Extending Northern California’s Tourism Season

Day 9: Leaving the Coast

I’m sitting in my friend’s living room in San Francisco right now typing this.  I share this because just for fun I decided to see how many miles I’ve done since Ashland (the rain from the first day killed my computer’s battery and I haven’t replaced it yet).  Approximately 766 miles.  This doesn’t include side trips and backtracks.  And then add Portland to Ashland onto it.  Right on.

Okay, travelogue: Andre and I dreaded the predicted rain but still packed up and moved on.  It was very casual and beautiful.  The bridge was magnificent.  We wanted to go down below it to take pictures but the road down had a 14% grade.  Nope!  On the other side we got some coffee and talked to the locals about my route along 128 through Anderson Valley.  “Don’t go there,” one said.  “I had two friends all set to ride across the country and they both got killed on that road on their first day.”  Great.  “Cars don’t like it when you go on that road,” another said.  “The police bust people for crossing the double yellow line to get around all ya’.”  Well that doesn’t make any sense, punishing people for creating a safer road and increasing animosity between road users.  It started to rain so I put on my super bright yellow rain covers and we headed out down the 1.  At the 128 junction Andre and I said our goodbyes

Later dude

and parted.  Andre got into the idea of beekeeping while on the trip and was reading about how to start a colony.  In the book he read that there is a difference between loneliness and solitude, and that while there may be stretches where I am completely alone, I should strive to not be lonely and delve into myself and explore there.  I miss Andre.  He was a great friend and it was nice to have someone to share the trip with, especially someone with as many interests as Andre.  I must make sure that I remove myself from biking every once in a while and see what else the world has to offer.

After I ditched Andre it was yet another romp through redwoods.  No close calls, nothing.  Crazy car people thinking that every road on a bike is dangerous.  I came out of the forest and all of a sudden there were dozens of golden vineyards.  It was breathtaking.  On both sides of me brown hills shaded with short green trees rested above red and golden rows of dying grapevines.  Beautiful mansions and wine homes laid their claim to the land with fanciful placards and closed tasting room signs.  Until Husch.  I decided to go in there and try some wine and to my delight there were two other people in the room and we tried some Cabernet Sauvignon, a fancy reserve, a couple Gershwitzenderrwadjhgjvkadg’s (whatever, it’s wine), and a dessert wine.  There were all very delicious, especially the reserve one, but I can’t get into wine tasting.  Sorry Rod.  Rod and his friend passed me on the road and told me it was my bright yellow rain covers that brought me to their attention earlier on the road.  They were cool guys.  I met up with them later at Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville to try some beers.  A little background on the beer.  I’ve never been impressed by their beers, but by having a small amusement park at their brewery (full disc-golf course and they used to let campers camp), I was hoping to be impressed.  Nope.  While I sat at the bar poring over googlemaps trying to figure out where to camp I heard an interesting dialogue.  “Hey Burt, you want another beer?”  “Naw.  I heard CHP is in town.  Can’t be gettin’ too drunk tonight.”  CHP is California Highway Patrol.  It’s funny to hear that normally this is an appropriate thing to do.  Made me scared to get on the road.  I asked the locals where a good spot to camp was and they said either in the public rock yard or underneath the Fish somethingorother Road bridge.  Although it was 10 miles further, it was supposed to rain so I chose the bridge.

I was a little more drunk than I thought and I had a tough time getting over the hills and just feeling comfortable on the tight road overall.  I didn’t say this earlier, but while I didn’t have any close calls, 128 is the worst road I have been on yet.  Very tight, speeding cars and usually not even a foliage shoulder.  I scoffed a Snickers, handfuls of trail mix and three pieces of bread and I still felt tipsy.  It wasn’t until I found a tree and watered it that I felt safe enough to ride.  Now I know the secret.  I got to the bridge just before dark and found a cleared out turnaround with enough usable firewood for a whole winter.  There were a lot of bushed between space underneath the bridge and the clearing so I took off all of my gear and set up camp, leaving my bike unlocked beneath a tree and completely hidden from the road.  It was a mellow night of reading after dinner and what-with the drinking earlier I went to sleep very early.

After a good slumber I startled awake by a voice shouting, “Hey!  Thanks for the nice bike!” and a screeching car.  “What was that?!” I shouted back as an attempt to be intimidating and fumbled for my knife and headlamp.  I tried to put my shoes on when I realized that I couldn’t catch whoever it was anyway.  I laid down and tried to calm myself, telling myself it was all a dream.  Sure enough, it was.  I woke up the next morning and all was well.  But I think it is time to implement my security system.  A rope with a bell on it tied to my bike and my tent every night – it still hasn’t happened.  I still don’t even have a bell.

