Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Fabulous Ride up Sonora Pass!

In the previous post I mentioned how I'd been invited to dinner at Dardenelle Campground by John, Tammy, Cody and Aunt Dorothy. Well, we had a delicious dinner! As I said earlier, Dorothy is from Tenino! Turns out I have been past her house numerous times! We had a great evening talking about my ride and how amazing it is that I would meet Dorothy in California. John, Tammy and Cody live in the town of Sonora. They are very familiar with the pass and how dangerous and steep it is. John asked if I would like a ride to the top. After a fraction of a fraction of a second's thought, I said yes!

In the morning I packed up and headed over to John's campsite. Tammy fixed me hot chocolate and then John and I loaded up Stella and the stuff in the back of the pickup. Tammy and Dorothy join us for the ride to the top of the pass. As we proceeded up, I was more and more grateful for the ride. There were places where the grade was 25%! There was absolutely no shoulder and the road twisted and turned more than a carnival ride!

We stopped a couple of places and took photos. It was very beautiful with lots of snow. We even saw some golden marmots. Just to give an idea of how ruggedly mountainous this area is, the Marines do their mountain warfare training here.

It was 14 miles to the top. If I had had to ride it, it would have taken me at least 7 hours! I would have had to camp somewhere in the snow. Fortunately, I only had to ride down. That was quite a ride itself! That 25% grade going up? It also came down! At one point, there was a little rise after a steep down. I had to brake going up just so I wouldn't fly over the rise! The scenery was amazing and I stopped several times to take photos.

At last I was back on the route at Hwy 395. I rode through a few small towns, stopped in Walker for some chocolate milk and donuts then headed toward Monitor Pass (just because I got a ride up one pass doesn't mean I didn't have any climbing). I stopped at the fire station at the base of Monitor and filled my water bottles.

I started the climb up Monitor. Except that it was pretty hot, the climb wasn't too bad for awhile. I was actually going a mile between rest breaks. Then it was a half mile...then a quarter...
I stopped in a nice shady spot and ate some Raspberry Newtons (I find, in the heat, I don't eat much. Mostly, I want to drink.). Another touring cyclist heading the other direction stopped to chat. His name was Brent. I told him how I had taken a couple of rides up Sonora and how now that I was back on my route I couldn't take anymore rides. He said if someone offers me a ride up, I should take it--as long as I ride down. I continued climbing. I got to a spot and took another longer rest break. A guy was walking down the road toward me. His truck was parked where I was pulled off. Turns out he was up looking a memorial marker for his dad who was killed two years ago on the Death Ride (a brutal ride of 5 passes in one day). Eric has also done the Death Ride himself (managed 4 passes!). Well, he asked me if I wanted a ride to the top of the pass--about 2 or 3 miles. I thought about what Brent said. I told Eric yes. We loaded up Stella and rode the last miles to the top of Monitor Pass (8300+ft.). To Eric's dad, wherever you are, you raised a great son!

From there I had a windy ride down. I made it to Markleeville Campground which put me back on schedule. I am so thankful to Jessica, John and family and Eric for generously helping me to be safe and stay on schedule!

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