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Thread: Local Knowledge Please - Hwy 108 or Hwy 4

  1. #1
    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    Local Knowledge Please - Hwy 108 or Hwy 4

    Hi all,

    As part of our journey we are heading from Oakhurst CA. through Yosemite and then north west to Sonora.
    We then want to head up and over the mountains in the direction of Lake Tahoe.

    Not being local to this area I am going by Google Maps and the choices seem to be Hwy 108 or Hwy 4.
    108 seems more mainstream and 4 a little narrower with more twists.

    The problem is that neither will make Lake Tahoe achievable by the end of the day without being on the bikes for more than seven hours.
    We had planned to go 108 and stay at Lake Topaz but Topaz looks like a very barren place aimed at people who want to put their boats in the water and catch fish.
    Hwy 4 looks like the pick but I can't find anywhere to stop near the upper end. Ebbetts Pass would be the limit I think for one day but could push on a bit further if there was a nice place to stop for the night.
    Alternatively we could stay in Angels Camp and then add Hwy 4 to the next days ride to Susanville.

    Does anyone know this area and can recommend 108 or 4 and possibly a nice place to stay?
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

  2. #2
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    If I understand correctly, you'll be staying in Oakhurst, want to take a look at Yosemite, then you're going north to Susanville, with one night's stop somewhere between the two. Is that right?

    108 and 4 are both lovely roads, but after Yosemite going back down the hill to 49, then north to Sonora, seems a bit of a detour. 108 up from Sonora is not very compelling until after Kennedy Meadows, after which it's quite lovely on both sides of the pass. Once you get to 395, 'though, you have to either go south 20 miles to Bridgeprt or north to find lodging: going north, first Topaz Lake, then Minden/Gardnerville, or for a back-in-the-mountains change to Woodfords or Markleevile.

    I'd suggest you consider crossing the Sierra via 120, the Tioga Pass. it's within Yosemite, and the views on both sides of the pass are IMO better than 108 and 4. Because it's in the park, there's more traffic, and a lower speed limit. You have lots more lodging choices on the east as well: Lee Vining is at the 120/395 intersection, there's a great interpretive center overlooking Mono Lake. Even better, I think, is Bridgeport, north on 395 just past the Conway Summit. You'll find lodging and food in both places. 395 remains quite scenic until around Topaz Lake; north of that, the surroundings become even drier.

    When will you do this? All these trans-Sierra passes close when the snow comes; the Conway Summit and 88 are plowed, and kept open (save when the plow crews are overwhelmed), but motorcycling over the Sierra crest or the 395 passes in winter is best done as a last-minute sprint, over a known open road, when you know the weather's going to be OK during your transit.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  3. #3
    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    David,

    Thanks for the input - I had originally looked at 120 and indeed we are planning to go up 120 as far as Tenaya Lake but then were going to double back because 395 looked a bit dull.

    We are going to be there on the 29th May next year (assuming our dates stay as I expect).

    I'll revisit the idea of 395 and also check out Lee Vining and Bridgeport for accommodation.
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

  4. #4
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Mark,

    I apologize; I read your first post carelessly, and skipped right over the mention of "Lake Tahoe," instead seeing "Topaz Lake" again.
    Do you intend a night in Oakhurst, a night at Lake Tahoe, then a night at Susanville?

    If you ride up 120 as far as Tenaya Lake, I'd continue to the east; Lee Vining Canyon (the descent from the Tioga Pass summit down to Mono Lake) is gorgeous. Further north on 395, going west on 89 over Monitor Pass, through Markleeville, up the Carson River Canyon and over the Luther Pass to South Lake Tahoe is also a lovely route.

