My body is tired, my butt chaffed ** (thank you Arleen for the fantastic chaffing cream–?-recommended), but I feel thankful to be alive. The ride started out nice enough with some flat, scenic riding through the southern end of Napa Valley. About thirty miles into the ride, I hit the city of Napa which supposedly offered a camping option at a county park. After riding five or so miles off the main route to find it, I learned that the $8 rate I saw online was incorrect. The fee was $25, and a line of RVs were revved and waiting to get in. I decided to pedal on for China Camp, which I grossly incorrectly estimated was about 30 more miles south. Unfortunately, I had my roads confused.
I spent the next hour riding along a busy highway with a large berm. The next route I was to take according to my “bicycle map”, Route 37, turned out to be a freeway pass over some wetlands. Bicycle were prohibited I found out as I walked Steel back down the onramp. I rode past it and out on to some decrepit naval yard on an “island” in the hopes of finding some trail that might meander across the wetland, not yet knowing how long the pass was. My efforts were futile. I found myself pondering my bleak options on the side of the urban wasteland road when a fellow on bicycle asked if I needed help. I explained my predicament, and he commented that indeed 37 was my only option short of heading back to Napa. However, he remarked that he had seen cyclists on it before, and that he thought it was legal if I got on it further down from a back entrance from the ex-naval yard. Well shoot, say no more. I was off. I lost about two hours riding around on the naval island, and I underestimated the length of 37. After about an hour and half of riding on the freeway, the sun dropped behind the clouds and vehicle lights came on. I was exhausted and scared, so when I saw an exit for a viewing area, I got off. A few folks were fishing, so Steel and I nibbled some dinner and waited out of sight until the sun went down before setting up camp under a 37 overpass bridge. Others had been there before as evidenced by the gang tags sprayed on the concrete above my tent. I rather liked sleeping to the muffled sound of traffic passing on 37 above. I was so stinkin tired, I could have probably passed out at a death-metal concert.
As strange as yesterday was, today’s ride was the one I feel thankful to have survived. I woke up early –not surprisingly given my unusual sleepover location. I could tell it was nearing morning not only by the lightness, but by the increase in traffic overhead. Steel and I packed up and enjoyed our fruit and granola breakfast while looking out across the wetlands. My muscles were fatigued and only got more tired as I began pedaling Steel again in a headwind that blew against and across us ever so strong making it difficult to hold steady along the seemingly endless Route 37. I spied three jack rabbits in route. I had never seen any up close before. Talk about some seriously big bunnies. Each had to have been about 2 feet in length. Then came THE BRIDGE!
Okay bicycles should absolutely not be on this road. No berm existed along the uphill “bridge of death” –which now ranks as one of my most scary bike moments. Seemingly endless minutes of climbing in a headwind on the actual freeway in rush hour traffic with cars, semis, and other miscellaneous vehicles swerving around us. I definitely feel thankful to be alive. Also, I intend to write to the folks who produced my “cycling map” to point out the rather huge glitch –this was a highly recommended route. Yikes!
About two hours after departure, I rolled into a Peets Coffee in Novato and made myself comfortable for a good chuck of the day. I honestly had no desire to be on Steel for another 15 miles (assuming I follow the route correctly) to China Camp. At around mid-afternoon, we finally departed. Fortunately, the entire route turned out to either have designated bike lanes on roads, or separate bike paths. My stove again stopped working and not wanting to deal with cooking anyway, I picked up some Subway. I have seriously never been so happy and relieved to get to a campsite. As an added bonus, it appears to be all walk-in tent camping –not an RV in sight. It is so dark and sweetly quiet as I write this. This is going to be the best snooze EVER!