A Day for Watering

Don’t take my bike away for saying this, but sometimes walking is better than cycling.  Wait, before you stab my bike tires and spit in my water bottles, hear me out.  Sometimes I need to look at things at an even slower pace.  Those of you who have ridden with me before are balking already because surely there can’t be anything slower than me slugging along on The Rocket.  Sometimes I just need to stroll and inhale the crisp air and squat down on the ground and look at stuff, really look at stuff.

That Laura & I walked along the river the other day, the winter wind whipping my camera strap as I happily snapped away, trying to make some sense of my new camera.  We walked into the arboretum, one of my favorite places on the trail because a new surprise waits around every corner.

Take the Monkey Puzzle Trees for one.  Just looking at their sparse, prickly branches makes me laugh.

And when I start to compose myself again, I think of the name ‘Monkey Puzzle Trees’ and I’m in stitches all over again.

Until the other day, I’d never taken the branch of the path that leads to a little bridge called Charlotte’s Crossing.  I was mooning over it already because I’m the teacher who cries every year when I read the end of Charlotte’s Web.  Then Charlotte herself greeted us and I thought I was going to straight swoon.

So by the time I saw Charlotte’s charming children climbing the sides of the bridge, I was downright giddy.  Not to mention that blue sky in the background.  I love sunny winter California days.

A few steps later I spotted this petite pile of stones.  Something about the balance required to stack stones always makes me stop and pause.

And then I turned a corner and saw these.

We meandered along the trail and ducked into the Children’s Sculpture Garden where “Mosaic Oasis”, a sculpture by Colleen Barry, sits as the crowning jewel in the garden.

I could stay at this sculpture for hours, running my fingers over each tile.  I mean just look at these ladybugs creeping along.  Don’t they make your fingers itch to do crayon rubbings?

Everywhere you look there’s a new treasure to behold, like this little heart marked with love.

Or Lady Liberty standing tall amongst other shining jewels.

And then there are the dragonflies.  Small dragonflies skitter and flit in and out of the mosaic, but this is the one that makes my heart leap into my throat.  It’s staggeringly beautiful.

In the center of the mosaic on the back side of the dragonfly is this gorgeous tree.

And because I adore, adore, adore the plaque accompanying the tree, here’s a closer look.

On a scale of 1-10 how weird would it be to tattoo that quote to my forehead for every parent to see?  11?  Oh well, I’m afraid of needles anyway.

And then, as if the Mosaic Oasis wasn’t full of enough wonder, there are the giant insect sculptures.  Isn’t this ladybug just absolutely begging for a smooch?

And then there’s the giant metal dragonfly statue.  Be.  Still.  My.  Heart.

I’ve died and gone to Heaven.  Look at the details in the face.  I’m absolutely smitten with this dragonfly.

The Children’s Sculpture Garden brims with magic.  Even a glimpse through the spindly branches of Harry Lauder’s walking stick revealed this quaint, blue house.

As the light began to fade, That Laura and I turned back toward the trailhead.  On the path we spotted this stencil of a woman watering her plant.

We hurried up the last hill back to the car and as we did, I couldn’t help but feel that this walk had watered a parched part of me, a part of me in desperate need of a day to slow down and drink it all in.

Thankful Thursday #32

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the guys at Twin Six for sending a little Tweet love my way

  • kayaking at night on the lake to watch the moon rise
  • the pair of bald eagles calling to each other in the trees just above our heads
  • the person who added an apple to my favorite statue in the park
  • walking up the last hill on the river trail just as it started to sprinkle
  • the smell of rain on asphalt
  • blackberries fresh from my backyard
  • my mom’s banana bread recipe
  • The Sundial Bridge piercing the stormy sky

The Masher Ride

In a word this jersey is magniflorious.

Not too long ago I bought this super sweet Masher jersey from Twin Six.  Go ahead, take a second to bask in her beauty.  I know, it’s awesome.  Of course it is because Twin Six makes their jerseys out of polyester and unicorn eyelashes.  Now don’t go firing off angry PETA comments at me.  I don’t even know if unicorns have eyelashes.  But back to The Masher.

When Heidi over at Biology and Bicycles saw The Masher, its stripes mesmerized her and she ran out and bought one for herself.  Wherein, I mentioned that we should ride together in our new matchy-matchy goodness.  There was just one teensy problem with this idea.  A minor glitch, if you will.

Heidi lives in Wisconsin.  I live in California.

But what kind of people would we be if we let a mere 1700 miles get in the way of a good ride?

So we hatched a plan.  We’d each ride 25 miles on the same day, in our respective states snapping photos every 5 miles or so.  Then we’d share our rides.  So here’s the Masher Ride from sunny California.

