Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Lake Tahoe's Stunning Beauty - And Its Other Issues

Today I had a first date with cycling around Lake Tahoe, a stunning beauty of a mountain lake in Nevada and California.

It was a 75.04-mile roller-coaster of a memorable ride with elevation gain of 4,225 feet.

Those are the numbers.

But bicycling, for me, is about emotions, aesthetics and inspiration.

And the Lake Tahoe ride was about The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

I had mixed emotions about the Lake Tahoe ride. It was like going out on a first date with a beautiful woman with some issues.

The Good

Let's face it -- Lake Tahoe is a watery looker amid amazing pines and the rugged Sierras. The vistas are spectacular. It's the ultimate sky lake. And because the route is a roller-coaster, I saw the lake from different angles.

Emerald Bay was mesmerizing, and California 89 was a rugged, twisty road that forced me to grind out challenging climbs with a hairpin turn thrown in. But it was worth it to see the inlet off the lake with the appropriate name..

And amid all this natural beauty, I met Pete, who was celebrating his 77th birthday with a 32-mile bike ride with 37 other senior cyclists.

The Bad

Hell, I know it was the day after a Monday holiday.

But the traffic and cars took a lot away from the bicycle experience.

I realize Lake Tahoe is an amazing natural resource and everyone wants to see a piece of it.

But there were so many cars going so fast. I started on U.S. 50, which is a four-lane road with cars and trucks whizzing by my left shoulder going 60 mph.

The shoulder on U.S. 50 came and went, the vehicles were going so fast at 65 mph that it was unsafe for me to take a lane when cars and trucks fly at those speeds.

The road conditions were a mixed bag on California 89 and 28, the roads that went around the lake.

Sometimes there were nice bike lanes. Sometime, no bike lanes. And I was surprised the speed limit on this narrow, two-lane road was 55 mph. Every time I would soak up a gorgeous natural scene it was blown up by three or four cars and trucks whizzing by my left shoulder at high speeds.

On the lake's west side, there was a paved off-road trail that inexperienced and casual bicyclists were using. But it must have crossed the road a half-dozen times as it meandered its way along the road.

The Ugly

Most of the small villages along the lake route were pleasant. Tahoma, Tahoe City and Kings Beach come to mind.

But the monstrosity of South Lake Tahoe, an overbuilt, suburby-style city that began with giant casinos like Harrahs at the Nevada-California border that were completely out of scale for beautiful Lake Tahoe.

All the commercial development and all the cars were a jolt and seemed so out of place.

I found South Lake Tahoe weird, too.

Check out this bicyclist coming right at me in salmon-fashion.

Lake Tahoe is so gorgeous and majestic that big casinos and sprawl-like commercial development are no way to respect this mountain gem.

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