Bishop – From Rags to Riches

We were famished when we came off the trail so it wasn’t a hard sell to talk me into going to Schat’s Roadhouse for lunch/dinner. Sally talks me into eating dead animal flesh a couple of times a year and this, she insisted, was the place to toss my scruples aside and have a burger. The youngster who took our order misunderstood our request for coleslaw INSTEAD of fries, so we got both. As you know, I can resist everything but temptation, so I ate them too. A certain amount of misery ensued as our overburdened digestive tract struggled to cope with the heavy food.

But, walking back to the room, we passed a gorgeous, nay opulent, hotel that had several outdoor seating areas strategically arranged along a clear stream, freshly descended from the Sierras. Since there were several unoccupied chairs, I suggested that we sit a spell and soak up the ambience and digest. We assumed that rooms here would be well beyond our means, but just out of curiosity, Sally looked it up on her phone. The web site claimed we could get a room for only a few dollars more than we had paid for the room with the bowl shaped mattress and the green pool. Disbelieving, we went to the office to confirm. The lovely desk clerk said, yes, there was a vacancy and yes, the room was just $159 as advertised. AND, yes, there was a secure storage room for our bikes. Without further discussion, we decided to spend another night in Bishop and reserved a room for the following night.

Having slept very little in the over-heated room in Lone Pine and then spending five hours on the trail, I had no trouble sleeping with Sally sharing my bed in the vintage motel room. Compared with Mike, she’s a huge improvement in the bed partner department. She barely moves, she doesn’t snore, and maybe more importantly, she doesn’t complain about my snoring. And she farts a lot less.

We stopped to admire this mural on our walk to breakfast.

In the morning, we were in no hurry to hit the trail since it was still quite cool…so cool in fact that I was compelled to buy another jacket and a down vest at the used gear store. I’ve lost count of how many jackets and vests I own, at last count I think it was between 20 – 30. But when the rare day comes that a jacket is required here in Southern California, I always have the exact right one for any casual occasion.

We made our way to Eastside Sports to take Mr. Easy on the Eyes (EotE) up on his offer of sharing bike trail secrets. I stole the following picture of him from his web site.( He directed us to a trail we never would have found on our own that proved to be a lot of fun…until it wasn’t. It also proved that he was NOT a bike rider.

The trail was hidden behind the electric plant and was accessed via a narrow bridge that we pushed our bikes across. The stream was running fast and deep and we assumed cold but were not tempted to test the waters.

After a short ride on a dirt road, we stumbled upon a singletrack that resembled a cow path. It grew increasingly interesting with rock gardens that, had we been familiar, we would have ridden through. But, the unfamiliarity robbed us of the confidence necessary to thread between, and in some cases over, the rocks and we ended up walking in several places. Eventually, the singletrack dumped us back onto the sandy road.

L.A. Water & Power controls the water in the Owens Valley. While there are numerous signs that prohibit camping, there was nothing to deter daytime recreation.

We doggedly continued uphill until we reached a place where the sand was simply too deep to climb. We turned downhill and rode as fast as we could, trying to stay on top of the sand until we came to a slightly better trail. After only a few miles, we gave up hope of finding any trails that were suitable for our 2 1/2″ wide tires and old lady legs and began to make our way home. Closer to the stream we found a nicely hard-packed dirt road that took us back to our starting point. Now it was time to go back to town to enjoy our new digs.

The room was pretty comfortable too but we spent most of our time outside.

In the morning, we made one last trip to Schat’s Bakery to stock up on olliebolen for the trip home. For you non-Dutch folks, I think the English translation would be something like oil balls. They’re lumps of dough, stuffed with apples and raisins, deep fried, then rolled in cinnamon sugar.

A visit to Schat’s Bakery wouldn’t be complete without a ride on Dough Boy.
The biggest lupine I’ve ever seen.
If you ever watched the movie Chinatown, you’re probably aware of the nefarious movers and shakers who moved the water from the farmers of Owens Valley to the orchards of San Fernando Valley, soon to become the suburbs of L.A.

