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.

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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.

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A Wintry Ride on the Napa Vine Trail

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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.

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The Arroyo Mocho with Water

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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.

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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.

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Rides in the Victoria BC Area

Victoria's Inner Harbour

Victoria’s Inner Harbour

Having checked into our favorite Victoria Hotel, the Grand Pacific on Belleville St., we had a quick lunch and set out to ride along the harbor front and on Dallas Road with its beautiful waterfront views. Although the traffic is fairly heavy, there is a decent bike lane  and we always ride with flashing red lights on the back of our bikes when we are riding on streets. We rode for a few miles and then retraced our route back to Cook St. from which we zigzagged through a number of streets to return to the hotel. Some of these streets were choked with traffic, so the ride back was a bit dangerous, but I do love riding down pretty residential streets.

Near Sidney BC

Near Sidney BC

The next morning, we set out to ride on the Lochside Trail from a few miles south of Sidney to Schwartz Bay. Although we have not done it all at once, we have covered most of the  Lochside Trail at one time or another, except for the part to Schwartz Bay. On this bright sunny day, it was a pleasure to pedal along the Sidney Channel. Reaching Sidney, we stopped for coffee at the Toast Cafe on Fifth St. As we left the cafe, we asked an elderly gentleman cyclist how to wend our way through the streets of Sidney to reach the route to Schwartz Bay. He patiently outlined two different routes that it is possible to take. He even told us where to go for lunch in Schwartz Bay, although the location of that place proved more elusive than his very clear explanation of the routes. We reached Schwartz Bay in good time and then set out up and down several fairly formidable hills to find the Stonehouse Pub. in Canoe Cove. One thing that didn’t help is that we were hearing Canoe Cove as Conoco, reminiscent of the service stations that we remembered from when we were children. Finally a young woman with a stroller told us to make three right turns to reach the pub, and this worked out. We had a satisfying pub lunch and an enjoyable conversation with a couple of fellow cyclists about our age, who asked us if we had a death wish because we were not wearing the recommended bright yellow jackets. The ride back proved easier than we had expected, and we stopped again at the Toast Cafe where I had a delicious concoction called a Nanaimo bar. Our whole trip added up to about eighteen miles.

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Our third ride in Victoria was a disappointment. We wanted to ride a segment of the Galloping Goose Trail that we had not ridden before, so we picked an area where parking was indicated on a map that we had, the Atkins Ave. parking lot. Turning right out of the lot we found some challenging hills, but we went on until we reached a part of the trail that was gravel. Our bikes were not doing well on this, so we turned around and went the other direction. There were lots of hills that way too and nothing too interesting, so after about ten miles we gave up. We drove across to Hwy. 17 where we had lunch at  Bill Mattick’s Restaurant at the Cordova Bay Golf Course, a spot where we have eaten several times. After lunch we did a few miles on the Lochside Trail. However, we will tackle the Galloping Goose again next time we are in Victoria. Once before we did a pleasant ride on this trail, but it is confusing to pick out a section to ride.

Victoria is high on my list of favorite cities, and I hated to leave it. When we visited Munro’s bookstore on Government St., I discovered a book of rides around Victoria that I will try to buy before we visit there again.

Parliament Buildings at Night

Parliament Buildings at Night

A New Ramble through Livermore

Trevarno Historic Estate

Trevarno Historic Estate

 

Last Monday, Memorial Day, we tried a different route through Livermore. We chose streets with bike lanes from a Livermore Bikeways map. Parking at our usual spot on E. Jack London Blvd., we rode rode east on Jack London, jogged to the right on Murietta for one block and then turned left on Pine St. We followed Pine to the Lincoln Hwy. Memorial Park which we cut through to reach Portola Ave. These were all streets lined with homes, some modest, others a bit more upscale. On Portola Ave., we had some nice views of countryside to the south plus a strenuous climb uphill. Portola Ave. angles to the left to become First St. , where we discovered the Trevarno Historic Estate, a street of homes built in 1913 to house the officers of a Cornish company that manufactured safety fuses. Although the homes are now a bit shabby, this is a beautiful street due to the architecture and the mature shade trees.

