Friday, May 23, 2014

Day #18: Downpours & Thunderstorms

Today's Route: Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park to Piedra, CA (73 miles)
Total Trip Miles: 814

I didn't sleep well last night. Even with all the layers I was wearing, I couldn't stop shivering. The mixture of dampness and freezing temperatures made for a miserable night.

We awoke to cool, but clear skies. It was a very different experience riding through the park under blue skies -- well, most cloudy skies with patches of blue.

Riding through Sequoia National Park.

For many of the roads we've been riding, particularly those that ascend, we can more-or-less make out where the road leads. This helps give us an idea of the steepness of any climbs as well as the direction we'll be traveling (which, for example, can be important for determining whether wind will be at your head or your tail).

In the National Parks, however, the roads are so well disguised by the vegetation. You know how that magical, digital line appears marking the scrimmage line or the first down line on the field when you're watching a football game on television? Well, sometimes I wish I could push a button on my handlebars and see that magical, digital line superimposed on the road ahead of us.

The highest point on our ride through Sequoia.

As Alex and I were riding, we caught up with two other cycle tourists! These cyclists were both German women -- identical twin sisters, as a matter of fact. As part of their gap year before starting university, they are cycling around the United States.

These girls are experiencing the true spirit of adventure -- they are traveling without maps! They have no idea what ascents or descents lay before them. And they have no idea what towns or grocery stores or campgrounds lay before them. All that is for certain are the very tiny backpacks they have strapped to their rear racks.

It started to drizzle just as we were about to descend a few thousand feet over about ten miles. Alex and I pulled over on the side of the road to put on our warm layers and head-to-toe raingear. The German girls pulled over, put on their raincoats, and swapped out their pants (of which they only had one pair) for shorts. "You gotta be kidding me," I was thinking, "they are going to freeze to death on the downhill."

The two German girls, leaving us in their dust.

We had a short ride through King's Canyon National Park, where we saw the butt of a bear prancing through a meadow!

The entrance to King's Canyon National Park.

On our way out of King's Canyon, our route took us on Highway 245 and Dunlap Road. These roads are my favorite thus far. Both roads are narrow, windy, and downhill, which makes for great riding. Highway 245 was lush and forested, while Dunlap Road was rural and salt'n'peppered with cute houses and horse farms.

The beautiful view from Highway 245.

While we were riding along these roads, the skies opened up and dumped tons of rain on us. The rain was fine, though, as the air had warmed considerably now that we were down at lower elevations. It was one of those wonderful springtime rains where you just let yourself get completely soaked and you savor the moment.

A little ways after the downpour, Alex and I stopped on the side of the road to regroup and to shed our warm, wet layers. Up rode Randy, as dry as the Tucson desert. He is using the previous version of Adventure Cycling's Sierra-Cascades map, and this prior version had routed him on a sightly different road leading away from King's Canyon. Apparently, the rain didn't fall on that route. Funny!

From there on out, we road the last 15 or so miles together. It was great fun having a new partner to ride with.

One stretch of the 15 miles was a few miles of downhill. We enjoyed racing down the road, often using both lanes to optimize the turns. There was one stretch when we turned to the right, around a blind corner, and had to steer quickly to the left to avoid hitting a peacock in the center of the right lane! At that moment, a herd of wild pigs was running off to the left, just aside the road.

It was unreal -- sort of like racing a bike in a video game, where you have to steer like a maniac to avoid the unusual obstacles in the road. I so very much wish I had a photo of the peacock and the wild pigs. Better yet, I wish I had a photo of the looks on our faces when we the spotted the peacock and the pigs.

Tonight we are camping at Choinumi Park, a county campground in Piedra. The camping fee is a whopping $5, thanks to Randy's senior discount. But when the host camp around to collect the campground fee, he said that there was no charge for cyclists! Nice!

We took advantage of the huge, sunny, grassy area to lay out all of our wet gear from the night before. The gear dryed quickly in the heat.

I hadn't showered in a few days. There was a men's and women's shower at the campground last night, but one of the showers was closed for construction. To allow both genders to shower, women were allowed to shower in the morning hours, and men were allowed to shower in the evening hours. As we had arrived at the showing facilities in the afternoon, my ability to shower was nil. That's okay, though, as the thought of heading out into the freezing, damp cold with wet hair wasn't at all appealing.

There are no showers in the campground tonight. But I made do with a wipe-down of the lady parts in the bathroom, followed by a washing of my hair in the outdoor water faucet. I used my Dr. Bronner's biodegradable soap, so all was environmentally well.

Speaking of environmental sensibilities at campgrounds...

Tonight we're being lulled to sleep by the sound of our neighbor's generator. The generator is powering, at a minimum, a large screen TV, which is perched on a picnic table. This is important equipment for camping, you know. As is the winch on the front of the BMW belonging to our neighbor across the way. He used his winch to drag his picnic table about 20 ft to a spot beneath a tree.

I set up my tent without the rain fly, as I love being able to lay in my sleeping bag and look up at the stars. After dark had fallen, though, I could see flashes of lightning in the distance, and I could hear the rumble of thunder (even above the neighbor's generator), so I got up from my tent to put on the rainfly.

As I type these final sentences before I crawl into my sleeping bag and close my eyes, I hear droplets of rain begin to bounce off the rainfly. The thunder is getting louder. And the flashes of lightning are becoming more frequent, illuminating the inside of my tent as if it were daylight. Ah, I love thunderstorms!


  1. German twins cyclists and thunderstorms? Now I am jealous! Great job lady!

    1. Indeed! Thanks! If you can swing some time off, you're welcome to join us! However, I suggest waiting until we're north of Tahoe -- that's when we expect the climbs to become a bit tamer.

    2. You have NO idea how tempting that is! Sadly, I start a month long class of new hires Monday! Damn!

    3. Damn indeed! When work gets in the way of living, then it's time to quit your job! ;)


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