Thursday, July 24, 2008

California Vacation - South Lake Tahoe, CA (Days 58-59)

On the day out of Fallon, we found that reading road signs is harder than expected. We left Fallon bright and early at 7 am. Like every other day in Nevada, we followed the biggest road we found. This turned out to be route 50 Alt, not route 50, which heads toward Reno instead of Carson City. By the time we realized this at the first water stop 20 miles in, we were at least 15 miles away from our intended destination. Turns out that the van drivers noticed the turn, but followed our route since they saw riders. We were following the route because we saw the vans on it! In any case, this erroneous turn tacked on another 18 miles to our route, turning out already challenging 91 mile day into another 110 mile day.

We really knew we were in Nevada when we passed through Carson City, and saw a sign for marriage licenses down the street. The other interesting feature of Carson City was the towering mountains which we would climb shortly. Compared to the Rockies in Boulder, the Sierras stand nearly 2000 feet higher from base to peak. This made for an impressive display, towering over everything nearby.

As we arrived at our final climb into Tahoe, my bike odometer already showed 98 miles. We watched the Baby Bear/Hubie race begin; a rather uneventful start. We started up the mountain soon afterwards. After 2 months of biking, even the 11% grade did not feel awful. What WAS awful, however, was the 40 mph wind which played with us, occasionally helping along with a tailwind, but mostly destroying our speed as a headwind. After over an hour, I finally arrived at the top of Dagget Summit, 2400 feet higher, and 8 miles closer. The cheering was incredibly intense as each person arrived and joined, but it was indeed an amazing feeling. I can only imagine if the euphoria approached the triumph of successful chemotherapy. After just a few short miles of descent, we were in view of the lake. We arrived at the Lake Tahoe Presbyterian Church extremely late, but very happy.

On our day off the following day, I decided that hanging around was not quite what I wanted to do. Considering the absolutely amazing views just outside the door, I decided to go for a short bike ride to look around. Before I knew it, I was already halfway up the (extremely steep) hill above Emerald Bay. Considering the absolutely amazing view, I decided that I might as well spend the day biking around the entire lake. From reading the placards, I found out that Lake Tahoe is the third biggest lake in North America- 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. At 1600 feet deep, it contains enough water to cover the state of California in 14 inches of water. Its bottom is in fact lower than Carson City. The water is so clear, objects 75 feet deep remain visible. The gorgeous deep blue color is due to the color of the sky; during stormy days, the water is gray or nearly black. Following my extremely long but rewarding day, I finished off with some yummy Chinese food and went to sleep.

-James Gao

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