Some Thoughts on our Rides in Napa and Livermore

20170806_120645

The Grapes are Hanging Heavy on the Vine

Napa

I have not posted in a while because we have not ridden in new areas, but now I do have some comments to make about some of our rides. Last week we did our Yountville to Rutherford to Silverado  and back to Yountville on Yountville Crossroad ride. It was a lovely ride through the ripening vineyards. The only problem was the rough surfaces of some  of the roads. We had to observe where we were placing our wheels on several roads but especially on  Rutherford Road. Although the ride was still fun, the road surfaces do add an element of danger.

The week before that we met some friends for lunch at the CIA at Copia. We parked in the lot by Starbucks at Redwood Road. We then rode the Vine Trail to Yountville for coffee and then back to Redwood Road where we continued down Solano Ave. and made a left turn behind the Chablis Hotel to get briefly on the trail that runs across Napa. I have mentioned before that I don’t like this trail because it runs through some unattractive areas of Napa,  and it crosses several busy streets. We rode this trail just until we crossed over  Highway 29 on the bridge and then turned right on California Street. We rode in the bike lane down California St.,  turning  left on E. St. with a partial right on Hayes, a left on Yount St., a right on Yajome, and then a left on Vallejo which leads to Soscol Ave. Riding straight across Soscol, we turned right into the parking lot from River Terrace and then wound around behind the Oxbow Market to the parking lot of  Copia. Since the  ride across Napa was mostly on a bike boulevard it was easy  and fun with a nice view of some old Napa houses that have been beautifully restored. After lunch we reversed our trip across Napa to return to our car. Since the cross Napa ride is only about three miles, it was easy to do after a filling lunch.

Livermore

A few weeks ago we rode the Arroyo Mocho Trail in Livermore. The last time we rode it in the late winter or early spring, there were several flooded spots. To our dismay, this time we discovered that the rains have left severe damage in many areas, particularly between Stanley Blvd. and Livermore St. When we reached  the first underpass near Stanley Blvd., we hesitated. A homeless man told us to ride on through because he sees cyclists do it all the time. We should have known better than to have listened. We started down the trail but soon dismounted and then had to slog our way through thick sand. A couple more times we had to cross through sand and debris. My husband commented that the ride was like Omaha Beach without the gunfire. The ride down Concannon was the usual fun downhill coast, but we knew to turn right on Murdell Ln. because that section of the Isabel Ave, Trail is out. Where Murdell hits E. Stanley, it is possible to ride the Isabel Ave. Trail back to the beginning of the Arroyo Mocho at Jack London Blvd. Livermore needs to signpost their trails with better warning signs. Now there are signs only right at the obstacles. They are not sufficient!

20170703_104758

 

Advertisements

Roaming the Napa Valley

spring flowers

A couple of weeks ago, we spent four days in the Napa Valley to celebrate our 59th wedding anniversary. Although Calistoga is not the most centrally located town, we chose to stay there at the Stevenson Manor Best Western because this hotel is a bargain for this pricey area. It is not luxurious, but it is certainly attractive, clean, and comfortable with constant work going on to upgrade it. The breakfast is a bit above average for an accommodation of this level, and we were pleased to find the other guests to be a friendly bunch.

We did four bicycle rides during this stay which we were fortunate occurred within a break in the rainy weather that we have had this year. These rides were ones that we have done before and that I have written about on this site. Our longest ride was from Yountville to downtown Napa, and I just want to mention this ride because we found the bike path that runs from just south of Trancas Street diagonally across Napa to be one that we would recommend against using. It crosses several busy streets without four-way stops, and it runs through neighborhoods that are not particularly appealing. It does, however, end in downtown Napa, where we cycled to the new CIA restaurant at Copia, a pleasant place with memorable food. Coming back we used a bike boulevard that started at the end of this path and followed that across a good part of Napa through some interesting old neighborhoods along quiet attractive streets. When this bike boulevard ended, we just sort of used our instincts to return to  the wonderful Vine Trail that runs back to Yountville. Most streets in Napa are bicycle friendly.

