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Piute Pass: Day 02

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The section of 168 that heads west out of Bishop is steep and merciless, a true grind. A black serpent stretched out upon the mountainside. There are no beautiful switchbacks, no shade, no trees, no capricious undulations in the road that would force a change in tempo—just one long exposed section after another of unyielding grade. At least the view is nice. But without respite the mind tends to wander, and peripatetic thoughts began to ricochet in the mucky cavern of my consciousness–itinerant ideas holding tryouts that, were this most any other day, would be passed up time after time by the surly old scout of my rationale. But here, in these conditions, an outside idea might stick. Maybe my little brain scout saw something he liked, or maybe he just spent too much time before tryouts getting blasted on Jack and Diet Coke, because there’s nothing like crunching on the sweet burn of aspartame and whiskey between your teeth at 11 AM, reclining in the driver’s seat of your ‘93 Buick LeSabre while blasting the Allman Brothers’ Midnight Rider in the parking lot of whatever small town stadium/arena/field/mind parking lot where the idea tryouts are being held. So the scout lets the idea ride, maybe he even signs it– indulging in a flight of fancy.

During the first half of the climb Mt. Tom towers in the distance, a fang, a granite canine lodged in a denticulated ridge of mountains that makes up this stunning stretch of the eastern Sierra Nevada. The flanks of this mountain, this archetype of geologic construction, angle towards each other in lockstep, tapering towards a neatly pointed peak. As I was contemplating its platonic perfection an idea took hold:

“If an alien rover landed on this planet, would this granite pyramid set off speculation and demand a hypothesis wherein the construction of this mound–with its symmetrical perfection– would be impossible to comprehend without believing it had been done through sentient intervention?”

Would the eye/eyes receiving the rover’s images, however many millions/billions of miles away, see just another cute stack of rocks or might they assume that this isn’t just a geological pyramid, but a sign of an ancient and a wise race? And if this was the core idea of their speculation, would they wonder what happened to these magnificent titans, these masons of mountains? Would they assume that the six struggling and grunting hominids slowly approaching this splendid construction were supplicants paying respect in ritualistic form, eschewing their ordained bi-pedalism for curious balance machines loaded with all the necessary supplies for a spiritual pilgrimage to this sacred site?

At this point a lifted diesel truck roars past, pulling me out of my daydream, while simultaneously rolling coal on our broken peloton while the obviously exuberant co-pilot waves emphatically at us with an energetic display of his central finger. We’re now climbing a section of the road that parallels Bishop creek and the storm clouds we had seen putting on an impressive display of velocity and precipitation to the north earlier in the day have caught up to us. The grade has yet to yield and while I know that somewhere up ahead of us the climb will come to an end, I have no sense of how close that may be. Each pedal stroke continues to an absurd argument, but idiotic and irrational obstinance prevails, and we carry on.

The dark veil of clouds that had threatened to downpour many times during the later part of the climb unleash a cruel flailing of droplets upon our brow just below the tiny recreational outpost of Cardinal Village. Daniel, in a strategic move, decides to descend a few hundred yards back to a covered camp area while the rest of us continue to climb. Fortunately the rain only lasts a few minutes and it’s not long until we reach the top. We know from past experience that just up the road, through a brief stretch of campgrounds and turnouts, there is a small restaurant/bait shop on the shore (or what was the shore before this year’s long drought decimated California’s water reservoirs, including Lake Sabrina). We don’t know if it’s open, we don’t know what it contains, but most of the crew heads off on a fact-finding mission to find out exactly what treasures it might contain while Dylan and I wait for Daniel. By the time he arrives the other group has not returned and the three of us ride up to meet them. Their bikes are stacked against the wall and inside a radiant being named Patti was waiting. She prepared grilled cheese sandwiches, hot chocolate, steaming bowls of chili, and to finish, sliced off huge wedges of homemade pie. We discussed weather woes and she warned us that the forecast called for snow/rain/misery over the next couple of days. Of course. Having finished our meal we climbed/walked our way up to the North Lake campground to set up camp while indulging in some high-end M.R.E.’s.

“Night came quickly and with it came sleep. I was all dreamed out because that night I slept deeply in an unconscious abyss betwixt the temples of giants.”

 

Goal vs. Reality

Day 02

 

  1. GOAL: Ride from Bishop to North Lake. Camp at North Lake.
  2. REALITY: We rode from Bishop to North Lake. It was hard. The bonus miles from the day before took a toll. The erratic freezing rain didn’t help. We stopped off for griddle sandwiches and homemade pie at the Lake Sabrina Boat Landing to wait out the storm before heading up to camp at North Lake.

