September 19, 2017

Sonoma Sojourn

Red apples on a tree, Sonoma County, California
A couple of club members planned a series of rides near their new home turf in Sonoma County, inviting all who wished to join in. My ride buddy and I, both in need of a break from work, tacked on a couple of extra days for travel and (perish the thought!) non-cycling activities.

Like most people, I associate Napa and Sonoma counties with wine: acres and acres of grapevines, vineyards, tasting rooms, and tourists. Late in the season, mid-week with schools back in session, we envisioned a veritable paradise of empty rural roads through rolling hills. [Er, not so much ... lots more traffic in this region than I remember.]

I didn't associate Sonoma with apples; Gravenstein, to be precise. Locally celebrated, we wondered about this unfamiliar variety. Turns out it doesn't travel well; it's commonly used to make applesauce and apple cider. A month past the harvest, we didn't find any to sample.

We warmed up our legs for the week with a 44 mile loop, climbing a modest 1,295 feet. A couple of missed turns added to the challenge.

Not long after we'd started out, I compared the mileage on the route sheet with my bike computer and brought our posse to a stop. Somewhere, we'd missed the turn onto a trail; we backtracked to get back on course. This would complicate navigation for the rest of the day, as we needed to estimate the expected mark for each turn by factoring in the distance added by each missed connection.

The highlight of our loop was a late lunch at the Trail House, a welcoming stop for a bunch of hungry cyclists.

Followed by another lowlight, when some of us muffed our departure by missing the first turn. Separated from the ride's leaders, I suggested to another experienced leader that we take care not to drop anyone in our half of the group.

We were on the lookout for our next turn, onto the Santa Rosa Creek Trail through the Prince Memorial Greenway, when a local cyclist overheard us and helpfully chimed in: “two more traffic lights.” With the rest of the group in tow, I didn't pause to get a photo of the colorful sculpture of a leaping fish at the entrance plaza. As we made our way along the trail, alongside homeless men passed out in the shelter of every overpass and none-too-friendly-looking teenage boys loitering in the shadows, I was grateful not to be alone. I realized I'd been here before: this trail was part of the return route for Levi's King Ridge GranFondo.

I noticed a sign for the Joe Rodota Trail ... is this the other end of the trail that would lead us straight back to Sebastopol? [Yes, as it turns out.] Our route sheet didn't send us that way, and feeling responsible for the rest of our little group, I stayed the course. A diversity of paces splintered us, but we all found our way back, despite missing the penultimate term (for good measure).

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