Trip Log – Day 146 – Reno, NV to Carson City, NV

Reno to Carson CItySeptember 28, 2015 – Sun, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 49

Miles to Date: 7,638

States to Date: 25

IMG_4324Instead of following an ordinary Google route out of town, my warmshowers host Sherry gave me a scenic route out of Reno, though I didn’t leave town until after noon. Having interviewed a wedding chapel owner this weekend, I followed up with a quickie divorce service this morning. I lose my senses and get married over the weekend; it’s good to know I can get it annulled almost as expeditiously.

I was assured to see peacocks among the 2-5 acres ranchettes scattered across the valley southwest of Reno, but they didn’t strut as I pedaled through enclaves that looked like photo shoots for Sunset Magazine. Sherry guaranteed I’d see wild horses as I climbed Geiger Grade to Virginia City, but my track record on seeing wildlife continues to be lousy; no wild horses showed themselves.

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IMG_4330Nevertheless, the rigorous climb to Virginia City was worth the stark, expansive scenery. The final reward was reaching Virginia City and visiting the remnants of the Comstock Lode. Virginia City manages to be touristy without being sanitized.

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The decent towards Carson City is a 15% grade, but trucks and RV’s are prohibited, so I could let the brakes out a bit. I rolled into Carson City well before the sun slid behind the mountains. It’s the least impressive capital city I’ve visited. Perhaps that’s appropriate in a state with a strong libertarian streak.

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Trip Log – Day 145 – Reno, NV

Susanville to RenoSeptember 27, 2015 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 13

Miles to Date: 7,589

States to Date: 25

Today was a rest day, a day to explore Reno away from casinos. I rode up Windy Hill to see the city from up high in daylight, attended a Unitarian-Universalist Forum on income inequality with my Saturday night host, spent several hours preparing the logistics for my trip through Yosemite – a place that calls for strategic cycling, enjoyed a buffet lunch where I met a gang of medical residents from India, took a writing break at the classic 1960’s Reno Library, and then climbed Skyline Blvd for an engaging evening with my warmshowers hosts. We watched the lunar eclipse from their patio overlooking a canyon.


Reading area of Reno Public Library

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Trip Log – Day 144 – Reno, NV

Susanville to RenoSeptember 26, 2015 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 11

Miles to Date: 7,576

States to Date: 25

If I blasted into Nevada in a Maserati I would go to Las Vegas. But since I’m on a bicycle I’m drawn to more intimate places. A local told me, “Reno is Sin City; Las Vegas is beyond sin.” Reno fits my desire to explore the state that invented the economy of vice at a cycle friendly scale.

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I spent the day downtown. The main streets were blocked off for Street Vibrations, an annual motorcycle rally. I interviewed a couple that run a Wedding Chapel and a dealer in a casino. I stuffed myself at the Eldorado Buffet and strolled among so much leather the scent permeated the dry desert air. The crowd was 80% barrel bellied, 20% string bean thin, and 100% weathered. Festival booths sold all sorts of paraphernalia; much of it unprintable in this family blog, but it struck me that a moisturizer vendor could make a killing. The music was great, and motorcyclists give bicyclists a different kind of respect. We have a two-wheel bond but the commonalities pretty much end there.

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I’ve been to Reno once before, in 1978. The changes to the city reflect changes seen in other cities over that time. The city has expanded out while downtown has shrunk. The economy is more diversified – only 30% of Nevada’s revenue comes from gaming these days – but casinos still define the culture. Reno was hit hard when Indian gaming moved into California in the early 2000’s, and hit again by the 2008 recession. More than half of the casinos went out of business, and newer ones are not locating downtown. The Atlantis and the Peppermill are standalone enclaves on the outskirts of town – fully enclosed destinations with huge parking lots. But what remains downtown turns out to be a great size for an single event to dominate the entire area. Street Vibrations owned center city.

