Bike Odyssey
North America 2004

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Journal for 3-May-2004 : Silver Lake

Like a lot of things about America, today was a combination of the very very good with the truly awful.

We started out of Jackson nice and early, which was just as well as it took us two hours to climb up to Pioneer amid horrendous traffic.

More long slow climbing through hobby farms and semi-forest to Buckhorn where we stopped at the ranger station. There we learned all the camp grounds between there and Tahoe were closed. However, we met Bob the manager of the one at Silver Lake who told us to “come on up anyways”.

We seemed to climb forever, finally reaching the forest proper. The map had dots along it naming various “stations”. In Europe these would be railway stations, in Australia they'd be cattle stations, but in the USA they are Gas Stations.

The traffic dies off a bit but road conditions for cycling were awful at times. The 88 has thick heavy (and well used) guard rails to keep the cars in and the cyclists out. We endured a few New Zealand passes (drivers don't bother pulling out around us) today, and when there is no was for us to get off the road, they can be pretty scary, especially when were are sweating and struggling uphill.

Lunch at a picnic area in lovely section of National Forest. Blue skies and a biting sun combined with a very gentle very warm breeze (and a lot of tough uphill cycling) made it rather warm, warmer than we'd ever been in New Zealand. In spite of this, this picnic ground was surrounded by snow!

We climbed higher still, getting steadily slower as the day dragged on. Now the trees were shorter and more of the ground was covered with snow than not. Snow melt was flushing down beside the road in every direction.

The ridding session after lunch seemed to drag of forever, a but like the hills. We missed the lookout we were going to stop at (mistook it for a driveway – because the scenery was no better or worse than anywhere else on this road), managing to catch a glimpse through very sweaty eyes of the snow surrounding capped mountains. These peaks were no longer towering above us, but if anything seemed lower down the valley.

We cycled passed the 8000ft (2400m) altitude sign post, making this the highest we've take our bikes or ourselves without the assistance of aircraft. We'd climbed (we think) about 2300m in total today. And all under human power. As if on queue the road shot down a rocketing descent to the snow fringed Silver Lake.

Linda not to enthusiastic about the prospect of camping in the snow, but agreed, as the alternative was another 6 hours cycling (at night!) over yet more mountains.

We had trouble finding the camp ground as it was closed, there was no sign, and the road was snowed in. We learned the hard way (pushing our bikes through snow drifts) our beloved steeds are *not* designed for real winter weather!

Bob found us setting up camp in a very strange spot (we'd come in on the wrong road after all) and pointed us in the right direction. More than an hour and a half after we arrived what was an alluring prospect of a refreshing (not to say cleansing – we reeked after sweating 10l of bacteria infested road juice into our clothes making the climb up here) swim, was suddenly an absurd suggestion only thinkable by ignoramuses in their (heated) living rooms back in Australia
during summer. As dusk approached it got very cold very quickly.

Bob, it turns out, spent some time in Australia, helping to set up the Pilbra mining railways. Bob had fond memories of Perth, and memories of Roebourn (like everyone who's been there). Bob is long since retired real work, and now looks after this magnificent camp site out of his RV over the summer when it's open.

Camp fire very welcome, as we were camped amongst the snow and very tired. Fortunately no bears this time of year, at least that's what Bob told us. They don't show up till after the camp ground opens formally. Of course he has an RV to store his food in.

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