On Sunday we got some of the usual Sunday gang together for a road ride to Virginia City. After we rode to Markleeville last week, something I've been wanting to do for a long time, I was wondering what would be next. We seem to push it up a notch each weekend, and when Jeff P. announced we'd be riding to V.C., I got pretty excited. I've only been there by car and motorcycle, so in my mind it's a long ways up in the mountains. Getting there by bike would be an adventure.
We left Potter's base camp, elevation 4,700 feet, at around 10:30. The temperature was just starting to warm up, and we decided to wear shorts! Three guys named Jeff, and four ladies headed east across Carson City. We took the back roads on the north side of town and found little traffic. Once across town, we were treated to the climb out of Carson City on Hwy 50. The traffic was pretty heavy, but the speed limit is fairly low, and there is a decent bike lane. Brent commutes this way to work on his bike, and has not died even once.
Before turning off HWY 50 to V.C., we got to tour the lovely town of Mound House. It's not really even a town...just a wide spot in the road full of wrecking yards, gun shops, and legalized prostitution. We didn't stop. The first stretch of road to V.C. is narrow and a little unnerving, but being early in the day we didn't encounter any drunk motor bike riders (That would be on the return trip when some toothless wench/meth-addict on the back of some bike barked at the girls to get off the road...). In just a short time we got off the main route, and began the five mile twisty ascent up the V.C. Truck Route. As it turns out, grades good for big trucks are also great for bicycles! The group that had mostly stayed together up until this point began to spread out.
Once we regrouped at the outskirts of Virginia City, elevation 6,200 feet, we decided to split up the group. The girls headed back down, and the guys headed for Geiger Grade to the north of V.C. As usual, V.C. was packed with tourists, bikers, and all the local characters, many in old west costume (Sometimes you even see Mark Twain walking around). Bicycle was the best way to get through town, as we were able to slip through the gaps in traffic.
We were treated to many smells as we pedaled through town. Stale beer and cigarettes from the bars, kettle corn and fudge from the local shops, and horse manure from the local mounted posse. If there was the sound of honky tonk piano coming from the Bucket of Blood Saloon, we didn't hear it over the V-Twins of the hundred or so Harley Davidsons.
We left V.C. and continued north up towards Geiger Grade. Before reaching the top though, we turned onto Lousetown Road, and did the Virginia Highlands Loop, another 1,300 feet of climbing. We even blasted by Todd's house on the descent. I had just enough time to see Todd's old truck...the one that has been slowly sinking into the earth over the last few years. We continued to descend. I started to wonder what I had gotten myself into... Finally we started to climb back out. After the steepest climb of the ride, we finally dropped down to Geiger Grade where we could begin another ascent to the summit. The traffic was a bit scary because of the narrow shoulder, but at least the traffic wasn't heavy. We were treated to spectacular views of the Sierras to the west, the two prominent peaks being Mount Rose and Slide Mountain. At 10,776 feet, Mount Rose is the third highest mountain in the Tahoe Basin.
We finally reached Geiger Summit, elevation 6,789 feet. We paused for a picture to show how much taller Jeff is than me, drank some water, and had a snack. It was time for miles and miles of downhill! We raced down the east side of Geiger Summit towards V.C., zipped through traffic in V.C. and then blasted down the truck route. It was probably one of the more exciting things I've done in my life! I couldn't keep up with the other Jeff's, but I got a feel for all the turns and will be able to let go a bit more next time. We finally made it back to Carson City, and decided to take the scenic route around the south side of town. It was longer, but what the heck...I was already out of food, nearly out of water, and sunburned. We finally made it back to the Potters. I was actually glad to get off the bike and put it back on the roof rack. I didn't have the strength to keep my head up I was so tired. I was led to a table with a bowl full of pasta, and I began to eat. And eat. I even downed two water bottles full of water, washing down a couple chocolate muffins. Once again...thank you Potters for your hospitality!
In the end, the guys ended up doing 62 miles and lots of climbing. The girls did over 40 miles with their big climb. But now I have to ask myself...what's next?
More pictures from the ride can be found HERE.