It’s not an adventure if you know what’s going to happen

As I dreamed up this weekend for a shakedown ride, I figured it would be just warm enough for some camping south of Lake Tahoe in Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. But that was back in March when it didn’t snow for three whole weeks in a row. Which meant, to me, that spring was really on its way. Then we returned to winter, with two feet of snow in the past two weeks.

So, I cooked up another plan. I’d drive down to Placerville (where there really wouldn’t be any snow or threat of snow), drop the car, and bike thirty miles or so to a cute little campground in El Dorado National Forest. This was a great plan, until I got to Placerville and learned that there’s no overnight parking in any lot. Not at the town municipal lot, not at the Walmart, not anywhere.

Finally, I arrived at Plan C. I’d drive to the campground, get my bike and gear out of the car, and then pretend like the car wasn’t there for the next 24 hours.


Shakedown with an invisible car

I made it to the Dru Barner campground at about 3 o’clock. To celebrate the goreous, sunny spring day I took a quick nap in the grass.



Feeling drowsy, but rejuvenated, I motivated to get my things out of the car. 


What’s a shakedown without a flat?

Without much daylight left, I resolved to take a short ride (uphill) on my fully loaded bike, then return to camp to try out my new camp stoves.



Not four miles in, though, I heard my tire making a funny fwopping noise. At first I willfully ignored this telltale sign of a flat. But a few pedal turns later it was undeniable.

Stopping to check the tire, I found a small, very sharp pebble sticking straight out of the rubber. The tire hissed and that was that. My first flat of Women Who Dare.


Dinner is better when you get to sleep in a tent

The rest of the ride was uneventful, with an hour of hard uphill work turning into 15 minutes of flying back down to the campground.

My new stoves and crockery were a delight to use. Cooking rice and beans has never been so much fun.

(Want to learn how to make your own soda can alcohol stoves? Check out this site.)


Campgrounds are full of characters

Over dinner I was visited by another resident of the Dru Barner campground. This grizzled old man, who wore a skateboarding helmet and used a golf club for a cane, told me all about building the hilly road I had just biked down.

But now, he told me, a traumatic brain injury made it hard to follow a straight train of thought. He wasn’t mad about it, though, not at all. Because after this random act of violence he found his way to God. With the help of a new church community, he started to enjoy the beauty in the world. Some members of his church even pulled his camper up to the campground and paid for a couple nights of camping, so he could spend some more time in the woods.

He thought my stoves were pretty cool, too.


Easter is for the birds

The Easter bunny didn’t find me in my tent, but that’s okay. The smell of pine trees, the chirp of birds, and the warmth of sunshine found me instead. And that’s more than plenty.



My grizzled man told me the epicenter of the King fire was 15 miles or so back up the hill, so I figured I might as well check it out for myself. Plan set, I packed up, ate some leftover rice and beans, and made the slow grind back up hill. 



I made it as far as Stumpy Meadows Lake. Once named for the logging activity in the area, there are no longer stumps lining the shore. Rather, the south side of the lake is bordered by rather ghostly black burned tree carcasses. While I took in the sights, a couple of self-described hillbillies told me the fire was started by some guy lighting his ex-girlfriend’s garage on fire.


Back to reality

I made it back to Tahoe, where it’s snowing again. With the taste of spring still in my mouth, I think it’s time to pack up and head out of the mountains.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a link to the tentative route. I plan to spend the weekend (April 21st-23rd) in San Francisco, then head north toward Seattle on Monday.



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