21 October 2017
2/D/105 – 3,385 feet climbing – Alameda to Sacramento AMTRAK via River Road
This route was designed to allow for a more scenic route to Sacramento that would still constitute a century ride. It was delayed one week, due to the prevailing smoke in the air on October 14th.
Due to the much more benign temperatures, a high of 70, as compared to 108 degrees on my most recent attempt, this ride became a joy. Traffic was light on River Road and the route overall was well suited for road bikes, though some small deviations on certain segments will need to be made for future rides. It took longer than expected, due to flagging energy from one rider, whose name shall not be revealed. We therefore missed the 1555 train and were obliged to board the train departing Sacramento at 1700.
Our group of three started shortly after 0730 on quite new road bikes, two equipped with disc brakes. There would not be much braking on this route, since it is fairly flat, especially over the last 55 miles. As anticipated, the Moraga Bridge is still closed, and we had to pick our way up a muddy embankment to reach the street at Augusta Drive. We sat down a spell to pick the mud from our cleats with sticks so the pedals would re-engage again.
Temperatures were in the mid 40’s when we started, but once we reached the far side of the Oakland Hills, it became markedly warmer. We reached Walnut Creek and the Iron Horse- and Contra Costa Canal Trails (CCCT) and took no wrong turn for the remainder of our excursion. On the CCCT, we negotiated a large group of walkers with signs, who were converging onto some sort of event, and so I had to call out with my “command” voice. We also followed the Delta de Anza Trail, which made the ride car-free for some 12 miles for all trails, though interspersed with numerous street crossings and the sight of lost, wandering souls.
We crossed the Antioch Bridge onto River Road (160N), Mile 50 at 1230 hours. It is here we noticed one of our number only reaching us after a delay of about 5 minutes. Initially I believed there had been a mechanical, but I did not receive a straightforward answer. Since the bridge represents the ultimate last turnaround point, I was quite stringent in demanding a status update, and I was informed he felt quite all right. So we carried on, though I was starting to get concerned.
For this reason, I called a refueling stop just before in Antioch, and afterwards, in Isleton at Mile 65. We learned, that the Taste of Hope sandwich shop had given up hope and closed. We found a convenience store with a sullen proprietress. The town is so run down and forlorn, it is best to avoid it altogether.
Along the way, I repeatedly checked the water and food situation. I know from experience, that many riders need to refuel constantly to keep energy levels up. Towards the last 30 miles or so, our exhausted member kept dropping back. I tried the carrot approach, slowing down, but dangling ahead, but that did not result in any appreciable improvement and focus. So, I asked that close drafting at much reduced speed be instituted, so expended energy could be reduced. This also only worked for about 10 miles or so, with me looking over my shoulder every few minutes to gauge progress, only to find he had not called out, that he was losing the wheel. The rest of the trip we kept hop-scotching along in this fashion, as navigation in Sacramento would pose a challenge for anybody dropped.
There was a section of rutted river bank, marked as part of the Sacramento River Bike Trail. We portaged the bikes once again and managed to re-connect with the trail proper. On the final section, we encountered a barricade and had to deviate at Joe’s Crab Shack and onto the horrible cobbles on Front Street, to find our way to the Amtrak station. Though we had missed the 1555 train, we barely had 20 minutes to board the 1700. That is when our nearly bonked friend finally ate his nuked sandwich from the train café.
Since we were now arriving at Jack London Square at 1848, one member had the brilliant idea to have his wife pick us up at the station. This was made possible, because he had a bike carrier for three bikes and so I arrived home, at 1930 into night, but safe and sound.
I would consider this ride an unmitigated success, even with the delays we encountered. When participants were asked to compare between this ride and the Davis ride, it was a close call on the level of enjoyment. Prevailing temperatures must be considered, much less than favorable winds. Due to the length of the route and the absence of bailout spots after Mile 50, everybody must be of equal fitness, with some recent longer rides in their legs. Even so, this route can represent a good 41-miler for those who wish to return with the Pittsburg BART.
Ralph, this is a well told story of your ride. I enjoyed all the information. A good route planned over time. Thanks, Sweeps
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