California Cruise 2004 – Day 6: Yosemite National Park

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Thursday, June 24

  • South Lake Tahoe, NV to Groveland, CA
  • 286 miles

We tromp through the casino to have some breakfast. It’s 8 AM and people are already at the slots, drinking beers and pumping coins. Maybe they never went to bed. Hmmm…..

Anyway, we find our way out of town to the south on Highway 50 and encounter some amazing mountain riding between Lake Tahoe and Highway 395. We first cross Luther Pass on Highway 89. Then comes Monitor Pass. We cross it and stop just east of it to take in the views. We look down, see the road ahead and below and realize that some nice twisties are in store for us. From here to Highway 395, the road drops 2,000 feet in 6 miles and it’s challenging enough to keep us on our toes. At the bottom, we cross over a cattle guard and spot the gate used to close off this road in the winter. We emerge from the hills at a stop sign on Hwy 395. From down here, the road we just took doesn’t look like much of anything and certainly does nothing to indicate what is in store for a rider up above. That probably explains the utter lack of vehicles on it.

We head south on Hwy 395 and at the town of Lee Vining, we head west on Hwy 120 into Yosemite National Park. The high country is beautiful and we stop frequently to take photos of the scenery. Then at some point, we start taking photos of each other taking photos. Go figure. Just getting a good shot of the bikes can be tricky with all the auto, motorcycle and RV traffic and we end up crouching in ditches or lying on rocks along the lakeshore.

Fearing stop and go tourist cage traffic, we skip heading into the Yosemite Valley and proceed to the Glacier Vista lookout up above the valley. From here, we see the famous views the park is known for and confronted with such majestic beauty, there isn’t much to say. So we just stand there, take photos and soak it all in. We take so many that it just becomes impossible to choose between them and so only one photo of the Yosemite Valley is shown here. The parking lot clutter has been cropped out.

It becomes very clear that just riding through the park is not satisfactory. Quality time needs to be spent here to do it justice and staying overnight would be best. Having to get back on the bikes and head out of the park leaves us feeling incomplete. One of these days we’ll get this figured out and start scheduling our rides accordingly.

Having more flexibility in his schedule and wanting to prolong his time in Yosemite, Joe elects to stay so we part company at Glacier Vista. Joe heads south looking for a campsite and something to eat in the town of Wawona. The rest of us are planning to go to Placerville for a BBQ at Dow’s house but we when we stop for gas in Groveland, not too far west of Yosemite’s entrance, and realize how far we still have to go plus with how tired we all are, we wisely call it a day and set up camp. It feels good to kick back and leisurely chow down some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bars followed by cold beer. Can you tell we’re on vacation?

When Joe gets to Wawona, he sees the sign for the Wawona Lodge. Here’s his account: “When I saw the sign for the lodge, I thought that it couldn’t hurt to check it out. What I found was something more like a 19th Century Adirondack resort than a Sierra Lodge. I pulled up in front and wandered inside. There was nobody at the desk, but eventually, the desk clerk came back. I said, “I don’t imagine you have any rooms left.” But to both of our surprise, there were two singles left. I quickly said I’d take one. It was a small room with a shower down the hall. I got cleaned up and went down to the dining room where I had a sumptuous steak dinner topped off with a hot fudge sundae. Feeling quite mellow, I did laundry then retired for the evening to read. I wondered about the others and imagined them pressing on into the darkness to reach Placerville.”

Tomorrow, we will take off in all directions to begin the ride back home. Uncle Bob, craving some more quality redwoods time, will head back out to the California coast before returning to Seattle. Scott will ride for two days on I-5 back to Seattle. Eric has a 1 day ride back to Los Angeles while Pablo and Pork Chop will take two days to ride back to Tucson. Joe, with more time on his hands, will roam further and visit with family. It’s been one amazing ride! — Scott Bruce Duncan */:-)

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