20170401_121440

Patio at Ottimo

As always in the Napa Valley, we ate very well. In Yountville, there is a new restaurant called Ottimo across from Bottega, where the salads are served in jars and the panini are small and extraordinary. It is wonderful to sit out under the olive trees after a bicycle ride and enjoy the beauty of this area; I find it easy to pretend that I am in Italy. We ate two lunches at this spot.

Another restaurant that we truly enjoyed was the St. Helena Bistro, a small place on St. Helena’s main street that has an eclectic menu. We especially enjoyed the crispy calamari and the salmon tacos. And on our last night, we ate at Veraison,  a fairly new place on the main street  in Calistoga. We were seated in the window where we could watch the passing scene and savor our moules frites.

All in all, I would say that if you do not have the wherewithal for a trip to Europe, a trip to the Napa Valley is a good substitute. Despite lots of traffic, it is a pretty, relaxing place to roam and to linger over excellent food.

A Valentine’s Day Bicycle Outing

20170214_115539

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.

20170214_121902

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.

20170214_131510

A Wintry Ride on the Napa Vine Trail

20170106_123139

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.

20170106_142238

The New Vine Trail from Yountville to Napa

20160821_102107

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.

20160821_12032320160821_111431

 

An Enlightening Day in the Napa Valley

20160514_142329

Garden behind Brix Restaurant

 

Last Saturday, we packed our bikes in the car and headed for Yountville with our son and his girlfriend. We parked in our usual spot at Vintage 1870 and did our ride out Yount Mill Rd. to Hwy. 29 to Rutherford to Conn Creek Rd. to the Silverado Trail, and back down Yountville Crossroad to where we had parked the car, about 16 miles. Meanwhile our son and his girlfriend had driven into St. Helena and back to the spot where our son’s accident had occurred to suss out a place to park so that we could all take a look at it later.

We did our ride in record time because we had a 12:45 reservation at Brix, a restaurant just north of Yountville. Our lunch here turned out to be a delightful experience with a wonderful view over the lawns and gardens and outstanding food and service. My husband and I started with an asparagus prosciutto salad followed by a crab fondue, both of which we split. Our son had a steak tartare followed by an enhanced form of fish and chips while his girlfriend had a mixed salad followed by salmon on a bed of vegetables. We each had our own dessert, chocolate concoctions that were delicious, but we would have been much better off splitting a couple of these as we were all stuffed after this.

Driving to the scene of the accident, we parked and looked at the layout of the tracks; it is a complicated layout that runs over the road for a long way and at an odd angle. Although there is a warning sign, advising the walking of bikes, our son said that he thinks he missed the sign because of the heavy traffic and the construction going on, and because of the car that came close to him. However, looking at the scene of the accident, we could see why his arm was so badly injured.

We felt like it was important for us all to assess how the accident had occurred since we are enthusiastic cyclists and need to know what to watch out for. And best of all, we discovered a great new place to eat.

20160514_144842

Do Not Ride on Hwy. 29 south of St. Helena

About a week ago our son was riding on Hwy. 29 south of St Helena right where the railroad tracks cross the highway diagonally when a car swerved close to him. He swerved on his bike and speeded up to get  away from the car. The tire of his bike caught in the track causing him to take a nasty fall. Landing on his right arm, he broke his wrist so severely that he had a bone sticking out. The car did not stop or even hesitate. Fortunately, our son was able to phone his girlfriend to pick him up and take him to the hospital emergency room in St. Helena. That night he had one surgery on his arm to stabilize it.

Early the next week an orthopedic surgeon here (central Contra Costa County) put a metal plate, screws, and  pins in his arm to connect the broken bones. Needless to say he has suffered from pain and the temporary loss of use of his right arm, and he will permanently have an arm full of metal. The moral of this story is avoid roads with narrow shoulders and walk your bike over railroad tracks. Do not take risks on your bicycle!