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2017 Eastern Sierra Double

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2017 Eastern Sierra Double

Old 06-11-17, 07:47 PM
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2017 Eastern Sierra Double

Last weekend was the Eastern Sierra Double ... my favorite double of all.

It has a lot to recommend. Great scenery, typically great weather, great climbs, and great descents. I'm an Eastern Sierrophile, so going was a no-brainer.

My family and I were up in Mammoth skiing over Memorial Day, and with the ESD coming up the next weekend, it made sense just to work from the vacation home. The good news there is that I had more than enough time to acclimate to the altitude.

When Friday finally came, I finished up my work and drove down to Bishop to meet with people as they arrived from SoCal. Jade got in at about noon, and that gave us enough time for a burger at Burger Barn, a look at Galen Rowell's photo gallery (Galen lived in Bishop before his tragic death), and a look at the narrow gauge rail museum in Laws. Here's Jade enjoying the old rail station



They had a lot of cool stuff in there. Perhaps coolest of all was this penny farthing ... painted Bianchi Celeste.



We love our ride volunteers!



As more people arrived we adjourned to Rusty's Saloon for happy hour and then to the Pizza Factory for dinner. What a great time.




Vodka Gummi Bears only $1

The vacation home is 40 miles away from the 5AM start, so we all had to awake VERY early to be on time. We got there with about 10 minutes to spare, but one of our group discovered a flat as soon as we arrived.

You know how it is, the more in a hurry you are, the longer something takes you. And Kurt was in a big hurry to change that flat before all of the 5AM starters took off. I offered to help and managed to get it changed ... but not before everyone was long gone. No biggie though.

The route sends us southeast along the Owens River, where we got to watch the sun rise on the Sierra. This beginning section of the route has never been my favorite, but I'm warming to it.

Wheeling around the swollen Owens River, we crossed US395 and started climbing the alluvial fans east of the Sierra.



Our first rest stop is near Rovanna, a small town built for the miners working at the tungsten mine. The mine was a critical source of the tungsten needed for carbide tools in WWII, but is all but closed now. We waited for Kurt, and when he arrived, he had Teresa for company. Knowing they were slower climbers than us, they told Ron and I to move on.

From there, we headed east on Birchim Road ... lined with beautiful cottonwoods. I used to wonder why they were called that, but catch them at the right time of year (like now), and the reason is plain ... the air was full of fluffy cotton.

Next is where the ride starts to get serious ... the Old Sherwin Grade. It all begins in Paradise, when you round a hairpin turn. There used to be a restaurant there that was built to straddle Rock Creek ... kinda cool to dine right above it. It's a private residence now ... which is a bit of shame.

There is almost no traffic whatsoever on the Old Sherwin Grade. The main highway is much faster and less steep. Ron and I began catching some of the 5AM riders.

One of the great things about the ESD is the weather. You begin at about 4500 feet, and the temperatures are typically in the 50s at the start of the ride. Just when it starts getting a little toasty in the Owens Valley, you're climbing out of it, and into a cool breeze (the cool air spilling out of higher altitudes). Another thing is the views of the Sierra as you're climbing. There's Mt. Humphreys (just short of 14,000 feet), and Mt. Tom ... sacred to the Paiute and the source of many legends.

Their version of Genesis has the Owens Valley completely covered in water, and the Paiute living at the top of Mt. Tom. One by one, members of the tribe tried to dive deep in the water and bring back soil from the bottom, and one by one, they dove in, never to surface. They finally cajoled Coyote, the cleverest of the group into making the dangerous attempt. Coyote remained submerged for 7 days, and they had all but given up hope when he finally surfaced with soil in his hands. He threw the soil back in the water, and the water began to recede, revealing a rich valley for them to inhabit.

I've always liked Mt. Tom.

We rolled through Swall Meadows, and area hit badly by fire last year. But many of the trees were already coming back, leaves springing from dead-looking branches. Nature is amazing.

The Old Sherwin Grade has a false summit, and it is a great place to get a pix of people finally reaching the top. After that, there is a downhill of 300 feet or so into a cool narrow valley with Rock Creek flowing through it, then a mild climb back out again.