    Traveling at the end of next May, these passes we're talking about should be open, but "should" isn't absolute. Here's some CalTrans historical data: http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/clsdlst.htm
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

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    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    Thanks David.

    i'll map it out and see how it all fits. Finding that overnight stop in this area without having to ride for 7 or 8 hours is challenging.
    As I say, Topaz didn't look very inviting but it may be the best option.
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

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    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    I forgot Walker, Calif, at the north (lower) end of the Carson River Canyon. There are several motels there. Carson's real small, but nestled closer to the mountains which gives a better sense of place than Topaz.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  7. #7
    Just me rad's Avatar
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    David and I both, like most Californians from the Bay Area, have done all those roads countless times. There are really no bad routes over or along the Sierras

    My spin on your plans: If you are all the way up 120 to Tenaya Lake you would be missing out on a stunning pass by not finishing the 120 run over Tioga Pass. You would then have time to see a couple of outstanding features of California. One is Mono Lake with its Tufa towers and the other is Bodie historic ghost town. Bodie is not a tourist trap, there is nothing there to buy, it is a very complete ghost town preserved and cared for by the State Park Service. You could also eat at the best food place anywhere around those parts, the Whoa Nellie Deli located in the Tioga gas mart at the 120 395 intersection. Mmmmm fish tacos.

    Their fish tacos


    Bodie


    Mono Lake

  8. #8
    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    Thanks to you both for these tips.

    I am taking your advice and rerouting from Oakhurst - Walker - Susanville with a detour to see Bodie.

    Link 1

    Link 2

    My next question would be - for the second leg between Walker and Susanville - should we go via the east or west shore of Lake Tahoe?
    The current link shows the west side but I'm interested in your thoughts.

    Thanks again for your local knowledge - this is invaluable.
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

  9. #9
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    The California (west) side of Lake Tahoe is much more developed than the east side. Still, there are lovely sights. Perhaps because I live in a town, I like the Nevada side. OTOH, to get to the Nevada side, one has to turn right at the 89/50 intersection, and piddle what seems like forever through the strung-out town of South Lake Tahoe.

    Rad's right about Bodie, it's a very interesting place; State Parks keeps it in a state of "arrested decay." Note that just because there's a state route to Bodie coming in from the west, that doesn't mean the state route is suitable for your motos. The Wikipedia page on Bodie says:

    Visitors arrive mainly via CA-270 which runs from CA-395 near Bridgeport, CA to the west, the last three miles of it a dirt road. There is also a road to CA-167 near Mono Lake in the south, but this road is extremely rough with more than 10 miles of dirt track in a bad state of repair. The roads to Bodie are usually closed in winter due to heavy snowfall.

    I'd poke around on the web to see what current road condition reports you can find. Rad's a longtime dirt rider, and I'm twitchier about bad surfaces than he is. When I last went to Bodie, admittedly years ago, CA270 was paved for the first ten miles in from 395; the last 3 miles to Bodie were unpaved and rough. Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5_dVDrpDTk When I was last there, the road coming in from Mono Lake (take CA167/Pole Line Road east from 395, then turn north) was all unpaved (north of CA167/Pole Line Road), but was much much smoother. There is no food and no tourist services or facilities (other than toilets) at Bodie.

    89 north of Lake Tahoe is also wonderful; glad to see you've chosen it. Much more interesting than staying on 395.
    Last edited by dbrick; 11-18-2013 at 03:45 PM.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  10. #10
    Geoxman KJ6OCL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbrick View Post
    I'd poke around on the web to see what current road condition reports you can find. Rad's a longtime dirt rider, and I'm twitchier about bad surfaces than he is. When I last went to Bodie, admittedly years ago, CA270 was paved for the first ten miles in from 395; the last 3 miles to Bodie were unpaved and rough. Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5_dVDrpDTk When I was last there, the road coming in from Mono Lake (take CA167/Pole Line Road east from 395, then turn north) was all unpaved (north of CA167/Pole Line Road), but was much much smoother. There is no food and no tourist services or facilities (other than toilets) at Bodie.

    89 north of Lake Tahoe is also wonderful; glad to see you've chosen it. Much more interesting than staying on 395.
    My two cents. The dirt road condition I see in the video, IMO looks like a very good dirt road and should be no problem for most any touring bike. I ride an R12C now (it hates any dirt) and I would not hesitate to ride that road, two up even. However, I would be much more concerned with the timing! End of May, could be bad if we had late snows and long winter. This road will be in terrible shape until they have had time to re-grade and clean it up. So the key is getting up to date information on that section of road as close to the time you intend to travel it as possible! Also +1 on 89 north of Lake Tahoe.

