Archive for October, 2011

TOUR DE TAHOE Sunday, October 30th, 2011

FOUR DAYS OF PURE FUN AND ADVENTURE. ARRIVAL AT TAHOE.. BICYCLING AROUND THE LAKE. EXPLORING SOUTH SHORE OVER THE PIONEER TRAIL TO MYERS AND LUTHER PASS. HI-TEK ROUND OF GOLF AT APPLE MOUNTAIN. A PERFECT TRIP!!

 

If ever you are fortunate enough to ride east on U.S. Highway 50 beyond Sacramento towards Lake Tahoe stop at Strawberry, at the lodge(http://strawberrylodge.com/) It’s a roadhouse with a history that dates back to 1865. It’s had its ups and downs over the years. Open, closed and open again. But if you have a sense of history, just stop and look at the old photos on the walls. They tell the story. The Pony Express. The local color. The snow storms. You can feel the stories oozing out of the walls. I would have liked to stop for a wine and sandwich but the weather was testy and thought better of it as the winding Echo Summit lay before me. Yes, the weather came in spurts. Torrential downpour that forced me to slow and peer carefully to discern the road. Then there was a momentary and energetic hail storm. And there I was with my VW Beetle laden with bicycle stuff and golf stuff and head filled with exciting sports’ adventures planned over the next couple of days. But as quickly as the tempests came, they vanished. And the sun shone. And…with the sun I focused on pleasant thoughts…where to dine tonight. Villa Roma, perhaps! Yes, we had good times there with Patrick and the boys in the old days. Old memories brought smiles to my face. But first maybe a nice, expensive glass of wine. At Edgewood Country Club on the south shore of the lake. Yes! That’s it. Wine at Edgewood and dinner at Tep’s Villa Roma. How easy it is to formulate plans when one travels by himself and is content with that.

A momentary stop at Echo Summit with view of South Shore Airport and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

 In short order I made Howard Johnson’s South Shore my headquarters. Stowed all my gear in the ground floor room. A room which was clean and basic and perfect for this athletic jaunt. I set out for Stateline to explore. I have not been here for some years, perhaps ten, and wanted to see the familiar sights. There was Harrah’s and Harvey’s and the Horizon beyond. Drove towards the shore behind the casinos and noted the block of construction fenced off and seemingly abandoned. The area still had magic though. The majestic Ponderasa pines and lush grasses, the stately entrance to Edgewood and the familiar narrow road winding through the front nine revealing the rustic club house set against the lakeshore. On occasion it feels good to step into luxury. The grounds are meticulously kept. The vistas are unique. There is stillness and solitude. I walk up the granite steps and enter the foyer. A wedding was happening. I enter and inquire at the bar for a glass of cabernet. I put a twenty down and would be surprised  if there was change. I left the three dollars for a tip. There was music  and a low hum of pleasant conversation. I sat amongst the guests and absorbed the scene. I loved being here. The wine was good. Called my friend, Roy trying to cajole him into an improptu trip to what I knew to be one of his favorite courses.

“Roy”. I said, “I’m overlooking the eighteenth green at Edgewood and sipping a twenty dollar glass of wine and I love it. Wish you could come up so tha we could play this great course.”

“Louie, Louie”…How you doing. And he’s laughing. ” I wish I could. Gotta be in LA tomorrow…..

So, I move to the patio and chat with the waitstaff and absorb the view towards the 18th green. Last time there I missed the fifteen footer for a birdie. And the wind was howling. On the seventeenth I aimed over the lake for windage as my six iron shot rode the wind back to the center of the green.

 And Gurny Samson, my pal from the Lockheed days. The man with the most bizarre swing. Gurny was cross handed and spread his legs the widest and bent over the ball with his head pointed up. It was not really a swing…but  a sort of slow motion wind-up and mad lurch for the ball which carried him off both feet. He was a marvel to see. But what’s most bizarre is his two hundred yard drives with slight fade found the middle of the fairway. The last we played here was many years ago in a tournament. There were two dozen or so eople about the first tee and Gurny takes the tee. As he assumed his posture there was a silence…not knowing whether it be a spoof or not. Then he hit his two hundred yarder with his lurch and the crowd erupted with ahs, laughter and applause. That’s what I see through the flickering flames as I gaze over the first hole.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE AMBIANCE

