Following the flight from (drizzly) Portland to (sunny) Reno, Dennis picked me up in our rented "mom-van" as the Toyota would be known for the next 2 weeks. Packed the bike in the back and swerved our way over the mountain tops to South Lake Tahoe, only temporarily blinded by the views of the lake and surrounding backdrop mountains. We stopped off at the "Inn at the Lake", our temporary lakeside home, built up the bikes in the sunny parkinglot (overlooked by the local trailer park residents) and clambered up the 2 flights of stairs for a quick snooze. Chest heaving on the stair climb, I am reminded of the first day in Brighton every winter, when we scramble from the car park to the base lodge for the first run of the season.. and forget that we have travelled from Townline Road elevation 106 feet, to 7000 feet in Utah. Here 2 minutes drive west of the CA-NV border, the lake lies at 6200 feet, so the effect was much the same, pounding chest, blood-starved legs, heaving lungs.. "and this is just after doing the stairs" I thought.. "how are we going to manage the mountains?"
A few minutes drooling on the pillow, and we pack up our stuff headed for the first rise of the trip: Spooner lake,Nevada. Since this was to be a shake-down ride, we read the bike maps and noted that this was primarily a 4wd road rather than singletrack trails: we thus anticipated a gentle leg opener, foolishly not realizing we were going to get our quads ripped off, not merely opened.
The trail leaves the car-park, downhill on a jeep road, then begins the inexorable climb to the sky: we hit the granny gear minus one, almost immediately, and stopped talking to each other.
About an hour of this, and we reached Marlett Lake, bore a left and continued on a wide trail around the lake, then continued more climbing, taking a path onto the famed Flume trail. Surely the most photographed trail in the USA, it towers 2000+ feet over Lake Tahoe, loaded with boulders, hike-a-bike landslide sections.. after gawking and photographing, my next thoughts were of amazement that this actually exists, in todays litigious culture..the capacity for death, or worse..are very real in barrelling down these trails on fat tyres,
So far, so good: here, on day 9: I sit with (the much more organized Dennis (DL)) to map out our rides thus far..forgive the momentary backtrack.. it is worth it for the big picture..
LAKE TAHOE (elev. 6225’) DIGS: Inn at the Lake. A faded “boutique” hotel in South Lake Tahoe. Good access to most trailheads. DAY ONE RIDE: Spooner Lake TH (elev. 7000’) to Flume Trail, Red House Flume, up Hobart Rd., to Marlette Lake and back. Time: 3 hr. Gross. elev. Gain: 3000+’ Mileage: 20 ± (did not record) Notes: Jeep road climb up from TH (elev. 8200’) and back down a bit to Marlette Lake (elev. 7823’) shocked legs. Rode Flume clockwise, against prevailing flow; saw approx. 30 riders on trail. Amazing views and blind corners at cliff edge. Continued on Red House Flume trail to Hobart Campsite, (elev. 7500’) missing turn to Hobart Road, which climbed to Marlette Peak (elev. 8780’): a gruesome climb through logged forest Dropped down to Marlette Lake through lovely aspen groves, then back to Spooner Lake (20 mph bike speed limit).EATS: Freshies: a tiny Hawaiian-themed eatery in a strip mall directly next door to Inn at the Lake. Sinead sampled the Chimay (blue label) ale and pronounced it lovely. Great fish tacos (as advertised), wakame salad, a bowl of edamame, savory chicken curry, and seared ahi a bit buried in sauce left us full as ticks. DAY TWO RIDE: Tahoe Meadows TH (elev. 8400’) along Diamond Peak ridge to Flume Trail, to Marlette Lake, to TRT, and back. Time: 3.5 hr. (RT), 4 hr. (TT) Gross. elev. Gain: 1000±’ Mileage: 28 ± (did not record) Notes: Rolling and rocky ride along