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French fella to tour California in May... need a bike !

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French fella to tour California in May... need a bike !

Old 03-19-09, 09:01 AM
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French fella to tour California in May... need a bike !

Hi all

I'm french and come to tour California by bike in may.
I'll be landing in LA on may 1rst to visit a friend and I want to plan a "little" touring trip to reach San Fransisco and visit my sister there. I have 3 weeks in total to get my plane back from LA on may 22nd.
I first thought to bring my bike on the plane but as it seems quite complicated (and expensive), I think I'd be better off buying one from someone in LA and sell it back after the trip.
So if you guys have something that could suit for a 3 week trip in the sierra and (hopefully if I still have enough time) return along the coast. I'll be bringing my paniers with me. I think of a bike like a Giant CRS or similar. I need :
- rear rack to hold paniers
- big 700cc wheels with 1.5-2max section tires to be able to make about 100 to 150km a day.
- fairly light bike around 12-13kg max
- and of course cheap !!! I'm thinking to put about 300-400$ but I could discuss if the offer is worth the price... less is even better of course

So if someone in LA would have such a bike... my friend I'll be visiting in LA can get it and pay you.
Give the word to the people you know might want to sell a touring bike...

About the trip, my idea is to make LA-SF through the Sierra mountains across Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite NPs. Spend around 4 days in SF with my sister, and go back to LA along the coast... nice trip ahead...


Thanx,
Sam - looking forward to discover Californian Parks and roads....
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Old 03-19-09, 09:36 AM
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the roads in the sierras might not be open in early may. i don't know that the weather will be agreeable either. bon chance!
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Old 03-19-09, 10:00 AM
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It looks like Hwy 198 goes through Sequoia National Park. According to the Ca. Highway Patrol, it is open now. You can check Ca. Highway conditions here: https://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi . I've never ridden or driven that road and have no idea if it something I'd want to ride on a bike.

Are you looking to camp? In which case, you need to be prepared for camping in the snow (in the Sierras). If you are using hotels, you will have to check what is open that time of the year in the Parks.

It looks like the roads into Kings Canyon are limited to Highway 180. I'm guessing that riding to King's Canyon is a bit out of your way.

I don't live in LA or have an extra bike.

Try LA's Craig's List bike for sale listing: https://losangeles.craigslist.org/bik/

Ray
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Old 03-19-09, 12:52 PM
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ok thanx; It seems indeed that the mountain are big more wild and the scale quite big compared to France...
What printed map would you recommend me ? I'd like one with as much little roads visible as possible. Probably need several.

Sam
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Old 03-19-09, 01:15 PM
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As a start, I would check out the route mapping tools or google. That will give you some idea of what roads are available. I would suspect that any roads going into/through the Sierra will be on most any map since there aren't many roads that go through the Sierra. That said, during the week in May, the Sierra roads ought to be relatively empty.

Be aware that the Sierra's are big mountains with long, steep, curvy roads that go up and down. I would think that 150 Kms going up the mountains is not worth planning on.

I use local maps that I get free here. So, I can't help you there.

Ray
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Old 03-19-09, 01:18 PM
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https://traffic-counts.dot.ca.gov/ might help you plan for the lower traffic routes.
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Old 03-19-09, 04:14 PM
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What size bike do you need?
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Old 03-20-09, 08:15 AM
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I've driven Highway 198 several times from the southwest into Sequoia National Park. It's steep with lots of switchbacks. I wouldn't look forward to riding up on a bicycle, but I'm not as tough as some people. I've heard that the road from the northwest is a little easier. All I'm basing this on is a recollection RV's are recommended to take the northern entrance into the park.
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Old 03-26-09, 10:07 AM
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How are you getting OUT of Yosemite (or in, if crossing it from east to west)? Tioga pass won't be open for a long while. Even backtracking and continuing north, Sonora and Monitor passes will not open for some time. You might wind up on the major highways that run through Tahoe, and that could be a pretty grim experience (although Tahoe itself and the scenery along the way is still beautiful.) It's also a lot further north.

Google maps (in terrain mode) can help get you started looking for routes. If you don't want to rely on cycling guide books, sites + road maps, you can start with the USGS or the NPS for topo and relief maps.