The drive home was punctuated by this photo stop. Having learned from previous travels down this highway, we did not stop at the Manzanar Interment Camp.

Spring in Bishop

I used to think that I was a good traveling companion, easily pleased, flexible, and good natured. But this last trip with Sally opened my eyes to my own hubris. It’s not me who is the happy traveler, it’s the companions I choose who happily acquiesce to my whims.

Sally had suggested that we do a quick two-day, mountain bike adventure to Bishop to explore the areas that she hadn’t been able to reach because she didn’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. I hated leaving the girls home but the idea of traveling light and staying in hotels had its appeal. I reserved a room in the old, oops, I mean historic part of the Dow Villa Motel in Lone Pine. This hotel has a colorful history having been the swankiest hotel in town during the hey days of the Western movies. The walls are plastered with old photos of movie stars who stayed in the hotel while filming in the nearby Alabama Hills.

Is this reminiscent of The Shining?

Our room was on the second floor. It was furnished with two twin beds, one of which impinged on the door opening to the hall. Since it had no bathroom, we had to traipse down the hall about a half a mile to use the toilet during the night. Luckily, I rarely sleep much on the first night away from home, so the door scraping along the end of my bed didn’t wake me up when Sally left the room in the middle of the night. The hotel was heated by an ancient steam system which didn’t allow for any adjustment. The instructions said that if the room was too warm, to open the window. Needless to say, two post menopausal women opened the window!

We appreciated this little lavatory en suite which allowed us to brush our teeth in the comfort of our own room.

After breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a destination in its own right, we drove about 50 minutes to Bishop. It was a chilly 54 degrees where we parked the car and changed into our bike clothes, but it was sunny and we figured we would warm up as we climbed. I threw a windbreaker into my pack, figuring the return downhill trip would be cool. I also assumed that Sally was carrying multiple jackets, vests, gloves and bras.

The heavy rains had turned the dirt road into an interesting trail that alternated between stream bed and sand but our E-bikes made even the loose sand rideable. As we climbed the road deteriorated, growing increasingly rocky but we persevered lured by the spectacular view of the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains ahead of us.

This sign post provided no clue as to where we were.

We had climbed about 2,000′ when we met a man coming from the opposite direction. He told us that if we continued, we would encounter a two mile stretch of trail that was covered with snow. Clouds were gathering and we were already getting cold, so we put on all the clothes we were carrying and turned back. (Sally, uncharacteristically, wasn’t packing extra clothes.) The man, whom we named Easy on the Eyes (EotE), was running a 40 mile loop that included several thousand feet of elevation gain and loss. He invited us to stop by his gear store the next day where he would show us where to find some fun mountain bike trails. Needless to say, we prioritized the visit to his outdoor gear shop.

The White Mountains shimmer across the Owens Valley.

By now the temperature had dropped into the low forties and we were damp with sweat. The rough trail demanded our attention and a certain amount of speed to roll over the rocky stream bed. Sally fell behind and I stopped to wait for her, growing colder by the minute. When she caught up she confessed that one of the rock gardens and stopped her dead and she’d fallen over, bruising her backside. Our lips were too stiff with cold to talk and our hands were like frozen claws on the handlebars. Thankfully the road smoothed out enough that we weren’t in danger of losing our grip, though truthfully, we couldn’t be certain as we had lost all feeling in our fingers.

Back at the car, we stood in the lee of the car between the open doors to change into dry clothes. Heated seats have never felt so good!

Sally had reserved a room in another vintage motel that offered no storage room for the bikes, so we wheeled them into the tiny room for safe keeping. This room had two double beds but only one of them was fit for use, the other had a bowl-shaped mattress. I suspect someone had died in the room and the body hadn’t been discovered for some time as it was so heavily perfumed that we never did develop olfactory fatigue. This room cost twice as much as our previous night’s “historic” room.

Dig those socks?

So, this has been sitting in my drafts folder waiting for me to have enough to drink to finish it. Re-reading it, I can see that the fine line between not enough wine and having too much to wrap this trip up in one post has been crossed. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion: Luxury hotel, shopping with EotE, and another lackluster bike ride.