I walked around the casinos and the grounds. All the features and places were recognizable. The edges somewhat tarnished, though. There was no sparkle in the once regal Harrah’s lobby. The casino floor at the Horizon was devoid of gambling tables. An empty cavern. Harvey’s was tattered too. The clientele was older and poorly dressed. No longer were there glitchy convenience restaurants in nooks of the casinos. Just the catch all coffee shop with worn tables and frayed carpeting. At one time all the dealers were young college girls with up-beat attitudes. Now the tables were commanded by lissome sexagenarians.  I continued to survey all but with some sense of sad reminiscence. How it all used to be. Nothing ever stays the same.  

 

My training has been in business. Economics. Way back when…in college campus….one of the first names that attracted my attention was Milton Friedman. He was one of the few economists that I could either understand and more importantly, the only one who made any sense. He believed in free market capitalism because it focused on the individual. Whenever there are impediments to free markets whether they be from monopolistic forces of big government, market inefficiencies would result. People voted with their dollars and markets would prosper or diminish based on those results. Government was there to protect peoples’ god given rights..period. Not to interfere with the workings of the markets.

The most interesting restaurant I visited was Rojo’s(http://www.rojostahoe.com/aboutus.html) on the main drag on the California side. It’s a rustic granite and old woods type of rib joint with cozy bar. It’s ambiance spoke resortish old Lake Tahoe. Its history talks about training camp of the Schmelling-Baer fight in the thirties. The other restaurants, Villa Roma, coffee shops at Harrah’s and other coffee shops were drab, ordinary and indicative of a decaying market. So, to Rojo’s I would go to have drinks and dinner and to chat with the bartenders and clientele. The square block of construction I had seen next to Harvey’s….well, that was a project discontinued. All the investors pulled out, the bartender said. The Horizon’s has lost its gambling license. And…the casinos are hurting big time. The skiing season bring in people but gaming is in decline and casinos are hurting. It’s been the result of the Indian Casinos on the California side. The biggest hit was Red Hawk Casino in Placerville.  Folks no longer come up to gamble…just the lake and skiing. And…as a result we’re all hurting, the bartender continues as she shrugs.

But ‘Uncle Miltie’ would call this creative destruction. This area will continue to diminish and be dog eared till some bright guy comes up with an idea. A Steve Wynn type. Someone who will see the magnificence of the lake and the sports’ venues and combine a product package which will take this location to the next level. Many of us ‘sportsters’ have gravitated to other locations. Such as Reno or North Shore. Why? Well….there are more choices and better deals. The number of golf courses have multiplied in these areas while in South Shore there is only Edgewood and Tahoe Country Club in Myers. And…Edgewood is priced in the stratosphere. All the gaming hotels in Reno have been luxuriously remodeled. In short order the market has moved to better deals. And….South Shore will have to answer the challenge over time. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

 THE TOUR AROUND THE LAKE

It’s Sunday morning 9/11. I’m suiting up for my ride and glancing out my window for any riders beginning the tour. It’s a bit overcast but doesn’t feel ominous of foul weather. I wear warm gear just in case. The 72 mile route around the lake will have several decent climbs but nothing to cause me great concern. There is a stretch at Emerald Bay with a 10.5% incline and a long ascent from Incline Village to Spooner Summit on the Navada side. My goal is to enjoy the ride, the scenery and take good photos. There will be no rushing of racing.

The brightly clad riders begin to stream by. First one, then a pack and some more singles. It’s the ninth annual Tour De Tahoe, a charity event for the diabetes foundation. There will be around two thousand riders participating. I take my place and quickly fall into a fifteen mile per hour rhythm. There seems to be riders of all types. Couples, groups of friends, young and old. Mostly dressed in proper cycling attire. The ones with just shorts and jersey seem a bit cold. I’m comfortable in my long riding pants and windbreaker sporting #649.

 Well organized rest-stops provide an opportunity to meet fellow riders and stock up on energy bars, fruits and drinks. I was chatting with the owners of  one of these stepper bicycles to get their point of view. They said that uphill was no problem but the descents were a bit hairy. I could not imagine doing the entire seventy two miles standing up and pedaling all the way. But they were up-beat guys and am sure that they negotiated the day with lots of fun.

