Reno to Crater Lake to Aspen
Denis Kertz, ©2013
Day 0: Sun, Sep 01, 2013 - Reno,
My friend Dave picked me up at 2 pm for my 4:20 pm Southwest
flight to Reno, NV,
out of Midway Airport.
This was a later flight than I wanted, getting in at 6:20 pm but it was
the cheapest flight and a non-stop flight to boot. On top of that Southwest didn't charge for
the first two checked bags. They did
charge $75 for taking my bike but that was still cheaper than the more typical
$100 on other airlines such as United and American. However, it was also $25 more than what
Southwest charged a year ago. Ideally, I
would have liked to have shipped my bike via Amtrak but the Reno baggage service closed at 4:45 pm and
didn't open until 8:45 am. So I wouldn’t
have been able to pick up my bike until the next morning and that didn’t work
It was an uneventful flight but an almost full flight
arriving right on time. It was hazy
flying into Reno
and as soon as I was outside the smell of a forest fire smoke told me why. This was smoke from the fire near Yosemite. Since I
would be heading north in the morning I hoped the smoke wouldn't follow me too
far. My plan was to first ride to Crater Lake National Park. Four years ago, I rode through Crater Lake. The
night before I passed through Crater Lake the
wind shifted and smoke from a forest fire filled the lake. Now I was on a mission this year to return to
Crater Lake and see if I could confirm there
actually was a lake there.
Baggage handling at the airport went well and I was out the
door with all my baggage and caught a taxi to the Fairfield Inn in Sparks, about 5 miles east of downtown Reno.
Using my Marriott reward points I was able to secure a free night at the
Fairfield Inn. Three years ago I stayed
at the Courtyard in Reno
but this year the Courtyard wasn't available.
That was probably just as well since the Courtyard was south of downtown
and I would have had to ride through downtown or find a way to skirt around it
to head north. With the Fairfield Inn
location it looked like it would be easier to head north.
As usual it took a couple of hours to re-assemble my bike
and then re-pack all of my panniers.
There was a fast food taco place right next door so I first grabbed a
quick bite to eat and then worked until 10 pm getting everything in shape for
leaving in the morning. Of course, 10 pm
was really midnight by my Midwest time and I
didn't actually make it to bed until almost 11 pm. Nevertheless, it was a successful first day
with no surprises although I narrowly avoided a major surprise. Every year I always forget something. Last year it was a battery charger that was not
easily replaced. This year it would have
been my ThermaRest pad except at dinner last night my friend Dave casually
asked how thick my sleeping pad was.
That's when I remembered my sleeping pad was buried under another
sleeping bag and I had forgotten all about it.
I surely would have been able to replace it in Reno but it would have been inconvenient and
Day 1: Mon, Sep 02, 2013 - Reno, NV to Doyle,
CA [53.5, 5:14:01, 10.2 mph,
Last night was a different experience, the first time
sleeping in a bed in 5 weeks. Five weeks
ago after braking on a wet road I fell hard on my left side and drove me left
elbow into my ribs. X-rays didn't show
anything but something happened and I couldn't lay flat and sleep in a
bed. Instead I slept in a lounge which
actually turned out to be fine. As a
result I didn't need to rush back to bed although I experimented a couple times
and I couldn't lay straight back or on my left side so I stayed with the
lounge. With my left side getting
gradually better every week I was pretty sure a bed wouldn't be a problem and
it wasn't. I had to be a little careful
positioning my left side but otherwise the bed was fine.
Still I didn't sleep well for whatever reason. I got up shortly after 5 am, really 7 am my
time. I had forgotten to print a
document I had put together with accommodation options along my route but the Fairfield had a business
corner where I was able to use my USB stick and print the document on a laser
had a continental breakfast as part of the accommodation package and I wasn't
disappointed. I had Canadian bacon,
eggs, a waffle, oatmeal, and a banana – all the breakfast I needed to get on
Back in the room I completed my packing and left at 8 am,
much earlier than I had expected, a result of getting up early. There was a prediction of some possible rain
in the afternoon. The wind was supposed
to be out of the southwest. Good news
for a tailwind but bad news for smoke from the Yosemite
I left along the road in front of the Fairfield which curved north. Then a left and a right put me north on Sparks Boulevard. After I got on Sparks I noticed a paved trail nearby but
there was no easy way to get to it. That
didn't matter since there was very little traffic on the four lanes on a
At the corner of Sparks
and Baring Boulevard
there was conveniently a shopping center with a large Smiths grocery store
where I stopped for my first food shopping.
