The Queer Biker Invasion of Death Valley, or QBIDV for short, is a hallmark tradition in the LGBTQ culture here in the West. The ride originally started 26 years ago when Michael wanted to publish a simple ride that others could join him without a lot of planning and overhead. Some 26 years later the ride is still going on today.
Every year I get excited about crossing the Sierras to enjoy the beautiful fall color found in this part of the state. It’s always a mishmash of green, peak color, and you just missed it brown. The ride goes through a number of different climates so the full color is will to pop out somewhere. I also knew I needed some time on my bike to just ride it by myself. I wanted to find the zen that my new motorcycle was happiest in. I struggled a bit trying to keep up with the group last month in June Lake. While I enjoy the company of riders, I wanted to have a bit of time to myself as well.
With the entrance fees to national parks going up significantly in the past couple of years many of us bypass Yosemite in favor of Sonora Pass. It’s a touch longer, but the slightly northern pass has significantly fewer minivans, RVs, and tourists overall. It makes for much better motorcycling! Plus, Conway Summit between Bridgeport and Lee Vining is often a hotspot for fall color. QBIDV QBIDV is always the long weekend including the second Monday in October. It is Canadian Thanksgiving for you folks up north! Being slightly later in the season the fall color was likely to be further south and at lower altitudes.
I met the group in Manteca – the second stop in the ride. This year it just didn’t make sense to ride into San Francisco to turn around and come back through the East Bay. We had a lovely ride through the valley and climbing up to Kennedy Meadow for lunch. Kennedy Meadow was one of my first backpacking trips when I moved to California. It was great to see the outpost again so many years later. It’s a very different California here. It’s very much rural and country – a stark contrast to the Bay Area world I call home.
As the group approached the Tioga gas mart for our final gas top, much of the group wanted to ride Highway 120 out to Benton. That section of the road is well known for the sharp climbs and drops leading to an intense roller coaster effect. I had ridden that stretch of highway last month and was looking forward to seeing some fall color further down US Highway 395. Much of the Aspen at higher altitudes were already past peak.
Finding fall color!
I broke off from the group to find some fall color on my own. The June Lake Loop has always been a favorite of mine.
It’s a 12-mile curvy loop that swings by four alpine lakes. While many of my fellow riders didn’t expect to see color there, June Lake did not disappoint. Several spots on the surrounding mountains had Aspen shining bright yellow!
Anel and I visited Rock Creek many years ago on our Eastern Sierra Lakes Tour. The sharp, jagged mountains in the background always impressed me as a beautiful backdrop. Fast-forward a couple of years I find that Apple is a beautiful picture of the lake as a background for its flagship watch. Lo and behold I find out that Mack Lake is just west of the parking lot at Rock Creek. Although it was late in the day, the ride up to Rock Creek was too good to pass up.
In this part of the Sierras, there are four major pass crossings that are favorites among motorcyclists: Tioga Pass 120, Sonora Pass 108 Ebbetts pass 4, and Carson pass 88. However, there are many small out and backs that are truly wonderful to ride. Rock Creek does not disappoint. Starting at Tom’s Place near US Highway 395, Rock Creek Road climbs from 7000 feet to just under 10,000 feet over 10 miles. The pavement is great, so let’s keep riding!
Surprisingly, at this altitude, there is quite a bit of fall color along Rock Creek. The sun was quickly dropping as well as the mercury so it didn’t leave much time for pictures. As motorcyclists sometimes we want to eke out is much of the day riding as we can. About halfway down the road, I had to stop and don my heated gear. The temperature just got too cold for just an Aerostich and a long-sleeve T-shirt.
Rock Creek Lake this time of year always reminds me that seasons are changing. Crossing Sonora Pass in the heat of the day is always misleading with her 60 degree sunny days with the wind at your back. Here at 10,000 feet with temperatures in the 30s before dark one message is clear: winter is coming.
The lake however with its glacial blue waters always calls me back…