Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vision Quest: Day two

Miles: 53.5
Climb: 3330 ft.

The first day began early as I have early-riser-itis.  Also, more importantly, we were looking at one of the toughest days of the tour--at least fifty miles with a couple of major passes.  We rolled over to Starbucks for coffee and our home-brewed breakfast on the patio.  The evil black liquid for me and Kevin; mint tea for Richard.  Kevin and I will push frequently during the trip to bring Richard over to The Dark Side--but with little success.  Our career path as drug dealers goes down in flames.  We are rolling through town, the tour underway at last, by 7:15AM--yo!  Richard high-5's a couple of guys standing by the side of the road as we ride by.  An auspicious beginning, if you ask me.

The day jumps right into a major climb just out of town--Antelope Summit, named for the beasts we will see later in the day.  At one point, I drift off the pavement and into soft volcanic shoulder dust and come to a stop.  Kevin, following too close, breaks, pivots to miss me, his seat spins too, and WHAM! down he goes.  The first casualty of the tour:

His elbow takes some grief, too, but they're merely flesh wounds.  We ride for the Wounded Warriors after all.  Gotta leave a little precious bodily fluid on the pavement for the touring gods.  We adjust Kevin's seat and enjoy the view.  At this point we also call other angels of the tour--Barbara and Craig at the Eagle's Nest RV Campground outside Lava Beds National Monument.  Craig had offered to pick us up supplies as there was no store in the area, and our camp there would be a couple days off from the nearest supply point--Adin.  With great good cheer and enthusiasm, he offered to get whatever we wanted.  I call and talk to Barbara, his wife, and give her a list of things for the night we would spend there and the next in the monument--fantastic people!

The rest of the day is spent in long climbs, crossing valleys, and struggling into a fierce headwind and gathering storm on the last ascent before camp. Our stop for the night, mercifully, comes on a descent.  There's something deeply annoying about having to climb up to camp.  We have a few miles of drop to Willow Creek and a closed campground--perfect.  No neighbors.  We slip under the gate and pitch camp.  Restrooms are open, and I, expecting certain trials, have packed a water filter, so the nearby creek will be our water source. We have all we need for our first night on the road.  Behold the wonders of Lassen County:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vision Quest: Day one

This was the epic drive day, hours of sitting and increasing the size of our collective carbon footprint.  In total, we spent about 8 hours motoring up the eastern edge of California.  The main compensations are the amazing views: The Mojave desert and Joshua trees give way to sage brush and pine forests up high.  Mt. Whitney, Lone Pine, Mammoth, Dead Man's, Devil's Gate, Conway, Bridgeport, towns, passes and mountains for a lifetime rolled by, or rather we rolled by them.

This photo from a tour several years ago--much drier this year!
Finally, in the early evening, we arrived in Susanville, probably the largest town in this corner of California.  With a community college, prison, agriculture, tourism and other industries, Susanville has all the bases covered for a bike touring holiday.  We'd escaped college for a while, hoped to stay out of prison, and had no plans for becoming farmers, so that left tourism--cyclo-tourism of the first order.  But where to leave the faithful Subaru and trailer that carried us and our steeds so far north?  Whilst stewing on this problem, I hit on the idea of using a professional storage business.  We'd be gone for two weeks, give or take, so I wanted the rig secure.  Big Sky Discount Self Storage was the place I called first, and Dani, one of the owners, was amazing.  When I told her what we were up to, she allowed us to park free of charged in her gated, locked storage area.  Thanks, Dani, you're the best!  Just down the road was the RV camp where we spent the night in the area featured in the top photo.  These two establishments are close to a decent pizza joint, a Starbucks for the morning, and a good super market for any last minute supplies.  Perfect!  Also, the storage place and RV campground are on the return route, so excellent there, too.

We quickly packed the bikes, parked the car, and headed for pizza--feta, roasted tomatoes, a short pitcher of Moose Drool ale--damn good chow.  Salad bar, too.  We pitched camp in darkness (don't forget your LED headlamps) and crawled in, anxious for the start the next day. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vision Quest 2012

After months of planning, training, plotting and scheming, the Vision Quest 2012 Tour is in the can.  It was a great adventure with a solid mix of challenge and reward.  We raised a few bucks for the Wounded Warrior Project (still not too late to donate--hint, hint) and pedaled, cranked, sweated and grinned through 508 miles of some of the most beautiful country in the world.  This was a fine tour with virtually all the roads being very well suited to this kind of event.  We froze, we fried, we flew free and wild down long mountain grades.  It was a grand exploit that I recommend to everyone with the legs and heart for the task.

Over the next few days, my goal is to put up a series of posts detailing this trip, a day-by-day narrative with pictures.  I'll provide logistical information, distances, and elevation gain for those wishing to duplicate the route. Get out there and ride it!

As I indicated in a previous post, the route is a lumpy loop that begins and ends in Susanville, California, and the entire ride is at or above 4,000 ft.  In mid-summer, much of this route can be brutally hot, so, like so much in the northern hemisphere, this is a tour best taken in spring or fall; the late season is probably best.  The semester at the college where I teach and my fellow riders attend lets out in mid-May, so spring it was.  By researching weather trends and histories, I was able to discover that for May in this neck of the universe average lows are in the upper 30's F., and average highs are in the upper 60's F.  Perfect!  Of course, this is spring in the mountains, so extremes and variability are the only constants.  We had some highs in the 80's--tough in the direct sun with no wind--and low's in the 20's, but most of the tour fell within the predicted range.  Sweet.  We had rain on a few days but nothing sustained or extreme.  By far the toughest element was the wind, and much more on that later.  The emotional scars are only now just healing.  Ugh!

The Crew:

Me: Lead lunatic, guide and glutton for punishment:

Kevin: Resident philosopher king, always thirsty for wisdom:

Richard: Musician, dreamer, absolutely too cool for school:

Together, the Three Amigos tackled the big wide open and lived to tell the tale.  This is that story.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Crazy packing fool

I'm up crazy early, about 4AM, too torqued to sleep, getting ready to launch the big Vision Quest Tour of 2012, the fourth annual effort to introduce young riders to the rigors and joys of long distance cycling--the fully loaded, this-ain't-no-phreakin'-sagged touring kind.  This last week has been incredibly busy with final papers, final exams, work around the house.  Fortunately, Richard, one of my posse, wanted to leave a day later, AND everyone had the flexibility to do so.  Still, I've been spending hours getting the gear together, selecting this, tossing that, picking up some basic supplies, a few greenbacks for the road, and I'm still not done.  Hence the early rising.  I wanted to throw up a quick post and say that it's possible I'll do an update or two from the road, but the terrain is remote, libraries likely few, but we do have a layover day in Cedarville, which may have the facilities for an update.  A full report with scads of photos will have to wait for my return.  Here's the route:

Vision Quest 2012

Be well, and may your adventures be abundant and wild!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A desert walk with the lads

It was time to take out a few young warriors on a desert trek, a chance to meld with the wild dryness, the arid open, the desiccated terrain of the big, bad Mojave.  Steeped in the obscure knowledge of don Juan, we made our way through arroyos, steep-walled canyons, and along perilous Cliffs of Doom.  Only the watchful eyes and quick reflexes of his companions saved Ikleel from the Drop of Death.  View the wonders of the desert below.  Tread gently but with courage.  It is an unforgiving landscape...