Part 2 – CA, NV, UT, CO, and home.
So we had just hit the coast. It was surreal. Here we were staring out at the Pacific Ocean when, just a few days before, we had hopped on our bikes in Tennessee.
From here we would head South on the famous Pacific Coast Highway, taking in the ocean views, smelling the salt an the air, and hearing dad complain that he was chilly from the ocean breeze. The readout on his GS showed 62 degrees. I was wearing a Gore Tex suit from Klim and welcomed the cooler air.
We would head down the coast, cruise in and out of the redwood forests, and hit some more construction before turning inland. The initial plan was to make it all the way to Yosemite via San Fransisco but toward the end of the day we realized that wasn’t going to happen. We adjusted the plan and decided to camp at Kelsey Creek Campground right on the edge of Clear Lake. For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the campsite but the set up was decent enough. It was somewhat crowded, though, and the showers were coin operated which was a bummer.
The next morning we would break camp and once again head out at first light, riding out just as the sun was making its way above the horizon. Our new plan was to skip San Fransisco and head directly toward Yosemite, only stopping for lunch or gas. Speaking of lunch, and because we were in California, there was only one place I could think to go. In-N-Out! Dad had never sampled the greasy goodness that is a double double animal style so we made the requisite stop.
After refueling bikes and bellies we headed toward Yosemite National Park. I’d seen the pictures, read about the park, etc. I wondered to myself how it would compare to places like Yellowstone that we’d already seen. Nearing the park, I could tell that question would soon be answered.
Boring terrain started turning into rocky, jagged mountains. Then we entered the park.
If you need to go someplace to make yourself feel small, I’d recommend Yosemite. Some of the most spectacular sights to behold and the rock formations and mountains stick out above the land in a way that makes every large thing you’ve encountered up to that point seem insignificant. The pictures really don’t do it any justice and there are far too many to post but feel free to click to below images for their hi-res version:
I think Yosemite is the greatest park in the country.
Yosemite took longer than we expected as there was a lot to see and take in. And we only got a small taste of all the park has to offer in order to keep schedule. I pulled up google maps and found a national forest in the general direction in which we would be heading so we set out toward Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada. We would exit Yosemite via 120 right at Mono Lake. At the end of the park there is a gas station with a restaurant inside called Whoa Nelly Deli. The food is delicious, I highly recommend a stop there.
From there we would take 167/359 into Nevada toward the military depot town of Hawthorne. Hawthorne had a strange feel to it. There were bunkers everywhere and plenty of signs warning you not to enter an area because of munitions testing.
361 between Hawthorne and Middlegate is the most desolate I’ve ever felt. Not a single soul passed by during our time through the desert as day was quickly becoming night.
The next stop with any sort of daylight was Middlegate Station to gas up before heading to camp. As the sun was setting we knew we were about to take on our first night ride of the trip.
We stopped at Middlegate Station to gas up at what felt like middle of nowhere, Nevada – nothing around for miles and miles. But when we went inside there was club music playing and a costume party. It was like the cantina in Star Wars. And it was awesome!
Tanks full we head into the darkness of the Nevada desert. My camera isn’t good enough to capture any images in low light but we decided to stop, shut off the bikes, and take a look. The view was incredible. This was the first time I had ever been able to see the Milky Way and it was littered with more stars than you could imagine. I’ll add a screenshot from darksitefinder.com that shows just how dark this place was – pretty much the darkest place in the US!
After finding our way to the campsite in the pitch blackness and setting up, we were fast asleep. We didn’t even realize that we had set up in the group picnic area of the campground until morning.