Wine Tour, Day 1
Toast and eggs, thanks to Jon, and a chilly start to the day.
I had originally planned on what was apparently a boring road that parallels the main highway in the area, and on Jon's recommendation, took another road instead. Much more quiet, much more scenic, a gently rolling, well-shaded road past endless vineyards (I would see a lot of those today). Found myself in the small town of Healdsburg around 10:30 in the morning. Jon had recommended getting lunch at a brewpub there, and noted that they brew some fantastic beers. But they didn't open until 11:00 AM. I wanted to try some wine at some point today (and adding beer on top of that wouldn't be smart), and I wanted to eat some of the food I packed, just to lighten my load. And it was going to be a long day, so minimizing stops would be a good idea.
The final destination for the day was...Santa Rosa. Today I was making a gigantic loop all over wine country. I had wanted to stay in Napa or Sonoma instead, but couldn't find a WarmShowers host at either one, so this is what my plan became. And it would be over 100 miles of riding. At least it was the flattest day of the three.
Heading out of Healdsburg, I turned to the southeast and eventually made my way up and over one of the only major hills of the day. Should be all smooth and flat after this, and slightly downhill. I stopped in Calistoga for a snack and moved onto the Silverado trail, a more bike-friendly road that parallels the main highway and has nice, wide shoulders. Set my mind on easy riding.
While there were no real hills, the Silverado trail had almost nonstop inclines and declines, situated at the edge of the valley, snuggled up against the hills. Had I stayed on the main highway, it would've been much flatter, but most likely a lot less pleasant, with all the traffic. Even the Silverado Trail had much more traffic than I anticipated. Probably a lot of folks from the San Francisco area that had the same idea I did for Labor Day weekend, only with a car.
In St. Helena, I stopped into a winery, Velo Vino, owned by the Clif family (yep, the same one as the granola bars). They'd recently done an event at Google, and a co-worker told me they were nice people, had good wine, and were into biking, so they'd probably be interested in what I was doing. I got the cheaper tasting, only three wines, but they slipped me a fourth. Back on Freebird. Whoo...glad I didn't have any more! Doing that much riding gives you the tolerance of a three-year-old. But it also makes you sober up quickly. 20 minutes later, it was like nothing had happened.
By the time I hit the city of Napa, I already felt worn out. My legs were mostly going through the motions, but were able to keep going, for the most part. Had to ride through the majority of the town, then climb over a tough hill to get out. And now just 25 miles pointed west, and I'm back in Santa Rosa.
The wind had picked up, in a big way. Probably about 20 mph, gusting to 25-30. It had been completely still in the morning, and was barely noticeable in the early afternoon. But now, it was a gale. For the second day in a row, I had to fight strong headwind in the afternoon, after receiving no benefit early on. It took hours. And the fact that there were a solid amount of hills to climb didn't help. Nor was I happy that I had to ride on busy roads from now on. I kept seeing limos and couldn't figure out why. It finally dawned on me that people pay to do what I'm doing, but in limos. I'd seen that a guided bike tour through wine country costs in excess of $1,000. Here I am doing it for free. I don't even want to think about how much it costs in a limo.
In any case, the wind, the hills, the noise, the traffic, the fact that my legs were already near exhaustion from the previous 75 miles. I was unhappy for about three hours. I may have screamed a few words that would disappoint my mother.
For the last five miles or so, I was lucky enough to be on a road that pointed due north. Not that it put me in the tailwind, but a cross wind was manageable. To think that I was grateful not for help, but for merely not-complete-misery. Those last five miles turned out to be up a slow, steady incline, but it didn't even feel like it. It felt like I was moving fast and easy. Goodness, just imagine if I had tailwind...
I arrived at my hosts', outside of Santa Rosa on a ranch with horses. They warmly welcomed me inside and immediately pointed me towards the shower. Had a great home-cooked meal and talked with them for a while. Vic had long been into cycling and was a professor at the nearby university. Once or twice, he mentioned going to grad school in 1963. He looked about my dad's age (63), but couldn't be if he was in grad school when my dad was in middle school. He had to be at least ten years older. Good for him!
Another evening of friendly hosts, good food, and a comfortable bed to sleep on. Hard to beat that. Turning into a good tour, headwind notwithstanding.