Me finishing up the last of the Sherwin Climb

Ron and I caught more of our friends. Among them was Dee ... who would later remark that this was her favorite double (yea, it's mine too). We also caught Willy and Loren at the top. That was really surprising, as both of them are very strong climbers. Something must have been wrong.
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Old 06-11-17, 07:54 PM
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It turns out Loren wasn't feeling well. Loren stayed at our home the night before and carpooled with me to the start. Since we were about 15 minutes behind him at the start (courtesy of Kurt's flat), I didn't expect to see him until lunch. But he was really hurting.

We pulled into Tom's Place ... a resort that is celebrating their 100 year anniversary. I love the place. They have a Thursday night prime rib special, and I took a friend of mine to dinner there just a few days earlier. Not that I notice this kind of thing, but they also have an attractive waitress there with a smile that really brightens the place.

Loren's problem was apparently his stomach, so I thought some ice cold Alka-Seltzer might help. It really helped me escape a bonkfest on a hot humid ride I had done before. I didn't have any with me, so I went into the Tom's Place General Store to get some. It was the ONE thing they didn't have. :-(

Walking through the bar, I overheard a group at a table remarking about our appearance as we clackety-clacked through Tom's Place. Something to the effect that we looked ridiculous. I had to laugh. This is the Eastern Sierra ... just about everyone is active, either skiing, bicycling, moto-xing, hang gliding, wind surfing ... all kinds of stuff. Only a touron would make snippy comments about someone walking through a restaurant in bike clothes.

I told Loren and Willy I would keep on, but would wait for them at the rest stop about 5 miles up the road. One thing I did NOT want to do was to leave Willy alone. We kinda talked him into doing doubles, and he was left to ride one all by himself earlier this year, courtesy of a flat about a mile into the ride. No way I was gonna leave him to ride the ESD by himself.

We rolled into the second rest stop, and I watered up and wolfed down a couple of salty nut bars. OMG, I love those things. Yum.

I told Ron that I was gonna wait for Willy and Loren, so he should go ahead and move on. He reluctantly agreed and left with the next group.

Willy and Loren appeared about 20 minutes later. Loren was clearly not feeling well, and decided to quit. He had apparently thrown up several times already that day, and there was no use in continuing on. The support crew gave him a ride back to Mammoth to sleep at my place.



Willy and I took off, now pretty much at the back of the group.

The ride now takes us through the aspens at Crowley Lake, and back up to US395. From here, we headed to Mammoth. I had told Molly that I would text her when we got to the 395/203 intersection ... that would give her enough time to meet us as we rode by. She didn't want to do the whole double, but would do a metric century by riding around the June Lake Loop with us and returning back to my place in Mammoth.

We had a significant climb up to where we were going to meet her. And when we got there, one of our group ... David ... failed to appear. He was only a few hundred yards behind us, so we knew he got a flat. We didn't want to leave without him, so that set us back another 15 minutes. When he finally appeared, Molly took off like a rocket. It was hard to keep up with her!

We made a right turn at the Village and climbed up to the Mammoth Scenic Loop. From there, we would have a nice descent back to US395. The "Scenic Loop" is a misnomer. It's not particularly scenic, so why do they call it that? Well, years ago, there were a series of earthquakes in Mammoth Lakes, each stronger than the one before it. I was there when it happened. With each earthquake, the girl I was dating got more and more nervous about our safety. The last temblor was enough to shut the power off ... which happened when we were wine and cheesing in the jacuzzi. I'll never forget the lights going out and hearing a voice across the fizzing of the water saying

"That's it ... I'm outta here."

Since the shaking was clearly more than a simple earthquake (there is a lot of volcanism in the area and each shake was stronger than the one before it), I protested that we didn't really know which way to go if we did leave ... we were probably safer staying put. As it turns out, that last shake WAS the last shake, and staying put was a good decision. There was only one road out of town (only one lane going in each direction) and it was gridlocked with panicked people trying to leave town.

