Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Past Rides - Day 2 in Tahoe - Tunnel Ride

My blog has been woefully neglected over the past few months.  Life, work and everything that goes along with it has forced me to focus on things that aren't nearly as fun or rewarding as bragging to both of you, my readers, about my recent adventures on the bike.

So, I'm going to spend the next few posts trying to get caught up and since you've obviously got nothing better to do than read this drivel that I try to pass off as creative writing, you get to get caught up with me and hear about some of the cool rides I did over the summer.

Tahoe Day 2 - Into the Tunnels - Oct 2012
It's cold and I don't want to get out of bed....the sound of the coffee grinder does the trick though and knowing we'll be riding our bikes again today while most of my friends are working makes it that much easier.

We had brought both road bikes and mountain bikes with us. The plan was to ride mountain bikes on Thursday and do a nice long road ride on Friday but with the fun we had yesterday, none of us really wanted to ride the road today.

So, coffee in hand we logged on to the web and began to work on Plan B.  We had originally talked about trying to ride the old train tunnels yesterday but instead decided to do a ride that started and ended at the house. Today, we decided to go with that plan and see how it worked out.

With breakfast finished, lunches made and a somewhat general idea of where we were headed, we drove to Donner Lake and began the ride.  The ride starts with a pretty, but boring slog up the Old Donner Summit Hwy.
Soon enough though we found the trail head and the work began.  The only flaw in our plan today was that by starting at the lake and heading for the tunnels, we were in for some climbing...actually a lot of altitude....with tired legs....but the scenery was amazing and the trail (a fire road really) was actually pretty mild. At least while we were on the trail....

Yeah, it didn't take us very long to lose the trail and get off track....we're actually pretty good at it. Jerry, Chris and I have been lost in Colorado, somewhat lost in Utah, lost and off track on an organized, well marked ride in Gilroy and many, many other places.  And, it turns out, we'd continue this tradition a couple more times today.
As we neared the top, the trail (very loose translation as it was more an idea of a trail) petered out and we jumped back on the road for a couple hundred yards until we again found a trailhead and a sign marker for some ancient petroglyphs. 

This was reassuring since it was one of the waypoints in our route plan (again, loose translation as it wasn't so much a plan as an idea) but also a little disconcerting since the next section between us and the tunnel path was bare granite and appeared to be one long steep climb.  Definitely hike-a-bike for this section.

Once we reached the trail, the rest of the ride should be mostly flat or downhill. Afterall, if a train went on it, it can't be too steep right? Yeah, we'll just see about that....

The next portion of the ride was one of the cooler things I've ridden.  Granted it was a flat gravel road, but the experience of riding through abandoned train tunnels in all their dark spookiness was pretty darn cool.
short video here -

Once the train tunnels ended the ride became pretty mundane. It was an old railroad bed and although the views were incredible, the ride itself was actually pretty boring.  Add to this, that at the rate we were going, we would be back to the beginning way earlier than we had planned. 
As a result, it wasn't too much further along that we decided to take an alternate route.  (nope, we haven't learned anything from our previous adventures)

As we turned off from the nice easy route we were on, the reality of riding in the mountains kicked in. The trail went up.....and up.....and up some more. And, at about 7000ft elevation, air was scarce and my legs were screaming.
Soon enough, we decided that a break for lunch (and to stop my whining) was in order and we pulled off the trail at an overlook that had incredible views.

Sooner than I would have liked, lunch was over and the climbing began again. There was some discussion that eventually we had to reach the top and the ride down the other side would be awesome. and it was....until the trail the middle of nowhere....

Once again, we had managed to lose ourselves even though we had both a GPS, and a map.  as you can see, if there's one thing we definitely excel at, it's getting lost.  What may not be as apparent is that we're also getting pretty good at finding ourselves once we've done so.

Of course the trail ended at the very bottom of a nice long downhill which of course meant that we had a nice climb to look forward to then a nice downhill to get back to almost where we started on our detour.  Nothing quite as comforting as realizing the pain in your legs was completely avoidable if only you could navigate worth a darn.

The trail continued to descend. In some places, steeply and others with a nice mellow pace, until we found ourselves at what appeared to be the bottom of the mountain and somewhere near lake level. My heart and legs rejoiced knowing I was almost back to the van and it's ice chest full of cold drinks.  Sadly, after another hour of wandering around the wilderness and thankfully in the right direction, we were still quite a ways from our starting point although we were back at Donner Lake.  Unfortunately, at the complete opposite end of Donner Lake from where we needed to be....

After a nice smooth road ride through the campground and back around to the side of the lake where we started we finally put an end to another fantastic day on the's always better to be lost on a bike than found at work.....