California’s landscape continues to amaze me. As soon as I think California is one way or another, I see something else that completely turns me upside down. In early November I went to San Diego, and flew over the length of the coastline in the afternoon. I saw the Monterey Peninsula and the Central Coast mountains from the air. Even seeing Los Angeles that way was a total surprise. I began to feel that I could live out the entire remainder of my years never leaving California and yet always seeing new things.
One thing I’d been missing this past fall, though, was the fall colors that other areas of the country enjoy. For whatever reason, we don’t seem to get them too much in San Francisco–maybe due to greater density of coniferous trees? Eucalyptus don’t turn colors either.
Another thing I began to wonder about was whether I would ever see anything flat again. Sure there are valleys here, but mountains still loom within view. Hill, mountain, ridge, rise, peak, roller, cliff, valley, lowland, etc here are like the Sami peoples’ 180 different words for snow/ice. Maybe I was still thinking back to Old Caz, but flat bike riding was becoming a hazy, distant reflection of a memory.
Both of these concerns were answered by our route for the Davis Bike Club Dart 200k team ride. Riding through the deltas of Solano county, we saw beautiful fall colors on the deciduous trees and enjoyed flat flat flat miles across levee roads lining old local waterways. We saw lots of cool old ferries and bridges in use, and we even got to ride on a modern ferry. Many thanks to my cool boyfriend for coming up with a route that provided some balance to my year in randonneuring!
The first part of our ride did include the requisite bay area ridiculously steep climbing, just to make sure we didn’t feel too let down by a perfectly pleasant, flat ride with delightful weather.
This was through the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve, part of the East Bay Regional Park District. We passed a few hikers and a couple bikers on the trails there, which were deeply rutted in spots. The combination of the ruts and the pitch of the trail was a bit too much for me, not to mention my lack of prior route study, and so I dismounted for a short stretch. I had slept quite badly the night before–was that the night I got food poisoning from the Yemeni restaurant near John’s place? It might have been… Anyway, after walking a short stretch and topping off that little climb, the serious climbing began. The part after the dirt trail led into a paved trail was particularly memorable. I think we all walked for at least a part of that and got about half an hour behind schedule. The ruts on the trail going downhill felt pretty hard on my true blue bike (as always, with fenders), but it held together well. I wish I had gotten more sleep the night before, or pre-rode this part of our route to get a little practice, because it sure was pretty, and nothing like I had ever ridden on before. I would like to go back and ride it again.
Because of the rules governing randonneuring team rides, we were able to cut our losses and take a short cut out of the Black Diamond trail without losing credit for the ride. On our way out of the park we passed by a goatherd and his dog, and an isolated, very old cemetery from the days when this land was a coal mine. I’m so glad it’s not a coal mine anymore. Let’s say it together: “PUBLIC LANDS RULE.”
Not too long after Black Diamonds is our lunch control. It is a Vietnamese family restaurant in a strip mall in Brentwood. Nothing fancy, but the ladies inside see us piling up our bikes outside and insist that we bring them into the restaurant while we dine. The food is wonderful. I got “salted lemonade” to drink, a taste explosion I may never experience again, but it was perfect mid-ride. Mmmm, that whole meal was delightful and the people working there were sooo friendly despite the inhospitable suburban drabscape outside. Good captain that he is, John filled all our water bottles while we cleaned up and he and Carlos attended to Andrea’s rear brake which was dragging on her wheel all through Black Diamonds. Yeow.
We passed over the Antioch bridge without incident though it scared the crap out of me to be so close to fast-moving traffic, and then we got to The Flat Section, which was pretty much the rest of the ride to Davis.
We really scooted through lots of gorgeous scenic farmland and wineries. I found my second (tail)wind and got accused of being a Serious Cyclist… Andrea and I rode up front to devise a plan for our December R-12 installment, and that allowed Carlos and John to engage in guy-talk at the back for a while. We regroup, and John slyly shares with us that “Carlos doesn’t want us to know, but he is royalty…” I will remember this time as some of the most fun riding I’ve had all year: humming along in perfect weather, enjoying good company who is all happy to be there. What a privilege it is to do these rides; once again I feel like the luckiest person on the planet.
Approaching Sacramento, the roads become more like highways, and we go through a town with a city limit sign that John wins pretty easily. I start to switch on my city-limit-sign radar and notice a giant water tower ahead that says Sacramento. I see the Sac sign up ahead, though it is far. Too far for a lead-out? I have lost these sprints in the past trying to lead John out for too long, but this time I think I have the energy for it. I quietly downshift a bit, but John sniffs my resolve and speeds up. I match his pace and keep my eyes on his front wheel. I pedal harder and don’t let up. I pull ahead just enough to take Sacramento!!! Yessss!
After the food co-op where I had a fantastic turkey sandwich and John had an excellent chicken soup, we rode the short distance to Davis, part of it on the bike path next to the highway: weird, but if you need to go that way by bike, it’s nice to have that there. We saw another team along the way, we stalled a bit at a gas station in order not to arrive early, and finally arrived at Sudwerk. After some brave struggles the nature of which only a randonneur would be able to endure, we got our food and beer. With the rest of the group we hopped on the Amtrak train back to San Francisco, sitting with Angela and Steffan and their team. It was great to hear their stories from a route crafted with the purpose of visiting four swimming holes along the way, with two people who had never randonneur’d before! So cool!
Thank you, Davis Bike Club for sponsoring and spurring our adventures. Thank you team Delta Beach Patrol. And thanks to my sweetheart for the quality miles; I wish many happy returns for us both.