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Desert Trip 2006

Sat, September 23
Cupertino, CA - Reno, NV

Our trip started bright and early on a late summer Saturday morning. Our goal for the first night was to get to Reno, NV -- only about 250 miles away -- via a nice route that my Women on Wheels friend Kathleen had shown me earlier in the summer.

Getting out of the Bay Area is always the worst part of any trip (well, second-worst, if you count having to re-enter the Bay Area once the trip is over). Even our tried-and-true shortcut through the East Bay, which forms a hypotenuse between two perpendicular interstates, was under construction and had some traffic delays. By the time we arrived for lunch in Angels Camp in the western Sierra foothills, we were ready to be off the bikes for a few minutes.

Blondie's Frosty, Angels Camp.

From Angels Camp, we took Highway 4 east across the Sierras. Highway 4 crosses two passes, the Pacific Grade Pass, at 8050', and the more famous Ebbetts Pass, at 8730'. In my opinion, Highway 4 is the most technical of the six Sierra passes. It starts out from the west with some nice long sweepers, but quickly tightens and narrows to about a lane and a half wide. The pass is lined with snow as late as June or July, depending on the year and the snowpack, which removes what tiny shoulder room there is for getting out of the way of oncoming locals.

Going down?
Peter exploring a vista point.

Lake Alpine, along Hwy 4.
Pacific Grade Summit (8050').

After crossing the passes, we stopped for a snack in Markleeville, where we got our first inkling that it might be an interesting ride into Reno. "Is Street Vibrations still going on?" the clerk asked, but I didn't know. We'd find out soon enough, though...
Sign at the Markleeville General Store.

Peter at the Markleeville General Store.

As we crossed the state line into Nevada, we started seeing Harleys. And then more Harleys. And occassionally a BMW or sportsbike, but often just more Harleys. Carson City was packed with Harleys. The highways were swarming with Harleys. Ten miles outside of Reno, the traffic just stopped. There was nowhere to go, no place to lanesplit. Every square foot of road was covered in chrome and leather and rumbling pipes. We gave up waving to bikers because there were just too many of them. There was at least one bike for every car, which made me happy.

We sat in the traffic jam for a while, which fortunately cleared up when Highway 395 became an expressway. We toodled over to the Reno Hilton (now called the Grand Sierra Resort) alongside Harleys and parked at the end of an infinite line of bikes.

Crossing into Nevada.
Street Vibrations at the Reno Hilton.

Day's mileage: 291 miles
Day's max speed: 94.1 mph
Total trip mileage: 291 miles

Next Day --> September 24: Reno, NV - Las Vegas, NV