This was one of those days when we had to get from A to B, and hoped that there would be something memorable on the way to keep us interested. All cycling trips have these days, and despite low expectations we sometimes find they are the most memorable.
It was hard to leave Wayne and Cheryl’s fantastic hospitality. After several cups of reviving coffee we got on the road about 8, wanting to get as much done before the heat of the day hit us. The first 10 miles were almost all downhill as we dropped to the river below Pine Flat Reservoir. Piedra is at about 600 feet but we may have missed the heart of this major conurbation (or perhaps we saw all there was to see. However it did not detain us long and, after crossing the river we climbed back up the other side towards the reservoir.
The route took us through Wonder Valley which consisted of gentle rolling hills and large hacienda type of houses. This looked the place to live if you had “made it” in Fresno, the largest nearby city. Perhaps we did not see it at the best time of year because it was dusty at the end of an exceptionally dry summer, but we could imagine how delightful the area must be after a shower of rain or in the spring.
The road carried on and then presented us with a really tough (Monitor Pass type steep and tough) 1250 feet climb. This climb was not for the feint hearted which was a bit of a shame as we felt sort of feint hearted as we progressed upwards at our usual slow pace. The top gave us views down the dusty valley, and we pressed on towards the wondefully named village of Squaw Valley.
The heart of Squaw Valley was the petrol station and general store, which had just about everything for sale including internet (which was free)! We shopped for food for this evening and then my mother popped up as calling us on Skype. It was 11am our time and about 8pm in her time. So I stood with my tiny computer on the boxes of washing powder and spoke to Mum 6000 miles away, all at no cost. A very strange experience but all seems to be going well at home.
After Squaw Valley (and following instructions from the helpful lady who ran the universe that was the Squaw Valley General Store) we were aiming for a cafe for breakfast/lunch at Clingan’s Junction, another 5 miles on. The road dipped down and then started to climb (we were at about 1500 feet at lowest). It looked a really nice roadside cafe – but was closed on Tuesdays. This was, of course, a Tuesday. So we ate bread and cheese, drank water and contemplated the 2500 ft climb that faced us that afternoon.
The climb up to Pinehurst was tough but that may be because I was having a bit of an off day, felt the heat get to me and felt that the scenery was not that interesting. It was dry, dusty and in the 90s, and we got through a pile of water, stopping to refill our bottles from helpful places we passed on the way.
Eventually we got to the turn, and were just 0.6 miles from our destination, Linn Gassaway’s house. She was our warmshowers host even though she had no running water – great hospitality. It was lovely to meet Linn, who was furloughed at the moment because she was an archeologist working for the National Park Service. For those reading from England the word “furlough” appears to mean to lay off a worker due to the government shutdown. Pretty frustrating for all concerned! I celebrated our arrival by going to sleep for an hour – very unusual but I felt much better afterwards.
Linn cooked some delicious chicken and then we took Linn out of a drink. It was fascinating talking to her about the balance between Spanish speaking and English speaking groups in the southern States. After all Texas, New Mexico and California were formerly parts of what is now Mexico and we learned that when they were absorbed into the United States (by force or otherwise) the land grants remained largely intact. This meant that Spanish speaking families remained (and remain) as substantial landowners in all of these states. That, and lots of other fascinating things, were new to us and shows what a complex melting pot the United States is and has always been.