Monday, January 4, 2010

Along the Miner's Ravine Bike Route

THERE’S A BICYCLE PATH running from near our house to downtown. Given that I just procured my first pair of pants with a 38” waist – up from 34 not all that long ago – I determined that non-exercise had become the great non-option of the up-coming decade. Fitting new tires, tubes and spoke-end rubber-band thingies to the Peugeot ten-speed that I originally purchased in 1968 from Vern Pullins Cyclery in Chico (and which was referred to as “vintage” by the punk who sold me the skins), I slicked the thing up and decided today was the day to ride into the heart of Roseville.

First, a trip to the local Chevron to fill up the tires as, apparently, I don’t have the skills to use the standard bicycle pump I bought recently: specifically, the flipping plastic valve fitting. With each compression, as much air escaped as found its way into the tube. In the old days, one would screw the tire pump to the valve stem, pump up the tube and lose a little as you disconnected. Now, like automobile windshields, Amana refrigerators, Microsoft Word, the government of the State of California, and Christianity as of late, we’ve improved on the simple bicycle pump to the extent that it doesn’t work as well as it once did.

The trailhead on Sierra College Boulevard is a couple of miles from home. I hefted my steel framed French bicyclette into the back of the Nissan pickup. A lighter framed bike constructed of recycled space shuttle might have afforded a more efficient ride, but that would seem to defeat the purpose, I supposed. Off-loading it in the parking area, I climbed on the relic and pedaled a bit, adjusting the gears to what seemed like an efficient ratio for the rolling terrain. I determined that the gear I like best is the one where the chain is on the smaller sprocket in front and the smallest sprocket in the back. I think that’s ninth gear, although it could be second gear. Once set, I didn’t shift. I recalled having the chain slip off the front of too many bikes when I was a kid to ever want to shift this thing.

The bike “trail” is paved. In the old days, trails were constructed by game, Indians or members of the Sierra Club – not Teichert, Inc. Never the less, this path makes for a nice Sunday morning experience as I easily cranked and coasted quite a distance in a very short span of time. Didn’t feel as if the heart rate had risen. Didn’t feel much stress on the legs. The little up-hills, never tempted me to risk throwing the chain off the chain-ring up front. The route follows the Miner’s Ravine drainage and then Dry Creek into town. The dead-of-winter oak woodland is still. Willows along the stream courses denuded, awaiting spring. Green winter-grass shoots barely peek up from the wet soil. The movement of water animates and provides a soundtrack for the evolving scene. Unlike the penultimate Bidwell Park in Chico, this route parallels and crosses under several major streets on its course, so traffic and its noise is never far away. Yet, the glide along the stream courses does prompt one to imagine how life might have been prior to the motorcar and the suburb-of-Sacramento growth it afforded.

The terminus of the bike trail is in Royer Park. An easy trip from where I’d left the Nissan. I turn to return.

ABOUT TWENTY YEARS AGO, when living in the mountain community of Chester, I partook, one Saturday, of the Bizz Johnson Rails-to-Trails route from Westwood to Susanville. The first little bit hurt because, like this time, I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years. But once my body warmed up, I found I’d achieved the 18 miles into Susanville in well under two hours. Returning, I discovered that a two-percent down grade (what the old Pacific Fruit rail line was) is a helluva lot easier ride than a two percent upgrade. The sixteen miles to the unnoticeable pass took four and a half hours, and I had difficulty both walking and sitting for a week to ten days thereafter.

Similarly, following a path downstream going from the parking area should imply that coming back one would be riding upstream. And this was the case. Still not succumbing to shifting that damned chain, I grunted up the infinitesimal grade along Dry Creek and then Miner’s Ravine to the parking area. When other bicyclists were in the area or walkers, I made sure to sit on the seat as they passed, but once out of view, I found standing gave me a bit more power.

TRUTHFULLY, THE 13.8 MILES round trip was less than an hour “workout.” My heart rate elevated on the way back and my thighs felt as if they were doing something they hadn’t done in maybe twenty years. Work.

A correspondent, responding to a question about new years resolutions, suggested that if one does something they resolved to do for thirty consecutive days, they will be unable to give it up at the end of the month-long trial period. I am resolved to see if this is the case.

© 2010
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Our fact check division did a little math after today's second ride along the bike trail and determined the route was only 8.8 miles round trip.

  2. Day three of this exercise: Rode the course today in reverse from Royer Park. Got a really stiff neck from constantly looking over my left shoulder. Fell down three or four times. Once I got the hang of it however,riding backward wasn't all that difficult.

  3. Didn't ride on day four. Took old Peugeot in for a major tune up - grease, adjustments, new cables, new bar tape - costing more than the original 1968 purchase price. Regret not riding this day.

  4. The old Peugeot comes home from the shop tomorrow. New cables. New bar tape. No excuses now!

  5. Peugeot rides great. The excuse now is foul weather. Beginning to miss it when I don't ride the bicycle daily.