Mavis Stouffer Park. I then pop out the back gate of the park. I ride around to the front entrance of the Ripon side of the Ripon Recreation Area.
When entering the recreation area there is a sign that says “Ripon Recreation Area Stanislaus River Parks.” It is operated and maintained by the city of Ripon. On the side is says “US Army Corps of Engineers” I guess they help guide the city of Ripon in their maintenance? Underneath the sign is a little memorial for a police officer whose death was accidental. He died while patrolling the area on an ATV.
Past the signs to the left, are some trails that lead to a nice little beach area by the river. There are also two port-a-potties. I have never used these port-a-potties, but they look nice enough from the outside.
Going down the bike trail is fun. There is a decline down to the river, so I get to coast on my bike. I go past a tree that is blooming. It smells like a combination of B.O., onions, and cheap perfume. Once the decline is done, the grasslands fade and I come into a wooded area.
To my right of the wooded area is the underside of the freeway bridge that goes over the Stanislaus River. It is blocked off with a small barbed wire fence. There is some graffiti there, so I doubt the fence helps that much. The freeway bridge is green. There are multiple pillars holding up the bridge and the cars and people who cross over it. Even though the bridge isn’t some majestic golden gate-esque bridge, I sort of like it. If I squint my eyes, the pillars blend in with the tree trunks of the wooded area. There are some little trails going under the bridge, which seem adventuresome. Of course it is well shaded; I always think if there were any homeless people in Ripon, this would be a nice bridge to sleep under. If bridges are their sleeping preference…
To my left are more trails that lead to the river. There is a squirrel in the tree right next to me. There are multiple squirrels out today. The squirrels like to play a game of chicken with me. They run out in front of my bike and test my swerving/braking skills.
Up ahead is the bike bridge. It is green like the freeway bridge. But it is delicate compared to the freeway bridge. I much prefer the bike bridge because I can stop and gaze at the river as long as I want. The river is pretty high right now. In the summer I can see the bottom. In the summer, I also usually see young adults floating down the river on pool floaties, drinking beer.
From my vantage point if I look toward the Salida side of the river, I can see some blue tarps. It looks like someone has set up camp. I’m sure this is illegal. The Salida side is farm land, plus it says somewhere no overnight camping. Whoever set up camp was smart to do so on the Salida side. The Ripon police would surely arrest the campers right away. I’m not even sure if Salida has its own police force.
I’ve seen this compound, the past couple times I’ve crossed the river. I think maybe a homeless family might be staying here. It’s not like a regular camping set up. It’s well hidden in the trees. If the leaves were out, I wouldn’t even be able to see the hint of blue tarp. I think I notice it because I cross the bridge nearly every day. Even when it’s been raining the raised tarps are still there. Maybe it’s not a homeless family. Maybe it’s a boy scout. If it were a homeless family they could sleep under the bridge. Then again they would have to be on the Ripon side…
Once I get to the Salida side it gets pretty ugly. It used to be okay. To the left used to be almond orchards. Through the chain linked fence sunflowers would grow. A couple months ago, Danny and I were driving by and I noticed the orchard had been cut down. I was being goofy and yelled “TREE DOWN, TREE DOWN!” Now all the trees are lying on their sides. There is a sign advertising orchard removal. I wonder what will replace the orchard. Perhaps housing developers will take it over. I hope not. Maybe a new orchard will be planted. That would be the best. I think orchards are pretty. Well that would be second best, a field of wild flowers first.
To my right is more freeway. It’s rather loud as there are no trees to soften the noise. There is trash stuck in the chain link fence. The vehicles are traveling much faster than the 15 mph bikes are allowed to travel on the path. I don’t think I’ve ever reached that speed.
Once I get to the end of the path, there is a dead end road next to the Hammet exit. Truckers will park here at night to get some rest. There is a half full bag of toilet paper sitting on the side on the gravel. The entrance to what once was the orchard is there. It says no trespassing.
When I turn around it’s always more difficult of a ride. The wind blows from the west and makes my pedaling slow. Once I get back to the bridge I get excited. During the summer some of the trees shed cotton like substance. Maybe oak trees? I’m not sure. I remember learning about them on a field trip in elementary school that we took to Caswell state park. They are the same trees. The cotton like substance reminds me of winter in the summer. It sprinkles down like delicate snowflakes.
Today I saw a couple on bikes exiting a gate from the Salida side. The man had on a flannel and had a long beard. The lady had on an old letterman’s jacket. They had a baby carrier with them with no baby. The carrier had a lot of what looked like blankets in it. They had a dog, that I surely thought would chase after me on my bike, but didn’t. We exchanged smiles and hellos, as most people who are on bikes do. I think they may be the couple who are staying at the compound. I have never seen people leave the Salida side, unless it’s been farmers. Whether they are homeless or not, I like them. They have a good dog, the like bikes, and they smiled at me.
Once I get to the end of the bridge going back to Ripon, the steepest decline awaits. Some people walk their bikes down it. I don’t. I try and go as fast as I can. During the summer the cool wind feels amazing. I may actually be going 15 mph at this point. Myself, my bike, and my basket go as fast as a beach cruiser with a basket can go. I’m sure I look goofy with a big grin on my face, but I can’t help that I love the Ripon Recreation Area.