It took a while to locate my foods and then to pack them in my panniers. Unfortunately, this added about 10 pounds to
my bike but I didn't know where I would be able to get food once I left the Reno area.
It was probably close to 10 am by the time I left and took Baring Blvd west
where it turned into McCarron
had a fair amount of traffic but it also had a bike lane so the traffic was not
an issue. Shortly I could see downtown Reno through the Yosemite
smoke. I passed US395, the main
north-south route, and continued north on to Virginia Ave. My goal was to stay off US395 as long as
possible and Virginia
was an okay street. It started out with
a good shoulder that deteriorated into little shoulder but there wasn't much
I stayed on Virginia
until it looked like it continued on a gravel road. At that point, Red Rock Road, I picked up US395, a
4-lane expressway at this point. There
was a fair amount of high speed traffic on US395 but it had a shoulder about as
wide as a traffic lane. I made a final stop at a food mart at
Hallelujah Junction, the intersection with NV70. Then US395 narrowed down to a regular 2-lane
Once I joined US395 I left the Reno metro area behind and the route became
pretty scenic with the desert sagebrush and the rolling mountains. As I neared Doyle, US395 entered a wide
valley and cattle put in an appearance, grazing in the fields amidst some
My goal for the day was to make Milford where there was a free, primitive
campground 4 miles off the road.
However, as I thought about that and see the surrounding terrain it
became clear to me there was probably going to be some climbing along those
4-miles, perhaps even some gravel. Then
my right heel was rubbing on my sandal and I was concerned about getting a
blister. That made me decide to seriously
look for a place to stay in Doyle even though it was only 3:30 pm.
Doyle was a small town of 700 that had obviously seen better
days. Once, there were several places to
stay. There was still a local bar but it
also had a for sale sign. I stopped at a
place with a Motel sign that wasn't obviously open. But I got a room there for $30 cash, a real
dive. But it had a decent bed and a
shower. There was a community park in
town where I might have been able to camp but it wasn't clear who to ask. Given the $30 cash price I opted for the
After cleaning up I walked the short distance to the bar,
the Buck Inn, where I had a large frozen pizza
and some soda. I felt a little
dehydrated so I opted for the soda rather than a beer. The pizza was good but rather expensive at
$11. While waiting for my pizza I typed
my notes for the day. The bartender was
impressed that I ate the 12” pizza. This
was actually a little more pizza than I needed but sometimes you have to step
up to the plate.
When I left the bar I was the last customer. There was one other customer when I showed up
but he left before I did. I heard the
bartender saying she was thinking of closing at 7 pm since she said it was a
slow day. Maybe that's why the place is
When I got back to my motel, I tried out my latest toy – my
Kindle. Originally, I had bought the
Kindle to have an online dictionary but then I realized it would work well for
my bike tours. I could check out Kindle
reading material from my library and didn’t have to worry about returning them
to the library since they simply expired automatically after 3 weeks. This Kindle also was a PaperWhite so it had
lighting that would make it easy to read in a tent.
A fairly easy first day of tour. There was a 1,000 feet of climbing and most
of that was in the first 15 miles leaving the Reno area.
After that the route was pretty flat until Hallelujah Junction and then
it descended the rest of the way to Doyle.
Day 2: Tue, Sep 03, 2013 - Doyle, CA to Eagle Lake,
CA [80.1, 7:59:43, 10.0 mph,
I slept better
this second night even though accommodations were considerably inferior to the
first night. I left before 8 and rode
up the road to us395 where the motel owner had led me to believe there was a
service station. A little further on
US395 there was an RV park where perhaps I could have camped. Then a little further there was a food mart
where I got milk for my cereal and a bear claw.
It was cool in
the morning, maybe high 40s or low 50s but good cycling weather. It was about 18 miles to Milford on a mostly flat road with a bit of
climbing. US395 continued through a wide
valley, hugging the west side of the valley.
had a population of 170, even smaller than I thought. As I expected, the turnoff to the USFS
campground didn't look promising for cycling.
