i also grabbed a fresh blueberry cake donut and snarfed that down on my way to the room. Delicious!

Back in the room, we finished breakfast and then Ben went online and found a map to show me where he’d like me to ride today, while i wrote down the directions on a hand-made cue sheet and followed along on the map as the route proceeded to each next turn and section.

The day’s costume donned (lightweight Maratona jersey over my SmartWool base layer, GPC arm warmers for the a.m., extra unlined ones stashed in my pocket for later), all my gear gathered and stowed, i was finally underway at 9:00 a.m.

It’s about 5 miles down Hwy 50 to the “Y” where Hwy 50 veers southward to the left, Hwy 89 swerves northward to the right, and I continue straight onto Lake Tahoe Road, which I follow for several miles and through “the burn” as Ben has described the gray swatch of mountainside where the trees trunks stand stubbornly as charred reminders of the most recent fire.

At the T intersection at the bottom of a sweet, curved descent, my cue sheet tells me that Lake Tahoe Road “becomes” Upper Truckee River Road, but I’ve also marked it as a “Right” turn. The next direction is to “X” Hwy 50 and jog left, then jog right to get back onto Upper Truckee River Rd, then “X” Hwy 89 and go through a park which will then come out onto Hwy 89 again at the other side of the mountain. What I see at this intersection is a sign for Hwy 50, so I take a left and follow Upper Truckee River Rd for about 2 blocks, where it dead ends into a small park, but I can see that the paved trail ends at about 20 feet, the road at the “T” is not Hwy 89 but something called “Big Mountain Rd” and also dead-ends with a “Not a Through Street” to the right, and to the left would just take me back toward South Lake Tahoe area. So I turn around, and continue on Upper Truckee River Rd past Lake Tahoe Blvd and it goes uphill for about a mile. For some reason, I believe that the sign I’d seen at the intersection indicating “Hwy 50” means that I am ON Hwy 50… By this time, I’ve stopped and attempted to call Ben for clarification, but the first call I can’t hear him, and the second call he can’t hear me. Moreover, i can’t see the screen to read what i’m trying to send as a text msg, so what i transmit is complete garbage. I am back and forth on this short length of road a few times before I figure out that the Hwy 50 sign really is a right-arrow symbol, then Hwy 50, i.e. “to Hwy 50”. Aha, and i’m on my way again, after removing and stowing neck gaiter and fuzzy arm warmers. After several miles on Upper Truckee River Road, indeed I come to Hwy 50, and across the road to the left, I also see the sign for S. Upper Truckee River Road. All set, only about 15-20 minutes wasted in confusion and bad communication.

South Upper Truckee River Road is one of those idyllic one-lane beauties with mostly nice pavement and mostly flat and mostly straight. It goes for several miles through quiet neighborhoods of large-acreage suburban lots, but nothing ostentatious in the style of the homes. After a while, the road sort of dead ends into Bridgefords Residence Park. There are about 10-15 vehicles parked there and some people taking pictures and looking through scopes and such like they are going to go for a hike or maybe birding. The road seems to end to the right, with a small bridge path in the middle, but continues in a left turn to a sudden uphill, unmarked, narrow paved roadway with a sign that tells me the road is not maintained/plowed in the winter months. Once again, I haven’t seen Hwy 89, so I’m confused…. is THIS the park I’m supposed to go through? Where is Hwy 89?

I continue to blindly climb up this road, up and up and up… it goes for several miles, twisting, turning, always upward. I am reminded that sometimes in his route planning for me, Ben deliberately grossly mis-represents the terrain, so as not to spoil my enthusiasm for a ride in advance. Clearly, this has been one of those times!! Eventually, I hear some traffic above me, and when I come out on top of the clearing, I am up on Hwy 89. Across the road, there is a narrower roadway, with a sharp uphill section (about 15-20 ft) with a gate. My instructions are “X Hwy 89 and go onto the path through the park” which will take me over to the other side of the park where I will come out on the other side of the loop of Hwy 89 and turn left. If the gate is closed, I am to turn right onto Hwy 89 and just do the loop on the Hwy.

The gate is open, so I cross Hwy 89. About a few hundred yards, I use the “trees”, and then continue on. In another few hundred yards, the park becomes more formalized, complete with a public restroom for the campgrounds. This, i learn later, is Big Meadow Park. The road is pleasant, the rises not too challenging, a few cars now and again, and toward the exit at the top, I see a man/woman couple of mountain bikers studying the park map. We share greetings (I say “hey, i guess i’m not the only crazy person out here today” and the guy responds, “yeah, way to nice a day not to be out”). I can see the trailhead for a mountain bike trail just to the left of the park map they are studying. I learn later from Ben this is the beginning of the famous “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, one of the classic single-track (??) trails in the area. For me, the paved road I’m on goes a few more yards before making a sharp left uphill and ramps up to the highway. 89!! Luther Pass – Yes! Completely on track.

