We continue south passing farms and grazing fields along the way, past the Bridgeport Reservoir and then climb a few more mountains until we crest and see the beautiful Mono Lake in front and below us. We stop at the top of the mountain to take pictures and let our brain digest the beautiful scenery. From the top of the mountain the cars on the road below looked like busy ants going about their business, we would soon join them after a long and twisty descent.
We move on towards Lee Vining stopping for lunch at another barbecue place, this time it's Bodie Mike's Bar-B-Q, "it's as good as gold" is the tag line. The barbecued sandwiches were very tasty, the waitresses friendly, warm weather and a beautiful blue sky, what else could we ask for.
We leave Lee Vining and continue towards the entrance of Yosemite National Park. Coming in from the East you go up a steep climb of 3,000 ft (914 m) feet towards Tioga Pass (el. 9,943 ft. / 3,031 m.) in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. State Route 120 runs through it, and serves as the eastern entry point for Yosemite National Park. It is the highest highway pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada. The climb is slow due to a few four door cages in front of us but it gives us time to appreciate the granite formations.
We continued on route 120 until Big Oak Road where we made a left and followed the road to the valley down bellow. We stopped at Bridalveil Fall, at 188 metres (617 ft) high, it is one of the most prominent waterfalls in the Yosemite Valley. We walk up to the base of the fall but there's too much spray in the air, my brother took one quick picture of me with my phone and then retreats with his expensive camera back to the safety of the forest nearby. I stayed and took pictures of myself, not the most flattering pictures but I have never been one to care about my best angle. I got my camera and phone wet but it was worth it. The Ahwahneechee tribe believed that Bridalveil Fall was home to a vengeful spirit named Pohono which guarded the entrance to the valley, and that those leaving the valley must not look directly into the waterfall lest they be cursed. I left without looking back just to be sure.
We move on pass El Capitan, a prominent granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world and was featured in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. As a challenge to himself in 2287, James T. Kirk attempted free climbing El Capitan solo, without any safety equipment; an attempt which nearly resulted in his death. Fortunately Spock saved Kirk's life with the help of his jet boots. I have always loved Star Trek and that scene had been stuck in my mind. It's an impressive vertical rock formation, 3,000 feet (910 m) high located on the north side of Yosemite Valley and is composed almost entirely of El Capitan Granite, a pale, coarse-grained granite emplaced approximately 100 million years ago. I wished I had jet boots to be able to soar over the park and enjoy the beauty from above. Yosemite is truly a treasure in the US National Park system. We pass a few water falls on the way out of the valley and back to route 120 and then proceed west towards the park exit.
It was late afternoon when we exit the park and arrive in Groveland just outside the park. We park our bikes and stroll around the little town. We visit the Iron Door Grill, California oldest saloon. The Historic Iron Door Saloon was built in the California Gold Country sometime before 1852. It was first called the "Granite Store", perhaps because the front and back walls are made of solid granite blocks. We admire the heavy metal door but since my brother is not a drinker we moved on, besides we still had to ride a few more hours and alcohol and bikes don't mix. The front of the building has a beautiful mural depicting the Yosemite National Park.
We leave Groveland and decide to continue towards Manteca, about 65 miles away, where we would find a motel to spend the night. We left Groveland after sunset with the dark sky quickly engulfing us. We continued on route 120 but were surprised to encounter the first 45 miles completely deserted, not a single town or lights around us. We made good progress, the traffic not that heavy, but always on the look out for deer crossing the road, dusk being one of the most dangerous time to ride a motorcycle. We arrive in Manteca and after a quick search on the GPS and a few calls we find a motel and quickly head there.
We rode 320 miles through beautiful mountains passes, valleys, lakes, cute little towns along the way and we visited California's oldest Saloon, one of the best days so far. It had been a long day but also an amazing day of overwhelming beautiful scenery.