A Circle around Healdsburg

We stayed  at the Belle de Jour Inn in Healdsburg. Run by the hospitable Tom and Brenda Hearn, it is located up a short hill a little way out of the center of Healdsburg. The grounds and the buildings are meticulously maintained, and the experience of eating breakfast in their lovely house is delightful. We would happily stay there again.

The morning after we arrived, we set off on our Healdsburg ride. Parking in a shopping center lot just off of Mill St., we turned right on Mill St. which becomes Westside Road. Shortly after we passed under the freeway we were surrounded by vineyards..

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We made a right turn on West Dry Creek Road, which we followed for about five miles. Freshly washed by heavy rain the previous night, the vineyards were gorgeous. The road does not have a bike lane, and although it is fairly wide, I was not altogether comfortable riding here. The landscape consists of rolling hills that are fun to ride, however. It was with some relief that we reached Lambert Bridge Road, where we turned right. From this point on the road was wider, and we both felt safer riding.

We stopped at the venerable Dry Creek Store for coffee, where we sat on the front porch to watch the people passing by. A huge tour bus drew up with all young people aboard, who went in to buy sandwiches for lunch. We surmised that it must have been a wine tasting excursion.

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After we left the store, we followed Dry Creek Road back into town, turning off of it to ride through some neighborhoods to get back to the central square in Healdsburg. After much debate, we chose to eat at The Charcuterie, nabbing the last table. This was a wise decision. It was a great day and a thrilling way to celebrate our 56th wedding anniversary.

 

Exploring the Joe Rodota and West County Trails

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I had long heard about the Joe Rodota and West County Trails, so on our way to a getaway for our fifty-sixth wedding anniversary, we sought these out. The directions and parking instructions in the Rail Trails West were excellent. We parked at Wright and Sebastopol Rds. and set out toward Sebastopol under a sky threatening rain. However, we were lucky; it did not rain. This section of the path was pretty in some spots with friendly people who greeted us as we rode along. My favorite vistas were over the meadows.

Meadow along the Joe Rodota Trail

Meadow along the Joe Rodota Trail

A Friendly Woman with her Dog Hopper

A Friendly Woman with her Dog Hopper

Reaching Sebastopol, we again followed the  directions in the book Rail Trails West to reach the West County Trail. This was a convoluted route that took us through some rather scary noontime traffic in downtown Sebastopol. But the bucolic scenery on this path made our efforts worthwhile. We rode for a ways until we decided to head back to look for some lunch. The place we chose was a true disappointment, but we did fuel up enough to ride back the way that we had come.

Along the West County Trail

Along the West County Trail

* Note: Joe Rodota was the first mayor of Windsor and the driving force behind the development of the Sonoma County park system.

Livermore’s Isabel Ave. Trail Open—Sort of

This post is a plea for the City of Livermore and other cities to post information about their trails on their web sites. The Isabel Ave. Trail has been closed for months while the work on widening Isabel Ave. (Hwy. 84) has been carried on. We have been parking next to a nearby park when we wanted to ride the Stanley Blvd. Trail to Pleasanton. Yesterday  finding no info on the internet, we decided to turn on to Jack London Blvd. to check out the trail again.

Lo and behold it was open at Jack London Blvd., with no warning signs. However, when we approached the junction with the Arroyo Mocho Trail, we saw a chain link fence ahead. There was a small space where it was possible to walk a bicycle through, and some other cyclists told us that we could get through to Stanley Blvd.  They failed to alert us, however, to obstacles ahead. There are a couple of patches of gravel and other debris that required us to walk our bikes, and there are also two rather dangerous lips where the level of the trail changes. But we did get through all right, and coming back we were ready to exercise caution at these places.

The Stanley Blvd. Trail now is a good one, and with the poppies in bloom alongside it, we had a pleasant ride yesterday.

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Livermore’s Stanley Blvd. Trail

An Idyllic Day in Calistoga

Washington Ave. Path

Washington Ave

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After a busy week, it is nice to reward ourselves with a day spent doing our favorite things, which in our case is cycling, eating, and browsing in bookstores. For this ride, we parked in a corner of the Clos Pegase parking lot, which is quite near the Washington Ave bike path in Calistoga.  At the beginning of this path, there are beautiful trees hung with moss which give the area a swampy look.  The path leads straight into the middle of Calistoga, where there is a farmers’ market on Washington Street on Saturdays. It is a pleasant scene, but no where near as complete as the markets that we are used to in the SF Bay Area. However, we did manage to buy a few items.

Calistoga Farmers'  Market

Calistoga Farmers’ Market

From Washington St. a left turn on to Berry St. and a right on Cedar takes us on a short path that runs through interesting neighborhoods and following the map above eventually to the Silverado Trail in a gorgeous landscape bursting with growth on this day late in winter.

A short way down the Silverado Trail on the right is the Solage resort with the Michelin starred Solbar restaurant. Since this is California, we were able to eat out in the sun on this lovely March day. My husband and I split all our plates, starting with a beet salad dressed with an avocado Green Goddess dressing and followed by sliders, and all topped off with a cocoanut concoction for dessert.  Good food in a pleasant setting with amiable service!

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After lunch we returned to downtown Calistoga to browse in Copperfield’s Books and then returned to our car on the Washington Ave. bike path, the whole trip about ten easy miles.

Around the Town of Sonoma

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

Yesterday, Presidents’ Day, we set off in two cars for the lovely Sonoma area. Parking behind the state park, we unloaded our bikes and took the paved path west toward Maxwell Farms Regional Park passing the home of General Mariano Vallejo,  a state historic landmark, on the way. We circled through the park and then stopped for coffee at a Starbucks in a shopping center just south of the park. We headed back along the path, this time going east past the old railroad depot and the cute small restored houses near it.

