Leaving Tahoe was sad. I didn’t want to go. But normal life was calling me back and off I went. I headed back to the free site I hit on the way up at Big Meadows, where I settled in just as one of those infamous Sierra summer thunderstorms started to roll in, luckily this one was pretty mellow. I slept well, dreaming of my breakfast of fresh fruit and coffee in the morning.
When I unzipped from my tent in the AM, I first noticed my Platypus bladder on its side, hm, I don’t remember leaving it that way. I picked it up and it started to leak, bizarre. Then I turned to go find my food and all I found was a ravaged mess. It looks like someone else was as excited for my food as I was. Because of a broken food locker, I did like I do when I free camp in bear territory, I stored my food bAGS about 100 feet from my tent on the ground and it looks like a bear found it and had his way. The worst part was it totally tore up my REI backpack, ripped my bladder, and put hole in my pannier, luckily the pannier would live to see another day.
|Collecting Passes like Ribbons. Maybe some day I’ll catch em all.|
With only Carson Pass in my way before a big drop down I decided to press on with no food. I grabbed Luther Pass rather quickly then hurried on to Carson Pass, which would prove to be tougher than expected, with a series of undulating meadows and climbs in between. To my happy surprise when I got to the pass there was life. An information booth sits right at the trailhead of what are supposed to be stunning alpine hikes (maybe if I had more food I would have participated), but the best news was that the volunteer staff always has food for thru hikers. They hooked me up with fruit, cookies, and a Coke. I was so glad that I didn’t even stop at the general stores on the way down Mormon Emigrant to the Valley (which on Mormon Emigrant I didn’t see a soul and only saw enumerable dirt roads that trail off endlessly into nowhere, a great place it looks like to explore some other time).
|Another intersection neither here nor there.|
From Mormon Emigrant I dropped down the amazingly fun Sly Park Road, a fast descent with sharp bends that are perfectly carved that you hardly have to flutter the brakes. Sly Park Road led into Pleasant Valley, whose pizza place had terrible pizza but wifi, at least the fountain soda hit the spot. From there I navigated my way towards Oakland. I buzzed through the next section of my ride across the rolling hills of the valley. into Cameron Park. While enjoying a late afternoon coffee, I found a spot on Google Maps that seemed like a nice place to camp, so off down Shingle Springs Road it was.
Shingle Springs Road was nearly trafficless, but when I hit Latrobe is when the real fun started. The pavement reached left, the pavement reached right, the pavement ended straight forward and that’s where I wanted to go. Six straight miles of beautiful gravel roads along stretches of golden grass reflecting off a golden sunset. This is where peace was found.
|I wish gravel roads were more prevalent.|
The roughest part was that barbed wire and No Trespassing signs hemmed the road in. I kept looking for any place to camp, but couldn’t find any. Whoever said that barbed wire was the death of the West was right. It was such a shame, so many beautiful camp sites beyond reach. I took the only option left to me and pushed on to the next town which would be a huge mistake. I came over the top of a hill and looked and to my left was a huge football field and playground, town parks of small parks are great places to camp, but as I looked closer the whole thing was fenced in by a six foot tall stonewall. Turns out Rancho Murieta is a private community of bizarre characteristic. Amid the dry rolling expanse of the Sacramento Valley was this elite community of dark green lawns and huge fountains in the middle of golf course lakes. The place was dropped here arbitrarily it seemed.
Fairly disgusted and annoyed I tried asking for help, which people seemed to only turn up their noses and tell me they didn’t know. Someone suggested near a corn field, which never is a good idea, I scoped it out and decided to keep looking. I finally noticed a gazebo on top of the hill next to the highway and scrambled my way up there just as the sun was beginning it’s final descent over the landscape. It was less than ideal, but it would be home for the night. I laid out on the bench and contemplated the fine line between bike touring and homelessness and if I ever imagined myself here. I thought of my suburban upbringings and how they somehow brought me here, sleeping on a park bench outside of a snobbish community. Is this where I belong? I was on the verge of something, but what it was I wasn’t sure. I just knew that Rancho Murieta is the kind of place I never want to see myself ending up.
I had trouble sleeping and was interrupted by an elderly man hiking up around midnight, which only made me more worried that he might call me in, thankfully he didn’t. The full moon kept me company, illuminating the valley. It was in between my interrupted sleep at around 4 AM that I noticed a floodlight over the cornfield I chose not to habitate, what a good decision that was. Then by 5 I was up and out to the local coffee shop where I waited for the sun’s presence, before moving forward.
The wind would be my demise on this day. It was gusting down my nose for a good part of the morning, but I could do nothing but push through it. By the time I got to the Delta the wind was worse and making me feel worse, so I stopped at my favorite watering hole in Locke, Al the Wop’s where a Bloody Mary helped clear my mind. I followed that up with Chinese food.
That combination of alcohol and Chinese food would be my unraveling in the 90 degree heat. Somehow I ended up avoiding most of the traffic on the skinny levee roads, but the ride was still rough going with my stomach in knots. I threw on some tunes hoping to distract myself. It helped and before I knew it I had hit the Famer’s Market outside Rio Vista, where delicious organic local peaches and iced tea returned my vitas.
The wind would pick up for the rest of the ride. So windy I couldn’t even set up my tent where I wanted to and instead chose to make that night my last and pointed towards Pittsburg BART. The wind was constant in my face and started to wear on my spirit and body. My headache forced me into one final Starbucks stop to rest up, where a confused woman could not get my order right and was nothing but irritating. I tried to be nice, but my patience was thin and all I did was come off as rude. Guess we all can’t be winners all the time. The rest of the ride zipped by and before I knew it I was on BART heading home. Another tour over and no foreseeable bike touring in the next six months and that’s hard to swallow.
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