16 – 25 August 2013

I had a couple of weeks left before finishing this Summer's trip around and across the US early september, so I decided to do Lake Tahoe and Yosemite and then ride down to Santa Barbara and up highway 1 along the coast to San francisco – approx. 2,000k (1,300 miles) and many additional mountain climbs crossing Sierra Nevada, etc.

As always my intention was leaving early morning but that didn't come true. We had a haerty breakfast but before we finished chattting and I packing it was 14.30 – though no worries, it was going to be a short day only climbing 1,100 metres (3,600 feet) up to Lake Tahoe. Steep downhill to Carson City, 16k (10 miles) through town on busy (and a bit scary without a shoulder) highway 395 and then 16k (10 miles) uphill highway 50 to the lake. The road surface was good and there was a big shoulder but unfortunately it was full of broken glass, metal scrap, etc. so often I had to ride on the road. It was (only) a long 6% gradual climb so the major challenge was the overloaded bike as I had (once again) seriously stocked up before hitting the mountains. I got a few views on the way up and after a couple of hours I got to the top at about 2,400 metres (8,000 feet). People had told me it might be difficult to wildcamp but it turned out to be national forest so I could pitch my tent anywhere – however before doing so I went a bit down the road to admire Spooner Lake facing east (and therefore no good in the morning). Back up the road I pulled the bike through the forest and found a good spot to camp – though frustratingly I spent 45 minutes hanging the food between two trees before finally succeeding.

I had a good nights sleep and got up early just to realise I had a flat front tire from pulling the bike through the forest....! I couldn't find the hole so I used a new tube; thus the change didn't take long but pumping it did – as previously described it takes a huge effort and even so I can only get in 5 bars ~ 75 psi – (and not the necessary 6 and 90 respectively)... I rode north along the eastern shore of the lake – fairly undeveloped but disappointingly few views... In Incline Village I got more air in the tire at a gas station and then continued around the lake – it was Saturday and quite busy with people going to the beach, boating, biking around the lake (very popular - I have only seen so many bicyclists in Lake Placid and northern Utah), etc. Lake Tahoe is the third deepest lake in North America and therefore the water is very clear – it almost looks tropical though I'm sure the temperature is not (unlike the air temperature).... On the northern shore I passed the upscale areas before entering California where the road quality declined tremendously – and since it was more built up I hardly had any views. Just after Tahoe City I missed a left turn and went 10k (6 miles) the wrong way along a river – cosy but I'm still amazed how people find it interesting spending their weekend on the river canoeing next to hundreds of other people....?! Back on track I continued south mostly through the forest on countless rolling hills and a few times I had beautiful views of the lake and mountains... At the south shore I took highway 89 south and started climbing a mountain simultaneously looking for a place to camp - I asked for advice but didn't get much help, so when it got late I pulled the bike of the road and pitched the tent behind some trees. While cooking I prepared the rope for the “bear-bags” but it was too heavy for the small pine tree and kept sliding off the branches... after 45 minutes (now in pitch dark) I got so frustrated that I climbed 8 metres (25 feet) up the tree to tie the rope close to the stem - that finally worked....

The next morning the climb continued for about 7k (4 miles) through the forest until I reached a plateau at approx. 2,400 metres (8,000 feet)... I had hoped to be able to stay at that level heading towards Yosemite but no – I had to go all the way down to 1,350 metres (4,500 feet – Carson City level) and then head back up over 8,500 feet across Monitor Pass – the locals have a bicycle race this way called the “death ride” (one guy actually died)... and they don't even bring 55 kilos (120 lbd.) of luggage...! The ride up to Monitor Pass was somewhat cruel – very long, steep and hot – the temperature around 40C (104F) and the road just continued up, up, up at 8-9% grade... Before reaching the summit clouds came in so not much of a view riding downhill... and then out of nowhere my front tire went flat – apparently because the wheel rim was too hot despite only riding downhill for a few kilometres; it was he new tube I changed the day before so something must have been wrong with it...! Luckily I had just made a picutre-stop when it happened – it would not have been a pretty sight had I fallen at 65-80 k/h (40-50 mph) with poor breaks and without a helmet.... Interestingly nobody stopped to ask if I needed help – not that I did but in all other states people have stopped to inquire... random or a forewarning of the selfish Californians...? Now a bit more nervous/cautions I rode the the last 16k (10 miles) down to the valley and headed south on highway 395 where I caught up with thunder and lightening – was the third incident in a row to be struck by lightening...? Fortunately not and I also missed the heavy rain ahead of me - maybe the purpose of the flat tire was to delay me!? I asked for camping advice in a motel in West Walker and was told I could camp throughout the valley as it was national forest. A long gradual uphill through the valley with many official campgrounds, though few secluded places to pitch the tent outside these. When it became dusk I got off the main road and went down a gravel road where I pulled the bike over a field and in between some bushes to camp.

