A Valentine’s Day Bicycle Outing

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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.

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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.

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Getting to Know Lopez Island

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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.

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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.

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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.20160804_110106

 

Riding in the Town of Ashland

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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.

An Enlightening Day in the Napa Valley

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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.

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A Hint of Spring

 

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Looking back along the section of Iron Horse south of Stoneridge Drive

Parking our car in the parking lot by Walmart on Alcosta Blvd., we head  south on the Iron Horse Trail. Since the temperature was in the 40s when we left home, we wore our usual winter gear, but we soon wish that we had listened more closely to Punxsutawney Phil, who early last week predicted an early spring,  as we begin shedding layers. This route takes us along some pretty green sections and some rather unsightly portions of the trail, such as old Camp Parks, a World War II military base, now used for reserved forces training. Soon after Camp Parks the trail passes through the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station, where yesterday masses of people were waiting in line to catch BART to Super Bowl activities in San Francisco. I am glad to be gliding peacefully along on my bike rather than trying to breath in such a crowd.

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Center of Pleasanton

 

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Farmers’ Market

Leaving Iron Horse Trail at Valley Ave., we  turn right and follow Stanley Blvd. into downtown Pleasanton, one of my favorite little towns around here, one with lots of bike racks as well as interesting stores and good restaurants. After stopping for coffee at a quaint little place called Juice and Java, we stroll through the market to buy our produce for this week. We decide to eat at Stacey’s, a cheerful café with lots of outdoor seating and good food  but sometimes slow service. It is pleasant to sit in the front area of the restaurant on this warm day and watch the constant parade of people passing by.

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Front Seating Area at Stacey’s

To vary our  trip, we take a different way  back to our car using a bike lane on St. Mary St., which becomes Division St, ultimately turning into Hopyard Rd. The lanes along these roads are generous enough, but this route is not for the faint of heart because the traffic can be heavy. At Stoneridge, we turn left to follow that street to Johnson and thus to the Alamo Canal Trail which leads back to the Ironhorse Trail, a round trip of a little over 15 miles.

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Alamo Channel

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Laid Plans . . . Gang Aft Agley (Burns)

20151231_114310[1]The last couple of years, we have done a morning ride on New Year’s Eve  day, followed by lunch at an elegant restaurant. Usually four of the eight of us ride, and the other four shop,  drink coffee, or just mosey around. This year we decided on a ride from Yountville to Rutherford and back along the  Silverado Trail. Way before Christmas, I made a reservation for our family at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, and the evening of  December 30th we loaded our three folding bikes into the car along with helmets and other equipment.

To my dismay the next morning, just as I was getting ready to go out the door for our excursion, my husband came in saying that one bike had a flat tire. Now we are not mechanics, so we do not deal with flats ourselves, and at 8:30 in the morning bike shops are not open. So I called one son to tell him what had happened and say that I would join the shopping  contingent. However, the other son came up with the brilliant idea that he would ride to Oakville Grocery, where we always stop for coffee and I would be dropped off there by the shoppers. Then he would give me his bike, and he would walk back to Yountville, while I finished the ride with my husband and grandson. It was the flexibility of our Dahon bikes that made this exchange of bikes possible because if it were not for the easily adjustable seat height, my son and I could never ride the same bike. And actually this crazy plan worked out quite well with everyone showing up back at the parking lot at Vintage 1870 about five minutes before our 12:30 reservation.

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After our brisk ride in the cold December morning, it felt good to enter the cozy environment of Bistro Jeanty and enjoy such tasty tidbits as duck foie gras mousse with brioche and daube de bouef. We all savored our sumptuous meal and then headed home for a relaxing New Year’s Eve in our own homes.

 

 

An Anniversary Sojourn in California’s Pre-eminent Wine Country

Villagio Grounds

Villagio Grounds

With the aid of a generous gift, we spent three nights at Villagio Inn and Spa in Yountville to celebrate  our 57th wedding anniversary. The weather was perfect enabling us to do three different bike rides in the three days that we spent there. Each bike ride followed by a wonderful meal at one of the area’s outstanding restaurants made for an unforgettable mini-vacation.

View on Dunaweal Lan.

View on Dunaweal Lan.

We headed north to Calistoga on Monday morning for our first bike ride, one that we have done many times. We parked near the Washington Avenue bike path on Dunaweal Ln. Following the path into town, we crossed Lincoln, still on Washington Ave. Shortly thereafter, we turned left on Berry St. and made a right on Cedar, which ends in a bike trail around a mobile home park and through a small shopping center to Mitzi Dr. We turned right on Kathy Way and then followed Denise Dr. to its end where we crossed over a small bridge that took us to Centennial Circle. From Centennial, we turned right on Grant and rode to Lake St. where we turned left to ride to the Silverado Trail, which took us back to Dunaweal Ln. This is a short ride that showcases the old California town of Calistoga with its historic buildings and range of houses from small cottages to larger more upscale  homes. The part of the ride along the Silverado Trail is one with lovely views of the vineyard-covered countryside.

Since we completed this ride fairly early, we again rode the Washington Ave. trail back into town, where we visited the tourist bureau to pick up a map of the Napa Valley and browsed in Copperfield’s Books. Following the advice of the lady in the tourist bureau, we ate lunch at Evangeline, a new restaurant in Calistoga and a serendipitous choice. We each had asparagus soup, and then we shared the cheese plate. I had a cake for dessert, and my husband had his usual ice cream. I can hardly wait to take our whole family to this new restaurant.

Patio at Evangeline

Patio at Evangeline

Tuesday we did our most ambitious ride, parking just off of Salvador Ave. in Napa. We took Salvador to Big Ranch Rd., which becomes Soscol Ave. on the approach to downtown Napa. We rode Soscol to First St. in Napa, where we locked our bikes, walked around, and had coffee. Downtown Napa still has lots of scaffolding on its buildings due to repairs made necessary by the recent earthquake. We returned to our car the way that we had come. This ride is interesting because the scenery varies a lot from housing developments to farm lands to a busy city. But it is a somewhat dangerous ride. There is a lot of traffic on Soscol and in downtown Napa. Salvador Ave.  does not have much of a shoulder, and the shoulder is quite narrow in places on Big Ranch and Soscol. Although my husband thought it was a great ride, I was uneasy, and I would recommend  it only for riders who are very comfortable riding in traffic.

View from Big Ranch Rd.

View from Big Ranch Rd.

On Wednesday, we headed over to Sonoma to do our ride around that town. We did the same ride that we had done with our son and grandson in January (see January 25th post) with one exception. Before we took Petaluma Ave., a busy narrow street, across from Riverside Drive to Arnold Drive. This time we rode to Solano Ave., a much quieter, safer street. This ride goes past some lovely homes on the east side of Sonoma and ends up passing through beautiful meadows on the return trip near General Vallejo’s home. While this is an enjoyable ride, the pavement surfaces in Sonoma are rough enough to make riding a bit uncomfortable. But Sonoma is such a charming town, that one tends to overlook minor inconveniences.

This time in the wine country was a lovely break from our everyday lives, and we feel that we are indeed blessed to live near such a lovely area and to still have active fun together after 57 years of marriage.