blogging kp!

some of my travels with random musings & silliness mixed in

Tioga Pass to Mammoth Lakes, CA September 10, 2010

Today started off at 5:00am with a Happy Birthday text from my mother. Funny thing… not only did she forget the three hour time change… she got the day wrong! (I promptly went back to bed for a little while!)

My goal this time in Yosemite (YNP) was to spend time on Tioga Pass. I have been to the Village, the Valley and Glacier Point many times…. but I haven’t really spent anytime on the pass.

Valley View Turnout

So, I packed up the bike and went into Curry Village for breakfast. A breakfast burrito at the taco shop, a nice big coffee and I was off. As I sat sipping my morning coffee, I met a couple who had rented a Street Glide from EagleRider Motorcycle Rentals. We started talking about riding and Yosemite. I explained that I had been to Yosemite many times by both car and bike. Before we had finished talking, I had given them pointers on the sites in Yosemite they should see as well as the best time of day to see them. I also gave them information regarding riding over/down to Glacier Point. I suggested that if they had the time they should go over Tioga Pass and see Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadow. If they really had the extra time they shouldn’t miss Mono Lake. They actually asked me if I wanted to join them and be their tour guide. Unfortunately, I was trying to get home for my birthday party and was unable to.

Thought: How great would it be to be a motorcycle tour guide?

I rode off through the Village and started down the valley. The road (Northside Drive) is two lanes that travel in a one way direction… out of the valley. It meanders amongst the trees, meadows, cliffs and past El Capitan. There is one last lookout before you have to head out of the park or turn right on Big Oak Road to catch Tioga Pass Road/SR120. This lookout (Valley View) is alongside the Merced River and offers a great view back into the valley… and… there is one of the last restrooms for awhile.

Tioga Pass

The ride over the pass is roughly 60 miles +/- and without stops you could conceivably be in Lee Vining in two hours. But how could you not stop???

I pulled out of Valley View Lookout and headed up Big Oak Road. This is pretty breathtaking in it’s own right… the climb is somewhat steep and the view is fantastic. I particularly enjoy the tunnel… especially now that I have my new pipes on the bike! The road meanders along through some forests and the occasional river. Also, hidden among the trees are some small lakes. I pulled over and hiked down to one. (I forget it’s name.)

Eventually, I turn onto Tioga Pass Road. Did you know? Tioga is an Iroquois and Mohawk word meaning “where it forks” and is the eastern entry point to YNP. It is the highest highway pass in California. The elevation is 9,945 feet (3,031 m).

Awesome!

Next stop… Tenaya Lake… or so I thought…

Before Tenaya Lake there are a number of turnouts that offer views of the granite domes and the Sierra Mountains. Once again I stop, grab my camera and climb up one of the granite slopes and take many photos. I sat there for awhile with a bottled water and just relaxed. I am a fan of people watching and there were tour buses full of people to watch!

Tenaya Lake is named for Chief Tenaya (Awahneechee). The story (unconfirmed) goes that when he heard the lake was being named after him… he protested that the lake already had a name: Pie-we-ack, or “Lake of the Shining Rocks.” As a compromise, the dome east of the lake is now named Pie-we-ack… to honor the lake’s original name.

Trail from a Olmstead Pt.

At 8,150 feet (2,484 m) Tenaya Lake sits amongst the granite domes between Yosemite Valley and Tuolomne Meadows. The lake was created by an offshoot of Tuolumne Glacier as it passes through Tenaya Canyon. Tenaya Creek (the principle inlet/outlet of Tenaya Lake) as well as a many other creeks and springs provide the lake with it’s waters.

After an hour of walking around and taking pictures, I decided to continue on down the road.

The next major landmark of Tioga Pass is Tuolumne Meadows… this meadow is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. Early spring/summer is the time of year to be here when many wildflowers bloom. (I imagine a blanket of flowers!)  The Tuolumne River winds it’s way through the meadow. You can also see the many peaks and domes that rise above the meadow. I suggest taking some time to stop and enjoy the beauty and the quiet.

Before heading down the pass, you exit YNP via the “kiosk”. I was cold so I put some gloves on and put a fleece shirt on top of the layers I already had on. No picture taking from the bike on this road!! Once out of YNP, the pass loses more than 3,000 feet (914 m) by the time the road reaches U.S. Route 395 at Lee Vining, CA.

Once I reached the bottom of the pass, I stopped at the Mono Market in Lee Vining. I needed to remove some layers and grab a quick bite to eat. For a small fairly remote town, this grocery store is loaded with some great goodies. I contemplated stopping at the famous Whoa Nellie Deli but I was pressed for time. If you have a chance… you should definately stop here for a bite. The Buffalo Meatloaf is insane! Sometimes, they have a band too!