Leaving early next morning I realised the field was probably private property as it was partly surrounded by old barbed wire, so I apologise to the unknown farmer.... I continued uphill over Devil's Gate at 7,600 feet, downhill to Bridgeport and then another long, gradual uphill to Conway Summit at 8,200 feet. Soon after I got a view of Mono Lake that used to be much bigger/deeper before a company bought the water rights and diverted it to the valley (profit always comes first in the US). A long ride down the valley along the lake to Lee Vining from where a turnoff went up to Yosemite. However, first I stocked up to make sure the climb would not be too easy. No risk of that; it was 18k (11 miles) straight into the sky – one of the toughest climbs on the trip. Dark clouds appeared on my way up and when I got close to the Summit at 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) it startet raining for the first time here in a month – incredible just as I got here. I shortly took refuge in a lodge before continuing looking for a place to camp - in all states I have visited, it's been allowed to camp anywhere in the national forests but not here, so I gratefully accepted the offer of Czech Tomas and Polish Kuma to stay at their camp spot. They were on a climbing trip and turned out to be good company in the rain that continued all evening and and half the night....

Surprisingly quiet I had a good nights sleep and left the campground early next morning. First I though the third incident was a broken Cateye (my odometer) but I managed to fix it before realising the problem was my spare camera.... I spent an unsuccessful hour trying to fix it before riding on pretty frustrated – it was the same zoom-problem as my new camera that had been returned to Danmark from Cody.... I rode across a plateau with beautiful rock formations and reached some pretty lakes - unwilling to accept the camera failure, and since the warranty was long gone I decided there was all to win and nothing to lose so I did all the things suggested on the internet to fix it including banging it hard against the palm of my hand...... 20 minutes later it miracously startet working though I had to remove the plactic shutters..... I had been told it was all downhill to the valley but after 45k (27 miles) and countless rolling hills I was still at 8,000 feet. I was a nice ride but nothing spectacular compared to the other national parks I had visited – mostly riding through forest getting a few views of the mountains. It was a narrow and winding road with countless potholes and cracks making it a bit dangerous.... On the way down I made a stop at Tuolumne Grove where I did a short hike to see giant sequoias – 75 metres (250 feet) high, 9 metres (30 feet) in diameter and about 2,000 years old – big yes, but nevertheless I was a bit disappointed.... I contiued down towards the valley admiring the amazing views and when I got all the way down I did rode around the whole valley - pretty inpressive with high mountains all around but overcrowded with tourists... Fortunately there was a hiker/biker campground with available space and affordable at US 5.... No bikers but I talked to many hikers and received a lot of food and snacks.... I was reminded why campgrounds are not for me – people arriving late and leaving early not being particularly quiet and considerate, so despite earplugs I got very little sleep that night....

I had been told Glacier Point is the most spectacular viewpoint in the park and that it is a nice dayhike from the valley. However, it was a clouded morning making it uncertain if it would be worth the effort and neither did I have a place to store my luggage during the day. Instead I decided to ride up to the Glacier Point junction – if the weather was bad I could always continue out of the park. I left early enjoying the quiet morning in the valley and quickly the climb startet 30k (18 miles) gradual uphill to the junction; few views and many aggressive flies made it less pleasant. After some hours and 2,000 feet of climbing I got to the junction at 6,000 feet and since the weather looked slightly better I took the chance and rode the 26k (16 miles) to Glacier Point – a horrible road (how is it possible in the most visited national park in the US?) and another long climb to 9,000 feet on a narrow, winding road before dropping down to the viewpoint at 7,200 feet.... Riding there turned out to be a good decision - despite the weather the views were spectacular and not to be missed..... As I drove back towards the main highway the weather improved which is very uncommon; usually it only become worse during the day.... A few uphills but mostly downhill on more narrow, winding roads before I exited the park. Halfway down the mountain I stopped to ask directions at a gift shop where the owners amongst a lot of advice recommended me to pitch the tent by a nearby creek. Here I met Kenny and Mike; somewhat sedated but friendly and talkative and offering cold beers so I hung around. And when Mike offered I could stay at his place for a couple of days I gladly accepted – very hospitable and good company...

My initial idea had been doing a loop east through Kings Canyon and Sequioa National Parks but I was told the trees 16k (10 miles) up the road at Nelder Grove were just as big, so I changed my plans preventing 5-6,000 feet climbs). It was still 2,500 feet uphill but without the luggage it was easy despite being fairly steep. I did a couple of short walks to see Big Ed, Chimney Tree and famous Bull Buck; the latter being 82 metres (275 feet) high, 26 metres (84 feet) around and 2,700 years old...

