Tuesday, June 8 - Day 3 Livermore to Modesto (62 miles)

My thoughts and prayers today are with Lois (my wife), who, with 39 students and 3 other faculty/staff (Foutris, Wenzler, Licata) should be landing in Paris just about as I write this to begin a 16-day tour of France and Italy. Bon Voyage, Lois. Je t'aime.

Ken Castleman

Meet Ken Castleman. Ken teaches AP psych and is the tech administrator at Danville High School. Last fall, DGN U.S. history student Susan S. contacted Ken through his high school web site. His response to the Route 99 was enthusiastic since he was a social studies teacher, a tech person AND a bicyclist. We almost didn't hook up because I didn't get a note to him until the day I was passing through Danville. I got email from him at the motel in Livermore last night expressing regret at our missing each other. But since I was only 35 miles east of him, he took a half day off from his release duties (sshhhh) and met me in Livermore. After a late breakfast, we headed up Patterson Pass to the top of the last layer of the Coastal Range before dropping down into the San Joaquin Valley.
This picture was taken by a passing motorist (Len) who we flagged down and who graciously took our picture. I think this picture represents everything good about this trip. Ken and I talked about the possibility of students at our two schools working together on projects in the future.
As a gesture of friendship, Ken presented me with a water bottle from... The California Pedaler!!! So now I have that unique logo (see yesterday's page) with me all the way across America, along with his felt-tipped insciption, "Good Luck! Come again."
We parted ways at the top of the pass. Ken had to get back to his wife and 3-yr.-old son. I had to move east. The drop down into the San Joaquin Valley is exhilarating. He said he was going to stick around until I got out of sight to enjoy it vicariously. Ken, it was everything you said it was. I topped 40 mph. Did you hear me yelling, or did that wind at the top block it out?
Ken, I can tell you're the kind of teacher I would have liked to have had. It was great riding with you.
(Note: From now on, I'll use the flash during the day to take out the shadows from faces. As Ken noted, however, facial obscurity might not be such a bad thing in this picture.)

There was a strong tailwind for the remainder of the day and I averaged about 20 mph crossing the great flat valley.

The San Joaquin Valley is where Mother Earth provides the sustenance for her children. You're in a world of agriculture and ranching as soon as you drop into the valley. Long ago, the San Joaquin River became insufficient to meet the demands for water. This picture is the California Aqueduct; this umbilical cord brings water down from reservoirs in the Sierras. Branches of this aqueduct spread all over the valley, irrigating everything from corn to cherry trees. This picture is of almond trees. There are many almond orchards west of Modesto. Next time you eat almonds, check the location of the company; I'll bet it's Modesto.
Almond Orchard

FINALLY I leave Contra Costa County. I won't be able to take a picture of every county sign, but I'll try to show a few from each state as I go across.

Stanislaus County

To my students: I have encountered so many friendly people in just the few days on the road. People are really interested in the trip. They ask about the bike. They ask how far I'm going. They say they wish they could do it. They wish me luck. They say they'll pray for my safety. A gentleman in Tracy today paid for my Gatorade. The vast majority of Americans are nice people, people who cooperate with each other, people who abide by laws because they recognize that they are necessary functions of society. That doesn't mean I don't keep my eye on my wallet.

After a picture perfect 80 degree day with strong tailwind, I'm in Modesto tonight. A dip in the Super 8 pool, a hot shower, a call to Dominos, a Spanish channel soccer highlights show; all's well with the world.

California Route 99

Modesto is the city where the real U.S. Route 99 crosses our Route 99. We have a Route 99 history page on our site that you might find very interesting. The biggest difference between this Rte. 99 and ours; this one doesn't allow bicycles or pedestrians. Ours does.
Modesto is also one of the towns Jack Kerouac screamed through on one of his frantic trips "On the Road" across America. Read about it in our Road Book Review section. If you've never read the book, my review provides a lot of quotes. The student review is also very favorable.

And finally, it's time for a Road Kill Update!!!!
Day 1 - 1 roadkill (most of the day in San Francisco)
Day 2 - 11 roadkill (including one rattlesnake)
Day 3 - 10 roadkill

Other stats: 61.9 miles (152 miles traveled in three days )
15.2 mph average speed today
42.1 mph, highest speed today

Tomorrow I hope to make it to the town of Mariposa at the eastern edge of the Valley, and then up into the Sierras to Yosemite on Thursday. I'll take a rest day in Yosemite and climb Half Dome, before heading up and over Tioga Pass on Saturday. That's about all I can plan for now, and even that will probably change. You take what the road will give you.

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