 

Brown’s Town

What's more serene than waking up next to a golf course? The sprinklers, the verdant finely manicured fields, the raked sand, the retired men with their caramel tans muttering profanities under their breath. This would truly have been a beautiful morning if our neighbor, I think his name was Glenn or Levi or Phil hadn't felt the need to do a prolonged predawn generator test. I am going to tell you something, and this is purely based on experience, but the incessant rattling of a generator is just not the same as a song bird's trill or the thrum of a symphony of crickets. It's a sound, sure, but it just doesn't hit that On Walden Pond sweet spot. One to grow on I guess.
I get up, and nothing gets me down. You got it tough. I've seen the toughest around. And I know, baby, just how you feel. You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real. Oh can't you see me standing here, I've got my back against the record machine. I ain't the worst that you've seen. Oh can't you see what I mean? Might as well jump. Jump! Might as well jump. Go ahead, and jump. Jump! Go ahead, and jump.
ALWAYS. BE. KNOLLING.
By this point, "slug bug", the act of socking your nearest neighbor when catching sight of a VW Beetle has been woven into our cultural fabric. This photo gives you license to slug your nearest neighbor.

 

Breakfast Maneuvers

#SQUAD
"The food is finger-licking good! Service is ok. Juices are freshly squeezed-well, at least the OJ is. There must be about 20 Parking spaces in total in their parking lot. Prices are a little higher than average diners but the food is soooo good! They have eggs, bacon, muffins, hash browns, omelettes.... Basically, your typical diner food. It's usually out fast so you will not be in there too long. Perfect for your trip back home." - Daisy A. Sundland, California
This is a Red Beer. A savory blend of beer, tomato juice, and spices. If you drink, and you know that you will be spending all of your day grinding slowly up a long steep hill, might as well start the day with one of these churched-up beers.
FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!
So the 19th, the 20th, and the 21st century pull into a parking lot...

 

Leaving Bishop

That one on the right, that's the fang.
When we pulled in here a middle aged woman in shorts was calling to her dog. The dog came to her, and then they both got into this car. Pretty unremarkable stuff, and I think I can speak for the group when I say we all expected her to get back on the road and continue driving. Instead she drove her car further into the desert by about 40 feet and started honking her horn. The sound came out of her vehicle as if she was following along to one of John Cage's more abstruse compositions. When we once again began to climb, there was no indication that she was going to stop her post-modern blast.
Different turnout, same turn out.

 

Paralleling Bishop Creek

This is a toddler's dream. 14 miles of trucks on triangles!

 

Snacking at Lake Sabrina

In the good old days the water in the lake would lap against that retaining wall. But that was before all the almond trees. Now, there's hardly any water in the lake and it should all be blamed on almond trees. These water mongers literally suck H2O out of the sky before it has a chance to turn into a cloud and create a storm system. Something has to be done to stop this almond scourge before it turns California into a desert!
Hmm, your proposition is intriguing and I can see your point, but before I make any decisions I will need to run the numbers by my people.
I believe in nothing.
Huh?
Mmmmm. O.M.G. this is such a life saver.
That's Patti. If you are anywhere near Lake Sabrina, Bishop, or California you should make sure to pay her a visit.

 

North Lake Campground

Yeah we walked up the road.
"It's this big, guys I swear." - Fish Myth.
Yonder Journal Hot Tip: Always bring hot sauce. Always. Don't be stupid.
What's not coming across in this image, and what you should be seeing, is that we're mimicking the pulled back upper lip, dried upper teeth, unreal smile technique that is worn by the three smiling models on this Mountain House packaging. What's funny, is that on second look, that pulled back upper lip deal really delivers a knock out smile. Don't we all look like we are having one hell of a good time?
NIGHT
CAMO

 

Brief Histories:

Piute Lake to Bishop

 

  1. California Highway 395: Stretches north to south for 557 miles. The continental United States’ highest and lowest points (Mt. Whitney and Badwater Basin in Death Valley) are both found along the route. Loosely based on the route of the Camino Sierra.
  2. Bishop: The largest city in Inyo County, Bishop is known as the “Mule Capital of the World” and is renowned for rock climbing—especially bouldering. Formed in response to miners in need of supplies on westward journeys in 1861 by Samuel Bishop. Yonder’s Kyle Von Hoetzendorff is from here.
  3. Owens River: A central fixture in the water wars of California. With Los Angeles outgrowing its water supply by the late 1800s, nefarious backroom deals were made to give water rights to the Owens away to Los Angeles. The 183-mile river was diverted in 1913, after Fredrick Eaton purchased numerous plots of land along the river under the auspices of opening cattle ranches.
  4. Lake Sabrina: End point of the eastern section of highway 168. Named for Sabrina Hobbs, wife of Charles Hobbs—the first general manager of the Nevada California Power Company. Dammed in 1908/

 

Compiled by Dillon Maxwell