2011 Sierra/Tahoe CCCTS Tour - A View From The Back of The Pack by NMTS Member Ken Levine

NMTS members Ken Levine and Holly Evans belong to a Canadian Bike Club titled Cross Canada Cycle Touring Society (CCCTS) and in May 2011, they joined 17 other CCCTS members for a 2 week supported bike tour of the Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Sierra Nevada area. Here is Ken's daily journal.

May 5,2011

Today, Holly, our friend Bernie, and I flew from Vancouver, BC to Reno along with our folding Bike Fridays in anticipation of the 2 week Lake Tahoe area.  We made our way to the fancy Grand Sierra Hotel/Casino from the airport and had a phone message that riders who are available the next day, May 6, will join the trip leader for a shakedown ride from Reno into the foot hills and around. Afterwards , the leader will host a lasagna/beer/wine dinner at his house followed by orientation.

May 6, 2011

At 9 a.m., we met the other riders at the Hotel/Casino for a 40 mile ride around Reno and then into the foot hills. The leader showed us downtown Reno, the facilities for the next day's National White Water kayaking competition, and some wonderful bike trails along the Treckee River. Then, we climbed into the hills for some wonderful sights. On the return ride, we stopped at the REI and the Patagonia Warehouse/Outlet for some shopping.

In the evening, we were driven to the leader's house for a wonderful meal and then trip orientation. We got maps and notes on trip logistics and then decided the driving schedule as teams of two riders will take a turn driving the rental truck that will carry the luggage, water, and lunch fixings.  There was no other vehicle so participants were expected to ride everyday they were not driving, regardless of circumstances, ride distance or difficulty, or weather. This was going to be a challenging tour but the rewards would be worth it.

Back at the Hotel, we got our things ready for tomorrow's early departure. We could not wait to start riding as Holly and I have never been to this area of the Country.

May 7, 2011 Reno, NV to Graeagle, CA - 64.8 miles

Two four letter words describe today, the first official day of the Sierra/Tahoe Tour: HEAD WIND. (Yesterday, our tour organizer and leader, Warner Griswold, led a 30 mile ride in the greater Reno area for those participants who arrived early.) This first day of the 2 week ride did not start out that way. We began at 8:45 a.m. from the Grand Sierra Hotel and Casino in Reno after preparing individual lunches of meat and cheese or peanut butter. Participants loaded the luggage and supplies into the rental truck and checked out of the hotel. Weather was cool, perhaps in the 50s F, and traffic was light. Everyone was excited to start the tour and see the beautiful mountain views and Lake Tahoe. But the mountain views today came at a cost.

Shortly after turning northwest outside Reno, we hit headwinds that were not very strong but combined with the endless climbing, riders had to make the extra effort. (At least Holly and I felt the extra effort was required.) Faster bikers took off while those riding more leisurely hung back. Some of the morning route was on major highway shoulders while some was on highway service roads. We regrouped about 27 miles into the day at the Hallelujah Market for lunch and some rest.

Shortly after leaving the lunch site, we headed straight west and hit very strong headwinds and more climbing. We had to ride 33 miles into this wind. On the way, we summited the first of several passes we would conquer over the next 2 weeks, Beckwourth Pass at 5,221 feet .We had started at 4,450 feet in Reno. The winds persisted, at times extremely strong.  The good parts were the scenery, great riding shoulder, and very light traffic. 

As we got closer to our destination of Graeagle, we diverted to a road next to a river that not only turned into a nice bike trail but afforded very little traffic and some protection from the headwind. A group of us took a slightly different route than was offered on our daily ride sheet when we were to get back on the highway. It added about 5 miles to the published 60 mile day and some more climbing but got us off the busy highway and into a back road suggested by a local cyclist. Those of us in this splinter group passed several golf courses, saw deer and other local riders, and got us to Graeagle, about 4:30 p.m. As we entered town, we stopped at the market to buy dinner fixings and/or breakfast items. The evening's hotel was a mile from the market and after arriving there, we had a dip in the hot tub. WONDERFUL. The consensus was that the persistent and strong headwind was something everyone could have done without. Warner told us about nasty headwind but that did not diminish how tough it was to cycle today. We hoped tomorrow's “rest” day would allow everyone to rebuild their strength and spirit.

