Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day 44 & 45- Off Cycling & Off to Lake Tahoe...

DAY 44- Day Off with Cycling…
It was basically a day off for me.  I opted to sleep in and then later in the morning I jumped on my bicycle to explore the bike trail system in the Walnut Creek and surrounding areas.  I was only about ¼ mile from one of the trails.  The main trail system that goes through the Walnut Creek area is called the Iron Horse trail.  Within minutes I was going over an impressive metal and cement foot bridge that went over traffic.  To the immediate right was the BART station where I parked my car.  Go figure, I could have forgone the whole parking hassle of yesterday and ridden my bike.

I continued on past the BART station.  There were a fair amount of people using the trail.  Most of them were on foot and talking into their cell phones as they walked along which seems typical for California.  It seems that everyone is on their cell phones.  Others on the trail were women in groups of two deep in the midst of some drama conversation.  They seemed oblivious of their surrounds or others on the trail.  I would nicely say coming up on your left and get a look full of daggers.  If looks could have killed I would’ve gone through my nine cat lives in nothing flat.  Eventually, I just gave up saying anything and just went around them.
Photo- A section of trail north of Walnut Creek.

The landscape along the trails would change from being along cannel areas which were low in water to park like settings to going between fences of backyards with little if anything to look at.  Most of the intersections where the trails would come out had little stop signs for you to stop and wait for the side road to clear.  The more traffic roads had buttons to push for a crosswalk.  I went a little over 25 miles and didn’t have to bike on an actual street except in a crosswalk area.  It was rather nice; however, the speed limit for bikes was 15mph and the terrain was very flat.
Photo- The trail climbed at the edge of Walnut Creek and
you could look out over the scenic valley area.

I did come to one area that I almost felt like I was going out into the country.  The trail climbed and the next thing I’m looking out over houses with the mountains in the background.  It was pretty.  The trail ran along and open land area where there were single mountain bike trails.  You could see single tracks running all over the area.
Photo- The tunnel that you walked your bike through.

Then, I had to go through this tunnel.  The sign outside the tunnel said to please walk your bike through.  It was a huge corrugated metal pipe that had a flat rough cement bottom.  There were lights on in the inside but even then in broad day light it was kind of dark in there.  The tunnel went under a freeway road.   It was a bit unnerving going through it at first but I managed through.

Overall, the trail system was set up very well.  There were signs with miles to destinations.  There were large maps of the trail system hung up; though, most of those were very faded. But it all was very well maintained.  Most of the busier roads that had button crosswalks also contained bike lanes.  I could see where someone had really put some thoughts into this trail system.

DAY 45- Driving to Lake Tahoe…
I headed north on Interstate 680.  It was a toll road.  It was a first time I had done something like this so I followed the lanes that said Fast Track Cash.  But I wasn’t paying enough attention.  I pulled into a lane to pay and discovered no one in the booth.  Note to myself for future reference- make sure that there’s a green light above the lane when pulling up to a toll booth.  Thank goodness it was slow enough that I could back up and choose another lane.  I was smiling rather sheepishly to the attendant when I handed over the cash.  She didn’t say anything; so maybe no one noticed?

Yes, I’m backtracking a little more.  I went by Sacramento on my way over to Lake Tahoe, but I figured I’m relatively close and I just HAD to go to Lake Tahoe or so I had been told.  I got off for a short break just outside of Sacramento to grab a coffee.  While waiting in one of the duel left lane for the light to change a man in the car next to me is signaling me to roll down my window.  I’m like oh no what’s hanging outside the car.  He’s asking me for directions. WTF!  I must look like I know where I’m going but I just laughed and told the guy that I’m sorry I’m not from around here.

West of Sacramento along Hwy 50 there’s an area called the Apple Hills Recreation Area.  It was green with pine trees and other trees were starting to change here and there.  It was really pretty.  It was here that I saw a beat old pickup truck with gun racks in the back window.  But it wasn’t guns in the racks; it was some fancy fishing poles.  I just smiled to myself and thought—take that NRA!  Fishing above guns; I could live with that.
Photo- The outside of the Red Apple Cafe.

It was here that I stopped at the Red Apple Café.  It didn’t look like much from the outside but it had a cute painted side on it and wasn’t really much inside BUT it was their back patio area that was the real gem of this restaurant.  I was invited to help myself to any table and of course I chose one next to the edge of the patio area that overlooked a scenic valley.  The only real draw back to the entire place was that there was only one waitress on duty and a cook.  My meal took a while but I didn’t truly mind because I was enjoying the view from under my umbrella covered table.
Photo- The gem of the Red Apple Cafe was the back patio area.
Photo- The view from the Red Apple Cafe's back patio area.  WOW!

Next, the Hwy 50 narrowed down and started to get curvy and yes, as all curvy roads seem to be it was scenic.   The road started to climb up too.  The highway went through a couple of different National Forest lands.  There were pine trees and streams alongside the road.  I went a little slower than the 55mph to enjoy it all.  I had to pull out a couple of times to let locals go by me.

Before I knew it, the road just opened up in front of me and there was a HUGE valley area and off in the distance I could just barely see Lake Tahoe on the horizon.  It just kind of took my breath away.  Well, the view and the drop off that road had on one side.  I took the opportunity and pulled in to a turn out and took a couple of pictures.  Wow!  The road then started get grades of 7% and 8% going down.  My brakes were getting a workout and the road was still a bit of a drop off on one side.
Photo- My first view of Lake Tahoe is just a blue haze on the horizon.

I followed my shorthand directions to get to the hotel I would be staying for the next couple of nights; Big Piney Mountain House.  It’s nothing to look from the outside and the rooms need to be updated but with all of that, the property is pretty well maintained and kept clean.  It’s inexpensive and comes with free Wi-Fi and breakfast.  There’s also a coffee maker, mini refrig, and microwave in most of the rooms too.

Once I got checked into my room, it was time to just drive around and check the area out.  Unfortunately, they were having construction on the main road (Lake Tahoe Blvd) in South Lake Tahoe where I was staying.  It took a bit to get anywhere and then I made one of my now infamous “U” turns.  It was starting to get dark so I opted to return to the hotel and see what there was within walking distance.

I ended up going to a Mr.P’s Pub which was a two block walk from my hotel.  They have a wonderful Irish stew and I had that with a glass of Shock Top which is a light wheat beer.  Football games were on when I first got there but as they ended the TV’s were shut down and live music entertainment took its place.  The bar area was crowded and the outside upper patio area was a bit cold.  I sat at a table by myself.  But later on, as the place filled up and seating became an issue I invited an older gentleman to join me.  He was a retired man from San Antonio, TX and was up using a timeshare he had in the area.  We shot the breeze and enjoyed the music.  In fact, we almost closed the place down.  It was a nice way to end the day.

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