I decided to sign up for two 100-km rides while in California, the second in Sacramento where my sister lives. Willy Nevin, owner of the Gold River Ramble quickly responded to my permanent request and even asked if I would welcome some company if anyone was available. Turns out, a local rider or two to help guide the way would have been nice but apparently no one was available last Friday when I did the ride. Still, it was nice of him to ask.
So I decided not to start riding until 9am. After all, it doesn’t get light until 7am and it’s a bit chilly even in California. I found the coffee shop that is the first/last controle with plenty of time to spare and had a cup of coffee to give me a little extra boost for the start. When I looked at the cue sheet for this ride, I felt some trepidation because it points out lots of landmarks to watch for, and the official map of the trail shows lots of offshoot trails that head off into neighborhoods along the way. Additionally, Willy’s route information letter cautions riders to stay on the main trail. Good advice, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do, at least not for me.
Fortunately for me, there were lots of friendly runners and cyclists along the way willing to help me out, so although I got lost several times and ended up with about seven extra miles for the day, I did manage to complete the course with about an hour to spare. This should be an easy, quick route, but you have to know where you’re going. As the first guide for the day told me, it is a beautiful route as well.
For most of the 33 miles from Old Town Sacramento to Folsom Dam, the main trail hugs the American River, so you have constant views of the river as it meanders through suburbs and towns roughly east of Sacramento and paralleling Highway 50 which eventually takes you up to Lake Tahoe. Evidence of the extra dry winter is everywhere. The river itself is pretty tame in most places, and along the banks, everything is tinder dry. Still, from having lived in California for so many years, it’s a dryness that I’m kind of used to and there is a beauty in this landscape. That trees, plants, and animals survive in such dry conditions is something. The river itself widened and narrowed repeatedly, and there are islands, sand shoals, and brief periods of fast-flowing waters. Periodically there were people fishing along the banks as well. Mostly, though, I remained alert vigilant about staying on the trail. I kept looking for the 1/2mile markers painted on the trail to assure myself that I was still going the right way. My heart sank every time the trail dumped me out on a street or in a parking lot without clear evidence of the trail picking up again. It always meant I had to backtrack and find where I’d taken a wrong turn.
Eventually, and with only 20 minutes to spare, I made it to Beal’s Point, where there is an information controle and then you turn around and start heading back. I stopped very quickly at Karen’s Bakery in Folsom, the next controle and just about four or five miles back along the trail. Although it looked like they had really good food, I didn’t have time to stop so just picked up a seriously healthy looking muffin (and a receipt) and kept going. I pedaled hard all the way back to Old Sacramento, and even so only had about an hour to spare by the end. Once again, I stopped at Steamers Cafe but this time had an Amstel Light Beer and salad to celebrate the completion of this ride.
I liked the route very much, and there is a lot to see along the way. It would be great to feel relaxed enough to stop and take photos, to have a bit of lunch in Folsom, to enjoy the history and life along the trail. If I get the opportunity to do this ride again, I think I would be more able to stay on the trail, now that I’ve stumbled my way up along it.
In any case, completing this ride means that I now have two rides done toward my second P-12. Next ride…..