I took a break from writing today to go on a short ride. This is a big deal. Not that I didn’t write. But I haven’t gone an actual “ride” since I crashed and broke my collar bone along with a few ribs a couple of years ago.
Also, this is the first time I went on a gravel road instead of a paved road. That is, I ride offroad all the time on a mountain bike. But those rides tend to be short and focused on getting over and around obstacles (rocks, trees) without crashing or falling off the trail and down a slope.
This ride was more like a road ride. That is, a Point A to Point B and back again ride. I went with my friend Rick. We didn’t have a destination, mostly because we weren’t sure where the road went, but we rode mostly just for the sake of pedaling a bike some distance to see what we could see. It was short by my old standards: 15 miles, when I regularly rode at least twice that on any given ride. It was also much slower, as you might imagine given the riding surface.
If you look at the picture, you will see the attraction: not the scenery so much (because, really, how much spectacular scenery is there in the entire Central Valley?) but what’s not there.
Cars! The loudest things we heard were our tires on the gravel. The only thing we needed to be careful about was not getting tires stuck in a rut, which with the wider tires, was not much of an issue. Instead we could look around at the fields and the birds and the sky, and really, just relax in a way you can almost never do when you’re riding on a paved road.
Afterward, we had lunch at a place you might never look at twice, Cache Creek Grocery. We were the only customers, and had a great post-ride meal of Mexican food. Because, really, the post-ride meal is a large part of what makes riding fun.
I have a hope that sometime in the next year or two I might ride the Pony Express Trail, which is largely gravel. This was sort of the first step toward that goal. Seeing how gravel felt, both on the body and in the soul, so to speak. Also, it was an experiment, a first step in thinking about what the ideal gravel touring bike might eventually look like, what features it might have. Because once we figure that out, my hope is Rick will design and build one for my ride.