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Monthly Archives: June 2017

Man Plans, God Laughs Tour, 2017. Carson Pass.

Riding the ACA Western Express Bike Route, 6-13-17

Having passed the night peacefully in Plymouth, I can now disclose the undisclosed location. It was the big lovely gazebo right in town. It became clear that cyclists stopped there often enough that it was no big deal, and so we joined their ranks. It got chilly at night but that was just a bonus as far as I was concerned. No one said “boo” to us and so we had a peaceful night. The guard kitty patrolled and we slept.

The next morning the warm sun made it hard to shake awake but we managed, snacked up, and hit the trail. That is when the fun stopped. Right outside Plymouth we hit our first staircase of the day. I find that grades of about 5% or even 7% are fine–even sort of fun. They give you a good feeling of strength without having to achieve high speeds. I am happy just finding the right gear combination and slogging along at a calm pace. But many of the grades are much steeper and far harder to take on. The bikes are defiantly overloaded–with food mostly–but I am going to have to reconfigure and mail some things home. But what has two thumbs and is the other problem? This guy! I am not a climber and I am not going to suddenly become one–even though I have to come to some agreement with the more level-challenged parts of the earth’s outer crust. 

Climbing requires one of two posture options. The celebrated one is standing. That uses different muscle groups than sitting and that makes for a nice change. It also though is quite tiring and I find it winds me a lot faster than sitting. Remaining seated though requires very low gearing–that means the smallest chain ring on the front and the biggest one on the rear cassettes–for me that means 26/34 while Rami has 22/34. If you have not ridden in that configuration before, let me assure you that it leaves one looking and feeling a bit like the Roadrunner right before he shoots off down the road. The catch is that the shooting down the road never actually happens. Instead, the legs spin and spin: lots of pedaling and flailing signifying nothing. But when the road is steep, low low gearing the only way to move–albeit a slow way. I suppose one has the option of staying in a higher gear ratio–say 50/12–and standing and pushing that way. I am pretty sure that that would shoot my kneecaps off though. But they would at least fly down the road at a higher rate of speed than that which they are achieveing still encased in my skin. Sorry kneecaps. Just FYI, this is partly why there will be a big boom in kneecap replacements in a few decades when all those fixie rider chickens come home roost in middle aged bodies. Bargain basement here–buy the right stock now. 

The other wonderful gift of the modern miracle that is low gearing is the magical instability that low speed creates. One of the hardest rider excecises people work on is slow riding. Being able to keep a bike straight at say 3mph takes remarkable skill. Just like a track stand (when you stay on the pedals and keep the bike stationary by balance), slow bike skills are great to have. I am ok with my road bike, on a level, when I feel like it, and when I fail I can say, “no, that was just how long I wanted to do this track stand.”  When I am pushing a loaded bike up hill on a few inches of shoulder, I am not always a wizard the 3 mph straight ride. Instead, I am THE man when it comes to awkwardly fighting with my front end to keep it in line. This skill I have carefully honed is making riding next to passing cars a special pleasure. 

And this is what the whole day climbing out of Plymouth was. An occasional flat or even a downhill, but mostly being near tears and hating life trying climb grades of 40 or even 60 percent. Ok, they were probably only 10% or 14% but they might as well have been 60. Can’t be done is can’t be done. We rode, we walked, we sat, we rode again, we walked again, we sat again, we napped in a guy’s driveway, we got bitten by ants while napping in a guy’s driveway, we rode again. The whole day. We sat for a little while in Fiddletown early on and felt like maybe we were not confronting hell. I am not sure we were all that convincing though. Even the giant fiddle on the curious town building could only raise a small smile. 

The weather was dreadful too–just too cold or too hot–impossible to get right. Arm tubes on, arm tubes off, sweat dripping down face, face cold from wind. The good news of course was that this part of California is beautiful. We were crawling out of the golden hills and heading into piney mountains and it is great. But climbing. Maybe I am not eating right? Maybe the can ditch things on the bike? Maybe it is altitude? Who knows, it is just so damned hard.

