Like in my Mallorca trip recap, I'm not going to bore you with all the details stating "day one I did this, day two I did this", instead I'll give you an overview of stupid little things I noticed (I notice a lot of stupid little things and somehow seem to store them away) and highlights so that if you find yourself in the area, and I hope you do, you'll have a basic place to start planning.
|Such a beautiful ride into Soda Canyon|
Quirky things I've noticed regarding my time in this part of CA:
-Don't rely on maps or road signs. I consider myself really good at reading or figuring out both. I got lost multiple times. Road signs are either difficult to read, are hidden behind bushes/trees (I can't say how common this is) or are just non-existent. Roads also change names like crazy. This is one spot I'd suggest having a GPS!
-Produce is NOT less expensive here. No matter what you think about CA as being the produce state, I found all groceries to be at least 30% more than in WI...sometimes twice as much.
-Roads rarely have shoulders and are often winding with low visibility. They still consider these roads "bike safe" and have signs everywhere saying "Share the Road". I was super nervous at first but found folks to be very good drivers and kind to cyclists even if they were going 10mph over the speed limit.
-People don't own shovels here. What a novel idea.
-Cashiers are nice and chat with almost everyone. Wait, I take that back, almost everyone is nice and talks to everyone. Folks, this isn't the East coast or the Midwest.
-I'm really weird about scents. They take me to the last place I encountered a similar smell. For some reason I kept thinking I was in Montana (baked pine scent), then Spain (olive trees and Eucalyptus), then France (bakery and vineyards), and finally Mexico (Mexican laundry detergent).
|Part of the Wednesday Eagle Cycling Group!|
|Getting our bikes--Jay was great!|
If you're wanting a "come to jesus" ride, and who doesn't, I'd suggest doing a loop over to Sonoma and then take Cavedale road up to the top--taking a right onto Trinity and then Dry Creek. Why not? You only live once! Please note Cavedale is bumpy--really bumpy and it's 7.5-16% grade almost the entire 7 miles. If you want a smoother climb, stick to Trinity on both sides. Have fun!
If you want climbing without the passing out or puking part, might I suggest Redwood Road (one of the prettiest climbs I've ever done), Mt. Veeder (from either direction), or Soda Canyon (although this one is pretty nasty for the last 1.5 miles)
|Biking on Redwood Road--named that for a reason|
|One of the many beautiful views from Cavedale road|
|Hiking in Mt. Hood Regional Park|
|Hiking in Point Reyes|
|Hiking in Muir Woods--if you can, follow the canopy trail into Tampalpais|
|This area isn't just about wine--Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma|
|Hope and Grace Wines...one of the best Pinot Noirs I've had|
Okay, so I live in the cheese state. Why would I want to tour creameries or buy cheese here? For one thing, this area has some mighty fine goat and sheep's cheese. If the names Cowgirl Creamery, Laura Chenel, or Point Reyes Blue don't ring a bell--I'd suggest your tummy and taste buds get to know them intimately.
Aside from all the biking, hiking, eating and drinking we did, I did use my time to learn about a couple of really cool things regarding wine making in the area and bicycle advocacy. I know all of this may bore you to sleep, but maybe you'll find it as interesting as I did.
Wine stuff: All of this information is about Napa Valley. Sonoma, Russian River and Alexander also have strict standards but they may be different in a few small ways. First, all vineyards MUST produce all of their own irrigation water through either reservoirs or springs. They cannot use any water from the aquifers--good thing too since CA is in it's 5th or 6th year of severe drought. Many of the vineyards are going biodynamic or organic--yay!!! 80% of the Napa Valley land cannot be used for agriculture. I noticed a ton of signs marking spaces as land trust or reserve. Might be why I also saw a ton of egrets, herons and hawks. Finally, I used to complain heavily about the jacked up abv (alcohol by volume) on CA wines--the reds often hit 15.5% and the whites 14. I wasn't always that way, they used to pick the grapes a bit before they were completely ripe to have more of an Old World style wine. After a decade or two, they decided to let the grapes mature completely to bring out more fruit flavor. Some vineyards choose to add a bit of water to their high abv wine to take the burn off (some would consider this sacrilege where I compare it to opening up a fine whiskey with a bit of water).
Bike stuff: Napa's Bicycle Coalition (their advocacy group) was essentially formed many years ago by five guys who like to ride and would get together afterwards to drink wine and talk about what needed to change in the valley for cyclists. After realizing they were just preaching to the choir, they decided to form an actual group with board members and an executive director. One thing led into the next and now they are on their third executive director and have 7-8 board members as well as advisory members. They work on projects like helping get commuter trails and lanes in, holding bike rodeos for kids, putting on cycling events for adults and educating both cyclists and drivers alike. Recently, the "three foot passing law" just passed in California because of work done by groups like this. One of the advisory members told me the Napa/Sonoma area isn't that big of a biking as folks would think (nowhere near Davis, Point Reyes, San Fransisco etc). His thought is that it's because of the lack of colleges or universities near by.
I can't quite explain what a wonderful surprise this trip has been. I didn't know what to expect coming into it--but I sure didn't expect to fall so madly in love with this area and the its residents. You can bet this won't be my last voyage out here!
|One of the things I love about CA...old cars and Airstreams|
|One of the many cool pieces in the Hess museum|
|Hiking in Tamalpais Park, looking over the bay|