As the path discontinues, the scenery becomes more rural with vineyards on one side and the Sebastiani Winery on the other.  Lovall Valley Rd.  is slightly rough but suitable for cycling because it is wide and not very busy.  At Seventh St., we turned right; this is a beautiful area with lovely homes in a quiet country setting.  We followed Seventh St. until we reached MacArthur East, where we again turned right. Then another right turn onto Second St. East took us back to the parking  lot and our car. Seventh, MacArthur, and Second are all streets without bike lanes, but they are fairly wide and quiet and we felt safe on them. I had checked them carefully on Google Earth, a handy resource for checking out proposed bike trips.

We met the shoppers in our party at The Centre du Vin in the Ledson Hotel for lunch. This restaurant in the old hotel is very pretty, and we found  the dining experience matched the antique luxury of the surroundings. A table for six had been set up for us by the fireplace, and we settled in for a fine meal with meticulous service. Several in our party started with French onion soup and it was pronounced to be excellent. Also worthy of note are the risotto croquettes and the chocolate mousse.

After lunch we split into groups for a bit of browsing in the shops around the plaza. I got to spend some special time with my teenaged granddaughter who has a real flair for fashion. All in all the whole day was a relaxing family outing.

The Diablo Valley Farmers Market

The Bustling Market

The Bustling Market

Yesterday we headed out to the Diablo Valley Farmers Market at North Wiget Lane and Mitchell Drive. Open all year, this market has grown into a fine collection of stalls with lots of reasonably priced organic produce.  Both sellers and buyers are friendly and polite, making for a pleasant shopping experience. This morning, we enjoyed some almond croissants (probably the best I have ever tasted) from the large bakery located near the back of the market. I think that this bakery is located in San Francisco, but I am unsure of the name.

Bakery

Bakery

As is our practice, we traveled to this market on our Dahons taking the Iron Horse Trail from downtown Walnut Creek and turning right on to the east Canal Trail. Despite the scarcity of rain this winter, the canal had quite a bit of water running through it. Another surprise was the new paving that we discovered  as we headed east on this previously rough path. After our stop at the market, we proceeded toward Mt. Diablo and turned right to climb the trail that becomes the Ygnacio Canal Trail.

View of Walnut Creek from the high point of the trail

View of Walnut Creek from the high point of the trail

Tunnel under Ygnacio Valley Road

Tunnel under Ygnacio Valley Road

The views from the top are spectacular in every season. We always talk with other cyclists huffing and puffing their way up as well as hikers heading out into the open space.  At the end of the ride along the ridge, there is a funky corrugated metal tunnel leading under Ygnacio Valley Road and then a pleasant down slope past the Boundary Oaks Golf Course and back along the small Ygnacio Canal full of ducks happily sailing by. Cutting through Heather Farms Park, we pedal our way back to Walnut Creek and a lunch at our favorite restaurant Va De Vi, where the service and the food are always first class.

A Sunday in Golden Gate Park

View to the south from the De Young Tower

View to the south from the De Young Tower

Although I knew that part of the park is closed to cars on Sundays so that cyclists, skaters, skate boarders, etc. can freely enjoy the park without vehicle traffic, I did not realize that on Sunday the 12th of January there was a half marathon. We had purchased tickets to the David Hockney exhibit at the De Young Museum, and we set out in two cars, planning to ride our bikes from the Dutch Windmill up to the museum. When we exited the freeway at Octavia Street, we noticed a lot of traffic, but as we entered the park the number of people was astounding. We threaded our way around the closed off part of the park only to be made to exit as we approached the beach.

We could find no way to the Dutch windmill where we were to meet our son and grandson. However, we found several parking places on 37th Ave. just off of Lincoln. Then followed an agonizing 45 minutes of cell phone communication with our son and grandson, trying to guide them to where we had found parking. They finally made it and we pulled out the bikes well aware that we were going to be late for our 11 o’clock entry to the exhibit. But we wended our way up on our bikes, tied our bikes to poles because the bike racks were full, and lined up to pick up our tickets. There was no problem raised about our being late although we were still a bit frazzled when we entered the exhibit. Our group was not unanimous in our opinion of the paintings, but I personally liked the many tree-lined paths through the woods depicted in Hockney’s works. These reminded me of a hiking trip that we did several years ago in the Cotswolds. Our grandson particularly liked the large iPad created scenes that filled one room.

Our lunch in the museum café was satisfying, and we were impressed by the efficiency of the staff in handling the large crowd of people. After lunch we headed for the Hamon Observation Tower where we were greeted by spectacular views without so many people pulsing around us that it was difficult to breathe. San Francisco was especially  clear so we could see long distances.

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After browsing some of the permanent exhibits, we headed back to the bicycles. We started out on John F Kennedy Drive but had to head over to Martin Luther King in order to get back to our cars. Here the car traffic was heavy, so after some discussion we rode on the asphalt path alongside the street. I have no idea whether this is legal, but we saw no signs forbidding it. However, at one point my three companions were ahead of me and I politely asked a man walking two dogs if I could get by him. He moved over, but he swore at me, calling me filthy names and threatened to push me off my bike. Perhaps he had been hit by a cyclist at one time or perhaps he was just crazy, but it was a scary experience, one that cast a shadow over the day. All in all this was a day that we will long remember. It was a difficult day, and we will never go to Golden Gate Park on Sunday again, but there were some high points in the day that we relished.