May 8, 2011 “Rest” Day in Graeagle, CA - 20 miles

Rest days on CCCTS bike tours are seldom times to relax regardless of the amenities on the day off such as a pool, hot tub, TV in every room, local shops, a nice lounge, wireless internet service, and lots of reading material that was available at the River Pines Motel where we stayed for 2 nights. Warner laid out 2 loop rides for those who wanted miles on the bike today. Holly and I and 4 others chose to explore a State Park and a few small towns within a 20 mile round trip of Graeagle. However, after advice from a local resident who said the road to the State Park has an incline (and decline on the return) of 13% to 15% and the road shoulders will have snow, we changed course to another road and the next town.

It was Mother's Day so today was not a very good time to stop at local restaurants for coffee or tea. So, we pushed on exploring the town of Cromberg, CA including its cemetery and then settled on a very nice spot in Blairsden, CA for a long lunch break. (We all brought sandwiches we made earlier today.) This place was only a 10 minute ride back to the motel and the hot tub and the wireless internet and we enjoyed all three.  Finally, many of the group enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant while a few participants made their dinner in the complimentary kitchen available at the motel. Regardless of where one ate, everyone agreed today was a good 'rest” day.

May 9, 2011 Graeagle, CA to Truckee, CA  - 52 miles

The four letter words describing today's ride are: hill, snow, hill, cold, hill, hail, hill, wind, hill, and finally HILL. The only easy part of the ride was navigating the route as we left the hotel on California 89 south and stayed on it for 48 miles until 2 miles from our destination hotel when we made a few turns. We did not know what lay ahead in those 48 miles.

Holly and I and our friend Berni  left Graeagle at 8:30 a.m. under cloudy skies and temperatures in the low 50's or perhaps high 40s. Soon after leaving the town at 4,220 feet elevation, we started a steep 7 mile climb to 5,441feet.  During the climb, the temperature got colder and we had some snowflakes. Little did we know, some snowflakes would soon turn into lots of snowflakes and hail. At the summit, we took pictures to celebrate our victory thinking we'd have a great downhill. The downhill lasted only 3 miles and then the road passed through a beautiful, level valley (with some headwind) for our ride into the lunch spot, Sierraville. However, in Sierraville, it was snowing heavily and it was very cold. Many in the group changed into winter gear and rain gear for the remaining 28 miles. (The support truck with luggage was there.) The group agreed to skip lunch (but not the coffee and tea from a café) because eating lunch in the snow and cold did not seem like a lot of fun. So, we continued the push to our destination, Truckee. Leaving Sierraville , the road quickly went back up. We passed elevation signs reading 5,000 feet and then 6,000 feet and hit the high point of the day at 6,440 feet. Along with the high point was more snow fall and cold and wet roads. After this second summit of the day, the road became a constant up and down until Truckee, elevation 5,980 feet. Everyone was sure glad to get to the hotel that welcomed us with a big fire place in the lobby, hot chocolate, coffee and tea, and wonderful rooms.

Holly, Berni , and I arrived about 2:30 p.m. having ridden the last 30 minutes in hail. We sure enjoyed our lunch sandwiches and snacks and hot drinks in front of the blazing fire place where some others were sitting. We heard stories from other riders of near hypothermia and insufficient winter riding clothing and even a flat tire. (Believe me, you don't want to fix a flat tire in the snow and cold.) But, we all made it and settled in for a dip in the hot tub and then happy hour. Dinner and thinking what ride we would do tomorrow was soon on our minds. How quickly we forgot how tough today was and started thinking about the ride tomorrow. It was supposed to be a day off as the pattern for the tour was ride to a new place and then have a day off there .