If you want to ride through the spine of the Sierra from the south to the north as going back and forth through various passes, May will be too early to be dependable in 2009. The pass roads are typically plowed the last week of May at the earliest, and this is going to be a late season. It's still snowing off and on.

Even setting all that aside, you are talking about a lot of distance and some very serious mountains.
Have a look at some of these:
Tioga Pass Road
Aerial view of the Sierras from over Yosemite. Tioga pass road is just under the airplane's wing.
Getting into and out of the valley(western view) involves the serious climbing and descents on both sides.[eastern view, glacier point] .

It's hard to imagine wanting to do Yosemite along with criss-crossing other passes which are also pretty serious. Monitor Pass. Ebbetts East (from a Marleekville Death Ride '08 site.) etc.

You might also find the Hopkins 4K site useful. (california section) . (check the routes they use to cross CA from east to west year to year.)

You can plan this in May and hope for the best, but I'd avoid sinking any up front costs and would consider having available alternatives planned as well, like a coastal tour.

I love the beauty and majesty of the Sierras but the coast and the coastal ranges have their charms too.

Last edited by gamecat; 03-26-09 at 10:43 PM.
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Old 03-30-09, 05:45 PM
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Wow- I didn't realize that the mountains here in Cali still had snow on them that late. I don't get out there often.

So basically I guess everyone is saying for the Fenchman to stick to the coast? I've always wanted to try going, never have that kind of free time and mental capacity to do such a long haul on my own.

Another suggestion: There are at least two fundraisers that basically go from San Francisco to LA, both are in May I think. If you can come up with the $3,000 worth of donations, you can do one of the fundraisers... they handle food, have support services, etc.
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Old 03-30-09, 07:50 PM
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use Amtrak
https://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...73773&ssid=132

don't be shy to use Amtrak
you can still bike camp, and bike tour

actually your trip may be that much better, and simply by pass areas that are not very scenic.

for instance. hop on Amtrak right out of Union Station in LA, and go straight to Yosemite.
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Old 03-30-09, 07:56 PM
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Here's what I would do:

Bring your bike with you (if you have low gears). it's not hard to bring it on the plane, you just have to box it in a CARDBOARD box, which you leave at your LA friend's house. This will eliminate the logistics of buying and selling, which unless your friend does it for you and knows how to pick a tour bike, will suck way worse and probably cost you more. a badly fitting or broken down bike will really be a pain.

Check the forecast - if it sucks in the mountains, do something else, otherwise:

Rent a car one way (or get your friend to drive you) to Visalia (cutting out a long ride across non-scenic-heavy-traffic yuckiness). Ride to Yosemite via Kings Cayon, taking your time in the scenic and incredibly hilly little roads. 50 miles a day will be a lot. Pack light. Stay as east as you can on the west side of the mountains for the best mountain experience. the bigger towns at the base of the sierra suck - visalia, fresno, etc - stay east of those.

May should be fine. You won't be crossing the mountains to the eastside, so you should be OK with snow (I think - possible snow in Kings Cyn). Yosemite in may is GORGEOUS - blooming redbud and dogwood, big waterfalls if it's warm, the tourists haven't gotten there yet.

In the mountains, there are bears, do some homework on how to hang your food / be bear aware. National Park Service website should have info. Bears in Yosemite are used to people and want to eat your food (not you).

In Yosemite camp at "Camp 4" if you possibly can, this is where you will find rock climbers who drive trucks and go back and forth to the bay area all the time. Ask around and post a note on the bulletin board, asking for a ride to the bay area. Or make a cardboard sign asking for a ride, and stand near the exit to camp 4. You will get a ride, it might take a half day. Expect to pay for gas and buy the guy a six-pack. Don't forget to hike in Yosemite - a mile off the road the people disappear, 4-mile trail, yosemite falls trail, snow creek falls trail. walk 1/2 kilometer to the base of el capitan, press your stomach against it and look up.

