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Day 2: The Suffering Begins (Folsom to Somewhere in the Mountains) 6/2/21

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

Day 1 wasn't too bad all considering. Despite being my first century (my longest previous ride was about 40 miles), having a loaded bike, and the heat, my legs felt pretty good the next day. However, for the previous week I was only getting about 4-5 hours of sleep per night due to working on getting my gear and website setup. That lack of sleep caught up to me and I ended up getting a late start for day 2, at around 11:30 AM.

My original plan was to try to make it from Folsom up to Placerville and then take the Mormon Emigrant Trail to Highway 88 and then branch to 89 to Tahoe. There, I would meet my family at our relatives' cabin (thank you, Uncle Matt and Aunt Tersa!) where I could rest for a few days before a final sendoff into Nevada's heat. That didn't happen.

With the late start I knew I wasn't going to make it to Tahoe, so I planned to ride to the beginning of Mormon Emigrant and then continue if I was feeling up to it. I heard it was 28 miles of pure uphill and I was hopeful I could take a good chunk out of that ride today and save some effort tomorrow.

While my legs were feeling surprisingly good, that did little to detract from the blistering heat I would be riding in for the next 8 hours. One thing I realized very quickly is that it is far easier to travel long miles on flat road than on a hill. In my first day, I had around 2,500 total feet of climbing, but all the hills were small with long flats between to take breaks on and I barely noticed the climb. Day 2 had me tired as soon as I hit the foothills. The biggest factor being the extra weight I'm carrying on my bike with camping gear and supplies. Normally, I love climbing, it makes up a substantial portion of my personality. I'm the guy that climbs. I did not want to be the guy that climbs today... And there's more in store for tomorrow. In total I climbed over 7,000 feet today while my cycling computer picked up a scorching daily high of 124 degrees (wtf??). The computer is in the sun all day and heat is reflected off of the black asphalt, so it never reached that temperature in the air, but the issue is I am in the same conditions the computer is in...

This day made me quickly realize two things. I need more water storage and I want a lighter carrying weight on the bike. However, I knew I wouldn't be able to fix those issues until I made it to Tahoe, so I plowed on.

When I arrived at Kingsville, a town so small my cycling route didn't give it a name, my route provided to me by last night's host (Paul) took me off the road and up a dirt trail. Honestly, I was a little worried. I did not want to be making any detours that would cause me to stay out in the heat longer than necessary, but I decided to trust Paul and I am so thankful I did. Quickly, the dirt road led to the El Dorado Bike Path which took me the next 15 miles under plenty of tree cover to Camino. Without that trail, today would have been pretty miserable.

Instead, I was treated to what seemed to be a brand new trail without a single person on it. I didn't see anyone until I was in Placerville itself, and even then it was only walkers. The only sign that I wasn't the first person to use the trail was on a bridge that comes out of nowhere. The bridge is over 100 feet high and spans a gorge in what had been gentle rolling bike path for miles beforehand. In the middle of the bridge people had attached hundreds of locks, similar to the bridge in Paris. Evidently, it was too hot today for me to encounter anyone out to add to the bridge's collection.

And here's another photo to show the length of the bridge. Where I am is in the middle so there's an entire half not in the frame!

After the bridge, I returned to miles of deserted bike path until it eventually turned into dirt. Reading about the trail, it is a part of the Rails to Trails project, which, as its name aptly implies, turns abandoned railroad tracks into trails for public use. I had known about the work being done by Rails to Trails before heading out across the US, but I must have missed the El Dorado Trail because I thought I wouldn’t encounter them until Nebraska! I wish I had got more photos of me on the trail in retrospect as our family fiend, Laura, is involved in the project and gave me some great gifts before I left, including a Rails to Trails shirt!

At Cedar Grove, I picked up two cans of soup and broke away from the El Dorado trail as the rest has yet to be converted to asphalt. At this point, I was really struggling. I was only about 30 miles from Folsom, but the climbing combined with the heat was proving to be very difficult and I would sit and rest fairly often. I was also going through my water supply rapidly and sweating a ton. While I ate lunch at a McDonalds (the first time of many as I have $150 in gift cards thanks to my Aunt Peggy) I was losing a lot more salt than I was able to take on. Additionally, due to COVID, McDonalds would not refill my water bottles. They did give me a big glass of water, but with people waiting in line I didn’t want to go back and forth having them refill the cup for me since all the self-serve drinks are shut off, again, due to COVID. I decided to take what I could from that one cup and push on. As I’m fully vaccinated, I‘m hoping as I get further into the US, other restaurants will care less about COVID and water access will be easier... I did manage to get my bike into the McDonalds bathroom though!

I finally made it to Sly Park Reservoir, where I knew there would be water and camping should I be too tired to continue. It was around 6:00 PM at this point, but there was still plenty of light. After I crossed the dam, I came to a sign I wasn’t too fond of. ”No services next 31 miles” and it was also 67 miles left to South Lake Tahoe. I hadn’t collected water at Sly Park because I thought I would have another opportunity further on before I hit this sign. Not wanting to retrace my steps I decided to press on and hope I found a river crossing under the road before too long. That was a mistake and I won’t be missing any more chances at water refills for the trip...

By 8:00 PM that evening I had not found any more water, and I was already using my last bottle despite trying to ration my water. Since it was getting dark and I was now only riding for 5 minutes before being forced to stop for 5 minutes and wait for my cramping legs to recover before repeating the process, I decided to camp in the middle of an old logging road off the side of the highway.

Immediately, I was surrounded by a swarm of mosquitoes worse than I’ve ever dealt with before. I assembled my tent as quick as I could and took shelter within, hoping that once it got dark they would go away. While I waited, I enjoyed two cans of cold soup. At the time, cold soup sounded more appealing than hot soup, and I wasn't going outside my tent into the mosquito horde to get my stove, which was still on my bike.

Eventually, it got dark and I knew I needed to go out to remove the empty food cans from my tent so a bear didn‘t bust in during the night. While I had the energy to do that much, I was so spent and dehydrated I didn’t have it in me to hang my food in the dark while surrounded by mosquitos, so I simply placed it off the ground in some trees about 300 feet from my tent and quickly returned to shelter just hoping no bear would come...

Lo and behold, a bear came...

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