June 9, 1999 - Day 4 - Modesto to Mariposa

After journaling and emailing last night until about 12:30 I decided to sleep until I woke up. It felt like about 7:00 when I did wake. I looked at my watch: 11:00!!! I jumped out of bed. Checkout was at 11:00. After "breakfast" at Subway in downtown Modesto (Sorry, I needed guaranteed fast and healthy) I was on the road out of Modesto by about 12:30, continuing across the flat and fertile San Joaquin Valley.

No Gas
No Problem

An obvious fact about a bicycle trip across the continent is that it doesn't pollute (unless you get into some biological functions that would be more appropriate for a junior high school web site). It is one of my goals to leave as few marks on the country as I possibly can. As many of you know, I'm a stickler on littering, so I hope to not leave even the tiniest scrap of chewing gum wrapper or any other evidence that I've been there. Pack it in, pack it out.

Farming on the Edge

I stopped to buy some cherries at a fruit stand near Empire. This poster was on the wall. It shows agricultural areas that are endangered by population growth. The darker the color, the more endangered. Check out the San Joaquin Valley. Check out DuPage County. Check out your own county.
Something's got to give here.

Mack Montgomery

This is Mack Montgomery. When I left that fruit stand, I left one of my panniers hanging open. I was about 15 miles down the road when I discovered it, and found that my PolarTec vest was gone! Panic. When you're only carrying about four clothing items, they're all vital. This vest is really vital. I parked the bike behind some eucalyptus trees and thumbed a ride back. A really nice truck driver named Tony picked me up and spotted the jacket before I did. What was really nice about Tony was that he cared about my jacket.
I thumbed a ride back and Mack picked me up. He lives in Snelling and commutes to Modesto. He and his family have 36 acres right on the Merced River there. He offered me a place to stay and a meal. I told him thanks, but I felt I needed to make more miles than that, but it's just one more example of the kindness of the average American. (I know I'm sounding like something out of the stinkin' Readers Digest here, and I know my Sociology students are saying, "This does not sound like the cynical Social Conflict theorist we've heard all semester." Well, hey, I guess I've turned into a Structural Functionalist. But don't worry, the Graham cynicism can't be very far under the surface.)
One more thing about Mack. He and his wife have two grown children and one son who just graduated from 8th grade tonight. I said, "That sounds like a second marriage child." Mack said no, it was a surprise child. He said their marriage had been on the verge of breaking when his wife got pregnant and that this son pulled their marriage back together. I congratulated him and his wife, because a lot of times this kind of "surprise" would be the thing that would finish things off. In their case it didn't, and I give them a lot of credit for that. I'm glad to have made Mack's acquaintance.

Foothills

As I moved east across the Valley today the Sierra foothills began to emerge, a constant reminder of some hard work to come. I'm in Mariposa, around 3000 feet tonight. I've got some serious climbing to do on Thursday to get into Yosemite. I think this will be my first real test.

Big Bird

Okay birders. This is one big honkin' bird. Is it an eagle?
I've seen lots of turkey vultures today. They have 6-foot wingspans and they just circle and circle and circle. Good incentive to keep moving, you know what I mean?

Merced
Merced County

This is the Merced County sign. You can see that Merced is still in the relatively flat agricultural Valley.

Mariposa
Mariposa County

And in this picture, you can see that we're leaving the Valley and its agriculture, and beginning a slow descent into the Sierras.
I'm staying with the Aldridge family tonight at their ranch miles from nowhere outside Mariposa, but that's a story for tomorrow. I'm so tired now.
My odometer is outside on the bike so I don't have the particulars on the day's stats. It was around 72 miles today, with climbing at the END of the day. I'll put the details in tomorrow.
Come to think of it, journaling over the next couple of days may be difficult. I'll be camping at Yosemite for two nights, so unless I can get some kind of connection during the day, you may not get anything until.... I'll do my best.

But... 11 roadkill today, including one gruesome, big dog.

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