I've got this idea of the ideal cycling tour. It involves cycling along evenly paved but deserted streets, past farms and orchards, over rivers and creeks and enjoying nature at close range. I'm aware this Utopian tour probably exists only in my head, but I found something today that was awfully close to it.
Taking advantage of 65-degree weather in December, I drove to Davis and cycled from there to Winters. It was a route I'd often heard about, but this was my first time to try it. In short, the ride to Winters was gorgeous. And the ride back -- via a more remote route -- was even better.
The 14 miles to Winters takes you through miles of orchards and farm fields, many managed by research units at UC Davis. Within a couple of miles from downtown Davis, you are suddenly in the middle of the country.
I've been lamenting how much less rural the Sacramento area is compared to when I moved here 20 years ago, so it was very reassuring to learn that I could cycle from city to country in something like five minutes.
I was glad I did, for soon after I came across two gentlemen, old enough to think of me as a kid, standing on ladders picking kalamata olives from the trees that line the road. The trees are on public property -- probably -- and are not harvested except by enterprising fellows like my new friends.
Riding on a December morning may have added to the appeal. I'm confident some of these roads are busier at almond or tomato or walnut harvest time. But today, even the "busy" roads were nearly abandoned.
After coffee and a visit to the bike shop in Winters, I set back via a longer and even more scenic route. This one meandered a few miles north and ran along Buckeye Road, through the spot where the village of Buckeye stood before the whole thing up and moved to follow the Vaca Valley Railroad in 1895 or so. Here, the roads were completely, entirely mine. I could have stretched out on the centerline of Highway 29 and had a nap. Honestly. I don't think I encountered three cars in an hour and a half.
For a couple of miles, a kestrel followed me. He would zip 100 yards ahead to a telephone pole and watch me ride past. As I did, he'd alight again, make a few impressive swooshes in the air, and then position himself ahead once more. I missed him when he finally tired of the one-sided race.
In other news, Nature is still not messing around.
In one pasture, a dozen vultures sat atop a sheep carcass, lazily having Sunday brunch. I've seen a lot of sheep pastures in my time, but this sight was a first. I also got a good look at a kite plunging into a soy field and rising with a struggling mouse or rat in its talons.
|Nature: Not Messing Around Since 1 Billion B.C.|