(September 6 – Written by guest blogger Pete)
On a day when you climb a 9,945 foot pass and enter the iconic Yosemite National Park, it is hard to start at the beginning and not jump into the majestic scenery of towering granite monoliths, clear and cold running streams, vast green meadows, white snow cirques clinging to the towering cliffs above. But, there are conventions to be followed here at LWOP. And if you know my good buddy Dave, there is a certain line that you toe. The line sometimes seems arbitrary, but it is always there. So, we will begin at the beginning.
Last night, while nestled in the cozy tent spaces of Mono Vista RV park with the 9945’ Tioga Pass peering ominously down at us, it was Dave’s decision to get up early to tackle the climb. And with his fine leadership, we got up at 6am so we could be first in line for breakfast sandwiches with freshly baked bread and lattes at 7am at the Latte Da coffee shop. Breaking down camp with Dave and Nancy is not fair or fun. They are a fine and well oiled machine of blurring elbows and synchronous movements. It is almost musical, but intimidating at the same time. In less time than you can say “Bikecentenial”, their side of the camp is broken down, their bikes are loaded and they are looking at me with their sunglasses on. Fortunately, our schedule was not impeded by my less efficient, and scrutinized, methods.
While at breakfast, we were joined by Frederik, another cycle tourist from northern Italy, who has been touring Canada and the U.S. for the last 11 months and who was also staying at the RV park last night. It is always fun to meet other cycle tourists on the road.
The ride up Tioga Pass starts in the wide mouth of a canyon with white granite boulders, low sagebrush and pine trees. The beginning is steep, then levels for a deceptively easy couple of miles, before turning upward between 8-10%. The terrain becomes starker with larger granite cliffs, less vegetation and more dramatic views. The elevation is clicking off 7000 … 8000 … 9000 feet. This is when it starts … the whispers … very soft initially. You don’t really hear them until they get louder, then you realize you’ve been listening to them for quite a long time. Where are they coming from? The mountains, the granite cliffs, the lakes, the air, the visitors gawking with mouths open. It is an ethereal experience … or it could have been hypoxia taking over. Reaching the Yosemite entrance gate at the top of Tioga Pass is part celebration, part self congratulation and part reflection on the journey. We found time to break from our high fives and woohoos, to get pictures in front of the entry station. Then it was a rather brisk, 67 degree Fahrenheit, decent towards Tuolomne Meadows. Almost immediately, you notice the greater and greener vegetation that accompanies the west slope of the Sierra. Clear and cold running streams, small lakes and ponds fill meadows with water. The granite spires, cliffs and monoliths jutting like white shark’s teeth above green conifer forests. It is then that the whisper becomes clear and touches the soul … “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter” (John Muir)
Tonight, we are staying in the Tuolomne Meadows campground just 7 miles below Tioga Pass. Fredrik has joined us and we are all sharing travel stories, adventures, cooking and menu comparisons, and sharing some local beers. The weather and temperatures up here are a dramatic and welcome break from the dry heat on the east side of the Sierra.
The senior and junior editors are giving me “the look”, without sunglasses, that I got this morning. So, I will fall in line and finish this up. I have enjoyed my nine days of riding with Dave and Nancy on this leg of their latest grand adventure. Dave has recollected our relationship and some of our cycling adventures going back to our childhood in his recent blog posts. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to re-live and make some new memories. Thank you to Dave and Nancy for allowing me to interlope. Nancy deserves special accommodation for putting up with our sophomoric humor, silly games and endless banter trying to one up each other. Oh, it was fun to be 14 years old again. Thanks to my lovely wife Inge for helping to make this happen.
One last thought, for Nancy, every ride is downhill as long as you are smiling. For Dave (and Nancy), “Dude-work makes the Dream work!”
Happy (and safe) travels.
(Senior and junior editor note – we loved having you along with us Pete, you and Inge are welcome to join us again along the road somewhere!)