Just north of town there was a mini-market and then a little further on
was an RV park/campground which claimed to have a restaurant. The restaurant sounded suspicious because
there wasn't any real advertising to lure folks from the road and it didn't
seem likely that the park/campground could itself justify a restaurant. Anyway, it looked like it would have been a
decent place to camp had I not stopped in Doyle.
After Milford it was another 20
miles or so to Susanville on a mostly flat route with a little modest
climbing. In Janesville I stopped for a drink before
continuing on to Susanville. US395 split
off a few miles before Susanville.
Susanville was a town of 17,500, the only sizeable town between Reno and Klamath
Falls. I rode
through town around noon, looking to see if I might find an Internet cafe but
nothing showed up.
So I picked up
CA139 north in the middle of town and climbed a few hundred feet to Lassen College
where I stopped in a grassy area for a break and to apply some sunscreen. A couple miles further I started the first
major climb of the day, 1,000 feet over 3.5 miles. I climbed mostly at 4 mph, stopping for a
short break after climbing 400 feet.
CA139 essentially had no shoulder but it had little traffic and rarely
any simultaneous 2-way traffic so the lack of shoulder was not a problem. Motorists were easily able to pass my on the
big climb. I reached the summit at
Antelope Summit at 5814 feet.
Once I reached
the summit I entered a strange looking area.
There were trees on both sides of the road whereas before trees were
only in the distant hills. It was a nice
change of pace.
and riding on the flats for about 8 miles I started the second major climb of
the day, 810 feet over 3 miles, but not quite as steep as I averaged 1 mph
faster. Strangely, when I reached the
summit there was no summit sign even though this summit was a little higher
than Antelope Summit.
From the summit I
could see Eagle Lake about 10 miles in the distance. There was a fast descent where I hit 40 mph
and then 5 miles of flat riding to reach the northern end of the lake where
there was camping. There was a USFS
campground near the entrance but I continued on because there was supposed to
be a restaurant about a mile further. I
found it but it was closed. It wasn't
clear if it had just closed for the season or had been closed for a while.
So I return to
the USFS campground where my senior pass got me a site for $4, a good
deal. This was also an opportunity to
eat into my food stash and lighten my load a little. There was only one other camper in the
campground in addition to the hosts. I
picked a spot that was close to the restrooms and water and set up.
This was a fairly
hard and long day at 80 miles with two significant climbs.
Day 3: Wed, Sep 04, 2013 – Eagle Lake, CA to Bieber,
CA [51.4, 4:49:47, 10.6 mph,
I was packed up
and gone by 8 am. The road immediately
started climbing, about 600 feet in 5 miles.
There was almost no traffic on the road, about one vehicle every 5
minutes. The climb was followed by a
descent and then another climb after passing through a wide valley with
cattle. This was followed by a long
descent of 1500 feet over 20 miles.
About half way
along the descent there was road construction and a single lane road. I stopped and a flagman asked me a little
about my trip. He then noted that the
big upcoming Aden
Pass climb could be
avoided by taking A2 to Bieber and then riding Lookout Road north where it rejoined
CA139. My goal for the day was a
campground just north of Canby and there was a climb just after that campground
which this detour also avoided. The big
problem was I had no idea if any water or camping was available along the 35
miles of Lookout Road
so I was leery of this detour.
After the pilot
truck took us through the construction area I continued the nice descent and
continued to mull over this detour. When
I got to the A2 turnoff I decided to continue on. Then I changed my mind and retraced about 3
miles, somewhat harder than I expected since it climbed a little and it was
into a headwind. My rationale for the
detour was that I didn't have to continue on when I reached Bieber. I started thinking it might be nice to have a
It was 11 miles
to Bieber on another relatively traffic free road. Bieber was a town of 500 that had a small
cafe and a motel. I hadn't eaten since
breakfast so I chowed down a double-cheesburger and fries. Next door was a Visitor
Center where I got some more
information including a suggestion I could detour again when I got back to
CA139 and ride to Lava
Monument where there was a campground. Decisions, decisions.
I checked in at
the motel with a room for $51 that included WiFi although the first room was
marginal so I got moved closer to the office with a better WiFi signal. When I cleaned up I also rinsed out my riding
clothes and then took them outside to hang.