The climb begins. It will not be a long ascent but I’m aware of the steep portion. I find a group of good riders and we proceed up the slope in good rhythm. There is a fellow ahead of me with ursine profile who provides us all with bold commentary along the way. He’s got a sense of humor and we all join in the comradery. He talks to his inner pain and dismisses  it with casual indifference as we negotiate one of the many summits of the day. I will be hearing his voice on and off all day long. 

Wow! A clump of scotch broom finds a crevice amidst the granite to cling to life. And…in all my trips to the Tahoe and Reno areas I’ve grown fond of this thistly, beautiful and hearty bit of vegetation. It doesn’t smell so good but it grows in places where life seems impossible. It has pliable stalks of muted  and weather beaten silvery green color. And…it’s burst of a mustard yellow stirred by fresh mountain air. . It kind of says…I endure the pain and find beauty in it…I survive and thrive. Somewhat the same beauty that a bicycle rider finds in conquering the pain of a steep ascent and finding beauty in it all.

 

Just over the rise from the rest stop is Inspiration Point overlooking Emerald Bay. A moment of beauty frozen in time.

And more contrast with granite rising to the sky.

There was Meeks Bay and Sugar Pine and Homewood and Tahoe City. Those were peaceful stretches of road adjacent to the lake. It was clear and the morning rays would filter through the stands of pines partitioning us from the placid water. There were clusters of homes and country stores and occasional shopping areas. Some folks sat on patio chairs roadside waiving and cheering us on as they drank their morning coffee. One rider up ahead had some sort of mechanical and I caught a homeowner crossing the street with pump in hand ready to help. The riders and their numbers about me were now familiar and we would echelon forward and back in random fashion. It was all somewhat surreal as in a pageant….dreamy, somewhat fuzzy and ever so pleasant.

I crossed the Truckee River by Tahoe City where 89 branched along the river to Truckee and 28 followed the familiar shoreline through the communities of North Shore. Bacchi’s Restaurant is close by. Hidden on a quiet street just a block off the lake. It’s a family style restaurant with a good bar. We enjoyed it many times over the decades with our family and golf buddies.  http://www.tahoesbest.com/Restaurants/bacchis_menu.htm  On one of our visits we were eating late. Tables began to desappear one by one. Eventuallty there was just us and an empty dining room. Yep…it was the end of the season and we were the last diners.

 

I had wanted to take more pictures along the way. But…the rhythm…the zone. One mile into the next. Stop for a quiet lunch seated on a beach wall overlooking King’s Beach and picking out points along the shoreline. We’re back at stateline and the mansions of Lakeshore Drive in Incline Village stream-by. Many are for sale though the signs are terribly small. Teams of residents are stationed at every stop and require all riders to come to complete halt. We used to have a condo here, by the Hyatt and am now rather sorry that we sold it. Ah, but life goes on and at times it was a pain. I smile to myself and think…we still have a place here….the Hyatt Hotel…we can stay anytime. The restaurant across the Hyatt on the beach has always been a treat. It used to be Hugo’s where I first discovered wonderful duck en roti. They had a rotisserie built right in the dining room wall. Now, of course, that restaurant is gone only to be replaced by Lone Eagle’s Grill. http://loneeaglegrille.com/  It’s modern, light , bright with  splendid view of the lake. The food is good. But…the ambiance…absolutely not. Can’t reproduce that feeling of sitting low at the little bar of Hugo’s looking out onto the sand and rippling waters and the Sierra peaks beyond.

 The long ascents of Spooner Summit takes its toll. Riders are spread and most are quiet. Head down maintaining the rhythm. The magnificent vistas of the lake are still there but fatigue has diminished their brilliance. From time to time we make reference to the pain and the hundred dollars we paid and laugh. One last rest stop at the summmit and we enter the busier Highway 50.

 The short tunnel hewn out of granite(Cave Rock) signals that the finish line is near. I glide without feeling, pain or effort. It’s been a ride of a lifetime and god willing I’ll do it again next year. Perhaps, then, I’ll remember to take more pictures.

OTHER SUMMITS

How many times have you said or thought, one of these days…one of these days I’m going to do this… or that. And a month, year, decade, a llifetime goes by and guess what…that dream never becomes reality. Well, this morning I felt as pleased as punch that I had grabbed life by the throat and did my ride around ‘big blue’. Yep! I lay in my bed, a bit achy, but filled with satisfaction as I reminisced the highlights of the prior day’s adventure.

