Sunday, July 1, 2012

SF to Tahoe - Day 6 Loop Around the Lake

As a kid I spent several summers in Lake Tahoe staying with my sister Maureen.  Lots of kids have older sisters and I'm sure that most of them think just as highly of theirs as I do mine, but in my case, there was a portion of my life growing up when Maureen was the only stable thing in it.  My mom had passed away, my dad had some challenges he was dealing with and I spent time with various family members, friends of his and for a while I even lived with a family of a guy he worked with.
It was during those summers I spent in Tahoe that I fell in love with not only the lake and the surrounding area, but being in the mountains in general.  While Maureen was at work during the day, I'd spend time at the lake trying to catch fish, in the hills wandering around or riding an old 10 speed that she had in the garage. 

As I rode that old 10 speed in to or around  town, or on a couple of occassions all the way to River Ranch to see her for lunch, the dream of riding all the way around the lake began to form.  Of course in those days, riding a bicycle all the way around the lake was just an idea dreamt up by a kid with a long slow summer ahead of him....sort of like digging a hole all the way to china or jumping off a building with a sheet thinking you could fly.....a dream not at all based in reality....

Today though, on our carbon fiber wondersteeds with lightweight whizbang doodads and super aero whatchamacallits we were actually going to do it.  We were going to ride all the way around the lake.  As a grownup, having done several century rides as well as having ridden from SF to LA and now SF to Tahoe, you'd think the excitement about riding around the lake would have dimmed....but the opposite is actually true.  I was so freakin excited to make this ride, I couldn't wait.

Where we started in Tahoe City, right outside the condo complex, is actually the Mile 0 sign for the loop around the lake.  So, obviously, this called for a photo opportunity.  We had a pretty big group this morning.  In addition to the Magnificent 7, which is what we, who had done the whole ride, were calling ourselves, we had Leticia's husband Bob, Dwight's wife and daughter, Maria and Serena and my buddy Nick.  Nick was so jazzed to do this ride, he had gotten up at 4am in the bay area and driven all the way up to meet us for the ride.
The ride started off great and only got better from there.  The weather was perfect, the friendship was incredible and the scenery....well, there's a reason Lake Tahoe is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
Pretty quickly the group divided into the faster group and the tourists.  Jer, Nick and I, stopping at almost every turnout to take pictures, soon realized we had a completely different agenda than the rest of the group and encouraged them to go on ahead.  The plan was to meet up in South Shore for lunch.

Once we ditched the faster group, (ok, so maybe its the other way around) our pace became even more relaxed (if that's even possible).  We continued to stop at every scenic turnout, and they all were, and we continued to maintain a pace that even with the elevation and the previous week's miles in our legs allowed us to focus on enjoying the ride.

As we rode around the lake, stopping to take photos, checking out the entance to the Tahoe Rim trail, and eventually meeting up with the rest of the group in South Shore for lunch, I continued to be struck by how something I had only dreamed of as a kid was actually becoming a reality.  Earlier, when we hit Spooner grade, as my legs made smooth easy circles in a low gear, my mind was able to unplug from my body and I spent the next several minutes just reflecting on how blessed my life was.  I had a great group of friends, an awesome family and had just spent an entire week enjoying God's creation from the seat of my bicycle.....
After eating an amazing lunch, I'm pretty sure any meal eaten after a day of riding is amazing, we set out for the last leg of the ride.  We still had a good climb ahead of us as we climbed up and around Emerald  Bay. 

I read somewhere that Emerald Bay is one of the most photographed locations in the US and I don't doubt it.  The climb is narrow, has several switchbacks and is pretty darn steep.  But the traffic was light and those drivers that did come by were all polite and patient and we had no issues. 

Once we finished that climb there's a long, fast downhill that was the highlight of the day.  I actually had a car behind me and as we began the descent and I upshifted, stood and began to hammer at the pedals, he actually slowed down and gave me the room to enjoy the road with no pressure from behind....and I totally appreciated the gesture.

From here it was just a matter of finishing the last several miles of flat, mostly bike path back to the condo.  The rest of the group was pretty far ahead of us so Bob, Jerry and I took our time and made the most of the last miles of the trip.

After finishing up the ride, cleaning up and washing the dust out of our throats with a couple of beers, we all headed over to Maureen and Craig's for a barbeque.  My sister and her husband not only opened their house to me and 10 of my friends, but they made us an amazing dinner in addition to making everyone there feel like old friends.  Yep, they're awesome that way! 

The late hour and the miles eventually caught up to us though and we called it a night, heading back to the condo for a final night before heading back home and back to reality.

One of the highlights of our week on the road was the people that we met.  There was the young lady on the first day that recognized and commented on the fact that anyone that had friends willing to ride from SF to Tahoe with him was indeed a lucky guy.  Then there was the hostess of the bed and breakfast that regaled us with stories of not only restoring an old farmhouse, but organizing and running the annual Redneck Olympics where the winner of the plunger toss was disqualified because she had been a housecleaner which was considered being a professional.  And of course, who could forget Norm, the keeper of the Old Highway 40 historical society that in addition to sharing his displays and treasures with us, mentioned in passing that he once owned the Donner Ski only makes sense that the hostess/server/owner of the restuarant where we had breakfast on this, our last day would add to the list of memorable people on the trip.  She was funny, sassy and seemed to really take a liking to Bill. 
What an amazing I just need to work on plans for my next birthday adventure.

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