Ride Report: Sierra Sampler 2016

November 15, 2016 - Johnny Lam is an Adventure Cycling tour leader.

When asked to help lead my fourth Adventure Cycling bike tour, the 2016 Sierra Sampler, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. Working the Sierra Nevada mountains was something I couldn’t pass up. Here’s how it went!

The Team

Our motley crew consisted of seven Adventure Cycling leaders from all walks of life, mainly from California, Nevada, and Colorado.

This was my first fully supported tour, which means we help haul participants’ luggage, and caterers take care of food. Our main purpose was to make sure everyone was having fun.

Day 1: Cisco Grove

The tour started on September 10 at the Cisco Grove Campground. People trickled in the entire day and slowly filled up the empty campground with their tents and gear. Our rented vehicles and an Adventure Cycling 15-passenger van were ready to haul it all.

After all 50+ riders were checked in, given t-shirts, and route sheets, we held our orientation meeting.

Dinner was served at 6:00pm and lights were out by 10:00pm. I sensed the excitement just by talking to people throughout the day.


Day 2: Lake Tahoe

My first obligation was to ride sweep as I trailed the group from Cisco Grove to the southeast end of Lake Tahoe. 

  • Good news: I never caught up to anyone who was in need of help.
  • Bad news: I was feeling exhausted from the elevation and barely made it into camp right when dinner started at 6:00.

Everyone enjoyed the ride up and down Donner Pass and around Lake Tahoe. Here’s a downhill video I captured on my way down Donner Pass.

Day 3: Exploring Lake Tahoe — Day Off

We had four optional rides, mountain and road, for people to choose from on our day off. Riders had an amazing time!

I opted to play security guard at the campsite, which I needed to recover from the day before.

That evening, we were visited by a black bear on two occasions. The second time, we scared it away, but not before it ravaged through the caterer’s trash and equipment.

Day 4: Coleville/Walker

Today included two very tough climbs up Luther and Monitor Pass. Our initial weather concerns were quickly forgotten as our tour director orchestrated hot beverages at the top of Luther and hot soup at our lunch stop.

My role for the day was to facilitate and man the rest stops, so the hot beverages played very well in my favor. One day you’re a security guard and the next day you’re a barista!

Day 5: Mono Lake

We said goodbye to one of the most beautiful campgrounds at the Coleville/Walker KOA. Our riders endured freezing temperature as they ascended to the Mono Lake Vista before they feasted their eyes on the Eastern Sierras and Mono Lake.

I was a vehicle sweep so I surveyed our group in one of our pick up trucks and gave people bumps up the road.

Day 6: Field Trips — Day Off

This day off in Lee Vining gave our participants the opportunity to explore Yosemite National Park or ride up Tioga Pass.

I was one of three drivers who shuttled participants into Yosemite Valley. Any day spent in Yosemite is a good day!

Day 7: Mammoth Lakes

The final day of riding through the June Lake Loop and up to Mammoth Lakes was special. I rode half of the day starting from my water stop.

My legs and lungs recovered as I made the climb up to Minaret Vista. The views were breathtaking and the final downhill was thrilling as we cruised into camp.

Day 8: Return to Cisco Grove

A chartered bus arrived in the morning to take us back to Cisco Grove. As I sat back to recall recent events, I witnessed a participant doing the same. He quietly documented in his journal, only looking up to stare at the beautiful scenery flying by.

It was at this point I realized that we had a hand in helping make people’s dreams come true ... that is pretty cool.

Click here to find information on Adventure Cycling’s 2017 Sierra Sampler.

Johnny Lam is from Los Angeles, CA. When not leading bike tours, he’s a blogger and League Cycling Instructor. Johnny led the 2015 Pacific Coast North tour and the 2015 Family Fun, Colorado tour for Adventure Cycling. You can find more of Johnny’s writing on his blog, Milestone Rides, or check out his informative bike travel videos on YouTube. You can also join Johnny in 2017 on Adventure Cycling’s Colorado Classic High-Country tour - Van Supported or Adventure Cycling’s Vermont Inn-to-Inn tour.

Photo 3 by Pat McManus | Photo 5 by Rod March | Photo 6 by Jim Defrisco

ON THE ROAD is written by the tours team— Paul, Mandy, Emma, Mike, and Arlen — tours specialists and intrepid bicyclists, helping you bring your cycling dreams to fruition. Check out our 2018 Guided Tours today!


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