Truckee to Bishop (Oct 19-20)

I awoke late, but it was still chilly. I decided to build a fire with the all-you-can-burn buffet someone had left behind. Thanks, mystery person! This was a rare treat! Camping for free, I usually don’t have a fire ring, and with the dry summer weather, no fire ring means no fires.

This fire started more easily than any I’d made in the past year… all the material was exceedingly dry, unlike starting fires in the northwest. It made me pause and consider the flammability of the surrounding forest, and I made sure to keep a close eye on sparks.

I explored camp a bit. Somebody had left this weird rusty metal sculpture. I found it kinda creepy, but I can’t put my finger on why.

I set out the solar panel and charged my electronics, making tea and pasta for breakfast. While waiting for my dishes to dry, I decided to document the stuff that I carry, which some people had expressed curiosity about previously. I’m still sorting out what’s necessary from what isn’t, and as I go along and use stuff, the load gets lighter. There are some “fun items” I didn’t photograph, like my sketchbook and some other random junk.

First, I carry way too much food. My alternative was to leave it to slowly rot away in the cupboards in Portland. Once this stuff runs out, I’ll only be carrying enough for each day, or a little bit extra if I am going into the middle of nowhere.

Toiletries. I don’t wear makeup but I do have a small amount of trial-size perfume. That’s about as girly as I tend to get.

Bike stuff. Spare front brake pads, fuel filters, levers, oil filters, spark plugs, headlight bulb, valve clearance feeler gauges, spare master link, zipties, etc. Someday I really need to replace the bumper on the rear shock. Oh well. This is the same as the food – stuff I already had and didn’t want to trash, as I know I’ll need it sometime down the line. Definitely carrying too much, but not sure where to cut down just yet.

More bike stuff. I’d say about 3/4 of one pannier would be full of this stuff if I stacked it together, but it tends to be the heaviest, so I spread it out. I’ve got a spare air filter, filter oil, spare quart of oil, kerosene and a grout brush for cleaning things, grease, gloves, electrical tape, air compressor, tire spoons, simple stands, various chemicals, and a full metric tool set. I realized while taking this picture that my ratchet was missing, and that I probably left it in Eugene. Damnit!

Camping stuff. Trowel, log-cutting wire, hammock, homemade firestarters (lint and trash wax melted into a cardboard egg carton), cooking supplies, sewing kit, leatherman tool, water filter, and wire pot stand for cooking over a fire.

Electronics. Solar panel, battery pack, glow poi, spare batteries (lots of spare batteries), bluetooth flexible keyboard, mp3 player, headlamp, usb keys, headphones, stylus, spare 16 gig microsd chip with a LOT of books on it, charging cables.

Drysack with my sleeping bag and clothes, Half Dome Plus tent, and inflatable Big Agnes air pad.

The dirt road on the way out was not nearly as bad once I was able to see and pick my line around the worst of it. (This was not the worst of it, but then, it never is…)

I had another quest before I could leave this area. I’d mentioned before that I grew up here, and I thought it would be fun to take a photo of my childhood home.

My parents say that it doesn’t appear like much has changed! I wanted to take a better look, but it didn’t seem like anyone was home and I didn’t want to prowl around uninvited.

Mission accomplished, I hopped on the I-80 and booked it into Reno. I stopped at a grocery store and had lunch in the deli, getting two different sets of directions from Cypher as far as where exactly they were camped at, out on BLM land. Wind was gusty along the 395, which kept me doing 10 under the speed limit.

This, along with the rush hour traffic through Carson City meant that by the time I took my next break it was almost sunset. I had over a hundred miles to go to Bishop. I pulled into a rest area, in a cluster of buildings I’d almost hesitate to call a town, for a quick break.

“Is that a potbellied pig?”

“Sure is, her name’s Mimi.”

I hadn’t expected to see a pig wearing a dress, but it was definitely a fun blip in an otherwise fairly uneventful day. The couple with the pig introduced themselves as Brian and Alice, and we struck up a conversation. Mimi was a bit ornery and tried to charge me, after Alice warned me to be careful. “She still has tusks, you know.” I wasn’t sure how to react to the unprovoked anger of such a small creature, but I stayed just past the length of the leash. “How long do potbellied pigs live?” “Well, that’s the funny thing, our veterinarian says that we’ve removed pretty much everything that normally kills pigs, so he advised us to make sure that we put her in our will, as she might outlive us.”

Brian and Alice were traveling around in their van. They’d used to ride motorcycles, and still do, although nowadays it is on at least three wheels. They invited me to join them for dinner, but I declined. The day wasn’t getting any younger. Alice gave me an apple and some nut rolls to tide me over instead, for which I was grateful.

As I started gearing up, we noticed a bunch of deer had come out to the park to feed. I took this as a sign to be especially wary for deer on the rest of the evening’s journey.

