High Sierra Mountains (Day Three)
I’m not sure why we decided to bust out the ‘stars’ version of our riding bibs today. After all, it was the first time that they’d gotten any play. Perhaps it was because we knew we had one of the toughest days that we’ll see ahead of us (8,400+ ft of climb). Or, maybe it was because we woke up in a “point-five star” hotel this morning and we felt that the stars we wore would make up for the conditions. I mean, I was ready to give it a full-star rating until I woke up, turned the light on and saw the ants. POOR HEATHER! Actually, I think I know why we rocked those uniforms today, and I aim to get to it once the delirium subsides.
The great part about the High Sierra range is the beauty, no question. Clear blue skies where the authorities are huge, soaring birds of prey; vast valleys that house giant, jagged rocks and steep summits. Lakes that are hidden until you suddenly see them, their coloring mirroring the sky above. Smells of growing trees, the size of some of them mind-boggling. There are soft beds of pine needles and, more recently, snow. To be sure, Mother Nature is in charge up here.
The…um…challenging part is getting there. She (Mama Nature) didn’t make it easy. The approach isn’t for the faint of heart, at least not on a bike. We climbed over 8,400 feet and along the way saw (read: felt) many climate changes, from searing heat to stiff winds that reminded a fella that it’s still sorta winter up here, depending on how you look at it. It was steep! In some places, to stop pedaling is to stop moving. If you stop pedaling (and therefore, stop moving) you better click out of your pedals, or you’ll fall over, immediately. If that happens, you’d better fall to your right, because there is absolutely no shoulder on the road, and part of it is on Route 88, which is no joke! Fall to your left and your place in the newspaper is the obituary column. Worse, it’s as curvy as they come, so you don’t have a lot of warning, and neither do the trucks. Once, Mince and I both had to grab the guardrail and hang on as a huge truck cut in pretty close to us. Pretty sure its driver thought that he was in some kind of race, too. Hope he won. I’ll bet he did, because he was flying. Personally, I saw stars from the altitude, and had some hallucinations as well, during the six-hour climb. Once, I saw a blown-out inner-tube that turned out to be a snake; once, I heard another cyclist coming up from my six. Yeah, that was actually just a stream.
Today was a significant milestone; we had been looking at its itinerary for months, and its raw stats stuck out and made us train (as did tomorrow’s….yikes). But, we crushed it and had fun doing so. Kevin was a beast, as usual. The support crew and film crew were exceptional. Today, we put the ‘Team’ into Team Jesse. We even got out the lax sticks out at lunch and had a catch.
OK, the real reason for the ‘stars’ uniforms today. No question, this difficult day went out to the ‘Gold-Star’ families; meaning, the parents that have lost a son or daughter while defending our freedoms. We met a bunch of them at our sendoff dinner in Santa Rosa. For me, the person that sticks out was Janet Manion, the mother of the late Travis Manion, a Force Recon Marine and US Naval Academy Grad. Not only was she a class act with the way she encouraged us, but she gave me something to think about; Travis had a saying: “If not me, then who?” So, if the toughest thing I need to do is climb a mountain on a bike with a great friend and help him fulfill his purpose, so be it. And, you can even give me extra ants in my room! For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit!
Care Creates Community,