Here are the fragments of thought that pass though my mind when I am suffering up hill. “Chairs are nice. Your legs don’t move when you sit in one. Hot tubs are warm. You can rest your legs in them. How many miles is it back to San Francisco? It is mostly downhill and flat that way. That pickup truck has room for bikes. So does that one. Ooh! A van–our stuff and us can fit in there and there probably is air conditoning. That’s a nice house. If I just stopped here and never moved again, could I live there? How could I make a living? Grow olives? Run a coffeeshop? Tend to dying cyclists?” But then the ground levels out or better yet, drops, and the monologue changes. “One gear higher? Yeah I think so–good burn in the legs. Push harder–not maximizing hip swing enough. Zoom. Into the drops–get more aero, butt higher, try to rest your chin on the stem–that’s good, 40 mph is good.  Jeepers the gears make a terrible noise when I drop them. It’s hot. Am I going that slow that the flies can actually keep up? That pickup truck has room for bikes.” See what happened at the end there? Every decline ends and the staircase is again before me. A sport designed for Sisyphus.

We made it most of the way when we ran against the California weather. In this case, not in a storm or something like that. Instead, it was in the form of rain a while back that had washed out part of the road we needed to take. More spirit deadening gifts from Jello Biafra–he is the governor of California–right? Some folks thought we could make it past the rain-washed road. No problem. Jump the barricades and just stick to the half of the road that is not washed out. We will recognize it when we see it–it will be the part that still looks like a road and not a landslide. Others said it was not possible to get by. Still others told a tale of a detour–one of the most distressing words in the English language. Confused and exhausted, we stopped at a quiet little store to ponder our dilemma over bottled lemonade. The owners were lovely. We were close to our goal for the day–a stealth camp somewhere that would leave only about 25 miles or so to Carson Pass where the climbing abates. But we were also tired and it showed. They offered to allow us to camp out behind the store, and I think I agreed before the sentence was finished. Then, they offered us a lift past the blocked road (a problem that I was already deferring until the next day). Again–we were yessing as soon as the offer came. Next thing you know, we had packed up the stuff into a pickup and then drove over hill and dale, until we were past the road failure and a nice parcel of miles ahead of where we planned to be. When the day was over, we were at Carson’s Pass setting up camp on the porch of the visitor station there. More angels appeared–this time in the form of a family taking in the views, fishing, and scoping out a future ride. They provided us with some water–I was melting snow to cook the pasta we bought at the store–and even gave us some ichthyic delights. A great end to an odd day that went from wanting to kill us to suddenly jumping us 20 miles ahead of our plan.

Man Plans, God Laughs Tour 2017, Plymouth. 

Riding the ACA Western Express Bike Route, 6-12-17.

Disappointing miles? Oh hells yeah! But then again, this is hard climbing and the bikes are as fully loaded as they can be. I am trying not to be too hard on myself. When I looked at Crazy Guy on a Bike and saw the daily totals people were getting in the Sierras, they were often close to 35. Well, we are climbing the Sierras and we got just over 35 today, so I guess we are normal. Sort of.

Leaving Folsom was a farce. A comedy of errors. We ended up in a cheap motel last night after a long stint at Starbucks. It was getting dark and we passed a combination self storage place and motel and we were intregued. The State Park campsite was still a few miles away and the hotel was really only 25 bucks more than the campsite, so for that money we took the hot water and the bed. There was a television too. I don’t live with one, so I really only encounter it when I am in lodgings. I had one for six months last year at Mount Vernon, but I literally never switched the channel from CNN and MSNBC to anything else. I had forgotten that Sunday night CNN gave up on news and instead devoted the whole time to Anthony Bourdain, who, though once interesting and still personally credible, has nevertheless become a TV parody of himself. “Hey–I am edgy, and I am in this hip edgy place that is not one you would have thought of, but turns out to be more hip and edgy than you would imagine. Whoa! Here is my friend (insert regionally appropriate name here), he/she is a great artist/musician/collector of something hip/architect/culture hero. Let’s eat! Oh man, (named person) your friend is an amazing chef! Now THIS is good! Such fresh ingredients,” aaaaand wrap. Pack up the cameras and back on the plane to the next amazing place. Bourdain in a can. Instead, we saw an ad for an old music collection and I spent the remaining waking moments trying to reconcile Clarance Frogman Henry and Bowser for Rami. 

