Our Route: Menlo Park (SF) to Redding, California

Here is the route we took from Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, to Redding, California.  We took a zig-raggedy route through some beautiful areas of California, generally heading north because we knew we had to be in Portland on April 18 to meet my parents.  I planned the route to generally avoid what I thought might be dangerous narrow steep roads, and we were mostly successful at that.  The route from Santa Rosa to Petaluma turned out to be such a narrow, steep, dangerous road, and we had a person in a pickup pull over and offer us a lift, so we took it.  Also, Highway 12 between Napa and Fairfield was quite a busy and fast freeway, and not exactly fun, but it did have nice scenery and a giant shoulder so it was okay.  The Silverado Trail looks like a great route, but it is a really busy highway, although it does have a nice shoulder.

Highlights on this route included great camping at China Camp, Napa Bothe, and Solano County Park, some incredible quiet roads (especially Pleasants Valley and north of Oroville), lots of wineries, pretty mountains in Napa Valley, the Schulz Museum, and the Jelly Belly Factory.  We never did really see much of the Sierra Mountains.

The red points with no dots in them represent where we stayed each night and the green points with no dots represent some of the sites we saw.

 

Our Route: Santa Monica (LA) to Menlo Park (SF)

Here is the route we biked starting in West LA and biking to Menlo Park, south of San Francisco.  We started the route on March 11 and ended it on March 28, with 3 rest days.  This was a beautiful route, with some challenges.  Lots of great scenery through the Big Sur region, but also heavy traffic and narrow roads around Malibu and Big Sur.  Many fantastic towns and cities were visited, and overall we had a great time.  The wind, generally from the north, was difficult at times but not unmanageable.  There were a lot of hills around Big Sur, but relatively flat through other parts (with some exceptions).

 

Bike travel PR

  
Whenever we stop at a grocery store – which we do every day at least once and which we often do twice a day – one of us stays outside with the bikes while the other three get their shop on.
The kids are fantastic grocery shoppers. They choose healthy food, they stay on budget and they keep their eyes open for milk-free, peanut-free chocolate. They really only need me and Derek for our credit cards.

  
Three bikes (including one family tandem) fully loaded with panniers is a bit of a traveling circus. So the person on bike watching duty often becomes a spokesperson for bike travel.
We have met so many interesting people outside grocery stores. Sometimes they’ve travelled by bike before and have stories to share or route suggestions. 
My favourites are the people, like that guy outside REI, who tell us where to find the best cinnamon buns (in Davenport, in case you’re riding the coast) or the folks, like that guy finishing up his trail run, who told us which campsite had a prettier view (Moreau Bay) and much fewer hills. That kind of advice is so helpful and it always leads to great connections.
I have a soft spot for the parents and grandparents who’d like to try riding with their kids or grandkids and want to hear more about the logistics. That always makes for a fun conversation. Especially when they have a chance to talk with Anna or Jasper who are, of course, cycling rock stars, but who look like normal kids.
When we’re busy packing our food up or are tired and not in the mood for a chat, we ask our family ambassador, Jasper, to fill in curious onlookers with details they are wondering about like our route (currently San Diego to Redding), the kids’ ages (9 and 12), and whether we are homeschooling (sort of since Anna is diligently working through her math textbook, but mostly we’re all just learning about whatever comes up as we ride along – Google’s Self-Driving Cars, Harry Potter Trivia, California’s abundant birds and wildflowers).

  
Always thinking of solutions to everyday situations, Jasper realized his PR job would be easier if he had business cards to hand out because people love hearing we have a blog. Luckily we’ve also ridden through a lot of the pages of the California Road Atlas so we have some scrap paper.

  
So tonight Derek, Anna Sierra and Jasper are making business cards using old maps, cardboard from pasta boxes and that handy roll of Scotch tape every touring cyclist keeps in their front pannier!

