Monday, August 21, 2017

Napa Weeknd, Tour of Napa

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Well goodness, what a surprise, the Tour of Napa had changed its route.  The Boyfriend and I hadn't done the Tour since 2011.  Gone is the stop at Aetna Springs.  Mostly we rode along roads that were dotted with vineyards and car free.  For the first leg, 21 miles to the first rest stop,  we steamed through, with me averaging 18 mph.  Mostly, my motivation was keen on getting some food into me!

The Boyfriend generously stuck with me the entire time.  We had a blast doing a different route and seeing a part of Napa we had never explored.  Unlike previous times, I didn't meet people and chat away, perhaps because The BF was nearby?  No naughty tales of funny exchanges to share.  I fear my blog is ever so dull!  Wow, with pleasant temperatures, the ride up Ink Grade was remarkably uneventful and almost easy; though, for others, a challenge, requiring getting off the bike and walking.  The descent afterwards remains one of the best, technically easy as you coast downwards into the valley.    At the end, eating our post event meal, we did talk with a club member, and much like our club, she remarked that the event did not sell out, and recruiting new members, particularly younger people, was a challenge.  I finished in 5 hrs while The BF did it in 4.30 hrs.  Driving home was a breeze, no traffic snarls.   Wouldn't have needed a limo to take me home....

Napa Weekend, Part Three

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Entertainment after our 30 mile ride - visiting downtown Napa.  We decide to hang out at the Oxbow Market, somewhat akin to the San Pedro Square in San Jose.  Here we found a place to eat a pizza and a yummy beet salad at an affordable price.

After dinner, we explored by walking along the bridge and taking in the sights.

Not quite Pisa, but in some ways, I felt the charm.

Me struggling in the wind but appreciating the calming cool temperatures and picturesque views of a city in revitalization.

Napa weekend, Part Two

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

The Boyfriend and I realized awhile back that it was worth going to Napa for a weekend and doing our own ride, a loop involving Mt. Veeder that was independent of doing just the Tour of Napa.  It's a lovely 30 mile ride of climbing and biking past vineyards.

You take in the charm of the valley, close to the vines.  As we did the ride, I realized that while the scenery was beautiful, I actually think Solvang and Livermore have more to offer.

The Boyfriend outside our airbnb. 

Napa weekend, Part 1

Friday, August 18th, 2017

The Boyfriend and I are here in Napa, staying at an Airbnb, a first for us. It's a horse ranch.  Long ago and far away, I once took horseback riding lessons at Foothill/De Anza College.  Omg, I watched one horse eat its own poo!  We didn't realize we had a great location in terms of being able to bike to the start of our planned ride for Saturday as well as being only a few miles away for the Tour of Napa on Sunday.  We were also close enough (driving) to downtown Napa as well as life's necessities (aka Starbucks/Peets, and grocery stores).  Our room had air conditioning,  a fridge and a Keurig machine plus we had a sitting room and bathroom, all well and good.

Our hostess was kind and provided an excellent recommendation to eat at The Red Hen (good and affordable Mexican cuisine).  Napa is ridiculously expensive, so being able to book this lodging was a plus.  A hotel provides more privacy but overall, I was satisfied with our choice.  Our hostess' dog Coen was a treat -- facial expressions bordering on human.  Unfortunately, the drive from San Jose to Napa, a late afternoon start, was stressful for me.  It took four hours.  Note to self:  Next time, hire limo.  Ha ha.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hiking Henry Coe

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hike Henry Coe even if it meant doing 10.5 miles.  My buds above charging head as we head out towards China Hole.  We were fortunate to have a breeze and mild temperatures.  It was weird driving up Henry Coe rather than biking it.  Neato peato too because Frank and Stella just got a hybrid and we learned all about and got to observe how it shifted between gas and electric.  The electric is so quiet.   I enjoyed our automobile lesson.

I love the the Manzanita tree. Straight out of a Star Trek episode.

On and on we went, through Manzanita groves and then open areas such as this.  I was glad for the opportunity to see what Henry Coe looks like.  We came across a few hikers but mostly we had this vast playground to ourselves. 

Behold a sight of me trying to not look glamorous, ha ha, almost to China Hole.  We saw butterflies and little dinosaurs (aka lizards) plus brazen squirrels.

China Hole!  We took off our shoes and welcomed the water upon our tired feet, plus, the minnows who sucked our skin.  A delightful experience. I remember that same sensation many years ago as a child in a swimming hole in Israel.   Bill and Frank ventured further and before we knew it, they were submerged deeply in the hole.  I couldn't be bothered to strip down and join them; I needed the time to sit and relax.  To leave and continue on our hike, we had to climb out and cross the creek 12 times.  And it was a long hard climb out at times.

