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Posts Tagged ‘Carson Valley Inn & Casino’

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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U.S. Route 50 — NV Hwy 50 — “The Loneliest Road in America”

I’m referring to U.S. Route 50, a black ribbon that stretches more than 3,000 miles across the country, from Ocean City, Maryland, to West Sacramento, California.

It’s called “The Loneliest Road in America” for a reason and when you enter Nevada at the Utah state line it travels across 500 miles of Great Basin Desert.

This was our early summer road trip along the historic Pony Express Trail en route to the Road Glide National Rally (aka: “Sharkweek“).

Pony Express Trail

The RoadGlide.org is a community dedicated to all Harley-Davidson Road Glide owners and enthusiasts.  It’s an awesome group of people that like to discuss performance, builds, accessories, mods, specs, troubleshooting, maintenance, and much more.

The like minded gather every year in a different location to experience the roads of the local area and celebrate the ‘Glider’ camaraderie. I was granted grandfather rights to the club having previously owned a Road Glide (aka: Brownshark), but they are a most welcoming group to any rider. Besides, that tradition of featuring a bonfire of anything other than Road Glides stacked, burned and melted together amid cheering crowds is long gone!

It had been eight years since I last attended a Sharkweek event. My first was in 2013 at St. George, Utah for number III, but this was number XI and on the west coast near beautiful Lake Tahoe in Minden, Nev.  The host hotel was the Carson Valley Inn & Casino.

Hotel Nevada – Ely, NV

But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

We departed a day prior of the now infamous June 26th heat dome that enveloped the Pacific Northwest, driving temperatures to extreme levels — in Salem, Ore., about half-hour southwest of Portland, it reached 117 degrees.  We’re unaccustomed to that type of oppressive summer heat, but the group headed east for Boise, Idaho anyway where temperatures were a bit cooler and only slightly above 100 degrees.  We headed to The Reef for dinner where the patio is great, the food is tasty, dual bars so the lines are short and there is always a good band playing. Stop in there if you ever have an opportunity.

The next day we rode out early en route to Twin Falls and were passed by just about everyone scooting along I-84 well in excess of the posted 80 MPH speed limit except for an occasional semi. We continued south on US-93 into Nevada where the temperatures continued their relentless rise, but when we finally stopped at Hotel Nevada in Ely, Nev., we were met with cooler weather.  Go figure!

Established in 1929, the Hotel Nevada became Ely’s premiere dining and lodging destination. It is an historic property with a lot of charm down to stars in the sidewalk to celebrate those who had stayed there from Jimmy Stewart to President Lyndon Johnson. We were worn down a bit from the heat so the fact that the room was small and the bathroom even smaller didn’t matter when ready to sleep.  The lobby is a casino which other than the clouds of cigarette smoke was not a big deal and we enjoyed the free breakfast in the lobby at the Denny’s restaurant before departing on the Gold Rush–era highway that is part of the West’s last frontier.

Nevada Highway 50 — America’s Loneliest Road

America’s Loneliest Highway — crosses by or through several communities, a handful of mountain ranges, a national park, and one reservoir, where wild horses roam free. There’s life, yes, but not something familiar for many. It’s a place where the lines between an ‘ol John Wayne Western movie and everyday life blur, and where ghost towns bleed into semi-living ones.

We had our official “survival guide” passport book and proceeded to collect stamps from the various businesses and which the governor of Nevada will supposedly sign if at least five businesses stamped our passports. The 287 mile-stretch of U.S. 50, running from Ely to Fernley, Nev., passes nine towns, two abandoned mining camps, a gas pump and the occasional coyote.

Sage Brush Ocean — Nevada Hwy 50

We passed a number of “Loneliest Road” signs along this black ribbon where the occasional business on the Route displayed a “I Survived Route 50” sign in a window covered with layers of dirt and grime. We rode through more than a dozen mountain ranges as we traversed the state, climbing up into the red rock heights, then dipping down into the patchy desert of the hot valley floor.

So this was it. I wondered, when first reading about Route 50, why a AAA official was so concerned about anyone traveling it and why Time Magazine wouldn’t recommend it. The journey does require a specific skill set: sitting for a very long time on a hot motorcycle saddle, knowing where the next gas station is amid the desert’s FM fuzz and more importantly, knowing how to be alone inside your head. Way inside being the operative word there in a vast “sagebrush ocean”.

The posse was adventurous, had too many Gatorade drinks and survived the Route 50 experience.  Not just tourists, but rugged participants that rode away with stamps and bragging rights of our achievement along with the real-deal memories.

We finally came to rest at base-camp in Minden, Nev., at the Carson Valley Inn & Casino and picked up our registration packet and incredibly nice bag of swag for the multi-day Road Glide National Rally (“Sharkweek XI”).

Next up is our rides in the area at Yosemite National Park via Tioga Road (Highway 120) and around Lake Tahoe before returning home through Lassen National Park.

Photos taken by the author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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