Trip Report: Tour De Lee Vining

Ben Trefry

October 15, 2022

starting out

“Death comes driving down the highway.” Out of all the songs played and replayed throughout sixteen hours of hard riding, this Blue Oyster Cult lyric struck me as most emblematic of our trip. It’s no exact analogy. In the best moments it felt like we could be this spectral figure of death, hammering side by side through so many miles of open road. Other times it felt like we were the only living things on that god-forsaken highway, and death was roaring up on all sides in RVs, dump trucks, and lifted Dodge Rams, honking and cussing. Or maybe the lyric meant nothing at all. Just a few words, simple and gritty enough to repeat over and over in my head for the long crawl up Sonora Pass.

It would be slander, though, to reduce this trip to just the mind-boggling Sonora ascent of Friday afternoon. The trip began in earnest on Thursday evening—a downhill roll out of the Pleasanton BART station, into the adjacent parking garage where Varun was waiting next to his white Tacoma. We’d spent our summers in different states and radically different occupations, and the joy I felt to see him again was beyond any hyperbole a lesser writer might attempt to conjure here. There he was, in the flesh. And we were about to do something crazy.

My summer had been strange and at times lonely. I’d tried to set goals and make changes. I hoped I could put three months to good use discovering who I am. Instead I spent it trapped in a roundabout, circling past the same choices over and over all around yet unable to decide and exit. I tried to re-evaluate my relationship with technology; I wanted—still want—to be the guy who takes 12 hours to respond to texts, who might be late because he doesn’t use navigation, who hasn’t seen or read the news, who doesn’t know and doesn’t care what he’s missing. But somehow I’m a little too high-strung to live that life; it isn’t me. Trying to be someone you’re not never feels right.

In the year that we’ve known each other, Varun has listened and helped me through all manner of dilemmas. Even when I get that mournful look in my eye, take a long pull of Deschutes IPA, and start talking about dropping out of college—with a detour into how much I still miss my ex—he puts up with it. Even more importantly, he pushes me out of my comfort zone with adventures like this ride. We’re in the business of suffering, experiencing nature, and summitting together.

Come 4:00 AM on Friday morning, we were awake and packing the Tacoma. At 4:30, we were on the road. The sun had just risen when we hit the venerable Old Priest Grade. We drove through Groveland, the claimed starting point of our ride, and kept going. This was because, as degenerate car users, we had to get our parking fix in a place that wouldn’t rob or tow the Tacoma. Groveland public park? No parking after midnight. Fire station? Bad idea—the hotshots might use his vehicle to practice car-crash rescue techniques. Unknown dirt road to nowhere, three miles out of town? Perfect.

Sure, the faceless bureaucratic machine that is the Forest Service could choose to tow the Tacoma. But with it parked on a treacherous hill, well off the already-narrow access road, they’d need an extremely badass off-road wrecker to do it. He’d have to drive up from some Las Vegas monster-truck rally, crawl up the slope, and extricate the Tacoma without himself rolling off the cliff. All in all, it’d add up to a “total tow”: the scenario in which the cost of towing exceeds the vehicle’s value. Be cheaper to just dynamite the Tacoma right in place, if its presence proved so offensive to Smokey Bear. So we set the brake, threw a couple logs under the wheels, and unloaded our trusty steeds. I bombed straight down the dirt hill, since it would be funny to crash in the first couple hundred feet of our epic ride. (I didn’t.) Varun rode more conservatively. We regrouped down at the highway and began a road descent, then climb, towards Groveland. 7:00 AM and we’d turned onto Wards Ferry Road.

Wards Ferry Road, I think, is the ideal American road. The pavement is shit, the climbing and descending are brutal, and it’s exposed and hot. But it’s remote and virtually car-free, making it more pleasant than most of the other roads we demolished on this ride. It carried us down into the Tuolomne River Valley, to an elevation of 900 feet—the low point of our ride. It was, we knew, all uphill from there. And we were ready.

When I first started cycling long distances, I thought long rides had to be excruciatingly slow. Only the turtle goes the distance. I’d trundle along at endurance pace (cycling code for embarrassingly slow) because I feared burning out. Of course I’ve gained fitness since then. But I’ve also gained the confidence to hammer as needed on long rides. If you’re in a car, you shouldn’t have to featherfoot the gas pedal just because you’re driving across the state. Likewise, if you listen to your body and stay smart about your fueling strategy, you can step on the gas whenever you feel like it. The only difference is that instead of red-dye diesel, I run on sandwiches.

