September 20, 2017

Guerneville Loop

Godzilla clutching an Aermotor and a red convertible, by Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent, Florence Avenue, Sebastopol, California
Eager to show us a little local color, our leaders strayed off-route at the start to take us up (yes, uphill) Florence Avenue, home to the artists Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent. My ride buddy and I had toured the street, on foot, when we explored Sebastopol on Monday. Many front yards on Florence sport their quirky creations, but there is no mistaking where the artists live. (Look! It's an Aermotor!) Their work is popular all over town, and beyond.

Of course, this diversion entailed some calculating for the rest of the day, as the mileage on our route sheets was no longer valid. Work for the brain as well as the muscles ...

It has been quite windy so far, uncharacteristically so (according to the locals). Today's forecast showed a 20% chance of rain. Around these parts, this time of year, that means there are pockets of showers scattered about. Over 20% of the area, perhaps?

We paused atop a hill to admire a vineyard, and I felt the first sprinkles as we started rolling again. Mist became drizzle became downright rain. It was warm enough for vest-and-arm-warmers; I'd left my jacket behind.

Ah well, once you're wet, you're wet. At least it wasn't cold.

Sign for Howard's Cafe with locomotive art by Patrick Amiot and Brigitte Laurent, Occidental, CaliforniaWe paused in Occidental to discuss whether to break there for coffee, or continue to the next town. The choice seemed obvious to me: our lunch stop in Guerneville would be only a few miles past Monte Rio—too close. No one seemed to want to make the decision, so ... I called it. While they enjoyed their coffee, I wandered over to the nearby shops.

A colorful summer dress caught my eye. Looked like my size. But how would I carry it? I wandered back.

I thought about my friend Pat, shopper extraordinaire, who manages to snap up a find like this whenever we're cycling in Europe—without anyone noticing that she vanished for a few minutes.

I returned to the shop. I slipped the dress on over my cycling gear; it fit. Figure out a way to carry it.

View of the Russian River from a bridge near Hacienda, Sonoma County, CaliforniaAs I scrunched it into a compact roll, to fit into the small plastic bag I carry in my saddle bag (expressly for an occasion like this), a woman seated in the cafe tapped on the window. She gave me an enthusiastic smile and a thumbs up. I was right not to pass up this dress! As I'd hoped, one of the riders in our group had a capacious saddle bag and graciously stuffed my package inside.

Much of today's route passed through the forest, deep in the redwoods, with lighter traffic. One guy in the group had been particularly helpful, doubling back to check on trailing riders and waiting at turns to be sure we didn't go astray. I stopped for a photo at a bridge over the Russian River, turned around and ... they were gone. I didn't think I'd miss the next turn, but my confidence was ebbing. “Is Martinelli ahead?” I asked a guy who happened to be walking down his driveway. “Yes, you'll love it!” he said. (Fellow cyclist!)

What I didn't love was the end. Signaling a left turn onto Highway 116, I was dismayed to see heavy tandem trucks rumbling past, in both directions. The kind with open trailers that haul rock. There must be a quarry ... sure enough, Canyon Rock's entrance was within sight. Loaded trucks were exiting the quarry in a steady parade; empty trucks were returning. We would have to share the (narrow) road. Uphill. [Gulp.]

Our next turn, onto a trail, couldn't come soon enough. [Whew.] We caught a whiff of apples cooking as we passed behind an industrial building. True to form, a couple of riders whizzed right past the next turn (we reeled them back). By managing to catch up to our leaders, I found the turn I missed yesterday, finishing with 43 miles and 1,870 feet of climbing.

Tomorrow is another day ...

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