That was the genesis of the viewless "scenic loop." "Scenic Loop" sounds so much more palatable than "escape route." They also widened the main road to 2 lanes in either direction.

The Scenic Loop may not be all that scenic ... but it is a hoot of a descent. Downhill for a good 4 miles all the way back to US395. From there, there are a few ups and downs before the third rest stop.

As soon as we pulled in, I was asked to look at Margaret's bottom bracket. It was making noise and she thought it was loose. Quickly wiggling the crank arms confirmed it ... yea, it was loose. But it was an one of those newfangled bottom bracket designs I know nothing about, and I couldn't really help. She elected to ride with it as it was.

Our next milestone was to climb Deadman Summit. The pass gets its name from Deadman Creek. Pretty cool name, eh? It was named for a murder. Seems there was this guy who alleged to have found gold in the area and was looking for an investor. He found one in San Francisco, who made the journey to the location to check it out ... and brought his money with him. The investor was found floating in what because Deadman Creek, his head severed. At first, the Paiute were suspected, but soon enough, suspicion was diverted to the prospector, who left the area to be never seen again.

The climb itself isn't long .. maybe 1000 feet ... and it brings you to the highlight of the ride ... the June Lake Loop. It's up and down, but mostly downhill.

You ride by "Oh!" Ridge (aptly named) by June Lake, and through the aspens. You get an awesome view of Horsetail Falls, skirt around the edge of Silver Lake by the Silver Lake Cafe. We stopped for a chat with a fisherman who took our picture.


Molly Enjoying Oh! Ridge

It’s a mild descent, so you really get to enjoy tooling through the aspens. In the distance is Horsetail Falls … and with all of the rain this year, it was huge and loud.


That’s Horsetail Falls Out There

Molly and I stopped along Silver Lake to chat with a fisherman. He obliged us with a picture.


Molly and I at Silver Lake


Chatting with the Fishermen

From there, it was mostly downhill or with a tailwind to lunch ... it was awesome.


Molly Descending

Molly hadn't registered for the ride, so she wasn't entitled to a lunch at the park. I was registered, but we decided to eat at the Mono Cone instead.

OMG was that yummy. A western bacon cheddar BBQ burger and fries, and to top it off, a lime flavored ice cream cone.


Awesome Burger


Awesome Ice Cream
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Old 06-11-17, 07:59 PM
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We had to brag, so we rode back to the park to show off our ice cream.


Molly and I and Ice Cream

We now had a serious headwind in front of us. We had a big group, though, and we were able to paceline through it pretty well. When we got to Highway 120, we turned away from the headwind and got a pretty good tailwind again. Poor Molly had another 20 miles of headwind to get back to Mammoth Lakes.

As for the rest of us, we fairly scooted along Highway 120 with a nice little tailwind. Along the way, we skirted Mono Lake Ö a beautiful ancient lake with the famous tufa towers Ö formed by calcification fresh water percolating up through highly alkaline water. It is amazing to behold at sunset and sunrise.


Mono Lake along 120

From there, we climb Sagehen Summit. Itís an odd climb .. terraced. You climb up a fairly steep but short section, then it levels off. Lather, rinse, repeat, and soon enough, youíre at the top. From the top, there is usually a great tailwind and some pretty empty roads. One particular section of note goes through a narrow canyon. Many people do their highest speed ever in that section (me included Ö 57.5 MPH). That particular day, I went 49, and it didnít feel that fast. I think what makes it so fast is that the road is in great shape and the canyon walls shelter you from any side winds. In any case, it is a hoot.

At the bottom we swing southward into Adobe Meadows Ö famous for an old stage stop, wild horses (very shy Ö Iíve only seen them once), and enormous whoop-de-doos.


Wiggly Road

Itís typically headwindy here, but not today. We had mild crosswinds, and scooted through here pretty quickly too.


Our Group on 120

Next, a small climb to Black Divide and a wonderful descent down to Benton.


David on Black Divide

What a view! As youríre snaking down the asphalt, you are looking at 14,000 peaks, mere miles away. I love this descent Ö many do. Margaret is enjoying it here.


