Carson City, NV to Jackson, CA

Looking north from CA 88 at about 8000 feet

When I originally routed this tour, I thought I would go south at Middlegate and go over the Sierras on Sonora Pass. That would have required a 100 mile day with 8000 feet of climbing. I decided later that that was a bit much and that it would add an extra day, since I would have had to stop at Middlegate. By going over Carson Pass - the route I took in 2004 - I only had to climb 6000 feet and ride 105 miles today ;-}, and, unlike Sonora pass, none of the climbing is really (> 10%) steep. There are places to eat or snack at, roughly, 30 miles, 40 miles, and from 75 miles on on this route, but none on Sonora pass, and that also makes it easier for me to ride.

Looking south from US 395 a few miles south of Carson City

I knew this would be a long day and that the restaurant - Grandma Hatties - next to my motel open for breakfast at 5 AM, so I was there about 5:30 AM for a good breakfast and on the road before 6:30 AM. I reached my destination, a motel one mile west of Jackson, CA that I had stayed at in 2004 at about 6 PM after having ridden for about nine and a half hours. To be fair, there was about 10,000 feet of downhill today, so an hour or two of those nine and a half riding hours were spent coasting downhill.

Thirteen miles south in Minden, NV 88 starts
Seven miles later it becomes CA 88

And, roughly 100 miles from Carson City, CA 88 goes through Jackson

Getting out of Carson City, even at 6:30 AM, required riding in moderate traffic on the expressway for several miles before it got good shoulders. Thanks to polite Nevada drivers, it wasn't bad riding, but it definitely requires a good rear view mirror and good situational awareness to ride safely. It was also a bit hilly. When I was past the malls and past where US 50 exits from US 395, there was a good shoulder and easy riding.

In Minden, a dozen miles south, I got off the expressway onto NV 88. From there to California, some 7 miles, the riding was peaceful and easy. When NV 88 becomes CA 88, the road quality goes down a lot and the road itself soon starts to climb at a moderate grade for about 3 miles. The neatest thing about entering California was the beautiful Citroen DS 21 SM which I saw shortly after entering California. Since Citroens haven't been imported into the US in roughly 40 years, it is really unusual to see one here. I also saw a Ferrari and a 427 Cobra later in this ride, but the Citroen excited me more than those, more exotic, cars.

CA 88 turns and heads up into the Sierras shortly after it starts
There is almost 4000 feet of climbing from this point to Kit Carson Pass

After the first CA 89 - CA 88 junction, there is about 5 miles of steeper climbing. This was the most dangerous part of todays ride because the last several miles of the climb have no shoulder and narrow lanes. There is also more big truck traffic on this section since, for just those five miles, CA 88 and CA 89 are combined. No shoulder, steep climbing, narrow lanes, and lots of big trucks on a twisty road with often very short sight lines made for dangerous bicycling. I bailed out twice on this section. The first time was when I saw a truck coming down ahead of me and another truck coming up behind me. It quickly became obvious the neither truck was going to slow down - this is California! - and that they were going to past each other just as they passed me. There wasn't any room on that part of the road for me and two big trucks, so I headed off into the soft sand before they reached me. The second time was a big truck coming up behind me and a blind corner ahead of me. I got off the road early. Another semi came around the blind corner and the two trucks squeezed past each other right where I would have been if I hadn't bailed out.

The most dangerous incident was on a very twisty section where I heard two quick blasts on a truck's horn a second or two before a big black semi with a long flatbed trailer swerved around me at 45 mph or so. I was riding right on the edge of the pavement when it happened and I just braced myself and held on as that truck rushed past me. I think he came around the corner behind me and had no time to do anything but beep and swerve.

When I got into this section - oops, where did the shoulder go? - I remembered that, coming down it in 2004, I had thought that I wouldn't want to ride up it. Going down a 8 to 10% grade twisty road with a 45 mph speed limit, I can keep up with the traffic so I really don't need to be able to share the lane with big trucks. Going up that kind of road at 4 mph, I need a rideable shoulder and/or wide lanes to be safe. This section wasn't safe going up.

The start of the first steep climbing on 88, just after CA 89 goes off on a famous climb to Markleville

The climb continuing after I stopped for my first break, 28 miles from Carson City

CA 88 runs alongside a branch of the Carson river

At the top of that first steep section, I stopped for a, much needed, break. I had planned to stop at Sorensen's Resort where I had eaten lunch coming the other way in 2004. I stopped instead at the only other services on this part of the ride, Hope Valley Resort, which is just east of Sorensen's. The cafe had just opened for the day, at 10 AM, and the owner and her helper were fixing delicious looking, and quite expensive ;-{, pies. I asked about lunch and she said she could fix me their special which was a "Mexican Potato Wrap." She was very nice, it was peaceful there, and I had the wrap - she, after asking, added a couple of strips of bacon to the potato, chess, and veggie wrap - and a beer and a chance to cool down and get over the stress of the first climb. My digestive system took a little while to recover from the climb, but I managed to eat, and enjoy, the meal.

