After having our New Year’s Eve day ride cancelled because of serious family illness, it was with thankful hearts for a quick recovery that our small family cycling group of my husband, a son, our grandson, and I set off on Friday January 6th to ride from Yountville to Napa. It was cold but clear with water running briskly through the small creek alongside the trail. The path was practically deserted and except for a little mud at the beginning, clear of debris from recent storms. We rode down to Redwood Rd. in Napa, had coffee at a Starbucks there and then rode back. There are still about three intersections where the signal system has not been integrated with the trail, and one must use caution at these.
Using Open Table to make reservations for lunch, we decided on Brix in Yountville, which turned out to be a good choice. Although the menu was not as extensive as we remembered its being in the summer, we were all pleased with our choices: stroganoff, black-eyed pea soup, and duck confit salad. But the star of the show was the dessert that I ordered: s’mores, which came with chocolate graham crackers, squares of chocolate, house-made marshmallows, and a petite pot with a flame to roast the marshmallows. We each took a turn and had one s’more. It was a lot of fun as was the whole day except for the traffic going home.
Yesterday, we visited our grandson, who is a freshman at UC Davis. He gave us an extensive bicycle tour of the main part of the campus in the morning, plus a visit to downtown Davis and the farmers’ market. At noon we piled into the car to drive to Woodland for lunch at Kitchen 428 where we had a satisfying lunch in an interesting old building. We drove back to Davis on Hwy.98, a lovely country road.
Our grandson then led us to the west side of the campus, which is rural with some of the scientific sites reflecting the agricultural departments of the university. We stopped at a beautiful garden with plants that foster the increase in bee populations. And we walked along a nature preserve on the banks of the Putah Creek, a major stream in northern California that is 85 miles long. One of the last stops on our ride was in Davis’ magnificent arboretum. We did all of this on bicycle paths and quiet country roads, an outdoor adventure that was a magic antidote to the stresses of ordinary life in our busy SF Bay Area.
In the Bee Garden
Several pocket parks or parklets have been established along Iron Horse Trail between Danville and Dublin, and perhaps along other stretches where we have not traveled recently. These are attractive spots to stop to make a phone call, have a snack or drink of water, or effect some repair to one’s bicycle. They are a safe place to stop to avoid blocking this busy trail, and in our hot summers, they provide a bit of shade. This trail, which runs from Martinez to Pleasanton is a wonderful resource for our valley, and these new resting places are a welcome enhancement.
The Vine Trail, Napa Valley
A couple of weeks ago, we drove to Yountville and parked in the lot at Vintage 1870 as usual. But instead of taking our regular route to Rutherford and around, we checked out this new trail. Some people monitoring a bike event told us that although the trail is not officially open, it is all right to ride on it.
This is a beautiful trail, smooth and mostly flat. Just out of Yountville, the scenery is rural with fields, large trees, and vineyards. Other people are friendly and considerate. It is a safe ride until Oak Knoll, but just past there where the area becomes more urban with houses and businesses, there are three rather difficult crossings that have not yet been signalized for the path. It might be better to ride on the street rather than on the trail at the first difficult crossing. We rode as far as Trancas and Redwood Rd., where we had coffee at the Starbucks just off of Redwood Rd. and then turned around and rode back. It was an charming ride of about 12 miles.
Spit at Otis Perkins Park
Last summer we visited Lopez Island and felt very much at home there. This summer our older son rented a house there for two weeks.It was in a remote part of the island and was not too comfortable. My husband and I rented Condo 5 in Lopez Village, which turned out to be most satisfactory. It was well equipped, light, and airy. We were only able to rent this condo for three nights, so we spent the fourth night at the Edenwild, the charming bed and breakfast owned by the amiable Anthony and his wife Crystal. Since we had stayed there last year, we were treated like old friends this year.
In fact, Lopez is not the best place in the world for our favorite hobby of bicycle riding because the roads are narrow, some have little shoulder, and there are more than a few hills. However, even people of our skill level can successfully ride there. The traffic is light and the people are friendly; waving to greet those one encounters is part of the island culture.
Spencer Spit State Park
This year, we did two bicycle trips in the four days we were there, one to Otis Perkins and another to Spencer Spit State Park, in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca, where we ate a picnic lunch while absorbing the glorious views and trying to avoid the persistent bees. On the way to the park, we stopped at the historic sight of Port Stanley School. The ride to this destination was peaceful and bucolic with attractive farms along the way.
Port Stanley School
Our last full day on the island, we spent driving around to see some of the interesting spots that we missed last year. My husband’s great grandparents lived on the island, and some of his ancestors are buried in the churchyard by Center Church, a beautiful old church with a graveyard in the most peaceful spot I have ever seen. Our family of seven spent a long time looking for relatives and absorbing the serenity of the spot; even our teen-aged grandchildren were fascinated by this place. We followed this stop with a satisfying lunch at the Southend General Store and Restaurant and then a visit to the library and the local museum. Lopez Island is like a bit of England transferred to Washington State. It is a wonderful place, marred only by the necessity of depending on the ferry for arriving and departing.
Staying at the Ashland Hills Hotel, we found it a bit of an uphill ride to get over the freeway and up to the main street of Ashland, Siskiyou Blvd., but once there we enjoyed a long coast through this attractive little town. Then turning on Third St., we rode down to the Central Bike Path, which we accessed behind Noble Coffee Roasting. This path is well used by locals, and while it does not have outstanding scenery, it does run along some parks and an old cemetery, which at my age I like to ride past. When we returned to Ashland St., we stayed on the path and circled around to access the street further along, making our return ride a bit easier. We did this ride on the morning of the second day of our recent trip to Lopez Island in Washington, and coming back, we repeated it to go to the Ashland Food Coop between A St. and B St. to buy lunch supplies for our trip home. While this is not a long ride, it does get the blood circulating in the early morning.
Also during this stay in Ashland, we ate dinner at the Peerless Hotel Restaurant both going up and coming back. This is in an interesting old hotel with a wonderful restaurant, serving novel delicious food such as lobster potato skins and carrot cake with pea ice cream. Despite many trips to Ashland, we had never stayed at the Ashland Hills Hotel before, nor had we eaten at the Peerless; we consider both real finds. The hotel is not within walking distance to town, but it is beautifully renovated with large, airy rooms and the prices are more reasonable than most of the closer-in accommodations. We will visit both of this places on our next trip to Ashland, whether we are just passing through or stopping to see some plays.
My husband and I spent Memorial Day riding the Arroyo Mocho Trail to Concannon Blvd. with a return on the Isabel Avenue trail. It was a glorious day with lots of people about, in a holiday mood, obviously enjoying themselves. We were greatly surprised to see the usually dry arroyo full of water, looking almost like a river. However, it was a great pleasure to ride along the trail with water bubbling close by. In fact, it was almost like riding along the Truckee River.
Some of the Livermore natives informed us that the water comes from faraway sources to recharge the groundwater. I found an explanation at this link. Where the trail passes under Stanley Blvd. there was about three inches of water covering the path. I wanted to go cross at the signal on the road, but my husband proved that the water was not too deep by walking his bike through it. Since I had on shoes with open tops, I rode my bike–it was sort of a splashy thrill.
We had wonderful water views such as the one above all the way to Concannon Blvd., where Livermore assumed its usual dry but attractive aspect with lovely homes among the vineyards. And as is a custom with us, we finished our adventure with a lunch at Garré Winery.