California: A Ride Along the Eastern Sierra

California: A Ride Along the Eastern Sierra
Geoff, this is not good. I can’t see anything!”
“Can you see the yellow line down the middle of the road?”
“Well, yes.”
“That’s all you need to see.”

That is a short snippet of bike-to-bike communication my wife Liz and I went through while riding Carson Pass in freezing fog in the Eastern Sierra. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s go back to the beginning.

We had planned a big trip to California and Hawaii. Part of this trip was a seven-day tour on two motorbikes from San Francisco to Los Angeles via the Eastern Sierra. Our planned route was to take the Tioga Pass through Yosemite, then proceed along the other side of the Sierra, taking in Mono Lake. By the time we boarded our flight to San Francisco, we already knew the Tioga Pass was closed due to exceptional snowfall.

There was only one route left open for us. We would go farther north to Lake Tahoe via the Carson and Luther passes. This would add around 250 miles to the journey and use up the free day we had planned to spend in Yosemite.

California: A Ride Along the Eastern Sierra
Tioga Pass winds between towering giant redwoods just before reaching Lee Vining and Mono Lake.

We pitched up at MotoQuest on Treasure Island in San Francisco, from where we took off on two brand new Suzuki V-Stroms that we were free to customize. We soon found ourselves under leaden skies, making our way with aching clutch hands across the seemingly endless chessboard of strip malls and traffic lights in Oakland. Our adventure had begun.

Weather Woes

After a few long hours, we finally escaped the built-up areas and passed through rolling golden hills of sunburnt grass, dotted with emerald trees, under what was now a cloud-scudded beautiful big sky. It wasn’t to last.

As the day progressed, the horizon grew progressively blacker. We pulled over onto the red earth alongside a fruit tree plantation and donned our wet weather gear. Just in time. Barely five minutes later, we were battling through tracer bullet rain and gusting wind against a Mordor-like backdrop, illuminated only by periodic flashes of lightning.