My ride today started and ended at Wine Country Cyclery in the town of Sonoma. Jeffrey and Matthew played the roles of gracious host and uber-mensch, allowing me to park in their lot, use their changing room, fill my bottles with water and tires with air. In short, the shop proved to be an excellent location from which to start and finish a great ride.
I pulled into Sonoma at about 10am, drawn to the town center in need of coffee and a place to change clothes. As it was mid-week in autumn, parking was not overly competitive and my Honda found a nice spot right in front of the Sunflower Caffe and Wine Bar. Too early in the day to enjoy the locally corked libations, I heeded my need for caffeine and ordered a very tasty soy latte to go. The first few sips were enjoyed whilst lazily window shopping along the perimeter of the town square. But, once that latte was no longer precipitously full and down to a safe driving level, I got back in my car and sought this particular cyclist’s equivalent of Clark Kent’s telephone booth.
It took no time at all to locate the ideal spot to change clothes and ready myself for riding. Wine Country Cyclery is about a block and a half west from the Sonoma Town Square and is clearly visible from the street. All signs bode well for this Bianchi lover. Not only was the shop proudly displaying the Bianchi colors, but, believe it or not, the shop shares a parking lot with the Grazia Bianchi Salon.
Once inside, the shop revealed itself to be an open, inviting and well stocked store. Jeffrey attentively made me feel welcome. We chatted a bit and then I continued to look around, soaking up the environment. I was glad I had chosen this spot to get ready, in part because of the nice Bianchi bikes they have hanging, but also because I just needed a few things, like a CO2 cartridge and some energy food. And, of course, they had what I needed.
While looking around, I spied shoes from Sidi, a great pedal selection, a very neat GoPro camera and accessory display, as well as cool looking wheels and clothing. And yes, Bianchi bikes!
It was close to 11am by the time I suited up and hit the road. It had been nice to chat and visit the shop, but I was eager to pedal. In less than a block and a half, I was on a quiet road and was soon on a bike path heading to the edge of town.
Starting in Sonoma meant that the climb of Cavedale Road was readily accessible. The climb begins less than 4 miles from the start of the ride and I wasn’t exactly warmed up. Even so, Cavedale Road is epic cycling. The pavement is pretty bad, but there are very few cars. In the first half mile I saw two cars, but I didn’t see another car for the next 7.5 miles. The ascent of Cavedale Road tilts upward for about 5 miles before carving back down to an intersection at the top of Trinity Road.
A right turn onto Trinity Road and the smooth pavement is a refreshing change from the potholes and gravel that was Cavedale. There is a mile or so of virtually flat road before the VERY VERY twisty descent, which leads down to an elevated valley. As one passes the intersection of Trinity Road and Dry Creek Road, the road name changes from Trinity Road to Oakville Grade Road and from that intersection, there is a short climb on beautifully smooth pavement. As one reaches the 930 foot summit of this small climb, Napa Valley comes into full view over 800 feet below. With smooth pavement, fairly long straightaways and gradients in excess of 15%, the Oakville Grade invites speed. However, I recommend keeping it safe. Please don’t go too fast.
It doesn’t take long to plummet down to the numerous flat roads and smooth pavement of the valley. There were very few cars on Oakville Cross Road, making it a nice way to get across to Silverado Trail. The Trail has a wide shoulder, making it a seemingly ideal road for cycling, but there are a fair amount of cars. I get tired of the sound of passing cars, so I turned onto Yountville Cross Road and made my way to Yountville.
It was time for more coffee and a snack, so I stopped at the Yountville Coffee Caboose where I got an apple turnover and espresso. The pastry was really yummy and the espresso had just the right crema on top. Molto bene! It was only a quick stop. Then back on the bike, through town and onto Solano Avenue, toward Napa. While I was on Solano Avenue, I saw Jeff riding this nice Bianchi:
Solano Avenue isn’t the most inspired piece of pavement, but with a nice shoulder and surprisingly little traffic, it is a great way to get from Yountville to Napa. To make it more interesting, I turned onto Orchard Avenue to get over to Dry Creek Road.
The astute among you may recall that I mentioned Dry Creek Road earlier, while we were still up in the elevated valley, before the descent of Oakville Grade. If making a shorter loop is what you want, then sure enough, you could just head down Dry Creek Road from Trinity Road. You’d roll almost directly to the town of Napa.
From Napa, I dead reckoned my way around the western edge of town and over toward the Carneros region. The moment that Highway 12 is crossed, Duhig and Ramal Roads provide views that are a definite contrast to what is seen in Napa Valley. Napa Valley has more European scenery, twists and turns, hills with wineries and, of course, the mountains. The Carneros region, while still undulating, has just enough elevation to see vast expanses to the south and the San Pablo Bay. There is a stark and wind-swept beauty to it. And, perhaps because it is not in the heart of either Napa’s or Sonoma’s wine tasting spheres, there was very little traffic.
Back in the south-eastern outskirts of Sonoma, I made my way along under-utilized roads. On Burndale, Pearson and Hyde Roads, I saw no cars. I SHOULD have followed Hyde-Burndale Road to get closer to Denmark Street, because I ended up further along Napa Road than I wanted. But, no harm, no foul.
By the time I got back to the shop, my Garmin displayed 56 miles and 3,958 feet of climbing. The shop was alive and thriving at the time of my return, so I chose to duck out quietly, leaving them to help their customers. Thanks again to Jeffrey and Matthew for allowing me to use Wine Country Cyclery as my home base for the day. It ended up being a great day!
Here is a map of my route for October 11th