Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day #15: Cowboys & Mister Critter

Today's Route: Redwood Meadow Campground (22 miles SE of Camp Nelson, CA) to Horse Creek Campground (6 miles SE of Three Rivers, CA) (80 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 705

It was super-duper chilly when we awoke this morning.

All bundled up, but still smiling,

Fortunately, we had about 1,000 ft of climbing right out of camp to get our blood flowing. Whereas on yesterday's toasty afternoon climb, we were grateful for the shady spots along the road, on this morning's chilly climb, we were grateful for the sunny spots.

At the top of the pass, around 7,200 ft, we bundled up and prepared for our 22 mile-long descent, past...

6000 ft.

5000 ft.

4000 ft.

3000 ft.

And finally 2000 ft.

At the bottom of our descent, we rode a mile or so off-route to the town of Springville so that Alex could mail about 3.5 pounds of unused gear home. Among his unused gear was a box of seven sets of earplugs. Seriously, seven sets!

Alex mails home his unused gear.

After our stop in Springville, we once again climbed about 1,700 ft so that we could descend that same elevation. The road we were traveling along, Yokohl Drive, was in pretty sad shape. On the descent, it seemed as though my front wheel was doing a good job rolling over the bumps in the road, but my back wheel seemed to be fluffy on the bumps. I took a glance at my rear tire, and sure enough, it looked pretty low.

I pulled over on the side of the road to check the pressure. My gauge told me that the pressure was a bit below 30 psi. I ride my tires at 95 psi, so this wasn't going to cut it. I had a slow leak in my tire, quite possibly related to yesterday's flat.

Whereas I am typically out front when we're climbing, Alex typically rides out front when we're descending. This descent was about 12 miles long, and I hadn't seen Alex in awhile; I had no idea how far ahead he was. I debated whether to: A) change the tube right then-and there or B) top off the tube with air and ride as far as I could.

With Option A, my tire problem would be fixed, but Alex would probably worry that I hadn't caught up with him in a reasonable amount of time. With Option B, I would likely need to stop a few times to top off the air, but I could hopefully catch up with Alex more quickly to let him know all was well (well, minus the tire issue). I opted for Option B.

As I was pulled over on the side of the road, a pick-up truck passed me, applied its brakes, and then reversed its direction until it was alongside me. The window rolled down, and two mega-hot cowboy hunks asked if I needed any help. I said I was fine...thanks for asking...just having some tire issues. I asked: if you see another biker ahead, could you please let him know I was delayed by some mechanical issues? They smiled their gorgeous cowboy smiles, tilted their cowboy hats, and then pulled away.

Damn, girl, what's wrong with me? Why didn't I ask the cowboy hunks for help? Hell, just asking them to step outside their truck so I could see their burly cowboy biceps and their tight cowboy butts would have made all of my tire issues fade into oblivion.

Stupid me finished topping off the air, and I was on my way. Within two miles, I came across Alex, who was patiently sitting against a large, yellow 25-mph sign on the side of the road. Sure enough, my cowboy hunks had given them a heads-up that I was delayed.

Alex and I put a brand new tube in my rear tire, and then we continued on our way.

The last 15 miles of the day (or what we thought were the last 15 miles) were relatively flat. Alex was riding in front of me, and so he picked up the pace to about 15 mph. When Alex sets this pace early in the morning, I remind him that we're touring, not racing; we should be riding at a sustainable speed. But at the end of the day, after already having covered 60 miles, I'm fine drafting behind Alex if he wants to lead with that pace.

We aimed for the RV park in the town of Lemon Cove. Alas, when we arrived into town, we learned that the RV park was closed. We hopped on our bikes and rode another five miles to the nearest campground.

Wowsers, it was a long day of riding!

The camp for tonight is run by the Army Corps of Engineers (COE). The COE campgrounds I've stayed at in the past have always been quite nice, but this camp doesn't quite live up to those expectations. Despite the not-so-pleasant shower facilities, after today's ride, this has definitely been the most enjoyable shower thus far.

Scratch-and-sniff me -- I smell clean!

We were warned by the campground ranger about the prevalence of rattlesnakes at the camp. The snakes would most likely be lingering around the rocks, trying to stay warm.

There is an embankment of rocks next to our site, and there are two staircases leading from the road down to the campsite. There is a large hole at the top of one of the staircases, which separates the tent space from the picnic table. I had been stepping around this hole, not sure if it was the entrance to a snake hole.

When I returned from my shower, I noticed this guy, laying aside the hole.

Is he dead?

Was that the entrance to his home? Was he napping? Or was he a she, and was she in labor? Or was the critter dead...by the bite of a poisonous rattlesnake? I watched the critter closely, and he was still breathing. Just barely.

Alex went to the campground office to see if the ranger might be able to get the critter out of our campsite. Alas, the camp office was closed for the evening. Alex returned to our site, carrying a long, orange construction cone of-sorts. I asked what the cone was for. Alex said he was going to prod the critter into the hole, and that the cone was the only tool he could find to do the deed. I suggested we just keep the critter where he was, as a dead creature in that hole would likely stink after a few days.

The little critter must have been praying real hard to the sweet lord jesus, because about two hours later, the thing was slowly moving its head and arms and legs. Was he waking up from a drunken stupor? Was he a narcoleptic?

As I drift to sleep tonight, I will be fantasizing about tight cowboy butts and burly cowboy biceps. I will also be thinking about Mister Critter. Whether the Mister gets up and walks away, whether he makes a tasty dessert for the local coyotes, or whether he enters the pearly gates makes no difference to me. Let nature do its thing. I just hope I don't have to step around Mister Critter in the morning.


  1. How long did it take to descend 5000 miles down?

    1. 5000 miles would take awhile! And I can't imagine how often ones ears would pop on such a descent! ;) But descending 5000 ft can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so, depending on the grade. Of course, it takes a helluva lot longer to climb 5000 ft. :)

  2. I will say you have hit on the very reason I usually ride alone. That means I get to choose whether to stop or not and there is no one elses needs to consider. That being said, it is nice to share the sights with some one!

    And yes! I agree, you need practice in the "Oh Please mr Gorgoeus cowboy with big muscles, would you help little ole me!" (make sure to bat those pretty eyes too!

    Great ride so far and loving the posts!

    1. Hey Tony! Thanks for your note. There are definitely pros and cons to traveling solo versus with a partner. I'm glad to have experienced both kinds of touring. Glad you are enjoying the posts! Thanks for following along!


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