Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nobay Mini Tour Day Four

Morning Day Four

After a few hours of the lake vent and my sleeping bag I was tired but ready to get up. Today my feet feel like swollen overripe tomatoes. It hurts to walk, but thankfully not to pedal, some naproxen with my shredded cardboard will fix me up. We finally get to see the camp and the park, it's quite a bit friendlier and a different scale in the light.

Four Up

We set out for Napa with purpose, it's going to be an epic day whether we realize it or not. After we are saved from some gnarly single-track by a married couple on full-suspension mountain bikes, we work our way along a bike path through the back of the park and out through a retirement community that had posted signs: BICYCLES PROHIBITED . We finally make our way onto the Sonoma Highway, past the picturesque homogeneity of a previous generation's vision for their America.

After lunch it's time for a little route discussion. Specifically a route that is covered in the Tour of California: Trinity Road. Our route over Trinity Road would require ~1,700 feet of climbing in about 3 miles. It looks like this on the Internet:

The grade is in excess of 12% throughout most of the first mile. It is a climb that done fully loaded requires a gear lower than the one I had, or perhaps it was mashing on my swollen tomatoes, but this climb would keep me off my feet for a week after I got back from the trip. Another lesson for my tour in June and a search for either different shoes or different pedals, my feet hurt like hell after this effort.

I'm the first to reach the top and run into a couple of college kids riding with their dad. They are impressed with my bike, especially dad, I'm proud, sore feet and all. I stake out a good position for shooting riders on the final feet of the climb. The descending family ride alerts Seth to my intentions and he takes off his helmet for his shot.

Helmets on the Ground

Helmets are thrown to the ground and beers are cracked. Yes beers — just a couple. And since he claimed he was heaviest, he felt he was also fastest on the descent. Heavy and logical he barrels down the steep winding road ahead of us.

Seth's Decending Line

I come up on his expert line down this hill to find him covered in foliage as if he was a sniper trying to blend in.

Post Crater Seth

Fortunately we can laugh this one off, the laughter is awkward and uncomfortable, just like when Seth weighed the last batch of homebrew. Still, we're thankful and a ton more cautious (well at least Seth) on the rest of the descent. It's refreshing riding Dry Creek in the Spring, green and lush, postcardesque.

Stopping for the Scenery

We're not yet into Napa proper, but we are all thankful to be off the mountain. Our dinner discussion is a battle of wills, and another night of camping quickly loses its luster under the threat of rain and another night on a permarest. A menagerie of mobile machinery fuels a search for a motel near Main. We decide to try our cheapest option with the highest rating, the old Jefferson Motel, now known as the Chardonnay Lodge.

The Funghi

Now I like a lodge just as much as the next guy, but one this cheap in Napa seems odd somehow. Turns out it was the best decision we made all trip. Close to town and with a roof. We decide to check out a couple local watering holes and a little of my roots. Turns out that my grandfather was the last merchant in Napa's Chinatown.

My Grandparents

Back at the lodge we watch TV like we've not seen it in months. Within minutes we are all sleeping through the heavy rain.

Nobay Mini Tour Day Three

Day Three starts with bacon, egg, potato, cheese, and avocado breakfast burritos. Unfortunately I haven't been able to have a movement, so I just stack it on top. It's going to be a big climb to get to our next stop and fresh with another handful of something resembling sleep, we are off.

Start of Day Three

The climb out of Nicasio Reservoir into Petaluma is much like getting out of Fairfax, perhaps not as long, but still a good one, perhaps even — fun. Buzzards circle over head swooping down to eat a deer caught in the headlights. You feel as if one of you could be next, especially the ones who complain about climbing.

We arrive at a half way point to Petaluma, a popular stop as it's literally the only thing in miles. As a captive audience I decide that feeling squirty has to stop here. The bathroom is not clean. I enter in desperation and leave without a couple layers of my fragile innocence. On the way out a rider on a road bike stops to ask if we'd seen his riding companion, an old man on a mountain bike. He is no where to be found, we worry on his behalf.

We finally finish the long decent into Petaluma and the center of town is bustling with activity, but this is not our destination. We ride through and out of town into an office park fit for a sitcom or the saddest job of your entire life in a cubicle in a colorless world that smells of new carpet and copy toner. But within this seemingly lifeless desert of single level business-park beige, lies the Lagunita's Brewing Company.

Beer Stop No. 1: Lagunitas

With mediocre food and a less than ideal location, the Lagunitas Brewing Company is still worth the visit. The beer garden and beer are the still main event, better even than having to drink warm Budwiser from a plastic cup in SoCha. Beers and food give us our calories for the ride to Santa Rosa and our next stop: the Russian River Brewing Company.

I can't say enough about Russian River. It has crept into my number one spot for brew pubs and local craft beer. Natalie and Vince are blessings to every beer drinking snob and otherwise in the bay area. Blind Pig and Consecration are my rewards for the day. Well half a Consecration, Jason and I learned important lessons about this particular brew some months ago.

Fruit and Sandals

The day is getting long and we still need to hit a grocery store before we get to Spring Lake. But it is already too late, the light is fading like a drunk at the bottom of a bottle. By the time we leave the grocery store dusk has all but passed. We ride into the park in the dark with no idea where to go. Like a scene out of Silent Hill, our tiny headlights poke just a few yards into the inky dark.

Locked and Loaded

We ride a good ways downhill in the dark until we come upon a deserted camping area that doesn't allow fires. We are not only lost, but have lost our virginity to this place; we're down a steep hill in the pitch black loaded with groceries and without a clue as to where the camp site is. The dark has a way of playing tricks on you. For one you can't really see how steep the hill you are climbing is which is good. But you also get a lot of moving shadows and the gradient between the brightest spot in front of you creates complete blindness in your periphery. I'm not typically terrified of the dark, but I was certain we should fear other people in this park at night.