Tenaya Lake

I left and rode on to Mammoth Lakes to spend the night. I skipped Mono Lake on this trip and opted for the June Lake Loop. Absolutely beautiful! I will have to spend more time exploring this 30 mile / 3 lake loop with ample camping and some cute hotels. In all honesty… I wish I had gone to Mono Lake and stayed on the June Lake Loop instead of going to Mammoth.

East Entrance Kiosk to YNP

NOTE: SR 120, Tioga Pass Road (east entrance into Yosemite Park) is normally closed from November to late May of each year due to a heavy snow pack. During these months, there is no access to Yosemite Nat’l Park via Tioga Pass from US 395 on the Eastern side of the Sierra.

ONE MORE IMPORTANT NOTE: Gasoline is NOT available in Yosemite Village. Fill up BEFORE going into the park OR take your chances on being able to get to Wawona, El Portal, Crane Flat or Tuolomne Meadows… and all are expensive!

LINKS:

Whoa Nellie Deli: www.whoanelliedeli.com

Yosemite National Park : www.nps.gov/yose

 

Lee Vining, Mono Lake & HAULIN ASS May 25, 2009

  

Despite the cold, I got down Tioga Pass. Part of me wishes I had come down in a car. I really wanted to look around and take it all in but being on the bike I couldn’t. The drop off was long and steep and there was no guardrail.

WOW! Check out the cloud!

WOW! Check out the cloud!

I pulled over once I got into town so I could Google map my hotel, the Lake View Lodge & Cabins. A weird thing happened, Google maps told me to ride 15 miles north and make a u-turn back four miles. This struck me as odd. Why not just go 11 miles and turn left?? So, as I was standing there perplexed and looking around, I saw a sign for the Lake View Lodge… guess what??? It was right across the street!!

Technology is great but it is certainly not foolproof! Good thing I keep maps or guidebooks with me.

Needless to say I crossed the street and checked in. The Lake View is a cool place. It is part hotel, part RV park and it has cottages & cabins to rent. I checked into a cabin. It was super nice! A few steps above a KOA cabin in that There was a kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker and a few burners. There was a small flatscreen tv with satellite, a nice bathroom and a front porch. I cranked the wall heater cause I still had a chill from my ride.

After unpacking the bike and a quick wash up, I headed out for dinner.

Mono Market

Mono Market

My first stop was the market. What a great market! If I had had the energy, I would have just bought the stuff to cook in my cabin. One block away was Bodie Mike’s BBQ. The girl at the hotel’s front desk said it was pretty good. I had to wait about 10 minutes before I was seated. I quickly ordered the salad bar and a bowl of chili. The menu had plenty of traditional BBQ but the chili caught my eye and it sounded warm. There was a decent selection of veggies on the salad bar and the chili turned out to be pretty good… though I would have preferred it spicier.

On my way out of the restaurant, I ended up chatting with two guys who just pulled up on their bikes. Wow. The amount of stuff on their bikes was amazing! Turns out they’ve been riding the US for awhile and began in Michigan/Missouri. They had just come down the pass….Brrrr.  Trevor and Jim were wondering where to go around the area, so I gave them some ideas… Bodie, Mono Lake or the June Lake Loop.

I started walking back to my cabin. I stopped in one of the stores next to the laundromat. (This is the same laundromat that I stuffed my little brother into a dryer in back when we were kids. LOL & RIP little bro.) The store was filled with country western shirts, Indian rugs and jewelry, boots, cards, etc. There were some paintings by the artist Tom Schultz. The expressions and details of the faces in his paintings was wonderful.

Looking toward the June Lake Loop

Looking toward the June Lake Loop

Monday Morning… I got up and futzed around for awhile, showered and packed the bike. I decided to take 395 South and stop at Mono Lake. I stopped for a picture of the mountains on the June Lake Loop. I really wanted to ride the loop but time was short and the 10,000 ft elevation, a projected high of 42 degrees and 30% chance of rain convinced me to come back this summer. While I was pulled over taking my pictures, Trevor & Jim stopped to say hi. They were on their way to Mono Lake as well. We talked about our plans for the day and decided to go to Mono Lake together.