On Wards Ferry Road that Friday morning, we were two friends reuniting after a summer apart, no cars on our asses and no other cyclists to drop. We were feeling fresh, the music was going, and we flew up the grade and out of the awesome Tuolomne gorge. Looking back, I do recognize that Wards Ferry is objectively a stomper of a climb. But it sure didn’t feel like it.

Preferring to avoid all independent thought, I dropped the ball on navigation and simply left it to Varun. Through some series of other roads, which were nice I guess, we arrived at the big boy, CA-108 East. We’d bypassed the freeways and Wal-Marts of Sonora (the city), but the real ascent of Sonora (the pass) was still many, many, miles away. We just kept going, for as many miles as it took to leave the world behind. We faced the trucks of America and their angry, entitled, and poorly endowed drivers. The trees got taller, the air grew thinner, and the towns got smaller. Just before 10:00 AM, we found ourselves stopping in Sugar Pine to refuel.


At the Kwik-Stop gas station, we were greeted by a wonderfully supportive cashier. “What you’re doing is amazing, I’ll be thinking of you,” she told us. Which was heartwarming, but also sobering—because it made us think of what still lay ahead.

My fueling strategy was almost exclusively comprised of surplus sandwiches from Star Meats, my place of work. I’d already eaten one on the drive to Groveland; now, I bit into the second with great relish. The warm layers of salmi, coppa, proscuitto, and provolone really hit the spot. As with all Star Meats creations, the two vegetable-adjacent ingredients were mainly for decoration and thus not worthy of mention. I handed another sandwich to Varun. He took a disapproving bite, popped its hood, removed the stack of meat, and surreptitiously discarded it into an oily gutter by the gas pumps. Then we pressed on to the tune of Sultans of Swing. The forest was thick and the pavement smooth; the scenery grew better with each mile. Good ol’ 108 really was delivering us to the mountains; I began to feel at home.

The Strawberry store was our next stop, and our passage into the Blackout Zone. When we left that quaint country store, we knew, we’d be out of cell service until the whole damn climb was over. We’d have to make it to the east side, or die trying. (Or write a message for a helpful driver to pass along to my dad—something like “Hi Daddy! 2 miles out of Strawberry. Our Bluetooth speaker ran out of battery, and my axle snapped, so we won’t make it. Come pick us up?”.)

I called my dad from the store, telling him we were on course and making good time with about 35 miles to the pass. Even some of those were bullshit miles—like hitting 7000 feet of elevation only for the Stanislaus river valley to open up below us. We tried to enjoy this ripping road descent; there was only one road and we had no choice. But we were losing elevation faster than a tubeless tire hemmhoraging air.

All told, we got knocked back down to about 5800 feet, to what felt like a rolling desert plain surrounded by mountains. Unusually dry for the west side. Black skeleton trees, standing and fallen, surrounded us. There used to be a forest before the fire. There used to be a lot of things, before a lot of fires; that is the story of the Sierra Nevada. I was aware that the soil hadn’t always been ash, but I never thought of the flames or destruction, never wished for what once was here. Maybe there’s no going back, and if that’s true, in time the open ashscape will seem more natural than the forest we no longer remember. I’m not supposed to think of the ashscape as beautiful, but it was beautiful, I rode through it and saw.

The owners of the burned-out Dardanelle resort, too, see something worth rebuilding. They’ve brought in temporary buildings and reopened the store. We didn’t patronize it, just collapsed in some lawn chairs around a firepit to slam more sandwiches, and some buttery Indian candies too.

Before long a little guy rolled up on a Huffy kids’ bike. He ditched the bike and sat down right next to us, kicking his short legs up onto a footrest the same way an old man might. He just sat there for a few minutes, until somehow we got to talking. He told us his parents were those brave Dardanellians rebuilding the burned-out resort, and that he lived there most of the year. He has the option of staying with family somewhere down in the Central Valley, too, but prefers Dardanelle because his bed there is softer.

I don’t think that’s it. I think he doesn’t have the words for it, and won’t have them until he grows into a young man, but the real reason he prefers Dardanelle to the city is the freedom, the sheer size of the mountains, the river that still flows between burned shores and the green mats of life pushing up its banks. He likes living in the blackout zone. When there’s no cell service, things happen, magical things that never seem to transpire anywhere else.

