A Bike Tour of UC Davis

UC Davis Water Tower

UC Davis Water Tower

Last Saturday, we took our Dahon bikes to UC Davis to explore the campus with our grandson who is a junior in high school. Since I replaced my original Dahon a few years ago, we have one extra that our grandson sometimes rides. One of the advantages of these bikes is that the seat is easily adjustable so people of different heights may ride them. We can get three bikes plus three people in our little Toyota Matrix. But on Saturday there were four of us, so we took two cars.

We parked without difficulty in one of the many lots that are free on Saturday. After unfolding our bikes, we pedaled to the Welcome Center where a helpful young woman gave us a campus map and pointed out some places to us. Davis is a very bicycle friendly campus, and we visited most of it on this warm early November day. The block-like architecture of the buildings leaves something to be desired, but the many trees give the campus a woodsy, appealing look. We stopped often to check our campus map and just before lunchtime we rode along Putah Creek in the arboretum area of the campus. This part of the ride was challenging because of the many pedestrians and the poor condition of the trails, including one which was closed, causing some backtracking.

California natives garden UC Davis Arboretum

California natives garden
UC Davis Arboretum

Since lunch is always an important part of our expeditions, I had looked up some restaurants in downtown Davis before we left. Everyone liked the sound of Bistro 33, located in the old city hall, so we set off down Old Davis Rd., turning right on 1st Street. Although 1st St. is one of those streets where cars are supposed to share the lane with cyclists, this street is a narrow dangerous street to ride on. However, we made it safely to F St. and found the restaurant easily. The food was delicious and the waiter was accommodating, but the kitchen was unable to handle the large number of orders that was flowing in on this busy day. We waited nearly an hour for our lunch to arrive after we had placed our orders.

To return to the campus, we chose to ride along 3rd St., a pleasant leafy street lined with all sorts of establishments catering to students. After browsing through the campus bookstore and having coffee in the student union, we headed back home. Our grandson liked the campus and assured us it would be on his application list next year.

I have warm memories of going by school bus to Davis picnic days when I was in high school. However, I did not consider it when I went off to college. My father had attended UC Berkeley, and I was told that was where I was to go. I have never regretted this decision, but I have always thought that Davis would be a good school to attend. I recommended Davis to each of our sons, but they too chose Berkeley. And our younger son, once told me if I wanted to have one of my kids attend Davis, I should adopt a Davis student.



Three Books for Cyclists


 Patti Kagawa’s book From Sea to Shining Sea is the story of a woman’s ride across Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland, sometimes cycling with friends and/or family but often traveling alone. A professional forester and an athlete, Kagawa is obviously in better shape for this trip than many who opt to try a long cycling tour.

This is a well-planned journey, and Kagawa offers a lot of practical information in her book. Two resources that turn up often in the book are the TIC (Tourist Information Center) and Timmy’s as she calls it (Tim Hortons–a restaurant chain that originated in Canada). She makes many stops at various Timmy’s to refuel on her long journey.

Encountering  varied landscapes, Kagawa travels mostly along Trans-Canada One for a distance of 6,302.62  kilometers.  She comments that Quebec is “far and away the most bike-friendly province in the country.” My husband and I enjoyed some wonderful long rides when we visited Quebec and Montreal a few years ago, especially one along the Lachine Canal that I will always remember.

Kagawa’s book is a good travelogue that can be enjoyed by cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Her warm personality and optimistic outlook infuse the narration of her epic journey.

Taking the Long Way Home: Adventures of a Retired Couple Biking Across America by G. Frank Miller is probably my favorite of the three books, mainly because the people are close to our age, and I really admire their bravery. I have always wanted to do a long distance bike tour, but in Europe, not in this country. However, we have never managed to do it. We had one planned once when we were fairly young, in our forties, to Scandinavia, but several incidents interfered. Anyway the Millers are retired educators who planned their trip carefully and managed to pull it off despite some problems with busy highways, dogs, and headwinds, problems that all cyclists contend with at one time or another.

Miller has a folksy writing manner that puts the reader right there along with him. I loved the incident where his wife Helen speaks to  threatening dogs as if they are children and calms them down, much to Miller’s amazement. And the serious fall that Helen suffers when Miller swerves and she swipes his rear wheel is a good object lesson to all cyclists. Moreover, anyone who has traveled a lot can identify with the one horrible motel that they get stuck in, one by which they measure all future questionable motels.

This trip from San Diego to their home in Florida is an epic journey, sustained by determination and faith, that will absorb the reader as he or she rides along.

The third book, The Valley of Heaven and Hell: In the Shadow of Marie Antoinette, by Susie Kelly is an amusing read, if a little  weighted by the history of Marie Antoinette. Any cyclist will be entranced by Kelly’s hair-raising description of their whirlwind ride through Paris led by her husband Terry who believes in advancing no matter what obstacles are encountered. I shuddered at the picture of their  riding through a forbidden tunnel and through an area where the terrain is nothing but ruts, an area in which both of them tumble off their bikes. But Kelly and her husband are a resilient pair who achieve their goals despite rain, heat, traffic, and disorientation.

 Having ridden in France last September, I know that French drivers come much closer to cyclists on the road than do drivers here in California where most drivers who are not also cyclists regard cyclists as somewhat lacking in mental acuity and therefore to be treated warily and granted more than the legal three foot margin. The exception of course is the American driver who despises cyclists and would like to see them “shuffle off this mortal coil” as soon as possible. In France, as in most of Europe where roads are narrower than in the US, cyclists are part of the landscape, and they are expected to proceed carefully and skillfully.

As some of the people commented on Amazon, I would have preferred a little less about Marie Antoinette and a bit more about cycling, but I did like her tributes to those who suffered through World War I and her description of this north-eastern part of France, which does not enjoy the same touristic enthusiasm as some other parts of France.

Kelly’s self-effacing sense of humor along with her energetic descriptions make this a bright, humorous travelogue that gives information on camping areas, hotels, and restaurants as well as attractive towns (and some not so attractive) and places of historic interest.