We arrived at Judy’s brother-in-law’s condo in Anaheim at midday, and settled in for a week of visiting. Since Judy’s sister passed away in 2011, we try to get to Anaheim in the winter to check on Ben, who is in his 90s. They moved to Garden Grove from the Pacific Northwest more than 50 years ago, when it was becoming less strawberry fields and more suburban sprawl. They later moved to Anaheim hills and, when their children, our nieces and nephews, grew up, moved into the condo in Anaheim, where Ben still lives. One of our nephews lives across the courtyard in the same condo complex, and the other lives in Montana in the summer home they built 35 years ago, and where Ben still spends summers.
We had decided to travel in our bicycle carrier this year, which only has two seats, because we thought Ben had a car we could use to take him places during our visit. We were a bit disappointed to find the vehicle was not running, and our nephew apparently not interested in getting it running, as he disapproved of his 92-year-old father driving in the city (as do we, if truth be told–we don’t even like driving in heavy traffic anymore, ourselves). Ben does have friends that pick him up for his bowling league days, and his daughter-in-law sometimes takes him to his medical appointments, so it wasn’t a problem for the first few days: I did take him to an appointment once, in the truck, and we took advantage of his bowling days to go bike riding.
Except, when we suited up in our bicycling kits and went out to go riding, we discovered our truck, with the bicycle inside, was missing. We quickly discovered that, though we had a parking permit in the car, I had failed to hang it back on the mirror after an outing, and the condo complex towing service had confiscated our vehicles. We got our nephew to pick us up on his lunch break and take us to the impound yard in Orange, where we ransomed the rig for $265 US, approximately equal to our fuel budget to get home. We did drive to our planned riding venue, on the opposite side of the city, and managed to burn off our frustration and anger in a 28-km dash down one of the concrete-lined waterways that drain the Los Angeles basin, most of which have bike paths on the tops, with ramps under the cross-street bridges. As with most, the Coyote Creek drainage had a peppering of homeless camps under the bridges, but not as many as some of the areas. The creek joins the San Gabriel River and follows it to the sea at Seal Beach.
The next bowling day, we drove south to Huntington Beach and rode the bike trail along the beach, for a 25-km flat run. Since the beach is obviously multi-use, with many pedestrians and rental bikes, there is a speed limit of 25 km/hr (which we easily exceeded with a slight tail wind), dropping to 8 km/hr when pedestrians are present, which is, on our long tandem, close to “stall speed,” and actually less safe. We managed to avoid serious conflicts and, since it was still winter, with low traffic, the beach police were not in evidence and we didn’t get any speeding tickets. The return run was against the wind, so keeping under the speed limit was not a problem, though the afternoon had warmed enough so the pier area was a bit more crowded with strollers, walkers, and rental bikes and quads, prompting some fancy maneuvering in lieu of slowing to tip-over speeds. We had put on such a long face when we arrived at the state park parking lot and were told the entry fee was$15 US that, upon inquiry as to whether there was a discount for elderly cyclists who only wanted to take a short ride on the beach, the ranger waived the fee altogether (possibly because he did not offer us the senior rate in the first place).
Frustrated in our plan to take Ben on outings, we took a risk and used the sleeping platform as a rear seat, sans seat belts, and went to a few of the local malls in search of lunch out, returning without incident. However, by the end of the day, I was feeling a bit out of sorts. Not long after we had arrived, I decided to consult one of the local walk-in clinics about my back issues, having pulled a muscle manhandling the bike when we stopped to ride in Yuma the week before. This seemed reasonable, since our health provider in Washington was now part of the California conglomerate. Except, it wasn’t. I had to get a separate account number, etc. After filling out the paperwork, we grabbed a couple of face masks and sat in the busy waiting room.
Of course, the back problems subsided, so there was no groaning or grimacing when I was examined, and range of motion tests were not at all convincing, since I have practiced yoga regularly for the past eight years and have a better range than I did when I was 20. I left with the advice to simply increase the dosage of the anti-inflammatory I take for my computer-usage-induced arthritic hands for a couple of weeks, which was fine. But, despite having worn face masks in the waiting room, I somehow contracted “what’s going around,” upper respiratory crud. We had planned to depart on Sunday anyway, and explore parts of California we hadn’t been to, like Death Valley, and spend a few more days getting home, but, after spending most of Saturday sleeping, we decided to head directly home, rather than camping and visiting more relatives and friends on the way.
We stayed overnight in Sacramento, at the same motel we stopped at on our way south last year, east of the city, so we took secondary roads north rather than drive back through the city in Monday rush hour. This put us close to the Oroville Dam, famous for the spillway failure during last year’s heavy rains, so we took a side trip to the visitor center, the dam overlook areas themselves still closed during the repairs. This was a delightful surprise, as the center features a history and display of the native people as well as of white settlement and the construction and failure of the dam.
We continued north, reversing our route of last year, staying at the same motel in Medford, Oregon, then stopping at Green Gear Cycles in Eugene, where our Bike Friday tandem was built, to check out their new E-bike conversion program. We could convert ours for a reasonable cost, which supposedly would make it possible for us to ride farther and up steeper hills again, but the cost might not be reasonable for this fiscal year: we’re still recovering from last year’s expenses. So, we left with some ideas of whether we wanted to do that and when, and, in keeping with our proclivity to avoid freeways, took old 99(W) to McMinnville and then to Hillsboro and down to the Columbia. By this time, I had overextended my feverish condition, so Judy took over at Scapoose and drove the rest of the way home. Since we had not planned to be home quite so soon, it wasn’t too much of an effort to hunker down and stay home until the virus passed. Fortunately, Judy did not contract it.
All in all, our expedition this winter was not as satisfying as it could have been. We encountered the usual run of bad weather, so unpredictable in winter, so our lodging costs were higher than we had planned. It simply wasn’t a good time to visit. We missed seeing three of the great-grandchildren because they were either working or visiting other grandparents. Several families were going through difficult relationship issues, so our presence was an unnecessary complication rather than a joyful family reunion. The weather became a factor that reduced the number of bike rides we took, so taking the camper van and bike with the low fuel efficiency combined with staying mostly in motels anyway meant the rides were expensive. We’ve always bristled at the permanent checkpoints scattered across the southern regions of the country, well within the borders, and this trip, we encountered most of them. Illness while traveling is never fun, and it changes plans. We’re trying to fill our our bucket list, so there aren’t that many opportunities to put missed targets back on the list for another year. Staying with Ben at his “winter home,” we had no Internet access, even through our phones, as there was no WiFi and poor cell signal. One day, we went to the Anaheim Public Library, but the access there was disappointingly slow.
On the bright side, we got to see our new great-great-granddaughter and meet our great-grandson’s new family (even though he was not available, being at work). We did have four bike rides, adding more than 100 km to our total for the year and keeping us ready to ride more as the weather improves at home. Our van ran smoothly, justifying the expense last year to get it “expedition ready,” as it survived a second long trip without incident, though we have since had to replace the radiator and hoses during routine maintenance, another expensive repair to ensure continued reliability.