I'm not prone to long-conceived riding plans, especially if complicated and detailed. More decision-making time frequently means more changes, commitments, and confusion. Some of the most satisfying times on a road trip arose from spontaneity, or heck, just waking up with the sun and pointing to new roads on your trusty tattered map. I'm not against making decisions and plans at all; it would be nice if everything in life could be created on paper, logged into some ethereal digital realm satellite, and eventually realized. But, coordination between the kings, queens, and pawns isn't always easy. Turns out that more often than not, outside factors, possibly the mystical and mysterious dark force, conspire to thwart advanced planning, schedules, and itineraries. It could just be me. Maybe it's just your best friend, boss, wife, significant other, or mistress that can create a fork in the road trip. A long-awaited and confirmed trip disintegrates.
You've been there, for sure. The question of 'do I stay home and be upset about the flakiness of bla-bla-bla' or 'can I still salvage this time I allocated to get my spiritual two-wheeled fix' is definitely something that arises. For months I had planned a trip that was to be a prelude to Sturgis. Trying to maximize my time out of my over-air-conditioned, dry, windowless, cement-box, of an office I planned a big-three week ride. It started with a message from Victory Motorcycles and a new custom Vision built by Arlen and Cory Ness. I was to pick up an '08 Victory Vision in LA, ride through the Sierra Nevada mountains, head west to Ness' Dublin, California, headquarters to shoot the bike, head off to US wine capital Napa Valley for Harley-Davidson's 2009 model launch, and then return to the Bay Area to hook up with Arlen's Sturgis posse. It was such a grand plan-too good to be true to get so much accomplished while having a blast touring the country on a decked out Victory Vision.
With less than a day to make something happen, I called some friends in Northern Cal. Not much happening, not much interest, too many kids and honey-do lists. But, an old friend was going to be in Lake Tahoe for the weekend with his girlfriend. Holly and Todd opened the door; I just had to decide how to get there. Lake Tahoe is located more than 6,000 feet high in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The Sierras are the southerly continuation of the Cascade mountain range that for 400 miles splits California into east and west regions. Due to the numerous 10,000-foot-plus peaks, there are not many traversable paved roads. However, the ones that do cross the range in an east/west direction are among the most spectacular roads in the US.
So, leaving out of Long Beach gave me two major options to get to Tahoe: up the west side and through the foothills or ascend from the east side. The quickest way, with mostly interstate, would clock in at 525 miles. Not a bad half-day ride, but relatively congested and not as exciting. The Sierras have a different personality on the eastern side versus the western. The western part has a more gradual slope that climbs through historic goldmine towns while the eastern face is a massive collection of peaks jutting up from the desert-like Great Basin below. There's traffic to consider too as the Pacific side of the mountains are more populated than the Nevada bordering side.