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In the late afternoon I rode along the river; Reno has some cool large scale sculptures. I took Surly to the Reno Bike Project for a new chain, where I met kindred spirit two-wheelers keen to share adventures. Then I pedaled out to my host for the evening. Bob is a member of Servas, not warmshowers, and it was interesting to learn about a different program for inviting travelers into private homes. After dinner Bob drove me around town. Up to Windy Hill for the nighttime view, and over to Atlantis where we enjoyed gelato amid casino whistles and lights.

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Trip Log – Day 143 – Susanville, CA to Reno, NV

Susanville to RenoSeptember 25, 2015 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 88

Miles to Date: 7,565

States to Date: 25

I had been warmed that US 395 to Reno had gyrating, variable winds, so I rolled out of Susanville at first light when winds are light. The warnings were supported by big yellow danger signs along the road, but my strategy proved sound. I logged fifty miles along a generous shoulder through stark desert landscape before noon.

IMG_4268I encountered two cyclists on the road. The first blew by me in his black spandex without a word. The second was a grey haired guy in work shorts and a dirty T-shirt, walking his bike along the gravel. I stopped and asked if all was okay. JR is a homeless person from west of Redding en route to Reno and a warmer winter. “I got another flat, a slow leak. That’s five so far this trip.” One look at his lightweight bike, burdened by all of his possessions, explained the problem. “Don’t worry, guy, I’ve had seven flats.” I didn’t mention mine were over 7,000 miles instead of 200. JR let me give him a Presta valve adaptor so we could pump his tire up, but he wouldn’t take any food or water even though I knew he had less than I carried. I respected his pride and wished him well.

Although my legs keep moving to propel me forward, the journeys in my mind often cover greater range. I couldn’t decide who was the greater challenge in our world: the man who whisked by without notice or the one who couldn’t possibly cope. I mulled that one over, then solved the world’s problems and discovered eternal love at least three times before lunch. My musings lent meaning to the message tucked into the guardrail that I leaned my bike against for lunch:


IMG_4271No shade today; I snacked with sagebrush for companions and then shouldered on. True to form, the wind was much stronger after lunch, which just gave me more opportunity to upright our planet – in my mind at least. This was my fourth consecutive long distance day, and I was much more patient than earlier days.

I arrived in Reno along with several thousand motorcycles for a rally. Since it’s a city that never sleeps, I decided to do some sleeping and checked into a local place for an early night. Tomorrow is time enough to explore The Biggest Little City in the World.


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Trip Log – Day 142 –Bieber, CA to Susanville, CA

Bieber to SusanvilleSeptember 24, 2015 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 74

Miles to Date: 7,477

States to Date: 24

The world is immense. I am traveling across a part of California I never even knew existed. It is gorgeous, it is challenging, and it is really, really big!

Today I passed through a series of valleys, at least six, surrounded by mountains, which, of course, needed to be scaled. Each valley was higher than the last, so climbs up exceeded descents. The largest, Eagle Lake Valley, was above 5,000 feet in elevation. All of that climbing finally culminated in a four-mile white-knuckle descent into Susanville. All my hard pedaling evaporated into my brakes!

I treated myself to a delicious meal at the local Mexican place. An $8.25 pork Chile burrito plate in Susanville beats any Mexican entree in New England.


The woods are delightful.


Some of the valleys appear to be former lakes.


Mount Shasta will not go away; barely visible over 100 miles away.

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I ate lunch under a shady pinion with beautiful sagebrush nearby.


Eagle Lake is a fragment of what it was. My first evidence of California’s water troubles.

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Trip Log – Day 141 – Mount Shasta, CA to Bieber, CA

Mount Shasta to BieberSeptember 22, 2015 – Sun, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 78

Miles to Date: 7,383

States to Date: 24

IMG_4238Yesterday I measured my distance as Mount Shasta emerged. Today I kept catching her behind my shoulder.

Everything was easier today: fewer miles, shallower climbs, more benign wind, but three marked summits over 78 miles is still challenging riding. The day began with four miles straight up California Route 89 to McCloud Summit, then a quick descent into town, where I had an early lunch for fear of no other services.