diamond Peak ridge to Flume Trail. Rode Flume counter-clockwise and agreed that this is the preferred direction. Reached Marlette Lake (elev. 7823’) and lunched Safeway turkey and cheese grinders on sunny rock. Rode up through aspen grove to great rolling ride on TRT section open to MTB only on even-numbered days. Back to diamond Peak, and down to Tahoe Meadows. Amazing views all day long! EATS: Freshies: Sineada revisited the Chimay with home-made linguini and chorizo. DL took to the Udon noodle bowl with blackened cod in a lovely ginger broth. Saved room to share a vegan chocolate mousse cake. Yum. DAY THREE RIDE: Kingbury Grade North (elev. 7000’?) to Spooner Lake South TH (elev. 7000’) and back. Time: 3.5 hr. (RT); 4 hr. (TT) Gross. elev. Gain: 3925+’ Mileage: 22 .2 Notes: ride starts on TRT with immediate technical climbing up granite boulders. DL crashed hard within five minutes. Could not get rhythm before the granite reared up. Monster sharp gravel, both in trail and loose on top, on approach to South Camp Peak (elev. 8866’) damaged brains and bodies. Photo op on The Bench. Descent to Spooner Lake South TH through mixed forest was beautiful, and featured sandy swithbacks. Lunched on Safeway turkey and cheese grinders on a trailside deadfall near TH. DL struggled with back pain and bonk on return ascent to South Camp Peak. Amazing descent down to Kingsbury Grade rolled through granite gardens. DL was done. EATS: Waffle Hut for breakfast. Homey, local, and good food, though DL’s Eggs Benedict were drowning in a light Hollandaise. Dinner: Sineada went to Freshies for takeout, as DL was bedrideen with fatigue and injuries. Sineada had fish curry; DL had organic BBQ chicken with veggies. Watched Presidential debate for entertainment; lights out @ 8 pm? DAY FOUR RIDE: Fountain Place Road parking lot (elev. 6400’) to Armstrong Pass Trail to Mr. Toad’s (loop). Time: 3.5 hr. (RT); 4 hr. (TT) Gross. elev. Gain: check book??+’ Mileage: ?? check book Notes: ride starts on paved single lane Fountain Place Road, which kicked up relentlessly after Corral Trail TH. At top (elev. 7800’), turned right onto Armstrong Pass Trail, which continued to climb and roll to TRT. Sineada crashed hard on right knee halfway to Armstrong Pass. We continued to within 500 or so of TRT intersection, but backtracked after noticing major discrepancy in mileage compared to guide book; turned around and reclimbed over a mile. Lunched at intersection on Safeway tuna paninis—sineada’s was a bit compressed from crashing but no complaints. Continued climbing on TRT (gorgeous trail) to ridge line. Ride along ridge was unforgettable, with views of the lake to north and peaks to south. Small snowfields scattered around us. Got to top of Mr. Toad’s and lowered saddles against Sineada’s protests. Had a screaming ride down Mr. Toad’s—even Sineada loved it and rode most of it. No crashes! EATS: Heidi’s for breakfast. Good food, with a proper German hausfrau hostess and appropriate alpine décor. Dinner: Mazatlan Family Mexican. Monster margaritas were too sweet, but we were to tired and hungry to care. Friendly service and monster portions did their job. DAY FIVE
(TRAVEL DAY) Drove back up to Reno, then onto Salt Lake city. Sineada enjoyed the cultural experience at our lunch stop at the Subway in the Winnemucca truckstop/rest area. Continued across dramatic salt flats with stormy skies at sunset. Rolled into Motel 6 in downtown SLC (surprisingly dirty and run-down). Had dinner downtown at RedRock Brewpub. DL had passable fish and chips and Sineada had a seared tuna “sandwich.” RedRock ale was too malty and sweet for DL’s palate. Finished the evening with the late screening of Religulous, which was riotous. The young local crowd peeled with delight when they found their own city