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Traveling with Charlie

Life in the Bike Lane

Tom Frady

A couple of weeks ago my riding posse had stopped to regroup at the corner of Rocklin Road and Pacific, in Rocklin. While we were waiting, another cyclist rode up. I will call him “Charlie” (because that was his name).

Charlie was a mature man, albeit not as mature as us. Grey hair, no helmet, no gloves and riding an inexpensive flat-bar bike, with a loaded milk crate behind the saddle and plastic shopping bags hanging from the handlebars. I think he was wearing sandals. And, oh yeah, towing a trailer piled high with tarps, a tent, various packs and cans of food.

He said the whole apparatus weighed 280 pounds (where would he get that weighed?). By comparison, we were all on road bikes weighing about 23 pounds, including water bottles, tools and extra tubes. I guess where’s there’s a wheel, there’s a way.

Charlie was lost, or at least he didn’t know exactly where he was. He was looking for a Greyhound Bus station. He was too tired to “cross the Sierras” and hoped to load his rig on public transportation.

Even if you know your way around, and we do, it’s hard to tell a stranger how to get from one town to another via streets and bike paths. As it so happened, our pre-planned route was taking us most the way to downtown Roseville.

So off we went. Four cyclists dressed in bright jerseys and Lycra shorts (and helmets) and Charlie. The route is perfectly flat, a combination of suburban streets with stop signs and the Antelope Creek Bike Trail. We would normally ride at a minimum of 10 mph in this area. Charlie rides at about 3 mph.

We took turns riding with Charlie, down Rocklin to 3rd St, on to Springview and then the trail. The trail ends on Berry at Galleria/Hardin. After 3.7 miles, this is where we left Charlie, refilling his water bottle, giving him an energy bar, a little money and directions (go down Berry to the stop sign, turn left, cross the tracks, etc.).

Charlie was very appreciative.

We were about 15 miles from home, which gave us time to put Charlie’s story, or at least part of it, together. We each had bits of information because we each rode with him for a short distance. Putting it together was like a team building exercise at a corporate retreat.

He had been on the road for 20 months, starting from Texas (we think) and had most recently been in the Bay Area (we think). We weren’t sure why he had to get over the Sierras. Even with fresh legs, pulling that trailer over the hill would have been difficult, especially because a storm had just dropped about 10 feet of snow.

He is a “master” (he said) in the construction trade, but couldn’t find work, which we found strange, what with all the construction going on. Apparently, Charlie is non-union, which is (apparently) a barrier to any one rolling up on a bicycle pulling a trailer, looking for work.

He told us his first bike had been stolen and had to buy the cheap one he was riding. Much of his gear had been taken, too.

Charlie (if that’s his real name) says he’s going to write a book about his adventures. I gave him a “Lincoln Hills Cyclists” card so he will remember to include a chapter about us.

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