Lake Tahoe is best known for being a world-class ski area. Those rugged mountains also provide some of the best motorcycle roads in the country. Numerous passes, dense forests, and streams make this worthy of a Shamrock Tour®.
Circumnavigating the Jewel of the Sierras
Walking to our motorcycles, we can’t help but get excited. The morning air is cool at 6,225 feet. The visibility is incredible, and the sky is a deep blue. Randy and Jan will be riding a 2008 Kawasaki Concours and Pam, my wife, and I will be on my well-used 2005 Suzuki 650 V-Strom.
Inn by the Lake is located directly on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. As we leave the parking lot onto SR 50, the views are already great. Quickly we turn east onto SR 207, known as the Kingsbury Grade to Randy and the locals, toward Carson City, NV. We climb Daggett Pass (7,334 feet) before plunging down a beautifully kept road consisting of wide sweeping turns and a panoramic view of the Carson Valley. At the bottom, we turn north so that we can ride through the historical town of Genoa. We stop at The Genoa Bar, which was established in 1853 and is billed as the oldest “thirst bar” in Nevada. Much of the interior is original. Many Hollywood movie scenes have been filmed here, most notably The Shooter (John Wayne) and The Honky Tonk Man (Clint Eastwood). Other famous visitors to this establishment were Mark Twain, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt. Even Raquel Welch was here and was kind enough to leave behind some clothing, as was the tradition of the bar (but that’s another story). It’s too early for lunch, so we roll on.
We arrive in Carson City, capital of Nevada and one-time home of Mark Twain. The state capitol building was constructed in 1870 to 1871 and rehabilitated in the early ‘70s. Other plans cause us to skip the Kit Carson Trail, a 2.5- mile walk covering 60 historical landmarks throughout Carson City. We quickly get back on SR 395 and then onto SR 341. The road is a high desert landscape with lots of curves and elevation changes. There are short sections with a 16- to 20-percent grade. The unobstructed panorama and the feeling of solitude erase all thoughts of congested city living.
Next up is Virginia City, a very well preserved 19th century mining town. Virginia City is best known for the Comstock Lode where millions of tons of silver and gold ore were processed. We take the shuttle tour, and in 20 minutes, we gain a good perspective of what transpired in the numerous saloons and mines in Virginia City’s short, but colorful, history. Picking up SR 431, we pass Mt. Rose Summit (8,933 feet) and head into Incline Village at the northernmost tip of Lake Tahoe.
Cal Neva Resort is located in Incline Village. The casino was famous for its owner, Frank Sinatra. In addition, Judy Garland was first discovered there. Once on SR 28, we enjoy the sight of ultra blue Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in the United States. The air is clear, and SR 28 turns into SR 89 as we go by Tahoe City. We continue on, stopping at numerous roadside lookouts. From Emerald Bay Lookout we can see Fannette, the only island on this body of water. At this elevation, the area offers one of the best, unobstructed views.
We arrive back to the Inn by 6 p.m. Dinner is across the street at motorcycle-friendly MacDuff’s Public House. Not only is the food tasty, but our waitress, Chrystal, was happy to give us suggestions for rides in the area. It’s been a long but fantastic day. We wonder how the next three loops can come close to matching today’s ride.