A bicycling environment–Solage Resort, Calistoga

My husband and I spent our anniversary weekend at Solage Calistoga, a fairly new hotel set in beautiful natural surroundings in Calistoga, California. The old trees have been preserved, and cottages in groups of three are spread throughout the grounds. Each cottage or suite comes with a pair of cruiser bicycles, provided with locks. We did not use these because we had our own bikes with us, but they are good bicycles. What really impressed us was that when we checked in, we were told to drive our car behind  the bellman on his bike as he led us to our accommodation. The bellman then hopped off of his bike and carried our luggage in for us. Also the maids and other personnel went about their tasks on bicycles. And it was amusing to see hotel guests with happy expressions cruising about on bicycles.

Cottage with bicycles

The lovely grounds

The Solbar Restaurant, a Michelin one star, at this hotel is a relaxed informal place with innovative fare. The prices are competitive with those of other quality restaurants in this part of California. My husband had a scallops and farro entree, and I had a chicken breast topped with beet puree, pea shoots, and pea puree. For dessert, I had a luxurious sundae with popcorn ice cream, peanut butter ice cream, nuts, and chocolate sauce. After all, it was our 52nd wedding anniversary.

Because this hotel is on the Silverado Trail, there are lots of riding options. Right after we arrived, we jumped on our bikes, turned right on the Silverado Trail, right again on Dunaweal Lane, and right on the Washington Street bike path, which led us to downtown Calistoga, where we purchased food to breakfast in our room the following morning. When we were finished with our shopping, we simply rode back up Lincoln Ave. to the Silverado Trail and a short lovely glide back to our room.

For anyone who likes to visit wineries, this is a perfect location. There are many within a short distance, both on the Silverado Trail and on the lanes leading off  of it.

The next day despite periods of drizzle we were able to work in two rides. In Yountville when the sky started to clear, we pulled the bikes out of the car and rode the bike lane of the frontage road that runs along the west side of Hwy. 29 for several miles. Returning along the same route, we lunched at Hurley’s in Yountville, a wonderful restaurant that has a two course luncheon special for $18. I had split pea soup and steak frites, and my husband had the same soup with a seafood risotto.  I must say that the split pea soup was the best that I have ever had.

After lunch we drove into St. Helena, parked on a side street and rode all over the residential area and part of the commercial area. It was fun to see the architectural mix of the homes and to get away from the busy main street of the town. Surprisingly, we totted up about five miles on this ride, which together with the six miles from earlier in the day made a respectable (for us) eleven miles for the day.

On the way home the next day, we stopped in Napa and rode along the river, visited the Oxbow Public Market, and ate at Celadon, where I had a spinach and duck confit salad and my husband had a grilled chicken club. The good food combined with the pleasing personality of the waitress made this a memorable stop. And we will definitely return to this restaurant.

Oh, how lucky we are in the Bay Area to have a multitude of places to visit and to ride!

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Small children on path

Yesterday as I rode toward Walnut Creek from Alamo,  I came upon two groups of young children (probably six or under) playing on Iron Horse Trail. Both groups, although they seemed to be separate from each other, were fairly close to the spot where the trail crosses Danville Blvd. One group was loosely supervised by a mother seated on a bench,  but I did not see an adult with the other group. The children had scooters or small bicycles and were all over the path. Now children this young have no idea what a person is talking about when she calls out, “On your left.” I had to dismount to avoid hitting one of them. The path is supposed to be a thoroughfare, not a playground. Parents should take their children to parks to play, or if they must use the path, keep them under close supervision.

A beautiful ride on a spring day in Livermore

After church this morning, we loaded up our bikes and set off for Livermore to ride the Arroyo Mocho Trail. Exiting the freeway at Hwy. 84, we parked in a shopping center at the corner of Kitty Hawk Rd. and E. Jack London Blvd. The Isabel Ave. Trail starts right across the street from this shopping center. After a short ride on the Isabel Ave. Trail, we turned left on to the Arroyo Mocho Trail, one which runs through varied landscapes from mini groves of eucalyptus along a now bubbling creek to vineyards to a funny little area of brick planter boxes and trees where the path weaves in and out, and I always feel as if I am in a very small maze. Also today patches of  California poppies brightened many areas. We always ride to the end of the path on Almond Ave. and then return. Since the path is slightly uphill on the way out, the return is an easy one. This complete route is just short of twelve miles.

