Angels camp, Bike and Hike, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Chinese Camp, Davis, Groveland, Jackson, Napa Valley, Pine Grove, route 120, route 128, route 16, route 49, Sacramento, St Helena, VeloVino, Winters
So far on the ride here, we have had people stopping their car and sprinting across the road to do’High 5′.The strangest complimentary thing we have had shouted at us is “I admire you!” Wonderful, but it comes out strange when shouted.We left our camp at Groveland with a spring in our step and smile at the prospect of 12 miles of down hill on Highway 120.We dropped like a stone 2,500 hard won feet. Through Chinese Camp (always amazed at how much physical labour was done here by the Chinese work gangs with little recognition).
Cut across to Jamestown, where the 108 is still blocked with snow and took a narrow winding country road to Tuttle Town (our favorite town name so far), we started to regain some of the hight we had been losing all day. Up we went to Angels Camp and worn out from everything spent a stupid amount of the budget on a cabin. It had started to rain, and spirits were not at their highest.
The following morning we continued past the turn for Highway 4 which as you will have guessed is still closed with snow. On we went through San Andreas, which if it is the San Andreas of fault fame, it is making very little of it. Into Jackson we pedaled and turned right onto Highway 88, the first open road around Yosemite and started to climb. We reached Pine Grove Campground and pitched for the night worn out by six days without a break.
That evening was cold even at just over 3,000 ft.One person after the other started to tell us that snow was forecast for two days time and then a period of poor weather. In the morning we started to do some research on the web. More unseasonal bad weather and we checked at all the major passes ahead on our route. Lassen was closed and Crater Lake closed. We were going to get stuck here if it snowed. This was all impossible. It is just about June in California and we are getting snowed out.
There is an often quoted saying from mountaineers. “Why do you climb mountains?” they are asked. To which the reply is almost always, “because they are there”. The comedic response to this is of course ” well that sounds to me like a perfectly good reason to go around”. This is what we had been doing, but It is hard on the moral. So we had a big change of plans and made a phone call to The Adventure Cycling Associaton for new maps to be mailed ahead ‘general delivery’, to a little town called Jenner. We are going up the Pacific Coast and, as the song would have it, “going where the weather suits my clothes”.
We went back down the hill the next morning and pulled in at a bike shop. The person next to us was renting snow shoes. We had made the right decision. We pulled into Old Town Jackson ( Always go into Old Town or Down Town is a new rule for us). Eating second breakfast in Mother Load Deli, we were trying to work out a route to the coast that would not see us end our days under the wheels of a truck or RV.”Don’t go around Sacremento, go through it. It is bike friendly, you will get killed on Highway 12,people do all the time”.
We had some advice and now we had a plan. But first we had to deal with the horror that is HIghway 49. This being California, you have a surprisingly high chance of being run off the road by a Toyota Prius. Highway 49 with it’s narrow width, fast speeds and lack of shoulder is where it may happen. For all of it’s green credentials the Prius would kill you that is a fact, and on this day it did feel as if some were trying (for goodness sakes people nothing bad will happen if you do cross that yellow line when nothing is coming!). We were being assaulted by the Mother Teresa of vehicles and it felt unexpected and peculiar and in oh so many ways, wrong.
There is very little to entertain the passing touring cyclist on Highway 49. It is flat, open and more than a little bit boring. Where you have a shoulder to ride on you dwell just a little more on road debris and just how many tyres here must just simply explode or be flung from the rim in tatters. The shoulders here are strewn with fragments and chunks of tyre showing there complicated skeleton to the world. It is a College course for anyone keen on learing more about the anatomy of the modern tyre.
We turned up Sun Rise Drive and found our way to the start of the bike path through Sacremento.The joy of 30 miles of flat path would have to wait to the morning. It started to rain hard and we took a budget denting $100 hotel room to recover from our Highway of Hell day.
Memorial Day weekend and every one was on their bikes early the next morning. Through Sacremento and on to Davis we rode with spirits high. Bike lanes, bike paths and people using them in large numbers. Oh joy indeed.
We ended the day in Winters and had only to pull into the nearby campground to bring to an end a perfect day. We celebrated with an ice cream in Cody’s, a wonderful creamy,rich ice cream with real go ahead bite into me fruit. Things were good, no better than that,things were great.
We pedaled on, then back and finally in circles. The campground was miles away. We stopped passing cyclists and they confirmed it, but then they did what good people do here. “Do you want to come and stay with us?” Frank and his daughter Rachel had saved the day and we were off to stay with Mum and the family and eat tacos and drink wine. How amazing is that?
We took the 128 all the way to Silverado Trail the next morning and ended another long day in Napa Valley at St Helena.The campground is a Park site called Bothe-Napa Valley State Park and it charges a record breaking fee that we almost put in an envelope and posted. Only at the third notice board was anything about a very low ‘Hiker Biker’ fee. It pays to be cautious and on this occasion it pays about $60. It is a great site,with trees hanging with moss and lichen and full of bird song. Napa Valley is stunning and here we are for just a few $ a night. Vino. This is the wine making part of Clif Energy bars and the whole place is bikes, wine and energy bars – my favorite bars and what a great place to be.