I catch my first glimpse of blue from CA 267 and I pump my fist in victory. I don’t know if it’s from hearing my friend’s close held childhood memories about the area, or the fact that it is a landmark of the west still unknown to me, but I’ve been wanting to ride to Lake Tahoe for years. At long last, I have arrived!
|This really wasn't my first view, but it felt just as grand!|
The fly in the ointment is that I’m rolling in at the start of the weekend and, having been away from reliable internet for too many days, have no camping reservation. Between my earlier experiences with “Campground Full” signs in CA, and the fact that more than one person raised an eyebrow upon hearing I planned to camp at Tahoe tonight without a reservation, I should feel lucky I’ve nabbed a spot only a few steps from the lake’s edge. While Tahoe State Recreation Area is not the loveliest of campgrounds, there are countless diversions for me to pass the time between the moment my bike is safely parked before sunset and the time my head hits the stuff sack. I can have an actual shower for the low, low price of 50 cents, watch the setting sun cast its colors on the mountains across the lake, dabble my feet in the cool waters of the Truckee River, watch ducklings catch a ride on momma’s back, find myself surrounded, at close range, by well over 50 Canada geese, access the 150 mile Tahoe Rim trail, and (how often does this happen?), later tonight, have just about anything I can imagine to eat (and drink!) all a few steps from my tent. Tonight is a night of urban camping, and although it’s not my usual choice, it can occasionally be a welcome change from a cold granola dinner in the middle of the forest. And while I enjoy the rhythm of rolling until mid-afternoon and hiking until sundown, tonight, my frustration with my inability to ride at night, usually a background grumble, chooses to surface to the forefront with a ferocity that takes me by surprise.
|Mom gives her ducklings a ride in the Truckee River.|
To those of you who would say “Oh, just this once” or “It’s only a few miles,” I invite you to squint such that your eyelids are open no more than a atom’s width. Really. Got it? Now, ride your motorcycle (or bicycle, or whatever) just this once, or just for a few miles. What'? You can only see 10 feet in front of you? Kind of-sort of-ish? Now you get it. Because that’s pretty much what I’m working with. Even deep shade disorients me. After dropping my bike in a familiar but dimly lit parking garage, unable to judge the turn into my space, I now know to stop, plant feet (I have to guess when to actually take my feet off the pegs, because I can’t really judge my speed when I’m coming to a stop), and paddle my way to safety. Tunnels are no better, and as soon as I enter one, I am floating ten feet above my ride, no longer in contact with the road, or having any understanding of where my body (or motorcycle) is in space. My eyes cling to the light at the end if I am, indeed lucky enough to be able to see it, or, perhaps, to the brake lights in front of me if there are some. I am suddenly proverbially and literally religious. If you can now grasp the terror I have at being stranded after nightfall, perhaps now you understand why I opted to grab the first available campsite today, no matter what. Whenever the topic arises in casual conversation with other riders, they always nod in agreement. “I never ride at night.” And then, “Unless I can’t find a hotel, or I’m out for a late dinner.” How nice to be able to make exceptions! For me there are none. Period. A few days ago, I met a fellow rider who did, in fact, get it. “I never ride without a tent. It’s just too damn terrifying.” I can’t tell you how validating it was to hear that. To date, ophthalmologists offer a shrug, but no real assistance. Perhaps my eyes are dry. That is about as ludicrous as offering a starving child in Africa an oyster cracker for lunch. Or a slight adjustment in my prescription? Laughable. “Huh,” the last one said. “You lose depth perception, too? Interesting.”
|The "Tahoe Gal."|
While I generally make peace with this handicap, tonight I can not seem to manage it. I’m all too aware that while I can enjoy the benefits of my current accommodations, I am practically without free will in choosing them. My riding plans have me staying in the Tahoe area for three nights, and although I typically dislike the process of campsite “shopping,” today, for a change, I would like to scope out the various campgrounds before selecting one. Quite simply, I am more than annoyed it’s not an option. In fact, I am so worried about not finding a site I not only pull into the first campground with vacancy, I feel I must grab the first available site without a preliminary survey loop, lest I be punished for my selectiveness. Tomorrow the hunt will begin again, because I am only allowed one night as a walk-in camper at my current location.
I am mad that my inability to ride at night seems to dictate my every move and that, despite the diversions I enjoy, they simply cover up the fact that I am, quite plainly, marooned until sunrise. I might be in the Garden of Eden, but even so, I'm stuck there. And if it's a creep-out campground, well I'm stuck there, too. It’s not unusual for me to ride 400 miles with nothing more than one glove gas stops, (no time to take off the second glove!), to ensure I arrive at my destination in a timely fashion.
|I am surrounded on all sides.|
|If you've ever seen a goose on the attack, neck poised at a threatening angle, you know to be wary.|
|Between my experiences at animal rescues, and the old video of my childhood dog being chased on a slippy slidey frozen pond - well, I know!|
Long after nightfall, I look down at my meal at Rosie’s Cafe and chuckle to myself at the absurdity of my complaint. I should be here drinking this wine and eating this pizza not because I have to, but because I want to!