Monday, May 9, 2011

Part 1 Sac to SLO - Taking the Inland Passage

A bike tour to the central coast through the central valley?!

What? . . . you say! How interesting can that be?

Having taken the popular coastal route (Hwy 1) numerous times it was time to find another way. I cobbled together a potential route from several sources - the excellent Krebs cycling maps, AAA maps and roads I'm familiar with from previous rides.

I plotted a route from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo, connecting the dots of some interesting places. The over-night stops were Rio Vista, Tracy, Santa Nella, Mercy Hot Springs, Pinnacles, King City, Ft. Hunter-Liggett, and Paso Robles.

Camping and motelling was split 50/50.

The total distance is 457 miles, ascending 12,362' with average daily miles between 40-60 miles. Some days were a little longer and some shorter. Very doable distances when riding fully loaded.

I floated the idea of this tour with some of my cycle touring buddies and to my surprise, the response was incredibly enthusiastic. Initially, 14 cycling compatriots indicated an interest to participate in the 10 day tour.

In the end, 10 participated in the tour, doing all or parts of the tour. The core group who completed all 10 days were Jay Okada and Keith Wynns from Los Osos, Bob Anderson from Santa Rosa, Herb Lee and myself from Sacramento.

Dennis Engblom joined us for one day, Steve Gibson for 2 1/2 days, Jim Regan and Peter Saucerman for 7 days, and Harvey Cohen from San Luis Obispo for 5 days.

Weather-wise, we couldn't have timed the tour any better. The longest and wettest winter in decades ended two days before the tour started and we enjoyed 11 dry days. North winds arose on the two days we were headed down the Central Valley so we benefited from 20-30 mph tailwinds.

Coffee houses, pie shops, and small markets popped up in the middle of nowhere when our energy level were beginning to sag. The tour was blessed given that we were riding on mostly unexplored roads.

The route and terrain turned out to be varied, interesting and we were treated to some unique experiences. This was cycle touring at its best and this is why we do it.

This blog consists of three parts. Continue to scroll down or click on "old posts" to continue the tour.

For enlarged view, click on pic once/twice

On the Riverfront Promenade

Day 1 Leaving Sac for Rio Vista, a 52 mile ride - Me, Herb, Jay, Keith, Dennis, Bob

Jay in front of the Tower Bridge

Cruising along Babel Slough (above and below)

Delta vineyard

First stop - lunch at Shorty's near Clarksburg

See ya' Mike!

Mike had family obligations and couldn't make the tour. He rode with us to Shorty's and returned home. We'll miss ya' Mike.

Crossing the Courtland Bridge

Stopping off to visit Historic Locke, a river town established by early Chinese immigrants

Checking out Main Street

A new monument honoring the town's Chinese heritage

Keith and Steve checking out Al's, a popular eatery

No burn-outs from loaded bikes

Next stop Walnut Grove

Catching the first of two ferrys . . . crossing Steamboat Slough

The only big climb of the day - up a river levee

More speed Steve! . . . you're teetering

Taking the Real McCoy II, a new ferry crossing to Rio Vista

Dennis breaking camp at Sandy Beach Campground in Rio Vista where we spent the first night

Sunrise over Sac River

Yellow lupine in peak bloom

Early morning on a lanquid river

We crossed the infamous Hwy 12 Bridge from Rio Vista to Hwy 160 - no shoulder and heavy truck traffic. We puckered up and raced across the bridge.

See ya' Dennis!

Dennis could only make one day of the tour. He left for home after camping with us.

Wind turbines in the Montezuma Hills

Day 2 Rio Vista to Tracy, a 54 mile day

Circumnavigating the Levee Road on Sherman Island . . . and heading to Antioch

Fishing the San Joaquin River

The very wet winter is causing a population explosion of rodents which means it will be a banner year for reptiles. I saw numerous snakes sunning themselves on the roads.

Our big climb of the day over the Antioch Bridge

About a 4' wide bike lane but still kinda' scary with all the traffic

A great view of Mt. Diablo and Antioch from the top of the bridge

Pick it up Steve!

A big truck bearing down on Steve

Stopping off at the Black Bear Diner in Oakley for a hearty lunch

A humongous taco salad . . . Steve has become a Black Bear convert

Tackling the rolling hills on Bruns Road between Byron and Tracy

Slaking our thirst at Mountain House on Grantline Road near Tracy

We woke up to northwinds blowing 20-30 mph. The palm trees were tilting south.

Day 3 Tracy to Santa Nella, a 60 mile ride down the Central Valley

Serendipity rules! We encounter the All American Expresso out in the middle of nowhere

Great coffee and nice display of fresh fruit

The barista makes a mean latte

The restroom is behind the cup-o-joe


The lads taking a nice break

Yeehaa! With tailwinds at 20-30 mph, we were blowing down Kasson Road making short a 60 mile day.

Watching a nifty planting machine

See ya' Steve!

Steve rode with us for 2 1/2 days and departed in Patterson

Swingin' through Historic Downtown Newman

Riding past a wildlife refuge outside Los Banos

Day 4 Santa Nella to Mercy Hot Springs, a 62 mile day

A strategic stop at Chic's Market in Dos Palos, a tiny burg in the Big Valley

Fred Sanford and Son drove up in this vintage trailer

Dos Palos is a hard-scrabble valley town with not much going on

Leaving the flat central valley and turning west toward the hills on Shields Av.

This nervous yappy pooch guarded the home where we took a short break

Crossing the CA Acquaduct

The first big climb on Little Panoche Road on our way to Mercy Hot Springs

The barren Panoche Hills

Finding some shade and setting up camp at Mercy Hot Springs

Hey Peter . . . You the MAN!

Peter and Jim joined the tour at Mercy. They brought us sub-sandwiches from Quiznos and dessert from Freeport Bakery.

The Taco Bell motif of the Hot Spring's office

Mercy Hot Springs is a literal oasis in the desert

Recently built hot tubs were a godsend

Peter and Keith lounging by the pool

You can rent rustic cabins if you want to go high brow

A fledgling owl

Mercy is a great place for birders. A family of short-eared owls roost in the trees.

The Killing Field!

Mice heads are too big for the owls to digest so they drop them on the ground

Little Panoche Hills at sunset are sublime

The gang of 7 leaving Mercy HS

Day 5 Mercy Hot Springs to Pinnacle, a 54 mile day

Small Wheel Society - Peter with his Moulten and Herb with Bike Friday

Leaving the Hot Springs on Little Panoche Road and into the hills

A long steady climb to the first summit

Up and over the summit and into Panoche Valley

Panoche Valley - stark yet very beautiful

The juxtaposition of brown valley, rolling hills and green mountains is mesmerizing

Good sense of humor at the Panoche Inn

The road swings north and climbs toward Hwy 25 and Paicines

A gradual climb to the summit

Taking a break at the high point

Beginning of a long gradual descent to Paicines

A fab rest-stop at the Paicines store - tasty home-made burritos and tamales

Attack dog pestering for a bite

Turning on Hwy 25 toward the Pinnacles takes you through bucolic country-side

Jim cresting the summit

Another butt-busting climb before reaching the Pinnacles

BA is in good form and riding tough on this tour

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