WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderRockies 14 - Mammoth Lakes, California
Date: Sun, 06 Aug 2000 21:14:52 -0700

    (Truth in story telling: this is sent a couple days behind actual time. We were so wracked by the heat, I fell behind and never caught up.)

    Ah, morning in the mountains, or at least near the mountains. The chill air reminds us the hottest part of the trip is yet to come. Temps in the lowland deserts from St. George to Las Vegas have been in the hundred-teens, and even for a heat lover like me, that is not a pleasant thought. But first up is REAL tongue twirling cccooofffffeeeee at the Buffalo Java in Panguitch. And though this coffee smells fine, if you've ever smelled a buffalo up close you'll know this place is rightly named for the strength of its brew.

    Ok, before everyone writes in about 'buffalo' versus 'bison' ... let me remind you I was not brought up on a farm. I don't know why it is, but whenever I mention cows, I get the most responses. Several many have corrected, clarified, and educated that cows do indeed have horns, unless they are polled, which means they have been dehorned. So if horns are removed from a motorcycle, does it also become a polled vehicle? (Please, don't.)

    Another item that brought friends out of the woodwork was my reminiscence of  "smoot". Mark was the first with the precise measurement of 364.4 smoots plus 1 ear, but Junji even provided a photograph of the end measurement on the bridge. Such attention to my simple thoughts is indeed humbling.
    And I may as well dispatch one other dangling thread. After mentioning our fun 'family' of vagabonds, I received a good natured email from one who saw a

"KRT roll by going east... recognized the stupid flannel shirt! <G> Thought for a moment about scooting east for a minute to give you hell in person about the above mentioned comment, but decided against it... that would only add more fuel to the fire... who knows how you'd distort THAT encounter!"
    Distort? Granted my observations are unilateral, but I do take a little latitude with the longitude of my mercurial mercator meandering. How can any personal view be accurate? Oh heck, let's ride.

    Last April I wanted to ride through Cedar Breaks, but the road rises to almost 11,000 feet and was still closed by snow. This was my first pass of the pass, and while some, including Rebecca, will say this road is very scenic, I referred to it as Cedarbust. The one view from the top of the cathedral spires formed by the erosion 'breaking' the north slope is certainly vertigo inducing, but after the wonders witnessed in the last week it didn't seem much. Maybe the coffee was wearing off.
    Down hill, down hill, down hill, the more we went the warmer it got. In less than an hour, the change was half again the ambient temperature, from 60s to 90s. In Mt. Carmel, I laughed to pass the smallest motel I have ever seen. Just off the east side of the road is the diminutive log cabin and a sign for the Mt. Carmel Motel Room. Notice, singular.

    Repeating my visit of earlier this year, we stopped at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for a tour. 650 dogs, even more cats, 200 plus rabbits, 40 horses, some burros and a pig have been rescued from various fates to bring meaning to the word 'humane treatment' and, in turn, to bring a fair amount of karma to Kanab Canyon.
    Finally, facing the inevitable, we saw there was no way to avoid the blast across the desert - or the desert's blast of heat. At least we did it on our terms. Calculating the time to sunset (to be out of deer country) and playing a game between balancing heat and miles, we left Kanab at 7 pm, were whipped by the evening-risen wind until St. George, where the day's furnace of 109 had cooled all the way to 103, then roared down the Virgin River (remember, down means heat) to Las Vegas where the numbers had been a balmy 118. It was 10:30 pm when we arrived. It was 101 degrees.

200 miles
Panguitch UT143 UT148 UT14 US89
US89A AZ389/UT59 UT9 I15 Las Vegas

    Too little sleep, and still too hot. At 6:30 am it is 84 degrees. But lo! For the first time in a month there are showers in the valley. As we roll north west, we chase and eventually catch a thunderstorm that barely sprinkles on us with rain evaporating before it hits ground, but it does cool the air. Wanderluck is with us. In what I expected to be a neck baker, the clouds remain all the way to Beatty. Along the way we pass the Indian Springs gunnery range and I see the strangest small plane vectoring for landing. It is obviously a drone, maybe 20 feet long, with inverted V rear stabilizers, and eerily graceful. Shortly after, we stop for a stretch break at the turn off to the Mercury test site. There is no one at the entrance, but I can't help feeling we are being watched. Where's that drone?
    The hidden treasure of the Owens Valley is Westgard Pass and CA168 which runs between Big Pine and - well, nowhere, which is why it is undiscovered. Even if you do not take the 10 mile side trip to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest - perhaps one of the most thought provoking rest stops anywhere - the view of the seeming impenetrable Sierra Nevada eastern flank is something that will make you wonder how anything as small as a human could have come so far and traveled so easily. Here near the foot of Mt. Whitney and the backbone of Kings Canyon, there is majesty and an aura of permanence. Even if the mountains are still moving.
    A quick run up the valley and it seems we, like the mountains, rest for the first time in an eon. She doesn't realize she just rode over 500 miles in 2/3 day.

330 miles
Las Vegas US95 NV266 CA168 US395 Mammoth Lakes
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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