Vallejo to Davis – 55 Miles
After a night watching orchestra performances with my host Bruce (who turned out to be an old Trombone instructor of a friend of mine at UC Davis!) and his friends, I woke up early and prepared for a long day of riding. It had rained the night before, but the weather for the day looked clear. Bruce and his friend Cal rode with me the first 10 miles or so. We rode through Vallejo and up a very steep bike path (where baby snails had come out to crawl around) to a great view of the whole city and Six Flags. It was only a 400ft climb, but when it’s steep it’s tough. I took it nice and slow, breaking when I couldn’t go anymore, but eventually I made it! Such a great feeling. Cal turned back to Vallejo after the climb, but Bruce continued on with me down back roads with the wind at our backs. It’s easier riding through towns when you know where you’re going so I appreciated his direction, and it’s always nice having company on a ride. We passed the Budweiser factory, lots of fields, some really beautiful birds, and a very noisy kennel. After about 20 miles, just outside of Fairfield, Bruce turned back for home and I was on my own again. I got to practice my eating while riding skills (peeled an orange and ate it with one hand!), and loved having the wind blow me through the fields. It was a wonderful ride!
Around 4pm I got in to Davis, and rode through some pretty picturesque places along bike paths until I came upon my new hosts house. Two nights I would be staying at this Co-Op house in Davis. If you recall, my host in Santa Cruz lived in a Co-Op, but her house was quite small compared to this. The main house had 5 (I think) bedrooms and a huge living room, dining room, and kitchen. The house next door was a part of the same Co-Op and had a few more bedrooms and a small kitchen. On top of this, the house across the street was owned by the same co-op and could house another 10ish people. The main two houses shared a porch, and a front and back garden with kale, chard, carrots, spinach, a greenhouse, and probably many other plants. After getting situated and taking a shower, I was invited to check out the Davis Food Co-Op (which was pretty awesome, could’ve wandered around for an hour or more) and get some dinner with the house across the street. I was pretty tired, but I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to spend time with such a unique group of individuals.
The Co-Op houses buy foods in bulk, share meals together, share skills, teach each other, learn from each other, and promote community living. Everything in the common areas without your name on it is shared, each person contributes to the household in their own way. It was a very interesting concept. When accepting applications to the house, they try to choose a variety of people to get a diversified community. A lot of learning I’m doing on this trip.
-6ish hours riding, 7 hours travel
-60 baby snails maneuvered around
Rest – 1 day
Slept in. So great. Had stayed up too late watching Pirates of the Caribbean with the neighbors projected onto the living room wall. Spent some time that morning learning about one of the housemates’ school project. A device that will display the energy of a building in a simple to understand way. For instance, instead of a display saying you’re using 200kWh, it would say that you are being very efficient. Instead of just a readout, there might be colors so you could tell at a glance if the building is doing well. It’s a collaborative project with students of different majors at UC Davis and it sounds pretty interesting. They’re building a prototype to put in the University to gauge interest.
After that breakfast chat, I grabbed my maps and started mapping out my Oregon route. I’ve decided, since I really want to do the Vipassana meditation retreat in Onalaska, Washington, that I will take the Recess bus up to Portland instead of San Francisco. If I took it to San Francisco, there’s no way I would make it up to Washington in time, so instead I’ll start in Portland, ride out to and down the coast for a week, then turn inland and ride back up. The outline I made I used to update my route page.
Next was a stroll around town. I checked out Davis’ downtown (very small and close to where I was staying). Looked around in a few cute shops. Checked a bunch of different bike shops to see if they had hub dynamos and how much they would cost (over $250) and ended up discovering Bike 4th (which is Davis’ version of the Bike Kitchen in SLO). I showed up right when they opened and they happened to be having Women Trans Fem (WTF) night! There was a one hour workshop on how to take apart your wheel, and then another hour of open shop time. It was awesome. I never knew the makeup of a bicycle hub, but now I do and I almost put it back together wrong, but kept calm and figured out that I had put a nut in backwards so everything turned out ok. I gave my bike a tune up and talked with the other women about my tour and another girl’s tour, and about their shop. They offer memberships, open shop hours, workshops, and for $50 you can build your own bike! You can choose a frame and all the parts, or you can choose a mostly built bike and just finish it up, plus you get free parts for a year. They get so many bike and part donations that their space is practically full, it’s so awesome!