With the sun and the wind I figured everything would be dry within a
couple of hours. I hung my clothes in
back of the motel where I figured they wouldn't be an eye sore but the
proprietress saw me hanging the clothes and had a snit. She said there were hangers in the closet for
hanging. I noted the wet clothes would
drip on the carpet. She replied in
exasperation that I could hang them in the bathroom. In a snit myself, I hung them in the closet
and let them drip on the carpet.
Then I used the
WiFi to check my email for the first time since the first night in Reno. However, I discovered the first night I
couldn't actually access my email. I
figured it was a problem with WideOpenWest, my service provider. However, I found the same problem today. I discovered I didn't have cell phone access
so I couldn't call WideOpenWest. Later I
googled the error message I got and someone suggested that clearing out the
browser cache could fix this and it did.
After email I did
some more route research. Trouble was
there wasn't a whole lot of accommodation options the rest of the way to Klamath Falls. I also was on target to make Crater Lake just in time for the weekend when I would
have preferred avoiding the weekend.
That started making the next detour to Lava Beds National Monument more attractive as a
delaying technique but it didn't do a lot to solve the accommodation issue.
Later I went back
to the cafe across the street for a sandwich.
At the same time I grabbed my wet clothes and hung them on iron posts
along the road where I could see them from the cafe. They were there for about an hour and mostly
dry by the time I returned to the motel.
I was pretty
tired by the time I rode into Bieber, maybe because I hadn't eaten since
breakfast, and a shorter day was probably a good idea. It also gave me the opportunity to research
some more travel options for the next few days.
One of the
problems with my rib injury from a month ago was that it made sneezing out of
the question. I did it once a week after
the injury and nearly died so I was loathe to sneeze again. However, sooner or later I had to take a
chance that I was healed enough to sneeze again. So today I tried sneezing again and I did so
without pain. I enjoyed it so much I
sneezed a couple times again later in the day.
Day 4: Thu, Sep 05, 2013 - Bieber,
CA to Lava Beds Natl Mon, CA
[63.1, 6:25:22, 9.8 mph, 2,382']
I wasn't in a
hurry to get up because the cafe didn't open until 8 am. I packed up and got to the cafe about 10
minutes early hoping that would entice them to open early and they did. I had their pancakes which were fine. On my way out of town I stopped at a combined
service station, grocery store, feed store, and lumber store, typical for a
small town. I picked up some cereal and
bear claws and was shocked they cost almost $10 but you sometimes have to take
what you can get because you don't always find the selection you want.
I took the Lookout Road north. It was supposed to be 35 miles to CA139 but
it was a couple miles shorter than that.
This was a nice ride through some ranching territory and then the Modoc National
Forest. It was a climb of 600 feet but that was
hardly noticeable because it was gradual.
I saw there were a number of places I could have camped since it was a
national forest but I didn't see any water except for one small, dirty looking
Close to 11 I
stopped by the side of the road and had my second breakfast. Along the way I spotted a cowboy on his horse
apparently trying to round up some of his cattle. Two of them tried to cross the road and he
herded them back and then rode up the road a bit. A few minutes later two cattle crossed the
road, looking like the two who had tried to cross earlier. I also saw a couple of deer ready to cross the
road until they saw me and then watched me warily as I rode by,
There was little
traffic on this road so it didn't need a shoulder. There were 2 empty logging trucks heading
north and later three logging trucks with a load.
When I reach
CA139 again I was surprised to find a 3 foot shoulder whereas yesterday there
was nothing. I rode 12 miles and then
took the turnoff to Tionesta and Lava
Tionesta was just a place with a couple of RV parks and a small store
where I stopped for a cold drink. The
lady in the store was from LA and had moved there 17 years ago, enjoying the
quiet of the area.
The road to the
monument was not the greatest. It had
cracks across the road and in a few places the road was chewed up badly. I had some headwind and a little climbing
that made for slow going at times. When
I reached the monument entrance I had about 400 feet of climbing to get to the Visitor Center.
Just before the center was the turnoff to the campground and I saw two
bicycle tourists turning down the road.
I continued to the center and paid my entry fee - $10 with my senior
When I rode to
the campground there were two loops and I looked for the cyclists. I found them in the second loop and learned
they were a Dutch couple who were cycling from Anchorage,
Alaska to San Francisco. They were continuing on a route that I had
done some parts and was able to give some suggestions. In particular I was able to advise them there
was a motel in Bieber and that they would want to take the Lookout Road. They were also hoping to ride Tioga Pass
into Yosemite and were aware of the problem
with a forest fire.
