Quick weekend in Tahoe

Posted on Jul 20, 2017 | 1 comment

This past weekend I made a quick trip down to Tahoe. I left Thursday morning and was home by Sunday night. A nine hour drive each way, much of the trip was spent on the road. The goal was to race in the Tahoe Trail 100.

The plan was to make the trip down take two days with most of the driving front-loaded so I could rest on Friday in preparation for the race.

Love this car, love this land.

Love this car, love this land.

Following  a casual departure from home, I made a stop in Oakridge for lunch at a deli that could have been right out of 1950 had it not been for the TV entertaining the owner’s daughter. I’d been wanting to get to Oakridge, and I suppose I can now technically check it off, but it’s most known for its mountain bike trails, which I didn’t get a chance to play on.

From Oakridge I made my way down to Klamath Falls, basically the last city on your way out of Oregon. Like much of Oakridge, it seems this is a town that time has more or less passed by. The downtown, while beautiful and well-maintained, was very much pre-1950 in architecture and feel.

Morning sunrise.

Morning sunrise.

The next stop was Alturas, California, where I had planned to sleep. I had done prior research and found some free places to catch some rest, but, well, the lesson learned is that National Forestry sites are difficult to read. While I did manage to enjoy their wildlife refuge and one of the best Mexican meals I’ve ever had, the spots I had scoped for sleeping were 20 minutes in the wrong direction. Following dinner and some riding around town, I had some energy to burn so I decided to invest more in my driving.

Around 9pm I was starting to feel a bit tired and began scoping out places to sleep. I have removed the seats from the back of the car and my luggage only took half of it so I had a solid 6′ spot in the back for bed, but you can’t just sleep anywhere… Well, it turns out you can… or at least if you’re a trucker you can. They were all over this very lightly traveled highway, but I’ve yet to really push the limits in a passenger car. I was about to pull into such a turnoff for the night (they can be tough because as soon as you see one you’re past it and it’s important to find one where you won’t have headlights in your windows all night) when I passed a campground sign. I was in the middle of nowhere and that was the extent of the signage. Two to three miles up the dirt road, I came across the Ramhorn Springs Campground. This campground is hardly maintained, won’t show up on any guidebook, and I couldn’t see anything as dark as it was when I arrived, but in the morning I’d find it was in great shape and had absolutely spectacular views of the sunrise. It was absolutely perfect. In the morning I donated (free with donations suggested) $2 to maintenance (I peed once – the extent of my actual usage) and was on my way.

With my AirBnb not available until 3pm, I had plenty of time to kill so I set my sights on Kings Beach after passing through Reno and back into California. There, I’d grab some great coffee and breakfast, and spend a few hours soaking up [too much of] the sun reading and catching up (I ended up pretty burnt on my legs and half my body). Luckily, my place was ready early so I shot over there and got settled before it was time to head to Northstar for the preface stuffs, which included registration and a [shortened] course pre-ride with some pro riders, and a riders meeting. From there I grabbed some pretty solid Italian and retreated back to my place to tune up the bike and get in bed by 8. I set my alarm for 5am and wouldn’t get to sleep until around 2 or so due to some noisy neighbors. Lesson learned? Maybe stick with camping?

The next morning was the big event. I had a goal of 5:15 for the 100km, but had absolutely nothing to base that on; I just knew that would get me in a smoking fast heat at Leadville. To back up a bit, the reason I was doing this race was solely because as a new participant at Leadville I was placed in the absolute back starting corral, which means I’d have to pass countless folks who would be hours slower than me, and likely have no chance at a shot at a sub-9 hour finish, which earns the ultimate prize. At the end of the day I qualified to start probably in about the front 1/4 of riders so all is good.



The race itself was fast and long. We started early, but it was a hot day and the final hour or two were in near 90 degree heat. In the post-race survey I suggested they start an hour earlier. My ride went very well – no crashes and the bike held up just fine. I did learn that the water bottle holder on the bottom of my downtube cannot be relied on as I lost one of my two bottles on a fast descent only a few miles in. The race was very well supported with aid  stations just about every hour (at my pace) so if I kept the pace up and stopped to refill my single bottle at every station I’d be fine. Still, that bugged me as I really didn’t want to be making stops every hour, and what if I lost that bottle too? About 20 miles in my prayers were answered as I came across someone else’s lost bottle. This was not the first time I’ve grabbed someone else’s bottle and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Regardless of how many times I do it, though, that first swig carries so much unknown – what if the person was drinking vodka? Or poison and I die? Luckily, that hasn’t happened. I’d carry that bottle in my pocket the rest of the race and only have to stop at every other station.

Halfway through the race, which was a two lap ordeal, I was at 2:40, but I had taken it really easy so while a 2:35 final lap was possible, I really had to pee, replenish my snacks, and get my chain lubed. Rather than risk my health, bike, or happiness, I spent five minutes at the halfway point to handle those things, effectively throwing away my shot at 5:15, but also making the final lap a lot more casual and enjoyable. While the result splits look a bit funny due to the break counting in my second lap, doing the math shows I ended up pretty much riding even splits, which I’m really pleased with. I did run out of “go” in the last hour, but I think I can mostly attribute that to the heat and not forcing myself to drink enough. This is the second time I’ve done that and I won’t make the mistake again.

I ended up finishing in 5:30 for 100th place overall. I’m happy with it. Of note, I rode the entire first lap with a woman named Julie. What was amazing about Julie is that she was in her fifties and on a singlespeed as I, nearly half her age, was constantly rowing the gears. We had some solid conversation, but being much more experienced and a local who knew the trails, she skipped the break I took halfway through and I wouldn’t see her again. When I got home I looked her up. Oh, no big deal. Really nice lady and a pleasure to ride with.

GPS | Results

Following the race I collected my finishers medal, got a quick massage, drank a bunch of beers, and got a great night of sleep.

Didn't get eaten.

Didn’t get eaten.

The next morning I went for a short ride (I actually felt great for this – could massage be as good as the pros say it is?) that included a stop at the Donner Memorial State Park, grabbed some more outstanding coffee and breakfast, showered, packed it all up, and hit the road. I booked it home – for future reference, it can be a nine hour drive if you keep it tight and fast.

Overall, it was a great trip. The drive down to Tahoe is beautiful, fast, and stress free. Mountains, forests, desert, alpine, open plains. Awesome. I plan to do it a lot more often and am definitely going to put this race and a short vacation in Tahoe on my calendar for every year.

Random notes:

  • A lot of towns have more road signs pointing to them than they have residents
  • Google Maps destroys Waze for finding long and obscure routes

One Comment

  1. eye mask > headlights
    ear plugs > noisy neighbors

    i never travel without either