Living Dangerously… Tahoe

We should go back in time a little bit.  Not back to the dinosaurs but….

This whole trip started because I’ve had great cycling experiences and I’ve had great bikes but I’ve never been to a lot of the places that are considered icons of cycling.  Places like Alpe d’Huez, Mont Ventoux, Passo Stelvio, Passo Gavia (the one made famous for all Americans by a goggled Andy Hampsten in the 1988 Giro d’Italia—in a snow storm!), Moab, Mammoth Mountain, The Tahoe Rim Trail.  The list could go on for a while, limited only by one’s own imagination..  You get the idea.  There are places that I wanted to ride.  There were also places I wanted to climb—as in rock climbing—but this is a cycling forum so I’ll stick mostly to cycling.

The impetus for doing it now happened in an odd way.  I got a raise at work.  And while a raise in a marginal economy is a good thing, this one brought things into high relief.  I was working at a job that I really enjoyed but which didn’t pay very well.  Basically it was a dead end job—not a career—and I had taken it 3 years earlier as a way to learn something completely new to me (the outdoor industry—hiking, climbing, backpacking).   But I had to come to terms that it was a dead end job—I’d learned enough about the industry—and I thought, “I’m not getting any younger.  I should get my resume updated and get back to a real career” (something I’d put on hold when I decided to stay home with my young children 15 years earlier—more on that later—maybe).  Soon after giving my boss the customary 6 months notice I started to rethink my decision.  “Why jump right back into a career when there are still things I’d like to do, places I’ve never ridden, rock climbs I may never get a chance to do?”  So, I decided that I’d take a year off and travel—to do all those things I’ve never taken the time to do, ride those icons of cycling, climb a big wall in Yosemite.  I also decided that it would be OK, from time to time, to do nothing at all.  That, my friends, has been the hardest thing—but also probably the most valuable thing.

Where to start?  Since the last installment I’ve travelled a lot—way more than I wanted to travel, at least by car/truck.  My original thought was that I would drive to a place and park the truck for at least 2 weeks–time enough to ride and climb everything within my ability or at least enough time to get bored and want to move along.  (A friend had this notion that I’d roll into a town and find the love of my life—as well as lots of climbing and riding and that I’d just put down roots there.)  So far, no place has made me want to stop more than a few days.

I’ve ridden Tunitas Creek Road near Half Moon Bay.  It’s an iconic climb used in the Tour of California and it’s been on my list since I first conceived of this trip.  And it took me to a surprise—Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Highway.  Amazing burgers and very cool atmosphere.  Next, I rode through Yosemite on an epic 120 mile, 10,000 feet of climbing day.  It was HOT but it was Yosemite.  And I’ve done it before but I have to say that I would recommend it to anyone willing and able.  When you arrive at Tunnel View I defy you to be without emotion at the sight of the spectacle before you.  It makes me start to get choked up EVERY time.  But it isn’t home.  There are too many people in the valley—it feels like a day at Walmart.  And I’m always a little disappointed—I think John Muir would spin in his grave were he to witness the mob in the place he loved.

Jim in TahoeI’ve visited and ridden near San Luis Obispo—even climbed there once.  The best part of this place is Prefumo Canyon road—I’ve ridden it twice and think I might like climbing it every morning.  Wonderful place and really great people at Art’s Cyclery—they treated me like visiting royalty.  And it is a place to which I might find myself returning.  But not just yet.  Lots of other places to explore.

I’ve ridden with a group of truly great riders in the Petaluma/Santa Rosa area—they even dragged me up Mt. Tam.  OK, let’s be honest, they shelled little old Jim Dover.  I’ve been riding seriously for 15 years and it’s been at least 14 years since I’ve been spit out the back of the peloton—but I just couldn’t keep up.  Humility is good for the soul and they never let me get lost or left me for dead.  And there was this one woman there, too.  Can’t say what it was about her but…something ineffable yet undeniable.

So, I found myself leaving the Bay area on a Sunday afternoon.  Bad idea, as I think EVERYONE was on the way home in every direction.  But I couldn’t shake this tug at my ear, “Lake Tahoe, Jim.  Go to Lake Tahoe, Jim.”  So, I did and I don’t think I’m going to leave for a while.  I rode around the lake on my first day here—73 miles around the largest fresh water lake in California, and arguably the most beautiful.  After a rest day yesterday, which involved basically just eating and checking out a local climbing area, I felt refreshed and almost as if I’ve started to finally unwind and relax.

Today was 30km on the Tahoe Rim Trail and I have to say, ‘This is the coolest trail I’ve ever ridden!’  And some of the views are simply take-your-breath-away staggeringly beautiful.  I found myself stopping frequently and just laughing out loud at the preposterousness of the beautiful vistas.  I would suggest this trail to my worst enemy—it’s that good.  And after a day of climbing tomorrow, I will make my way back for more—just as soon as I pick up a Tom Harrison map for the Tahoe Rim Trail.  Never mind.  I’ll pick up a six pack of Sam Adams instead.  ‘Map?  We don need no stinking map.’