When you hitchike to the bay area, if you can't get a ride all the way in to San Francisco, get to a BART station (all over the bay area) - it's the local underground train, you can roll your loaded bike onto it (not during rush-hour) and take the train to San Francisco in less than an hour and less than $10 from way out in the east bay. google "Bay Area Rapid Transit" for a system map - but your ride will know.

Hang out with your sister, leaving yourself 8-10 days or so to make it back to LA. If needed, you can get your sister to drive you to Santa Cruz or Monterey to cut a day or two off. THe coast will also be GORGEOUS in May - stacks of wildflowers. Look for Kirkendall and Spring's book "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" if you want info on camp locations, milage, services, etc, or just "keep the ocean on your right" Most of the state parks have hiker/biker camp sites that cost $5 for a camp site. There are also hostels - you can do the coast without camping if you want, or camp the whole way.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old 03-30-09, 07:57 PM
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Originally Posted by AsanaCycles
use Amtrak
https://www.amtrak.com/servlet/Conten...73773&ssid=132

don't be shy to use Amtrak
you can still bike camp, and bike tour

actually your trip may be that much better, and simply by pass areas that are not very scenic.

for instance. hop on Amtrak right out of Union Station in LA, and go straight to Yosemite.
There is no Amtrack to Yosemite, that's a Greyhound connection. THey might make you box the bike.
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Old 03-30-09, 09:33 PM
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I wouldn't be as discouraging about the weather prospects as some have been. Sure the high passes will still be snowbound in early May, but one can plan a trip to avoid those and still see the lower areas of the parks.
Our club has an annual ride to Yosemite from the SF area in mid April (leaving on the 19th this year) and the roads have always been open (Hwy. 120 over Crane Flat on the way in, and down the Merced when leaving). We've sometimes encountered snow showers but usually the weather has been pleasant. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts and be prepared to alter the trip routing if necessary - but it probably won't be. Early spring is an excellent time to see the park's rivers and waterfalls.
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Old 03-30-09, 10:50 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
There is no Amtrack to Yosemite, that's a Greyhound connection. THey might make you box the bike.
correction:

that is Amtrak "service"
its a Motor Coach

aka: Bus

and no you don't have to box a bike

see pic
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Old 03-30-09, 10:53 PM
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Originally Posted by AsanaCycles
correction:

that is Amtrak "service"
its a Motor Coach

aka: Bus

and no you don't have to box a bike

see pic
Oh, that's good to know, I always thought Amtrak = train.
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Old 03-30-09, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
Oh, that's good to know, I always thought Amtrak = train.
its very confusing

how about this one?

this pic is MST (Monterey Salinas Transit), the bus service typically found in Monterey.

however, this particular bus was contracted by Amtrak to travel from San Jose to Monterey.

this particular trip was:

bike ride to Salinas
Amtrak Bus, Salinas to San Luis Obispo, get on Pacific Surfliner (train), get off in Ventura.
ride bike to visit my dad
ride to Oxnard, get on Pacific Surfliner, and go to Union Station.
visit siblings.

Union Station back to Ventura, visit again
ride to Oxnard station
get on Amtrak Bus to Bakersfield
get on San Joaquin (train) to Fresno
visit grandmother
back on San Joaquin (train) to Stockton
then transfer to Amtrak Bus, Stockton to San Jose
then transfer to MST bus, from San Jose to Monterey.

once in Monterey, probably less than 2 miles from my house.

Amtrak is super confusing!

https://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=391518&page=7
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Old 04-01-09, 08:41 AM
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Thank all very much for all the return and advices !!!
I'll study all that and get back with a sort of route...

Still think it's a pain to bring a bike by plane though... and I only have a kona smoke which is way too heavy or my titanium MTB weighs about 10kg and equiped with tubus disco rear rack (max load of 20kg)... I found this bike in LA : https://www.safetycycle.com/09spsibl.html
Expensive but perfect for this ride...

Of course I'm still interested if you guys can lend, rent, sell a good used bike...