Mono Lake… What a strange place! From Lee Vining head south on 395 about five miles. Turn left at the turnoff and go about another five miles…. Left at the entrance… Go slow it’s gravel! The fee is $3 unless you have one of the park passes. Mono Lake is like something from the moon. Weird eerie strange… But super cool! Mono Lake is one of the oldest lakes in North America and is three times saltier than the ocean!! Talk about being buoyant… if you swam in it. The lake has two islands and “spires” called tufas. Tufas are created when underwater springs that have calcium come up from the lake’s bottom and mix with the saline water from the lake. For you treehuggers…There is a very interesting story about the lake and conservation efforts to keep it’s water levels up since a few of the streams that feed the lake were diverted to the California aqueduct…you should check it out. Anyway, we walked around took some pictures and then headed off in our different directions. The guys went back to Yosemite and I headed home.

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Mono Lake

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well… I checked my watch… Noon… I wondered how long it would take me to get home.

Bishop… Not much to say about Bishop mainly because I didn’t explore it. Grabbed a salad at Jack in the Box and kept going. Now that I knew I was done sightseeing I was on a mission to get home.

Independence, Lone Pine & Big Pine… They looked like great places for pictures of old signs and run down buildings. I will have to check them out next time.

At the Junction @ 190 to Death Valley… There was a very busy jerky store and gas stop. I stopped for gas and some Gatorade. On my way into the gas station, I almost got pulled over. I was doin 90 in a 65 (oops)… but someone was on side of road with the hood of their car up obviously having car troubles. The CHP definately eyeballed me but stopped to help the people that needed it instead. Phew!!

After that there really isn’t much to report. I just hauled ass home and pulled into my garage at 8:15pm.

 

Some Links:

Lake View Lodge:  http://www.bwlakeviewlodge.com/

Mono Lake:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=514

 

Tuolomne Meadows & Tioga Pass May 24, 2009

  

 Until I can write this part of the blog… please enjoy the photos below…

Beautiful day for riding!

Beautiful day for riding!

  

Heading out of the park... last pull out before Tioga Pass turnoff

Last pull out before Tioga Pass turnoff

 

Me, my bike and our shadows crossing Tuolomne Meadows.

Me, my bike and our shadows crossing Tuolomne Meadows.

Tenaya Lake & Snow!

Tenaya Lake & Snow!

 

Inspiration & Glacier Points…and Butterflies

 

It’s Sunday morning. I got up at about 6:30am thinking I’d get the jump on the showers… no such luck… there was already a line!! Anyway, I got through the shower, broke camp and repacked my bike. The KOA office opened… I grabbed a coffee and then headed off to Yosemite.

The road to the park was nice and curvy. It also started to run alongside the Merced River. The river was flowing pretty quickly and high. I am going to guess it was from the snow melt. Periodically, some rafters would float by. At one point there is a bridge that is one lane only. On each end of the bridge is a stop light… I happened to catch it while it was red. So, I got off the bike and watched the rafters paddle by until it was my side of the bridge’s turn to cross.

Mariposa aka butterfly

Mariposa aka butterfly

As I drove through El Portal, I started noticing that there were a lot of butterflies. The further up the road the more the butterflies. Wow! It must have been hatching season. What was weird about it was they were hanging out on the pavement. Maybe it was the heat coming off the pavement? Anyway, there were people on the side of the road holding up signs “Slow down butterflies ahead” and “Speed kills”. I couldn’t help but giggle to myself that there were adults on the side of the road with signs trying to save the butterflies. I am not callous and I love wildlife but there were so many butterflies no matter how fast you were driving you were going to run into them. I had to duck down behind my windshield to avoid being hit in the face! My faring looked like a butterfly massacre occurred and my black jeans had yellow butterfly goo all over them. Finally, I got through the butterflies and headed up to the Arch Rock entrance.

I have been to Yosemite many times. So, I decided to avoid the Village because holidays get really packed with tourists and sometimes the village is closed due to too many people. As a general rule, I tend to avoid large crowds whenever possible. I headed straight toward Glacier Point via the Wawona Tunnel.

I stopped at the aptly named Inspiration Point which is just before the Wawona Tunnel. Despite the amount of people there, I was able to sit on the wall and look over Yosemite Valley. The view of Half Dome and El Capitan towering over the Valley and Bridalveil Falls going fast and strong all 620ft down the canyon wall from the heavy snowmelt was just breathtaking. I have stopped here many times and I am never anything less than amazed. There has to be an Ansel Adams photo or ten of this so beautiful it’s sublime vista!

Inside the tunnel.

Inside the tunnel.

Just beyond the parking lot of Inspiration Point is the Wawona Tunnel. The tunnel is super cool. There is a very small sidewalk on the right side. I discovered the sidewalk on my last visit, so, camera in hand I walked down into the depths of the tunnel and started taking pictures. One thing I like about the tunnel is the smell. It’s heavy and dank. You can feel the moisture in the air and you can see the water slowly dripping down the rock walls. I stayed in the tunnel for about ten minutes taking pictures.