Leaving Trevarno, we turned right on Mines Rd., where we climbed over the railroad tracks and then cruised through a pleasant neighborhood down to East  Ave. After a left turn on East Ave., we saw a girl leading what looked like two chocolate brown teenaged llamas. I am sorry that I did not take a picture. It was an arresting sight. From East St., we turned right on Charlotte Way, riding a tree-lined path past Bruno Canziani Park to S. Vasco Rd. From South Vasco, we soon reached Tesla Rd. which we rode to our favorite Garré Café, where we spent a pleasant hour eating lunch.

View from Garré

View from Garré

To return to our car, we took Tesla to Concannon to the Isabel Ave. trail and thus back to Jack London. It was a wonderful ride of a little over eighteen miles with some memorable sights, marred only slightly by the winds that have been vexing us this spring.

A Circle around Healdsburg

We stayed  at the Belle de Jour Inn in Healdsburg. Run by the hospitable Tom and Brenda Hearn, it is located up a short hill a little way out of the center of Healdsburg. The grounds and the buildings are meticulously maintained, and the experience of eating breakfast in their lovely house is delightful. We would happily stay there again.

The morning after we arrived, we set off on our Healdsburg ride. Parking in a shopping center lot just off of Mill St., we turned right on Mill St. which becomes Westside Road. Shortly after we passed under the freeway we were surrounded by vineyards..

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We made a right turn on West Dry Creek Road, which we followed for about five miles. Freshly washed by heavy rain the previous night, the vineyards were gorgeous. The road does not have a bike lane, and although it is fairly wide, I was not altogether comfortable riding here. The landscape consists of rolling hills that are fun to ride, however. It was with some relief that we reached Lambert Bridge Road, where we turned right. From this point on the road was wider, and we both felt safer riding.

We stopped at the venerable Dry Creek Store for coffee, where we sat on the front porch to watch the people passing by. A huge tour bus drew up with all young people aboard, who went in to buy sandwiches for lunch. We surmised that it must have been a wine tasting excursion.

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After we left the store, we followed Dry Creek Road back into town, turning off of it to ride through some neighborhoods to get back to the central square in Healdsburg. After much debate, we chose to eat at The Charcuterie, nabbing the last table. This was a wise decision. It was a great day and a thrilling way to celebrate our 56th wedding anniversary.

 

Episode 6: The Ribeauville Ride

The Beginning of the Path

The Beginning of the Path

We wound through the narrow core of Ribeauville in the car, finally parking in a public lot on a steep hill. We found Binders Bike Shop on the Grand Rue where a man helped us select two bikes. On this day, I was a winner. Although the bike was a little big for me, it had a terrific gearing system. Once on the road, my husband found he could only ride with his gears in one position, and he had to pedal much more than he should have had to.

We followed the advice of the person in the bike shop, riding downhill through the town until we reached a voie verte. There were no signs leading to this path, but once on the path we discovered that it was well signposted. We headed through the green fields toward Bergheim with a pretty church spire looming to the left of us.

The Church and Village in the Distance

The Church and Village in the Distance

Before long we reached the small village of Bergheim with an impressive war memorial on the outskirts, a feature with many of these French villages. The village was attractive but quite small with a few restaurants and souvenir shops. We had the French version of pizza at a little place where the man waiting on us took a long time from his duties to chat with a young woman.

The Bergheim War Memorial

The Bergheim War Memorial

Bergheim Street

Bergheim Street

While sitting at the restaurant, we saw a couple ride by on Dahon bikes. We talked to them later to discover that they were from Denmark and love their Dahons as much as we love ours. How we envied then as we climbed back into Ribeauville on our clunky rental bikes.

The trip back was long and hard, and for some reason the man at the bike store was terse and unfriendly when we returned the bikes. I think it might have been due to the fact that we wheeled the bikes through an area where he had new bikes for sale. Most of the people that we dealt with on this trip have been  friendly and helpful, perhaps because they are surprised that two older folks can complete the rides that they recommend.