Davis, CA–a bicycle-friendly city?

Yesterday, we popped our Dahons in the back of the car and headed for Davis, a small university city known for its bike friendliness. When we arrived, we easily obtained a parking space in a university lot at the edge of the campus. Though the parking lot signs were not exactly clear, we decided that we could park there with impunity on a Saturday.

We set off to ride around the campus, intending  eventually to do the 12 mile bike loop around Davis. We started with the path along Putah Creek that leads through the Arboretum, a beautiful ride through an interesting area. Even this path was hard to find; directional signs seem to be few and far between. But we knew the general direction and inquired of passers-by as we proceeded. Through a  remarkably quiet campus, we finally made our way to the creek. The path itself is not in good repair, but we were able to follow it with a few wrong turns.   I loved viewing the Italian Collection with its silvery green olive trees from across the creek, and the redwood grove made me feel as though I was near Richardson Grove on California’s Redwood Highway. And since we recently had our front yard  replanted with lots of California natives, I particularly liked the Early California Garden. As we rode along the path toward downtown Davis, the rousing strains of a brass band reached us, reminding us that we were on a college campus, one related to our own alma mater, UC Berkeley.

Putah Creek from the trail

Native California Garden with a California Native

As we left the campus, we passed Aggie Village, a development of small houses and cottages built for UC, Davis faculty  and staff around 1997. For pictures and information about Aggie Village, click here. The concept behind this development is interesting, and the area is attractive.

Our next target was the farmers’ market in downtown Davis. It turned out that the address from the internet that I had written down was wrong. After some wandering around and several inquiries, we found the market at 3rd and C  Streets, fortuitously located right next to the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame, which we intended to visit.  Parking our bikes was a challenge in this city of many cyclists, but we finally chained them to a fence. It is not that bicycle racks are lacking; it was the huge number of bikes in this area of the city.

The bicycle museum has a nice collection of bicycles from the penny  farthing bikes right up to modern ones with bamboo components.

Display in bicycle museum

After the museum, we visited the farmers’ market, which was really crowded, perhaps more so than usual because children were trick or treating at the various stalls. The proprietors of the stalls seemed a bit grumpy compared to the ones that we run into in our own valley. Of course, this could have been due to the numbers of parents and children milling about.

We decided to leave our bikes parked and walk to lunch. I had picked out a couple of restaurants on F Street after reading about them on Open Table . The first was really crowded, actually a good sign, but we decided to pass it by. We settled on Seasons,which proved to be a good choice. The food was really good and the service was attentive; we both had an outstanding butternut squash bisque plus a very tasty grilled chicken sandwich. My only reservation about this restaurant is that the decor is bland, too bland for a place with such good food. It simply does not look like an upscale restaurant. However, I would return without hesitation.

After lunch we walked back to our bikes, tied the produce that we had purchased at the farmers’ market on our racks, and headed back to the car. Once there we unloaded the produce and then hopped on the bikes to pay a visit to the campus bookstore, where I picked up a couple of birthday presents for our younger son. At this point we decided that it was time to head home. The completion of the Davis bike loop will have to wait until our next visit. I hope that by then there are a few more signs pointing out the paths around.


Cycling in Yosemite Valley

(Click on map to see a large, clear version.)

Last weekend we took the whole family to Yosemite to celebrate our older son’s birthday. We stayed in the Dogwood unit of Yosemite Lodge, where the accommodations were adequate. While the lodge could use a lot of upgrading, the location is unbeatable. Our three rooms were close together so that it was easy to coordinate family activities, and we were a short walk from Yosemite Falls. We had good dinners in the Mountain Room both nights that we were there. Although the cuisine equaled that of some good SF Bay Area restaurants, the seating process could use some improvement.

Dogwood Unit of Yosemite Lodge

On the day of our arrival, we rode from the lodge to the Ahwahnee Hotel  to check out the food offerings and to admire this grand old lodge. We took a combination of bicycle paths and the road for a pleasant ride. I prefer cycling to walking because one can see more in less time, but still be close to nature.  It is surprising how quickly one can get from one point in the valley to another by bicycle, and cycling provides a great way to view many attractions that one would never see from a car or a bus. An added delight here is the fragrance of the mountain air.

The back of the Ahwahnee Hotel

Saturday morning, we set off for a long day of riding by getting on Northside Drive right by the lodge. Here one is riding on the road, so there is an element of danger. After our alarming experience in Livermore, we invested in blinking red lights to put on the back of our bikes.  They are made by Knog and only $14 at Pegasus Bikes in Danville. We rode to the crossover at Cathedral Beach and then headed east on Southside Drive, again a road with little shoulder. But the sights are fabulous. The meadows of wild grasses surrounded by the granite cliffs in this part of the valley are breathtaking. Thank heavens these meadows, once  threatened by overuse, have been preserved. At intervals, there are now board walkways across the meadows. We stopped at the Swinging Bridge, the chapel built in 1879, and the LeConte Memorial Lodge.

Yosemite Meadow

Yosemite Chapel

Then we rode back to Yosemite Village for a browse through the museum which presents both the geological history of the valley and the cultural history. After a good lunch at Degnan’s Deli, we returned to the lodge for short time before we hopped on the bikes again and took off for Curry Village. I wanted to see the place where the firefall, which I fondly remember seeing with my family about 1948,  used to occur. At this time I was about ten years old, and the firefall accompanied by the singing of “The Indian Love Call” seemed like the quintessence of romance to me.

The cycling paths are a great addition to the valley for cycling enthusiasts like us, but during the middle of the day many pedestrians clog the paths and endanger everyone by not sticking to one side of the path. We covered most of the valley on our bikes, but we are looking forward to returning soon to ride some of the areas that we missed. It was a glorious weekend.