Although only about seven years old, he showed us a series of increasingly elaborate tricks on his little bike, and told us about the extreme biking he and his siblings do right in their backyard.

Gesturing to a charred, fallen log over a yard in diameter, he said, “My friend almost broke his neck trying to ride that.”

Good lord, we thought. We asked him if he ever wears a helmet.

“I… forget the rules!” he said with a devilish grin. And told us about the ramp he and his friends had fabricated using an old door.

With an eye to possibly hitting the jump on my own Bianchi, I asked if he’d show us. He happily agreed, and brought his friends too. We coasted across 108 to a campground by the Stanislaus river. The fire had missed this spot; there were still plenty of trees.

Sure enough, in one of the campsites we saw a door laying on the ground. The little guy and his friends picked it up and leaned it on a big, round rock, creating a ramp. Two feet high, crooked, and wobbly—with more boulders right in the landing area. At this moment I knew in my heart of hearts that I would not be hitting this jump. Not on my Bianchi, not on my Cannondale, and probably not even on my late Breezer, may it rest in peace.

But all three kids did hit it. First the older ones on their hardtail MTBs, fast and with no fear. Not to be outdone, the little guy went for it. He hit the ramp with incredible skill and confidence, on a bike only one step removed from the no-pedal kids’ striders (see: Specialized Hotwalk Carbon). He took to the air, but on the landing, his tiny wheels couldn’t keep the bike upright. He took a roll in the dirt. I felt a pang of flaming terror—no helmet, big rocks near where he crashed, and we were the only adults around. But he jumped right up, with no more missing teeth than before the wreck.

We stuck around to make sure he was really all right. Then it was time to go. Time for the valley to turn to wall and the pleasant afternoon sun to turn to hellfire. We had a few easy rolling miles out of Dardanelle, but we knew what we were about to do. When the main climb hit, we instantly activated our little rings. We were strong guys on light, modern bikes with low gears. You could be on an S-works Turbo e-bice and Sonora, that showstopper of a climb, would still find a way to kick your ass. Near the bottom we saw an RV crookedly bailed into a pullout with brakes smoking. All the way up we smelled burning brakes, hot pavement, and our own sweat. We pushed on.

Beginning of the grade

The climb split itself into several distinct zones. Delineated by scenery, steepness of grade, pavement surface, and the albums we listened to along the way, it felt like a multi-part adventure. First there was the spectacularly steep initial rise out of the valley. Here the road was occasionally blasted right through solid rock, the air warm and thick in the way western Sierra air can be; we prayed for elevation to cool us off.

Then we made our way into the forest. Almost pleasant, and I had a good album going too: Back in the World of Adventures by The Flower Kings. This music became as much a part of the scenery as the pines and aspens, and it propelled me up the winding, shaded grade. I even shifted out of the little ring a few times.

Of course, the hardest climbing of all was still to come. The road broke free from the forest into spectacular rocky ledges even more dramatic than the orange stone down below. The air was thin, but no cooler—with so little atmosphere between us and the sun, radiation baked us with a different kind of heat than the warm Dardanellian afternoon we’d climbed out of.

This is where I began to fade; this is where Sonora became brutally real. I saw a wall above me, one that might just succeed at keeping us on the west side, never to return home to the east. I knew we’d make it over the hill; we always do. But as time stretched to eternity, and I made my way through hourlong albums scarcely even hearing any of the songs, I dipped into a deeper well of resolve, one I’d never touched before. I think that’s why we exercise, why we do things that hurt—to find that resolve somewhere within and keep going. It’s a feeling that nothing else can replicate.

I cannot say how long I struggled up that exposed grade, but eventually (and very suddenly) the road dived back into nearly flat forest. And I flew, freed from gravity. Even fifteen miles an hour felt unreal after spending hours at four. I’d forgotten it was possible to move this fast. At this point, I slammed another sandwich.

Beginning of the grade

From there it was easy riding to the pass. We reached it and collapsed on the side of the road. For a few minutes we sat just past the white line. Most of the cars going by us didn’t even stop at the pass, and I felt sorry for them. When a machine does the work for you, you forget what it’s like to climb mountains. You make the climb, drop down the other side, and—assuming your brakes don’t smoke out—leave with nothing more than a few photos. But we left with memories of pain and triumph, plus blisters, throbbing knees, and aching bones to prove to ourselves the magnitude of what we’d just done.