    Lkarl KJ6OCL / 2000, R1200C

  11. #11
    Just me rad's Avatar
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    Almost none of the vehicles that go to Bodie are four-wheel-drive. Every type of car makes it out there including the family wagon. It is really no problem on a street bike. The comment about the weather is a good one the Sierras in late spring can bring you any kind of weather conditions so it's prudent before hand the check the reports.

  12. #12
    rabid reader dbrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KJ6OCL View Post
    The dirt road condition I see in the video, IMO looks like a very good dirt road and should be no problem for most any touring bike.
    I agree. I was last at Bodie in the 80s, and my memory of the road (driving a BMW 2002 sedan) was that I would not have wanted to try it on the bike I was then riding. The video (from 2010, I think) makes it look much better than I remember.
    David Brick
    Santa Cruz CA
    2007 R1200R

  13. #13
    Registered User SeabeckS's Avatar
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    We lived for many moons in Minden, NV, literally a stones throw from Hwy 395. The roads south of Tahoe were sort of playground for many years on motorcycles. Very much in agreement with the other posters here. Odd thing about the Sierra passes is that the further south they are, the higher they are. Tioga is something around 9600 feet if memory serves. So the advice to keep informed of road conditions is well stated. I can remember one July 4th that we had six inches of snow in Minden, at 4500 feet.

    Do like the suggestion (can I go too?) about using Tioga, very high road and great vistas, though you might have to contend with a lot of traffic. You'll ride right past Mono Lake, if you are a photo buff have your camera ready! Bodie is a good side trip, again depending on road condition. I last visited there about 30 years ago, on a Suzuki 850. I've heard that road is MUCH better now...LOL. Lee Vining or Bridgeport could be a good lunch stop.

    I would highly recommend passing thru Walker and as you approach Topaz Lake take the Monitor pass road and go through Markleeville. Continuing north towards Minden/Gardnerville on Hwy 88 watch for the intersection of SR207, aka Kingsbury Grade, which will bring you into the Tahoe basin and Hwy 50 just outside the casino area at south shore. I think the East side around the lake is a bit nicer, the west side is quite a bit slower and a little bit longer as well. A few miles north of Kingsbury grade SR28 intersects with Hwy 50. 28 will take you to the north shore, at Tahoe City you can connect with 89 to go through Truckee and on through the Sierra Valley enroute to Susanville.

    I'd consider overnighting in Minden/Gardnerville, particularly at the Carson Valley Inn. There are a couple of other motels in town, or Carson City 15 minutes north has MANY choices. If staying in Minden, I might suggest the J -T or the French in downtown Gardnerville for a Basque style family dinner. For a truly unique before dinner drink, you might like to try a "Picon Punch" at either of those spots.

    So...where are you going after riding some of my most favorite roads?

    Cheers, Bill
    Bill Johnston

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    Registered User Mark H's Avatar
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    Bill,

    Thanks for the detail on the approach to Tahoe. We had planned to spend the night in Walker but I'll look into Gardnerville - sounds like the food is worth the few extra miles on the first day before we shoot to Susanville.

    Regarding the rest of the trip - if you are interested you can see the whole thing in the other post here called - The Motorcycling holiday of a Lifetime.
    Feel free to add any comments or suggestions there too.
    Regards

    Mark H
    2012 - R1200R White Aluminium Metallic

  15. #15
    Registered User SeabeckS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbrick View Post
    I forgot Walker, Calif, at the north (lower) end of the Carson River Canyon. There are several motels there. Carson's real small, but nestled closer to the mountains which gives a better sense of place than Topaz.
    Actually that's the north end of the Walker River Canyon, the twisties in there are much more fun on a bike then driving a gasoline tanker for ARCO.

    Bill Johnston

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