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  • Writer's pictureSusanne Bruesch

Cycling over Scenic Highway 395 to Mono Lake and its Hot Springs

To escape the rain, we left the camp early today with dark clouds behind us. For once, the cycling was easy. No snow or icy creek or rocky road was our path but a smooth Highway.

Hwy 395 is said to be among the most scenic in the USA and it is indeed. To our right, the Sierra Nevada’s snow-covered peaks towered and were partly shrouded in clouds, partly bathed in sunlight.

Similar to Highway 101 we took to cycle along the Pacific previously, the Highway 395 is fine to ride. Although it is a main road, the traffic is bearable and in most places we could use the whole shoulder to ride alongside the cars.

While the Haibikes rolled dependably and the trail was easy, it was my legs that felt really tired today, and I was glad to be eased along in Andy’s wind shadow. We went on a long straight with a slight incline so our natural speed was mostly over 32 kph (20 mph), right at the speed at which the electric motor cuts the assistance. The Yamaha pedelec system does so rather smoothly so you do not feel as if “riding against a wall.”

However, what I love most are the real uphills and downhills when legs and electric motor operate at full power, and I find the long, straight stretches rather tiring. Consequently, the climb to Conway Summit (8138 ft) and the steep, extremely windy downhill ride and a fantastic view over Mono Lake that followed was much more to my liking.

We explored the shore of Mono Lake with it’s petrified springs called tufa towers. They result from calcium-rich spring water bubbling up from the bottom of the lake and into the alkaline lake water. Tufa gets its name from the Latin ”tofus” for porous stone.

Different from Lake del Valle, which we visited a few days ago, Mono Lake is a natural reservoir. It was once fed by lakes and rivers rushing down the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite. When an aqueduct was built in the 1920’s to redirect the waters to supply Los Angeles, Mono Lake’s water level dropped drastically leading to devastating changes in its ecosystem. In 1994 the California State Water Resources Control Board decided to protect this huge natural resource. Today, the question is no longer if Mono Lake will be saved but how to preserve it.

To personally preserve my strength, I rested early while the rest of the team went to natural hot springs and came back with big, relaxed smiles.

My jump into hot springs would come the next day but the morning suggested otherwise. When we woke up at our camp ground directly at Mono Lake, everything was sprinkled with snow. We used the scenery for filming and taking pictures.

We then took our Haibikes ePerformance pedelecs back on the Highway 395 with the now familiar snow-covered peaks of Sierra Nevada on one and the White Mountains on the our other side. A cold wind blew and chased dark clouds across the sky. We hurried along underneath.

Mood and landscape brightened considerably after an 8-mile downhill ride as we followed the road into the lively and colourful hippie-town Bishops, where we had dinner. Some 15 km down south, we set up camp at the Keogh Hot Springs. From here, we will be on our way shortly to descend into Death Valley.

Riding data (two days combined):

Distance: 236 Av. speed: 27 km/h Max speed: 62 km/h (Susi) Energy consumption: about 1,800 Wh (Susi, 4 batteries) Riding mode: High, mostly Uphill: 2,390 m Downhill: 2,590 m Surface: tar, hwy 395 Riders: Susi, Micha, Andreas Weather: mainly cloudy and chilly

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