Rather than party all night on New Year’s Eve, I took it easy and got a good night’s sleep. The real party was on New Year’s Day, and Jeff Potter was serving up another batch of his “Mixed Terrain Rides”. If you’re wondering what the ingredients are for this New Year’s Day concoction, it’s one part asphalt, one part slush, and just a splash of mud. Shaken, not stirred. Best served chilled and sipped slowly. Chased with cold, canned micro-brews.
Toby, Kary, Lester, and Jeff P rolled by my house on New Year’s morning, and then we headed north on the bike path, finally connecting to Goni Road. The skies were threatening us as we headed out of town, but nothing more than a mist had fallen all morning. Still, we had a lot of extra gear with us so that we’d be prepared for anything.
Goni Road is still asphalt for a ways up the canyon and then turns to packed and graded dirt. Big trucks and service vehicles normally use this road to access the mines and radio towers at the top of McClellan Peak, but the road was mostly deserted that day. It wasn’t long before the mud and snow crept onto the road, and then finally covered it altogether.
We lucked out with the precipitation. It stayed dry, and the temperature began to climb. While this was great for comfort, it made the snow increasingly hard to ride in. Traction for the remainder of the big climb was found in the little rivulets of melted snow and mud trickling down the middle of the road.
The climb ended about a half mile past the big switchback where the black volcanic strip mine is. It was getting pretty steep to climb in snow and mud, and we thought we might want to conserve our energy for the trek west. We could see the path ahead down below, and we were pretty sure we’d be walking. We lined up the bikes in the snow bank, and enjoyed the view of Washoe Valley to the northwest.
We descended about a mile the way he had come up. What looked to be a fast ride back down the hill turned out to be a squirrelly mess. Although the snow was only an inch deep, it felt like grease under the front tires. Some of us came off the bike a couple times, and our tracks snaked all around the road.
When we got back down to our turnoff, we were walking as we suspected. It wasn’t long before I gained full appreciation for my decision to go with flat pedals and waterproof hiking boots. Pushing my lightweight single speed up hill after hill wasn’t so bad when I had good traction and warm feet.
There was much walking over the next couple miles, and when we got to ride here and there it was a real treat. Every once in a while, someone would try to mount a bike and pedal, but they never made it too far. It was exhausting to flounder about, and so most of the time we just took it slow, enjoyed the snowy walk, and took in the views.
Near the end we got onto a road that a Snow Cat had packed down. At least it would’ve been packed down earlier in the day when it was colder. What looked to be a groomed race course was still very slick, but luckily we could ride much of it. Sometimes the snow would firm up, and it would coax us into going faster. All of a sudden, and without warning though, the front tire would turn and slide into a pocket of slush. After almost face planting in a sticker bush, I decided to keep it under control until down off the mountain.
When we finally saw East Lake Blvd down below, it looked welcoming like an airport runway on a turbulent flight. We switch-backed down the mountain, and touched down safely on the tarmac. One by one we got down off the mountain, and regrouped at the wetlands observatory of Washoe Lake State Park.
You might think that it was easy going from that point on, but my legs were pretty cooked. Getting up and over the summit of Lakeview burned the last of my energy, and I was ready for the long coast down Combs Canyon. We finished the ride with a visit to Lester’s garage saloon, complete with a comfortable old couch, crazy dogs, and a wide selection of canned brews from the Oskar Blues Brewery. What a great way to start the year!