Sam
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Old 04-01-09, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Samsap
Hi all

I'm french and come to tour California by bike in may.
I'll be landing in LA on may 1rst to visit a friend and I want to plan a "little" touring trip to reach San Fransisco and visit my sister there. I have 3 weeks in total to get my plane back from LA on may 22nd.
I first thought to bring my bike on the plane but as it seems quite complicated (and expensive), I think I'd be better off buying one from someone in LA and sell it back after the trip.
So if you guys have something that could suit for a 3 week trip in the sierra and (hopefully if I still have enough time) return along the coast. I'll be bringing my paniers with me. I think of a bike like a Giant CRS or similar. I need :
- rear rack to hold paniers
- big 700cc wheels with 1.5-2max section tires to be able to make about 100 to 150km a day.
- fairly light bike around 12-13kg max
- and of course cheap !!! I'm thinking to put about 300-400$ but I could discuss if the offer is worth the price... less is even better of course

So if someone in LA would have such a bike... my friend I'll be visiting in LA can get it and pay you.
Give the word to the people you know might want to sell a touring bike...

About the trip, my idea is to make LA-SF through the Sierra mountains across Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite NPs. Spend around 4 days in SF with my sister, and go back to LA along the coast... nice trip ahead...


Thanx,
Sam - looking forward to discover Californian Parks and roads....
Originally Posted by Samsap
Thank all very much for all the return and advices !!!
I'll study all that and get back with a sort of route...

Still think it's a pain to bring a bike by plane though... and I only have a kona smoke which is way too heavy or my titanium MTB weighs about 10kg and equiped with tubus disco rear rack (max load of 20kg)... I found this bike in LA : https://www.safetycycle.com/09spsibl.html
Expensive but perfect for this ride...

Of course I'm still interested if you guys can lend, rent, sell a good used bike...


Sam
Hi Sam,

It would be very helpful to you and all, in finding a bike for your trip, to indicate a bike size, or a range of sizes....

Here are some notes from someone who has toured and lived quite a bit in Calif., and esp. in the Sierra Nevadas:

Why not check out some pictures on the web of the areas you are thinking of visiting? Different people have different tastes, and you might find some areas that are especially attractive to you.

The east side of the Sierras is, in some areas at least, spectacular for many people. Check out the Mammoth Lakes area, Mono Lake (and formations around it), Hwy 395, Hot Springs Creek, etc. These areas are very different from the western slopes of the Sierras. It almost feels as if you are in an entirely different country, and the Sierras look very different from the east.

Your idea of finding a bike in California is not a bad one, it seems to me. It would help if you lined something up in advance -- maybe keep posting here and elsewhere [do include the size(s) that would work for you, though].

Also, the standardized coastal bike route outlined in the usual books is very limited. The most popular book is written by people from another state who don't really know the areas they are reviewing very well at all; they have not lived in those areas; and they have spent relatively little time getting to know the state -- basically they were just passing through on bikes. Yes, they describe one route; but they miss more than they include. There are many other options and many other places to see, many other routes, sidetrips, and areas to experience.

If you have any inclination to take a beautiful train trip, the Coast Starlight (which is a special Amtrak route) is worth a look.

There are many local hiking guidebooks available in local libraries and bookstores; and there are also local bicycling guidebooks. These books can often give a good set of options. Experienced local writers tend to know a lot more about their areas than outsiders.

***

It might be helpful to be aware of the fact that the Sierras have many deep river-canyons, most of them running east to west, from the high snowpack down into the Central Valley. To travel north-south (or south-north) in the Sierras means going way down and way up repeatedly -- into and out of canyon after canyon after canyon. It is very strenuous, especially with a heavy touring load. And it is slow going on the uphill grades.

You may or may not mind such riding; but it might be helpful to be aware of what you are getting into -- and to be aware of the options.

***

May (prior to the Memorial Day weekend) is one of the very best times to visit Yosemite Valley, and much of the rest of California as well. The coast can be foggy, though, and is arguably better in late September and early October; but it can be beautiful even in the fog, and you may even end up with sunny days there as well.

There can be thunderstorms in Yosemite in May. It can be cold, especially at higher elevations. I had a lot of rain a few years ago in May. Above 7000 feet it was plenty cold.

The waterfalls are often spectacular in May. Illilouette Falls and Ribbon Falls are among the less-well-known waterfalls that are still spectacular.

