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Old 02-25-2013, 02:50 PM   #1
DustyRags OP
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Location: The Beast, California
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Wring the Neck: Halfway Across California On A 500

Setting the stage...

1) I spent 5 years in Davis as an undergraduate. Later, I spent another 2 years in nearby Sacramento, with plenty of evening trips to Davis to drink with old friends. After that, I moved into a shared house in Davis. We called ourselves the Retarded Bees ("Dude, we're like some sort of sick and broken hive mind!") I spent a lot of time in this weird little town, made a lot of great friends, and drank an unholy amount of booze. I left a bit of my soul in this place, and going back is always a weird mix of nostalgia and excitement for the new.

2) Somewhere out near Davis is the infamous Graffiti Bridge, a 1923 overhead tie span bridge (one of 3 in California, I'm told). It's been entirely covered in layers and layers of graffiti, courtesy of Davis undergrads, highschool students, locals memorializing dead people, love and those in the doghouse, and just about anyone who needs a place to splash some paint, smoke a spliff and hide out from the Man for a while. I've never seen it, despite having spent 5 years in the area and knowing about it for 10. A monstrous failure for anyone into weird and obscure places. It was time to pay penance.

3) My sweety and I recently moved into our first shared house (after 5 years together! ), and I desperately needed to blow off some steam.

So when word came that the Retarded Bees were getting back together for one last blow-out as another Bee flew the hive, my only thought was to hope and pray for good weather. I told my sweety I'd be heading out for a bit of a ride to see old friends and wouldn't be back that night, greased my chain and hit the road.

Well, almost. There were some morning errands before that, including a trip to OSH to try and find a shower curtain rod after yours truly made a boo-boo and utterly destroyed the old one, but by 4:30 or so on a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon I finally cranked up the bike and hit the road.

Here's the offending beast, warming up under the blooming plum tree out front, a 2005 Vulcan 500.

My original plan had been to ride Highway 4 our to Antioch and then Highway 113 through the delta and over the fields to the Graffiti Bridge, but things started late and I had friends and booze waiting for me. I rode the slab instead. The first 30 miles or so were pretty dull (except for a spectacular view of Mt. Diablo coming down the Highway 24 grade, but I wasn't about to take a pic at those speeds). A bit after Martinez I hopped off the freeway and rode the frontage road.

If you're ever stuck riding Highway 680, I highly recommend it. The highway in general skirts the marsh, first along the mothball fleet in Suisun Bay, and then further in to the Delta. Shortly after the bay crossing, the frontage road parallels the highway and you can get a spectacular view of the marshes. Ducks, egrets, jack rabbits, rednecks, geese, crows, ravens, rusting trucks, deer, raccoons, and all sorts of other wildlife inhabit the endless reeds cut by sinuous, brackish channels. It's also a 50 MPH speed limit. While the 500 will do 80, it buzzes like a Hitachi past about 76 or so- better to be on the frontage road and break the speed limit than on the highway and be passed by idiots. Also, fewer cops.

The frontage road ended, and blah blah, blah, boring straight bit of 680, and then I hit Highway 80 and things got exciting. This is the same Highway 80 that goes from San Francisco, CA, to Ocean City, MD. It's called Highway 80 because that's the minimum speed, and boy howdy was it busy! The only nice bit were the hills between Fairfield and Vacaville- lush, green, a bit craggy, like Scotland in the summer, but with cherry trees along the roads, all in crazy bloom in a wild attempt to mate with any and all other cherry trees doing the same thing. There's even a road called Cherry Glen Road that I really need to go investigate now. Just gorgeous.

My little bike was being blown all over the place by passing semis and idiots in jacked up Fords. For a bit, I seriously regretted not taking 113, but then the light began to fade and I knew I'd made the right call. 113 in the dark is unlight, through farmland, rolling hills and straight as a ruler. No turns to speak of, but full of nasty hillocks that limit visibility to about 60 yards. Death or boredom, take your pick. You might get both.

