I usually try to avoid Tahoe.
Now that I have your attention let me explain. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, but generally when I ride one of my biggest priorities is to get away from people, and Tahoe is just to crowded for me. Probably why I haven't been there in years. For some reason it's been calling me lately to go explore some of the backroads in the area I've never taken the time to see before. Besides cool weather is rolling in and we've been having a bit of a heat wave for this early in the year.
Rolling out Saturday morning I head up hwy88 only to get stuck behind a Corvette club! These guys were worse than RVs, going well over the speed limits in the straights where I could make a safe pass and then throwing out an anchor in the corners. That's a whole other story, but I worked my way through them.
Coming in to Tahoe on 89 I made a turn on Upper Truckee Rd, this is the kind of road I love but way to short. Single lane tight turns and deep in the woods, only to open into a wonderful meadow that I just had to take in for a minute. My first stop of the day is looking good!
Following the the road further my plan was to see Fallen Leaf Lake, more specifically a waterfall right above the lake. Wow, perfect road, but WAY to many cars. Kind of a bittersweet. The falls were easy to spot right off the side of the road, my second stop for the day was again a winner. I hung out here for an hour or so climbing over the rocks and acting like a kid. I was thinking of coming back later in the day for some better light to photograph them, but thought I'd do my best while I was there.
Feeling pretty good about the day so far I was off to find Barker Pass Rd, a dirt road heading up into the hills above Tahoe on the West side. Unfortunately I missed the turnoff and wound up running into everything I hate about the area. Not my idea of good mountain riding...
Geez, I could've stayed in the city and got places quicker.
Just about when my claustrophobia was starting to get the best of me I got on the right track and away from civilization. Quickly. The road quickly climbs in elevation and I was really starting to get into the moment. Threatening clouds up higher just added to the scene. I really should have stopped for more photos but was caught up in the riding.
There's the lake in the distance.
As I approach the Pass I ran in to some Jeepers that gave me some directions to a small lake that I wanted to check out. In the meantime I ran a number of forks just to see what was there. This view from the ridge was so impressive in person.
Not just the scenery, but the temperature dropped low enough to warrant heated gloves, and the wind was blowing so hard I felt the clouds were moving by as if I was in a plane. This to me is adventure riding, just being there to experience something so powerful making me feel so small. I realized I couldn't get a photo that would capture the awe I felt watching the clouds flow by so quick right above me, so for the first time ever I actually used my camera for video. I had no idea what I was doing since I never even read the handbook on how to use it, but hopefully a bit of the the moment comes through.
From here the road went deeper into the woods. PERFECT big bike stuff, just enough dirt to slide a little and feel like I'm doing something that maybe I wouldn't on a sportbike, and just remote enough to feel adventurous. No worries...enjoying the moment.
Backtracking some I went to the fork that should lead to Bear Lake. I would find out later this was actually the McKinney Creek OHV trail that runs down to the last five miles of the Rubicon. The road started showing some wear with deeper ruts and some rocky sections. Nothing to worry about, just enough to make me really glad. In fact I was feeling a bit proud of myself for getting into something a bit more technical. Here's a typical shot of the trail.
Of course you can't see the hill in the photo or the rocks but it was starting to go downhill. I took at least one close up of the surface, childs play for a dirtbike, but for a big bike loaded with lots of gear I had to start getting on my game some.
What happened next was a corner with a downhill that I really shouldn't have gone down. A few decent step offs had me wondering if I could make it back up if I needed to. If I knew what I was about to get into I would've turned around right there and tried.
The trail got progressively worse, steeper with bigger rocks and step ups. I now knew I was totally committed and I feared I would maybe find an obstacle I couldn't get around. Soon the rocks got technical enough that I couldn't ride like a wuss, it was time to take the bull by the horns and ride this thing like it was a 250. At this point I really just wanted to get through, but I couldn't help but be impressed how well the Tenere dealt with everything I was throwing at it. Of course riding in this manner means a crash could be really nasty, it wouldn't just be a tip over. I got plenty of use out of the skidplate. Then BAM!, an impact highcentered me on a rock for a second and as I started to highside my two stroke clutch hand somehow launched me back off it and down the trail. I really couldn't believe the zone I was in. And that the bike was fine with it.
I never thought I'd be happy to see the Rubicon Trail because it would be EASIER but I was. This of course was not the nasty sluicebox stuff on top but relatively mild trail, but still enough rock, mud puddles and a creek crossing or two to keep me on my toes. I stopped for a minute and smelled the disgusting fragrance of burning oil, and as I looked down I saw the rainbow color growing in the water I was in. CRAP. Knowing a I had few miles until pavement at the Rubicon trailhead, I was on a mission. I figured since my motor was a dry sump I should be good until the oil light comes on.
I felt dissapointed speeding by three gorgeous high sierra lakes and endless late day photo opportunities, but this was now a bonifide adventure. Creeks crossing that I'd usually check the depth first I just charged through on the gas. Gritting my teeth watching for the idiot light to come on I finally saw pavement! About 50 yards of pavement and the red light lit, clutch in, kill switch and my bike bled out it's last oil. I'm SO done.
O.K. plan "B". As I was gathering my thoughts a group of Unimog enthusiasts were just finishing up the Rubicon and were more than glad to help, in fact I think they kind of enjoyed it. I was told my NRA sticker on the bike gave me enough cred with them. One driver had just installed a hoist for changing his tires and was happy to use it to lift my bike on the rear of his rig. So besides an adventurous ride, I got to ride in a REALLY cool truck!
They took me back to their camp at Southshore. I just love the spirit of camaraderie on the trail. Nicest guys in the world made my problems their own. They put a beer in my hand, gave me a seat by the fire and insisted I enjoy some of the steak fajitas they just bar-b-qued. New friends I'll probably never see again but that's what makes the road special. I'll never forget.
A few shots of the damage from my garage.
Hey, who's in there?