May 10, Rest Day in Truckee, CA - 22 miles

It was a glorious day off as the weather improved significantly to sunny and high 50s F. The group started the day with an excellent breakfast at the hotel: eggs, bacon, cereal, yogurt, muffins, biscuits and gravy, fruit, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate.

Then, most of the group started a 16 mile round trip on old Highway 40 to the top of 7,239 foot Donner Pass Summit.  The climb started very gradually at the hotel and ran along the north shore of Donner Lake for 4 miles. Then, the serious uphill started. The last 4 miles was a 1,100 foot ascent to the pass which is now a ski area. We enjoyed so much on the way up: spectacular and clear views in all directions of snow covered mountains, Donner Lake, old railroad tracks (built by the Chinese over the Sierra Nevada Mountains), historical signs, Rainbow Bridge near the top, and the steep, winding road with CCCTS riders. All were great subjects for our cameras. At the top, we rested a few minutes and took “victory” pictures. We had made it. We also imagined pro cyclists riding the same 8 miles as we just did except those riders would be racing up to the summit as part of the International, Professional AMGEN Tour of California starting May 15.

Then, we started the steep descent back to Donner Lake level where we turned to ride along the south side of Donner Lake and enjoy a brief picnic. We stopped at the Donner Memorial State Park that houses the Emigrant Trail Museum and gift/book shop. Outside stands the Pioneer Monument at 22 feet high, the height of the snow in 1846 when the 87 Donner Party members got waylaid trying to cross the Sierra Mountains. (Forty two people died from exposure and hunger.)

Afterwards, some riders went back to the hotel and others rode to the Truckee historic district 2 ½ miles from the hotel to explore and shop. The day stayed beautiful and renewed our spirits for tomorrow's ride south.

May 11, Truckee, CA to Stateline, NV - 48 miles

Today was a “relatively” easy 48 mile ride for many and a very difficult 63 miler for the others. We all left Truckee (elevation 5,950 feet) at 8:30 a.m. with overcast skies, no winds, and about 55 F. Soon afterwards, the group split into two with slightly more than ½ taking the 48 mile route outlined on our ride sheet and the others climbing to Brockway Summit at 7,200 feet and then rendezvousing for morning coffee with Group 1 in Tahoe City. (Holly, Berni , and I were in Group 1, the 48 mile group.)

Group 1 had an “easy” climb to Tahoe City and even used a picturesque bike trail running between a river and the highway. This paved trail started at the entrance to the Squaw Valley Olympic Park and ended in Tahoe City where both groups would have morning coffee and tea.  Group 2 had not arrived by the time Holly, Berni , and I left Tahoe City but we later learned that Group 2 riders were very uncomfortable having gotten sweaty climbing almost 1,300 feet and then getting very cold descending to the Lake Tahoe shore.  Weather here is very unpredictable, changes rapidly, and is strongly affected by elevation of the road. A few hundred feet of elevation can make a significant change in the weather as we would learn later. 

From Tahoe City, we sometimes used bike trails on our way to the lunch spot at the south end of Lake Tahoe at Emerald Bay, elevation 6,441 feet. The climb was gradual until about 4 miles from the Emerald Bay parking lot when the road got much steeper. It was time to gear down (even more). Occasionally, the sun would shine and motivate us to snap pictures and remove some warmer clothing on the way to lunch.   The support truck was at the Emerald Bay Parking lot and most of the riders changed from cycling shoes to street shoes for the 1 mile walk down to Emerald Bay Beach. They also took sandwiches to enjoy at the Lake.

After lunch and the walk back up to the parking lot, we rode another 400 foot climb to the highest point of the day, Inspiration Point, at 6,800 feet.  From here we enjoyed (?) a very steep, winding descent. Finally, the road leveled out for the final 8 miles to our destination of Stateline, NV. The scenery was spectacular all day and the reason Holly and I got to the hotel at 3:30 p.m. instead of earlier was because we stopped so much to take pictures of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. Who could not?