Getting back to the house, a few of the housemates and I picked some veggies from the garden (I pulled a carrot straight from the ground! Best carrot ever.), and cooked up a delicious dinner together using them and some of the communal food on hand. Since there are so many people in the house, they can save by buying in bulk from the Davis Food Co-Op which offers fresh, local, and organic fare. It was a great meal with good people. One of the guys at the house was telling me about how he was a Mechanical Engineering major at UC Davis, but he doesn’t feel like that’s a direction he wants to go right now. He’s going to bring some baked goods to a local bakery as a resume to see if he can get a job to tide him over until summer when he wants to intern for NASCO (an organization promoting and organizing cooperative living principles). It’s so awesome to see different approaches to life.
Davis to Yuba City – 46 Miles
I had planned to head out around 8:30 this morning, but somehow I never end up leaving when I want to. It was more like 9:30. Rode pretty quickly through town, but as soon as I was past it, the headwind hit me hard. It was a slow riding day. Though I did discover the magic of riding standing up. Sitting I could ride about 6mph, but standing I could kick it up to about 10mph! It makes sense though, standing I can put all my weight into each stroke, sitting I can just use my leg strength. However, it is kind of like stair stepping and is pretty tiring so I can’t do it too long. Another thing was the dust. I started sneezing so much. Then it occurred to me to tie my bandana around my nose and mouth to keep the allergens at bay. Worked like a charm. I’m sure passing drivers thought I looked crazy, but at least I wasn’t sneezing anymore.
****Warning – This section talks about periods. Feel free to skip ahead if this makes you uncomfortable.****
When I first started thinking about traveling by bicycle, it occurred to me, as it would any woman, that at some point I would have to deal with my other cycle. After some research, I discovered menstrual cups. It’s a plastic cup you put in like a tampon, but instead of absorbing the blood, it just holds it in (no risk of TSS). When it’s full you just take it out to empty it, and put it back in! It’s reusable so it helps the environment, saves you money, you don’t have to carry tampons or pads around, and you don’t have trash to carry with you until you can get rid of it. I tried one brand, but it leaked a lot so now I use the SckoonCup and I like it a lot. Cups are a little messy when you first start using them, but once you get the hang of it they’re no big deal. I should mention you’ll become very comfortable with your own blood/fluids after using one.
You’re probably now wondering why I am talking about this. Well I started my period on the ride to Yuba City. So not only was I dealing with harsh headwinds, but I also had cramps and had to find a place to squat to empty my cup in the middle of nowhere. It was interesting, but not as frustrating as I expected. Some extra water for hand washing, and a big tree to hide behind came in handy. Also stopped at a farmhouse later and a nice old lady let me use her bathroom.
****End of Danger Zone****
While I was riding, I started noticing all the trash on the roadside. I thought, Someone should really do something about that. Then I thought, I could do something about that! So I’ve decided that I’ll be picking up trash along my rides. Whenever I stop I’ll look around to see if there’s any around, and I’ll use my daypack to hold onto it until I get to a trash. It’s little things that add up to big changes, so this is a little thing that I can do!
