Day 74 – Plymouth to Davis CA

It’s fitting that I land tonight in Davis and take that as my starting point for the last leg home tomorrow. As I was pedaling into town this afternoon the route was completely familiar. In fact, I owe my introduction to California, and Davis in particular, to my sister Lynda, who moved here first back in the ’70s. While she was living here, and I was about 14, and took my first trip to California with my mom to visit her here. That was my first airplane flight too, first trip to San Francisco, first trip to the Sierras. How I’d like to go back and whisper in that kid’s ear, that kid that I was. There’s much advice I’d have for him and I doubt he’d believe that now this is home.

I love the live oaks of the foothills. I found myself taking this same picture over and over again.

Today’s ride wasn’t exactly the blissful pedal through the foothills that I’d hoped. The countryside as I left Plymouth is lovely, but the route was pretty trafficky. The area between Plymouth and El Dorado Hills is kind of one big urban area, with people commuting back and forth. Being constantly passed by cars is just a drag and it’s tempting to just plow through it hoping that the next segment is better. And actually it was.

Part of the ride out of Plymouth was lovely, with the road descending slowing under the shade of the oaks. Just need to avoid rush hour next time.
I love the shape of the oaks when they’re able to grow without being crowded by others. (Go to town on that one you analysts, pro and amateur, out there).
The Consumnes River, which I’d never seen before, runs between Plymouth and the American River to the north. 
Old building remains, near the river.

As I pulled into the Folsom area, I started to see something I’ve not seen a lot of – bikes! As I joined the system of trails by Lake Natoma and the American River, I was in the company of a lot of other riders – plenty of racing types and fitness seekers. Nice to see others cycling, though I have to admit that I’ve kind of enjoyed being the only one in town on a bike. Great also to see people doing something positive for their health. But many seem so damn serious about it, and I’ve got caught up in that too. Even today, after being passed a couple of times, my competitive dander got up and I wanted to try and keep up with, or beat, whoever was around.

Well whoa there. Here I am, not even home, and all the bliss and insight from the trip is already getting wear on it. I spoke to my wise wife last night and she warned me about this next stage and she’s absolutely right. See while I do “spinning meditations” she does actual meditation, for hours, days, sometimes that’s the focus of her days for a week at a time. And through that experience, she’s often experienced insight and moments of clarity that are not unlike what I’ve experienced on this trip. The hard part, according to Megan, is integrating that insight into your life when you return. In fact that’s probably the hardest part. I know she’s right about that. Damnit. Plenty of work still to do. The good news is its fun work.

The trail followed the American River. It’s been dammed and mined and I wonder what it looked like before. I can’t say for sure, but every place where I’ve seen big gravel piles like these in river beds, it’s the result of hydraulic mining to get at gold that is long gone. Only these scars remain. You see the same thing on the Yuba and Feather rivers.
The stones are pretty and make ideal habitat for nesting salmon and steelhead.

It was great to be out of traffic and in Sacramento the trail across town is smooth, shaded, and keeps you off the streets almost the whole way. Mostly that was great but I don’t really feel like I saw any of Sac that way. I did get to see the American River, and for the first time I saw where it meets the Sacramento River, just near Old Sac. (Sorry but the pic didn’t make the cut).

The Natoma Lake dam. The Natoma is the reservoir just below Folsom. For you J Cash fans, yes, that’s the Folsom of his famous Folsom Prison Live concert. Add that to your earworm list!
Ooh I got this one. Morning glories, right?
Along the American River, upstream from Sacramento.

Some of the trail was depressing or maybe I should say, heartbreaking. There are long sections that don’t seem to be used much except by homeless people. Just seeing these folks felt odd because I’ve seen few homeless the whole trip. To a visitor from another planet there’s little difference between me and them. There’s a great many homeless that I saw today, and have seen in San Jose, that use a bike as their main transportation, and carry all their possessions that way, which is exactly what I’m doing. Though obviously I have the means to make a choice to do that, and they likely don’t. Clearly it’s not the same and makes an uncomfortable (for me) contrast as we’re face to face on the trail.

At least the trail was cool and comfortable which became important as the temps approached 100 F.
Did you do a double-take like I did when you saw this? What? The golden gate? It’s a mini GG pedestrian bridge in Sac.
Part of the trailside was covered in ivy, like kudzu.