   
   
I really do think the PR role is an important one, so even if we’re tired or have had a similar conversation many times already and Jasper’s not there, I always try to greet each curious person with a big smile. 
It’s brave of them to start a conversation with new friends. And I think that kind of bravery should be celebrated. 
Who knows, maybe they’ll take their kids biking…maybe they’ll give folks cycling a little more room on the road after getting to know us a little…or maybe, like those young women outside the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, they’ll try going for their very own bike trip when they hear how affordable and fun it can be.
When I was a kid I had never heard of travelling between cities by bike until my dad suggested the whole family ride from our home in Scarborough to visit my brand new cousin in Burlington. It was a two day bike trip for all five of us, completed in jean shorts with backpacks. It was just far enough and fabulous enough to give me a taste for touring.
Hope you’re having a great day!

Kathleen

It’s The Great Bike Ride, Charlie Brown

It is about one o’clock in the afternoon and after a delightfully abundant picnic and a quick bathroom break in a nearby campground, we push our bikes out of the shade and set off down a gravel bike path, content – for the moment – to enjoy the blessed peace of off road travel…

Gravel crunches under wheel as the team of famous WW1
Flying Aces guide their downed Sopwith Camels around loose stones and rocks. 

  Vrrrr… the drone of enemy aircraft cuts through the air. Is it? Could it be?
The first famous WW1 Flying Ace shakes his fist in frustration as he recognizes the red markings of… The Red Baron.
Shots ring out but the Flying Aces march onward unperturbed. They must reach the road and friendly territory ahead if they plan on surviving the night. The road is getting tougher and here and there the ground is littered with shotgun shells.
In utter disbelief the WW1 Flying Aces see before their careworn eyes a fence. There is no turning back now. The Flying Aces are done for. 

With a last desperate fist shake in the direction of their lifelong foe, the famous WW1 Flying Aces bowed their heads and- “Snoopy-er I mean Anna- give us a hand, we’re taking the bikes down the hill.”
  What was that? A plan? The Flying Aces lift their heads and turn toward their hopeful companion.
Yes it is a plan. A desperate one at that. But desperate times call for desperate measures and the famous Flying Aces now have a small glint of hope. 

The first Flying Ace cautiously pushes his Sopwith Camel to the edge of the road. The faint snaking line of another dirt road is apparent far far below them. 

They grimly climb into the cockpit of their respective planes and with one last hesitant push are hurtling down a slippery slope. 
“Anna! Quit daydreaming. It’s only a few meters to the road but we need your help to push the bikes down.”

The Flying Aces are about to make contact! The first grips the edge of his seat, nods to his stoker and squeezes his eyes tightly shut.

 CRASH! CRASH! CRUNCH! Slowly opening his eyes as the dust settled and an eerie silence ensues, the world famous Flying Ace realizes with giddy relief that his 163rd downed Sopwith Camel is slightly scratched with one wing dented but apart from that not much worse off then before. 

  He reaches a hand out to his super stoker and together they stand up and take in their bearings. Only to see two muddy Sopwith Camels hurtling at full speed towards them. 

With a screech, the two Aces scramble to get themselves out of the way before-CRASH! CRUNCH! Kaput. Once everybody has emerged (unscathed) and the Camels have been checked for roll ability, the Flying Aces set off down the new pebble pocked path, leaving the gunshots far behind them. 

The going is slow with loose rocks and slippery gravel but somehow the famous WW1 Flying Aces manage to push the planes back up onto the main road with naught but a few battle scars. 

  Finally, after one more daring descent, friendly territory is in sight. The brave Flying Aces return. Thirsty and sweaty but content-for the moment- to enjoy the blessed peace of enduring the washing of mounds of dishes (too many downed Camels.) 

The End.

By Anna Sierra, inspired by Charles M. Shulz.

This. Is. AWESOME!!

We have had a wonderful week of cycling the last few days, marked by three magical words(see the title). I have heard these words twice from Jasper in the last week and each time I felt many things.  Reinforced faith in the choices we have made and the sacrifices we have done in order to do this trip.  Joy that I have this opportunity to share some incredible experiences with my son. Happiness that he appreciates what an amazing experience we are having. And a deeper connection to my boy and how he is growing up. All of that is part of this experience of spending most of every day not more than a few feet apart.