and religion featured in the film. This movie should be required viewing for all Americans. DAY SIX Drove on beautiful UT-6, then I-70 to Fruita, CO. First stop was Single Tracks bikeshop for maps and directions; owner extremely helpful but shop inventory very limited. Next stop was Hot Tomato Café for a monster Kokopelli pizza. Booked a room at LaQuinta which was a welcome change from the Sienna and Motel 6: big new clean room offered the space and comfort required for proper recuperation. Though we had not had a proper breakfast and were reavenous, we could nott manage to complete the task, and saved the remaining three slices for future reserves. RIDE: 18 Road "lunch loops" Time: 1.5 hr. (RT); 2 hr. (TT) Gross. elev. Gain: check book??+’ Mileage: ?? Notes: Rode up kessel’s Run to Zippety-do-da, with ridiculous exposures, where sineada caupght a fright on a cliff face, then back to parking lot for a break. Legs a bit heavy after all the driving. Rode up Kessel’s again, to Joe’s Ridge (not so great), and headed back up Kessel’s when DL biffed his front wheel and pinched flatted. We took that as a hint from the MTB gods to pack up for the day and open a cold brew. DAY SEVEN RIDE: Kokopelli’s Loops: Mary’s, Steve’s, Horsethief, up (!) Mack Ridge. Time: 3.25± hr. (RT); 4 hr. (TT) Gross. elev. Gain: ??’ Mileage: 27?? Notes: Wow. All the tech features of 18 Road, but as Nature herself presents it, with drop-dead Colorado River and canyon views everywhere. Wind screaming 25 kt, gusting to 40 kt, and threatening to tear us from the cliff edge into oblivion at any moment. Began at Lion’s Loop parking lot. Sineada biffed hard on the nasty rocky climb up Mack Ridge: blood but no tears. Finished ride descending Collarbone Hill to service road to parking lot. EATS: Fiesta Guadalajara. Excellent chunky salsa and solid margaritas preceded monster burritos and enchiladas. Fast, friendly service, ten gallon hats, lots of bikers, funky Tex-Mex décor (hand-carved banquettes and chairs). Perfect. DAY EIGHT RIDE: Kokopelli’s Loops: Mary’s, Steve’s, Horsethief, Wrangler, Rustler, Lion’s, down Mack Ridge. Time: 4? hr. (RT); 5 hr. (TT) Gross. elev. Gain: ??’ Mileage: 30 Notes: Epic day started cool (40’s) but sunny. DL crash-fest unnerves the I-chick. DL starts the day with a high-speed wash-out down Wrangler. High tire pressures needed to defend against rocky insults do little to assist traction on loose, fast tread! Rode Rustler (rated “Easy”) on recommendation of two Denver bikers, and following a tough little climb, did not disappoint with fast, swoopy riding. DL nearly launched big over the side and opened fresh shin wound on portage section of Horsethief during a flubbed abort maneuver. Lunched trailside on Mary’s on energy bars, and discovered we had “just enough” fluids between us to complete the ride. Found Lion’s Loop (missed it on Day Seven) with assistance of another lost rider: a gorgeous, technical rim tour. Mack Ridge was easier on the way down but did not fail to take its toll on DL who biffed, whacked the shin yet again, and landed with head pointing downhill and underneath bike, requiring outside assistance from the increasingly agitated I-chick. Made it back to car just in time for cold, three day-old pizza and Fat Tire ale. Drove via Cisco (ghost town) onto US-281 through canyonlands along Colorado River. Dusky colors on towers and moonrise to the east provide highlights of a beautiful drive to Moab. Checked into Gonzo Inn (home again, home again, jig-itty-jig!), and wolfed burgers and suds at the SlickRock Café. Evolution Ales were just the ticket, though the service was in rehearsal mode. DAY NINE (REST DAY) Wound assessment, bikes to Poison Spider for same, we to Pancake House @ the Ramada for hearty breakfast and more amateur service.