From Inspiration Point to Glacier Point is roughly 30 miles…plan on almost an hour to get there. The road is narrow, curvy and on holiday weekends filled with slow driving tourists. The turn off to Glacier is at Chinquapin 15 miles of driving through trees and yep… Some snow!

The drive to Glacier from Chinquapin is high country driving at it’s best! I stopped at Washburn Point…named after the brothers who originally owned the Wawona Hotel. The view is SPECTACULAR! Half Dome and the Sierras! There is also a great view of Vernal and Nevada Falls. I had never drove to or visited Glacier Point. I was beginning to get excited about what was to come. I walked around for awhile and just took in the view, the cold crisp air and took some pictures.

I also marvelled at people’s complete lack of respect for signage. There was a sign that said “stay off we’re trying to grow grass here” or something like that and nobody paid attention. The treehugger in me was very annoyed by lack of respect.

Washburn Point

Washburn Point

The last half mile or so to Glacier Point’s parking lot was brutal. Downhill switchbacks, tourists trying to park anywhere along the side of the road and a very tired brake hand. I have to admit I did not follow my advice below. I watched down the switchbacks and when a car wasn’t leaving the lot and coming up the hill…. I passed a long line of cars. I was lucky I did not get caught. I rationalized that my hurting brake hand, stopped traffic and being pointed downhill was worth the risk but the reality is that it would not have been worth $400 if I had gotten caught.

I parked the bike, grabbed the camera and walked over to Glacier Point. I just really have no words… cliches… Amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, etc etc etc… But they just wouldn’t do it justice.

Glacier Point has a small snack stand and gift shop. I grabbed a turkey pesto pita sandwich and an iced coffee. I went back out and sat on the wall. I put my iPod on and listened to Robbie Robertson’s Music for the Native Americans. This cd is a great compilation of Robbie’s original music as well as some great Native American singers. I pretended no one was around, ate my lunch and enjoyed looking at Mother Nature’s handywork.

Slow Down, Save a Bear

Slow Down, Save a Bear

Unfortunately, it was getting late and I still had to drive the hour back to the Tioga Pass turnoff, through Tuolomne Meadows and then over the pass to Lee Vining.

NOTE: When you are in the park you are on federal property. If you get a ticket…it is expensive and you have to take care of it in the park or by mail. Resist the urge. Don’t speed or pass! Not only will you save money…you might save a bear!

 

Some Links:

Yosemite: www.nps.gov/yose

 

Mariposa, Happy Burger & Duelling Bullfrogs May 23, 2009

Since it was too late to ride up into the park without worrying about deer on the road late at nite, I asked the ladies at the KOA for some suggestions for dinner. They suggested going to Mariposa … 7 miles away. Savoury or Happy Burger were the two eateries they suggested. (No pizza delivery and I was tent camping so I had nowhere to cook my own food.)

BTW… Did you know Mariposa is Spanish for “butterfly”? In my post about riding to/in/out of Yosemite… you will see this little tidbit was an appropro item to learn.

49er Club, Mariposa, CA

49er Club, Mariposa, CA

I rode into Mariposa and parked in front of the 49er Club… The 49er is the oldest bar in California (??) or at least Mariposa! I decided to walk around before dinner. Mariposa is a cool little town. Many old buildings from the 1800s… The Mariposa Hotel Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places No. 91000560.

I started out at Yosemite Gifts. Incredible jewelry everywhere… wow. Most had the label Su’s Creations. The opals, lapis and the black pearls caught my eye. Antique books, Indian kitsch & jewelry, old sign reproductions and of course Harley chotchkies adorned the walls and shelves of the many rooms in this store. They were also selling flags for Memorial Day.

I ended up walking around town looking at/photographing the old buildings, which was much needed after riding all day. I gave some serious thought to the local pizza joint as it was packed but I decided on Happy Burger instead.

Happy Burger is a 50s diner with more choices on their menu than I could possibly ever remember to cook!! The sign and menu tout “Largest Menu in the Sierra”! 12 pages!!!! The menu had burgers, Mexican (The tacos were good but not quite what I ordered/expected.), salads, every type of fried stuff, baked potatoes and ok…

Get this… 

Fried Cheesecake Burrito Anyone????

Fried Cheesecake Burrito Anyone????