It was late morning when I left Mike's place. I intended to ride the backroads past Bass Lake but when I realised it was a 1,500 feet climb and a 30k (18 miles) detour I decided to stay on highway 41 all the way to Fresno to make sure I didn't get stuck in town/suburbs overnight. Being very busy and often without a shoulder 41 was not pleasant to ride - neither was it riding 30k (18 miles) through Fresno – just another un-inspiring, big city with countless shops along the major roads.... After a bit of searching I finally found old Golden State Highway (yet another not maintained road) taking me to southeast to Selma where I went south on newly paved highway 43 to Hanford and Corcoran with a rare tailwind – fruit plantations, wineries and cattle ranches. It was 175k (110 miles) so I asked the police for camping advice; very helpful and accommodating they recommended me to pitch my tent in a park behind the police station being much more concerned about my safety than my camping... the park was (of course) safe but also very noisy from the road and even worse from the train station, so I didn't get much sleep that night...

I left early next morning and headed south – more farmland and ranches but also obvious that nothing grows in areas without irrigation. I often felt more in a desert here than I did crossing Nevada - the temperature was close to 30C (88F) early morning and passed 40C (104F) mid morning – despite being flat it was still a fairly tough ride due to terrible roads and a strong headwind....After Lost Hills the the water wells were exchanged for oil wells and even more desolate nature.... Like all other states California uses adopt-a-highway but nobody signs up for keeping them clean – out of several hundred signs (every stretch is 2 miles) only a few were taken. Late afternoon I stocked up in Taft and continued south on highway 33 starting a long climb up to Cuyama at 3,000 feet enjoying the view of the beautiful hills in the late afternoon lights. Realising I couldn't make it to the top before dark, I camped under a highway curve where I couldn't be seen – in every way a bad spot except for the fact it was my only choice...!

Next morning I finished the climb to Cuyama and headed south towards the coast through Los Padres national forest – a hot ride through the valley and a long, steep climb over a 5,000 feet peak before dropping down towards the coast. It's primarily a tourist route so limited traffic but a lot of motorbike drivers use it as a race track ging 160 k/h (100 mph) making it dangerous and less pleasant - I was told there are numerous deaths and serious injuries every year. On the way down I asked for camping advice and ended up staying with William who had recently relocated from San Diego – interesting company including his neighbour Stephen who came over with some beers that we enjoyed while having a bonfire.

After having morning coffee at Stephen's I rode south on highway 150 past Casitas Lake – continuous rolling hills but beautiful scenery and then after more than 3 months I finally got to see the ocean again - I think it's the longest I've ever been away from the sea.... A narrow, winding road down towards the coast however instead of going all the way down I took the foothill road – more scenic and less busy but after 16k (10 miles) of countless rolling hills I lost my patience and dropped down to the main road – annoying how poorly the bicycle routes are signed (either no sign or “Bike route” signs everywhere but not depicting the direction/destination. Despite this I eventually found my way into Santa Barbara along the coast past countless expensive neighbourhoods, beaches and the marina – a cosy but very touristic town.....

Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Yosemite National Park...
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Stephen had the day of...
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...but it was 14.30 be...
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Looking back towards t...
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Before camping I rode ...
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Many people had told m...
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The next morning I rod...
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The lake is the third ...
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In Tahoe City on the w...
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The southwestern corne...
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Not much help from the...
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The next morning I fin...
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From the plateau at 2,...
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..before another long ...
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After a number of hour...
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...to immeditely start...
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When I came down the m...
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Riding up the valley a...
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... so it ended up bei...
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I left early on a beau...
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Approching Bridgeport ...
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Another long climb thi...
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Halfway down the mount...
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After stocking up in s...
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Despite the weather ni...
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Not much water at this...
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...and then it of cour...
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My plan had been to pi...
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Not being able to camp...
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Next morning I found o...
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After 30 minutes of ri...
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Much happier I enjoyed...
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On the way down I stop...
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... here the tunnel tr...
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On my way down to Yose...
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...and here a little c...
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The first long part of...
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Down the mountain I ro...
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The famous "El Capitan...
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As always in the natio...
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Glacier Point offers t...
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...not much activity e...
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At the junction is was...
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Besides riding slowly ...
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Mostly through the for...
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Not until I got to the...
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Looking down the valle...
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Heading back towards t...
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On the way back I coul...
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Late afternoon - after...
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I had intended to do a...
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A lot of the big trees...
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...but some of them we...
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...so here I'm posing ...
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Even the pine cones ar...
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This tree is called th...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
...maybe because it's ...
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...and here is Big Ed....
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Next morning I conside...
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After a 1,000 feet cli...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Open fields...
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..and as I got closer ...
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Riding towards Fresno thr...
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After 30k (18 miles) t...
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In Selma I took 43 sou...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
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Along the road no plac...
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In town I asked the po...
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The next morning I con...
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Sometimes they had cat...
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After passing Lost Hil...
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Beautiful landscape so...
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After Maricopa it was ...
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...lovely morning with...
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...before the climb co...
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...spectacular...
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After a long ride thro...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
...and then startet ye...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
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Riding downhill I fina...
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I didn't find a place ...
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After having coffee wi...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
...and onto highway 15...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
After another couple o...
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It was a long ride dow...
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Passing one of the man...
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
..and some of the expe...
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
...on the way I passed...
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Carson City, NV to San Francisco, CA
 
 
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