Part VII: The Good People of Wrightwood

Cedar Lodge is another place from an era gone by. The proprietors couldn’t be nicer. The room is large and I hang my wet clothing and camping gear all over the room to dry. I take a nice, long hot shower and walk across the street to a bar. Octoberfest is in full swing with decorations, music, five-dollar sausage dinner, and good beer. 

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The next morning I walk across the street again to a coffee shop. A few older men are sitting on the deck warming up like old cats. I push the door and the lady said, ” You need a hair cut?”

“Oh no, thank you, just some breakfast.”

“The coffee shop is next door but it’s closed on Mondays.” She replies. I came in the wrong door.

“Oh, well, that’s my luck! Wait, do you have time to do my roots?”

“Sure girl! Come on in,” says Heidi.

What the heck, I think. It’s my rest day. Might as well get pampered a bit. 

So here, I will greatly disappoint some of you. I finally got a comb. Compliments of Heidi. My days of forkcombing (there you have it- a new word I made up for the Oxford Dictionary) are officially over. I was planning to stay for a day of rest, but Heidi told me that Crestline is mostly downhill.

“Oh honey, it’s just a bit of an easy hill after you cross HW 15 then you are home free!”

I hurry back to my room, pack up all my stuff and I am back on the road. Just before I leave town, I go to the hardware store and a really nice lady named Davon helps me change the batteries for the light on the back of my helmet while we chat about all kinds of things. As I am leaving the store I ask her, ” What are you people drinking in this town? A special juice which makes everyone so nice?” She starts laughing and says, ”We drink alright, but juice is not it!”

I head out of town. It’s windy and cold but I look forward to a day without too much climbing. Heidi the hairdresser said so.

Because I ride the map backwards from south to north, Garmin keeps recalculating. Suddenly I am not following the purple line and I’ve already gone downhill a couple of miles. Damn it! I turn around and climb two miles back up the hill. I run into John who is picking up garbage as a volunteer. I explain to him where I am headed. 

“Oh no, you are fine! Just go down for another few miles; you’ll hit the freeway and turn right. There is no other way to go where you are headed!”

So I turn around and head back down. And so it was, the good people of Wrightood knew the right way. I am leaving them to ride to Crestline. After I cross HW 15, the road starts climbing. Not steeply but the headwinds are really strong. Come on! Can’t I get a little break?! The Beast and I reach Silverwood Lake. 11 miles to go to reach Crestline. We got this! The yellow sign warns sharp turns ahead. Trucks use caution. Oh, this is going to be a fun downhill! And then the road starts climbing. I mean climbing at at least 9% to 10% grade! I keep repeating loudly to myself, "Don’t get off the bike, don’t get off the bike!” and, “Everything has to end, everything has to end…!“

I have to pull over every few turns to catch my breath! That is the last time I will listen to a hair dresser! What the…?! It was, so far, the steepest climb of my whole trip. 

I reached the outskirts of Crestline absolutely spent. I wasn’t impressed with the town. It consisted of rundown cabins built during the Depression Era when they were building the dams. The roads are narrow, without shoulders, and steep as hell. Who lives here and why is there so much traffic? I pull over in a small, family-run market and ask a guy behind the liquor counter, ”Is there any lodging here in town?”

He replies in broken English, ”Yes, other side of town”

A young girl of around 10 chimes in: “It’s called Sleepy Hollow; the Motel, Sleepy Hollow.” I thank them and I ride away thinking to myself, ” More like Creepy Hollow…” 

It turns out I wasn’t really in Crestline yet. I roll into the town and it’s actually cute. Sleepy Hollow had cabins and rooms. I get a special deal on a room that has a pullout couch for a bed. Anything that’s cheep and warm will do. But, the best thing about it is that it has a hot tub. As soon as I carry my bike up the stairs with the help of the manager of the motel, I change and head back down to a hot tub. Strong jets massage my sore muscles and I am slowly recovering. I am also starving so I soon head down the street to Tony’s Mexican restaurant. I order a double combo and the plate that arrives is huge. My eyes open wide and I say to myself, “I cannot possibly eat all this!”

