Day 1: Out to the Sierra (333 miles)



It’s time to head to the Sierras yet again to get yet one more ride in before the snows close the roads for the winter. We had some pretty intense rain down in the Bay area that did close all three major passes. As the weekend got closer I and many riders were hoping that the passes would open on Saturday. Being so early in the season it would be hard to see that they wouldn’t have opened with a little CalTrans encouragement, but with tight budgets I could see the state deferring plowing.

The good news is that the state opened the roads! Saturday morning it was time to hit the highway and head east. The ride out of the bay area and across the valley was the usual route with nothing really interesting to report there. Lunch however was at a the Priest Station Cafe & Store just outside of Groveland. The view was awesome up the Priest Grades.

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I was excited that they had grass fed beef and sweet potato fries. Two of my favorites! Presentation wasn’t bad either as it makes for a colorful meal.

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Priest Station Cafe & Store (C is average. No grade inflation here):

SeatingBLunch was a bit early at 11:30 but there were plenty of open seats. In the summer on a busy weekend they could easily be full.
AtmosphereASitting atop the Priest Grade, the view was awesome. There were sunny and shady spots. The view is what makes this place.
Wait StaffCAverage. Didn’t go above the bar, but handled the full restaurant well.
FoodD-Sweet potato fries were cold and the premium burger (grass vs corn fed) was not near as good as other places I’d been. Burger was very greasy.
ValueCPar for what one would expect to pay in the bay area for grass fed beef.
OverallC-I’d go back as I love the view, but the food did not wow me at all.

For most of the trip I’d had good luck with cars pulling over for bikes to pass. About 1/2 way between Groveland and Crane Flat there was a Honda sedan that just didn’t get the concept of turnouts. Mile after mile this car didn’t turn out going 15 under the limit in the corners. Finally a space opened up and I was able to jet by and keep on rolling. At Crane Flat (elevation 6000ft) it was time to don a layer as it was going to get chilly further up in the hills. I didn’t stop much in the park. My priority was getting over to the eastern side of the mountains so there was only one stop on the western slope: Tenaya Lake. It’s an awesome lake with clear waters. Given how cold it’s been, no way was I going swimming!

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But I got a good picture out of the deal!

I wanted to check the June Lake Loop to see if there was any fall color there. Unfortunately there was none :(. That being said, I got to take some fun pictures of the approach into the area. This little section of twisties is always fun to flick the bike around in at speed!

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Usually Grant Lake looks pretty barren by this time of year. With the snows we had in the past winter it’s still full to the brim. Some sailboaters were out enjoying the water!

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Silver Lake tends to be hard to photograph in the afternoon as the sun is near the mountains making for a difficult exposure. I was able to get a shady view of the lake with the sun giving just a few rays to the tops of the mountains where the snow was.

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Since there was no real foliage at the June Lake area, my next option was Rock Creek. Rock Creek is about 1500 feet higher than the June Lake area, so I was hoping to find some foliage there. The problem was the storm we had a few days back burned most of the color away from the trees. There were some green trees, a few sickly yellow ones higher up, and mostly brown and bare trees at the top. The lake was pretty and up at 7000ft in the shade there was plenty of snow to be had. I kept going down the road and at about 7500ft the road got really icy and some cars were coming back down that required me to traverse more of the ice and snow and then turn around. Not fun at all!

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I was able to get a few pictures of the leaves lamenting the winter ahead.


It’s long, cold and snowy here.

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At this point it was cold and I was losing sun fast. I snapped a few of Rock Creek Lake quickly.

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All in all a good day in the hills!

I headed back down to US-395 and down to Bishop. The warm weather was welcomed as I was cold from being up at elevation without my heated gear (doh!). Dinner was at Yamatani. I’m not a big Japanese food fan, but hey, I’ll try something new every now and again.


SeatingC-Given a full dinner crowd, seating was tight. Bar seating was the only seating available.
AtmosphereBWell decorated with a contemporary Asian theme throughout.
Wait StaffB-The staff handled the weekend crowds well, but hesitated when I wanted to order off of the full menu vs the bar menu.
FoodC-The food was well presented and cooked, but sat on the shelf too long. The beef was cold when it arrived.
ValueBCompetitively prices. I was well fed for the amount my wallet got lighter.
Overall?The verdict is out here. I don’t eat Japanese enough to be critical here. Would I go back if someone suggested it? Yes. Would I go there on my own? Probably not. That’s more to do with the fact that I don’t do Japanese more so than the restaurant.

Route Map:


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3 responses to “Day 1: Out to the Sierra (333 miles)”

  1. TTran Avatar

    Very cool stuff Dan. I really like the eatery reviews..might as well grade roads also 🙂

  2. Pseudocognitive Avatar

    Cool ride report. I like the pics and the detailed reviews. One thing (sorry; my OCD requires that I say it): It’s Sierra (or Sierra Nevada), not Sierras. Other than that minor glitch, it’s a great post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Me Avatar


    Thanks for the tip and compliments. Post title updated!

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