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Old 01-20-2011, 10:00 AM   #1
rodr OP
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Entertaining the Stepdaughter

It's always a pleasure when stepdaughter Alexis and her little girl come for a visit. They live in Massachusetts and we see them a couple of times a year. But this last visit became extra-special on the drive home from the airport when Alexis surprised me with "Could I go on the motorcycle with you sometime?"

She was barely fifteen when I married her mom. A very bright girl who unfortunately suffered too much from the turmoils of being a teenager, she resented my intrusion at the time and there was some related drama that I won't go into here.

But as the years went by my marriage survived, the entwinements of our lives did not go away and we all grew up in various ways. We became friends and now all of our emails and phone calls end with a "love you." She's thirty-one today, a charming and beautiful woman very much like her mother, yet still wide-eyed and childlike in her love of new adventures.

So this question in the car brought a big smile to my face. "Yes," I replied, "I think we can arrange that."

rodr screwed with this post 01-25-2011 at 07:03 AM
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:06 PM   #2
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Our first ride came a couple of days later. Logging about 70 miles, we did a round trip on country roads to nearby Davis to get some meats for upcoming dinners. The trip up started with Pleasants Valley Road which has gentle curves and scenic rolling hills. Then Putah Creek Road, through the town of Winters, and on into Davis via Russell Boulevard which is paralleled by miles of bicycle paths. In spite of her shivering from the chilly air and not enough layers, the grin on Alexis's face told all.

Here is the route that we took.

"You can go faster," she told me after the first few miles. Well alrighty then.

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Old 01-20-2011, 12:26 PM   #3
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You know some of us don't even have our own kids who enjoy riding.
Lucky you
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:31 PM   #4
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Awesome! Looking forward to beautiful California countryside photos...
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:34 PM   #5
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You know some of us don't even have our own kids who enjoy riding.
Lucky you
Indeed I am!!

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Awesome! Looking forward to beautiful California countryside photos...
Sorry but it seems almost every time I took a pic it was of the stepkid, so I'm afraid this is more of a story than a pictorial. I'll try to do better next time!
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:37 PM   #6
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All the Gear

She was totally hooked after that first ride.

We started talking about a longer one to see more of the area. There were some logistics to cover. We had agreed on some hand signals: stop soon, stop now, gotta pee, are you OK, yes OK, not OK. More about that later.

But also there was the matter of gear. She had her mom's helmet and riding jacket and boots which all fit her just fine, however you may have noticed the pic above is missing a pair of proper riding pants. I felt awful about the idea of hauling her around without those, so did some looking around and learned that a visit to the local Cycle Gear might be just the ticket.

And indeed it was. We went down there and found a pair of $200 leather pants on sale for $80, which fit her perfectly as overpants. What is it about women and clothes? I think she was even more excited about wearing the pants than about riding in them! As a bonus they fit her mom also, so maybe they won't go to waste!

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Old 01-20-2011, 03:13 PM   #7
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Awesome way to reconnect with her as an adult putting the turmoil of the teenage years well in the past
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Old 01-20-2011, 05:41 PM   #8
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Where we didn't go

Planning the "big" day ride was harder than I expected. We set ourselves a time limit of about five hours and needed to include a lunch stop and time for some other stops in there. Making it to the coast was a given. I was tempted to route us through some gnarly roads through the hills, but had to ask myself some tough questions as to my experience level and ability to safely navigate a passenger through many miles of hairpin curves in the dead of winter on roads that I've never traveled before.

Experience level. Well I've been riding most days for almost three years, but most of those being local errands. Total miles under my belt are about 18,000. Not a newbie, but not highly experienced either. Less than 500 miles with a passenger. And honestly I felt a bit nervous as crashing with the passenger on board would be pretty awful.

Still, some of those roads looked mighty tempting and so I decided to take three hours to myself to check them out. The ones I was especially interested in were St. Helena Road West of St. Helena, and Trinity Road which is roughly between Yountville and Glen Ellen. Both of these are said to be very twisty mountain roads with many hairpins and blind turns. Here is the route that I chose to cover them.

Results:

St. Helena Road was scary. Not because of the twisties, but because of the pea-sized red gravel (lava rock) that had been put down for traction on ice. Ice is a problem there as the elevation gets up to about 2000 feet, but even without ice the gravel was not fun at all. No way I'm gonna take my passenger on that.