Margaret and Montgomery Peak

It is also typically headwindy for the next 38 miles to Bishop, so we organized a good-sized pace line. There were a few that needed some instruction in technique, but we all got it down pretty quickly and had a great time.


Pacelining

Curtis had a slow leak in his tire, and we stopped to fix it. Dee made a friend at a farmhouse in the Chalfant Valley.


Dee Makes a Friend

We got in at twilight. OMG, what a great time.


Finishing Shot

The ride includes a BBQ dinner at Holy Smokes Ö which was great as usual. OMG, what a great time.
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Old 06-11-17, 10:40 PM
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Living in Pa. I have never had a chance to come out and do any of the CA. Triple Crown double races. There is one early spring April 25th or so that I would luv to do but it is listed as one of the 5th or 6th toughest and is early in the year for us in the tundra land to get ready for. Thanks for a great write up as it just gives me more interest to come out and ride one.


Zman
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Old 06-11-17, 10:44 PM
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Great write-up, as usual. Thanks, Vic.
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Old 06-12-17, 12:02 AM
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Best ride report ever!
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Old 06-12-17, 06:25 AM
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Great report and awesome pictures.
It's funny but when I read "eastern Sierra" I think LOTS of long or steep climbs, but I didn't see any in your pics.
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Old 06-12-17, 07:08 AM
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I wish I retired out there. Cant afford it now.

Hey Vic, did you ever get your new wheels? Curious on which ones you went with, or are going with. Thanks.
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Old 06-12-17, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Zurichman2
Living in Pa. I have never had a chance to come out and do any of the CA. Triple Crown double races. There is one early spring April 25th or so that I would luv to do but it is listed as one of the 5th or 6th toughest and is early in the year for us in the tundra land to get ready for. Thanks for a great write up as it just gives me more interest to come out and ride one.


Zman
Thanks!

The doubles that are a part of the Stage Race are the tougher ones. But if you want to do a double without regard for your finishing time, the ESD would be a good one to try. The climbing is moderate (only 11,000 feet or so) and the scenery is spectacular.

It's a bit more difficult than it looks on paper because of the altitude (much of the ride is between 7,000 and 8,500 feet), but the scenery more than makes up for it.

I've done most of the DCs out here at one time or another. If you decide you want to come out for one, lemme know and I can give you some pointers on which one(s) to pick and what to expect.
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Old 06-12-17, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by RonH
Great report and awesome pictures.
It's funny but when I read "eastern Sierra" I think LOTS of long or steep climbs, but I didn't see any in your pics.
True!

There really aren't many steep climbs on the ESD. The Old Sherwin Grade is a constant 8%, and any really steep climbs are very short.

The steeper grades are the ones that lead from the Owens Valley into the Sierra to the West or the Inyo to the East. They'll have sustained 10%+ pitches. There is a website out there somewhere that catalogs what they believe to be the toughest climbs in the US. Some of those climbs are on that list.

The Everest Challenge used to take in a lot of those climbs. I've always wanted to do that ride, but never got around to it. And it's been snafued out the last couple of years. The next time it happens, I'd better get on it. I'm not getting any younger!

We did do one of those climbs as a "recovery" ride the next day ... Pine Creek. That's the road that leads to that Tungsten Mine. Of course, I have pictures.



We started at Pine Creek Road and US395, watered up and hopped on the bikes. The grade increases gradually, starting at 1-2%, slowly working it's way up to 6-7%, just as I remembered it.



But it kept going. Pretty soon it's 8-9% ... then a good long stretch at 11-12%. How the hell could I have forgotten that? My friends started chiding me about my "recovery" ride. lol




But we all made it soon enough. What great views! And after that, we all adjourned again to Burger Barn. Yum.



It was waaaay more fun than I have any right to expect. Our friend James (a Bishop resident) came out to say hi and to sag us with water and some treats.

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Old 06-12-17, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by George
I wish I retired out there. Cant afford it now.