Today, however, was another adventure to come. A ride to Kingsburry Grade over Dagget Pass down into the Nevada desert by Markleeville and back up Luther Pass to Myers, Pioneer Trail and back to South Shore. That was the plan. A plan that was interrupted by Cal-Trans and their road construction. After an envigorating ride along the south edge of the casinos I trudged up the beginnings of Kingsburry Grade. I was tired and felt a bid sluggish. There was a line of cars waiting for the Cal-Trans folks to do their thing. I pulled off to a 7-11 for a coffee and granola bar. I sat and considered my options. I looked down on the lake and just felt wonderful to be here. Tired…but wonderful.

 I leave the grind of Kingsbury Grade behind and float effortlessly along the lake’s edge. It’s a vacation scene. Summery even when not summer. The clarity of the alpine water is amazingly refreshing. And… the blueness of the lake a restful contrast to the rugged mountains.

 Beyond the traffic of Lake Tahoe Boulevard I take Carson Avenue and cruise through old Tahoe. The cabins intermixed with newer homes. Mostly vacation residences. Or so they seem. Cars are older and all is rather weathered. Black Bart Avenue catches my imagination as the name fits the countryside. I find the Pioneer Trail. It’s a broad connector type of road with generous bicycle lanes. Every trip reveals a surprise…the surprise that goes beyond the expected and renders joy. The Pioneer Trail is such a find. A broad road. A winding road. A road with lengthy inclines but not strenuous. Pine trees to the left and right but not so thick as to hide the forest’s detail. Patches of ferns or scotch broom are revealed in sun splashed meadows. Hearty grasses bask in the sunshine and sway in the gentle mountain breeze. I cross Trout Creek and think of my pal Dale. He’s a great fisherman and would love it here. I am truly happy as I appreciate the setting and the beauty and feel the sun on my back. It’s just great to be alive.

After a dozen or so miles of pure pleasure I arrive at U.S. 50 and Meyers. The peacefullness coccooned by the Pioneer Trail halts and I re-enter the quick pace of folks going places. Meyers used to be a stagecoach stop and Pony Express Station in the nineteenth century. Still has that feel of a roadhouse. There’s a couple of golf courses here that I’ve yet to play. They are lush, set in  alpine meadows with rushing creeks and pine trees. Country stores, roadside restaurants and some homes. I wonder who would live here and what do they do for a living.

I stop for lunch at one of the coffee shops and chat with the folks. One of the waitresses has just moved here from Walnut Creek in the Bay Area and is trying life on her own with her boy friend. Life away from the parents. Rent is cheap here, she says.

 

Luther Pass

When you are a cycling aficionado conquering summits are badges of honor. They are accomplishments. Prowess of sorts. Thus far I have some good ones to my credit. Mt. Rose, Geiger Summit, Donner Pass from the California side, Spooner Summit, Passes over the Santa Rita  Mountains along Highway 1 and today one more will be added, Luther Pass. From U. S. 50 I take highway 89 towards Markleeville and begin the long and steady climb. After a couple of miles there are my pals, the Clatrans guys. We wait for about a half hour for our caravan to be allowed through. The worker is friendly and tells me about Old Truckee Road which runds parallel to 89 along the creek. There is no traffic there.  I resume my climb and it’s kind of a grind as the grade is steady and there are no flat rest stretches. But the scenery is beautiful and once at the top there is a spectacular high meadow offering broad vistas against the peaks.

 And….a restfull meadow at the summit!

  

I bid my newfound pals at Howard Johnson’s farewell the next morning. It was a comfortable and affordable hotel for such a sport outing. I would arrive at Apple Hill Golf Course,  near Placerville  in short order and would avail myself of the lunch and golf special. It was hot and I loved it. I was sporting my brand new Garmin golf watch which gave me the distances to each green via GPS. What and invention. Along the way I met two fellows who were having a practice round for next day’s tournament. They thought that I was quite the hi-tek guy from Silicon Valley sporting such a watch. I ended up shooting an 81.

In life there is no perfection. But….this trip was as close as it gets to the mark!

The Cycling Tuscan

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