Monday, September 8, 2008

The perfect Wine Country cycling weekend

Let me just start off by saying this was a great weekend for cycling in the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa counties. The weather, the sites, the smells (more on this later), and the people I rode with, turned the rides into near magical moments. It doesn't really get any better then this.

On Saturday, I went out with Pat for what has to be the quintessential Sonoma County Wine Country experience. We left from his house, which made it an 80 mile loop, but you could easily do this ride from Healdsburg and shorten the loop to around 50 miles. The loop took us first through Alexander Valley and then into Dry Creek Valley, which are both world-renown grape growing regions.

We rolled at 6:15 a.m. to beat the heat and traffic. The weather was perfect. If you have never spent time in Sonoma County let me explain our summers. The days are typically in the 80's while the nights normally cool off into the mid to low 40s. There is often a marine layer, basically high fog, that also keeps things very cool and sometimes very wet. Since we always leave early, this means even our summer rides start with arm warmers and wind vests. Not this Saturday. We did start with the arm warmers but left the vest at home as we started out at a balmy 61 and not a cloud in the sky.

Our trip through Alexander Valley was gorgeous. The "crush" has started so there is a lot of activity in Wine Country. Pat and I continued to ride and chat about how lucky we are to live were we do. Then we noticed we were moving at a pretty good clip. We kept up the pace, taking turns on the front, and just did a solid ride all the way up to Cloverdale. Along the way we passed a couple of wineries in full crush mode. I just love the bouquet of the crush. Something about the smell of one those wonderful little grapes on their to way to becoming wine. It's enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Cloverdale is small town USA. It's a cool little place that is coming into its own. On Saturday, they were having Cloverdale Days, which include a classic car show. So Pat and I cruise through all the cool cars being set up. I am not much of a car enthusiast but there were some cherry rides to look at as we rolled down Main Street. From Cloverdale we began to lift the pace once again and headed for Dry Creek Valley.

Getting to Dry Creek required climbing the small hill on Dutcher Creek Road. If you read my Fitness Journal blog this may sound familiar. This is road where I knew my attempt at the Terrible Two was over as I climbed it in the triple in 111 degree heat. On Saturday, big ring all the way as the temperature was a lovely 71. (Just a side note - I still can't believe that on the day of the Terrible Two the temperate was 40 degrees higher. No wonder I was struggling.)

Another gorgeous ride through Dry Creek Valley that would have been uneventful except for one thing. We gunned down and dropped 4 tractors. As we were riding, we were slowly gaining on these tractors carry trailers full of grapes from the vineyards. We catch the first one on a small roller and Pat starts to settle in behind it and draft. However, I am feeling a little frisky, so I simply shout "Drop 'em!!!" So as Pat accelerates, I come out of the saddle and immediately think "what the hell was I thinking?" We pass the first tractor and catch the second. Pat pulls in behind it and we draft for 15 seconds, take 5 deep breaths, and go again. We catch the third and fourth tractors the same way. But once we dropped all four we had to keep going. I mean, you can't drop someone like that and then let them re-catch you. If you are going to ride like that you might as well stick to 28 mile rides that end with a yoga class.

So enough about Saturday. The rest of ride was fine, except for my 2 flats, and we just kept riding hard to the local coffee shop. However, as we sipped our coffee, we were both feeling the day's efforts. Then we checked the numbers. We did 80 miles, with 2200 feet of climbing, in four and a half hours. I won't speak for anyone else but that's a good ride for me.

Sunday dawned with the same gorgeous weather and I headed out to town of Somoma to ride with 2 other friends. As soon as I started to pedal, I felt Saturday's efforts. My legs were dead. I spent most of the ride desperately trying to keep up and failing. I was constantly dropped and had to work hard to rejoin. Still ,it was a great ride.

There are 4 things that made Sunday a great ride despite my soreness and fatigue. First, we were riding in gorgeous weather through the Carneros wine region. Next, I was still spending time with friends, and ultimately I had a strong ride (I just couldn't keep up with their fresh legs). Finally, it delayed my trip to the laundromat (our kitchen remodeled includes the laundry room).

So there you have it. A perfect weekend of cycling in the Wine Country. I hope that whatever did this last weekend brought you the same beauty and joy.


2 Comment(s):

Sarah said...

Ha. Ha. Ha. I caught that 28 mile ride-yoga business. You're just jealous.


Sounds like I missed some good stuff! I can't wait to come join you guys soon.

David said...

ok... just catching up on these... "If you are going to ride like that you might as well stick to 28 mile rides that end with a yoga class."

what is that about??? yoga is part of the wine country experience!