Day 10: Winin’ about the Absence of Hops

Had a hilly ride to get out of the Alexander and Anderson Valleys and ended up in Cloverdale of Sonoma County.  It was a killer switchback downhill.  When I was finished with it I pulled into an ice cream shop to get some coffee.  I wish I had taken some pictures of the place.  It was a tight but tall single round room full of bright blue and stained glass windows.  The owners were very nice.  We swapped some travel stories, they helped me plot a route out of town to Napa and let me borrow their cell phone to call my parents.  The guy even picked up the phone when my mom returned my missed call and handed me the phone.  It was great.  While talking to my mom I learned that I hadn’t needed to sleep under the bridge the previous night.  Apparently my aunt lives in the area.  G’damn.  Well I got out of Cloverdale and began another day through gorgeous wine

It must be awful to live in this house.

country.  But wine tasting wasn’t that appealing to me.  I really could try some beer though.  I’m really good at it.

I didn’t really do a bunch of stopping this day, just kept the pedal at the level and rode – After I wrote that I realized I lied.  I passed a winery with a really nice patio so I stopped to eat my lunch.  After asking for permission to do so, the owner asked me if I wanted a glass of wine.  I said no, realized it was rude and that I would have done it if it was beer so turned around and said yes.  He gave me a little tasting.  While I was trying to describe what I tasted I accidentally offended him by saying one of the wines tasted sweeter than the others.  Don’t do that.  Alright, back to your already typed travelogue. – It was just miles and miles of wine country.  I pulled into Napa and found a cool little coffeeshop.  The barista and a woman hanging out in the shop started talking to me about my trip and routes to take (the woman was a cyclist).  It was really fun.  I felt like part of the town.  They were both very friendly and we started talking about other stuff instead of bikes for a while.  I put my head down to my iPod and started emailing and

Fanciest PB&J ever.

stuff when all of a sudden the woman mentioned something about it raining.  Sure enough it was, and I didn’t have the cover on my seat.  I quickly said goodbye and headed off to my campsite.  Unfortunately it was another wet set-up.  Everything got soaked.  It was so wet outside I decided to be stupid and cook inside the vestibule of my tent.  I watched everything closely and constantly felt the tent to make sure it wasn’t getting too hot.  Everything was fine but as I cooked a giant insect came to inspect my warm, dry area.  The thing looked like a magnified pink and brown cricket and its butt, ohmigod, its butt was about as large

Every license plate from 1920something to the 70’s with the blue and yellow plates (that’s some good reporting, huh?)

as my thumb.  I couldn’t believe it.  I grabbed a stick and with much focused strength I was able to flip it.  It just lay there like it was dead and unappetizing.  I wondered if it got scared.  Was its heart racing like mine does when I hear some animal rustling outside my tent?  Is it waiting paranoid and spooked with shallow breaths like I do?  Is it serious?  Just because it looks dead, does it really think that its on-the-cusp-of-bursting-with-buggy-goop-goodness butt does not look appetizing to some hungry bird?

Day 11: Best Ride

Best ride is a funny thing to say.  The day started out wet.  I woke up and it was still raining hard.  But I had a long and tough day ahead of me.  60+miles and a whole lotta climbing.  I packed up everything in the rain and just as I popped onto my bike it stopped.  And it was mostly sunny the whole day.  I decided to cut a day out of my trip and go to Lake Berryessa instead of around it on my way to Davis.  This would eliminate a crappy suburb and would give me a much higher elevation gain.  It was totally worth it.  While it was tough, there was so much beauty.  Signs pointed to wineries and the roads leading there seemed to be heading into jungles, not vineyards.  Storm clouds rolled above me, but the sun shot them with super rays and kept me nice

Money might not grow on trees but it does on ceilings

and dry.  I was trapped in a steep ascent along a narrow valley filled with dense foliage and welcomed by warm sun on my back.  I stopped at a bar called Turtles.  I had been warned that although they advertise their eggrolls like they are crispy gold, not to get them so I had a cup of coffee instead and chatted with the bartender, Max, for a long time.  She was great.  We talked about cell phones and iPods (which I was using) and computers.  She definitely lived out in the middle of nowhere and was okay with it.  She didn’t need any of this newfound communication, friends at your fingertips, strangers in your history, invasion of privacy.  Some cool folks who came in to watch football bought me my coffee and all was good…until I went outside to continue riding.

Look at that

It was pouring down rain and the shoulder had disappeared, the climb got steeper, the cars drove closer and fallen rocks jammed my line.  All of a sudden it felt very dangerous.  But then the rain stopped, the climb rollercoastered, the cars filtered down, and the rocks stayed closer to the shoulder and all was good again.

As the day wore on I got tired of stopping to put on rain gear and then have it stop raining, to take them off and ride without them only to be greeted by rain again so I started just hiding under trees to let the rain go away.  A much better tactic.  The hills finally gave way to flat ground and a wilderness area called Putah Creek.  So many birds hanging out in large ponds.  Finally I was on the home, flat stretch to Davis and I was stoked.  My legs were tired from riding uphill all day and I was ready to have an early rest.  Wrong.  Once I got outside of Winters (where I bought fresh vegetables for dinner.  Ever heard of Chiyote?) a nasty headwind came out and ruined me.  On flat ground I was in my granny gear.  Unbelievable.  Instead of being mad I just laughed incredulously.

Well I got to Davis, and it was rad.  I will end up going back to Davis as well.  But in the interest of packing my gear so I can get out of San Francisco at a decent time and because I want to spend a long time writing up Davis, I will continue it later.

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