Top of the grade

Eventually we decided it was probably time to tackle the descent into Pickel Meadows. There are descents in the Berkeley Hills steeper than this and with worse pavement. But this descent is in my DNA; I was raised to respect it. It’s where my dad had his life-changing bike wreck years before I was born. It’s where he cleaved his helmet, shattered his thigh bones, and got close enough to death to travel the tunnel of white light. Had the road been just a little more unkind that day, I wouldn’t exist at all. Out of reverence for Sonora Pass’s bloody history, we took it slow and stopped to let our brakes cool down. Below us, we saw lush meadows, sagebrush-dry hills for hundreds of miles, and the Pickel Meadows military base nestled against the eastern slope. We had passed through the blackout zone, and my phone once again worked. I called my dad to let him know we were over the pass.

Pacelining through Pickel

sign on the other side of the pass

We rode to meet him at the junction where 108 meets Highway 395. Then we turned around. With only 99 miles recorded on Strava, and twenty minutes remaining before my dad arrived, we had to add an extra out-and-back to achieve the all-important century. Only then could we ditch our bikes in the back of my dad’s truck and begin to relax.

Showers were taken and pizza eaten, but before we could go to bed we had to visit my neighbors the Wanners. This was because of the ancient custom that, upon arriving in Mono City with a new friend from elsewhere, one must introduce said friend to the legendary Todd Wanner. When we got there, the house was dark. I knew a bear had ransacked their kitchen only a few nights before; perhaps they were laying low. I knocked on the door with no response. But we could hear the rhythmic creaking of a jumper on the family’s trampoline.

Seeing Ana, I felt the same rush of joy I’d felt when I reunited with Varun in Pleasanton. Perhaps even more, because of the mountains I’d crossed to get there. Ana let us into the dark house with no doorknob, and her family (including Todd) appeared one by one. Just a few minutes before I had feared that there might be no one home; now, Wanners came out of the woodwork until all five of them, plus the two of us, had gathered in the living room. That’s where we spent the final hours of the evening.

The next day was a rest day and my one chance to show Varun around Lee Vining. He is well-traveled, has been to more national parks than me, and at first I felt I had something to prove to him—how many one-of-a-kind, only-in-Lee-Vining experiences could I pack into one day, and how would it measure up? But that was the wrong way to look at it. Lee Vining isn’t a destination, it’s a life I lived for seventeen years. Many of my friends still are living it. And the best way to experience it was not to pack in sights and activities, but to simply spend a day in that life.

First, we drove up Tioga Pass for a classic Dana Plateau hike with my parents and my friend Laurea. There was smoke in the air and a deepening haze obscured Yosemite’s interior. Varun and I were both supremely gassed from the previous day’s ride—it’s fortunate the hike wasn’t too much of a stomper. We were able to climb out of the smoke onto the beautiful Dana Plateau. A group of hotshot climbers had taken over Third Pillar for some death-defying stunt, so we made do with a nearby and less dramatic rock outcropping.

Later that day, the hot west wind kicked up and we drove up Lundy Canyon in my dad’s truck (another white Tacoma). Lundy Canyon, for me, was the bike ride that started it all. Five miles and exactly 1,000 feet of elevation gain used to be a challenging proposition for thirteen-year-old me on my Breezer mountain bike. In those Lundy years I never dreamed of conquering Sonora, didn’t know what wattage meant, and happily trundled my heavy mountain bike up what was essentially a road ride.

I imagined us riding up Lundy now, off the heels of a century with more than twelve times as much elevation, slaying the Original Goon Ride on a Schwinn cruiser or perhaps old mountain bikes. But it wasn’t meant to be. Not with Sonora behind us and another 100-mile day ahead of us. There is a special art of humility in the practice of letting rest days be rest days—we headed up Lundy to swim, not to suffer, and so driving was perfectly appropriate.

When we got to the water, we found swimming and suffering to be sadly intertwined. So cold was the flow of Mill Creek that the men who’d conquered Sonora came dangerously close to chickening out. But I remembered that this, too, was a Mono City classic. A Mono City kid never shrinks from cold water. All my life, everyone I knew would follow any river to its best swimming hole and dip a toe in. The colder it was, the stronger the urge to dunk. And we always did.