Hiking right up to the base of Bridalveil Falls is a short sidetrip worth making. You can basically stand right under the Falls. Dress to get soaking wet, though -- a dry change of clothes back at the bike, or bringing a drybag or plastic-lined daypack, would be among the options. If the sun is overhead, reflecting through the water, it is an unforgetable experience.

***

You have three weeks. My suggestion is not to waste days -- make the most of your time.

If there is a stretch of road that is unappealing (a lot of traffic with poor scenery, etc.), another option for getting to a better area is hitchhiking. There are cyclists who will pick you up, as long as you look reasonably clean and friendly. You can usually tell if someone who stops to pick you up is safe; if someone looks sketchy, just thank them and say you will wait for another ride....or are waiting for a ride from a nice-looking girl, or something....

***

There are giant redwoods along the coast south of San Francisco. They are not as well known or as much visited as some of the more northern redwoods and parks; but they are just as spectacular, and some of these parks are much quieter and less touristed. Portola State Park and Butano are among them. There are also San Mateo County redwood parks that are beautiful. If you ride up to Skyline (a road that goes along the crest of the coast ranges between San Francisco and the Santa Cruz area), and turn down Alpine Road toward Portola State Park, and then follow the turns to the town of Loma Mar, you will pass many giant redwood forests, and you will have a variety of options for camping, and for seeing other groves of giant redwoods.

There are also spectacular 360-degree views -- along Skyline -- of the San Francisco Bay, Stanford, and Silicon Valley on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The views from the top of Windy Hill (a very short hike, just off Skyline, above Palo Alto and Woodside) and Russian Ridge (via the trailhead near the junction of Alpine Road and Skyline, just downhill from Skyline on Alpine Road) are worth the short side trips.

***

There are various optional routes from Yosemite Valley or Lake Tahoe (Lake Tahoe may also be worth seeing while you are in the area, and perhaps the area north of Lake Tahoe as well, near Sierra Buttes, which is one of best cycling areas in the state)... there are various routes from these areas to San Francisco, some of them much better than others.

It's also worth knowing about the option of taking the ferry from Vallejo to San Francisco -- a great ride that bypasses cycling through the more urbanized areas around San Francisco.

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-06-09 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 04-01-09, 01:53 PM
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This gives a taste of what the ferry trip from Vallejo to SF is like. It's even better in person. Highly recommended.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=td4SZzEBdaM
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Old 04-01-09, 02:19 PM
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Here are some different takes on Hwy 395 (a great road):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=torY4YuwksY
(the last minute of the video shows 395 and the views around it; Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the Sierras, and in all of the States except Alaska)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hFVP481qeY
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Old 04-01-09, 03:23 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Samsap
...Thanx,
Sam - looking forward to discover Californian Parks and roads....
Here are some others that might be of interest to you.

Lassen is one of the less well known parks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l9qW-nZ-fU&NR=1

Some of the Yosemite waterfalls here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bnEw...om=PL&index=11

The Panorama Trail is one of the better hikes in Yosemite Valley:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDxatbrBJw0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6VqU...e=channel_page

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weq6n...e=channel_page

There are additional videos on youtube and video.google.com that could give you more indications of places you might want to experience. Also, many parks have their own websites, with pictures to give a better sense of what they are like.

The roads around the Gold Lake and Lakes Basin area are excellent for touring -- many beautiful lakes, trails, campgrounds, and roads.

Last edited by Niles H.; 04-01-09 at 06:49 PM.
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Old 04-03-09, 06:10 AM
  #23  
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woooahou this is beautiful !
so much to see but so little time. Indeed I have not to loose any day...

To go to Tioga Pass I have to arrive by Highway395... seems hard, is there ANY way to cross these giant mountains? One Idea would be to go straight to Sequoia by train/bus/bike... if impossible to cross mountains I'd have to go all from LA through H395... do you know a bus (or train) along or near this road?
Devo, your idea is pretty reasonable too, going straight to Yosemite... and hike there.
My sister is preparing one nice WE around 15th may so that would give me more time on the way up, leaving just 3 or 4 days to go back to LA... again thank you Amtrak...

