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Our route today!
There are three legs of this trip that I would classify as “slogs.” One is the leg from Tracy to Livermore over the Altamont Pass. Another is the leg from Pleasanton to Hayward over the San Leandro Hills. The third slog was today’s leg: a 23-mile stretch between Valley Springs and Lockeford.
This was our longest single leg, simply because there are no lodging establishments anywhere in between. I considered this a “make or break” day for Gail, given her relative newness to bicycling. It would be our third straight day of on the tandem. It would be our first day that was not mainly downhill. It would be 10-15 degrees hotter, reaching the mid-80s on a route with little shade. And it would be our highest-mileage day. (In six weeks of training, we had never gone more than 20 miles in a single day.)
This leg would also hold a personal demon for me. During my birthday walk five years ago, the three-mile stretch between Clements and Lockeford was the only section that I was unable to finish under my own power. I’ll spare the gory details (which you can read here), but that day involved a midnight visit to the hospital emergency room – Gail had to drive me there after coming all the way up from the Bay Area to rescue me at short notice. My trip from Clements to Lockeford was in a car, courtesy of Terry Webster, the owner of Webster’s Burgers.
Contrary to my fears, this leg was the best day we have enjoyed so far. First, I needn’t have worried about Gail. She had absolutely no problems, as she recounts in her section of this blog. Second, I have now successfully traveled from Clements to Lockeford under my own non-motorized power. But third, and most important, today was a near-perfect day – one of the best days that Gail and I have ever spent together. It will be hard to top, not only on this trip, but on any future adventure.
After five years, Russell finally completes his missing link
I should mention one sad note. We made a point of going back to Webster’s Burgers for lunch – even though we weren’t hungry, we stopped there for drinks. I wanted to shake hands with Terry, to thank him for his help five years ago and tell him about my latest adventure. Sadly, we learned that Terry passed away about a month ago. A memorial in the window tells us that he died at the age of 79, a “beloved husband and father.”
Webster’s Burgers in Clements
As I read back through my posting from five years ago, I see that I regretted not staying longer in Lockeford. This time around, we are indeed staying here for two nights. Gail and I are both looking forward to having a “down day” tomorrow, to rest up and enjoy some of the local flavor before setting out on the rest of our adventure.
I guess the title here says it all, but I like to look back at the details… and today is a day just perfect for reliving.
Our night at the 10th Green Inn was pretty awful – beyond noisy with traffic and people. We had no high expectations for the continental breakfast offered, and when expectations are low you cannot be disappointed. A poor selection of wrapped pastries, some corn flakes (no milk in sight) and a few pieces of fruit do not make for fueling up for a twenty-mile ride.
We were going to be traveling lighter than the last two days and that made me happy. We packed everything except some drinks and snacks into the van to retrieve later in the afternoon.
Our first stop was one mile back up the road at downtown Valley Springs (basically a four-corner town) for a real breakfast of biscuits and gravy at Campbell’s Country Kitchen. The meal was heavy, but it was what we needed; we knew lunch would be the snacks in our panniers. At this point we had delayed just about as long as we could. We had taken our town pictures, and there was nothing stopping us from the long journey ahead.
Since the beginning, this part of the ride has loomed large in my mind: 20-plus miles in one day. Good grief, what am I thinking? I can’t ride 20 miles. Yesterday, my calves started protesting at about 10 miles. Could I really do this? Is this where Russell and I part ways? It was with that in mind we headed off down the highway. But with blue skies, perfect weather and a great road, how could this not be perfect?
I am thrilled to say I made it the entire 23 miles. If I had given up, I would have missed one of the best days ever. Let me start with what I see as we go along. Most everyone we have talked to about this trip has asked who is riding in back. Well, that’s me. Luckily I have more upright handle bars, so my head is not buried in Russell’s back. Luckily I am tall, so I can see over and around him with relative ease. Today I got smart and kept the camera with me all day. I got a few shots of what I see as we go along the edge of the road.
The shoulder of highway 88/12 is very wide, and we were fairly safe compared to the road on the first day. At one point a large cattle truck went by, and I missed that picture. But just a bit later we saw it at a restaurant at the town sign for Burson and we stopped to get a “Gee, this thing is huge and it blew right past us” picture with the bike next to it. When you drive behind one of these trucks, you don’t smell the cows and you don’t hear the cows, but on a bike you do. ’Nuff said.
Our next town was Wallace. Years ago, I noticed that at the top of one of the electrical poles there is a large nest. We always just drive through, since Wallace is another “town’ without much in it. But because we were on the bike, I wanted to stop and really get a good look at this nest. We spent about 20 minutes watching the Momma Osprey (we figured out what it was once we got to the Internet to compare our pictures) flying around her nest. She was probably not happy with us standing down the road from her babies, but given that the nest is right on the pole on the road she must be familiar with noise, cars etc. Just not people standing there. It was spectacular, and I could have stayed longer.
