What a difference a day makes. I woke up yesterday to cloudless sunny skies in Chico, CA. The meeting room on the top floor of the Hoiiday Inn I was staying in was being used as a hearing room for Social Security appeals. A line of sad looking people waited in chairs along the hall as I waited for the elevator down. As I was loading up the bike I noticed that the small screw that holds down the back half of my seat to the rear fender had vibrated loose and fallen off sometime in the last day, but fortunately there was a Harley dealership just about 3 blocks from my hotel, so I rode over to pick up a replacement. The nice thing about the Harley-Davidson Road Atlas is that it marks every dealership in the country. Tony used to say it was so I could stop and get a t-shirt at every dealership in the country, which is not true (only 100 or so of them). However, the nice dealer in Chico had the screw in stock -- $20! For a rear seat screw!. I could make some jokes, but I'll bite my tongue. After a dab of lock-tite and a few turns, I was on my way south down CA-99 towards Sacramento, rolling through the endless fields and orchards of California's Central Valley. It's truly staggering the amount of stuff grown here -- the area around Chico was mostly nuts -- almonds, pecans, walnuts, and lots of strawberries. I like riding through farm country -- seeing big machinery working the fields, huge barns and silos, and contemplating how it all works its way to our supermarket and table.
You will note that on my windshield is a yellow Post-It note with my route for the day on it. This has become a staple of my big road trips, and it started back when Tony and I flew to Pennsylvania for his cousins wedding back in 2007, and rode rented bikes all over the north east. We were totally lost in that part of the country and he came up with the idea of the Post-It on the windshield. He ran into a Staples bought a pad and a roll of non-residue tape and thus a tradition was born. I realized as I was writing out yesterday's route that I was still working off the same pad and roll of tape that he bought in Camden, NJ on that trip. Like me and the bike, that pad has gone coast to coast and border to border. This was the first time I'd written directions on this trip. The route for the past two days was so simple that I could remember it. Today was different.
The Harley-Davidson Road Atlas also has a section on suggested roads and rides -- and there was one highlighted that was between me and my destination of the East Bay area. This route went along the Sacramento River delta between Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area. CA-160 rolls along the levee and ducks in and out of a few quaint towns along the river. It was almost like stepping back in time -- the houses were old Victorians, the towns small and focused on the river -- lots of fishing shacks and small canneries and the like. The road followed the river and twisted and turned, and for the most part I had it all to myself! There is nothing like sitting back, enjoying the sunshine on my bare arms, watching the world go by along a pretty road and seeing a corner of the country that seems to have been passed by. No big-box stores, no Starbucks, not a single fast-food joint.
As the bike and the river and I rolled along west, my stomach told me it was time to stop for a bite. I ambled up to a small little place along the river levee called Maya's where the special of the day was "Coctel de Camaron" or Mexican Shrimp Cocktail. I had a large one along with some taquitos and a cold Jarito's lemon/lime (a Mexican brand of soda). I sat on the porch, watched the river traffic and a few cars go by and enjoyed the best shrimp cocktail I'd ever had. After lunch I wandered over to the white fence in the picture above and watched the river flow by and just soaked up the sun -- without sun-screen so I'm a bit red in the face today, but no matter.
I loaded back up on the bike and headed West -- enjoying being able to hear the tunes on my I-Pod today. The day before it had been impossible to hear the the music with the combination of the head wind and road noise roaring in my ear like the bear I was wrestling for 300 miles. Today, ambling along the river, I was able to enjoy the music. It's funny what the mind remembers and when. Like a lot of riders I suspect, I sing along, either out loud or in my head when I'm riding -- helping to pass the time. I worked in radio for many years and thus "know" a lot of songs, or think I do. Its funny when I'm singing to myself on the road without the I-Pod, I often don't remember the words -- or lose my place -- even in a song I know like the back of my hand. But when it's on the I-Pod I can sing along, word for word, beat for beat and not miss anything. They are all "uploaded" in my brain, but doing it without the "trigger" is almost impossible. As soon as the song starts I know what the words are and can "karaoke" it in my head. Without the music, it's hit and miss -- more offten "miss". Hell it happens to professionals I know -- Arlo Gutherie tells a very funny story how he forgot the words to his own song "Alice's Restaurant" in one show, even though he could pick the notes out in his sleep on the guitar.
Another 30 miles of winding down the river then onto the I-680 freeway and I made it to the East Bay area in time for dinner and rode up to visit Dave and Elayne and the kids. We'd kept my visit a surprise, especially for my little buddy Ben, who when he heard me roar up the driveway came bolting out of the house with a smile as wide as the grand canyon according to Elayne. It was great to see all of them, but especially Ben, who wouldn't leave my side for a moment. I got to take him to his Elementary School open house and recital that night as his Dad was busy with work. He was one happy kid as we motored to the school, and he introduced me to all his friends and teachers. Elanye and his sister went in the car, but she insisted she get to ride back on the bike, so I drove her home and then Ben and I went for a longer ride. This kid is gonna be a biker someday (sorry Elayne). I am going to pick him up from school later today and go out again before he leaves for a Scout campout.
So this morning I've been relaxing, doing laundry, sleeping in. I'll go wash the bike up before picking Ben up later this afternoon. One more night here and I've yet to decide where to head next. The weather east and north is yucky -- guess I'll keep going south.