Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Training ride for Deathride - did 75 miles & 2 passes (Kingsbury - 2,500ft gain; Luther - 1,200ft gain)

With some trepidation I set out a little later than my planned 5.30am start. I got away just after 6.15 I think. Beautiful time of the morning to be out, nice and cool with great views of the mountains to the west as the sun hits them. The previous night I had finished the last preparations of my bike, adding an odometer, second water cage and my trusty bar-bag.

I get a great view of Job's Peak and Job's sister from the front of my house, these are about 10,500ft. My mission for today was a circuit up Kingsbury Grade to the nearest northern pass around Job's peak (starting from the house at 4,500ft), and then down to Lake Tahoe for breakfast at Red Hut before heading South around the lake and behind Job's peak before heading up to Luther pass at 7,400ft and back. Really a complete circuit around this mountain.

Approaching the grade along long straight roads beside farms ("ranches") a few birds started to accompany me - I could see them in the road's long shadows of the early morning flying just over my head. Cute at first and then disconcerting - were they about to start peaking at my head, or perhaps after something to eat and so sure I would fail even this early in the morning?! Pretty cool to see them swooping alongside me and then in the shadows over my head though.

This next picture shows the road up the pass, which is called Kingsbury Grade. A somewhat daunting prospect on the approach but it was a fantastic ride, not too steep, nice and wide and pretty quiet.An early reminder of why cycling is so great!

Looking down on the plain towards Minden and Gardnerville.

Making some progress up to the pass. Quite easy so far but the grade is quite easy and the heat of the sun hasn't really stoked up yet.

Made it! The pass is just about where the Heavenly Ski Resort is. Didn't get here without a few significant problems with my chain near the top. By now my hands were covered in oil but I found a bike shop just opening on the other side of the pass and they fixed it all up for $5 - just a bit of adjustment of the gears (though it seemed worse, chainset doesn't look great).

An easy downhill to South Lake Tahoe (after first eating a stack of pancakes with eggs and syrup at Red Hut - finding a good answer to "how do you want your eggs?" would be wise, I have no idea what "medium over easy" means.) Anyhow South Lake Tahoe is a built up holiday place with Casinos, noise and traffic, even gridlocked traffic. Unpleasant, though the beach was nearby - you can see why this place is popular for watersports.

I spied what I thought was a loose dog jumping over fences around some back streets in South Lake Taho (the bike track goes down some grim backstreets). I soon realised it was probably a Coyote and as it hit the road ahead I had visions of being chased sheep dog style by a Coyote but it pretty soon disappeared. A few milliseconds later I realised I should be ultra careful it wasn't being followed by some gun toting local on a mission (Coyote's apparently eat dogs around here and so are not too popular). Mind you, I'm not so sure about what people tell me about wildlife around here any more, someone said, "ah, no snakes around here, nothing for them to eat" - well this place is teeming with wildlife, such as ground squirrels, which I'm sure would make a tasty snake snack. I actually saw a snake skin on the way up Kingsbury grade so I'm being more careful where I step now. Anyhow, these birds startled me just after the Coyote had. Is this a bluebird? Certainly was very blue!

I dithered for several hours in South Lake Tahoe, many of them looking for a bike shop "at the Y by Raley's". Gridlocked traffic with 2 lanes in each direction didn't help finding the place but in the end, the shop had what I wanted, a Specialized Body Geometry Saddle which although a bit harder than the one I used on Land's End to John O'Groats, at least prevented certain bits from turning numb, which are really not supposed to get numb! When I came out of Raley's with my Gallon of water (really) and meager snacks, there was a guy with dreads looking at my bike. Turned out to be Jay a British guy who moved to Tahoe for the skiing 20 years ago. Nice block who is a pretty keen cyclist and a climbing guide. He gave me a really neat route up to Luther Pass, which I was very appreciative of. The picture shows a waterfall at the side of the road. I had just enough time to pull out my camera and click once before I was covered in mosquitoes, so I hurriedly moved back into the scorching heat of the day to get away from them (mosquitoes seem to like the direct sunlight about as much as I do and though I share their love of the shade, sharing that space with them was uncomfortable respite from the sun.

Ultimately made Luther pass but at 7,740 it wasn't that hard from the Lake (6, 500ft). By now it was extremely hot and my water had all but run out with some miles ahead and few signs of life ahead for 20 miles. I called Kathryn from here only to realise I couldn't really speak very well. The dryness causes some awful solid mucus build up in my nose and throat, this time preventing me speaking properly or without pain (a description I'm sure Montaigne would approve of!). A future tip for the solitary Nevada cyclist would be to practice using the voice before attempting a phone call.

By now, hot but I needed to be out in the heat to get used to it, so not too bad. Mostly downhill from here but not without a few visual spectacles to keep me going (actually they kept me stopping, very regularly, to take photos!).

Some interesting flowers at 7,000ft.


Found a little outpost on an old Pony Express trail (now a highway) - you know you're in the wild west when the local shop noticeboard features a "lost mule last seen heading for the trail head"!

An finally a real sign of the old Pony Express - perhaps put there for tourists.

On balance an excellent day and an excellent reminder of how fantastic to travel by bicycle. The last 10 miles in the scorching afternoon heat was quite hard going, even on the flat. How I will do 16,000ft of climbing and 129 miles next Saturday is somewhat beyond me but I'll have a go and will blitz it early to avoid the afternoon heat - at least that's the plan.

Was pretty surprised to find my helmet and bandana completely dry when I got off the bike - but I showered nonetheless! And then slept. Joined Blockbuster. Watched Troy and then slept a lot more!

Hello Tahoe!


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