We’ve covered 3,653 miles so far on this trip and if all goes well, today I should reach the highly anticipated milestone of 3,699 miles — the length of our 2007 tour from New York to San Francisco. Curious to see what’s around that milepost.
But, alas, not today. First, I find good internet at the public library in Bishop and spend half the day blogging. I continue riding after lunch and quickly bump into the second obstacle. I had expected the ride along the eastern slope of the Sierras to be all relatively flat, around 4,000 feet elevation. But all of a sudden Hwy. 395 shoots up onto an unexpected mountain ridge that spurs east from the Sierra, significantly slowing me down. I reach Sherwin Pass, elevation 6,500 ft, after sunset as the temperature plummets. Masha says she passed me on the bus as I was standing there trying to quickly put on my warm clothes with my frozen, stiff hands. It’s amazing that just two days ago we were below sea level in 100-degree desert heat.
It’s almost dark by the time I reach Tom’s Place, a typical backcountry waystation like so many we’ve seen throughout the West: gas, store, restaurant, bar and rooms. Because it’s dark and unexpectedly cold, and there is nothing around for miles, I will stay here, just six miles short of my 3,699th mile.
There are a few patrons at the bar and I settle in for a beer or two. This turns into a long night with the friendly Mexican restaurant cooks Arturo, Luciano, and Fernando, and bartender Cookie. I impress the guys with my Spanish and we stay late buying each other rounds. How many rounds? Nobody kept count!
But the guys have to get up at 5 tomorrow, so eventually we call it a night. I put on my down jacket and take a long walk on the empty forest road before turning in at the “dorm” at Tom’s. The temperature has dropped below freezing. The night is starry, quiet, very peaceful.