Hey Vic, did you ever get your new wheels? Curious on which ones you went with, or are going with. Thanks.
It's actually kinda tough out there now. There is a housing shortage. The DWP owns much of the land out there, and so there is limited real estate for purposes of new construction (one of the reasons the Owens Valley looks much today as it did in 1905). It got to the point where Mammoth Mountain (the local ski resort) lost a lot of lifties ... they couldn't find a place to live and left for other pastures.

I'm not sure I could live out there permanently, but I tell you ... I could stay there for months at a time. I settle right into it ... cowboy boots and all.




Re the wheels: I hemmed and hawed between going with some special built 3x wheels from wheelbuilders.com, some wheels from neugentcycling.com, fixing the Mavics (there are some kits out there on eBay that purport to at least temporarily solve the Mavic hub issues), or just going with a set of bulletproof Shimano wheels.

Then I saw that Performance had a set of Reynolds Solitude wheels on sale. They were heavier than I wanted (1560g instead of 1450), but since they were only $250 for the set, I figured I could make due with them until I figured it out.

I think I'm gonna try out the Mavic hub fix, but still get some 3x wheels built at wheelbuilders. Thanks for asking!
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Old 06-12-17, 10:14 AM
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Thanks for the report!
Hope to be there next year.
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Old 06-12-17, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott
Best ride report ever!
+ 1; this is very cool.
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Old 06-12-17, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
It's actually kinda tough out there now. There is a housing shortage. The DWP owns much of the land out there, and so there is limited real estate for purposes of new construction (one of the reasons the Owens Valley looks much today as it did in 1905). It got to the point where Mammoth Mountain (the local ski resort) lost a lot of lifties ... they couldn't find a place to live and left for other pastures.

I'm not sure I could live out there permanently, but I tell you ... I could stay there for months at a time. I settle right into it ... cowboy boots and all.




Re the wheels: I hemmed and hawed between going with some special built 3x wheels from wheelbuilders.com, some wheels from neugentcycling.com, fixing the Mavics (there are some kits out there on eBay that purport to at least temporarily solve the Mavic hub issues), or just going with a set of bulletproof Shimano wheels.

Then I saw that Performance had a set of Reynolds Solitude wheels on sale. They were heavier than I wanted (1560g instead of 1450), but since they were only $250 for the set, I figured I could make due with them until I figured it out.

I think I'm gonna try out the Mavic hub fix, but still get some 3x wheels built at wheelbuilders. Thanks for asking!


Thanks for the response Vic. I have the Fulcrum race 3s and I like them a lot, but I thought I may try something different. Ive been reading a lot about the Mavic wheels and the problem they were having with there free hubs and rims cracking. I don't know if they are still having those problems, since they got bought out by the new owners or not.
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Old 06-14-17, 07:25 AM
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Thanks for the great report and photos, as usual, Vic. I was signed up for Eastern Sierra this year but my back continues to keep me off my real bikes and on the recumbent (which doesn't climb well) so I had to pass.

Hopefully will make it next year since Saralie is making progress on fixing my back!

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Old 06-14-17, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR
Thanks for the great report and photos, as usual, Vic. I was signed up for Eastern Sierra this year but my back continues to keep me off my real bikes and on the recumbent (which doesn't climb well) so I had to pass.

Hopefully will make it next year since Saralie is making progress on fixing my back!

Rick / OCRR
Way cool! Can't wait to see you out there again.

One of these days, I'm gonna have to try a bent. I rather like standing when I climb, so that would be a real adjustment for me. But I'll bet the descents are amazing!
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Old 06-14-17, 08:09 PM
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Congrats on an awesome ride. Great report & pics!
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Old 06-14-17, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
One of these days, I'm gonna have to try a bent. I rather like standing when I climb, so that would be a real adjustment for me. But I'll bet the descents are amazing!
For now Vic, just be grateful that you don't need to ride a recumbent. It is way different from "riding a bike." I am learning a lot from other recumbent riders but I still feel way low on the learning curve.

A fun experience and quite the challenge though but as soon as my back is fixed I'll be back on my normal bikes.

Rick / OCRR
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