In the end, Varun and I channeled the courage of yesteryear to complete a dunk each. We didn’t succeed by standing knee-deep in icy water and indecision; we did it quickly and found it to be less brutal than expected. Once we can begin truly and decisively, we’ve already won. This was true of riding Sonora, it was true of plunging into Mill Creek, and it’s true of almost every decision in life.

Come Sunday morning, we slammed bowls of oatmeal and prepared to hit Tioga. Confidence was high, with Tioga Pass being a supremely easy climb next to Sonora’s hellfire. We said goodbye to the folks and started with beautiful miles through sagebrush desert, wrapping around the shore of Mono Lake. I’d driven this stretch of Highway 395 thousands of times, but this was only my second time biking it. For years Mono City residents have feared the infamous Narrows; to us, they are as bad as a road can get thanks to a combination of big government, poor roadbuilding, Southern California Edison’s careless profiteering, and the trucking industry.

First, in 2015, came a rockfall abatement project; all I can say is that it seemed to be inspired by city people. Earthmoving beasts scaled and shrink-wrapped the rocky slopes above Mono Lake, reducing the road to one lane for over a year. All too soon this proved to be for naught—Edison’s goony electric lines sent sparks arcing into the piñon forest. The Marina Fire raged up and down the slope, destroying the trees and their roots, frying the natural glue that once held the slope together. Rockfall from the fire zone became a bigger danger than the shrink-wrapped slope below had ever been. And so a fence was installed, with concrete barriers kissing the white lines. No shoulder and no escape from a thousand screaming trucks making their way up and down 395, the spine of the Eastern Sierra.

This was the story I believed when I lived in Mono City. I told Varun things could get ugly in the Narrows; we were ready for carnage. Instead, we blasted right through at 7:45 AM with music playing and not a car on the road. It made me feel rather silly for fearing the Narrows for so many years. On a clear summer morning, the beauty of Mono Lake almost rivals that of the high country. We didn’t even stop in Lee Vining. The momentum was too strong.

Owning the road around Mono Lake. Some of the best riding ever, right from home

Tioga proved mostly a cinch. Compared to Sonora, the amount of effort it took to reach the 9,000 foot sign (an important milestone on both climbs) was laughable. The sign looked the same as on Sonora, but I wasn’t gulping air, in my lowest gear, or running out of water. Just over an hour of casual spinning delivered us to Ellery Lake and the climb was all but over.

When we reached the pass, we had a choice. We could stay on the road, the straight-and-narrow, present park passes, ID, vaccine card, birth certificate, DNA sample, and swear allegiance to the NSA and NPS. Alternatively, we could get in a little cyclocross by sidestepping the gate entirely. There was a third way—to crash the gate doing ninety-eight—but that would likely prove injurious and so was not considered.

Varun had his doubts about sneaking in. We agreed to split up and race to the other side. He pedaled up to the gate like a sheep headed for slaughter. I, the wild mountain goat, traversed meadows and hillsides with a Bianchi in one hand and a can of Rolling Rock in the other.

I looked up to check Varun’s progress on the road above. He passed right through the gate and continued on his way. I was still down in the thicket and my socks were beginning to fill with stickers. It was a long slog back up to the road.

We met a few hundred feet west of the gate to begin the descent. I was eager to put some distance between me and the checkpoint. I listened for sirens and gunfire behind us.

The road proved smooth and fast. We began to fly through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever ridden. In the heart of Tuolomne Meadows we stopped at the classic tent store to find a scene beyond our wildest dreams. Far above the freeways and skyscrapers of the Central Valley, here was a shining, happy city just over the hill. A city of climbers, cool bikes, hacky-sack games and all in the radiant Yosemite sunshine. A beautiful sight, but we were mere visitors; we did not belong to this particular world. I felt naked in cycling-specific clothes; I had to watch my Bianchi carefully lest some Surly rider take a pedal wrench to its lightweight roadie frame. We, the self-proclaimed goons, were not goon enough to partake any further than using the restroom, slamming some leftover pizza, and refilling water. Not one of the bikes parked there looked capable of our Trans-Sierra journey; we took some solace in the fact that we were the only ones here crossing the mountains but did not attempt to brag about it. We pressed on.

It was here that smoke began to roll in. We didn’t care or slow down. In the 21st century, haze is as much a part of the landscape as the skeleton forest of Dardanelle, and it didn’t make the ride any less magical. Even the stop at Olmsted Point, where we could hardly see the greats of Yosemite Valley through the smoke, was incredible.

