The Stanislaus River accompanies you as you begin your trip up the pass. Everything is so pretty and tranquil here. No indication of what's to come. The first couple of miles are almost flat, followed by three miles of a bit more up than down, and then you hit the steep stuff.
4 miles into the ride and you come across the first must-have photo opportunity. Of course, it shows a vehicle going DOWN, which isn't something you're going to be able to relate to for a while.
It is *much* steeper here than it looks. Kevin is coming off a 15% section that levels off to maybe 9-10% for a short bit.
This is *so* much steeper than it looks! It's called "The Window."
Up, up, and more up.
Towards the lower-left you can just barely make out part of the road you just came up. It was right around here that we spooked a very large bird that looked and sounded like a big black chicken, which noisily flew up into a tree. We eventually figured out that it must have been a wild turkey. Nearly, but not completely, flightless.
Typical view. Nice road, not too many cars, clean air, what's not to like?
Approaching the 8000ft sign and "Chipmunk Flat" which is *not* flat! You do see a lot of micro-Chipmunks in the area though.
This has got to be one of the prettiest stretches of road anywhere. Above 8000ft so the air is wonderfully clean (except for the smell of car brakes coming down the hill), and the Fall colors are coming out. This is also where the end of the Bridgestone Tire commercial was shot (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV--ISqrMLs). Actually, that entire commercial was shot on the west side of Sonora Pass. But don't bother looking for any sheep at high altitudes; there aren't any.
Approaching the Golden Staircase, the toughest part of the climb. Between about 8500 & 9200ft you will find out if your legs have limits!
Making the climb a bit tougher than normal is the presence of sand, probably to add traction for cars when it gets icy (as it does in October).
This one is worth zooming in on to get an idea of just how steep it is. Kevin appears to be "tacking", a sailing term for how you can zig-zag into a headwind. It must be windy so that's why he's zig-zagging here. It can't be because it's so impossibly steep
Approaching the 9000ft sign, which means only a couple hundred feet of uber-steep stuff to go!
Coming out the the steep part and onto a very "easy" 8% grade for the next mile or so. Sonora Pass warps your perspective of "steep" pretty severely.
After the 20% grade, followed by the 8% grade, you get this nice 3-4% grade for a bit, just prior to the final half mile to the summit (which probably goes to 7 or 8%).
At last, the top! And just to the left you see the handlebar of another guy that was out there, moving pretty fast. He'd started on the Nevada side and was now coming back from Dardanelle.
The obligatory photo at the top of the pass. We were really fortunate, having great weather throughout the ride. The forecast winds never materialized, and it was in the upper-50s at the top.
Kevin will enjoy this photo, since it makes it appear he's taller than Dad. Not yet.
Kevin pointing to the "small print" about the 108 sign, that says "SLOW TRUCKS." Weird to put that in tiny print like that. Who's going to read it (besides us)?
Heading down the backside a short distance. It wasn't the plan to do both sides of the pass today, but I figured we ought to introduce Kevin to at least some of it.
I'd told Kevin we'd ride to the 8000ft level (about 1700ft below the summit), and that's what we did. He probably could have made it the whole way to the bottom and back, but it would have been pretty late by the time we got back. In Google Maps the location is here- http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Sonora+Pass+Hwy,+Sonora,+CA+95370&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=55.148262,58.535156&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Sonora+Pass+Hwy,+Sonora,+Tuolumne,+California+95370&ll=38.312602,-119.578586&spn=0.028184,0.052142&t=p&z=15&layer=c&cbll=38.312538,-119.578665&panoid=nCBei9DJtvuvNjHSs-4fRQ&cbp=12,57.56,,0,15.71 Looking at the map after the ride, it appears the killer view of the USMC Winter Warfare Training Camp is just 1.7 miles further down the road, at about 7500ft.
The view heading back up the east side
The east side is quite a bit different from the west, with a series of brief flat sections in-between the nasty stuff.
The final ascent, and perhaps the toughest part of the east side. You have a small drop to the bridge and then it's up, up, and even more-painfully up some more.
I gave Kevin a bit of a head start before I chased after him.
At this point I was beginning to think it was too much of a head start! Time to stop taking pictures and get up there.
At last, the top, for the second time. Almost all-downhill from here.
Heading back down the steep canyon. You cannot believe how beautiful this area is until you see it on a bike.
You want speed? You got speed! As much as you dare. The thin air here doesn't create much wind resistance so you can really fly.
Descending through "The Window" is a lot easier than climbing!
Returning to the car at Dardanelle
The coin-operated showers were out of commission, but fortunately they allowed us to use the RV-area showers
These showers are located in the RV park at the end of the dirt road that extends from the side of the Dardanelle store. Amazing how much better you feel after a shower!
And then there's "Jim's" hamburger place in Jamestown. We thought we'd take a chance on a local place, and quickly thought we might regret it, dealing with the guy who was taking our order (and seemed to be the only person there)... he was a bit more than a little "out there." But fortunately very tasty burgers! Expensive though, at $8.50 for a bacon burger with cheese. Mmm health food.