But despite a fitful night’s sleep haunted by images of cheesy 1950s revival culture heroes (does Anthony Bourdain know Bowser? He must have gone into the restaurant business by now, he can serve Clarance Frogman Henry legs a la Francaises–such fresh ingedients!), I was still up and ready to roll by 7 or so. Not so Captain Snooze. By the time I finally got him moving we had to do all the morning stuff as well as stop by a mail place to ship home my Revelate Tangle top tube bag. Ok–I love this bag. It is very well constructed, cleverly designed, and makes great use of otherwise dead space on the bike frame. But the way I have  my LHT set up means that the Tangle presents a problem. I am using downtube shifters–bar ends always bang into my knees and I like having a Sprint Tech rear view mirror on the end of my drop bars. I have very nice Dura Ace shifters on the bike and they are greater–but the Tangle fills in the spaces where I need to grab the shifter. Previous tours have been on largely flat terrain and so shifting was less of an issue. But here–Jimminy–I am shifting more than a 24 hour factory frantically meeting an order, or an eighteenth-century maker of specialized nightwear–primarily shifts. The point is that I really need a quick, easy, and precise grip on the Dura Aces. In fact, I am pretty sure that this was the source of the problems I had shifting as we set out. So, thanks to REI, I have swapped out the Tangle for the Ortlieb Ultimate Handlebar Box. I know I am sacrificing some aero here, but I think my 7 mph climbing speed can withstand the drag. The box is proving great–although its setup instructions were a bit challenging. Ortlieb is so international that they are beyond written language, and instructions come in a cross between heiroglifics and kabuki theatre. YouTube videos helped though–but it did take a few tries to get right.  

Thus, it made sense to mail home the Tangle and we did. A few other tiny errands, an abandoned phone that required a panicked back track, and a calming stint at yet another Starbucks and we were off by about noon. Not a start to be proud of, but once we were in gear we quickly escaped from Folsom, and were on the golden prarie. Most of the ride had a nice wide shoulder and the cars were no issue. The climbing started right away though and it did not let up. In fact, it became more and more constant as we headed east. The shoulders went away right when Latrobe Rd got all squirrelly, but cars’ fears for their own safety worked in our favor on the corners. We took few breaks and just pushed on at an ever decreasing rate of speed. No question–this is hard riding. We made the town of Plymouth by 4:30 and I at least felt every foot of altitude we had gained. We were in a bind. There really is nothing along the path we are following and it is at least 25 miles between towns–and even those are not much to hang the name “town” on.  Do we stay or do we go? As Mick Jones might have asked–he is Jewish by the way. 

Plymouth has a pleasant little cafe on the Main Street where we rested and schemed. Friendly locals tried to scare us with local info: big cats are on the prowl thanks to the fires, it is snowing in Kirkwood, the roads are horrible, Godzilla had attacked Carson City, there is an outbreak of plague at Fiddletown (real name, not one they made up for me). Ok–not all of that was told to us. But we were tired and it was getting late–and indeed there was no logical destination ahead of us–so we landed at Plymouth for the night, bringing my international Plymouth total to four. But the real crisis no one mentioned was that the RV park has NO TENT CAMPING. I mean–really? It is just grass! who builds a camping park and does have sites for tents?? Don’t answer that–I have already spoken to that genius. On top of that, hotels here start at $130 a night. Thank you Wine Tourism for making it impossible to afford a room. Next thing you know, Anthony Bourdain will show up to meet the local ballet impresario or artisan blacksmith and have a really hip meal–such fresh ingredients. Once that happens even a packet of oatmeal will be 30 bucks. Thanks Anthony! Thanks Wine! Thanks Locally Sourced Olive Oil! Thanks Popeye!

Anyway, we are resoureseful and secured quarters in a great undisclosed location for the night. Tomorrow should be an earlier start and let’s hope for twice the miles–but I will settled for less if it comes to it.  

Man Plans, God Laughs Tour, 2017. Folsom California. 

Riding the ACA Western Express Bicycle Trail.  Sunday 6-11-17

And laugh he did today! Well, maybe just a chuckle. Nothing bad happened–just low mileage let down.

As usual, Saturday was an off-the-bike day spent in this case reading, sleeping, and a short local walk. Nothing to report.

Today had a slow start from the cave in Sacramento–cozy and hard to drag out of bed at 6 am. We still had tons of yogurts to eat and orange juice left over and that was a good start. The real issue was that it is just so hard to get out of bed and onto the road. This is where tents are a huge advantage. In the woods or on tour, it is always easier to leave a tent than it is a bed. We made it out though by ten. I still wanted to hit an REI for last things before we leave civilization. Here were my genuius plans. 1: Leave Rami at a Starbucks with the bikes and get a Lyft for the 5 miles round trip to the store. Outcome: No Lyft connection available on my phone over and over–so that idea died. Lyft–if you are reading this–wtf?? B: A cab to do the same. Outcome: 10 rings and then an answering machine at the 24 hour cab co. Hey cab co., I hope Uber wipes you out–you would have been over-priced and slow to show up anyway. Plan The Thirde: Ride the 2.5 back to the REI in town. Outcome: turns out they do not open until 11am anyway and we were not going to wait a gratuitous hour. In the event, we might have been penny wise and pound foolish.