At this point Russell, who is just beaming with happiness, says, “Isn’t life great?” Yep, it sure is.
All of this and we were only ten miles into the ride.
Just a bit further down the road is the county line, and at this point is the wetlands habitat created by the Comanche reservoir. Remembering that my job as “stoker” is to give an extra burst of power, point out interesting things and sing encouraging songs, I did my best to spot cool stuff. We saw a gaggle of geese, and of course stopped to watch and take pictures. We saw a heron and took pictures. We kept stopping to look at all the things we normally whiz by in the car. We had no idea this wetland was there.
A bit later, Russell says something like, “Mumble, mumble, snake.” I yell, “Stop! I need a picture!” On the road just a few feet from us is a beautiful four-foot long king snake. He slithered off into the closest drain pipe, but I got pictures!
Russell again says, “Isn’t this amazing? Isn’t life great?” Yep, it sure is. The company is great, the weather gorgeous, the road perfect, my saddle is fine, the ice in our water in our water bottles is still cold, and the wicking clothes I bought for this trip are working perfectly. Yep, life’s great.
One of the things that makes travel so fun are the people you meet along the way. The unexpected connections you make. We generally go to the Clements Ridge fruit stand just off Highway 88 on our way up to the house. They are friendly folks and have luscious fruit (boysenberries are in season). We often get sandwiches, and have been known to bring home bread pudding for a friend. Today, pulling up on the bike, the fields smelled like ripe strawberries – sort of like cotton candy wafting on the wind. We had a chance to chat with Mick, the owner. We were amazed that it’s a sustainably run farm – Mick was out picking peppers when we asked him to take a few photos. We highly recommend this family-run business if you are out this way.
Russell with Mick, who runs the Clements Ridge sustainable farm
Just a bit further along the way, we stopped at Webster’s burger place. Here we met Jerry and Dave, retired cousins who are riding their motorcycles from Florida/Virginia, across the lower states, then through California and on up to Alaska. We felt sort of silly with our little tandem next to their massive motorcycles all tricked out with panniers, trailers, tents, duffle bags and all. They were very kind and complimented our set-up. We had a nice conversation with them about their travels. We are in awe. They will be away from home for six months! “Living the dream of retirement instead of just talking about it” is what they said. (I understand at some point one of the wives will meet up with her husband out this way, and the other cousin will fly home to spend time with his family. Those are two patient ladies.)
Gail with David (left) and Jerry (right)
One of the fully packed motorcycles
Before we left, Russell said, “Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you would someday ride a bike from our mountain house to this place? Isn’t life great?” Yep, it sure is.
Finally, we arrived at The Inn at Locke House in Lockeford. Richard showed us up to our room and helped us put our bike in the barn. We knew this would be 100-percent better than the place last night, as we have stayed here before. This is another place we would highly recommend. It’s an historic bed and breakfast that has been lovingly restored to the beauty it once was. Richard and Lani are perfect innkeepers. In our room, there is a binder with a full history – not only of the house, but of every piece of furniture in our room. It is just an amazing place, and they have made it a sustainably run business.
We were able to shuttle our vehicles and have a car here, so that made the dinner decision easier. Since we bought our property in the foothills we have been driving past this place on 88 called Waterloo Club. It claims to be the biggest San Francisco Giants fan club around. We thought it was just a local bar, but tonight we found a brochure for the restaurant in the B&B and decided to give it a try.
We let Lani and Richard know where we were going for dinner. They just lit up and said we were going to have an amazing time. OMG. I am without words. The food was amazing, the staff was amazing, and the restaurant/bar is an amazing place. When we told Mary Jo that it was our first time there, she said there were a few rules. We had to sample things. We got an order of ribs and an order of the salmon. There are no words. I have never had better food anywhere. The soups we got (minestrone and mushroom) and the salad with the homemade Italian dressing (that José brought over just because we should try it) were… there are no words. I could not stop eating, and I am already planning our next trip back.
Gail with Mary Jo, our hostess
Russell with José, our waiter
At this point, Russell looked at me across the table and said, “This has been a perfect day, and this is the perfect ending. If we weren’t already married, I would propose.”
Isn’t life great? Yep, it sure is.
Russell’s second birthday celebration, courtesy of José
Total distance: 45.71 miles
Distance traveled today: 22.97 miles
Time spent riding: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Average speed: 11.2 mph
Maximum speed: 27.9 mph
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