Rather than a polar vortex coming down from Alaska disrupting the weather in California, it’s been a pineapple express originating in Hawaii bringing rain for hours on end. It may be much needed, but it has also caused widespread flooding. I had to dismount my bike and plow through fast rushing ankle-deep water multiple times that had taken over the road. My feet have been soaked for days, so it was just more of the same.
The rain allowed me a couple hours of extra sleep as I waited for it to dissipate from a hard rain to a mere drizzle. It had begun in the middle of the night. I didn’t think it could continue indefinitely, so I waited it out, even as the water gathered around my tent and began seeping in. I was camped on somewhat high ground behind a fenced in power station beside the unlocked entry. I had been tempted to open the gate topped with barbed wire and pitch my tent on a grassy expanse inside rather than on a half grass/half dirt patch outside it, but I feared that could get me in trouble if any of the passing cars had spotted me in the near dark leave the road and scamper up a muddy road to the power station and had put in a 911 call.
All night long as the rain continued to pelt my tent I was dreading having to push my bike through the muck back to the road in the morning. I was spared though, as I was able to cling to the higher ground along fence and only accumulated a modicum of mud in my brakes and on my tires and on my shoes that quickly washed away as I pedaled through puddles on the road. The flat terrain all around was turning into the countryside into a vast lake. The rain was a light 50-degree drizzle when I began riding, though it occasionally intensified. The conditions may not have been ideal, but I still felt the joy of being on my bike, especially after the concern of being stranded in my tent all day.
Unlike the previous rainy days of off-and-on precipitation this was a non-stop affair. I was beginning to wish I had accepted those rain pants Tim had found at a Salvation Army in Grass Valley, but the rain never intensified for more than a short spell and my body heat warded off the wet that hit my tights and I was fine. My torso remained toasty dry as no moisture penetrated my beloved Arc’Teryx jacket during my 47-miles in the rain. I was riding a stretch barren of places of refuge from the rain other than overhangs besides buildings.
The first after sixteen miles was an unheated auto mechanic garage. It had a picnic table I could sit at under an awning. As I sat eating shredded wheat and chocolate milk, a Mexican mechanic who didn’t speak much English emerged from the garage with a can of sprite and some corn bread and a cookie wrapped in aluminum foil that looked like something his wife had sent him off with. A few minutes later he returned and gave me a handful of pecans.
After forty miles I reached the small town of Yolo and it’s somewhat dilapidated Carnegie, a low frame bungalow, hardly resembling a library, let along a Carnegie. As the Carnegie in Bayliss, it largely served a rural community, though it resided in an actual town. It had an even smaller grant from Carnegie than Bayliss, just $3,000.
The paint was peeling on its wooden walls. Despite its nondescript, sorry state, it had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, probably before solar panels had been placed on its roof. It’s WiFi was left on and didn’t need a password, so I was able to alert Tim as to my whereabouts. He was seven miles down the road at the large Carnegie in Woodland, a virtual metropolis of over 50,000 people with a handful of motels to choose from, an absolute necessity this night, soaked as I was and with no end in sight for the rain.
With no wind to contend with, and the rain not soaking my legs, I continued to enjoy being out on my bike. If I’d been wearing rain pants, I would have been overheating. There had been hardly any traffic on this stretch until I closed in on Woodland. Though it’s address was First Street, a Carnegie Way led in to it. It was a grand edifice whose three additions all in the Colonial Revival style added to its grandeur. The last came in 1988 at a cost of two-and-a-half million dollars, doubling its size. It came as no surprise that it was on the National Register of Historic Places. After entering through its rotunda, I immediately spotted Tim at a table in front of a fireplace. Unfortunately the fireplace had long since been retired.
If the Motel Six hadn’t been over two miles away and with it still raining, I would have left for that. I told the Indian owner that I’d take the smoking room. After he took my credit card and started processing it, he said, “The smoking rooms are really very bad. I’ll let you have a non-smoking room for $65.” That may or may not have qualified for the day’s second act of kindness.
Along with emptying out the damp contents of all my panniers on the bed we didn’t use, preferring to put our sleeping bags on the floor and lessen the risk of lice, I unrolled my soaked tent and damp sleeping bag and washed a few items, including myself. I also had a flat tire to repair, my first of the trip. I suffered it as I dashed to the Walmart for a two-pound container of macaroni salad (a 2,000 calorie feast I’m always happy for) and a half gallon of chocolate milk. It was by the Motel Six. I hadn’t taken a pump or spare tube, so I had a two-mile walk back to the motel.
It was thrilling to see blue sky in the morning, but it didn’t last for long. At least the rain was light and intermittent, though it persisted all day. The flooding was even worse than the day before. Evidently it’s not uncommon as, yellow “Flooded” signs warned of each. I ignored a “Road Blocked” sign, and was able to pedal through not too deep water. There were much worse stretches to come that hadn’t been barricaded. Halfway through one with ripples in the water and a strong side wind I was forced to put my foot down and walk the rest of the way. With soaked feet, I had no qualms about walking through several more perilous torrents that motorists were driving though.
Someone who had seen me photograph the now-closed former entrance, a rare one in California with “Carnegie Library” above it, asked if the library had brought me to Dixon. She said she and her husband had been among those who had saved it from being torn down. Even after the additions, the city wanted to level all of it and put up a new one. They were greatly relieved to have won that battle, though know it’s never fully won. She asked how long I expected to be in town, as she’d like to alert the local newspaper of my story, but there wasn’t enough time for that.
I was on to the larger and more bustling Vacaville. It’s Classical style Carnegie on Main Street in its Historic downtown was now the Community Center. I stopped in at a bicycle store a couple blocks away to see if it’s mechanics were versed in dynamo hubs, as when I removed my front wheel to repair the flat the night before I forgot to detach the wires leading from the hub to the charging unit and had pulled them out of the small plastic attachment. Neither Tim nor I could figure out how to open the plastic attachment to reinsert the wires, despite a YouTube tutorial. It seemed to be too clogged for us to pop it open. A simple pen inserted into a hole was supposed to do the trick, but not for us.
Tim said it was a rare item. He had never seen it in all his years as a bike shop owner. He said I’d probably have to go to a few shops before I found someone who had the expertise to open it or had a replacement part. So far he has been right about that. Fortunately I spend enough time in libraries charging my iPad, I don’t really need to be charging with my hub, though it’s a nice back up, especially on Sundays. A much bigger issue is trying to figure out how to post photos on the blog, as the method I had previously used no longer works.
It was a day without Tim, as he returned to San Jose to resume care-duty for his “sister-in-law” undergoing another dose of chemotherapy. That will only be for a few days. We could meet up again on the road or when I make it to San Jose for its Carnegie. Whenever, it will not be soon enough.