About the bike, I ride here a 18" mtb and my kona smoke(+xtracycle) is the same size (although way shorter horizontaly). I am 178cm (5 feet and 10 inches is I'm right).
I'd take any good bike weighing less than 27 pounds but more important is strong and reliable parts and frame, not necessarilly recent model... smth like a good mtb/hybrid is easier for me to fix but I'm good mechanics.
Please send propositions...

Otherwise I'll go with the Sirrus. If someone is interrested to buy it after my trip, tell me !
It will have gain value of course

Cheers all, would love to share a beer with one of you...
sam

Ho and I found a guy touring the world who's gonna be in LA same date as me and will make a bit of the route with me, so I won't alone in this nightmare...

Last edited by Samsap; 04-03-09 at 06:18 AM.
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Old 04-03-09, 06:58 AM
  #24  
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The Mt. Shasta and Lassen area is truly rugged and beautiful--and less known/busy--but that's way to the north.

If you're going to try to do Tioga into and then across Yosemite and out the West end of the Valley, I'd suggest starting a good ways up 395. Maybe even in Lone Pine (below Mt. Whitney) or Bishop (if you just want to climb the Sherwin Grade) or Mammoth Lakes itself, perched above the desert floor and serving as "the gateway to the high Sierra" (or some similar slogan.) Niles is spot on about the difference between the slopes, and the topography of the range itself. I'd think Mammoth would be a good choice.

If you want to start further to the south, or in the foothills, perhaps Kernville? I think you can descend to either side of the foothills from Kernville (i.e. towards Sequoia/Kings or down to US-395.) As mentioned above, there's not much reason to start in the L.A. basin itself. And you can get a sense of the Owens valley and the high eastern desert without riding the entire 300 miles from L.A. to Mammoth.

If it were me, I'd prefer going up 395 and seeing the high desert to being in the central valley. Load up The Joshua Tree on your iPod and soak up the beautifully lonely atmosphere. But it might be wisest to simply start up in the mountains.

There are buses that go from L.A. to Mammoth--and you might even be able to get a ride with a BF member.

As far as crossing the mountains go, I doubt you're going to want to cross more than once, especially since you have an ultimate destination to the west. If Tioga is open, and you're conditioned for it, the ride through Yosemite that early in the season will surely be breathtaking and unforgettable. Other options for crossing the range on a road bike are either much to the south (less agressive terrain) or north (comparable terrain, more distance, probably not quite as pretty as Yosemite itself.) On the other hand, taking the passes to the north of Yosemite (i.e. Monitor, Sonora) lets you go through strings of little mountain towns and makes me feel like I'm in the California of another era which I really enjoy--but that's from a driving perspective, and also from someone who has spent time in Yosemite since childhood. If you haven't seen Yosemite, I would make that my prime choice. (Treat yourself to a night at The Ahwanee! [wikipedia entry] One of the most beautiful lodges around. Some of the rooms might look familiar....)

If you do take one of the more northern passes, I would try to avoid the major highways that run through Lake Tahoe and plan my route to meet up with the other smaller pass highways. Tahoe is beautiful, but traffic can be very heavy on those roads--plenty of large commercial trucks and there will be runoff from the early melt and so lots of spray, etc.

I wish I still had a suitable bike to offer, but I've found myself suddenly without much in my garage.

We do have a few good co-ops here in L.A. (I think you're starting in L.A. right?) You could ship a disassembled bike (or just a frame) and then put it together here if it comes to that. I've seen some nice touring and hybrid bikes go very cheaply on ebay recently, since you're not afraid to ride something a little older that's a good option.

I feel like I've been a little vague, and maybe a little discouraging before which wasn't my intent. Keep asking questions, Sam, and we'll do our best to get you set up.

Last edited by gamecat; 04-03-09 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 04-03-09, 07:06 AM
  #25  
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Tioga Pass (Hwy 120 from the east side to the west side of the mountains) may not be open:
https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/tiogaopen.htm

Once they start plowing the road they will start posting updates on the web site, but they usually don't predict an opening date until just a few days before it opens. They usually try really hard to get it open before Memorial Day, which this year is May 25. My friend, who works in Yosemite, is INFORMALLY predicting May 20.
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