Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sierra Sampler

Signs along the way: feeding the tribe as well as the critters: Arlen & the campfire: At the top of Monitor Pass: the tribe at Mono Lake.

It's been a couple of years since ACA ran the Sierra Sampler; they sure picked a gorgeous time to run this one!  We arrived in Truckee, CA to sunshine and 70's, and it's supposed to stay that way all week.  We took 3 days to make the trip from Seattle, it was nice to not have to push the miles everyday.  We spent Saturday night in Reno: had a great time.  Can you imagine us pulling up to the valet at the El Dorado and asking where they wanted to put the big yellow truck?  Heeheee.

We met up with the ACA staff at the Donner State Park just outside of Truckee on Sunday, and set up for the ride.  I was a little nervous: this is a whole new staff that we have never worked with, as well a new leader. Who happens to be the Tours Director for ACA.  Who happens to be my new boss.  Who hasn't a clue as to who I am.  Poor him.  Seriously, Arlan has turned out to be a great leader, very good communicator  and has a great sense of humor.  The staff is all really nice as well, so it's going to be a good week.

The tribe assembled on Sunday afternoon, registered, had map meeting #1 and their first meal.  We kept it easy for the first night: Green salad with herbed vinaigrette, spiced pork chops, cucumber & taziki salad, red potatoes, Indian vegetable stew, and peanut butter chocolate chip bars for dessert.  The dinner was a hit.  A few riders asked what I was going to do with the leftover potatoes, so I filled them in on rule #2: if you don't eat it for dinner you will probably see it again one day!  Rule #1, by the way, is: I control the quality, not the quantity of what you eat.  If you gain weight, it's not my fault.

Monday morning we were up early cooking in the dark.  Fried those leftover potatoes! Had to fuel the tribe for a challenging ride to South Lake Tahoe.  The first year we did this ride Marker Bob made a point of reminding me about every 1/2 hour to be careful on the drive to SLT.  He managed to scare the bejebies out of me, and rightfully so.  After a beautiful drive along the lake you start a short, maybe 4-5mile, climb above the lake, then across a hogs back, then DOWN a steep, narrow, winding, curvy, narrow, did I say narrow and steep? descent to the South end of the lake.  It was my introduction into more than one occasion to cry on this trip.  (If you're not familiar with a hogs back, it is a NARROW piece of road, usually at the top of a climb, that has a drop off on both sides.  A big drop off.  This one's not as bad as the one in Escalante, but it's bad enough.)

The tribe made the journey with no mis-haps and settled into Camp Richardson across the street from the lake.  Many took the opportunity for a dip in the water, and then feasted on a dinner of Nicoisse salad, curried carrot salad, spaghetti w/ homemade meat sauce, orzo with pesto cream & artichoke hearts, grilled herbed tomatoes, and Nana's rum cakes for dessert.  We had a few visitors at this camp sight.  I spent the better part of the day shooing the chipmunks and squirrels out of the truck.  They were pretty used to people and new where the food was!  I compromised and gave them a big bowl of peanuts to keep them busy.  That lasted for a short while and they were back at it again.  The chipmunks would even climb up Jack's legs!  They were really cute.

Tuesday morning the tribe was up for the challenge of riding over Monitor Pass to Topaz Lake.  This is one of the toughest days on the trip.  Monitor Pass tops out at just over 8300 feet.  The day starts at about 6200 feet, climbs Luther Pass first at 7800 feet, then back down below 6000ft and then up Monitor.  Some of the climb is about 12%.  The downhill from Monitor is steep and winding.  My second reason to cry on this trip.  I don't do well with heights.  Marker Bob psyched me out on this one too.  If you miss the turn to go up Monitor, the signs warn you of a 24% grade.  Do they really make roads that steep?  AHHH!  Everyone made it down and into camp at Topaz Lake.  We had a lighter dinner tonight: Greek vegetable salad, lemon chicken, quinoa stuffed portabellos for the veggies, steamed asparagus, sprouted beans & basmati rice and pound cake with strawberries for dessert.  Everyone was well fed and tucked in early.

Wednesday's ride was not as tough a climb as Tuesdays, but a long 80 mile day.  The tribe left camp and circled East over Sweetwater Summit and down into the little town of Bridgeport.  Sweetwater Summit is over 7000 feet, so lots of climbing again!  From Bridgeport they climbed over Conway Summit, 8100 feet, then down a screaming stretch into Mono Lake and the town of Lee Vining.  Some of the tribe got caught at the top as a thunderstorm rolled in.  The downdrafts kept us hopping in camp: trying to keep the easy up from blowing away!  We settled in for a dinner of spicy cabbage salad, curried chicken, peanut yam tofu, yakisoba noodles, more rice & beans, and brownies for dessert.

Thursday, today, is a layover day in Lee Vining.  A few opted for ride up Tioga Pass to the entrance of Yosemeti, many hitched a ride with Arlen and his crew to go into the park and sightsee, and a few went to Bodi; a popular historic ghost town. I don't know if anyone went to the lake to see the mineral formations that stand tall above the water, but they are really cool too.

Tomorrow we will be heading to Mammoth Lakes for the next 2 days.  Jack will be flying home tomorrow to begin his ACA ride from Canada to Mexico!  What a trip!  I will catch up on the blog when I get home. This is a great group and a great tour for the last one for me for the season.  I can't wait to see what's in store for next year!

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