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the world and the eighth deepest lake in the world at 1,645 feet. The average depth is 980 feet and the water color is a sparkling blue. Truly, it's a photographer's or bicycle tourist's paradise.

Then, as was a daily ritual, it was happy hour and dinner and sleep. Tomorrow was a day off but we already had plans to do one of two rides outlined by the tour leader. No such thing as a real “rest” day when there is so much to see on 2 wheels. (This was the first time Holly and I had been to Reno, Lake Tahoe, and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.)

May 12, Day off in Stateline, NV - 31 miles

There was much to do in Stateline on the southeastern shore of Lake Tahoe on a sunny, warm Spring day. There were hiking trails, walking paths along the Lake, a gondola up the mountain, golf, wonderful restaurants (I counted 4 Chinese buffet restaurants on the way to our hotel), casinos, entertainment, boat rentals, cruises on the Lake, and many stores and galleries. So, what did Holly and I and 6 others do on this pleasant day off? We did a 32 mile bike ride that included an initial 800 foot climb to 7,062 foot (1 mile short of Spooner Pass summit) on the highway, followed by 5 miles of riding on an old, unmaintained dirt railroad right-of-way, a picnic on the Tahoe Lake shore in a private community, lifting our bikes and ourselves over 3 locked gates, and getting the bikes and ourselves under or over 4 large downed trees blocking the trail. But in return, we had some of the most spectacular on road and off road scenery we had seen to date.

We also saw several bicycle racing teams practicing on the road for this coming weekend's start of the 2011 AMGEN Tour of California, the only American race listed on the international professional cycling calendar. It's an eight day race of more than 800 miles with the first day starting in Stateline. Nineteen teams with riders from around the world would compete for cash prizes. The typical day's race would be 120 miles, considerably more than what Holly and I had been doing. But, would the racers stop to take photographs of what we had seen the last 7 days? Would they have lifelong memories of the beautiful mountains, lakes, and small towns? Wouldl they have chatted with friendly, local people as we had? Would they share the camaraderie we had had this past week? Would they learn the fascinating history of this area that we had read about on historical signs? Would they make new friends with CCCTS riders they hoped to see again and ride with on future tours? I don't think so. It was their loss.

May 13, Stateline, NV to Markleville, CA - 37 miles

In short, we climbed about 2,100 feet and descended about 2,700 feet within the 33 miles from Stateline to Markleeville. (I am disregarding the extra 3 or 4 miles that Holly, Berni , Dolores, and I rode when we took South Upper Truckee Road by mistake instead of Old Truckee Road which we never found. We had to turn around on S. Upper Truckee Road when it turned to a steep, wet, snowy one lane dirt road.)

Our planned start at 9 this morning from the hotel was quite the event. While we were preparing lunch sandwiches by the truck in the parking lot before departure, a gentleman came over and asked who wanted to be a guinea pig? I said I would and he handed me a pair of sun glasses with a strap on the back and proceeded to tell the group about this new product (Half Shady) that would be for sale during the bike race. He demonstrated how the strap was adjustable and how comfortable the polarized glasses were. I agreed and posed for some pictures he took. Then, he said I can have the $85 pair for being a good model. He gave a second pair to Berni  when she mentioned she lost her sun glasses yesterday. It was a great way to start the ride.

Starting at 6,300 feet in perfect weather, we slowly climbed almost 1,500 feet to the 7,754 foot Luther Pass, the highest point so far on the tour but ultimately, not the highest of the trip . From the top, we had a screaming descent of 654 feet to our lunch site in Hope Valley. I hit 40 mph (NOT Kilometers per hour) downhill and was not prepared to go any faster so I sat upright to catch the wind. The road was very good going up and down and the views were breath taking. At noon, Holly and I got to the truck for lunch.