Anyhow, 80 mostly stunk, and I lost the light about Dixon (10 minutes before Davis) so I had to stop and take my shades off and screw around with frontage roads before I got back on the slab, but finally got there. Boom, welcome, people, food (food! Oh, god, food! I was starving!) and booze. I got reacquainted with a number of good friends, including my old friend Cheap Whiskey, talked a lot of smack, lit a fire out back (I dimly recall chanting "whiskey! Whiskey! Whiskey!" in a voice wrecked from diesel fumes), caught up on the latest gossip from back home and finally passed out in the wee hours between midnight and when normal people get up.

I left a bit of soul in the place, and it's always wonderful go back and visit it. Day two in a bit.
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Old 02-25-2013, 03:40 PM   #2
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Day two please !!

Gone from Davis to Cal Poly SLO, Lived in Roseville for many years and NEED to know where your travels have taken you ?? !!
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Old 02-25-2013, 04:04 PM   #3
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Sunday morning I awoke with the sun peering through the picture window in the living room. Even in my pathetic state, I could tell that something wasn't right. Sunshine should never happen that early. Consciousness gradually crept in, and I realized that it wasn't that early, I'd just been making friends with the whiskey bottle right up to kipping into bed maybe three or four hours ago. I dimly remembered that alcohol is metabolized formaldehyde. Which was now gushing through my brain and doing horrendous things to my head. I passed out again.

I awoke again, dimly aware of the front door shutting. I put my bare feet on the tiles and sat for a minute. Stood up. Gravity was being a fickle bitch today. Found the bathroom and crawled back on the couch.

Awoke again. Formaldehyde still in my head. Back out.

Finally I heard some noises from the back of the house, and a current denizen made an appearance. I pulled my pants on and investigated the front yard and the early morning (9:30) sunshine.

Aaaahhhhhhh, yes! Sunny, a few wispy clouds, perfect riding weather! A single thermal and some jeans were enough. Bracing. My mind improved. I love California.

But then the cold pavement bit into my feet to remind that that, California or not, it's still February. I went inside and drank a pint of water. Then I drank another, and read a Get Fuzzy comic book for a bit. Gravity was starting to behave itself, and I hit the shower.

(By the way, the next time you need a water heater, you really ought to get one of those on-demand ones. Not only are they efficient, but they have endless hot water. Seriously, they'll keep going as long as you pump water and gas into them. That morning, sitting there under the pounding assault of steaming water as long as I needed to was a necessary, and wonderful, thing).

The road showered off, the hairs scraped from my neck and last night scrubbed from my mouth, I was starting to resemble a human being again. At least as much as I ever do.

Rather majestic, don't you think?

By the time I completed my morning constitutional, most of the other Retarded Bees were warming up for the day and the hive was bustling. We chatted as I packed and lingered as long as I could. Finding a house full of people you love and can rely on, joke with, drink with, travel with, get sick with, get well with and live with is a rare and wonderful thing. Moving out hurt, but I knew I could always come back. But this felt final. The Retarded Bees had gradually defected, mostly to the Bay Area, to mariages, children, studio apartments, jobs, other academia, what-have-you. Every time, someone else was there, someone in the gang, ready to take their place. This time, there was nobody. The house was falling below critical mass.

But I had other people to see, a breakfast invitation from a grad school friend in Sacramento, a bridge to find, and glorious riding weather.

I warmed up the bike, geared up, and hit the road.

I left Davis and headed east on the 80, into a glorious view of the Sierra Madre, that famous saw tooth ridge, capped in snow halfway down the flanks of the mountains. One of these days I'll ride across them, but right now that pass is snowed in. 70 miles miles away, a chill wind blew down from the mountains, and I was glad I'd layered an extra thermal under my leathers.

As soon as I hit the freeway, that wind made itself noticed in a different way. The smallest Vulcan is a light bike (maybe 450 lbs, wet) and It was buffeting me a bit. It got worse when I hit the Causeway, and I rode most of the way across it with the bike heeled over about 10 degrees. The Causeway goes over the Yolo Bypass, which is an artificial floodplain so that if the Sacramento River jumps its banks it floods that area rather than, say, downtown Sacrmanto (the Pocket neighborhood is actually about 15 feet below river level). The bypass is full of rice paddies and a huge bird and wetland sanctuary, but I don't think I saw any of it. I just kept that bike leaned ten degrees to the left and stayed in my lane until I got to the other side.

