Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road is an online cycling magazine. It is intended for writers and riders who want to share their on the road cycling stories and pictures. Submissions that follow our guideline are gratefully appreciated. See the appropriate page in the site menu. Will publish the best of the best each month. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @PicosCycling.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Through the Urban Jungle

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay

After a scenic ride up the California coast, it was time to ride through some heavy civilization. This was complete shift from last month's “Scenic Rollercoaster”. Even starting the trip in the Los Angeles area in “It Begins” didn't compare to this part of the adventure.

Stealth camping becomes more of a challenge the greater the population density. I've always managed though. Never ran into any real problems in that regard but it is something that any rider should consider.

My weekend challenge was to go to church and not just any church but an organization that I was at the time associated with. I had a contact number but getting directions was more adventure than I had expected.

First problem was that the person giving me directions didn't know how to get there without driving on the freeway. Long distance cyclists in North America probably should get used to this. I took the directions this person gave me, found a gas station with a San Jose city map on it and figured out how to get there. Normally this would have been enough but not this time.

Following my adapted directions, I was following the street that was on the address counting up the numbers. I was looking for number 770. I got to 696 and it ended merging into another more major street. That left me scratching my head. Sometimes city streets skip blocks and continue on somewhere else. That was not the case here. I searched with that thought in mind. Turns out the street numbers continued on the street it merged with but only on one side. I don't know what city planner thought that up, but I spent a lot of time figuring it out.

A stroke of luck in that when I found the hall, there was a small park in back that I could camp in without being bothered by anyone.

The next day was a three ring circus for me and I don't mean that necessarily in a bad way. Turns out I wasn't the only visitor at church services that weekend. A youth group from the Los Angeles area was visiting as well. The organizer for that event was a Mr. Damore whose son was a college classmate of mine and we'd played some basketball together. He made sure I was invited to join the group for supper. I cycled across town to the hall that had been rented for the occasion. After the meal Doug Burke along with Leroy and Yong Abolinas decided that I would not be stealth camping that night. I believe I was sleeping on the couch but parts of that day were a blur. They had a guest room but Leroy and Yong were visiting from Nevada. Before calling it a night though they took me bowling and got to laugh at my utter ineptitude. We had a blast but so much for an early start the next morning. Somewhere in all this I mislaid my touring suit jacket and vest (yes I actually brought some more formal attire). I never saw them again. Replaced them at a Salvation Army thrift store I think in Sacramento.

I crossed Oakland the next day. My new friends had warned me not to ride a certain route through Oakland. They didn't tell me why. I don't know if that was out of political correctness or what but there are neighbourhoods in big US cities where it matters what colour your skin is. If you're black there are places you don't go and if you're white there are other places you don't go. I'm Canadian and this is something I don't readily understand. I missed my turn and rode right where I wasn't supposed to. By the time I got to Berkeley I understood why they didn't want me to ride there. Fortunately bikes are quiet and I only got one comment. I little kid shouted out of a pickup truck passenger window, “What are you doin' here white boy?”

Just before exited that part of Oakland my rear wheel dropped down into one of the slots in a storm drain and got stuck. I hurried in a near panic prying it back out of there. Gouged my rim up some but I escaped without further incident.

Berkeley immediately followed and my day only got weirder. First stoplight some man dressed as a hobo (no kidding, stick with his belongs wrapped in a bandana over his shoulder) started talking to me about how his wife did him wrong. He had a very disturbing look about him and I was in my head just begging for the light to turn green. In retrospect, he was obviously schizophrenic and now that I have real life experience with others with that life challenge, I probably would have talked with him. Sad that someone like him winds up on the street where he has to battle his condition by himself.

Crossing the Sacramento river was my next challenge. Why I felt I had to cross, I don't know. I could have followed the south side of the river and gotten where I was going. Seemed every bridge I found had a no bicycle sign on it. Including every bridge in the pictures. I was starting to get worried about making my daily goal. Finally I found one where there was no sign and started to cross. It didn't take me long to figure out that there should have been a sign. Road work truck picked me up halfway across and drove me to the other side. So much for unbroken tire track through my whole trip.

Now I was stuck on the freeway. What a freaking nightmare. Police car went on the speakers to tell me to get off the highway. Sorry I couldn't lift me bike over the fence. I eventually escaped and was relieved to be riding out in the farmland. I've ridden in a lot of cities but this was probably the most intense. Next time I'll make sure I have a better planned route.

Related Stories

It Begins

Leaving on my first big tour. This is part one in the series. The trip begins in Pasadena, California. I head straight for the Pacific coast and start riding north.

Finding My Rhythm

The story continues with part two in this series. After a few rocky moments at the beginning I settle in for the long and sometimes winding road.

Scenic Rollercoaster

Third in the series. I get to ride some of the most beautiful coastline in the USA. At times spectacular but challenging.

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