After lunch, we descended another fast 1,465 feet to a turn off for the Markleeville road at which point we quickly ascended 575 feet before the final 570 foot descent to Markleeville, elevation 5,535 feet arriving at 2 p.m.

The group stayed at 2 motels here as each motel did not have enough rooms for the 19 of us. Markleeville is a small town (population 200) established in 1861 but the people are very friendly, there is free internet at the library, and there is a small grocery store for those who wanted to cook their own dinner instead of eating at a restaurant. The town boasts that it is the smallest County seat in the Country.

Warner arranged for a breakfast buffet the next day so we looked forward to that followed by another rest day that may include a local ride. Weather should be acceptable according to the forecast.

May 14, Rest Day in Markleeville, CA

This is truly a rest day for Holly and me as it is the first day in 9 days we had not ridden on the bike. Instead of riding to one of the passes (that's UP), we had a leisurely breakfast buffet with the group, did email at the library, visited the local information center and Chamber of Commerce, walked around the “historic” district and residential area, and walked down the road maybe a mile to enjoy a picnic lunch by the swift flowing Markleeville Creek. At the historic district, we took pictures and read the signs describing the histories of the Old Webster School House built in 1882, the Old Log Jail constructed in 1875, and the town itself named after a Jacob Marklee from Canada. Marklee recorded a land claim for this area in 1862 and established the town shortly afterwards. However, in 1863, Marklee was killed in a gun fight on Markleeville's main street by Henry Tuttle who claimed he owned the land. While Marklee lives on for his establishing and naming of the town, Henry Tuttle faded into history.

May 15, Markleeville, CA to Carson City, NV. - 41 miles

Today was one of the most unusual cycling days I have ever seen. The bad news started early when we awoke to snow falling and wind blowing.  The weather did not change by departure time (that was delayed) and the group started riding in the snow storm not knowing how long that weather would prevail or if road conditions and snow fall would get worse. There was no option to shuttle riders to our destination, Carson City, 41 miles away. Except for the truck driver and a passenger, everyone donned their warmest clothing and took off on the wet road after enjoying another delicious buffet breakfast arranged by Warner..

The good news, other than the buffet breakfast, was 2 fold. First, I was the driver of the support truck today so I stayed warm and dry. Secondly, once the group summited a hill about 5 miles from the start, the weather cleared, blue sky appeared over a beautiful route called Jack's Valley, and the road became dry. But the cold temperature persisted, the wind would switch from head wind to tail wind, and brief periods of snow fall would start and stop all the way to Carson City. Holly said she still enjoyed today's ride and was glad she did it. Some last minute changes Warner made to the route and logistics helped assure the best ride possible despite the scary start. 

As usual, lunch sandwiches were to be made before departing in the morning, today in Markleeville, but with the bad weather, Warner said we'll postpone sandwich fixing until the historic town of Genoa where we would stop to eat lunch and enjoy the park. When we got to Genoa, it was still cold and only 18 miles to the end so Warner changed lunch to Carson City at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express. No one disagreed. He also suggested a slight change of route that promised better road conditions given the unpredictable effect of the snow fall.

As mentioned, I drove the support truck today and therefore, adapted to the changes. It was Holly's and my turn to set out lunch fixings, drive the support truck to the day's destination, take inventory of food, shop for groceries, set up happy hour, and perform housekeeping  (truck-keeping?) chores . Also, we made sure all the luggage was loaded on the truck and no one was left behind. With the bad weather and route change, Warner asked me to stop more frequently than usual along the way and assure riders were okay and on route.  Everyone was. The last rider (not me today) got to Carson City by 1 p.m. Waiting at the hotel was a hot tub, hot beverages, our rooms, and a great view (from the lobby) of short periods of snow fall and strong winds blowing. One factor that did not change today was the usual happy hour at 5 p.m. 

As a side note, the first stage of the 2011 AMGEN Tour of California was cancelled today in the Lake Tahoe area because of the snow fall, bad road conditions, and cold temperature. Riders voted to skip Stage 1. 

