Back on July 14th, I had the opportunity to guide a cycling photoshoot of Lake Tahoe for German magazine, RoadBike (http://www.roadbike.de/). They were in the area to explore and take photos for a story on Lake Tahoe as a bicycle travel destination. When the Nevada Commission on Tourism presented me with the idea of being the guide for this, I wasn’t sure what to say. Although I do love road bikes, I don’t have the time to ride them as much as I’d like with all the mountain biking I do. I don’t have much in the way of roadie looking clothes, and I don’t shave my legs either. I mulled it over. I’ve led many a friend up into the surrounding mountains, and all have returned alive and mostly undamaged. I like to take photos, I love bicycles, and I’ve lived in the area my whole life, so I figured why not me? I decided to take the job.
I arrived up at the Mont Bleu Hotel Casino at Stateline on what was shaping up to be a fine morning. I was supposed to call upon my arrival, so I got my phone out and punched in that long international number. “I’m sorry, but you’re not allowed to dial this number from this line.” Great! Prompt German efficiency was about to meet lackadaisical Carson City bumpkin. I rode around the parking lot for a bit, hoping I’d catch someone’s eye, but then thankfully my phone rang, and they were just around the corner in front of the casino.
When I pulled around front, I found writer for the magazine Felix Krakow, and freelance photographer Björn Hänssler waiting patiently for me. Thankfully they were distracted by one of the many large bike sculptures erected for the Lake Tahoe Tour of California stage (that almost happened). As Felix was climbing up onto the giant bike for some silly photos, the nervousness melted away, and I knew it was going to be a fun day. And in addition to me being the guide for the day, I was to appear in almost all of the photos.
After we made our introductions, I was surprised to hear how well these two Germans spoke English. They spoke better English than many Americans I hear on a daily basis. I think I was expecting to hear thick accents as well, something similar to what you might hear in an Indiana Jones movie. The accents were very subtle though. Someone from Alabama or New England would have been more noticeable. I heard plenty of German throughout the day though, and usually when Björn wanted Felix to know exactly how he wanted the next shot to go. Things just sound more authoritative in German.
The east side of the Lake was still mostly in the morning shadows, so we loaded up the van, and headed around the south side of the lake to Emerald Bay. We didn’t ride from place to place, but we did get a fair deal of riding in at each location. We spent a lot of time riding up the climbs and and bombing down the corners around Emerald Bay, each time Björn having us try something different.
I feel that I take some pretty decent photos, but I wouldn’t go as far as to title myself a photographer. Björn was a pro. He had some really good ideas, and was not a bit afraid to get into a good position to shoot, no matter how dangerous it was. “Maybe I could climb that tree…”, he’d say, and many a cliff was scaled to get a good position above the bikes that included panoramic scenes of Lake Tahoe. Sitting on the shoulder as giant RVs skimmed me was far less scary than watching him climb the loose rocky shale to dig his heels in on a precipice above the road. Sometimes I couldn’t even watch.
After getting great shots at Emerald Bay, we drove north to the area around Kaspian Campground, just south of Tahoe City. The road and bike path come very close to the road here, and in the case of the bike path, just inches. Before hitting the bike path, we spent some time on a private dock. Björn wanted some shots of Felix and I relaxing and taking a break from our grueling trek around the lake, including soaking our tired bare feet in the water. A guy had just got done telling us that the water was 10 degrees cooler than it normally is this time of year due to the extended snow. The water was freezing! Felix and I were just about in tears by the time Björn was done taking all his shots. I have a new respect for models now. It’s not as easy as you may think.
Next we got several shots on the bike path where it brushes the shore of the lake. Björn had Felix and I racing up the path, and each time we were supposed to get closer together and further to the right. I was sure we were going to lock bars and go flying over the rock embankment, but we finally got it right!
It was approaching noon, and it was time to take a break. We were starving, but more importantly, the light wasn’t ideal for photography. This was funny to me, because high noon is when I take most of my cycling pictures. Not by choice really, but it’s when I usually get a break to ride. We drove through Tahoe City, and Felix finally picked Rosie’s Cafe. His bike senses must have been tingling, because inside we found the restaurant decorated with all sorts of old bikes! We had a good lunch, but were actually still at work. Björn wanted to get photos of us enjoying some Sierra NV Pale Ale and eating large portions of American fare.
After lunch, the sun was in the right position again, and the next stop was the Mount Rose Summit for some mountain shots. As we rode back and forth across the summit for photos, I wondered if passersby thought I was heroic for scaling the 8,900 foot high mountain pass on my bicycle. In reality though, I still had a full water bottle, and not a drop of sweat on my brow. Our little secret. We hit a couple more spots for photos on the way down. Björn drove the van, while Felix and I got to descend on our bikes. There was a bit of a headwind, but we still managed speeds close to 40 mph for a fun descent.
The Germans were interested in visiting the Ponderosa Ranch, the movie set from the old TV series Bonanza. This surprised me, because the show officially ended in 1973, and the ranch has been closed as a tourist destination for so long that I almost forgot about it. The show must have really made a world-wide impact! We hiked down to the entrance, but were stopped when we got to the end of the parking lot. Cameras, double rows of fencing, and spiked gates surrounded the mock town. Whatever is left in there, they don’t want you looking at it. We moved on to the Sand Harbor area instead for the next series of photographs. This was the most dangerous spot for photos, since the traffic is fairly fast, and the road is twisty which prevented the motorists from seeing us until the very last second. This area will be a lot nicer when the Stateline to Stateline off-highway bikeway is completed sometime in the future.
We finished off our photoshoot with some pictures at Cave Rock. Thankfully Björn was not insistent that Felix and I ride the tunnels. We instead rode on the south side of the massive rock, using it as a backdrop. We finally loaded the van one last time and returned to the Mont Bleu where we parted ways. The Germans had a long day ahead of them on Friday, first driving to San Francisco, then flying non-stop back to Hamburg.
In the end I think we got some great photos for the magazine that will really show off our beautiful area and encourage international cycling tourism. The article will be in the magazine later this year, or possibly as late as next year. It was also great to meet these two guys, and it’s my hope they come out again soon for some more riding. Maybe even a mountain bike tour of Lake Tahoe!