Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sacramento to Davis -- a first mini tour!

I've been cycling almost daily for the past nine months without really going anywhere.  Typically, I ride the 5.5 miles along the rivers to my office, or head in the other direction -- also 5.5 miles -- to the Sacramento State to work, read or relax there.  For ages now, I've thought and talked about riding a bit further and testing my ability to one day do a proper bicycle tour with 40 or 50 or more miles in a day for an extended period.  Something always seemed to prevent this from happening.  Often it was weather or work schedule, but just as often it was a pretty flimsy and invented excuse.

Velouria of Lovely Bicycle had a similar cycling goal for this year.  Unlike me, however, she tackled it in much more decisive fashion... she simply got on her bike and pedaled to a destination 18 or 20 miles away.  I found this inspiring and decided the time had come to actually go somewhere on my bike.

The cycling Mecca of Davis, California is almost exactly 20 miles away from my home.  This seemed a good distance and the destination itself is very pleasant.  If you don't know Davis, it consistently ranks among the most bicycle-friendly cities in the nation.  There seem to be as many bikes as cars on the streets and infrastructure and motorist attitudes are more like Copenhagen than California.

These are part of every intersection.

The trouble is, getting to Davis from Sacramento involves crossing the Yolo Causeway, a splendid sanctuary for avian wildlife that is flooded every winter and farmed every summer.  And, crossing the causeway means riding on the bike path that runs alongside I-80.  Something like 20 percent of the ride is spent next to cars approaching 85 mph.  You're separated by a concrete wall and a fence, but it's difficult to shake the idea that you're about to be decapitated by a rogue hubcap.

Here's the view as you approach Davis and look to your left.

But here's the view to your right:

Believe it or not, after a mile or so, I felt like I had one ear tuned to the bird festival going on to my right and had almost tuned out the sometimes-deafening highway next to me.  I had one exciting encounter with the local wildlife, but that, as they say, is another story (and another post).

Soon enough, the path leaves the interstate (but never strays too far) and becomes much more pleasant. I was not tired when I arrived, and spent a very pleasant hour or so cycling through town and relaxing on the campus of UC Davis.

On campus, everywhere you find a dormitory or cluster of academic buildings, you find a Belgian-looking throng of parked bicycles.

I will admit that when I started the journey home, the saddle on Lucky Jitensha did not feel quite as comfortable.  Otherwise, though, I was fine and ready to go.  I stopped just outside of Davis to get Lucky's photo with the Sacramento skyline visible (barely) behind him.  This is our proof that we actually went somewhere.

I'm already eager to build upon this fun start, maybe by researching other destinations and quieter routes, or by driving to a less urban spot and starting from there.  Further, I suspect there may be a new saddle in Lucky's future.


  1. Oh, this is great! See, you can do it - encounters with nature and pain-in-the-a&& saddle not withstanding. Is a cross-country trip to New England next?

  2. Velouria, if I make the trip to NE (which I'd love to do), I hope a ride with you and the co-habitant would be waiting at my destination.

  3. ... and gallons of water + 5 pizzas!

  4. That's a GREAT photo, Michael!!! E-mail me a copy and we'll slip it into the Mike's Bike's photo album...