For Californians, we have had a hard winter, so now in the middle of February, it is a pleasure to observe the resiliency of Mother Nature, the emerging blossoms and even the oft troublesome (for those of us with allergies) mustard weed. In the Napa Valley, where the Napa River has historically been prone to cause problems, we were not surprised to see the river at a high level as well as all the creeks running with water like rivers, and full ditches and rivulets everywhere. But all of this rain has turned the landscape green and lovely. We were a little bit worried about mudslides or washouts on the roads, but we did not have any trouble.
We did our usual Yount Mill Road, Hwy. 29, Oakville Crossroad, Silverado Trail and back to Yountville Crossroad with one deviation, recommended by a pleasant woman in the Yountville tourist advice center. We took Finnell Road off of Yountville Cross to come back into town. It was a gorgeous short detour with vineyards growing right up to the road and attractive houses along the way. This kind of pretty, quiet country road is a cyclist’s dream.
Having finished our ride, we headed for downtown Napa where we had reservations for lunch at the CIA at Copia, a new restaurant that has opened at the Copia facility next to the Oxbow Market. The interior is contemporary and spacious, and the service and food were both good. I had the lamb sirloin tartine for my main course, and it was outstanding. With the pots de crème dessert, I felt that my lunch was the perfect complement to a lovely day.
Last Monday, we rode on the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore and planned to complete our riding circuit on the Isabel Avenue Trail. However, although we had a satisfying ride, we came across many obstacles. I had expected this underpass beneath Stanley Blvd. to be flooded, but we found many places along the Arroyo Mocho that were signposted and in bad condition. Some of the underpasses such as this one could be avoided by taking an alternate route and crossing a street at a signal. But there were other areas that we simply had to slog through. All of these places were signposted on the spot, but there were no signs at the beginning or end of the Arrroyo Mocho. And the signs that were placed on the trail were put in the middle, making it hard to ride around them in the areas where one could ride. It seems to me that the Livermore Recreation and Park district should also have information and alerts regarding the trails on their web site.
Monday was a cold but clear day, and it was beautiful riding in one of California’s up and coming wine producing regions. The Livermore Valley isn’t exactly the Napa Valley yet, but it has its own beauty and many wineries for those so inclined to visit. When we turned onto the trail that runs along Concannon Avenue, the sky was a clear blue with a few puffy white clouds hanging above the hillside vineyards, making us feel at peace with our sometimes overwhelming world.
However, we had another surprise awaiting us when we reached the end of Concannon, ready to turn onto the Isabel Avenue trail to circle back to our car. A good part of the trail has been leveled along with the bike lane on the road. We managed to push our way through the mud to reach the bike lane on the edge of Isabel, Hwy. 84. The shoulder or bike lane is wide there, and we felt comfortable riding it, but it did have a lot of gravel and debris in it. It needs a good sweeping.
When we start out on these bike rides, particularly at this time of year, we are never sure what to expect. Sometimes it is surprises thrown out by mother nature, many times inconsiderate people on the trails, and occasionally a malfunction in one of our bikes. But as in life, the unexpected can make things more interesting and enhance our memories.
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.