The tree pollen has landed. Literally. Within the past few days, every pine tree in the region appears to be dropping its pollen simultaneously, leaving cars, driveways and sleeping dogs covered in a pale green film. If a breeze kicks up it means green clouds in the street, which is fun to watch if you’re in the confines of a car or house with closed window. Less so if you’re riding your bike through it.
On top of this pollen, a heat wave of sorts has hit South Lake Tahoe, with temps well into the 80s. With few homes in the area with air conditioning, this means that keeping the windows closed to keep the pollen out is simply not an option. Pollen vs. heat – it’s really a case of the lesser of two evils. So I keep the windows open and accept that I’m miserable and can’t breathe.
Yesterday I tried to beat the ridiculous heat and left the house early to ride uphill. While I felt pretty feeble and slow on the climb, I did have the satisfaction of passing 2 guys (one my age) on the ride down. Admittedly they appeared to be more of the roadie types (local road cycling club spandex tops, obvious discomfort on the sandy bits), but still – I passed them and made them eat my dust!!
I may suck horribly riding uphill, but my downhill skills have to be improving. Think of the possibilities once the pollen goes away!
So with the regular mountain biking I’ve been doing, I was feeling pretty good about my ability to keep up with others. Until this evening. I was invited to ride up Roundabout, a beginner trail at Heavenly with a neighbor and some of her friends to see the sunset. It’s a standing Friday night ride, and everyone rides at their own pace up the sandy fireroad to the top of Heavenly’s Groove chair. It’s a little over 1,700 feet of climbing from the Heavenly parking lot within a few painfully long miles. The views at the top are stunning. But the slog to get to it is akin to carrying stones up steep, sandy hills with every step forward resulting in two steps back. And it didn’t help that every single person in tonight’s ride is a ski instructor (at Heavenly, natch), which gives them magical powers riding up this grunt of a hill – I swear none of the broke a sweat and they were all singing the entire way up. I was dead last within 15 seconds, and I was definitely one of the youngest riders.
Truth be told the views on the climb up are breathtaking too, with more of Lake Tahoe visible around every switchback. The problem for me was that I was sweating so hard that I was essentially blinded for most of it. To top it off, I realized 3/4 of the way up that my hamstrings were screaming because I’d not extended my seat all the way – which for non-cyclists, is a sure way to crippling yourself.
The views at the top were lovely, and the descent was a fast fireroad of sand and hard switchbacks (yes, I was last on the downhill too. Call it a well-honed sense of self preservation, and a long-standing love affair with my brakes). But I realized that I am a singletrack aficionado, and while I’d climb that same elevation in a heartbeat on well-cut singletrack, I’m not so sure I’ll ride Roundabout again anytime soon.
But that might just be my sour grapes talking, seeing how I got smoked by a posse of ski instructors tonight.
I work next door to South Lake Tahoe’s only health food store, and over the years I’ve become friendly acquaintances with a number of people there, including Mike the baker and his wife Peggy. I always knew that they were outdoorsy folks, as we’ve chatted about skiing, mountain biking and the all-encompassing weather. What I didn’t know was that Peggy is a classically trained musician who plays in a string quartet both locally and in Reno. Mike mentioned she was playing locally this week, so last night we headed to the Rockwater, an Irish pub, to listen to classical music. While it seems incongruous, the owner is the cellist in the string quartet, and handily has a small stage in the bar area to accommodate their performance.
I’m not such a fan of greasy pub food, but the interesting wine list and the hand-pulled Guinness made up for the culinary disappointment.
Interestingly enough, the pub owner’s cello (circa late 1700’s) came from his father, who was a professional cellist in the UK who played back up on a few Beatles albums. Not something I’d ever expect in South Lake Tahoe, but those are the tidbits that make living in a small(ish) town so entertaining.
While gas prices have dropped substantially in the past few weeks, I’m still embracing the mindset of minimizing driving wherever possible, especially for non-necessary (read: fun) things. N too. Thus we’ve begun to look at mountain bike trails that don’t require us to drive to a trailhead, which is a seeming contradiction of terms, but was something we used to do more regularly.
Lucky for us, there’s an enormous network of access trails that lead to some of the rides we used to drive to. So it’s very easy for us to do a 3+ hour ride from our house, with minimal time on the pavement. Like this weekend’s adventure. N even did it on his single speed 29er hardtail, which still means he’s waiting for me, but now he actually *needs* to catch his breath. But he’s still core enough to ride a log. And jump whatever other rocks are in or near the trail.
My sense of self-preservation is stronger than his. And my balance far worse.
While I’m hoping that the snow comes soon enough to make these lower-elevation trails unrideable, I think we’ll have a few more weeks of access.
Despite rapidly rising gas prices, IT band issues that now prevent me from riding my bike and some family concerns that have had me on the edge this week, my life is so much better now that La Baguette has opened near my office. The owner, who used to run a fabulous brewery/restaurant up the road, is from Grenoble, so I knew that he’d know how to make a proper pain au raisin. The first bite brought back memories of summer in Chamonix, and immediately put a smile on my face.
He’s got a pretty decent assortment of patisserie, including the traditional croissants, turnovers and such, but also brioche, the typical ‘pizza’ (read: focaccia) I remember picking up at my local boulangerie, and a number of quiche and tartlets.
I’m already planning my next trip – this afternoon.
The local farmer’s market began last week and I finally made it there this morning. While the bounty of heirloom tomatoes (a big ‘feh’ to salmonella fears) hasn’t yet arrived, I did score some gorgeous cherries. This market has always had a decidedly keeping it real flavor, with primarily local fruit and vegetable vendors, though the odd cheese seller and baker has made an appearance. This year it seems the market’s taking it up a notch. There’s a fishmonger, the crepe stand, a hot dog vendor (at 8 am?), soap, Indian food and pottery. Something for everyone?