We have had 2 and 3 person teams support the riders and drive when we move location every other day The team also handles grocery shopping when we restock bread, meat, cheese, fruit, granola bars, peanut butter and jelly, condiments, pickles, lettuce, cookies, water, beer, and wine. Sandwiches are typically left in the truck until the lunch stop so riders do not have to carry them on the bike but granola bars, cookies, and fruit are usually carried by the rider during the day. There was never a shortage of food and with so much climbing, calorie intake and water are necessities. Even though I did not ride today, somehow I managed to eat my usual (large) amount of food. I figured I'd have to burn some calories on tomorrow's day off ride to Virginia City?

May 16, Day Off in Carson City, NV - 45 miles

Today was better for riding than yesterday weather-wise. There was no snow when we awoke, temperature was about 50 F, and the sun was out. With these conditions, most of us chose to ride the 17 miles to the historic and touristy town of Virginia City, Why not do almost 2,000 feet of climbing on your day off? If you want to see the “old west” and the area where billions of dollars in silver was extracted, the only way was up from Carson City. (The Comstock Lode near Virginia City was the largest silver find in world history.)   

So after another breakfast buffet, we dressed for cool weather and set out from the hotel located at 4,650 feet. Our goal was the saloons, hotels, railroad station, shops, and restaurants of Virginia City's Main Street at 6,220 feet. The climb going out totaled about 1,800 feet with 1,500 feet of it over the last 8 miles. So, the last 8 miles was a steep, winding, truck route ascent with great views looking back at the Virginia Range and Valley.

In Virginia City, we walked the wooden sidewalks and checked out the stores and other buildings, many with historical plaques describing the history of the structure. We stopped for lunch having carried our food from Carson City but while eating on some outside benches, clouds moved in and the temperature dropped significantly. We walked around some more and then started the return trip down the hill.

Most of us chose to descend a different, more direct road back than going down the winding up hill we climbed before. The more direct road passed through 2 mining towns, Gold Hill and Silver City,  we had not seen climbing up but it also offered an initial 15% winding downhill. WHAT A RIDE DOWN to the main road, Hwy. 50. With the cooler temperature, high altitude, and screaming downhill, some riders got cold on the descent but most warmed up during the brief up hills back to the Holiday Inn Express. Holly and I continued to the Carson City Costco warehouse before heading back to the hotel finishing the day with 45 miles and the visions of a hot shower and happy hour. 

May 17, Carson City to Incline Village, NV - 27 miles

The ride sheet Warner prepared for today read that the ride is “only 28 miles but it will test your legs.”  He was correct.  It also tested the gearing on your bike, the quality and quantity of your warm riding clothing, and your will to keep pedaling regardless of weather and terrain. What is better than a 2,500 foot climb with most of it over a short 9 miles? Doing the climb over snowy, cold 7,146 foot Spooner summit.  (On May 12, we had approached Spooner Summit from the opposite direction.) 

Being a “short” day, the participants left Carson City at various times with Holly, Berni , Dolores, and me leaving at 8:45 a.m. after another great hotel breakfast buffet. Temperature was cool, maybe high 40's, and slight overcast with no wind or expectations of what was to arrive later. We headed south through Carson City, Nevada's Capital, and connected with scenic Highway 50. (“Scenic Highway” usually means high altitude roads with great views.) Once we turned onto Highway 50, it was climbing for 9 miles to the summit. The snow started at elevation 6,800 feet and when the road occasionally turned east, we had a headwind. Arriving at the summit, we stopped BRIEFLY for picture taking of the 7,146 foot sign, put on more clothing, and zippered up whatever can be zippered up. We noticed the snow plow at the summit and were glad the snow was not sticking. It melted when it hit the ground and just made the road wet.