The Mighty Sacramento

The Mighty Sacramento

I grew up riding this trail on my pink, one speed Schwinn, complete with flowered banana seat.  My family moved here just before my 8th birthday and our neighborhood backed up to the Sacramento River Trail.

Riding this trail always makes me a little nostalgic and earlier this year when the city opened a trailhead that’s a mere mile and a half from my house, I was ecstatic.  (There’s another trailhead equally close to my house, but it requires playing a game of Bike Frogger to get there.  Nothing like crossing a freeway overpass with a semi just inches away to make me appreciate life in new and profound ways.)  So on the day of The Masher Ride, I set off from my house and enjoyed the smooth bliss of the newly paved trail.

The Poet of Glass & Steel

courtesy of Chris Flentye

Within 3 miles of my ride, I crossed over the Sundial Bridge.  Allow me to hijack my own post for just a sec to give you a little history lesson on this beautiful bridge.  It was designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish architect with an eye for artistry.  You may know him from projects like the World Trade Center Transportation Hub or the Peace Bridge in Calgary.  The fact that he came from his office in Zurich to build a bridge in my little town is amazing.  Kinda like saying Frank Lloyd Wright designed a church here, which is another stunningly wonderful fact about my hometown.  The Sundial bridge is 700 feet long, 217 feet tall and 23 feet wide and it’s suspended by cables, never touching the water so as to cause minimal disturbances to riparian animals.  I love this bridge.  I love it when it’s lit in pink for Breast Cancer awareness month.  I love it in the winter when my tires skittishly navigate its frosted pathway.  Calatrava has been called the “poet of glass and steel” and each time I cross the Sundial, I’m grateful he penned his vision in Redding.

The Kissing Bench

At mile 5 I paused for a moment at a bench to take in the river.  When I was a kid, I remember being totally nauseated by the teenagers that were inevitably playing kissyface here.  Luckily for The Rocket and I, it was mercifully empty the day of my ride.

Up, Up and Away

image courtesy of everytrail.com

After passing the bench, I rode across the beautiful and minimalistic Sacramento Trail Bridge.  Locals call it The Ribbon Bridge because it’s a stress ribbon bridge.  It was built in 1990 and was the first of its kind in North America.  It has 236 steel cables inside the bridge deck that are drilled into bedrock so it doesn’t touch the water and doesn’t disturb the water’s flow or the wildlife.  Compared to its sister bridge, The Sundial, The Ribbon Bridge isn’t nearly as famous.  People flock to The Sundial, aiming their cameras up at the sky to catch all of her towering beauty.  Nobody comes to the trail to have their picture take with The Ribbon.  She just quietly does her job.  Maybe that’s why I like her so much.

image courtesy of REU Power

A quick right turn had me pedaling past Keswick Dam, a steady producer of hydroelectric power.  Of the two Dams nearest my house, Keswick is the lesser known sister of Shasta Dam.  After Keswick Dam, the River Trail starts climbing.  It’s one of those long climbs where every corner reveals more climbing.  In fact, I rarely see anyone else going up this part of the trail unless I convince some poor friend to ride with me.  I’ve been known on occasion to invite friends under the guise of going on a ride with “a little bit of a climb”.  Hey, all’s fair in love and cycling.

Don’t ya’ just love self portrait shots? Yikes!

I hit the crest of the climbing part at mile 10.  Here I am, red-faced and a little too happy to be at the top.  Wouldn’t you know it, there wasn’t a soul on the trail and so I snapped the horrid self-portrait shot, which always gives me no less than nine chins.  I took half a dozen shots most of them including only a quadrant of my face.  I give up.  Moving on.

Here’s Keswick Reservoir.  Isn’t it pretty?  And more importantly, look how not red it is.  Ahem.

Keswick Reservoir

After the climb, I took a left and headed back toward the South side of The River Trail.  On the South side of the trail just beyond The Ribbon Bridge, I hit mile 15 where some creative person had spray painted the trail.

Just a little trail affirmation

I’ve written about this particular graffiti several times and each time I ride past it, I like it even more.  I wish I knew the story of who put it there and why they chose that particular message and those specific places to paint.  It’s got to be a great story, right?  Let me tell you, this tomato-faced girl loves hearing that I’m beautiful, even if it’s from the very pavement I’m rolling over.  I think it’s impossible not to ride over the words and smile just a little bigger.

The Monolith

The Monolith

A few miles later I crossed back over The Sundial and did a little loop by the river which brought me to The Monolith.  The Monolith is the site where gravel was processed for the building of Shasta Dam.  In this shot, you can see the rust colored high water mark.  In 1940 floodwaters rose to this height before the Dam was built.