Upon one of these crossings, we came across my favorite insect -- The Lady Bug.  Clearly engaged in a ritual or mating party or something to which we could only observe and marvel.   While crossing another part of the stream, and I'm sorry it happened too fast to take a photo, a bunch of turkeys took flight in a noisy and clunky manner.  Another spectacular sight of nature to behold.

One last look before heading back to the Hybrid.  10.5 miles left me with a few blisters, sigh, but I loved that we did this hike and I got to see the splendor of Henry Coe. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Flat Ride with the Birds

Miss P. took the time to come up with a really interesting new club ride that began in Sunnyvale at the Community Center and took us along the San Thomas Aquino Creek Trail, the Baylands Park Trail, and the Stevens Creek Trail.  All trails I've never done and truly enjoyed.

It was a splendid route.  I wish I had taken more photos showing us passing Great America and Levi's Stadium before we came upon the Bay Trail and all the birds.

We headed towards Shoreline Park and the Google Campus.  I was beginning to feel the fatigue of a week long bike vacation in Nevada City as well as a 35 mile club ride yesterday that included Page Mill Road.

The wow factor -- the egret nesting sanctuary on Shorebird Way in Mountain View that Google is generously helping to protect.  Alas, I parted ways with my companions during the lunch break, riding off alone to return home, happy but tired, a 44 mile trip on my hybrid.

What Planet Are You On

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Shocked, I say, shocked, The Boyfriend suggested we take it easy this morning.  Relax and cuddle.  Omg.  I was convinced that during the night, aliens kidnapped him.  Rather than do the planned 60 mile route which meant getting up really early to beat the heat, The BF recommended we do the lovely LeMond loop we did when we first arrived (15 miles, 1225 feet in elevation gain). What possessed him?  Surely little green men had taken over his brain.  Can you spot me in the trees?

It is a super loop giving us one last chance to appreciate the scenery, the earthly smells, the funny names of street signs.  For whatever reason, this was the only day in which we saw many other cyclists out on the roads.

Me hanging out with the locals.  After the bike ride, we had hoped to take a hike around Hirschman Pond but it was closed due to tree removal activities  What a pity.  We then attempted to find with the aid of Google Maps another possible hike but this led to a wild goose trip and dead end.  It was rather comical.  I'm so glad we had the chance to vacation in Nevada City.  It was a welcome respite.  I want to return to the area one day to do the Auburn Century, also known as The Wildest Ride full of historic gold mining towns, solitude roads and epic climbs.  Just like our vacation.

Out the Door Early

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Having learned our lesson yesterday, we were out the door early this morning to do the Allison Ranch Loop, a 30 mile, 2645 feet elevation gain.  No hanky panky, no dawdling -- we were determined to take advantage of the morning's cool temperatures.  As it turned out, a lot of today's ride was shaded by trees.  Nice.

Our ride was interrupted by unexpected construction work, but, The Boyfriend figured out an alternative route that took us into downtown Grass Valley where we had breakfast at this old fashioned diner. 

We were in the thick of it, in the woods, again with smooth paved roads, unlike those in the Bay Area, that made cycling a joy.  Biking along Banner Lava Cap (what a name!), we came across luxury homes in stark contrast to some of the trailer trash areas previously encountered.  These homes were enormous with extremely wide streets, too.  Me, I want a little home like my present place -- I mean I can barely take care of my 900 square feet as it is.  We also came across several dead deer and a few live ones prancing across the street.  Plus Llamas and Alpacas.  I also noticed an abundance of butterflies.  Lovely.  But few birds.

Finishing up early allowed us the opportunity to visit Empire Mine State Historic Park.  We explored the mine and contemplated the hard life of a miner.  I didn't know that miners came from Cornwall, England and brought technology with them, too.

We visited the "cottage".  Whoa, $10k for landscaping and $25K for the home (also included tennis courts, pool, and other facilities) back in 1897.  I don't do this tour justice.  There's a lot of history to read up on.

Walking in the garden, standing tall with the Ponderosa Pines.  The garden also smells pleasantly of rose bushes.

Wow, each afternoon, this happened.  It looked like an iceberg.  Stunning.

One last parting shot appreciating the scenery.  Glad we woke up early and took in as much as we did.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Let's Get This Party Started

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Omg, The Boyfriend took forever to get ready.  I was like out the cottage door in 2 seconds, excited to see what Nevada City, in terms of cycling, had to offer.  We started later than we should have and learned our lesson about being at altitude and in the heat.  We decided to do the Oaktree Bridgeport loop, a 42 mile, 4200 ft. elevation gain ride.  It was a challenging route that afforded spectacular views of which The BF would have entirely missed had I not flung my arms wildly telling him to stop and smell the roses.

This being the first view that The BF simply sailed by as he crossed that bridge in the photo above.  If you look closely, you will see people floating in the water and lovers sitting on a rock. 

This ride involved a lot of climbing and fantastic descents.  Unfortunately, on one climb, The BF had a flat.  It was somewhere near a storytelling festival that one of our cottage neighbors planned to visit.  The BF has tubeless tires. He couldn't get a proper seal using the gas thingy so he had to rely on pumping as much as air as possible into a tube and going with that.  Amazing. 