IMG_4240The second ascent was more gradual, through Trinity-Shasta National Forest, but ultimately went higher. There was no shoulder, but I scooted onto the soft gravel edge when the logging tricks didn’t give any ground. After I turned on to a county road, things got much more fun: a four-mile descent in a straight line – no traffic, no brakes required – followed by fifteen miles through the gorgeous Fall River Valley to McArthur, where there was an unexpected market and very friendly people.

In the heat of a cloudless sky I had to scale Long Summit, the last and highest of my day. I got flat number seven a third of the way up, but all repaired well. I pedaled to the top, and before turning east, caught my last glimpse of mighty Mount Shasta, more than seventy miles away.


I arrived in Bieber just after five, thankful that the only store was still open. Bieber’s not the kind of place one loves on sight, but everyone I’ve met here has been open and kind. When the Portuguese immigrant motel owner heard about my trip she said, “Well, I can only charge you half price.” I protested, but she insisted. A nice room, hot shower, fresh coffee and Internet for twenty-five dollars; cash. I wanted to take her picture, but she was insistent THAT would not happen.


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Trip Log – Day 140 – Ashland, OR to Mount Shasta, CA

Ashland to Mount ShastaSeptember 22, 2015 – Sun, 85 degrees

Miles Today: 84

Miles to Date: 7,305

States to Date: 24

Today was a strenuous reminder of cycling’s rigor. It’s been some time since I rode over eighty miles or a mile of vertical climb. Today I had both.

IMG_4209The Rogue River Valley over Ashland was shrouded in clouds when I began my long slog up and out. Like most, the valley runs north/south. But the Siskiyou Mountains, the only range in the West that runs East/West, cut the valley short, leaving Ashland in a bowl that empties to the north. After fifteen miles, and more than two hours of pedaling, I joined I-5 within a mile of that Interstate’s highest point. It’s an unpleasant place for a cyclist. The fog was dense, the shoulder as wide as the road, but many trucks pulled over to check their brakes before the descent.

Within a minute, literally, of rolling downhill, the fog lifted and the skies were crystal blue. Welcome back to California! I had to remain on I-5 for twelve miles, through the ritual produce checkpoint, until I reached the Klamath River Parkway.

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The ride between the Klamath River and Yreka is spectacular. The road was built in the 1930’s, with graceful, narrow bridges high above the Shasta River. About halfway through I caught my first glimpse of Mount Shasta, framed between two hills with its namesake river running beneath me. It looked so tiny in the camera frame. Little did I know that it was over fifty miles away and would just grow bigger as the day progressed.


I stopped for lunch in Yreka, the epcienter of the independent State of Jefferson movement. Signs for ‘No Monument’ and ‘No Dam Removal’ were everywhere. It’s not clear why back to the earther’s don’t want a Klamath River National Monument designation or local dams removed so they can run free again. Then again, they don’t want to be part of California; they don’t want to be part of the United States. They are just much better at ‘No’ than anything ‘Yes’. Does that attitude have anything to do with why I went to three eateries for lunch before I found one that took my order? Kitchen folks in the first two simply didn’t bother to come out as I stood at the counter.


No matter, the third place had tasty burritos. I left Yreka and made my way along tranquil country roads just beyond earshot of I-5. Mount Shasta evolved from an occasional presence to a fixed point. Problem was, I never seemed to move in relation to the mountain. The winds picked up, the grade tilted, and I worked hard, but my perspective on the mountain never changed.


Of course it did, just not as quickly or as easily as I might have liked. That’s when cycling is like yoga. So I took a break, breathed deep, fixed my attitude, and pedaled on. Finally, after moving toward the mountain for hours, I began to move around it, to approach the City of Mount Shasta.


It was almost seven when I arrived at my warmshowers host. The pain of the day scrubbed away with the grime on my shins. By the time I sat to dinner, it seemed fortuitous that the mountain chose to be such a constant presence.

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