Long-Distance Cycling Hijinks

I like to combine business with pleasure, which is why I started planning a cycling route down to Loomis/Rocklin immediately after signing up for the Sierra College Community Education BasicRider course for new and aspiring motorcyclists. (Or is that combining pleasure with pleasure? I am not sure.) I had a full day on Friday to get from Truckee to Rocklin, and I figured the net elevation loss was a good way to balance the high miles. It’s still a long day though.

From Truckee to my overnight destination at Rattlesnake Bar in Folsom State Rec Area (near Newcastle), it was 80 miles. Climbing Donner Pass Road from the start is nice because you know that if you make, you can do the rest of the ride. (Corollary: If you cannot make it to Sugar Bowl, you definitely can’t do it.) As they say, “It’s all downhill from here.” By the way, they are almost lying when they say that. It’s a rule for life.

I had a couple of hiccups on the way down. First, Google Maps for Bikes gave me the notion that I could ride a bicycle on I-80 from Cisco Grove to Magra Rd. in Gold Run. As a friendly CHP officer let me know, cyclists should exit WB 80 at Baxter and take Baxter Rd. to Alta Bonnynook to Ridge Rd. Those roads are much nicer than 80 anyway. Not that 80 is dangerous or anything. The shoulder is huge and most people are on their best behavior. Narrow country roads worry me more because the shoulders are non-existent and blind turns are common. However, they don’t typically have much traffic except for a very few locals.

Later when I passed Rollins Lake and went up Norton-Grade, the directions sent me “towards” Narrow Gauge Rd. The access was down into a pretty steep ravine and really suited for a strong mountain biker, not a fully weighted touring cyclist. It’s a good thing to keep in mind for future trips though. If Google is telling you to go towards something without actually giving a road name for the right of way to that something, it’s a red flag.

After pushing hard up the hill I was seriously in need of some calories, preferably hot calories. I landed in historic Colfax at Main St. Pizza and ordered the large plate of penne pesto. When they came back to refill my water after 15 minutes, I paid the bill, told them thanks, and left immediately. It was a priceless moment. The inability to chill somewhere and take in the scene for more than a few minutes is the cost of seeing so much in one day.

The rest of the ride was really fun. The temps were getting cooler as I dropped in elevation. The last stretch of the ride on Auburn-Folsom Road is the first part with real agricultural activity that I could see. Plus, there is a really nice 500′ drop in the last mile of Auburn-Folsom Rd. before Shirland Tract/Rattlesnake Rd.

Although I was seriously considering a climb back up to Truckee, probably spread over Sunday evening and Monday, I got a little bit discouraged after looking at the return ride as I rode down. I got a ride from a Zimride member for just $20. That might be the cost of peanut butter and jelly supplies for the ride back up so I am not complaining. The map down is linked below. If you have never tried touring, it’s the way to go!

Finally, I am leaving the Far West Farm Team and the Tahoe area. It’s been a really fun 2 1/2 years and I really hope to come back soon. It’s incredible that I spent 19 years in Southern California without ever realizing that there is such a great community here. And my family was a recreational Nordic family too! We went to Yosemite and the Mammoth area when I was growing up, but never Tahoe. With a little good fortune, I can stay on the west coast and visit and/or race occasionally. I want to thank Far West Nordic for this great opportunity. The Farm Team has traveled far and wide in it’s first few years and it has a promising future.

Bicycle map from Truckee to Rattlesnake Bar:


Some electronic music from Mophono:

About Michael

I am running, skiing, and exploring the Sierra Nevada. I first learned to ski at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, I returned to Los Angeles to work for two fire seasons on the Little Tujunga Hotshot Crew (USFS). This is my second winter in Tahoe.