In his classic book, The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams wrote of a warring race of creatures who ruled over many galaxies. One of their more unusual tortures was a machine called, The Total Perspective Vortex. In an instant it gave the poor unfortunate subject a view of the whole of the cosmos, along with an almost infantesamly small sign that read, YOU ARE HERE. The effect is crushing.
Riding here, and then looking at your progress on a map has a similar effect. Everything makes you feel small amongst such a monumentally scaled landscape.
Before we left Lake Isabella I had a haircut. In a small almost forgotten town off an interstate, this can be a big event and counts as entertainment. I had an audience of four.Show over, off we went along Highway 155 for a few miles of tight roads, heavy traffic and heat. Kernville rescued our mood. A beautiful little town, just high enough to catch a breeze. It looked like a nice place to live and a good place to hang out with an iced tea.
We turned left along the Sierra Way and straight away we were in perfect cycling country as we entered Sequoia National Forest. If you have a long weekend to spare then bring your bikes here and bike alongside the Kern River you will love it. We passed many beautiful campsites, but needed to get some miles done, and so stopped at the very last site.
We had done 40 miles and they had been about the easiest of our time here although we had still climbed over 2,500 ft. We pitched the tent close to the roaring waters of the Kern and made food. We use a wood burning micro kettle alongside our Primus Omni fuel stove. This little kettle, called a mKettle saves us over half of our fuel as it uses pencil sized sticks as fuel. It is working so well here with the dry wood that we pick up, and we make cup after cup of tea with it. Needless to say, it is great fun to use.
The easy riding was over within a couple of miles the next morning. The Sierra Way left the Kern River to find its way along the Sherman Pass and up we went into dense forest with deep snow lying in any cool hollow under the trees. Every time we climb it comes as a surprise to travel back a season or two. Soon the snow was piled up at the side of the road three feet deep and we were told later that it had only just opened, so how lucky are we?
We turned onto Western Divide Highway and rode under some Giant Sequoias. We had to stop to take photos of these huge trees and give them a hug. Hardly a car had passed us in two hours or more. On we went and the snow got deeper towards Ponderosa ( 7,200 ft and pop. 64 ), beautiful homes all with snow piled deep either side of their driveways.
It was now after 5 and the low sun made the descent difficult to judge as we dived down to Pierpoint Springs and the motel. A great place to stay, with good food and fun people.
Next morning we had the happy prospect of a 5,000 ft descent to a second breakfast at Springville. All the way down we were thinking what a nasty climb it would be coming up this way. Retracing our route a mile we headed along the Yokohl Valley and regained a couple of thousand feet before loosing them again as we entered the next valley beyond Blue Ridge.
Temperatures again were up over 90*f and I was not in good spirits. This was supposed to be an easy day and it was being anything but, which is a bit of a miserable sensation. Grassland dotted with content looking beef cattle and ranches stretched far into the distance. This was a new landscape for us an unbelievable change from where we had started the day 5,000 ft higher.
We turned right onto the 198 to Lemon Cove and the road ran through Orange groves and Olives. We had not had the air full of these strong scents since we had got on the bikes in Riverside. Deep snow in the morning and now the smells that we associate with the Mediterranean in just 50 miles. These sorts of crazy changes really can mess with your mind and we were due a rest day.