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I did- most of it without any guilt. I wash the food down with two Coronas and I am ready to pass out! I burp all the way back to my room, fall into the lumpy couch bed and I am gone into dreamland. The dreams are vivid. I am flying one of those glider two-seater planes. Behind me sits my friend Doug. I am flying him from Stanford up to Tahoe for a day. We fly over the mountains and under a bunch of electric wires. I navigate expertly. We laugh. I wish I had a plane and I wish could fly Doug to Tahoe. Instead I have to just fly with him in my mind on the wings of my bike. You see, Doug has been down at Stanford hospital undergoing  a stem cell transplant for Myelofibrosis which is a rare type of cancer in which the bone marrow (the soft, spongy tissue inside most bones) is replaced by fibrous scar tissue. It is considered a form of chronic leukemia. It has been a difficult and enduring ride for Doug and his wife Laura. I think of them so often during my ride.

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As I climb into the whipping Santa Ana headwinds that literally stop me in my tracks, I clip out just in time to catch myself from not falling over. There is no shoulder on the Rim of the World HW. The view of the San Bernardino mountains are spectacular but difficult to enjoy. It’s downright dangerous and I am hating every meter of my ride. The winds make me cranky and I am in a foul mood. Big Bear Lake seems so far away still. They are called the devil winds, and for a good reason! I finally reach the top of the climb and I see Big Bear Lake in the distance. I can’t wait to get this over with for the day. It’s getting chilly since I am at 7000 feet elevation. My hands and feet are cold. My rear wheel starts to make an annoying clicking sound. I try to ignore it. If you ignore something, it’ll just go away right? Well, it doesn’t. I pull over and climb off the bike which is always a bit of a balancing act. I spin the rear wheel slowly while holding my heavy bike with my left hand. And there it is. A thorn in my “butt.” I pull it out and with it comes a “hisssss” of air and white slime that’s in my tube. Shit! Then I remember what Carl at Olympic Bike taught me- Spin the wheel as fast as you can. It works! The slime seals the hole. I pull out the pump to add the air I lost. The valve on the tire is bent a bit, so every time I try to attach the pump, more air escapes. If I break the valve, I am screwed! Since I only have about five miles more to go, I decide to continue, even though my tire is pretty soft. When I finally get to Big Bear, which is very much reminiscent of Lake Tahoe, I find it difficult to appreciate because I am so tired, hungry, and cold. I pass numerous cabin-like accommodations and I stop at one that looks cute. The lady at the desk wasn’t friendly and the price was way over my budget. I don’t give business to people that aren’t helpful or nice. Just down the road there was a Travel Lodge. The price was right, a hot bath felt great, and a cup of hot instant soup and hot cocoa warmed me up. I was glad that day was over. 


The next day I ride out of Bear Lake, I stop at a great little bike shop with nice young kids just opening it up. They help me with my bike; I restock on some Gu and I am off.

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I crest over the 8443-foot Onyx Summit. I pull over to take a pee in the shadows of tall beautiful Cedar trees. The forest reminds me of my home in Tahoe since we live in Cedar Flat; we are surrounded by cedars. I celebrate by snacking on a banana and some nuts. This, my friends, is the last of the high summits I will pass over on my trip. It’s cool and windy up here. The mountain to my right is blanketed with the first snow of the season. I am leaning against the tree which is protecting me from wind and I am warming up by the sun. I want to dry my sweaty body and my shirt a bit before I start descending. Today’s 17-mile climb of 2079 feet feels almost effortless in comparison with yesterday’s. The winds were light and there was very little traffic as I was climbing gradually on the scenic route 38. I am really looking forward to get into warmer climate. May the winds gently push me toward Baja.

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Alenka Vrecek