I rode through the darkness, on high alert for deer. The tinted visor, wind and threat of animals kept me under the speed limit. At around 9 or 10 pm, I helped a guy with directions at a rest area, he had missed his turn off for death valley. Why would anyone go on a road trip through the middle of nowhere without a map? I layered up because I was quite cold.

I gassed up near Lee Vining. Gas was shockingly expensive!

Neither set of directions included GPS coordinates, and without the exact destination, I ended up at a completely different location and asked some strangers for directions. They showed me a book of the area which had a good map. Armed with this information, I found the exit I’d missed before, and scoured the road for the dirt offshoot my friends had mentioned. Eventually I made it, though it probably took me an hour after I left the 395 to find them. They were pretty far out of the way!

I said hello, pitched my tent in the sand, and crashed.

After breakfast, Matt and Ramsey went to climb the Owens River Gorge as they’d done every day the previous week, leaving Cypher and I to our own devices. We were low on water, maybe half a liter each, and decided to supplement this with Tecate.

We both grabbed our instruments, and played them badly. She has a melodica. I’d never played one of these before, it was pretty fun! It sounded a bit like an accordion. I carry around a couple of small things – a pennywhistle, ocarina, and harmonica. I’m not very good with any of them, but I did manage to play a couple tunes she recognized on the pennywhistle.

While dorking around with tarot and incense, I went to take a swig of my beer. I felt something solid and suddenly my lip felt like it was on fire! I spat out the beer and threw the can away from me, spilling it all over my pants as I flailed around. A small, fuzzy, nearly-drowned bee crawled away from the scene. I almost drank it! Ugh! With the help of my bike’s mirror, I pulled the stinger out of the inside of my lip, the area swelling up to the size of a marble, making it difficult to eat and speak properly. At least I wasn’t allergic!

A bit shaken by the experience, I swore off the Tecate for a while, and we decided to go for an easy meander to a nearby hydroelectric plant. The sun was hot, but not too hot, and we entertained ourselves by attempting to identify animal tracks in the sand. It was quite beautiful out here, in a dessicated sort of way. I liked the mountains in the distance.

This grizzled old tree had a lot of character:

There was this old piece of machinery… a cement mixer I think? It had been abandoned in the weather to rust. It had lots of neat gears and what I think were treads at one point in time. I was a bit surprised that nobody had made off with it to sell it for scrap, but I guess it’s far enough out of the way out here that it isn’t much of a risk.

The plant itself was way down in the gorge. Quite a ways to fall!

Transformers and high-voltage power lines crackled overhead and gave the air a faint odor of ozone. We hung around for a few minutes before this made us uncomfortable and we decided to head back.

The guys returned, and we all went to Bishop, filling up on water and buying some groceries for the evening. On the way back we stopped to check out the hiking trail leading down into the Gorge.

It was almost a straight-down rock scramble, but apparently there was at least one woman with an infant who had made it down, so it wasn’t an impossible feat. Ramsey ignored the “no posing” sign and tried to illustrate how steep it was.

Back at camp, we passed around an enormous jug of wine and ate dinner. I may have accidentally set the table and my hand on fire briefly while making said dinner. I was holding the stove to try to move it, there were some strong winds whipping around the flame, and my hand suddenly and painlessly being on fire startled me into dropping it. Luckily, water put it out quickly, and both hand and table were fine. We discovered that the tree we were sitting under was the home to a number of Jerusalem Crickets, which I’d never seen before. Huge, weird bugs! I was surprised at how clear this photo came out, for being taken at night! If you zoom in, you can actually see all the interesting little details on its legs.

Both Ramsey and Cypher had 4g signal way out here. Upon checking the weather, Ramsey discovered that Tioga Pass, the route we’d planned to take across the mountains, was going to get the first snow of the season tomorrow evening. Not wanting to get caught up in that on two wheels, I decided to leave relatively early, the guys would get in one last climb in the morning, and we’d all meet up in Oakhurst later in the day. After mentally scarring Matt with internet videos, we called it a night.


  1. Dante said,

    December 3, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Just switched over to your site from ADV and am enjoying it even more. Your travels are a delight to read.
    Any way to send you a ratchet to replace the one you lost? Would need to know size (1/4″ drive?) and a future location/address.
    I’m in Colorado and have never seen such beautiful pictures on the mountains

    • Feyala said,

      December 3, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Dante! Thanks for the compliments and for joining me. It’s a bit quieter on this site than ADV for sure, haha! (You are, in fact, the second commenter ever!) This blog always updates first.

      I ended up buying one in preparation for my solo ride to Saline Valley a bit later on. Paid more than I would have in a city, but I wasn’t about to go down 50 miles of dirt in the middle of nowhere without a way to remove the rear lugnut… Thanks for the offer though!

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