We plodded on taking in the spectacular scenery.  I realized how much I love being on a bike, how it makes me feel happy and alive.  Until later, when the heat of the day zapped us of energy ....

Once again, The BF totally flew by and missed this little gem. 

Here we are inside the  Bridgepoint Visitor's Center at Yuba River State Park.  Luckily we didn't encounter this fella on our ride.  Apparently there was a terrible flood in the early 90s -- captured by the photos on the back wall. 

Boy we sure wanted to take a dip in the water.  We were beginning to feel the heat.

Smart people. Wish I could have joined them. (This is more of Bridgeport / Yuba River State Park).  By this time, it was late afternoon and the heat took its toll.  I began to see stars.  And firemen.  Oh wait, I did see firemen several times.  I swear they knew I was in town.  At one point, I had to get off the bike and walk up a hill.  I was so spent.  It was 95 degrees.  The Boyfriend charged off and got me water.  What a hero.  We went inside a bar and drank cokes laced with a lot of ice.  The BF amused me, making jokes about getting to Britney Spears (the road is called Britney Springs).  As I dragged my sorry ass behind him, I passed an elderly man in his garden who shouted to me, "He should be behind you like a gentleman."  Ha ha ha ha. What a day but worth it.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Getting to Know Nevada City

In all the historic towns I've explored, whether in California, South Dakota, or elsewhere, there seems to be similar attributes that provide for an interesting trip and lots of memories.  Out of the mainstream.  Locally sourced organic produce.  Preserving history.    Funky names for streets, restaurants, cafes.

We were fortunate that our cottage was within walking distance to downtown.  We traveled this road nightly.

Here is the other end of that road heading into downtown.

I appreciated that the town is preserving its Gold Rush history and architecture.  This photo is of the Chamber of Commerce.  Like other small towns, Nevada City has two great coffee joints that we visited, the Foxhound and Curly Wolf.  We also took a moment to visit The Wheyward Girl Creamery (artisan cheese shop)  after I read an article in The Union, the local newspaper.

In a small town, you'll also always find a Chocolate shop as well as a homemade ice cream shop (no photos).  And yes, there were vegan options.

We ate well.  The BF did a beer tasting at the local brewery and I even tried and liked a cider.  The town also reminded me of my trip to Fall River Mills.  By this I mean, seeing hippy like people with loads of tattoos, who are into au natural though why they think smelling bad is a good thing is beyond me.  It is not natural to smell bad.  Folks seemed pretty laid back and enjoying the good life.  For the most part, drivers were considerate of us cycling on the roads, too.  I didn't see much in the way of diversity.  Bulletin boards were full of yoga institutes, classes for couple therapy and also, gatherings for women.  A bit too weird for me but whatever floats your boat I suppose.  Something I found odd though was the contrast between a healthy lifestyle and passing homes that I call trailer trash (junk in yards from broken down rusted vehicles to old bathtubs and couches strewn on lawns).   I appreciated the opportunity to take in the town and get to know it a bit.  It was a treat.  The cycling was spectacular, more of that to come.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nevada City Here We Come

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I don't know why I got it in my head that I had to visit Nevada City (learn more about this charming city here) for a biking vacation but here we are, The Boyfriend and I, arriving at the Piety Inn Cottages.  Our innkeeper Michael explains on the website that he was a hairdresser from the L.A. area among other interesting career choices before taking up residence in Nevada City.

Here is a side view of our cottage and parking space.  Nevada City and sister city Grass Valley are historic and vibrant towns where people from all over apparently go to retire.  I can understand the appeal:  it's quiet, it's remote/secluded, it's affordable and it's beautiful.  I can also say after visiting, while I loved our trip, I have no desire to retire here.

Our cottage is named Chestnut cottage -- each cottage is named after a nearby tree.  Boy did we appreciate the air conditioning each day.  By late afternoon, the heat is pretty intense.  We arrived at 12:30, too early to check in, so, we went for a 15 mile ride that allowed us to get a feel for the area and elevation.  We're already at 2477'. 

We lucked out with where we chose to stay.  Our cottage is the near the start (the local bike shop) for all the rides.  Thanks to Sierra Express Bicycle Club for posting fabulous accurate rides from which to choose.  Notice the name of the road that The Boyfriend is about to travel -- Rough and Ready Hwy.  We came across so many interestingly named roads like Idaho Maryland Road, and Rattlesnake, and Banner Cap Lava.

This is a scene that we would see over and over again.  Wooded roads.  Curvy roads.  A lot of climbing with fabulous descents. Wonderfully paved smooth roads.  From the moment we arrived, the smell of Ponderosa Pine tickled our nosed much to my delight.  So much more to report in coming blog entries.  Happy to be here for a much needed getaway.