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Archive for July 14th, 2021

I posted previously about our ride to Ely, Nev. and touring the “Loneliest Road” enroute to the Road Glide National Rally: HERE.

After a taste of authentic Americana on the Gold Rush–era highway that is part of the West’s last frontier, US Route 50, the group settled into base camp — the Carson Valley Inn & Casino.  We registered, set the A/C on high and searched through our bags of swag in preparation for the multi-day Road Glide National Rally (“Sharkweek XI”).

Lake Tahoe

The next morning was an abundance of gorgeous scenery and twisty roads in all directions around the ‘Jewel of the Sierra’ — the emerald clear waters and pine-forested slopes of Lake Tahoe.  We had plenty of time and decided to ride around the entire lake. We started for South Lake Tahoe, then headed northeast in a clockwise route for a tour of the lake. In this direction, you’re closer to the lake and won’t need to cross traffic when pulling over.

Mono Lake

From South Lake, we hopped on CA-89 North, then finally, onto HWY 28. The temperature was perfect in the high 70’s. The lake loop was a nice mix of sweeping turns and straightaways interspersed with views of the lake and mountains; and we appreciated the straight sections with incredibly blue water. The only downside was the amount of traffic in and around Lake Tahoe. Since the pandemic waned and California reopened the traffic and parking challenges seemed exceptionally poor on this trip.

Yosemite National Park Entrance Lineup

The next day was Yosemite National Park. From Minden, Nev. the farm scenery doesn’t abate until you are well past Gardnerville, but improves quickly as we headed south on US 395 toward Mono Lake. Topaz Lake covers the state line next to the highway as you cross into California.

The next real town is Bridgeport, with a population of 464 people and the Mono county seat.  It’s also where the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) is located and I recall from a previous ride in this area that some members of our posse shared a long night of refreshments with military personnel and a jukebox!

Continuing along US 395 we climb up and over several mountains.  It’s one of the more scenic places in the state and to the west is the Sierra Nevada range that forms a nearly impassable barrier to cross. At about 8000′ feet and on the way down there is a pull off spot called Mono Lake Vista Point which offers a great view of Mono Lake and the entire Mono basin (“Mono” means “beautiful” in Piute). The lake is twice as salty as the ocean, and the water is so alkaline that no fish can live in the water, but it is home to some plants and animals that are not found anywhere on Earth.

As you reach Lake’s south shore at Lee Vining, you’ll want to connect with Route 120, the turn-off for Yosemite National Park. The road starts at the Big Oak Flat entrance, elevation 4,872 feet and dramatically climbs above the Valley to an elevation of 9,945 feet above sea level with breathtaking views.

Yosemite National Park

It’s a great ride even if you don’t have reservations and go into the park. We knew that the National Park Service announced a day-use reservation system that was in place for the summer due to COVID-19 and staffing shortages that were creating operational hurdles.  There were hurdles all right.  Everyone’s dying to get into Yosemite!  We had reservations and thought we were special, but it took over an hour to get processed into the park.

Arriving at “Yosemite East” is the highest (9,945 feet above sea level) motorcycling pass in California. To be clear, there are five entrances into the Park, and the road to each of them offers unique sights. Our eastern gateway to Yosemite with the rock formations was awesome, followed by pristine alpine lakes, meadows awash with wild flowers and granite expanses.

Yosemite National Park

We rode through high-elevation — Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet and at Olmsted Point, along the Tioga Road, which looks down on Yosemite Valley from the east — and from a very different angle. You might not immediately recognize Half Dome from this location, but it is one of the most prominent peaks you can see.

We finally arrived in the main area of Yosemite after seeing smooth granite domes and craggy peaks — “craggy” started to describe my demeanor after a couple hours of being patient in RV traffic and delays of rehabilitation on the road surface. There are no areas of solitude unless you explore the wilderness on foot and I’m not sure even then that a whole community of people wouldn’t be following you into the “wild” taking selfies!

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a famous location, being the first land in the country set aside for public enjoyment by President Lincoln during the Civil War (which was the founding legislation for the National Park Service). And, far more people spend their time cavorting in and around Yosemite Valley than make the winding drive in/out on Hwy 120.