I knew the next five miles or so of CA 88, after CA 89, and all those trucks(!), turned off towards Lake Tahoe, was gentle riding, so I'd have time to get the digestive process started before I started the steep climb to Kit Carson pass. When I passed Sorensen's, I very glad I'd stopped at Hope Valley since Sorensen's was very busy.

After CA 89 turns off toward Lake Tahoe, 88 is headed for Kit Carson Pass

The final climb is a long, slow - 4 mph for me - grind with a small paved shoulder before soft sand

It was hard - harder than the first 2000 feet - climb up to the pass at 8600 feet. Traffic wasn't a problem, except for a couple of oversized load trucks, the road has long straight sections, several passing lane sections, and nice views once you get near the pass. Mainly it was a hard grind and I was pleased when I got to the top ;-}.

Near the top of Kit Carson pass, there is a nice view of Red Lake

At the top, there were lots of vehicles parked next to the Info Center

Once over that pass, 88 goes downhill to Caples Lake. It starts as a nice ride down and then becomes more exciting - no shoulder, bumpy pavement, 35 to 40 mph with overtaking traffic at 45 to 50 mph - ride. At the bottom of this, roughly one and half mile, descent, 88 runs along Caples Lake, a stunningly pretty lake surrounded by mountains, for another two miles. This is a popular tourist area and there are several resorts along the road as well as camping areas. I stopped for a snack at Kirkwood at about 1 PM.

Down the other side of Kit Carson Pass is Caples Lake
looking like a picture postcard version of a mountain lake

I remembered that the climb from Silver Lake, over a smaller pass, to Caples Lake was harder than the climb from Silver Lake to Carson Pass, so I was surprised when the climb from Caples Lake to that pass was easy. Then there was a long down hill to a point lower that Silver lake followed by a climb over another hill to Silver Lake. I was expecting roughly 600 feet of climbing in each of two climbs, but got a 300 foot climb followed by a 900 foot or so climb in two parts.

After another 1000 feet of climbing, looking back at Silver Lake

Once I had climbed up to about 8000 feet after Silver Lake, I expected an easy 40 mile ride down - a mile and a half down! - to Jackson. I knew that I could find food at Hanks Station and Cooks Station about half way to Jackson and that I would have some, but I thought very little, flat or uphill riding. I was wrong. I climbed about 1000 feet on that part of this ride, but I was right about the amount of downhill. The flat - into the wind - and uphill sections slowed me down, but I still made it to Jackson pretty quickly. This part of my ride was slowed by two other things, one expected and the other unexpected.

When I got to Hanks Station, I stopped for a late 'lunch.' I went in and no one was there. This is a bar / restaurant / small store with quite a lot of merchandise, and it was obviously open for business, but no one was home. Finally, as I was about to leave, a fellow, Tom, came down from upstairs. He asked what I wanted and I told him lunch. He remarked than 4 PM was pretty late for lunch and I pointed out that I just come over the Sierras by bicycle and this was my first opportunity for lunch. He agreed and fixed me a good hamburger and french fires ;-}. While I was eating, a group of Tom's regulars came in with a birthday card for him and a lot of gossip. It was a fun place to be and I enjoyed eating there. I ended up staying most of an hour and, when I asked to pay, Tom said he was surprised I was leaving so soon ;-}.

As I rode on down toward Jackson, I started to get into a more built up area. I needed to pee - 'lunch' came with a pitcher of iced tea - so, when I spotted a likely looking place to pull off into some woods, I stopped, parked my bike against a tree, and walked back in a ways and urinated. I walked back to my bike, rolled it back out of the woods, and was about to ride on when a police SUV pulled up behind me.

The policeman walked up and said - "From the looks of the high-tech gadgets on your handlebars, I don't think you are a vagrant." I told him that was indeed the case and that I was a bicycle tourist. He asked what I had been doing in the woods and I told him. He pointed out that public urination was a misdemeanor in California and I said I thought it was in most states. I told him I'd been touring for a dozen years and that I had recently been spending most of my time in Europe so that I had become used to being in places where my behavior was not a crime. It turned out that he had lived in Italy for five years and was familiar with European practice. He ran a check on my drivers license and, advising me to be more careful in California, let me go. This fellow was very professional, not at all threatening in his manner, and I enjoyed my interaction with him. It probably wouldn't have been as pleasant if I had been a vagrant.

This was the last full day of Tour07. The next day I rode from Jackson toward Stockton and was met by my friend Kevin on the road. I spent the next week visiting with Kevin and his family and then flew back to Columbus Ohio to visit my daughter Adriane before going home to Asheville, NC.

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