Riding the Adventure Cycle Association’s Western Express Bike Route.
Fairfield is wine country and the hotel costs reflect that. But we had a bath tub and we took baths and fell asleep fast. Rami was captivated by the UK election and we spent a lot of time discussing how Parliament functions and which parties would be part of which possible coalitions. My prediction for a big upset by Plaid Cymru leading to a Welsh Independence majority Parliament, oddly, turned out to be off the mark. I need to rethink my confidence in the overall political influence of Welsh independence.
We were up at 6 or so the next morning and got out soon and in good order. The mechanical cloud was not yet fully dispelled, as we would learn, but all problems are minor: the bikes are string and so are we.
It always take a bit of wandering to get out of a town. The ACA maps are good, but they can be a bit confusing near towns and towns are confusing to begin with when ridden into. In the woods, Rami and I always say we feel a bit like bears when we walk into a town–and not just because we pee on trees and rummage the trash cans. It is a headspace issue, and transitioning from just riding to suddenly considering which poorly marked street is which while cars do their car thing is never easy. Nevertheless, we found our way out and onto the roads east. We began by crossing some golden hills and skirting some others before a big right turn took us into the heart of the valley. There everything was table flat and covered in walnut orchards. The roads rolled and were lovely. There were lots of other riders out too. Cervelo seems to be the popular bike maker out here and all the riders we saw were friendly and looked skilled. It was hard to not envy getting out of the saddle and pushing hard up a hill on a 16 pound carbon racer while pushing my own 24 pounds of steel and 65 pounds of panniers. Seeing other riders on the road is great though–their being there tells you these are good riding roads, and their smiles and waves are very encouraging because they of everyone know fully well what a rider on a fully loaded bike is doing. Most of the cars are fine–although there is a pattern. Regular cars pass calmly and all have given us a wide berth. Big pickup trucks and flashy sports cars also pass us with enough room. But each of them likes to rev up and make lots of noise as they pass and then floor it after they have passed us. It is pretty routine. It conforms to the widely held view that drivers of flashy cars and overly large pickups have something they wish to prove to the world–perhaps something lacking in the trouser department. Just saying.
The countryside was beautiful–especially the area between Winters and Davis. The roads were dreamy and the final miles into Davis were on a great path. We crossed a great bridge over the Putah Creek. It was high and covered in great graffiti. Right around there, amidst the sun and lovely riding, the bolt holding Rami’s right pannier rack onto the fork broke gave up the ghost no doubt overcome with emotion and landscape enthusiasm. Whatever its motivation, we were suddenly roadside with a dropped pannier. The modern miracle that is the Zip Tie allowed a creative rerigging and off we went again. The surviving bolt will need to be drilled out and we did not want to wander around Davis looking for a candidate mechanic (and we were about 60 miles too far to double back to Leonardo’s). The fix will work for now, but I am not thrilled with the Axiom Lowriders. They are not really made for heavy duty. But then again I am using a Salsa add on as the top bolt holder so the problem may be there. Rami is riding my Surly Crosscheck which is my daily commuter rerigged for touring–but its fork has no brazeons. My bike–the LHT–has the Surly front rack and it is a beast. There may be change of front rack in the future, maybe in Carson City. Who knows. Nevertheless, zip ties worked for now, and so off we went. Being in Davis also made me think of my late friend and colleague Ward Stavig and I took a few moments to speak of Ward to Rami and let him know how much he would have liked him–and vice versa.
Lovely as was the ride into Davis, the ride into Sacramento was a grim contrast. There are good wide bike lanes but they are a bit, shall we say, road-sidey. We paralleled rail tracks though and that made it fun. We got to see commuter trains fly back and forth and some huge Union Pacific engines too. We also rode on the Yolo Causeway which is essentially the shoulder of west bound Rt 80 with a waist-high concrete wall and about five feet of chain link keeping us from the on coming traffic. The noise was loud enough to make ipods useless. But–it was a great ride. Out of nowhere, Rami suddenly passed me on the left with a big smile and tried to drop me! Good luck. I leaned in and pretty soon we were heading along at 19 mph and I just drafted behind him the whole way along. I know–19 is no big deal– but with touring bikes it feels pretty good. Plus this was table land and that is where we Florida riders shine. The US needs more of these kinds of highway-side causeways. We could add one of these to interstates all over the place and it would be amazing and there would be more cycling travel and the health and financial benefits that would bring. We have the damned highways already–let’s make bike lanes next to them too!
The Yolo dropped us off in West Sacramento which is yet another rotted urban hell. Bad roads, marginal business, hard done by people, the whole panoply of all that is wrong in this land was on display block by block. It made a shocking contrast to the natural and cultural beauty of San Francisco less than a hundred miles to the west. The money and talent that collects there and the other few blessed cities like it comes at the expenses of places like this. Inequality doing its thing. Great.
We crossed a lovely yellow bridge and went through Old Town Sacramento. We paused for only a moment, but it was a nice area. Cobbles and boards were not good for riding, but this is a hopping area that has a great feel–like Fredericksburg Va meets Tombstone Az. We passed the California Rail Road Museum and saw some engines, but we had to move on as the Friday shadows were getting long. No sooner had we left night life town then we were on a path that lead up to the bridges which we needed to cross to get up where our Airbnb was. This path was horrible. Armies of really broken homeless mean and women have made the trail, park, and riverfront their own. They were everywhere and we could see little ramshackle encampments of tents of make of blankets and tarps behind every bush. Piles of trash were everywhere since these folks still consume and defecate as others do, but no sanitation ever comes to collect the refuse. It went on for miles and we saw lots of variations of forgotten people. Most were just tanned and grimey–one though was talking to himself and walking around waving a machete. Pretty scary. Something needs to change. Shame on you Sacramento: help these people before they realize they out number the legislators and can storm the capitol.
After about 60 miles we made our Airbnb–in this case a converted office building made into something like a hostel. We are happy though and Saturday is the weekly Off-The-Bike Day. So, rest here we come, even though neither of us are that tired. Resting up for a few hard days of climbing before us will help though.