Back on the road after a pause in Yosemite’s Valley we could see a build-up of cumulus clouds and it wasn’t too long until we heard the rumble of thunder.  It’s generally known that if you hear a rumble of thunder, a thunderstorm is within 10 miles, but we were making great progress back out through the park and thought we’d likely “outrun” any storm by pressing on.

The “wet” arrived!

As we rode toward the east entrance there were flashes of lightning and before I could do any mathematical calculation of dividing the number of seconds by five to get an estimate of the distance, there was another flash, then another as the skies opened with a downpour of water mixed with hail!

“I want to be out riding in the rain,” said no one on a motorcycle!

The Posse

Doused with wetness, we pulled off the road and kept a wary eye on the lightning flashes across the sky while putting on rain gear. The temperature dropped more than ten degrees and the thunderstorm produced intense rainfall with more hail, which led to some localized flooding on the roadway. As we rode on the storm dissipated a bit, but never stopped delivering us the wet stuff.  Riding SR120 in the rain as it drops quickly in elevation to Lee Vining was a new experience and we needed a break and to get some fuel. Refueling at the local Chevron station set a new record for the cost to fill my Harley-Davidson at $5.899/gallon, but the mini-stop was worth it!

‘Glider’ Lineup

The thunderstorm followed us as the heavy rain and traffic created that white milky substance you often see on the roads as a result of fresh rain on oil-soaked roads. In Bridgeport, we stopped for a while under an abandoned gas station awning during another intense shower and when it let up a bit we rode in a misty rain soaked road straight through to the Carson Valley Inn & Casino. The late afternoon was much too wet and it was a welcome relief to arrive back in the high 80’s and dry out a bit.  Many ‘Gliders’ were caught in that storm and it was the talk of several groups during dinner.

The next day, Battle Born Harley-Davidson hosted a BBQ with refreshments for the 200+ riders that attended the Road Glide National Rally.  The group lined up the motorcycles for a “selfie” and proceeded to buy up the inventory of t-shirts.  We took a step back in time and visited the old west town that’s famous for 1859’s Comstock Lode silver ore discovery — Virginia City — and took in the sights, and culture.

In 2020, the RoadGlide.org (37,000+ members) became a non-profit and that evening was their annual raffle event which can generate significant donations for a good cause. It was reported that the group generated a new record of $3,200 and delivered a check for that amount to the Boys and Girls Club of Carson Valley.  Awesome, just straight up awesome!

Sharkweek XI Raffle

I also want to provide a huge shout-out to Butt Buffers seat cushions.  Given the high temperatures on this trip, I had been thinking about buying a seat cushion to improve air flow.  My Mustang leather seat got too sticky and sweaty on this trip. Fortunately, the Butt Buffers Pebble Polymer model that I won during the raffle offered up all of the benefits of a seat cushion with a super-comfortable ride, it also provided significant air-flow. It’s a really well made and great product, which I used for 500+ miles during my return trip home.  Many, many thanks to Peter for the donation to Sharkweek!

I departed for Oregon very early the next morning, needing to ride 580 miles.  It was perfect riding temperatures with cool, crisp air departing Minden. From Susanville I took CA-44 through Lassen National Forest.  I rode toward Old Station and then took CA-89 toward Mount Shasta.  I like riding this route. The road is good and traffic is moving quickly for a two-lane road and although some parts of it are burned down from forest fires, it has varied and interesting scenery.  I was all about miles today so, there was no time to tour Lassen Volcanic National Park.

On this road trip, there were a lot of hot miles and even more smiles. The things I like about SharkWeek are the people, seeing friends, meeting new friends, the rides, not talking about work, and the gorgeous scenery across Idaho, Nevada and California.

I hope everyone had blue skies and tailwinds for their ride home.

Road Glide National Rally 2022 (Sharkweek XII –  August 1-5, 2022)
Road Glide Org

Photos taken by author except Sharkweek logo and Road Glide line up courtesy of Ron Cushing a.k.a “Stray Mutt”

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