I finally got in to Yuba city around 5:30pm. It’s mostly farms, with some actual stores and a few neighborhoods in the middle, but it seems like a nice place. I stopped at a gas station to ask where to find a Starbucks to charge my phone and got some delicious soy milk (might’ve been delicious because I’d just ridden 45 miles). The owner offered me an outside outlet so I charged up there and ate my salad for the day. When I had some charge, I looked up churches (which I’ve read is a common place to ask for a place to camp out for the night. Also fire stations, gas stations, and farms) I decided to try a church down the road, but they didn’t have a yard for me to camp in. At this point, I was starting to freak out a little bit. It was about 6:30pm, starting to get dark and I had no place to stay yet; I’m not gonna lie, there were tears. Continuing on to try to find a spot, I passed some cyclists just getting home. I asked if they knew of a place to camp, but they didn’t. By this point I was looking along the road for spots I could come back to after dark to camp without being noticed. At the edge of town, I started looking for farm houses or houses with really big lots. The first one I saw I pulled over, knocked on the door, and asked to camp in the yard. The woman who answered seemed a little confused at first but once she understood my predicament she said, “Oh sure!” She invited me in to have some dinner and then her husband showed me where I could camp. They had a barn out back (setup almost like a dive bar, with pool tables, karaoke, and a mostly stocked bar) with an outlet to charge my phone, an outhouse in case I needed to use the restroom, and outside lighting so I could see what I was doing. First time pitching my tent in a while, it was great
-6.5 hours riding, 10 hours travel (2 hours figuring out where to stay)
Yuba city to Chico – 47 miles
Even when I’m not staying up late chatting with my hosts, I can’t manage to go to bed early. Woke up with the sun, and realized my tent was wet with dew. Great. Was still tired from the day before, but made myself get up and going. The mother of the woman who had let me in came out back just as I was leaving and we chatted for a bit. Turned out that the house I’d knocked at was actually the house of a Couchsurfing host I’d sent a request to but she was out of town! Such a funny coincidence. I got going around 9:30 again, and immediately noticed two things. The first was the lack of winds which was wonderful. Got going around 10-11mph at times. The second was the temperature. Oh my god 108 degrees at the height of the day. So freaking hot. And of course why would they put trees on my side of the road?? Even though I was moving faster on the bike than the day before, it was taking just as long because I had to stop at nearly every shady spot. I got sunburned for the first time in forever! Had to put on long sleeves to protect my skin. So many little things I’m learning. Twice on my ride, I passed fires in the fields. The first time it was really big and smoke was blowing across the road. I had to ride on the opposite side of the road to get by. The second time I realized that they were purposeful. There were workers going along controlling the blaze.
The town of Gridley was very small, but I passed a sign for oranges and couldn’t resist. I dropped in some change and picked out the best one for a snack when a woman came out to say hi. She told me that they were the last oranges on their trees and insisted I take a bag full, and some grapefruits too. She came back out as I was preparing to leave and told me her son (probably about 2) had insisted they bring me a water bottle. It was nice and cold and I was super grateful. After Gridley was when the temperature began to spike. I was riding through fields with no turns or elevation changes, no changing scenery; it was pretty monotonous and I felt like falling asleep. I checked my battery life and decided I could sacrifice a little to listen to a few podcasts to keep me awake. I stopped somewhere between Gridley and Midway when I found shade and ate what food I had left (avocado, cheese, jerky, dates, nuts). I will have to rethink what food to carry in hot weather, veggies definitely won’t keep. Two different pickup trucks pulled over to ask if I was all right, and one gave me a bottle of water. Another stop in Midway for ice cream because I just couldn’t take the heat. Then finally closer and closer, stopping at shade patch along the way, until I was on a nice bike path from Durham to Chico.
I’ve been to Chico once or twice before, but I’ve never seen it by bicycle. There are huge trees, cute houses and lots of green park spaces. I rode past a public swimming area that looked like someone added swimming pool edges to a natural river. Google Maps took me through neighborhoods until finally I got to my destination. It was really nice to see Danielle and her mom Debbie again, and meet Danielle’s boyfriend Scott. I took a good shower (needed it!) and we all had dinner and chatted late into the night.
-6ish hours riding, 9 hours travel (100 degree weather)