Whilst I was writing the blog at the camp in Lemon Cove, we started to be concerned about the weather forecasted for our route up into Sequoia National Park. My goodness, how we have been let down in our expectation of the weather here by pop culture. Joni Mitchell hardly let an album go by without telling us how much warmer it is here and others have led us to believe that it never rains in Southern California.
They need to try riding a bike here a bit more. When the road climbs you go back a season or two. A forecast for rain turning to snow ahead meant that we did a short day to Three Rivers rather than ride into a potential problem.
Three Rivers is very nice indeed. It has a little museum which is nice, but it also has an ice cream parlour which is just about perfect. Reimer’s makes the ice cream out the back and you probably can not buy better.
That night we had the rain we expected and more. Up the road a few miles it was falling as snow and when we made our way to Tom in the information centre he had bad news for us. “You need chains and a 4×4 in the park and the forecast is bad for the rest of the week”. Well, thanks Tom, thanks very much.
There was a period of about half an hour or so of sitting there without a plan before it became clear that we would have to turn around, retrace our steps and go around at a much lower level. We had the phone number of people we had met from Fresno Cycling club and with what can only be described as that fellowship of cyclists meant that we had a place to aim for and a place to stay.
Back we pedaled along 118 around Lake Kaweah and turned right towards Woodlake. We had the smell of citrus fruit and were back amongst the orange groves and warmth with the storm clouds rolling over the mountains to our right.
We rode into Elderwood on the 245 and the store was open and we applied rule 1 of touring – never ride past an open remote store ( rule 2 is never to drink beer before putting up the tent, and it is there for a very good reason). This is a great store to hang out in and learn the history of the area and quite a violent and dramatic history it is. Dan came in the door and within a minute had invited us to come and stay.
We biked behind his truck up dusty farm tracks. “You may want to put your tent a bit closer to the house, my dog got bit by a snake there yesterday”. In the word of Indiana Jones “Why does it always have to be snakes”.
I think we ate them out of house and home but they waved us off the next morning still as cheerfully as we had been greeted. It was cold and the air colder still as we rode along pan flat and arrow straight roads to Dinuba. A lean looking guy pedaled up on an ape hanger barred classic to our coffee shop. “59 years I have been here and never known snow on the hills this late”; which did rather confirm the feeling we had about the weather.
On we went to meet Mike beyond Reedley. Our bikes went into the Pick-up and we drove to Medera to receive the warmest of welcomes and coldest of weather news of our route ahead. “Two feet of new snow is forecast above 6,000 ft” and guess where we should be. We are going to sit this out for a few days and hope that Joni Mitchell was right in the long-term.
I guess in conclusion you should never ride anywhere near the Amgen Tour of California, with its terrible record of attracting bad weather no matter where they move it in the calendar. Stage one was cancelled through snow and that is just where we want to be in a few days time. When things are going well you can be self contained as you tour. Just at the moment I am so glad that we have good people looking after us.