It was getting close to 9:30 in the evening and we were having
a wonderful time. We had long ago finished dinner and dessert with
Bob Casagranda and his wife, Pat, and were in the process of telling
just one more story. Bob and I had been in the Navy together, forty
years ago where we served aboard the USS Walton. We had not seen
each other since. You would never have known it from the conversation.
It was like he had just come back to the ship from liberty and we
were telling stories from the beach.
This was a perfect ending to a perfect day. Thirteen hours before,
Linda and I had started our 11,000-mile "retirement" trip
around the U.S from Santa Clara, CA (photo 1). We had wanted
to take a scenic road that we hadn't been on in a while and one
that would be fun on a motorcycle. With that in mind, we took SR
4 East from IS 99, riding through some fine scenery in the process,
to SR 89, where we turned north towards Lake Tahoe. It had been
a grand ride and a fine choice.
Hwy 4 East heads out through the San Joaquin valley and is pretty
standard central valley fare until you get to Calaveras County where
the farm country starts to give way to the Sierra foothills and
you enter the Gold Country. It's called the Gold Country because
during the 1850's, every Tom, Dick, and Mark Twain who wanted to
get rich, and that was a goodly number, covered these small towns
and streams, looking for the precious yellow metal. Most went broke,
many stayed, and California became richer for their efforts. Our
first stop was Angel's Camp, the site of Mark Twain's story about
the jumping frog contest. If you haven't read it, do so, and I won't
give away the ending.
We pulled into Angel's Camp just about noon and decided to get
some lunch and see some of the historical sites (photos 2, 3,
& 4). Right off you notice that this little town is trying
to hang on to its history and have laid brass "frog" inlays
into the town sidewalks (photo 5). This one is of the 1939
winner, but the various years' winners are mixed all along the street.
We found a local café with the not-so-original name of Gold
Frog, which happened to be located in the old bank (photo 6),
which was a pretty original idea. I don't think I've ever eaten
in a bank before. After lunch, we noticed a nice red roadster conversion
(photo 7) across the street, which seemed to be part of a number
of old cars that were in town.
Hwy 4 takes you through Murphy, another historical town for many
of the same reasons as Angel's Camp, and then you get into some
serious riding country (photos 8 & 9). There are a host
of high-speed sweepers located in the middle of some of California's
celebrated granite mountain scenery; the day was off to a great
When you're out on local backroads, it's not unusual to see lots
of Harleys, since they are America's favorite. Today, we kept passing
BMW's of one flavor or another coming at us. There were enough of
them for me to wonder what was driving them west. Linda reminded
me that BMW had a rally this weekend in Tahoe. From the looks of
it, they had a good turnout.
Somewhere above Murphy, the road narrowed as it started past several
small mountain lakes. We pulled into a day use area at Alpine Lake
for something to drink and met several other bikers or wanna-be
bikers. One of the nice things about riding a motorcycle across
country is the people you meet. After telling our story and getting
encouragement from our new acquaintances we continued east where
the speed limit got slower while the scenery got even better. We
continued to climb towards Ebbett's Pass at 8730 feet, exchanging
one spectacular view for another. The Sierra's hold a host of small
lakes, scattered like so much jewelry around the high country (photos
10 & 11).
I had allotted about four hours to get to Tahoe, but SR 4 turned
out to be much slower than I remembered. We finally reached the
junction of SR 4 and SR 89 and turned toward tonight's lodging.
Bob and Pat were waiting for our call at their home in Carson City,
NV so they could join us for dinner. SR 89 takes you around the
western side of Lake Tahoe, and this means some great views of the
crown jewel itself. I stopped for a shot of Emerald Bay and the
surrounding countryside (photos 12 & 13). What a great
A little after five, we pulled into the Cottage Inn, a place of
rustic cabins located on the shores of Lake Tahoe just south of
Tahoe City (photos 14 & 15). A night at the Cottage Inn
was special because it was a gift to Linda from her friends and
colleagues when she retired in February of 2002. We were just now
getting to use it. What a great way to spend our first night on
After a quick call, Bob and Pat came racing over the mountain to
join us and in the process, got a ticket for speeding. This was
the beginning of an expensive night for Bob. Not only did he get
a ticket, but he grabbed the tab for dinner as well. What a shipmate.
Thanks Bob & Pat (photo 16).
After our new, old friends left, we sat and grinned and asked,
"Can it get much better than this?" I don't think so,
but we're going to try. We've still got about 60 days to go.
Leave Santa Clara, CA on local roads to IS680N
to IS580E. IS580E to SR120E to IS99N to SR4E. SR4E to SR89N to Tahoe