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California's Central Valley, one-way

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California's Central Valley, one-way

Old 04-26-05, 10:22 PM
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California's Central Valley, one-way

So here's the trip I envision... taking Amtrak up to Sacramento and then taking two days to bike back down here to Fresno (160 miles or so), unsupported, with an overnight at some convenient point.

Has anybody actually done this? I'm curious as to the best routes to use, particularly routes that offer ample services during our notoriously hot summer. I'm familiar with driving up and down Highway 99, but I'm not well versed in bike-friendly alternates.

All ideas welcome. (And, yes, I know we're talking about an elevation profile that's flatter than a pancake.)
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Old 04-27-05, 03:17 PM
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Fun trip. I would take in the foothills and Gold country on the way down. First, take a leisurely ride from the train station downtown out on H or J St past CSU to Howe Ave, take Howe south past Hwy 50 where it turns into Hwy 16. Take Hwy 16 east to Hwy 49 near Jackson, then go south on Hwy 49 past all the little Goldrush-era towns and historic places to Oakhurst. In fact you will skirt Yosemite. Then head straight south with some downhill into Fresno. You could camp in many places or stay in one of the numerous B&B's along 49.

Actually, in looking at the distance on this, it is a 200 mile route, with some hills, so you are definitely looking at three days this way, but I don't know of a particularly enjoyable way to do the return along the flats - it is lots of straight, boring two lanes with agricultural traffic and you have to jog back and forth alot.

john

Last edited by mtnroads; 04-27-05 at 03:22 PM. Reason: Addition
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Old 04-27-05, 03:54 PM
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Howdy -

One of the problems in the Valley is that it isn't too cycle-friendly - either in routes or drivers.
It may be 164 miles on Hwy 99 - but it will be considerably longer on back roads.
Can you do 90-100 miles in one day?

The Hwy 49 routing is more scenic, but it wourd take at least 3 days - if not 4.
Plus you don't want to be on Hwy 49 on the weekends.

Another option is to run down South River Road to Walnut Grove - stay on the other side from Hwy 160.
(You can take city streets and county road to Sheldon then to Lockeford - shorter, less scenic.)
Then cut east to Lockeford on J-11, J-8, & J-12. Then take Tully and Comstock Roads to Bellota.
From there take J-6 to Framington then Sonora Road, Willms Rd, and Crabtree Rd to Turlock Lake.
<<<Turlock Lake has inexpensive Hiker/Biker campsites.>>>
From there head down Los Cerritos Rd and Hwy 59 to Merced
Take the Bear Creek Bikeway thru town and South Bear Creek Rd towards Planada.
At Planada you get on Santa Fe Ave all the way to Madera.
Ain't no good way from Madera to Fresno, but you know that.

Check out a Delorme Atlas at your library - xerox the pages you need on the sly.
Be aware that some of these backroads may be quiet all year except in tomato harvest season, etc.

Best - J
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Old 04-27-05, 04:05 PM
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You should find something better to do than go from Sacramento to Fresno. There are NO roads that parallel 99. I did the ride from Bakersfield to San Jose one summer in the mid-Nineties, and all I remember is that I was relegated to the farm road. Especially, I remember that the farm roads were full of goat heads and it was a miserable dusty ride. You'll find it more enjoyable to come and go to the coast rather than finding some pleasure going north to south.
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Old 04-27-05, 06:49 PM
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Ooooh, that's extremely helpful because, once I'm in Madera, I know the best ways back, since I'm over in northeast Fresno. (east on Avenue 15 to Road 36 to Avenue 12, etc. -- actually not too bad a ride, especially with the new wide bike lanes on Avenue 12)

Yes, I thought about trying to throw in some hills and making this longer, but the idea is to make a quick weekend trip out of it -- just head downtown to Amtrak, hop the train, and then spend the rest of the weekend getting back home.

After I successfully handle an overnight (sheesh, my first, shudder), then I can think about the longer affairs.

Thanks!
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Old 04-27-05, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by mtnroads
Fun trip. I would take in the foothills and Gold country on the way down. First, take a leisurely ride from the train station downtown out on H or J St past CSU to Howe Ave, take Howe south past Hwy 50 where it turns into Hwy 16. Take Hwy 16 east to Hwy 49 near Jackson, then go south on Hwy 49 past all the little Goldrush-era towns and historic places to Oakhurst. In fact you will skirt Yosemite. Then head straight south with some downhill into Fresno. You could camp in many places or stay in one of the numerous B&B's along 49.

Actually, in looking at the distance on this, it is a 200 mile route, with some hills, so you are definitely looking at three days this way, but I don't know of a particularly enjoyable way to do the return along the flats - it is lots of straight, boring two lanes with agricultural traffic and you have to jog back and forth alot.

john

It would definitely be more picturesque and interesting once you get to Jackson, but Hwy 16 from Sacramento to Jackson is a very dangerous road for cyclists. It's straight, fast, and full of impatient commuters and gamblers.

The Delta is flat and agricultural, but it has its own charms. And in my experience, I've found the hay and tomato haulers to be very considerate to cyclists.

Whatever you do, be sure to tell us all about it.
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Old 04-27-05, 11:43 PM
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Amtrak has some weird restrictions about which stations you can put baggage on & off the train... might want to call them and check.

Also, and I know this is unsolicited advice, sorry... maybe you could do a loop or an out-and-back, out towards the foothills or something? I mean, why add the train travelling and bike boxing hassle to your trip, if it's only for a couple of days.

Whatever you end up doing, have a great time!


anna
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