A fried cheescake burrito!!! OMG! Cheesecake wrapped in a flour tortilla, slathered in butter, deep fried, dusted in powdered sugar AND topped with your favorite sundae toppings. HOLY MOLY! I have to believe the creator of this “dessert” was stoned OUT OF HIS MIND when he concocted this gut exploding, ass growing, artery popping heart attack on a plate??????

(ok…. Upon further inspection there is a bowl of steamed broccoli buried on the menu… phew!)

Happy Burger’s interior is covered in old album covers… the Fonz and Judy Collins stare down at you from the ceiling. Guy Fieri from the Food Network would love this place for his show Diners, Drive Ins & Dives.

 The back patio has a karaoke machine with a golden fuzzy bear in a red cowboy hat who acts as your host…. $.25 and you can sing some little ditty with said bear. As there really is no amount of Cap’n Mo that can get me to sing karaoke… I refrained. The kids next to me can’t wait to finish dinner and start singing…. On that note… I am so outta here!! 

Blastin Jimbo, your karaoke host

Blastin Jimbo, your karaoke host

I rode off to the KOA, crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep… visions of Half Dome still dancing in my head!

Oh yeah… The campground has a few bullfrogs living at the pond. So, be prepared for being serenaded by bullfrog song… sometimes duelling bullfrog songs… which sounds nothing like Duelling Banjos!

 

Some Links:

Mariposa, CA:  www.visitmariposa.net/facts.htm

Happy Burger:  www.happyburgerdiner.com

 

KOA, A Missed Turn & Oakhurst

KOA… the mere name invokes rundown creepy campgrounds. In the last ten years or so they have really changed for the better. Maybe it’s been longer than ten years but it’s been at least ten since they became a part of my conscience and travel plans. The Midpines KOA is no different. The campground was very clean, the people friendly and there was a little pond for fishing. The ladies behind the counter were just great. They understood my need for a beer when I arrived and directed me to the cooler in their well stocked campstore.

Truck for sale.. I have the phone #

Truck for sale.. I have the phone #

 Ford Truck EmblemThey asked me about my ride. We got to talking about my directional error back in Oakhurst. I had missed the turn for the 49 and ended all the way up at the Yosemite kiosk. Apparently, the turn is in Oakhurst proper. The turn was not signed very well. But the error turned out to be in my favor. I was riding through town and saw a great old Ford pickup for sale. So, of course I stopped to take pics.

 The truck was at the bottom of a steep driveway into a cemetary with a beautiful old church. Those of you who know me know I can’t resist old cars or churches. So, up the hill I went. I walked around for a little while, took some pictures and enjoyed the quiet.

Oakhurst Church

I left Oakhill Cemetary and The Little Church On The Hill and headed back thru town to the turn off. Stopped super quick for a bathroom break.  A woman gave me the tip to take the 49 to Triangle Road. 

I am so glad I did!!!

Triangle Road is a narrow two lane road that winds around some beautiful scenery for about 15 miles. I passed a funky lookin general store, a pasture or two with horses and great big beautiful trees. The air smelled clean and fresh and there was very little traffic… I might have seen two vehicles. At the end of Triangle Road is an old abandoned building. The porch was long, the windows were boarded up. With some time and money, I think it would make for a fabulous honky tonk / cafe. Behind it was an old red barn. I parked the bike and of course had to take pictures. The weeds were tall in the pasture and littered with rusted old artifacts. The end of the road is 1.5 miles from the Midpines KOA.

Church at the end of Triangle Road

Barn on Triangle Road

KOA Midpines closes for the winter.  They start taking reservations in November for the next year. Reserve one of the following or all for a group… Cabins 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 tent spot 75.

 

Some links:

KOA:     http://www.koa.com/where/ca/05195/ 

HWY 49/Oakhurst :  http://www.historichwy49.com/mainmap.html

My campsite next to the pond.

My KOA campsite next to the pond.

 

Memorial Wknd ’09 – What To Do ???? May 21, 2009

I was really struggling with what to do for Memorial Weekend. My choices were the roadster show in Santa Maria, Bryce Canyon or Yosemite. My riding partner to Bryce couldn’t make it afterall so that option was out. I checked for campgrounds in Santa Maria because rooms were going for about $150/nite… nada… unless I wanted to stay 20-30 miles away… there went that option! 

Yosemite it is!!!

I love Yosemite… This was a no brainer and since I have been there many times, packing and planning was a snap. Only this time it would have to be less stuff as I was going to ride my Harley. Camping gear, camera equipment, clothes, cables for all the electronics (come on… will we ever have one cord for ALL devices????) and warm riding gear all have to fit on the bike… the inventor of bungee cords is a genius!

I checked the weather… 70s by day… 50s by night… FABULOUS!