July 15, 2017

MacMurray Ranch

I have cycled 100 miles, eleven times, to raise funds for Best Buddies International over the past 10 years. And while the organizers offer a few training rides leading up to the Hearst Castle Challenge, I typically skip those—club rides and bike commutes keep me fit.

Green grapes on the vine, MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg, California
At the same time, some of those training rides are enticing. Like the opportunity to bike some backroads in the wine country of Sonoma County. It's been years since I've biked up there.

The logistics always discourage me. I'm not up for driving more than two hours in the early morning to reach the starting point. Wine Country hotels are expensive, and fussy about demanding two-night minimum stays.

This year I explored Airbnb. Not only did I find a convenient location, I made some new friends in the process.

Best Buddies banner and my bike at the entrance to the MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg, California
The ride started and finished on the private grounds of the MacMurray Ranch.

There was just one problem. I came down with (yet another) cold. [What is going on, this year?!] If I had been at home this morning, I would have stayed there—nursing my full-blown cold symptoms in bed.

Blooming allium with grapevines in the background, Mill Creek Vineyards, Healdsburg, California
Riding the longer 40-mile route was out of the question. If I'd had any doubts before I got to the ranch, they evaporated when I caught sight of my fellow riders. Can you say, “hammerfest?” [Yes, I thought you could.] I probably shouldn't be riding at all, but ... here I am. Twenty miles isn't much, really.

I got off to a rocky start. I'd brought my older road bike along, and although I'd carefully leveled the saddle when I reattached it after my recent Five Countries tour, I had not sufficiently tightened the bolts, nor had I given it a test ride. Before we rolled out of the driveway, it shifted and tilted when I hit the first bump. [It would be mile 15 before I finally got it properly clamped.] On the plus side, I'd replaced the speed sensor on that bike (also untested) and it was operating just fine.

Rows of grapevines with hills in the background, Westside Road, Healdsburg, California
With a hot day forecast, I was glad not to push myself hard. We headed straight for the Wohler Bridge, but time lost to the saddle shenanigans cost me the photo stop. I've crossed it many times on a bicycle, back in the days when it was part of the original Waves to Wine ride.

The short route, 21 miles with 540 feet of climbing, was a little taste of rolling Wine Country hills. Back at the ranch, we enjoyed lunch and a speech by a Best Buddies Ambassador. “Only 500 people (worldwide) have been diagnosed with the neurological disorder I have,” he explained. “How lucky am I!” Doctors told his parents he could never ride a bicycle; last year, he did the 30-mile route in the Hearst Castle Challenge. This year he's training for the 60-mile route.

How about you? 15, 30, 60, or 100 miles? You can sign up here.

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