(September 9 – written by Nancy)
Well, after debating a bit we decided not to spend another day in Yosemite Valley after all. There is certainly enough to do there for another couple of days, but we did not want to be leaving the Valley on Sunday when much of the traffic would be heading out. Particularly with Hwy 41 being closed, we expected the traffic on the alternative route, Hwy 140, to be even heavier than usual. So, this morning we packed up and hit the road.
We were up early though by the time we were packed and had stopped by Frederik’s site to say goodbye it was 9am. We headed through Yosemite Village to take a quick gander at the Visitor’s Center and the Ansel Adams Gallery. I would have liked to have had some more time to spend there – lots of things to see and some very beautiful pictures in the gallery. It would have been an amazing sight to see the area with very few tourists around, much more in its natural state, as Ansel Adams did. I am not sure there are many places left in the world like that anymore.
At the Visitor’s Center we learned that there was a plan to open Hwy 41 at 5pm today, mostly to accommodate the traffic out of the park tomorrow. That was our original intended route, from the Valley to Oakhurst. It is supposed to be a beautiful road, but is a good climb and has a pretty long tunnel. Well, we didn’t really want to wait around until 5pm and it wasn’t assured of being open so we went ahead with our adjusted plans to head down Hwy 140 to Mariposa today, and then on to Oakhurst tomorrow.
We rode back out through the park, stopping to take some more photos. It was very smoky this morning, which you can see in the pictures. When we finally hit the park entrance about 9:30 the traffic to get into the park was already backing up. Amazingly there was an over 3-mile backup to get into the park and it wasn’t even 10am yet! We stopped at a little grocery store in El Portal, about 10 miles down from the park entrance for a mid-morning snack and watched the heavy traffic head up the hill – little did they know they would be sitting in their cars for some time.
The first 30 miles of today’s ride was down a canyon, following the Merced River. It was pretty hot as we dropped elevation and the hillsides going up from the river were mostly brown and dry. It was an interesting contrast to the river below, which looked cool and clear and was lined in many places with green lush grasses – almost like it was landscaped. At one point Dave said – “Look Nancy, a bear in the river” – but it turned out to be a person with a hat on sitting submerged in the middle of the river up to her (his?) neck. Very strange – we weren’t sure what they were doing.
Hwy 140 also had a bit of construction on it, with a couple of bridges being rebuilt and consequently down to a one-lane road. This was good, as it kept the traffic speeds lower and gave us a break as the traffic bunched up a bit and then we knew we had clear sailing for awhile.
We reached Briceburg around 12, and knew from there we had a bit of a climb to get to Mariposa as we left the Merced River there. Well, it turned out to be a pretty decent climb, almost 2000 feet and right in the middle of the hot sunny day. The climb had some relatively decent pitches – the grade sat at 7% for quite awhile. We were both sweating buckets and tried to distract ourselves by counting up to 100 in Spanish for practice. I kept losing track so I think I counted at least to 300 before I reached 100!
We rolled into Mariposa, which is a small farming community of about 2500 people and pulled over to the first place we could see that might have cold drinks – the Pony Espresso (of course). After a big iced coffee and our PB&J sandwiches we made our way to the grocery store (aptly named the Pioneer Market, in keeping with the theme of the town) and picked up some things for dinner.
Tonight we are staying at the Mariposa Fairgrounds. They allow RVs and camping here and have showers and even very fast Wi-Fi. We just caught the tail end of a fundraiser for the local volunteer fire association, which included a band from the Sierra Shadow Casters motorcycle band. They actually weren’t bad, if not a little bit loud… I was a bit worried we were going to ‘enjoy’ their company late into the night, but they finished up before 5 so no problem there.
It is now a bit of a ghost town here, but we are camped right near the full time caretaker so all should be fine. It appears we just missed the weekly Friday night football game of the local high school – the Grizzlies. So we have either timed it right (or not) depending on your point of view. I have high hopes for a good night’s undisturbed sleep, given how quiet it is right now – that is, if I can keep Dave from snoring too much. Dave has enjoyed the park and all of the signage – nothing seems to be locked and you can pretty much wander where ever you want to – see below.
Tomorrow we have a short day into Oakhurst – 27 miles or so. Unfortunately I think it is pretty hilly and the temps are set to be high again so we will try to get on the road early. All in all, while I would have liked to have spent a bit more time in Yosemite today’s ride turned out to be a good one – I wouldn’t want to be on the road tomorrow with all that traffic coming out of the park. Of course, we could have stayed a couple of extra days, but my riding partner couldn’t really fathom that. We’ll just have to visit the park again sometime. Tomorrow’s ride will put us back on our original planned route so all is well.