I do not ride mountain bikes anymore. That’s because I am more of you what you would call a mountain bike crasher. I simply cannot stay upright and off the ground. Every significant cycling scar I have is from my feeble attempts at mountain biking. Now, I know that the dirt rats see these scars as badges of honor but I do not. So, when I say I am going mountain biking that only means one thing. I am heading for the Sierra Mountains with the road bike.
Sherry and I have a friend with a cabin, near Pinecrest Lake, in the Stanislaus National Forest. (This is on Hwy 108 about 30 miles west of Sonora.) Every year a group of us head that way for a long weekend of eating, drinking, laughing, and relaxing. For me, this weekend also means cycling.
I absolutely love cycling in the Sierra Mountains. The long climbs, the gorgeous views, killer descents, gorgeous views, fairly smooth roads, and gorgeous views create magical rides. Did I mention the gorgeous views?
After our 5 hour drive it was time to unpack and then hit the road on two wheels. Since it was already 3:30 pm, I opted for a short loop I do each year that takes me up to the Dodge Ridge Ski Resort. It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was hovering around 80 degrees. Absolutely perfect “mountain biking” weather!
As I start to roll along, I can feel myself begin to relax immediately and then my mind began to wander. As my mind wanders, especially while riding at 7 mph up some long climb, I always ask myself the same question, “How fast can bears and mountain lions run?” I don’t know for sure but I am pretty sure it’s faster then 7 mph. Still, on Friday’s ride there were no such sightings. Only birds, butterflies, ground squirrels, and one snake who I damn near ran over. There were also many, many beautiful lakes and streams.
The highlight of the ride was actually when I missed my turn. As I kept climbing I started to realize that the road no longer looked familiar. Fortunately, a Forest Service truck came my way and I was able to ask the rangers how to reach Dodge Ridge. Sure enough, I had climbed about a mile and a half further then I needed to. Oh well! At least I got to hear one of the rangers say that they admired my tenacity. I finally reached the resort, which was followed by an awesome descent most of the way back to the cabin.
Saturday’s weather was a different story. It was overcast, a little windy, and very cold. Still, I came up here to ride so off I went. The plan was to ride Highway 108 up to Kennedy Meadows and back. The only trouble is the start. I roll from the cabin down a short hill (less then half a mile) and then begin climbing immediately. It took me quite a while to find a rhythm and I actually considered cutting the ride short numerous times.
Instead, I persevered and made it to my original goal. There are three real reasons this was necessary. First, I wanted to take this picture so it could explain why I do not go pass Kennedy Meadows. Secondly, I needed a good double espresso to perk me up. And finally, I really look forward to all of the looks I get as the campers and RV’ers look at me like I’m crazy.
On the ride back home, which has just as much climbing, I started to feel the altitude and was unable to take deep breaths. Of course, this meant not as much oxygen and I began to fatigue, quickly. The last climb before I reached the cabin felt brutal but once again I persevered and made it back. I was both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.
I choose to skip riding on Sunday and instead we lazed around the cabin for a few hours before heading home. As always, it was a most excellent adventure and I can’t wait until my next opportunity to go mountain biking.