So I had an Eastern Sierra bikefest last weekend. Friday, I planned to ride up to Horseshoe Meadows with some friends, and Saturday, the Eastern Sierra Double.
I had been looking forward to this for a long time. The Eastern Sierra Double is my favorite. If the weather cooperates, it’s 200 miles of spectacular climbs, spectacular scenery, and wonderful descents. The problem is ... the weather hasn’t cooperated much lately. In 2009, there was sleet and snow, and a howling wind on a re-route. Other years, the ride was canceled because Highway 120 was under construction. And other times ... well ... I just couldn’t make it.
But the stars aligned this year. I had the weekend free, the weather looked great, and I needed the training anyway. On top of that, some friends were going to do the Horseshoe Meadow that Friday, so I could do both! Sweet.
So it was with great anticipation I headed out Thursday afternoon on uncharacteristically empty highways for my favorite place in the world, stopping for interesting descansos and whatever struck my fancy.
The weekend started with a TMI moment. I needed a bathroom. I wanted to get as far as I could out of town before stopping, but when the CHP decided to close the northbound 405. I exited the freeway in search of a bathroom.
Someone tell me why so many gas stations in LA feign that their restrooms are out of order? I went to 4 ... count 'em ... 4 gas stations wanting to use the restrooms, and all had signs (obviously there for quite some time) indicating that the restrooms were out of order. I mean, sheez ... I'll buy a candy bar if I have to, but I can't do that if they're all l out of order.
My last great act of defiance was peeing on the gas station. My only regret is that I didn't have enough to go pee on each and every one of them.
No pictures ... sorry.
Back on the road, I dazed into the empty, lonely desert. Gawd, I love driving out there. I stopped to photograph a few descansos ... roadside memorials to people who lost their life away from home.
No doubt, a story behind each one. A loved one lost. It’s always made more sense to me to mark the place and time of our passing at the place fate decides.
I arrived at Lone Pine just after Bob and Laura. I checked in.
Bob resolved to take a short nap, while Laura and I walked over to Joseph’s for a snack for the morning. I bought some fruit, some oatmeal, and for breakfast, the all american XLNT tamale. We had a little entertainment in the market too. A power failure left us shopping in the dark with flashlights.
After dinner at the Totem Cafe, we strolled around a bit and went to bed.
Well, everyone else did. I scurried about, pumping up tires, packing food, and just generally making things so all I had to do in the morning was wake up and get dressed. And when I was done with that, I snuck across US395 to sample a taco truck delicacy.
The weekend was replete with snafus. The first one came when I went to flush the toilet. The lever chain appeared to be broken. No worries ... an easy fix. Well, it would have been if the lever wasn’t so badly rusted, there was nowhere to attach the chain. I shrugged and pulled open the flapper by hand ...
.... and got blasted with a fountain of cold water, courtesy of massively leaking gaskets on the valve. Clearly, the tank cover was not an accessory on this toilet.
Still no worries. I changed and turned over the bed spread ...
... and saw a rather large bug scurry across the pillow. I managed to kill it, but was it the only one? Doubtful. Through the magic of Wikipedia, I now know that bug to be a bedbug. If I had known that then, I’d have slept in the car. One thing I did do is sleep without the covers on. Wish I had a pix of that.
I set the alarm and went to sleep ...
... nd woke up a half an hour late. No alarm. Peachy. Good thing I had everything set up. I got dressed and went outside to meet the others at the appointed 6AM time. The last thing I put on was ...
... or would have been my gloves, if I had not forgotten them. Fortunately, Bob had a spare pair. We mounted our bikes and headed to the climb ... about 4 miles out of town. We had a rippin tailwind too.
All was good until we got to the climb. That’s when I heard the unmistakable pfft-pfft-pfft of a flat. That was bad enough, but to my horror, I discovered that my rear tire was badly worn ... down to the threads in several patches. How can a tire go from looking fine to looking like Hobo Kelly in a few miles? Another unfathomable mystery.
The closest spare tire was in Bob’s hotel room. That meant a 4 mile ride against the wind and back into town. Not fun, but my only option. I was exhausted by the time I got back but I managed to change the tire quick enough. That took a good 40 minutes at least, so I drove from US395 to Horseshoe Meadow Road ... bypassing about 500 feet of the initial climb.
That was a bit of mistake, because I caught the group earlier than I expected. Bob and Laura had cached water along the route, and I caught them at the first cache.
Accompanying them was “Sweetie,” a beautiful dog, who had followed them from an adjacent ranch. And Sweetie wasn’t done ... she followed us as we continued up the road.
The road to Horseshoe Meadow has several huge switchbacks, each providing an amazing view of the distant valley floor. Sweetie stopped every 50 yards or so for a looksee.
Stopping at the second cache, it was clear that Sweetie needed some water. We had no dish of any sort, so we made shift with the water bottles. I’ve never allowed a strange dog to lick the business end of my water bottle, but if there was a time, this was it. Sweetie was grateful.
The grade? Variable between 6 and 9 percent. Doable with the right gears. It actually seemed to go by quickly.
There is a bit of a false summit, and we lost Sweetie on the downhill. Here’s the money shot ... at the top!
After munching on a snack or two, we headed downhill. Since it was a lot chillier at 10,000 feet than it was at 4,000, we jacketed up. We also stopped frequently to admire the view. Believe it or not, the descent seemed to take forever.