A Cubic Yard of Concrete

A 9.5 mile conveyor belt hauled the gravel to the Dam site.  The Monolith closed in 1945, but in 2005 Seattle artist Buster Simpson turned it into a museum of sorts, telling the story of the workers and their role in the completion of the Dam.  This shot shows how much concrete was mixed to build the Dam.  Can you imagine enough concrete to lay a sidewalk encircling the world?  Now that would be a cool bike ride!

The Eagle Has Landed

After visiting the Monolith, I headed back toward the new trailhead.  The new trail passes between the highway and a quiet little inlet.  The inlet is surrounded by greenery where a pair of bald eagles have chosen to nest.  The couple returns every year to the same spot to lay their eggs.  The eagles are named Patriot and Liberty, and even though I’m terrified of birds, each time I pass by their nest, I can’t help but take a peek.  In fact in the Fall you can take a peek, too, when the eaglecam is up and running for another season.   Just look at the nest.  It’s so huge and beautiful that it sent shivers down my spine and made me pedal home just a little bit faster.

image courtesy of redding.com

Home Sweet Home

Mile 25 found me pulling into my driveway just as the heat of the day began to rise off the pavement.  I set my bike down in the lawn and unstrapped my helmet, amazed at how much beauty and history is just a short bike ride from my front door.  I unzipped my Masher jersey and smiled at the thought of Heidi riding her own 25 miles in Wisconsin.

Crowing into the Sky

I usually ride with friends.  In fact, I think I can count on one hand the times I’ve ridden solo.  Saturday I’d arranged to meet up with a group of girls for an easy spin on the river trail.  15ish miles, just enough to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Then one by one, most of my friends cancelled.  So Saturday afternoon, when I found myself standing alone kicking rocks at our meeting place, I decided to ride in my own good company.

Sure I could’ve called it quits and stuffed The Rocket back into the car, but I was already clad in Spandex and you know I love Spandex.  Plus I’d been battling a sinus infection all week and I was just sick of being sick.  I, quite literally, needed to clear my head.  And I knew just the road to clear it.  I had a conversation with myself that went something like this: Today I will climb.  Today I will climb the North side of Shasta Dam. I’ve ridden to the Dam countless times, but always from the South side. The North side is bigger, badder and has been beckoning me for months.

I set out along the river, her waters rising up to meet me, rippling right up to the edge of the trail.  The Sacramento is the river of my childhood and as I pedaled her curves, I remembered riding my pink Schwinn on this very trail.  Remember riding bikes as a kid?  I don’t know about you, but my hindquarters rarely made use of my flowered banana seat because being a kid was about speeding over hills, crowing into the sky and slamming on the brakes to make the most impressive skid mark.

I rode along the river climbing beyond the section of trail populated by strollers, scooters and the occasional Segway.  I was in the mountains now, alone save for a handful of cyclists enjoying a nice downhill from the opposite direction.  I thought about turning around and coasting down behind them, but Shasta Dam called to me.  I reached a clearing and there she stood.

Do you see that road to the left of the Dam?  The one that snakes around the mountain?  That was my road.  At the base of the mountain, I shared the road with some ATV’s and some dirt bikes, all of whom were operated by extremely polite drivers.  No, really.  Each and every off-roader, gave me a wide berth on the road.  About half way up the mountain, the dirt bikes and ATV’s raced onto the dirt trails, leaving me alone with the road.  With every turn, it looked like the Dam was just around the corner.  She’s tricky like that, playing hide and seek in the trees, coaxing me further and further up the mountain.

My legs were strong and steady all the way up the mountain to the Dam.  I’m as shocked as you are, since my legs are usually about as strong as partially set Jell-O.  I cruised across the Dam, riding close to the edge and peering into Lake Shasta, who had swallowed the entire tree line.  I turned my bike and peeked over the other side.  Staring down the face of the Dam, I felt my stomach drop.  It’s the same feeling I get when I’m falling in a dream.  Terrifying and thrilling all at the same time.  And yet, I can’t cross over the Dam without taking a glance.  2 more miles of decent hills lay just on the other side of the Dam.  That last bit of climbing was nothing compared to the ascent to the Dam.  I zipped up and over the mountain into town where I crossed over Keswick Dam and slipped back onto the river trail.

The river welcomed me as I raced along the flat side of the trail toward my car.  I was killing the flats and when I looked down at my speedometer, it was ticking away at  18 mph.  This isn’t fast for a real cyclist, but for me it’s a pretty decent pace.  I cranked into a harder gear and whipped my legs faster and faster.  I was really flying now!  I leaned my head back and crowed into the blue sky.  At the end of the ride, I’d racked up 41 miles, but more importantly my head was completely clear.  Driving home, I replayed the ride in my mind.  I held the beauty of the water in my eyes and the joy of climbing mountains in my heart.  I’ll be crowing about this ride for a long time.