We left town again by way of the inner city bike path. Rami had found a story about a cyclist being attacked by machete wielding “stabby hoboes” not that long back and right close to where we needed to get the path. Machete Man was taking a break this morning, so we were lucky. Nevertheless, there was ample evidence again that every cranny of this city has been taken over. But as we headed north and west the path became less dicey and more like a regular path. A word about the homeless. This is always such a dilemma. We have an obligation to recognize and respect the humanity of these hard done by fellow humans. But many have made mistakes and are still living in their shadows. The tattooed tear on the face that says “I have screwed up mightily” or the premature toothlessness of meth habits are only the most visible markers of people who have lost their way or been shoved off their path. But guess what? People make mistakes. They do. So does that mean that they lose the right to humanity? It is amazing that we cannot figure out that punishments and punitive reward systems just don’t work. Too often we say to the drowning, “show me you can swim, and then I will throw you the life rope–but if you continue to drown, I will take the rope away. I don’t want to waste any rope on someone who might end up drowned anyway.” We need to change this attitude and just help people because they need help–not because they are somehow virtuous or somehow improving. And at the same time, there is no disputing the very real damage broken people do to those around them and the places they end up. Rami and I have been discussing this a lot. He has a deep romance with the edgy, the off grid, the untamed, and the seemingly free. He often talks about wanting to freight hop (bye bye leg!), or live in hobo camp–all fun and games until the fights begin. There is no point in arguing that that is not a life to romanticize–I am more in line with the butlers in Sullivan’s Travels on this one. I reminded him that many of the people we passed would happily slit his throat at night to steal all his nice bike gear. I think he gets this, and he was eager to move along when Machete Man came by on Friday. I read him as confonting ideas in words and playing out ideas in fantasy. The world is very cruel and grim right now and our sweet soft little ones are absorbing every dark and ugly iota of a culture that still thinks that it is entertaining to watch people–albeit actors–act cruelly and violently to one another. If you think about it, you’d realize how insane that can be. With that said–I still am Rik Mayall fan–so, inconsistent I guess. I think part of this ongoing discussion is because as cycle tourists, we are in some ways just like the homeless. Of course we have we some money to help us along (less and less as it happens). But we are in the elements too and looking for water and places to sleep.

Like now for example. The rest of the ride to Folsom was great. The trail is wide and lovely. Its markings are confusing though. They ask walkers to stay left while cyclists stay right, The result is that we kept having people walking towards us. That pissed me off at first–I read it as ignorance. I jumped to the left lane thinking that maybe this was a dividend path–riders on one side and walkers on the other. But an oncoming pace line quickly disabused me of this error with a classic “WTF??” hand gesture, and I appoliogize for being the momentary turd in the water pipe. The managers have painted instructional messages on the paveing, but they are worn to varying degrees making it hit or miss if your can read them. On top of that, the sentences are all pressed close together so that you can’t read them all as you fly by. American River Bike Trail Elves–try to spread those sentences out a bit more–make them more like the Burma Shave signs of old. We can only read a few words at a time as we pass–give us a fighting chance here!  

But–once we were out on the trail and knew the rules, it was great. Lovely little bends in the trail and gentle hills. It was a Sunday, so lots of riders were out. We met and chatted with many very nice super helpful people. A few wished us a safe journey as they passed and we got lots of other nice comments. These are our people and they all recognize what the fully loaded panniers mean. Many many lovely bikes too. All makes and frame designs but the guy with the titanium Seven with the Ritchie Logic stem, Chris King headset and Dura Ace mechanical was a stand out. He helped us out at a confusing fork in the trail and later I told Rami that that was like a $7000 bike. He was unimpressed. I was not though, and so, Ponytail Man in the American flag Rolling Stones Cycling Jersey–I salute you and your awesome elegant bike.  See, the issue here is that titanium is as light as carbon but can still have the classic gorgeous lines of a steel bike, whereas carbon, and even alloy, will have to be all thick and bulky in crucial places. Viva the classic lines, and double viva for a classic ride that is less that 16 pounds (this is weight and not currency–the rapidly devaluing British Pound would need to come in at about 5500 to get a bike like that). 