Night Three TV

We manage to find the campsite and it wasn't bad. Not the great outdoors with several audible highways nearby and a pump venting in the lake every half hour, but clean, well kept, nice campsite hosts, and everything you need, including a coin-operated shower. I could not reduce myself to a shower that I had to feed like a parking meter, Seth, however, washed away his dignity for a dollar and a half.

I sleep with one eye open, my body full of grocery store rotisserie and ramen. I can't wait for Day Four.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nobay Mini Tour Day Two

Refreshed as I'd slept on a transatlantic red-eye in coach on United, I get up and start readying myself to leave. I begin to have those nagging thoughts about bringing too much shit with me. Jason makes us a killer cup of coffee, we eat some rehydrated cardboard flake and we get on the road.

Day 2: Breakfast

After a quick stop at Breaking Away Bicycles for a barrel adjuster, we climb out of Fairfax. I've done this climb a few times before but never loaded. Fortunately there are no million dollar wild fires today, but that doesn't mean it's not hot, the road kill still manages a nice slow braise on the pavement. Not that I've ever been a fan of climbing, but this was not part of the "fun" people talk about while touring. Still once you do it, the long downhill into the redwoods is like drinking ice cold beer.

Climbing Out of Fairfax

We arrive at Samuel P. Taylor park and finagle our way into a campsite. Our chase car filled with real ice cold beer is still miles away. In the meantime Brad and I jam to Pt. Reyes Station for tonight's dinner. On route, like a mirage rising out of the desert, we are greeted with the Marin Sun Farms Butcher Shop. If you are a vegetarian, skip this next part, unless you still like meat. In which case, you should read this while eating a block of seitan.

Kona the Paddle Dog

Unlike a mirage in the desert, this one is filled with grass feed meats from within a few miles. After riding in the early evening wind tunnel to the coast we could only pray it was open, It was nearly 6 pm. Like perfectly fried strips of bacon, we are greeted with a wonderland of fresh meats of every specie. Rib-eyes and tenderloins are trimmed before our eyes as if a meat genie was granting wishes. The bill for six pounds isn't awful, it's ridiculous — but worth it.

Thick Sliced

We pick up tots, veggies, and a 12 pack of beer just in case the car has not arrived by the time we get back. This would be a recurring theme. It also was something that I've learned is complete idiotic. Less idiotic was stopping for pot-stickers from the racist typography food truck. After our stickers we jam the 8 miles back to camp and our chase car has arrived with the women and ice cold beer. It was better than a podium ceremony.

NSFW Shadow Puppet Theater

A little shadow theater at Jason's Costco Tent Palace provides some pre-dinner entertainment, or something. If you're a vegetarian who has skipped the preceding sections continue here and look at this f---ing meat. Expertly prepared by camp chef Brad, the meats were a welcomed protein boost after a hard day on the bike.

Campfire Cookery

We sit with our bellies full of meat and potatoes, eyes glazing over with campfire, it's like TV but hotter. I'm tired as hell today but at least I've showered.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nobay Mini Tour Day One

No matter how old you get, it seems, there are never a shortage of things to remind you that you're but a greenhorn on this mud-ball. Cycling is one of those things that will continually show you where your green spots are. I've recently gotten into touring on bicycle and even after ten or so years and a few thousand miles on a bike, I'm still finding new things to learn about being on one.

Four Up

A couple of weeks ago I set out on five day camping trip on my Bridgestone XO-1 with three tourmates, Dennis, Seth, and Jason. The plan was to bike to Vallejo and take the ferry back to SF camping along the way. We hit good weather despite the weatherman's curses, and deftly stayed the one night it rained at a great motel.

Day one starts a bowl of cereal and a banana. The weather is great and I'm feeling prepared for the trip. Since we'll be local I somehow feel less worried about forgetting something. Perhaps it was carrying all my crap downstairs and loading my bike that helped. Half a block down the street I began to worry I was taking too much.

Checkin' the Load

After an immediate flat and a tire change, we are greeted with a great pint and rations at Marin Brewing in Larkspur. The riding is great, the weather is too, I daydream about the prisoners at San Quentin; that's gotta be where one would want to go to prison.

Day One: Lunch

We arrive at China Camp bathed in a golden sunset to welcoming campsite hosts. We were the only ones to arrive on bicycle that evening, and while we went mostly unnoticed at first, everyone noticed us as we cruised by them fully loaded, many of them green-eyed, awkwardly carrying with their inflated-in-the-car-air-mattresses; dragging trash bins they borrowed from our camp hosts filled their camping effects.

Never Enough Firewood

We're at site 4, a slightly elevated site with a narrow un-even path through tall grass and a small brook to our clearing, great for a dicey end to a day of riding on the road. Dennis and Jason unload and get some firewood. Brad, who had been sleeping on a conference call until late in the afternoon before leaving, arrived just minutes after us. He is welcomed by a smokescreen of whining mosquitos; I was almost certain Brad was going to find a hotel. I hand him my insect repellent (that's a lesson I learned on my last tour). He proceeded to also repel the mosquitos from the inside with a generous dose of Maker's Mark, I guess that worked for him.

After dropping our meat in the fire and a few beers, we put Brad in the tent and headed out for a night ride, down the dicey narrow path over a small brook to the main road. Riding in the pitch blackness without lights is made possible by a couple of beers to impair your judgment and the magic of the human eye. Fortunately we decided that we'd use lights on the way back to camp.

Night Riders

Sleeping in a tent while camping is like a more comfortable version of sleeping on a plane. It's slightly less uncomfortable, but it's definitely not sleeping in a real bed. I understand the aesthetic of sleeping in the great outdoors, but I'll be honest, I'm not hard like that.

The beards are good too.