You may be wondering when Jasper said the words. Well, the first time was as the two of us were biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. The wind was whipping us, we could barely hear, thousands of vehicles were passing us by a few feet away (we were on a separated walkway designated for bikes). We were weaving and wobbling our way around the giant supports of the bridge watching other tourists take selfies and looking out at the dramatic California coastline. In the midst of this I heard Jasper scream out “This. Is. AWESOME!!” What a moment. I know that the two of us will treasure it for the rest of our !ives, and I know that he is a changed boy because of this trip.

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The second time was completely different but equally amazing. This time we were at the Jelly Belly factory, and we had just finished a tour. We had seen these fantastic robots and conveyor belts and workers dressed in white with gloves and facemasks. Giant silver vats like cementmixers filled with Jelly beans being rolled like rocks in a rock tumbler. When we came out of the factory Jasper said “That. Was. Awesome!”

These experiences are so incredible, and all the more so because we biked to them and we had the time to enjoy them. What a treasure and a gift. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity.

And here are a few more photos of awesome from the last few weeks.

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If you like cycling, you’ll love Davis

Karsten Heuer and Leanne Allison are our family adventure role models. A few years back they set off from their home in Canmore, Alberta, with their then two year old, to follow a route across Canada – by canoe, train, truck and sailboat – in a path created from famed Canadian author Farley Mowat’s books. They created an award winning documentary of their journey called Finding Farley that took the Banff Mountain Film Festival by storm and won audience choice awards across the country. 

When Derek and I saw the film, we loved the honest way they showcased adventure travel with their son – super fun, sometimes a lot of work, occasionally a gong show but with tender, magical moments thrown in. 

Having embarked on a number of canoe trips both with our kids and with other families, we could relate to the pace of the film. The scope of their journey inspired us to start planning our own extended trip. 

Before their son entered their lives, Leanne and Karsten migrated with caribou herds and hiked great stretches of trail in support of wildlife corridors. They are working to preserve huge, connected stretches of habitat – in addition to parks – because migrating animals need safe routes for their journeys. You can read more about their adventures and advocacy at Necessary Journeys.

Riding through the Davis Bike Loop-a 12 mile connected loop through the city, mostly through parks with a few sections on quiet residential streets, I thought a lot about wildlife corridors. 

   

  That penny farthing is the town’s logo!

  See how this tunnel lets school bound elementary aged kids avoid having to cross a street?

 The Davis Bike Loop connects neighbourhoods with UC Davis, elementary schools, middle schools, at least one high school, and so many places people, especially kids, would like to go. Like softball fields, swimming pools, community centres,at least one theatre, skate parks, tons of playgrounds, churches and grocery stores. I’m sure locals would be able to tell you all kinds of other places they get to following this route.

  

 We rode it both during afternoon ‘rush hour,’ when school let out and during the morning commute.  There was always a steady stream of kids Anna Sierra and Jasper’s ages (12 and 9), without any parents because the paths are safe and connected. The kids could picture riding with their neighbours, Max and Zella, and being able to go anywhere they wanted. The possibility of wandering kids-only bicycle adventures blew their minds. Usually in a new city Anna Sierra follows a parent. But in Davis she lead the way, following the route signs painted clearly on the ground.

We’ve seen infrastructure like this in the Netherlands, but this was a first for us in North America. 

A friendly cycling advocate – Steve Tracy – chatted with us while we were riding. He was designing a bike route to take folks on a tour of backyard/schoolyard chickens!

Anyway, apparently the bike modal share is 20-25%. We also rode through the magical mayhem on campus and were amazed at the vast quantities of people cycling.

   

 Steve pointed out a wide bike lane on a street and said he had helped collect 2000 signatures on a petition to have the lane at its current width, a width that was designed so that a parent could ride beside a child. Because that’s what you need to do when they’re learning to ride with traffic.

  I wonder if folks have been doing studies on public health in Davis. I bet physical and mental health is higher than average with all the lovely daily travel opportunities around town in their green corridor.

We finished the day at the home of our warm shower host, Brian. He was off on his own cycling adventure down the coast, but his daughter let us in and showed us around. We had a very relaxing evening of laundry, reading Adventure Cycling magazines, playing San Francisco Monopoly (Anna bought the Golden Gate Bridge!) and catching up on emails. 

