Falling in love with Highway 88



Wow.. the summer has flown by. So much to do, to see, to experience. Summer is my favorite season, hands down. I remember back in 2003 taking a trip up to Lake Tahoe just to take some time reflecting on life and getting away from the Bay and all the rat race that it entails. Part of me is still on a bit of withdrawal from last summer having spent so many days on the bike traveling from place to place with no real destination in mind. I miss the freedom I had that summer….

I’ve been spending some time at a new online forum, South Bay Riders, meeting some other folks in the area that ride as well. One of the other riders had taken some outstanding pictures of Lake Tahoe which just gave me the itch to get up the before the weather makes the mountains impassible for the next few months (say, 6). The temperature forecast was much cooler than I am used to riding in. I have a limit of 50F before I call it quits. I remember being up in Oregon last summer with 50-55 degree weather (and fog) which was just miserable. I had heard about Gerbing’s “heated gear” but had always been a bit skeptical a) if it worked and b) if it was worth the cost. Thursday I decided to take the plunge and go for it. What better way to start Friday than shopping at Road Rider.

Saturday I hit the road for Tahoe about noon. I realized I forgot a baclava, so the good folks at Redwood City Cycle Gear had one that fit the bill. With all the stuff to support me for weeks, I was on my way. It was overcast which made for a cool ride over most of the Bay Area. I was a bit unsettled thinking if it’s this cold down here, how will it be up in the mountains? The first major stop was Livermore as I needed gas. Just over the Altamont Pass was the Central Valley, clear skies, and tons of traffic. Traffic here just amazes me. Why would the freeway be full of traffic on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of nowhere? That stretch is known to be packed during rush hour, but at 1:30 on Saturday?

Highway 88 - Fall 2006 - 1

After leaving the valley I start up 88. It’s a mixture of all things, straight and curves, flat and hilly. Going up to Tahoe in the winter I’m usually focused on getting there fast so I often don’t take 88 and in the summer I usually come in from the Nevada side so I’ve just not had much time on this road. Riding in the fall makes the valley a lot more pleasant as it’s only in the high 70’s vs the 100’s it usually is. From about 3000 to 7000 feet the Sierra have lush conifer forests that the highways cut through

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Above 7000 feet the trees are pretty sparse and the views are extraordinary.

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Since it’s too cool for summer vacationers (and the kids are in school) and not cold enough for snow, the area is pretty empty of visitors. :). Summiting at just over 8000 feet, the air is brisk, but I don’t need the heated gear. Bonus.

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The aspen are just past peak, but you can really see the bright yellow dotting the mountainside.

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A mild snowstorm rolled through town a few days before so it was nice to see some snow on the mountain peaks!


The sun was just about down by the time I rolled into Lake Tahoe. I couldn’t remember the hotel I booked last night. Great. Was it Quality Inn? Days Inn? Somehow I remember it was near Fremont street (why I remember that I dunno). Next problem… Where is Fremont Street? Fortunately the GPS could help me with that question :). One thing I’ve learned from last summer is that meals are not really that important to me when riding. I usually snack through the day more so than eat big meals.. I head off to the grocery store and get some salad & meatloaf which hit the spot great!

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Highway 88 - Fall 2006 - 8

Sunday morning it was cold.

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It’s the first day of the year for me where I feel 32. Rather than crash course the heated gear, I set off on foot to take some pictures of the sun coming up. It’s a crisp morning, one with a mixture of clouds and blue sky to make photography interesting.

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Highway 88 - Fall 2006 - 11

Five hours later it’s in the 50’s in the valley, so I head off for the hills.

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It’s just a great day to be outside. You can tell summer has passed, but the crispness in the air is refreshing, not biting. I’ve not traveled over the Kingsbury grade into Nevada. The lake Tahoe side is not super great. Lots of traffic makes for slow goings. The ride down though is everything the ride up is not.. Great views, pavement, and no traffic.

I stopped to take pictures and saw another bike go by. He swings around to ensure I’m ok. The community among bikers is one that still amazes me. We do look after total strangers, but share the commonality of riding two wheelers. I’d do and have done the same.

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Riding the bike west into the hills I find this dirt road that just calls my name. I’m not a dirt rider by any means, but there is stream and a set of Aspen down there that looks really cool. I detour slightly and take a short hike down to the river. While Alpinestars make great boots for motorcycling, they are not good for climbing over boulders in streams. Ah the adventure!

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The back side of 88 to the top side of Carson Pass is lined with Aspen and some touches of other color.

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Every turn does seem like a spot to take a picture. Since I know I’ve blown my timeline for the day, I take the time for me and my camera to soak it all in.

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Also, I’m riding well. My knees are holding the tank, the downhill turns seem more predictable. Riding is a sport where driving is more of a skill. There is art & finesse that some days is with you more than others. Today was one of the better days. One section of the road just wasn’t there. CalTrans just tore the whole things and left about a 1/2 mile of dirt. Dual sport mode again!

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At about 4 I roll into Jackson, the last major burg before hitting the valley again. I’ve been through this town a few times with no real avail when it comes to food.

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The Mexican place is reasonable, but it’s the worst thing to have while riding as you have a brick in your stomach… This day it will have to do…

After lunch it’s time to get home. The valley passes quickly and the Bay Area mountains are near. You can see the fog curling over the mountains and the cool breeze blows warning travelers of cooler temps ahead. The heated gear clicks in and it works (jacket, gloves, and socks)! I’m as warm as can be, just like having a warm blanket on two wheels at 70 miles an hour! The sun goes under the horizon just as I’m coming home. A great, great weekend.

Monday comes oh so fast….


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