It has been really helpful overall to have reviewed the course on the map on Ben’s computer.

Luther Pass is a wonderfully fun descent, my only minor complaint being that there are a lot of horizontal cracks in the pavement where the shoulder gutters have been lain in concrete. At the bottom, I stop for a moment to take some pictures and relish the views of the mountains behind the meadows and the stream carving through the meadows on either side of the roadway under the bridge. Then i’m off onto Hwy 88, one of my favorite stretches of road ever from previous car and/or motorcycle trips into Hope Valley and Carson Valley, both visible in the distance. I pass Sorensen’s and see the gas, food, lodging signs indicating Woodfords up ahead a few more miles. Ben has given me strict instructions to fill my bottles at Sorensen’s or Woodfords because that’s the last opportunity for refills before Kingsbury Grade.

The sign indicates “Woodfords on left” or “Woodfords straight”. The intersection also indicates Hwy 4/88 to the right. I see a collection of buildings on the right and think that is the town of Woodfords, but when I turn into the gravel road just around the corner past the Hwy 4/88 turnoff, I also realize that those buildings are just private property “do not enter”, “private – Keep out”. Alrighty then! Back out the gravel and onto Hwy 4/88, up to the intersection and then I see the dark green Woodfords Market up on the little rise ahead and a bit to the left, and the small access road just past it with a sharp left turn uphill. I luck out with no traffic to make the crossing. In front of the building, one of my cleat covers is confounding me, or maybe i’m just starting to cook with the heat of the day. I finally get the left one on straight and wheel my bike up the ramp to the store. Inside, the deli/Market is invitingly cool and spacious. A few racks of supplies, chips, crackers, cookies, nuts, two double-door commercial refrigerators with drinks, and a freezer with ice cream bars. The other 1/2 of the store is a large open area with a few tables for eating, and a sandwich counter with stools for “dining in”. The sandwich selection is basic and very reasonable. $3.50 for a 1/2 sandwich, $5.99 for a whole one. Comes with your choice of condiments, a pickle slice, and chips. I normally feel bloated if I try to ride after a whole sandwich, so I order a 1/2. Wheat bread (which turns out to be a dark wheat roll, even better!), turkey, ham, provolone & swiss. Mustard, no mayo. The 13-year-old girl behind the counter makes my sandwich. The atmosphere in the store is congenial and friendly. There is conversation between the cashier and a customer about some remodeling that’s going to happen; basically, they are just trying to stay afloat. In my opinion, one of the hidden gems. Hard to survive, and it’s just tucked away enough that if you don’t know it’s there, you’re not going to go. My hunches are further confirmed when I try to send a txt msg to Ben to let him know i’ve decided to have a much needed refuel lunch before the next stage of my ride, especially seeing as how it’s now Noon. The message will not send. No wireless in these here parts. Hmmmm, maybe in this modern world, they just need to be “liked”! I see that the website says “your gateway for fun in the Sierra” and indeed, they are the happenin’ place each year for the doins of the Alta Alpina. I am also unclear, as I ride up to the store, that the Inn and Market are in Markeeville… for some reason, my temporary insanity has made me think that Woodfords is a town (uh uh!).

So, after my relaxing and refreshing lunch, i head off again, picking up Emigrant Trail a few hundred yards beyond Woodfords. A welcome and scenic diversion from Hwy 88, cleaner pavement and also slightly elevated off the valley floor, affording luscious views of the Carson Valley. Planning for the trip, i have been quite anxious about the prospect of having my bike out in the dessert for the camping portion of our vacation, but now – riding on the Emigrant Trail, I am looking forward to having my bike for more glorious Eastern Sierra rides. The high dessert air is so clean and the minty aromas of the sagebrush gives me a rested, open, satisfied feeling. Actually, so far this entire ride feels like a wonderful adventure of exploration and self-testing. I had forgotten how much I enjoy riding alone, and just heading out into parts unknown to discover some new treat around the corner.

My cue sheet tells me I will turn LEFT from Emigrant Trail onto Fredricksburg Road, which will turn into Foothill. However, what really happens is that Foothill intersects Emigrant, so I make my left turn there. A but further on (a mile or two, at least), just past the old Fredricksburg cemetery on the lefthand side of the road, Fredricksburg Road does join Foothill at a diagonal from the right. So i’m on track. I follow Foothill for several miles to Fairview Lane, past more cow pastures and horse ranches and a mix of new and old construction residences. Fairview Lane goes due west for about a mile and then curves northward in the shadows of the Sierra until just before intersecting Hwy 206 (straight ahead to Carson City) and Hwy 207 (Kingsbury Grade, toward Genoa and Tahoe). Even before the turnoff from Foothill to Fairview, I have a long preview of Kingsbury out in the distance, visible in its long traverses over the eastern slopes of the Sierra on a barren-looking, rocky, shadeless grind up and across the range. I have sipped my water cautiously to this point, having been forewarned I will need it on the climb up Kingsbury, and am thankful for Coach Ben’s advice to make sure I fill up at Woodfords before beginning the next segment.

