Day 5 – Bishop, CA to Lake Tahoe
Distance: 438.3 miles / 705.4 kilometres
Low Temp: 16 / High Temp 34 Celcius
Riding time: 8:00am-8:00pm
The goal today was to cross as many mountain passes as possible, which is pretty easy in this part of California.
The weather has been spectacular and being a midweek riding adventure has meant that traffic has been minimal.
A quick spin up highway 395 and the altitude already began to change. At the top of the Sherwin pass (over 7000 ft) is Crowley Lake which is a massive valley. Actually, it is a caldera from a huge volcanic eruption – 2500 times bigger than Mt St Helens. Having seen it, MSH and Crater Lake I can’t fathom the devastation of an explosion of that magnitude.
A quick ride through the ski village of Mammoth. This is a place I’d like to come back to for skiing or cycling – beautiful. I’d hoped to see the Devil’s Postpile but it involved a special bus ride and hike. I’ll come back for that another time.
Off to Tioga Pass Highway 120. Wow! Tioga Pass and Yosemite are stunning. Monstrously high pass and altitude of over 9500 ft. The ascent I steady and quickly rises to the top of the pass and park gate.
I was fortunate to meet a fellow riding a Honda XR who wanted a quicker place in line and already had a permit to get us into the park. Of we went and rode together for the first part of the park.
Lovely alpine meadows, beautiful mountain tops, and very few people. We stopped for photos by a stream with a few deer drinking near by. He mad a couple of interesting comments before leaving on his ride. He said that this park is heaven according to some, if it is, it might not be a bad place to end up – I’d agree. We wished each other well and I said to have a good ride, his reply was, “every ride is a good ride”. We’ll put.
Over the pass with many stops for photos and brief visits to many of the parts of Yosemite National park. Stunning scenery and views which are all accessible and close by for photos. Half Dome is unbelievable. The rock in the area is mostly granite and it’s just a huge split open cantaloupe laying on its side – awesome. Then it was back down the highway.
The use of a GPS is both a blessing and a curse. When it works it is helpful for getting where you need to go. When it doesn’t it sometimes randomly remapped the route and you’re off on a wild goose chase. I decided not to follow the route on the GPS and boy am I glad I didn’t. The new route added a few hours to the day but were excellent roads to ride.
Instead of taking Highway 140, I took 41 to Oakhurst. What a fantastic road. A great mix of sweeping corners and really tight twisty bits. Had a bite to eat then up Highway 49.
What can I say about Highway 49. I’d heard it was a great road and really challenging. It certainly didn’t start off that way. Then between Moccasin and Coulterville I realized why all the hype. A canyon ascent and descent that are narrow, very twisty and no guard rails. What a fun road since it was really hot into the 30s so the tires were like chewing gum.
A quick break then up and over Sonora Pass. The first third of this route is long fast sweeping corners one after another. Then the road conditions are a bit narrower, a bit more worn, and increasingly technical. It reaches over 9600 feet and it gets the last few thousand feet in a very short distance. There are plenty of blind corners and the road becomes about 15-18 feet wide. I’ve never seen a warning sign for grades of greater than 20%. Plenty of work in first gear especially at the top. The temperature dropped from low 30s to low 10s by the top of the pass. The view coming down the eastern side is amazing.
By this point in the day I was getting a bit worn out so I popped back on to highway 395 and went all the watts the. Last pass of the day – The Kingsbury Grade. It also tops 7000 ft and winds it’s way from Nevada into California. By this point it was just getting dark and gave me a few minutes to roll into town and bunk down for the night in South Lake Tahoe.