Sonora Pass - 1982


Four bicyclists, one mountain range, 250 miles, three days

Every few years, Bob and Larry did some sort of crazy bicycle ride in the mountains. In September 1982, they decided repeat one of their previous rides, a trip across the Sierra Madre mountains of California, between Yosesite National Park and Lake Tahoe. We referred to the ride by the highest point in the trip, Sonora Pass.

If a 100 mile bicycle ride is called a "century", then this one was a quarter millenium since it spanned 250 miles. Starting at the city of Bridgeport, we would make a counterclockwise loop over the Sierras and back again, finishing at Bridgeport three days later. Each day included about 6000 vertical feet of climbing, about 18,000 feet in all. Four of the mountain passes were higher than 8000 feet.

A week before the trip Bill and I tested ourselves by climbing Mount Wilson, just north of Los Angeles. It was a short ride but included a stiff climb of about 4000 feet.

Day 1 - Bridgeport to Sonora, 100 miles

After a full breakfast, we checked out of the motel and parked the car by the side of the highway. For the next three days we would survive only using only what we carried on our bikes and in our wallets.

By mid-morning we reached the high point of the trip, Sonora Pass. Even in late summer you can see some snow on the slopes in the background.

 

From this point we climbed a few other passes but the road was generally downhill. We had some exhilarating stretches where the highway was wide and smooth and straight for a mile or two. Bill's speedometer pegged out at 47 mph. We even passed a couple of cars. At other places the road was narrow, and large trucks carrying huge logs grunted just inches away from our bikes.

We spent the first night in the city of Sonora. After working so hard during the day, I scarfed down my dinner of fresh fried perch and fell fast asleep.

 

Day 2 - Sonora to Angels Camp, 55 miles

The Parrot's Ferry Bridge on the New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River. The red leaves were a beautiful contrast to the deep blue water.

 

Bill, Bob, Kermit, and Larry on the bridge.

We're about halfway done!

 

Now the fun time was over. This was our short day, but the last 40+ miles were all uphill. By afternoon I was no longer bothering to look at the scenery. The only thing I wanted to see was our lodge.

We spent the night at a condo in Angels Camp. It's better known as a ski resort, so plenty of rooms were available. I think we were the only ones in the dining area that evening.

 

Day 3 - Angels Camp to Bridgeport, 95 miles

After two days of hard, hard riding, we faced another near century over three mountain passes in excess of 8000 feet. I definitely did not want to get up that morning. To make matters worse, we had no hot meal to get us started. We ate a breakfast of cold snack food on the front porch of a general store, with the temperature right about freezing.

 

Ebbets Pass. Bob, Bill, and Kermit. Compare this shot to the one at Sonora Pass two days earlier. We're no longer the cycling warriors. We're just four very tired guys. Even Larry (right) looks worn out.

 

 

    

Immigrant wilderness (above). We saw lots of beautiful mountain scenery. And a lot of asphalt.

In the afternoon we stopped at a redwood grove. I'm too tired to stand (right).

 

Postscript

Someone asked me if I had fun. No, it really wasn't fun. It was probably the most difficult physical ordeal in my life. But it was surely satisfying to have accomplished such a feat, and I'm glad that I did it.

 

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© 2004  Kermit Lancaster