  We heard their was a fantastic farmer’s market in town but we had enough awesome for one day and were ready to chill out.

Love,

Kathleen

9 year olds have great travel ideas

Jasper loves picking up brochures for places to visit at tourist information centres.  
When we visited Petaluma (once home of the world’s biggest chicken pharmacy), he came out with three great destinations. (Thanks Marjorie!)

We tried all three.

I’m a big fan of pie, so the pie shop in town was our first stop. You never know how baked goods destinations are going to work out in our family because I’m allergic to peanuts and Jasper is lactose intolerant, but we love treats, so we like to give it a try. Turns out the pie place uses butter in their famous pastry and shares all equipment with peanutty treats, so we didn’t come out with anything. But it was a lovely place and even had an accordion player in the courtyard.

Jasper’s next two suggestions worked out really well for all of us.

  
We took a slight detour to Santa Rosa to visit the Charles M. Shultz Museum. I’ve always been a huge fan of Soopy. I love that he types diligently away, on top of his dog house, starting every story with the famous lines, “It was a dark and stormy night…” He might be my favourite writer ever. 

The museum was amazing. We were even able to bring our bikes into the back office so everyone could visit the exhibits. Derek picked up a ‘How to draw Peanuts’ book in the gift shop and we’ve all been trying our hand at our favourite characters.

  
Yesterday Derek and the kids had a tour of the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield. (I opted to stay outside with the bikes and drink coffee and chat about our travels with random new friends).

   
   
I thought Derek might be taking one for the team by supervising the kids on the tour. But after an hour he came out positively gleeful saying the tour was amazing. They loved learning how jelly beans are made, but also getting a behind the scenes look at how a factory works was interesting for everyone. As you might imagine we zoomed up the uphills at the end of the day, fuelled on jelly beans.

We’re not sure where our next destination will be, but I’m sure Jasper will come up with something fun.

Today we’re riding through Davis which is legendary for great cycling infrastructure so I’m excited.

   
 Happy riding!

Kathleen

Home away from home with the Behroozis in Menlo Park

For the past few weeks we’ve been riding up the coast to San Francisco, looking forward to visiting with our family friends, Cyrus, Katie and Henry. 

  Cyrus and I hadn’t seen each other in almost 30 years, but our dads were very dear friends from their post grad days in Iran and that special friendship had a magical way of gluing our families together and making those 30 years seem like moments. 

I have beautiful childhood memories of our families canoe camping in Algonquin Park with the two dads smoking their pipes and telling us kids stories by the campfire.

 My dad died almost 20 years ago, but you can see from these old pictures how much he loved being outside with his family. 

 

In a fabulous intergenerational twist, moments after we arrived in Menlo Park, at Cyrus’s house, our nine year old sons were giggling together like old friends, dressing up as macho libre and his arch nemesis, cheesehead. 

We caught up and got to know each other’s partners and kids over delicious brownies, banana bread and oranges from the garden. After days of riding with hills and headwinds our bikers appetites were impressive and a few hours later we were ready to devour Cyrus’s homemade pizza.

We had lots of glorious cycling adventures in Menlo Park, and neighbouring Palo Alto, including a visit to Cyrus’s work at Google X. 
   

 Jasper checked out the self-driving cars that are going to make roads safer for everyone.  

 Can you imagine biking without worrying that drivers you’re sharing the road with might be texting? 
Anna Sierra and I got really excited about the cafeteria full of fresh food. 
And Derek loved all the projects. And getting a tour with Cyrus.

    

  

  

  

 We took the Caltrain to San Francisco and walked along the waterfront. In honour of our niece/cousin Celine who goes by Sealion, we made a special trip to see the sea lions.

I loved seeing so many people take their bikes on the train for multimodal commuting when we were heading home.

On the ride back to Menlo Park, Cyrus took us on a bike Boulevard.  

 

Part of what makes it great for cycling is it’s not convenient for cross town driving as several streets have bump outs – with lovely trees.
During the rest of our visit the kids read lots of books in the upstairs book nook overlooking the backyard redwood. Jasper and Henry made all kinds of circuits together.  

