Day Six: Kennedy Meadows General Store to Lone Pine, California - "Vibes" - CycleBlaze

From "Vibes"

By Jeff Lee

June 20, 2024

Day Six: Kennedy Meadows General Store to Lone Pine, California

After tossing and turning in the tent, I finally got up at first light. It was the chilliest morning of the trip, and of course I was in a tent at 6,200 feet, and not in a motel room, so it seemed much, much worse, especially to a wimp like me.

I carefully, quietly made my way on the dirt paths behind the store past the dozens of slumbering hikers. Most were in tents. A few were in hammocks. One woman had her sleeping bag on the ground, sans tent. Hardcore!

It was so early that there was no line for the single bathroom, so I was able to do my main business, and then my secondary business of laboriously putting in my contact lenses. The bathroom, like every facility I'd observed whose primary users were backpackers, was horrendously filthy, and I didn't linger there. I assume backpackers have their own version of my "bike touring rules."

I sat on the deck by the grill. I was wearing my rain jacket because it was so cold. The store's dogs and cat emerged and approached me. The well-fed dogs obviously wondered if I had any food for them, but even if I had any, and was inclined to give any that I wanted for myself to fat dogs, a sign posted nearby warned me not to feed the "begging dogs."

The cat jumped on the bench at my table and head butted me several times, purring. I felt slightly guilty "cheating" on my own cat (this is a joke that Joy has made about me paying attention to strange cats on bike tours.) The cat sat down beside me on the bench while I used the store's WiFi on my laptop.

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The cook from yesterday came out, and we talked for a while. The hikers began to emerge from their tents and gather on the deck. Everyone seemed cheerful. I didn't understand a lot of what they said; apparently there's more to backpacking than just walking around. One man (of course it was a man, not a woman), had apparently been off the trail for some days on a break, but was still bragging about the long days he'd done. There's always a guy like that in situations like that in my experience. (Hopefully I'm not that guy!)

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The cat was still sitting next to me, a fact that one of the women noted - "That cat really likes you!" I felt oddly pleased that a random cat had chosen me among the dozens of hikers to befriend.

It was getting close to the 7:00 AM breakfast time. Earlier, before the hikers emerged, the cook and I had discussed the process. He said he'd remember that I was there at 5:30. But now I wasn't sure. As everyone who knows me well understands, I become anxious when very hungry. I wanted my breakfast ASAP, and here I was surrounded by presumably equally hungry PCT hikers. About three other men presumably felt like me, anxiously mingling around the window waiting for the CLOSED sign to be flipped to OPEN. Fortunately, a sensible female hiker suggested that we write our names down in the order we arrived in order to avoid any confusion. The men and I nodded. The solution was acceptable.

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Breakfast at the store was the most reasonably priced meal I've had in California, and was a good bike touring breakfast - pancakes, eggs, hash browns, and a vegan sausage.

The male European hiker who'd had the tent closest to mine appeared. I apologized for my frequent coughing. He was very polite: "Is alright. I wake up in the night a few times anyway."

The young woman who'd earlier provided the solution to the breakfast line quandary was part of a couple, and she and her husband were doing a short section of the PCT with their toddler son. Not only had they done bike touring, but they'd done the complete Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. So we had an enjoyable conversation about how crazily difficult that route is.

I eventually tore myself away from the store and rode away. I had to do some climbing this morning before what I anticipated would be an outrageously long and steep descent down to US-395.

The mountain road continued to be very quiet. So quiet than when I realized I was wearing yesterday's salt-encrusted bike shorts instead of my extra clean pair, I just pulled over and stood under a very scraggly little tree and changed them right there. Bike Touring Rules.

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The climbing ended soon enough, and I started a long, scary descent. Extremely intimidating. Fortunately traffic continued to be ultra-light. One or two cars in each direction.

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My hands were sore from gripping the brakes when I reached the bottom and turned onto super-busy US-395. After several days at mountain elevations, this felt almost unbearably hot at first. I put on a thick layer of sunblock and headed north on the very wide shoulder.

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Kathleen JonesNo. Ugh. Really?
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1 month ago
Jeff LeeTo Kathleen JonesI don't know what that billboard is about, but I thought it was memorably off-putting.
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1 month ago
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It was fifteen miles to the first stop of the day, Coso Junction. The map said there was a rest area there, but I was thrilled to find a truck stop and a Subway/Chester's restaurant as well. Civilization after days in the wilderness where Diet Pepsi was not easily obtained. Multiple people there quizzed me on what I was doing on the bike. I answered their Usual Questions.

Those are potato wedges in the box, not chicken. I'm still a vegetarian.
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Back on the busy highway with its super-nice shoulder, it was hotter, but I had a tailwind. I stopped at Olancha, looked at an odd "jerky" place, then went inside the gas station to buy sports drinks. A guy walked up and said he'd passed me on the way to Olancha, and asked about my route. He'd done some bike touring in Vietnam, but not in the USA yet.

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Mark BinghamI love shots like these. Whether I see them in person or in a post I want to spend some time looking at every single item.
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4 weeks ago
Jeff LeeTo Mark BinghamYeah, agreed.
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3 weeks ago
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Nothing of note happened on the way to my destination, a nice-ish Best Western in Lone Pine. The guy who checked me in was memorably helpful - among other things, when I attempted to buy a very overpriced razor (I'd lost mine somewhere) at the hotel shop in order to remove my disgusting beard, he reached behind the desk and produced a couple of free ones for me. After my night in the tent I was happy to enjoy the amenities of a mid-priced USA hotel. Now if I can only not cough all night long again.

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Today's ride: 79 miles (127 km)
Total: 375 miles (604 km)

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John EganYeah, US 395 is pretty busy.
Further north, it's only two lanes with sketchy shoulders.
My friend, Chris, absolutely hated it.
Even though the views are magnificent.

Hey, did you check with Deep Springs College
to see if they were open and you could get water?
If not, maybe it would be better to use US 6 via Bishop.
'Cause Hwy 168 is super remote with lots climbing.

Hope the cough is 99.9% gone.
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1 month ago