As the day continued, we dropped lower. By no means was the climbing over. Every descent was a ripper on fresh NPS pavement; afterwards, we would feel our precious momentum sapped by the next rolling hill. Hours after crashing the Tioga Pass gate, we were still trapped at 8,000 feet. We weren’t complaining, though—not with such spectacular scenery.

More cars began to appear. Lines of them roared by us and I began to wish for anti-vehicular artillery. What a shame that such a spectacular byway is controlled by the roaring engines of evil. Quoting Roger Waters (and conveniently forgetting our own three-hour drive to Groveland): “If I ‘ad my way, I’d ‘ave all uv ‘em shot!”

Eventually we exited the park. This, surprisingly, was where we hit the rippingest descents of all. We threw away all of our elevation on a few choice descents, like jets coming in too soon for the final approach to the Groveland airport. The air was hot, the sun was high, and the cars became more numerous and aggressive. The cherry on top: a headwind kicked up.

After some time we hit an Elevation 3,000 Feet sign. Same elevation as Groveland, with over 20 miles still to go. Tioga Pass had indeed been easy, just as we’d predicted. But our mistake had been assuming that Tioga Pass was all that mattered. We hunkered down in high gear, trusting that we could mash to the end no matter what ups and downs lay ahead.

We experienced several close passes and near misses with cars, thus beginning a contentious debate between the two of us on whether to use the shoulder or bravely take the lane. Since my subversive Tioga Pass entrance, the tables had turned. Now Varun wanted to defy the cars and their roaring diesel exhausts. While I, the submissive little guy on his tiny 61cm frame, edged off into the shoulder to let the big boys pass.

On one blind curve I heard a death machine approaching behind me—I was already in the shoulder. He passed so close that I had to slam on the brakes and bail off the side of the road, onto a dirt hillside. I didn’t crash; just slowed to a stop. This underpins my argument about using the shoulder: I trust myself to control my bike and take evasive action under all conditions. Varun countered that had I taken the lane, the driver would likely not have attempted his heinous pass.

At this point, I felt the cars were detracting to an extreme degree. The aforementioned Narrows were nothing next to this god-awful segment of 120. I could stand smoke, heat, and hills, but the ferocity of vehicular travel on this westward passage turned an otherwise beautiful landscape into some circle of hell.

Then, like magic, the shoulder widened. The change was drastic. We didn’t have much water or gas left, but just being able to turn my brain off and ride with the cars a safe distance away changed the ride completely. They were still there, I’m sure of it, but I hardly noticed the vehicles anymore. I could once again ride the landscape, all its ups and downs and curves, as it was meant to be ridden. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t frightening either. In peace we ticked off the last 14 miles, mashing at low cadence to conserve energy. The ride had gone from high-altitude Yosemite rip, to highway death ride, to an honest slog in 90-degree weather. I wanted it to end—we both did—but we also wanted to savor the end of this epic adventure, perhaps the most epic weekend of my life. We also wanted to reach the all-important century (100.0 miles) on Strava. We told ourselves we didn’t care, at first. That we’d just reach the Tacoma and be done. But we came full-circle, saw the Forest Service road where it all began, and kept going. We descended several hundred feet.

Varun calculated his distance exactly, and we turned around when he’d done enough distance to hit the hundo. But I never checked mine. The truck was still right where we left it, but I was faced with a travesty—just 99.4 miles on my Strava. I was done. It would have to do.

Had this Sunday been an easy day, had it all been downhill from Tioga, we wouldn’t have felt nearly so accomplished upon completing it. When we stumbled down the main street of Groveland like two day drunks in search of ice cream, I felt gassed in the best way possible. After this, we could do anything. I felt like a new man, ready to absolutely drop my demons, be creative, and break bad habits.

But unless you’re John Muir, three days in the mountains does not a life-changing experience make. When I got back to Berkeley, old habits set in. I didn’t feel any different; there was nothing inside reminding me what we’d done. Could I do it again in a week? Would I ever do it again? Did I ever do it at all, or was it just a dream? How long ago, and how many worlds away from this Berkeley existence, did Varun and I mash up Sonora?

I like the thought of one-way passage, from west to east, from one life to another. In the end, though, the return trip has to be made. As always we end where we begin. I will continue living at a juncture, wondering what it all means, just a little wiser and stronger. This trip report exists to help us remember that we did go somewhere, and that it meant something.

Goon Writer
August 24, 2022

Ice cream