Prepared, or so we thought, for the descent, we took off downhill. It was a very fast 1 mile downhill before turning north and continuing downhill and it was COLD. Holly and I had medium warm gloves on but could have used our heavy winter gloves that were in our luggage. Also, we had booties but they were in the truck also. Who thought it would get so cold? With no choice but to ride to the destination of the Hyatt Hotel in Incline Village, we continued on the rolling hills to the north shore Of Lake Tahoe.

We were extremely happy to get to the hotel at 6,283 feet and enjoy the complimentary glass of champagne especially since it started snowing again shortly after Holly, Dolores, and I arrived at 12:30 p.m. We had descended almost 900 feet. Berni  had arrived earlier and offered us some hot chocolate. We hung around the lobby as other riders came in cold and very happy to be off the road as the snow fall increased. Happy hour and dinner followed. (Holly and I had hot and sour soup followed by a pizza.) And at 8 p.m. as I finished writing this log, it was still snowing. And it was the middle of May. Who knew about tomorrow? Glad it was a rest day.

May 18, Day Off in Incline Village, NV

We started our rest day here at the fancy Hyatt Hotel with a 4 hour walk that included walking by the beach and enjoying beautiful views of the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. We continued with strolls through residential areas and a stop at the Village Center and supermarket. The afternoon was pure relaxation on the grounds of the hotel. Weather was much better than yesterday. At times, it was sunny and at other times overcast and we even had some snow flurries but temperature was mild. All in all, a nice way to spend our next to the last day of the ride 

May 19, Incline Village, NV to Reno, NV - 35 miles

This was a great last day to our CCCTS Reno/Tahoe/Sierra bike tour. We started a 2,672 foot climb from 6,283 feet at the hotel to the Sierra Pass summit at 8,900 feet. This summit is the highest one in the Sierra Nevada open all year. Leaving the hotel at 8:45 a.m., we started to climb immediately covering 892 feet in 3 miles. Warner later told us some of the incline was 15%. We knew it as ultralow gears were required for this segment prior to reaching the main road that would take us over the Summit. 

When we reached the main road, we continued the ascent for the last 1,752 foot climb to the summit a little less than 6 miles away. We were a little concerned with road conditions when we saw the electrified sign reading “Snow tires or chains required in 3 miles.” Fortunately, chains were not required when we got to the top but warm clothing was. On the way, we saw snowmobilers riding their machines in the meadows. It was a winter wonderland with snow on the road shoulders and beautiful views of Lake Tahoe, surrounding mountains, and where we started that morning. We topped out at mile 9 after a few false summits (which cyclists hate) and the support truck was waiting.

Here, we put on our warmest riding clothing for the incredible upcoming descent. Winter gloves, head warmers, booties, a fleece vest under our winter jacket, and over-pants were in order. We took the obligatory pictures of the summit sign to show we had been cycling at 8,900 feet. 

Then, it was 4,573 feet of COLD, NONSTOP DOWNHILL to the Reno suburbs and eventually the hotel where we started 13 days and about 450 miles ago. (I had 412 miles and Holly had 453 miles since I drove the support truck one day instead of riding.) The descent covered a winding but beautiful 17.6 miles before leveling out for another 9 miles to the hotel. On the way down, we had fantastic views and stopped several times to take pictures. In Reno, the temperature was 68 F and sunny. We arrived at the Sierra Grand at 1:45 p.m. after stopping along the way for lunch.

Being the last day of this well-planned and lead ride, I packed our 2 folding bikes along with accessories, clothing, tools, and spare parts and was ready for the delicious buffet the entire group attended as a farewell get together. The dinner at the Sierra Grand offered Italian, American, Mexican, and International foods along with a large assortment of salads and desserts. It was a great ending to a trip with CCCTS members I now refer to as friends. After many goodbyes and hugs, Holly and I got to bed early as we needed to catch the shuttle bus to the airport at 8 a.m. the next day for our flights home. We went to sleep with wonderful thoughts of the last 2 weeks thanks to Warner and the CCCTS members lucky enough to be on this trip. That was what I saw from the back of the pack.