A peaceful path

On the whole this is a peaceful path with friendly polite users, but soon after we started this ride we came upon a couple pushing a stroller on the left side of the path. When my husband called out “on your right,” they moved over to the right,  causing a rather close call. By the time I passed, they were walking on the right side of the path. I can see an argument for  walking facing oncoming bikes, but people should either choose one side or the other and stick to it, not waver around in the middle. Actually, I think that it is much safer for everyone to stay to the right.

After our ride, we went to Garré Winery on Tesla Rd. for a delicious lunch, where my husband had a salmon and spinach salad, and I had an ahi tuna salade Niçoise. The house-made  focaccia bread and my strawberry almond tart made this a memorable meal. The setting at this café is simple, but the food is always excellent and the service good.

All in all, we had a perfect day.

Bright poppies

New Google maps for cycling

Today it has been announced that Google now has maps of 150 US cities that show cycling routes: a dark green line for paths, a lighter green line for lanes, and a dotted green line for other streets good for cycling. I have looked at several Bay Area cities, and I think that these maps will be a great boon for cyclists. Go to http://maps.google.com/biking to check out this new Google offering.

Obstacles for cyclists

Yesterday my husband and I set off to ride from Civic Park in Walnut Creek to Borders in Pleasant Hill, usually a straightforward ride on the Iron Horse Trail, the west Canal Trail,  the local trail from Sunnyvale to Hookston, and a few city streets. However, yesterday when we turned on to the Canal Trail, I noticed a small sign saying that the BART tunnel is closed. As we approached Jones Road, we could see the torn-up tunnel, looking as though it will probably be closed for a long time. (However, an article that I found on the internet claims that it is due to open in late March.)

Tunnel under BART

Reluctantly, we turned to the right on Jones Road and crossed over the freeway on Oak Park, riding the narrow sidewalk with cars zooming by inches from us.  From Oak Park, we were able to get back on our original route.

Following instructions from our daughter-in-law whom we met riding her bicycle on the way back, we returned much the same way but went straight on Oak Park over the freeway, regaining Iron Horse by the Pleasant Hill BART station.This route, however, is complicated by the bicycle bridge being built over Treat Blvd and involves a slight detour.

Neither my husband nor I had read anything in the paper about these obstacles. Now I cannot say for certain that a warning was not in the paper because it is easy to miss an item of news. The Treat Blvd. bridge construction is an inconvenience, but the closing of the bridge at Jones Road is a real challenge because it is a safe way of getting to the other side of the freeway. The alternatives are not very appealing.

Finally, I became aware of the dangers of the elaborate concrete surroundings to the  curb cuts on Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. We were riding down this street, which has no bike lane and cars parked along the curbs. The traffic is heavy, and one must be careful to avoid these concrete abutments that stick out into the traffic lane. These may look nice but they only present a hazard. I believe that the stimulus funds spent on these could have been much better spent on something else.

Riding a bicycle requires constant alertness, but it seems to me that the people who are in charge of our highways and byways could plan more efficiently and intelligently.

Dahon bikes are so versatile

It was brought home to me again today how wonderful the Dahon bicycles are. It is not only that one can fold and unfold them in less than a minute but also that they are versatile in that people of all different sizes can ride them. My husband’s  bike was in the shop, so we borrowed one from our son. By just adjusting the height of the seat, my husband was perfectly comfortable on our son’s bike. If we had ordinary bikes sized to each of us, we could not trade back and forth as we do now. These bikes are a bit on the heavy side and to some they might look strange, but  they are perfect for our lifestyle.

A Trusty Dahon