Did we just meet, Sonora?

Sometimes you make plans on paper months before that sound great. I was going to be four days in Death Valley, three days at home, and then back on the road for this fall colors ride. Simple, right?

What I didn’t realize is how full the weekend at Death Valley was going to be and that work that week was pretty full, and I was throwing major dinner party the night before I was ready to depart. Fortunately, I knew the road and there wasn’t a whole lot of planning that needed to go into this ride beforehand.  The fall color the weekend before was pretty good.  I was a little concerned that we’d be past peak for the ride.

We started out on the usual trek from the Bay Area, across the valley and into the mountains on the 580/120 corridor into Oakdale and out to Sonora.  I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan of Safeway for lunch and then finding a spot in the woods to eat.  The group wasn’t as exited as I was about the possibility.  There was a classic car show going on there and a new restaurant had it’s opening day so we fell to the marketing.

Chowhounds (C is average. No grade inflation here):

Category Score Comments
Seating C- It really is a to go restaurant. The seating inside is tight but the patio had one table open.  Given it was opening party weekend, it’s hard to tell if seating will be open at peak times.
Atmosphere C It’s a burger joint.  Nothing was really all that different from a fast food place.
Wait Staff C+ The cashier was friendly, but you expect that at any restaurant.
Food C The menu was full featured, but I was surprised they didn’t have soup and salad.  I just ordered the two items separately.  The portions were ample, but I tend to prefer a less chunky style of chili.
Value C- Seemed to be a touch high for the area.  $13 for soup, salad, and coke for food that was not designer.
Overall C- I’d not go back.  I get better food and service at the swanky Safeway across the parking lot!

After we were fed it was time to head up the mountain.  I go back and forth on which is the better pass: 88 or 108.  88 I do think has better views and scenery, but 108 is a more technically satisfying ride.  We couldn’t have had a better ride up the hill.  Temps were in the mid 60s and we never got chilly at the summit.

Since it’s October I didn’t realize how early in the day the sun starts to set behind the mountain.  I’ve seen this view a number of times, but the low sun really brought about the shadows.

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Zooming in a bit, the fall color was still showing through!

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Just about every time I come over the pass I see the summit sign I stop.  Being 9624 feet above sea level is just cool!

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I’ve ridden by the Marine Core Mountain Warfare Training Center a number of times as well.  They discourage people from stopping there and I really don’t know all that much about it.  Looking at the course catalog, it seems like they have a number of interesting alpine environment classes.

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The Pickel Meadow had a wonderful array of trees at their peak and past peak.  Coming down from the pass into the meadow the artistry began to unfold.

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Zooming in a bit…

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And a bit tighter…

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Finally coming down to the valley to see the road less traveled by.  When it’s at it’s peak, it is a beautiful dirt road.  It’s unfortunate it is on private land.

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The technical ride was more than enjoyable!

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Fortunately,  there was little traffic.  The warning must have scared them off!

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Although our final destination was Topaz, the plan was to head south into Bridgeport to refuel and bid Andreas and Robert goodbye.  They were heading to Vegas and while Rob and I were headed north.  We took the 182 north out of town and got stranded in the construction traffic.  Twenty minutes later, things picked up and we were on our way.  In a few twisty miles it was time to leave California.

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Nevada 338 is a great alternative to US-395.  There was no traffic and you can make pretty good time in either direction.  We didn’t see any cars of note on the road and it varied between sweepers and very high speed straights.  As we came into the town of Wellington a major surprise hit us.

Note: While most of Nevada-338 is high desert, there are several areas near the town of Wellington that have some agriculture.  Both Rob and I almost hit rather large deer that jumped out from a semi blind hillside.  Also there is an aggressive white dog in town that has a hankering for annoying motorcycles.

The sunset was amazing that night.  I had to capture it in a single photo and in panoramic form.

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Topaz Lodge  (C is average. No grade inflation here):

Category Score Comments
Room Comfort D+ The room was actually pretty good for a $80 night gig.  The problem was that sound really traveled in this hotel.  You could hear noise from all sides.  😦  Like most places in Nevada, the hotel was a casino so there was a fair amount of smoking in the area.
Location B Most rooms have a nice view of Topaz Lake and the hotel is a nice spot to stay in the northern eastern Sierras.  The motel has gas on site which is a bonus.
Food B+ The food here was unexpectedly good.  We went to the steak house and had two good steaks and breakfast was equally good (though not included).  They had cereal for free, but if you want eggs, that costs a few bucks.
Service D- The waitress at dinner chewed us out for overcharging us on salad.  It was totally unprofessional and the confrontation was not needed.  When spending enough cash for a full steak dinner, we expected more.
Value B+ The cost value ratio is pretty good here for the area.  Just bring ear plugs. 🙂
Overall C- I’d go back if it was the host hotel for an event, but I’d not seek this place out.  It’s better for the off season as sound really travels here, but I’ve stayed in far worse places.

 

Route:

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