Then up, over the Sacramento River (Woah! Lotsa buffeting here!) and down into Natomas just north of Sacramento. If found my friends' condo, parked illegally (hey, if you designate only one in 25 spots for "visitors", that's what you get!) and sponged away the last remnants of last night with cinnamon rolls and coffee, old gossip, news of Sacramento and the local university system (I was an academic in another life), and the little things you chat with old friends about that nobody else understands but that mean the world to you.

By now it was 1:00 and my plans for a morning ride had disintegrated in the face of formaldehyde, coffee and other loved ones. I said bye to my friends, and found gas.

The north valley is flat as paper, but it was a glorious day for riding. That tree line in the distance is the banks of the Sacramento river, the furthest out post of the Sacramento Delta. I longed to hit the back roads, ride the Garden Highway along the river, explore the fields and old farmhouses, the dyke roads on the Delta and the old fishing shacks, but home was calling. I needed a break, but I do love my sweety, and I still had that shower curtain to fix.

Time to find that bridge!

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Old 02-25-2013, 04:08 PM   #4
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Patience, Irish Green, I'll get to it. Mostly slab, but you can find oh-so-exciting map here:,6,7&t=m&z=11
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Old 02-25-2013, 05:04 PM   #5
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Freshly gassed up, I made tracks for the Graffiti Bridge. I hit some traffic leaving Sacramento, and then I was almost hit by traffic as some twatterific asshole decided to haul his massive pickup truck complete with 16 foot box trailer down the right shoulder at a good 20 mph faster than the rest of the traffic, cut across the off ramp and damn near flatten me as he bullied his way into the lane. I gave him the ADV salute and kept away from him.

The Causeway was better going back with the wind at my back, but traffic was worse. I roared back through Davis, cut north on the 113 a couple of exits, and pulled off on Russell Blvd in Davis, went left and buzzed outta town. Russell gradually went from a tree-lined avenue in a small town to a country road, flanked by wire and rail fences, with pastures on both sides. Then those gave way to fields, and finally a bit of a wooded area. The road bent right, but I turned left. I heard that the Graffiti Bridge had been closed to vehicle traffic, and this place had the right mix of potholes, gravel and activity that I figured it must be the right one.

I wish I'd gotten a picture of the street coming up on the bridge. It's heavily shaded, narrow, and a little bit windy- a rarity in this flat land. Then boom, there was the bridge.

I rolled onto the two narrow lanes, claustrophobic in the brightly colored concrete arches. I glanced right, into the trees, but couldn't see the river below, so I look left, straight into the curious black eyes of a red tail hawk sitting on a cable beside the bridge. When you're staring a wild hawk like that, almost in touching distance, height for height the same, you on the bridge and the hawk on his cable, you realize how big they really are. Powerful, compact and tawny, you can almost see the muscles through the feathers. Then a pillar came between us, I looked where I was going, and gassed across the bridge. I turned around, kicked the stand down, and pulled my gear off.

Turn around, here's the Graffiti Bridge.

A few cars came long, first three and then one more, and by the time I ventured back onto the bridge the hawk was gone. Most of the graffiti is done by amateurs, not serious artists but people just scrawling their names. Kendra must have been a good climber. I wonder if I know her, I know a Kendra that could climb anything.

Looking East, there's a fat cable that parallels the bridge maybe six or eight feet out. It's maybe two inches across, and apparently the local hawk likes sitting on it. The banks of Putah Creek are gray now but will be bright green in April. You can already see it coming in a bit.

Most of the graffiti isn't anything to write home about, but someone had a neat stencil. I'm still not certain if it's a person or a cat. Or one of each. Notice the painted-on bricks.

Each of the major pillars has a small plaque with an animal or something. One had a Mayan-style head, one had a bird, and so on. This one had an opossum that apparently needed to be painted green.

Looking West, you can see more of Putah Creek. I heard it's a nice creek to go swimming in later in the spring when the melt water hits it, but it was pretty rancid yesterday. It must be gorgeous when those trees are all green.

Looking back across the bridge, the direction I originally came. The bike is parked just around the bend there on the left. It looks like Edward loves Mini, but Edward must be more popular because his name has been renewed. Or maybe someone loved Mini, and now Edward does. It's hard to tell. Love is a common theme here, as is an utter lack of ability to paint.

