In keeping with my record of exotic (to me) locales for dinner, tonight’s dinner was in Monterey Bay at a place called The Sand Bar, a little place below pier level, almost floating on the water, where I watched sea otters cavort and dive between two rows of sailboats as I ate my dinner. But, let’s back up. Today started in South Lake Tahoe.
After breakfast there, we packed up, geared up, and got on the road. We took Hwy. 50 out of town because I wanted to ride Kingsbury Grade down to the flatlands. Part of the reason for going this way was to avoid the construction delay we’d run into on the way in yesterday. No such luck. Right out of town we hit a different section of construction, and another delay. We had to wait for about 15 minutes. I hate road construction when they shut down a whole lane and make people wait.
We got underway, finally, and climbed to the top of Kingsbury Grade. I saw the place my parents had rented for a month back in 1993. Actually, I was amazed I remembered that it was at the top of the Grade before I got there so I could look! Anyway, it was fun to ride down the swooping turns on the other side, but because of the traffic jam (thanks again, construction people) we didn’t get to go fast. We rode the flatlands for a little while, then rejoined 89 where we’d left it yesterday. We fueled up again in Markleeville, then rode 89 back to CA 4. It was supposed to be a spectacular ride through Stanislaus National Forest. Little did we know how spectacular it would turn out to be!
We started out riding along next to a river that was just as beautiful as yesterday’s Walker River. We stopped to take photos of that, then started up the road. A sign up ahead warned large vehicles not to attempt as there were tight turns and a 24% grade. 24% grade??? Are you kidding me? I started to get scared, but concentrated on the lovely forest that surrounded me. It was difficult not to enjoy it, it was so beautiful. The road turned to a narrow road of about 1-1/2 lanes with no centerline. We climbed and climbed, and at one of the stops to take photos, I noticed I was surrounded by snow patches! Water ran freely, of course, and the air was cool and pine-scented. Then we started down a little ways, and I thought we were on the descent. I think it was this part that was the 24% grade, it seemed steep, but it wasn’t as scary as I’d thought since I was on the inside lane. On the way up I’d been on the outside with no guardrails, and that started to freak me out a little bit. During this part, I was almost run off the road by three trucks filled with jerks who were driving way too fast. It was the first time of two times today that happened. Good thing I was paying attention.
Then we started to climb again and some of the switchbacks were very sharp and steep. They were the kind that you met yourself as you turned, in a manner of speaking! I had to take those in first gear because they were so tight and steep. During this whole thing I was grateful for my perfect bike underneath me; you know, Pearl, the one I can depend on through anything. There were three of those tight switchbacks, and then we came to a lake, Mosquito Lake. It was amazing, all the way up in the highest elevations of the mountain. People were parked all over the place, fishing, picnicking, and hanging out. We finally topped out at around 8700 feet in elevation.
We started to descend, and after we’d gone down around 1000 feet, we came to another lake, Alpine Lake. I didn’t take a picture there, though, and I should have because it was flat and mirror-like with tips of rocks making small islands in the water, very pretty and dream-like. But amid all this beauty, the most notable thing for me was my bike’s odometer, which reached 45,000 miles right at that point! I will always remember that. Soon after, we came down to where the road widened again into two full lanes, and at a flat, paved pullout, we stopped to take a break, drink some water, and eat a snack. Then we got back on the road again and found the roadway curved through the trees with the kind of well-engineered turns that I could ride at speed. Thank goodness for radar detectors. We really loved that part, and it was one of the best times of the day.
On the way to Monterey, we rode on more two-lane roads that were wide, and some that were narrow with blind hills and turns. That was where another person crossed the centerline, another pickup truck, this one pulling a boat that swayed over into my lane and again I thought it was a good thing I was paying attention.
At Stockton, a horrible, filthy, convoluted, nasty town, we got on Interstate 5 south. We rode through rolling hills covered in long golden grasses that swayed in the wind. There were miles and miles of those. The wind grew stronger as the afternoon went on. Later, when we got to CA 156 the temperature dropped from around 94° F. into the 70s, and then I even saw 69° once. I went from hot to freezing in a matter of minutes, and then I knew I was nearing the coast. As we came over a hill, I saw the cloudbank that usually hovers right at the edge of the coast. I had to stop again, much to my riding partner’s annoyance I’m sure, and put more layers on as I was shivering so hard that it was becoming dangerous for me to keep riding. I even turned on my heated grips, and that made me feel so much warmer.
Before I knew it we were dropping into Monterey, exiting the freeway, and after a few turns on city streets, pulled into the hotel where we had reservations. We were across the street from the beach, and it was so beautiful in the bay, the late sunlight slanting on sailboats and the cloudbank. And then there was the incessant, soothing ssshhhhhhh of the waves rolling into the beach, the lulling sound of peacefulness that I love so much.
Which brings me to the third day of our exotic dinner locales. The warmth of the cozy restaurant was a contrast to the waves and the cool wind outside, and afterwards, as we walked along the beach in the dark, all was right in my world.