 Derek fixed the tandem with expert advice from Cyrus. We had a lovely ride over to Stanford where Katie works and saw a photo exhibit on elephants and so many people riding bikes my heart sang.
   
 
We also discovered Derek was missing his drivers’ license and he was able to apply for a replacement one. We also visited the computer museum where we learned about slide rules, checked out vintage computers and even played Pong.

  And we planned the next leg of our trip, with lots of help and advice from Katie and Cyrus.
Derek’s parents are meeting us in Portland, Oregon, on April 18! (We were originally planning to meet in Cuba, but that didn’t work so we are so excited we’re going to meet up in Portland!) Here’s Jasper thinking about his grandparents beside a car just like Grampa’s:

  
We plan to ride to Redding and take the train to meet them. Although you can’t load bikes on the Amtrak in Redding, we are going to be able to ship our bikes via Bike Flights – a service that will send boxed bikes through UPS quite reasonably.
We were sad to say goodbye to Cyrus, Katie and Henry, but delighted that we had a great chance to connect and make new memories. Leaving was made a lot easier by the Jasper-friendly French toast, maple apples and the full family bike parade send off. 
Even after we said goodbye, we still felt like the family was with us as we followed Katie’s awesome routing right through the city, including her suggested detour to Twirl and Dip for the best soft serve ice cream (and vegan fruit lollies) ever.          
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was quite emotional for me. It’s iconic in cycling lore and it marked the end of the west coast leg of our trip as we turned inland. It’s been a beautiful ride, but the headwinds and the traffic have made these kilometres from LA to San Francisco some of the toughest of our trip. Somehow riding over this bridge with throngs of happy tourists on two wheels brought tears to my eyes.     
The day ended with both kids completing their first century ever by riding all the way to China Camp State Park.     
Even though we were exhausted, we all (especially Jasper) found some energy for new friends – Sadie and Jesse and Petra and Lutz – at the hiker/biker site.    
Refreshed and full of good food and fantastic memories from our stay in Menlo Park with our dear friends, we are ready for Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley where we are hoping to find less traffic and more tailwinds than on the coast.
With best wishes,

Kathleen

Screaming vistas on California’s West Coast

While we were riding through Big Sur Jasper invented the term ‘screaming vista.’ 

   
 

You know, for when the view is so gorgeous and it looks like you might ride right into the ocean.

   
   
We set off in the morning as early as we could and had the roads to ourselves for a few hours before the folks Anna named ‘Elbow Ticklers’ would take to the road for a scenic drive.

Xo

Kathleen

Irresistible infrastructure

As we bike along together, we love taking note of irresistible infrastructure – the kind of paths and routes that make cycling so delightful it becomes the first choice.

Here are a a few of our finds.

From the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California:

   
Bike roundabouts make it easy for folks to make room for each other, change direction and keep moving. We also loved that sidewalks were fully separated from bike paths so that walking could also be relaxing. And the fully signed bike detours were really helpful.

    
 With beautiful, well-designed paths, we could see that riding a bike was the first choice for many on campus.

A lot of State Parks have “Bike and Hike” campsites. These don’t need to be reserved, but are group sites – usually located close to showers and water – where you can stay for a night or two.   
  With many of the campgrounds being full, these sites are really helpful for touring. Also, instead of paying $25-$45 for a private site, you generally pay $5/biker or hiker. Sometimes Anna and Jasper stay for free, sometimes not, it depends on the park. Either way we really appreciate knowing that we will definitely have a place to stay when we arrive after a big day. When we were camping in Europe, almost all of the campgrounds were private and the owners always found us a patch of grass to pitch our tent, even if the campground was technically full. But at State Parks it isn’t possible to bend the rules, so Biker/Hiker sites are amazing.  
They are also a great place to meet wonderful, inspiring people like Sylvie from Quebec who was having a fantastic journey even though she experienced a lot of rain.

We were really impressed when Randy and his partner arrived. Derek and I had heard about bike packing where you attach your ultra light gear to your frame instead of using racks and panniers – but we had never seen it in real life. We nicknamed these awesome cyclists ‘The Lightweights’ and imagined them floating down the coast like migrating monarchs who easily cover 100-150 km/day.

Happy riding!

Kathleen