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Sierra Passes - One Mo' Time in 2020

Kevin R

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With Winter closing in and bringing road closures on some very pretty Sierra Passes, the time was right on Nov. 2 to get one last fix for the year. A late season warmup with temperatures that eventually reached the mid 80s (!) in the San Joaquin Valley promised very comfortable riding up at 9000ft. The day's ride included hitting three sierra passes - Sonora, Monitor, and Ebbetts - for a sublime 450mi day.


A perfect day out from the Bay Area of California

Duckie and I cruised out from San Jose early on a Monday. Even though I saw 46F on the thermometer for a while, I figured (hoped!) it wouldn't last for long (it didn't). Upon reaching the foothills, first up was Rt 108 eastbound up the western slope of the Sierras to Sonora Pass. We stopped at Donnell's Vista on the way up and were treated to a spectacular view north over Donnell Lake. The parking lot was actually closed for the season but there was enough room to squeeze around the gate on the bikes. Yet another reason to ditch the cage and ride a motorcycle! 


View from Donnell's Vista on Rt 108

From there it was a sublime ride on 108 the rest of the way up and over Sonora Pass. Duckie said the road had been repaved in 2019 and it showed. This thing was race track smooth and seriously fun. That, along with the stunning scenery, means that I will be back ASAP in 2021.

Once over Sonora Pass it was down the eastern Sierra slope to pick up Rt. 395 north. A quick pitstop in Walker, and then on to 89 north and Monitor Pass.


Busy downtown Walker, CA on a postcard perfect day

This part of the route brought back many memories from years ago when I was leading COG rallies in the Fall. We used to blast up and around these passes every year from June Lake (CA). Over time I had forgotten how beautiful it was out there but I vowed then and there to never let so much time go by before I visit the area again. Heading up Rt. 89, the views east over the Antelope Valley and Walker River basin as you climb towards Monitor Pass are expansive and breathtaking.

Finally, we turned west on Rt. 4 for the blast up the eastern slope of the Sierras to Ebbetts Pass. I had ridden this one back in August but there was a lot of smoke and limited visibility at that time. Now, with the smoke largely gone and almost no traffic, a small pull-out with a view on the side of the road turned into the perfect lunch spot. Eventually we had to return to reality and come down from this paradise but with miles of twisty asphalt along the way it wasn't so bad!


Double Vision: You don't often see two 900GTs in one place at the same time!

The weather on the day was absolutely perfect, especially for November: sunny with temperatures in the high 60s at 9000ft and no wind.  With temperatures into the mid 80s while trudging back across the central valley, we saw a delta of 40 degrees on the day. All in all, though, it was a terrific end to the central Sierra riding season. Can't wait to get back there next Spring!

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OH MY Oh My this is a great report that takes me back. The Sierra is my emotional home, and my first job out of college was teaching at Yosemite Institute. When 20 years old I took a semester off of college and hiked solo from Tahoe south to Whitney. It's just heaven in ways beyond any words to tell. I didn't ride motorcycles when I lived in CA, so I can't wait to ride my bike down there and have some time to do those passes. Sonora Pass is one of the highest and most amazing places in North America. The hiking north and south of there is sublime. Well done Sir. 

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I lived up there, In Truckee, in the 70's and 80's. Riding and climbing in the summer, skiing in the winter, and trying to fit in work. I certainly enjoy living in the PNW now, but miss living in the mountains. Can't say I really miss digging out of the ten foot snow dumps, but I was much younger then...

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