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

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

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.

Letter #4: Dreaming of Whales

Dear Gramma,

Last week we visited the beach.  Not our beach, but still the tang of the salt air made me miss you desperately.  I walked the beach in the mornings, forcing myself out of bed to the yawning mouth of the ocean.  I walked alone with my thoughts.  My heart pounded with the surf.

On the third morning, after an hour with the ocean, I returned to the house and peeled off my shoes and socks.  My foot was covered in blood.  My sock was soaked through.  Even my shoe was filled with blood, so filled that blood had seeped out of the top of my shoe.  The sight of all this blood scared and confused me because I wasn’t hurt.  Unbeknownst to me, I’d punctured my toe and it leaked and leaked while I left footsteps in the sand.  In the shower I watched the hot water swirl all that blood down the drain.  I sat under the streams of water and cried, but not for my toe.  I cried for all the bags of blood that could not save you.  I cried for all the times I walk the beach without you.

The night after we returned from the beach I had the most beautiful dream.  In my dream I was crossing the Sundial Bridge, but it arched over an ocean inlet, not a river.  As I crossed over, hundreds of whales swam in the water that rose just inches underneath the bridge.  There were too many species of whales for me to count and they ranged from babies I could have held in my arms to long mothers snaking in the water beneath me.  I remember humpbacks arching in the water, revealing their twin blowholes.  They twisted and danced in the water, lobtailing on the surface of the water.  They slapped their flukes up onto the bridge, leaving their foamy fingerprints for me to walk on.  The water shimmered and bubbled in the presence of all those whales and in my dream I was delighted to witness such a gathering.  I hurried to tell my friend, who was not yet to the bridge, but when my foot hit the pavement, I awoke in the cradle of my bed.  I shut my eyes and tried to return to my dream, tried to return to the whales, but only sleep availed itself to me.

The next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream and the thing I couldn’t let go of was that the only sound in my dream was the water lapping at the bank.  The whales were silent, not making a sound when they fanned their huge tails on the bridge right in from of me, not singing a single note as they frolicked around me. Male humpbacks are the singers of the species and so I choose to think that the whales in my dream were females.  Mothers and daughters, aunts and nieces, grandmothers and granddaughters, happy in the good company of each other.

The average heart of a humpback weighs 430 pounds and has 4 distinct chambers.  I can’t imagine a heart that large in size, but what I can tell you is that in my dream, my heart was coursing with blood and when I woke up each chamber of my heart was filled with joy.

I hope I dream of the whales again.  And I hope that when I do, you’ll be walking beside me.