Trinity Road was much more do-able, as the gravel was not much of an issue and I enjoyed it as a solo ride. But still I eventually decided not to take the stepdaughter on that one either, because of the time constraint and because I knew there would be plenty of other twisty roads. Better to leave her wanting more than to do too much too soon!
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:49 PM   #9
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Awesome way to reconnect with her as an adult putting the turmoil of the teenage years well in the past
Absolutely. Doing an activity together that has some challenges involved builds a closeness that you just can't get from sitting around the house and talking. I'm so glad we had this opportunity.
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Old 01-20-2011, 10:57 PM   #10
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The Ride to Tomales Bay

Monday, MLK day, has arrived. Click here to see the final route. My wife will watch over the almost-five-year-old granddaughter and they will doubtless have a fine time without us. We hit the road a little before 11am. Alexis demonstrates her knowledge of the agreed hand signals.



We enjoy the immediate gratification of the best twisty roads from Fairfield to Napa: Suisun Valley Road, Wooden Valley Road, Highway 121 through the mountains, and then onward to Highway 116 and Petaluma. From there we take Bodega Avenue and Tomales road into Tomales, and then pick up Highway 1 which runs South along Tomales Bay.

Somewhere before Petaluma we take a short break in a golf club parking lot, chat easily about family stuff and other things, and Alexis takes a brief and well-timed call from the hubby back in Massachusetts. This time on the road, just the two of us, is a very good feeling.



The weather forecast was for sunny skies, but it lied. Most of the trip was cloudy or foggy, with only a couple of sections of sunshine. Somehow we didn't care.

The town of Marshall is on Tomales Bay, point B on the map. Here we stop at the Marshall Store for lunch. This is a little deli and restaurant with rustic outdoor seating to enjoy a view of the bay, and a boat yard next door. I have a plate of raw oysters and some clam chowder, and Alexis a tri-tip sandwich. All is good.



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Old 01-21-2011, 08:37 AM   #11
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Looking good Rod !
Yo Dave! I hope things are working out well for you -- looking forward to your next installment!
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Old 01-21-2011, 08:41 AM   #12
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The missing hand signal

The rest of our Highway 1 segment was stunningly beautiful and had some very twisty parts. We saw the remainder of Tomales Bay and went through Point Reyes National Seashore. Here I wished we had more time to explore Point Reyes, but we didn't.

From Stinson Beach to Muir Beach we finally see the Pacific Ocean, doubtless the most beautiful part of the ride. Then over the mountains to highway 101. Somewhere near there we stopped for a short break and I put in earplugs for the long slab home. Alexis had her iPod and the earpieces for that also fit nicely inside her helmet.

Then we are on US 101 just North of San Francisco. Four and five lanes of fast moving traffic each way, but still some nice views of the surrounding hills and water.

I hear some odd noises faintly through the earplugs. Yelling? Singing? Somebody's obnoxious car audio? Looking around, nothing seems unusual. The bike is running fine, Alexis is still back there, and there are no hand signals. I do the "Are you OK" signal but she didn't seem to see it. Maybe she's rocking out to the iPod. In any case there's no stopping here, so I press on.

The we turn Eastward onto Highway 37, and I get the thumbs-down hand signal. Uh-oh. There is a wide shoulder here and I pull over. It seems we forgot about a "slow down" hand signal -- Alexis was terrified of the high freeway speeds with all the cars around! But she didn't want to signal me to stop earlier as there was no good place for that. I apologized profusely, we limped home more slowly, and she was able to settle down.

The fog turned to pea soup as we approached Fairfield. I took an early exit into town and we made it home without further incident. Everything considered, a fantastic ride and my adventurous young lady was still ready for more.

That's all -- thanks for reading!
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Old 01-22-2011, 05:44 PM   #13
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Nice.
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Old 01-22-2011, 06:35 PM   #14
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Thanks

Great story. Thanks for sharing it and I hope we see more ride reports in the future!
~Keith
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Old 01-23-2011, 10:10 PM   #15
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Nice.
Thanks!

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Great story. Thanks for sharing it and I hope we see more ride reports in the future!
~Keith
My expectation is to do some multi-state touring this year so you'll doubtless be seeing more from me.
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