I make my left turn onto Hwy 207 (Kingsbury Grade), and note the “11 miles” sign on the road. What is not clear is, out of that 11 miles of winding roads, how much of it is the climb to the summit, and how much is the descent down to Lake Tahoe on the other side. I measure out both my energy output and my liquids consumption carefully. There is nothing that steep about Kingsbury, but the switchbacks are long (about 1 mile to each turn). In that way, I am able to keep track of my markers, mentally. I have started the climb at mile 44, and mile 45 comes at approximately 5000 ft elevation near the first big turn, the second turn is at mile 46, the third at mile 47, and so on. I stand in the pedals when I can, wonder at the spectacular views of the valley floor and am tempted to stop and take photos at a few of the turnouts, except I am afraid it will be too difficult to get back on the bike in the afternoon heat if I stop. Most of Kingsbury has a wide, sloping shoulder, so I feel very safe from the occasional fast-moving cargo truck or other wide vehicles that pass me. I am conscious, as I climb mile on mile, that I am beginning to spend long stretches (20 ft or more at a time) gazing at the pavement rather than at the views, and for the first time in days, my climbing speed dips into the low 3s (3.5, 3.4, 3.3 mph), although there is nothing particularly steep about the grade. Just HOT. No shade, none. nada. And no summit in sight, either. I’m in mile 49 when it looks like the turns are closer to the top, and then, miraculously, in mile 50 I am looking across the ridges at trees, and there are the resort buildings and ski lift cables of Heavenly across the gully.

Meanwhile, on my side of the ridge line, it is still pretty hot, although several turns give me nice cool breezes. Still, I am eager to reach the summit and just have this incessant climbing in the heat be over. The summit comes at mile 51 (mile 7 of the climb), and just as I am approaching it, here comes Ben in the car, who has come out on a Search and Rescue mission, as my message from my Woodfords lunch stop has not been sent. He makes a broad left turn into the long/wide turnout area to the right of the uphill lane and stops the car about 150 feet from the top, stops and as I approach he has his arm extended out the window holding an ice-cold can of Diet Coke. Ben says he was beginning to worry because I had been out there so long and he hadn’t heard anything. For myself, the Coke feels like Nirvana, and wakes me up a bit for the quick descent down to Tahoe side (4 miles). Ben keeps me in sight and leads me back to the hotel the back way. Our hotel is just near Stateline, so just a few blocks off the turnoff onto Hwy 50 from Kingsbury Grade, with a nice detour off the heavy-traffic highway onto the road past the golf course. As I pull into the parking lot of our condo, I note my mileage: just under 56 miles. It is not lost on me that today I have done just over half of my planned course for the Alta Alpina coming up Saturday. But am gladdened in the knowledge that Kingsbury comes earlier in the route and much earlier in the day for the century ride.

I feel pretty good, putting away my gear once in the condo, very satisfied with a good preview of part of the Century course, and I hammer the remainder of my Gatorade (about 1/3 still in the bottle from Woodfords), but quickly descend into that post-ride sleepwalking mode, slowly getting out of my cycling clothes and I manage not to fall asleep in the shower. I stumble around after the shower, dress in casual shorts and then lie down on the sofa for a short shut-eye before we walk out my cycling leg muscles down to the little taqueria Peublo a few blocks down the road, for a delicious tostada de ceviche a las camarones and a huge, big-Gulp size tamarindo fresca. The place sits directly across the road from the abandoned/aborted construction site of the parking structure for the planned but then bankrupt convention center project, so at least for now, we have great views of the mountains behind Harvey’s/Harrah’s as we eat our dinner in the simple but lovely covered patio of the taqueria.

Later we go to Raley’s for some supplies (AAA batteries for my front bicycle light, a new razor for Ben, Triscuits and cherries for tomorrow’s hike, and a rare treat, ICE CREAM!!! HagenDaaz Java Chip (for apparently, i’ve been a very good girl today!)

We grab a light-hearted movie from the front office (“Fool’s Gold“), and get a relatively early bedtime (11 pm). I am looking forward to a new day tomorrow, stretching out my bike muscles with a hard hike up the Tallac, and fall into a deep slumber gladdened in the knowledge that I have a pretty good chance of actually completing the very challenging High Sierra Century on Saturday.  I hope!

Today’s stats:
55.91 miles
10.9 avg mph
40.0 max mph
5:07:30 saddle time

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