Day 5: Fri, Sep 06, 2013 - Lava Beds National Monument,
CA to Hagelstein
County Park, OR
[61.6, 6:27:14, 9.5 mph, 1,526']
The Dutch couple
were early risers as was I. I packed up
and ate and then walked to their site to say good-bye. I warned them about the difficulty of getting
a Yosemite campsite, which was news to them,
although with the fire this year their chances were probably somewhat
better. They took off and I left shortly
after, around 7:30.
monument was more interesting than arriving.
There were a number of exhibits along the road that I checked out. Leaving the park also was a descent, giving
up the altitude claimed yesterday by entering the park.
monument I entered the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I rode along Sheepy Ridge on my left and Tule Lake
on my right. Tule Lake
attracted a lot of birds. I followed two
white cranes as they kept leapfrogging me, letting me get close and then flying
a little further ahead. This repeated 3
or 4 times. I also raced a chipmunk
along the side of the road before he realized he wasn't winning and he dove
into the bushes.
As I continued
riding a car pulled up and slowed. Then
the passenger asked whether I might have left a cell phone charger at the
campground but I hadn't and they rode on.
After they left I thought about the Dutch couple so I called Lava Beds
and clued them in that the Dutch couple was planning to stay in the motel in
Bieber and maybe someone could check with them there. I was surprised that I was able to make this
call this because I wasn't sure I would have cell coverage.
After 24 miles I
reached State Line Road,
the boundary between California and Oregon. I jogged left and then turned right to ride 2
miles on a road that intersected with OR39 which had been CA139. This road had a pretty miserable shoulder
that was cracked up and broken up but it was only 2 miles to Merrill where I
stopped. I was hoping to get breakfast
at 11 am and I lucked out with a cafe that served breakfast all day but I
couldn't get any pancakes or waffles. So
I had an omelette and a good breakfast.
When I left town
OR39 suddenly had a nice 3-4 foot wide shoulder and I needed it as there was a
fair amount of traffic, easily the most traffic so far on this trip. Then when I got within 9 miles of Klamath Falls the shoulder
narrowed and riding became a bit dicey.
The Dutch couple
had clued me in that there was a bike trail into Klamath Falls. So when I saw the OC&E trail I guessed
that was it although there was no sign about where this trail went. However, I passed a woman walking her dog and
she assured me this went into town.
Later I met another cyclist who gave me some details on how to get
downtown from the trail. When he was
turning off the trail he reiterated how to proceed. But when I told him I was on my way to Crater
Lake he strongly suggested I go up the west side of the Upper
Klamath Lake. Before the
trip I had done some research and gotten some bad reviews about the west side route
but this guy didn’t believe that. He
also mentioned a camping spot along the west side that sounded attractive. He gave me a lot of directions on how to get
to the west side, too much in fact, but the best thing was he got me going in
the direction of a Visitor
Center. I stumbled around and was able to find the Visitor Center.
There I learned it was about a 1,000 foot climb to get to the west side
and maybe 20 miles to the campground.
That was too much for the time left in the day so I scuttled that idea
and proceeded up US97.
Center gal was a bit challenged for giving directions, telling me this
campground on the west side was 30 minutes while I stared at her wearing my
bicycle helmet. And she had no clue how
far that might actually be so I could gauge what it would be on a bike. She did alert me to the Hagelstein County
Park for camping along
US97. But she told me to look for it
when I started riding towards some big hills and that if I started riding along
the lake I had gone too far. So when I
was riding towards some big hills I didn't see any county park and then I
started riding along the lake.
Fortunately, a map I got at the Visitor Center
said it was 16 miles to this park and I knew I hadn’t gone 16 miles and I
continued riding on. Eventually as I was
riding toward some more big hills there was a sign for the park and I stopped
There were two
negatives about this park – it was next to the busy US97 and it had no drinking
water. But I had stopped for a big drink
at a food mart earlier and had 4 full water bottles so I figured I was okay.
The park wasn't
much but it had a great fee - $0. It was
also about 10 feet below the level of the road and that helped mitigate the
noise somewhat. It had a small lagoon
and a spot that was just deep enough for me to jump in and clean up – quickly
as the water was pretty cold. Then I ate
and settled in for the night.
Denis Kertz, 2013. All rights reserved.