Part VII: The Good People of Wrightwood

Cedar Lodge is another place from the bygone era. The proprietors couldn’t be more helpful. The room is large, and I hang my wet clothing and camping gear all over it 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 German Pilsner beer. 

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 asks: ” You need a hair cut dear?” 

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

“The coffee shop is next door, but it’s closed on Mondays.” She replies. I realize I entered 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. 

Now, I will significantly 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 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 backward 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 Wrightwood 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 powerful. 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 rising 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…!“ 

Riding into a sunset again..

Riding into a sunset again..

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

I reached the outskirts of Crestline entirely spent. I wasn’t impressed with the town. It consisted of rundown cabins built during the Depression Era for laborers when they were building Lake Gregory and Arrowhead 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…” 

Can I really eat all this?

Can I really eat all this?

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 cheap and warm will do. But, the best thing about the motel 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 can not possibly eat all this!” 

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 medical center 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 I 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 journey.

As I climb into the whipping Santa Ana headwinds that literally stop me in my tracks, I clip out of my pedal just in time to catch myself from falling over. There is no shoulder on the Rim of the World HW. The view of the San Bernardino mountains is 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 still seems so far away. 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 stiff and 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 tire. I pull it out and with it comes a “hiss” 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.

Hopefully This is the last high elevation pass

Hopefully This is the last high elevation pass

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 many 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 instant hot 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 of

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. Our home is in Cedar Flat subdivision; 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 cold 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 the wind, and the sun is warming me up. 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 ride. 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 getting into a warmer climate. May the winds gently push me toward Baja.

Alenka Vrecek