Our contributor and his buddy Dale brought along a Sunset Red Thruxton as well as a T-100 Bonneville.
urge to ride all the Sierra Nevada Mountain passes. We had previously been through Sonora Pass, Devils Gate Pass and Tioga Pass. There were still five of the nine passes remaining.
I left work at 3:30 on Friday of Labor Day weekend and rode a Triumph 220 miles to Dale’s house in the San Joaquin valley. After a great supper and some planning we were ready for an early morning departure and three more mountain passes. On the Map it looked to be approximately 350 miles.
Saturday at 6:00 a.m. we were up and getting ready to hit the road. A quick cup of coffee at Starbucks and by 8:00 the adventure began. Rather than take the direct route to Highway 4 (Ebbetts Pass), we took the back roads and passed by Tulloch Lake in Calveras County. From there we got on Highway 4 and started the ascent. The morning was warm enough that I only needed an extra “disposable” t-shirt under my light Joe Rocket jacket. The sky was clear blue and the scenery incredible the whole way.
One of my biggest concerns was how well my Carbureted Triumph Thruxton would run at altitude. The top of Ebbetts Pass is a bit over 8,000 ft. above sea level. Much to my amazement the bike ran great, albeit a wee bit down on power. The forest going up Ebbetts Pass was absolutely beautiful, and the smell from the pines pleasantly accompanied us the whole way.
We passed through Gold Rush towns with names like “Murphey” and “Copperropolis,” and had a close encounter with the local Sheriff somewhere before “Alpine Lake.” The road was in excellent condition and, as much as I’m known for my pace, I enjoyed a rather relaxed ride up the mountain, stopping along the way to tell Dale which pictures to take.
Somewhere before Alpine Lake the road got real narrow without a centerline, and thanks to Labor Day weekend tourist traffic, the pace slowed. It turned out to be a blessing really, as I saw more scenery than I usually do.
We crested the summit, took more pictures and made the narrow descent to the valley below on Highway 89 (Monitor Pass).
We turned right on Highway 89 and headed for Highway 395 and Lake Topaz in Nevada. Hwy 89 is a racetrack – a real sweet, fast road. It was too bad the Triumph was down to about 40hp, because when the SV1000 passed me like I was
The view at Devil’s Playground looked out over a huge valley of granite formations with streams trickling through.
standing still I was doing 80 mph and didn’t have anything left to try and chase him down. It’s a great road with little traffic, and as you cross the summit there’s the most amazing view of the high desert valley heading north to Nevada.
We made it to Topaz Lake and were surprised by the mileage we’d gotten – 45 mpg. I thought with the power deficit at altitude and the carbs having no way to compensate we’d get rotten mileage. I was pleasantly surprised. We spent way more time than we should have talking to countless older gentlemen who took notice of our bikes, saying: “That’s a Bonneville… I use to have one of them.”
Afterward we headed north out of Topaz Lake to Carson City, Nevada on Highway 88 (Carson Pass) for the return trip. Dale and I disagree on which pass has the better scenery. He likes Carson Pass and the Granite, but I think he’s prejudiced after growing up hunting and fishing there. Me, I liked the Pine forests of Ebetts Pass.
Hwy 88 is a big, two-lane that consist of mostly fast sweepers, passing lanes, some real pretty lakes and a good deal of tourist traffic. The vistas are also pretty spectacular. Devil’s Playground looks out over a valley of huge granite formations with little streams trickling through.
The ride down was uneventful until our planned fuel stop had padlocks on the pumps. We didn’t have to worry though, the mileage going down was just as good and we found gas and more people who wanted to talk about their memories of old Triumphs.
At the bottom of Hwy 88 we picked up Highway 4 again and headed to Escalon. It had become hot in the valley while we were up enjoying the mountains. I wanted a milkshake and a padded seat for my sore rear end. I got the milkshake at a place called the “Hula Hut,” but missed out on the padded seat till we got back to Dale’s place 378 miles later.
The Sierra Nevada Mountains are incredible riding, regardless of how fast or slow you want to go. My favorite passes to date are: Monitor Pass (Hwy 89) and the Sonora Pass (Hwy 108).
There are only two more passes to do which are rideable. The Walker Pass at the southern end, and the Fredonyer Pass at the northern end. Google Maps puts it at about a 1,200-mile round trip from my house on the Central Coast. I’m thinking that’ll have to wait until next Labor Day. But at least now I have something to look forward to.