Still, it ain't all fun and games. Apparently Priscilla is a... SLUT, someone wants you to fuck off, and someone else has drawn a wang.

Some graffiti is more sober, however. I don't know who Jean Marie Rollins is, but she died on 10-2-2012.

As you can see, the Graffiti Bridge is a part of the local life in Davis. I first heard about it from a friend of mine who grew up there, and meant to find it ever since. I spent 5 years there as an undergrad, but never had the right combination of vehicle access and people who knew where it was. After I left, the DavisWiki did a page on it, but I never got around to it. I was alway busy, or it was dark, or I was with someone who didn't feel like traipsing through the countryside.

A lot of it really is just bright paint splashed on an old bridge.

It's weird to think that I finally found this place as I cut yet another tie to my college town. As I finally find myself capitulating in whole to the need to have a job, wear a shirt with buttons on it and all that jazz, giving up any adolescent pretension at rebellion, I finally find it. It's a place to avoid the Man, smoke some pot, hide out from parents and the Dean at the university, cause some mischief and cut loose. And I don't need it anymore.

And yet, I've finally crossed the Graffiti Bridge.

That's from where the bike is parked, looking back at it. Turning around, there were some trees flowering in the wood. I don't know what they were, and they're barely visible in the photo, but they were very striking at the time.

A person with a gray jacket and silver bike (Veestrom?) passed me, waved, could been an ADV rider, no problem. Then two more people, one on a black Veestrom and someone else on a similar bike I didn't recognize slowed, waved, gave a thumbs-up/thumbs-down, and sped off to my thumbs up. If you were at Stevenson Bridge about 2:30 or so on Sunday February 24th and saw a blue Vulcan on the south side of the bridge, that was me.

I geared up and headed south. Passed a Harley, waved, wondered briefly where he came from, and realized he was coming from the highway, on the road I was trying to find. I turned around, took that road, found 80 and goosed the poor little Vulcan to 85 with the rest of the idiots trying to get home on a Sunday afternoon. Not long after I hit Suisun, pulled over, at something more substantial than a cinnamon roll, texted my sweety to let her know I was OK, and rode the frontage roads along 680 back toward home. I passed an egret on a post preening its feathers, and a pair of huge pink jackrabbit ears sticking our of the undergrowth like little antennas. Then across the bridge, through Walnut Creek, up 24.

I hit traffic on the 24. I always get warnings from non-riders about lane splitting, the danger of it, how they almost hit a bike they made a sudden lane change (hint: don't do that!), but today I wasn't in the mood to wait. And I'm glad I did- splitting gave me the clear view around the side of the box truck when he was cut off and slammed on the brakes, and I could just swerve around him rather than slamming into his bumper. That woke me up, I can tell you!

Then up, through the Caldecott following a couple of bikes including a very loud Triumph Bonney, then down through Berkeley and back home to Oakland. I pulled into the drive and my sweety had the garage open for me. I like that one. Then I fixed the shower curtain rod, we got some sushi, she got a lengthy foot rub and by the time she fell asleep on the couch I think she'd forgiven me for abandoning her.

A hell of a good weekend. And here's the Vulcan, in my new garage (still empty, but the work bench is coming this week!)

DustyRags screwed with this post 02-25-2013 at 06:29 PM
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Old 02-26-2013, 05:22 AM   #6
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Looks like a fun time. Great pictures too, I went to UCD many years ago but also missed the Graffiti Bridge... Thanks.
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Old 02-26-2013, 07:11 AM   #7
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Thanks! I have no idea how long it's been the Graffiti Bridge (at some point it was just Stevenson Bridge, I'm sure) but it's pretty cool either way. It's out near Winters.
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Old 02-26-2013, 11:17 AM   #8
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Great descriptions and photos. I haven't spent a ton of time in Davis, but it's a great college town.
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Old 02-26-2013, 12:24 PM   #9
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Thanks! I love it there, and had a great time both times I lived there. Not sure I could do it anymore- I'm a bit too old to put up with all the students now

But damn, if you don't mind straight roads there's a ton of great riding out that way! Next time I'm coming back over Berryessa.
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