We got to Folsom and ate a bit. Then, bike stores for the last of the shakedown fixes. Mike’s provided about 50 bucks worth of gels and beans–as well as the California themed cap I was wanting since San Fran. Thanks Mike’s–trust me, the cap will look like crap soon enough. But the fiddlier stuff they had not. They told us the short cut to REI and the next shortcut back to the trail. Next stop REI where Doug fixed the broken bolt and Rami’s front rack is back to normal. Doug and the others were full of great info–including the news that the shortcut road we needed was shut down. Over a big hill and down a dirt path was the way ahead. But by the time were done at REI–the only one I have ever seen that sells shock cord too!!–it looked like the 25 to Plymouth was a bit of a challenge. On top of that, the sky hard turned black and we the wind was bringing it our way fast. We scooted off to a ritzy Starbucks 0.5 away and here I sit waiting for rain that missed us. Looks like we are camping just north of Folsom tonight as long as I can get Rami out of the Barnes and Noble close by from where he keeps texting me about the books he has found and the ones he wants to buy. He is torn between Arthurian poetry and “The State and Revolution.” Maybe he plans on creating a homeless hobo round table and initiating the Off Grid Revolution. Then again, this place is lousy with high school girls– so I may never see Rami again.

Man Plans, God Laughs Tour, 2017. Sacramento Ca.

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.

Man Plans, God Laughs Tour 2017, Fairfield California.

Riding the Adventure Cycle Association’s Western Express bike route. 

I had imagined sun, a bevy of well wishers, supportive statements from local officials, maybe even some Tour de France podium models as we set off. Instead, what we got was setting up the bikes in the rain, a dash to the Vallejo ferry, hurried ticket purchases, and a too quick goodbye. The men on the ferry suggested we tie up the bikes on the back of the boat since a bad wave could throw them overboard, Great. Then, next thing I knew, the catamaran hulls were sending up plumes of water and we were off. I sat down for a bit and watched the city slip away and considered the commitment we were making. 

We stopped for cocoa at the Vallejo ferry cafe. It was there that I discovered that I had forgotten to bring along the specially purchased bolts and washers to attach the front fenders were still home in Florida. Great. A bit of searching showed that there was a bike shop right on our path out of town and so it was to there we headed. The bike was heavy–really heavy–overloaded as it was with desert food. Perhaps too much caution, perhaps not. After a few blocks though we made it to Vallejo’s Leonardo Cycles at 419 Georgia Ave and This is a small but quite busy LBS. They specialize in electric motor bikes because so many of their customers do commutes in the local hills. Later in the day we were passed by one of these bikes and I could understand why locals liked them. Leonardo Cycles’ owner Simon was more than helpful, bringing out his collection of bolts and lending me tools to set things up. We all chatted a bit while Rami searched out what antiques or army navy goods were hidden behind Vallejo windows. Once the work was done, we set off onto what was our first hill. It was not that bad although it did look a bit like a staircase before us. It is never good when you look straight out and are face to face with pavement. Worse when you have to tilt your head up to see the top. Halfway up the hill my chain seized from my having tried to run on my 32 before dropping on my chainring. My derailleur just said “no” and the peddling stopped. Great. Turn around, and head back to Simon and Leonardo Cycles. We got out the angle grinder and broke the chain. Soon all was back in order though and we were once again thanking Simon, and heading back up the hill–although now the rain from the morning had decided to make a come back. Great. 

Hills. ‘Nuff said. No wait, I take that back. Hills are damned hard when A: you ride mostly in Florida. Two: your bike weighs a US Grade A Ton. And III: it is the late afternoon of the first day out. Is keeping at 3.9 mph going up a 14 percent grade a good rate of speed? I have no idea–ask me again in a month when I know more about this. Mostly things went well for the shakedown day. Rapid shifting led to one thrown chain. Great. But it was easy to fix. By the end of the day we were riding though the Napa Valley vineyards without too much rain on us. This is a beautiful landscape an it was pleasure to ride through it. Card were ok. Most gave us a wide berth and we noted that most were Mercedeses. Finally we ended up in a hotel in Fairfield. Not exactly a bell ringer of a mileage day, but it really was only a part of day given the late start and all the fun set backs. Hopefully they are all over and tomorrow can be bigger miles.   

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