The ride took me through Old Sacramento, which is nice and have visited before so I didn’t dwell there. Then the route goes through West Sacramento which is no garden spot either (cheap hotels, drugs, prostitution) and frankly I’m wondering about who picked this route anyway. Then as I passed West out of Sac, I’m into really familiar territory.

Old Sac has a lot of cool old buildings, but really not more than Eureka or Austin NV, just in better shape.
Can you believe they used to build power plants with statuary over the doors. This old defunct plant is along the Sacramento River.


The Tower Bridge connects Sacramento to West Sac and Yolo County. I read that the golden color was chosen by popular vote of residents in the area.

West of Sac is the causeway that separates Sacramento and Davis and I’ve ridden it many times. In fact I summered with my sis in Davis during college and it was one of my common training rides to go from Davis to Sac, touch the City Limits sign, and go back to Davis. I thought that was a pretty big ride then – all of a 20 mile round trip. So as I headed across the causeway today I had all the memories of that summer swimming in my head.

New options for infinity. This causeway goes across a big flood plain that is relief for when the Sacramento River gets out of it’s banks. I’ve driven across here before when it was completely flooded and looked like a sea.

So here I am in Davis, the most bicycle-friendly town in America, and a perfect spot to launch my last day. Even when I visited here in the 70s, Davis had more bikes than people, and the first bike paths and bike lanes I’d ever seen. Today is has special bike signals, left-hand turn lanes for bikes, and an amazing network of trails and green-belts connecting different parts of town.

It looks like I’ll have some folks joining along the route for my last day too. My buddy David Gottfried is on his way here by train and will ride the whole day with me. And it sounds like Jeff G and Steve K may join for part of the ride too. I’m really glad to have the chance to round out the ride with good friends. If you’d like to join, just message me, or comment below, and we’ll figure out how to meet on the route.

David’s joined me in Davis and we went out for pizza at Hot Italian – a bike-themed pizza joint. Those are visions of bikes dancing in his head.


7 thoughts on “Day 74 – Plymouth to Davis CA”

  1. Jim, your trip and blog has been a wonderful thing to follow. Thank you. It’s been great to listen to your voice in my head for so many days. Hope your re-entry is interesting too.

    Love, Monte

  2. Tremendous physical accomplishment.
    Beautiful descriptive photographs.
    Thoughtful, well-written blog describing places, people, and your thoughts.
    Big fundraiser for NRDC.
    Sense of personal transformation.
    Congratulations, Jim! You’re going to need to start leading bicycling meditation retreats for the rest of us.

  3. We’re so glad you were in Davis, with all the other bikers! Now for the last leg home — phew! The trip of a lifetime. I love the pics of all the rocks, when zoomed in they turn into impressionist paintings. We’ll be thinking of you today, riding with friends to a grand homecoming!
    Love from Joanne & Burt

  4. Jim, you’re probably home by now.

    I’ve followed your journey with great interest! Your descriptions and photos are a testament to your growth on this trip. I have been most inspired by your writing (who says engineers can’t write?) and the depth of your insights are marvelous.

    I am serious that this looks to me like an excellent candidate for an ASHRAE Plenary session keynote! Give it some thought and we’ll see what we can do. I’d really like to talk more about your extraordinary trip at the Chicago meeting in January. TC 7.6 deserves at least a brief report.


  5. I know you are home by now, enjoying the embrace of family and friends and grinning from ear to ear. Bravo! and thanks for sharing it with us. I barely know you, but there is a genuineness to your journaling, musings, and rants that has swept me along with you on a delightful and insightful armchair ride.

    I hope you will also find a vehicle to share the re-entry experience – maybe not a daily blog, but a recap at the end of the year might be nice (as you remind us to send a year-end gift to NRDC). As your wife so wisely observes, the next few months could be every bit as enlightening as the past few. Anyone who embarks on a such a personal journey of self-discovery must, at some point, question whether the trip is just a selfish lark. I would be fascinated to hear how the insights gained from this journey influence, energize, or rejuvenate your relationships with your family, friends, colleagues, and community.

    But for now, I hope you are enjoying the rest. And I’m serious about the beers in Chicago.

  6. Welcome home, Jim!!!! I’m so happy that you have completed your journey successfully. I can only imagine your emotions today. Please let us know the rest of the story. I can’t wait to hear how today went. I know Megan and Jonah are over the moon to have you back. Enjoy every moment, and especially your own bed!

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