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  The California Aqueduct: Trip Journal

Friday 4/18/03

07:45 am - Our meeting point was in Roseville, my house.  The boys had brought their bikes the previous night so we could get them loaded up in the trailer.  I should have had them bring their other stuff as well.  But after having spent 30 minutes longer than I wanted to we were on the road and headed for our first rendezvous point along the I-5 Freeway in Elk Grove to pick up my Dad.

08:25 am - Elk Grove, we pick up my Dad, load his belongings and get back on the freeway, we're making good time.

09:20 am - After a bit of confusion as to which Grant Line Exit we need to take we finally meet up at the Byron / Grant Line Exit just after you go under the 580 under pass.

09:45 am - We arrive at the Bethany Reservoir and start the unloading of 13 bicycles. And transfer items into the Van heading towards Camp.

10:15 am - We're on our way.  The weather is still overcast from the storm earlier in the week but should continue to clear out by the end of the day.  The wind is to our backs and is about 8 to 10 miles an hour.  As long as it stays on our backs we'll be able to cruise.

10:45 am - Checkpoint #1, 7.2 miles.  We arrive safe and sound but have already encountered a few problems.  One of the rear tires is coming off the rim, probably an alignment issue.  Another has a front derailleur that won't move from the inside to allow for switching gears past 7th.  Lastly another has lost a front bolt from a quick release setup, one false move and the front tire could come off.  We get to work on the derailleur and adjust it with a screw driver to force it to be in the outside position.  It can at least operate in 15th to 21st gears.  The tire is moved back on the rim and pumped up to keep it from slipping.  And the Sag Wagon is sent off with the rider and bike to get a bolt. After an agonizing 15 minutes we finally head off for the next checkpoint.

11:45 am - one of the boys is having a very difficult time keeping up.  I've dropped way back to keep tabs of how he is doing, I'm probably only doing 7 to 8 mph.  We're only 20 miles into it but he's not going to be able to make it much longer.  At the next road crossing I call the Sag Wagon in for a pickup. 

11:50 am - Checkpoint #2, approx. 12 miles (20 miles total) We were only a mile away from the checkpoint when we had the Sag Wagon pick up.  Not to worry that is what we had the Sag for.  Our other vehicle hasn't returned with my Dad and the bolt for the front tire.  We decide to go ahead and break for lunch.  The boys are starving, what do you expect, they're teenagers and always hungry!  I'm a little on the worried side that this is going to take much longer than anticipated.  However even in a worst case scenario we have the Sag Wagon that could take half of the riders to camp.  I think we'll be okay (mental note: be sure to take those practice rides next time around, they make a huge difference).

12:30 pm - Back on the road, too much time spent at Checkpoint #2. From this point on I am at the head of the group and keep an average of about 15 to 20 miles an hour.  With the headwind at our back the riding is very easy.

01:45 pm - Checkpoint #3, approx 14 miles (34 miles total) - We're finally making good time. The weather has cleared up even more and it is no longer chilly.  By this point two more boys have dropped out and two other want to as well.  The two that want to continue on with some encouragement. 

03:30 pm - We arrive at what is supposed to be Checkpoint #4, however our Sag Wagon has missed the exit on I-5.  The problem with the map is that some of the exits are not clearly marked.  So what I thought was an exit may not have been.  After the Sag Wagon drove up and down I-5 3 times looking for the exit I and 30 minutes of waiting I tell the Sag Wagon to head down to the next exit and find the canal. Some of the boys have used up all of their liquids but we need to press on, time is wasting by waiting any longer.  We press on (mental note:   have boys carry more water so we don't rely upon the Sag Wagon as much).

4:00 pm - About a mile into the ride I hear this hideous hissing noise and watch my front tire deflate in about 10 seconds flat (pun intended).  At this point I was in the lead and each of the boys rode right past me and out of sight around the next turn.  The two adults bringing up the rear finally catch up to me and we go to work patching my front tube.  Somehow the tube next to the valve stem had been pinched enough to make a hole.  After 20 agonizing minutes it's patched, back on, pumped up and we're on the road.  The boys were spread out over the next mile.  None of them knew if they should keep going, come back, or just wait were they were, so they waited (mental note: give better instruction to boys on what to do if leader gets a flat).

05:15 pm - Checkpoint #4 approx 18 miles (52 miles total) - A quick fuel up with liquids more encouragement to the boys and off we go.

05:45 pm - Checkpoint #5, approx 7 miles (59 miles total) - We moved checkpoint 5 to Butts Road due to the previous checkpoint having to be moved. Again just a quick fuel up and then off we went.  We're almost there.

06:30 pm - San Luis Creek Campground, approx 6 miles (65 miles total). - We finally arrive at camp.  It amazing to some but we actually made it.  I knew we would make it, it was merely a matter of when and how many would make it.  We started out with 13 on bikes and by the time we hit the campsite we had a total of 9 on bikes.  Considering that we didn't do the necessary practice that we should have I'm surprised that we that many finish.  The next battle was dinner.  We were all very hungry, remember the teenager thing, but considering that some of us had not really eaten much since lunch we were hungry.  We had all decided on foil packs which is fine, except you have to wait for the coals and then the dinner to actually cook.  So it was around 7:30 pm by the time we ate. (mental note: have a dinner that has much less preparation time).

08:00 pm - After dinner and a quick cleanup of dishes we spent the rest of the evening around the fire, talking, telling stories, roasting marshmallows, and playing chess by the light of that lantern.  It was probably around 10 to 10:30 that we started going to bed.  For some strange reason the boys didn't talk very much that night after they went to bed.  It was a very peaceful night.  Just a touch of a breeze and a clear sky that let you reach out and grab the stars.  We couldn't have asked for better.  As I laid down to go to bed I really wish I had brought my air mattress and pillow.  After a long day riding a 1 inch foam pad just doesn't cut it.

Saturday 4/19/03

07:30 am - It was sometime around this point that I woke up and laid there for at least another 30 minutes.  I then made my way up and out of the tent.  Surprising enough I wasn't as tired or sore as I thought I was going to be.  But I was very hot due to the sun burn I now had (mental note: use the sun screen you bring before you start the trip).

08:00 am - We spent the next hour fixing, cooking, and eating breakfast.  Nothing to complain about except I forgot to bring the extra camping stove which means we didn't get to enjoy the bacon we brought.  Instead we enjoyed scrambled eggs, pancakes, and juice.  There was plenty to eat but bacon would have been nice. (mental note: go over the checklist three times next time you pack)  

09:30 am - After breakfast it was a quick cleanup, take down the tents, fold up the sleeping bags, load up the bikes, and pack it all away.  Soon we were back on the road, again.  This time as we drove north on I-5 I looked at it with a different perspective.  We could see the Aqueduct clearly from the freeway.  But as we speed past all of the orchards, houses, trailers, animals, and such.  We could look at them and say, "I know what that house looks like from the other side."  We had seen this area from a new perspective, we didn't just speed by at 75 mph, we rode through it following the curves that had been etched into the Central Valley. We had the chance to look just above the tree tops of the orchards.  We were able to gain a new appreciation for this piece of California.  While some may think that this isn't the most exciting place to be there is a peaceful feeling that you get as you ride along the canal known as the California Aqueduct.


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Copyright 2003 Devin Holmes