I escaped from Sacramento this morning just in time to miss the 105 degree afternoon. Whew! Even though the train was an hour late, I was happy to board, score some coffee, and enjoy the ride. The sunrise was pretty cool at the station.
I was preoccupied with people watching, dozing off in my seat, and catching up on news, etc. on my phone until we hit the Carquinez Strait near Benicia. The Coast Starlight is famous for its beautiful scenery, but this stretch is an industrial funk zone giving way to tidal flats. The flats can be pretty in the right light, especially when there are lots of birds, but today they were kinda blah.
The obligatory Jack London Square stop at the Oakland Harbor doesn't quite capture the essence of Oaktown. The Square is basically bourgeoisie yuppie safe tourist stuff. Oaktown is a seriously messed up, beautiful sociological experiment. It's a collection of intelligent oddballs like you rarely see elsewhere. They are way ahead of the apocalyptic curve here. Jack London Square does not prepare you for any of that.
Once you get away from the big city, east bay, railroad-graffiti ghetto, you start to see farmland - beautiful, productive farmland not yet cemented over with malls and McMansions. Why turn this productive, carbon-trapping food bank into a heat island? We know it is dumb, but we keep on doing it.
Where is the cement coming from, you ask? One place is the Granite Rock A.R. Wilson Quarry near Aromas, CA. We passed right by it on the train. Business is booming for these guys as Silicon Valley marches inexorably south toward San Juan Bautista, Manifest Destiny on steroids.
People still have good ideas and act on them, though, like the establishment of a wildlife sanctuary and learning center at Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing. Once upon a time, the San Benito River emptied out into Monterey Bay through this slough, before movement along the San Andreas Fault altered the river's path toward the north.
Soon after this, I was de-training in Salinas and pedaling the Dream Machine toward the San Juan Grade to go home. It's a 17-mile ride with one long, curving climb up to the Monterey/San Benito County line and the Vergeles fault and down the other side to San Juan Bautista. The grade is 4 or 5 miles long each way and pretty steep. The temperature was 92 degrees F and there was very little shade on the narrow asphalt road. I was really struggling to make it with about a mile to go to the top, sweating "profusely" and feeling pretty wobbly. I had resigned myself to pushing that loaded bike for a while when one last trail angel showed himself.
A sturdy young dude in a white pickup passed me, continued most of the way up toward the pass, then slowed and turned around. He came back down to where I was panting on the side of the road and asked if he could take me and my bike up to the top. He also handed me a fresh bottle of water, no doubt because I looked and sounded like I was about a quart or three low. That decision was a no brainer, in more ways than one. In a jiffy, I was barreling down the other side of the pass, dodging potholes, and burning up my brake pads toward The Farm.
Man, I am so lucky. There is something pure in trying, even when you know you will never be as tough or as strong as you once were. I saw this plaque up on the Tahoe East Shore Trail the other day. Good message, Nancy, whoever you are. I am sharing all these places and happenings with whoever wants to read them. Never doubt for a minute that you are loved.
Peace, Love, and Home Sweet Home,