Description of the 1966 Mountain Loop
by Paul Robinson
1966 was the first year that the Modesto Roadmen rode a Mountain Loop. We took off from Modesto (Art Wilcox, David Steffen, Tom Woods, Paul Robinson, Fred Brockman and Jeff Cowdrey) and headed out Claus Road to Highway 120.
We went through the Orange Blossom route (the ONLY time I remember doing that) and back out to the highway. It seems to me that Tom was having troubles and David and I took turns giving a bit of a push (which would REALLY bit us in the ass later)1. We went on up to the Yosemite Junction turnoff and took that to Moccasin where we took the Old Priest Grade on up toward Groveland where I think that David and I became separate from the others2 as we were all in route to Crain Flat3 as I remember. Talk about going into a Drip Stage (Art's term for bonking). I remember that we were walking on flat ground and that was difficult. We pulled in about two hours behind the others and I know that there was a lot of confusion that night about did we survive4. Next day, off and running through Yosemite, Past Clouds Rest to Tuolumne Meadows. I remember a Beautiful PURPLE sunset that still is the best I have ever seen, it lasted only a few seconds. We camped at the Meadows as "Guests" of the Sierra Club5. Next morning, we headed for Tioga Pass and the exit ranger station (I remember Jeff trying to sneak out, he told the ranger he was just trying to get to 10 thousand feet!!) I had one flat 50 yards before the station and 1 flat 50 yards after. Then we started down to Lee Vining. The back side of the pass was under construction (nothing but loose cobblestone all the way down and yet we FLEW down to Lee Vining turning left onto Highway 395. We went along for a while and passed Mono Lake and continued on to what I remember as Conway Summit also known as "the top", highest place on 395, and then somehow we got to Walker River Canyon. Art was near death with dysentery and had Jerrod Zeff come to get him and then on the Monitor Pass, Pacific Summit and Ebbets Pass. We stayed at Lake Alpine before started homeward. Jeff was still riding a worn out sewup with a bunch of white adhesive tape for a tread. I managed to catch a log truck and was slipstreaming about three feet behind the trailer (under a log overhang) absolutely flying. It seems that I was maybe 30 minutes ahead getting to the town of Murphys. We all met up there and headed to the town of Farmington and then on in on McHenry Avenue and then were ambushed by the press at your home while we soaked the crud off in the pool.
Notes on the Description
by Tom Woods (tw) or David Steffen (ds)
1) (tw) A complete delusion :-). I have a vivid memory of Paul crashed out on the side of the road at the top of Priest, where the old road merges back to the highway, and he's opening a can of garbanzo beans to stave off death. Afterwards i think you guys took a nap and that's why you were separated from the group.
2) (ds) New Priest Grade and Old Priest Grade have the same start and end points but New Priest Grade is 9 miles long and Old Priest Grade is 1½ miles long and therefore much steeper. Everyone but Paul and I chose New Priest Grade. Old Priest Grade was way too steep for the combination of gears and strength Paul and I had, but we were determined and refused to give up. It took us much longer to get to the top than it did everyone else and we were completely bonked and exhausted when we got there. We didn't meet up with everyone else until we managed to drag ourselves into camp.
3) (tw) We didn't camp at Crane Flat that night, when your Mom (God Bless her) had your Dad calling all over, it was Hardin Flat, just outside the entrance to Yosemite Nat'l. Park. I believe the stream, (aquaduct) in your pictures where taken there. In subsequent years we camped a couple of miles further up at Carl Inn, at the base of the Crane Flat Grade. Some of your pictures of the 1998 Loop are at Carl Inn. The picture of the sign "Next 7 miles, Steep, Winding, Narrow Road" is at the base of the old Crane Flat grade. On a couple of Loops we bypassed Crane Flat and went from Carl Inn up the Evergreen Rd. to the Aspen Valley Rd and entered Yosemite Nat'l. Park at White Wolf and from there back to Hwy. 120 to Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Pass.
4) (ds) I had an overly protective mother (may she rest in peace) and I had promised her I would call her every night when we got to camp to let her know we were OK. This was our first night on the road and I was so tired I completely forgot. She made my father (who worked for the phone company) go to his office and get a phonebook for the town. She started at the first entry in the book and started telephoning people until she reached someone who had seen us. They found us camping (probably illegally) by the side of the road. My friends were unable to wake me, but sent the person back to reassure my mother that I was, in fact, alive.
5) (ds) The campground in question, though located inside of Yosemite National Park, was reserved for use by Sierra Club members only. None of us were members, but someone in the group, maybe Fred, knew something about the Sierra Club and this campground and suggested we stay there because it was reputed to have a spring that delivered carbonated water - which it did! That night it got chilly so we sauntered into the clubhouse in the campground to get out of the cold where we encountered Sierra Club Members. They suspiciously asked us who we were and if we were members. We said we had cycled up from Modesto and one of us offered that he thought his uncle might be a Sierra Club Member, which impressed them not. As we stood there contemplating cycling off in the dark to find another campsite, one of them muttered, "Funny, we didn't hear your engines." "Not motorcycles, but bicycles we corrected", at which point all was forgiven and we went from trespassers to guests.
The Modesto Roadmen riding out of town. Paul Robinson at the back of the group following Fred Brockman, and then maybe Jeff Cowdrey.
Tom Woods, David Steffen, and Paul Robinson (left to right) resting along an aquaduct just outside of Hardin Flat where we camped the first night.
The road from the top of Tioga Pass to highway 395 on the eastern edge of the Sierras was torn up that year. We had to descend on a dirt road.
"The Top", a bar and grill located at Conway Summit, elevation 8,143 feet, the highest point on Highway 395. Tom remembers "The descent from Conway Summit to Bridgeport is the one the best. Long and a lot of it straight as an arrow. You can put it in your highest gear and actually find out how fast your bike can go; there is nothing limiting you except the air itself."
Paul, Jeff, and Tom resting next to a park. Fred's and my bikes are against the fence between Paul and Jeff. By the location of this picture on the roll, I am guessing this had to be in Bridgeport.
Our campsite in Walker, CA. Jeff is sitting up in his sleeping bag in the center of the picture and Tom is asleep on the far left.
Although Ebbett's Pass was the high point on our trip east to west, back across the Sierras, it was followed by a second lower pass, Pacific Grade Summit, not as high but a serious challenge nonetheless. Fred reached that summit after the rest of us, so we arranged a welcoming party to encourage him to the top. I am in the top left, holding a bike pump.
Paul slipstreaming a truck, a very dangerous practice in which we would nonetheless engage from time to time.
Home at last! This is my family's back yard in Modesto. It was a very hot summer ride coming home, we dumped our bikes on the lawn and jumped into our little above ground swimming pool (not in the picture) clothes and all.
Henry Laws, arranged to have The Modesto Bee there when we got home. They documented the homecoming and interviewed us for an article on the ride.