Blaska put 438 miles on a Harley Davidson Sportster (the Iron 1200 model) in four days of riding from San Franciso north through Marin County to wine country in Sonoma and Napa Counties last week (4/9-13/19). (We began our story here.)
Sonoma Highway, aka California Hwy 12, is that county’s main winery thoroughfare, albeit more spread out than neighboring Napa County’s California Hwy 29, which is cheek-by-jowl vineyards (fun) and bumper-to-bumper traffic (not so fun)..
Indeed, that is the particular beauty of wine country: the neatly tended agriculture mixed and matched with the wild of the forested mountains. Interspersed with modest red barns and opulent tasting rooms, some modeled on French villas with gushing fountains. All gardened with a profusion of blooming flowers, azaleas, wisteria, midnight blue lobelia, all manner of succulents, roses, and my favorite, the orange California poppies that grow wild here. We saw no tulips or daffodils.
Temperatures were consistently in the high 60s except for a cloudy and cool Thursday, which dictated a day to visit the tasting rooms with the lovely Lisa. A culinary note: even the hamburgers come with a side salad of fresh greens with a light vinaigrette. Eating healthy is a phobia here.
So is exercise. No matter how steep the climb, there were bicyclists as gaunt as Ethiopian refugees churning up the hillsides, noses down, helmets just above the handlebars.
Trees here were allowed to grow right up to the sides of the roads; few side roads have shoulders, which makes almost every road a scenic byway.
Day One threw us west toward the Pacific Ocean and California Hwy 1. It’s cooler out there, windier, fewer trees, more bald mountains. We drove through Bodega Bay — stopped at the successor restaurant to the one in which Hitchcock’s “Birds” was filmed (the original burned down). Then on to Jenner, five miles north.
I asked the proprietor of a modest eatery on a cliff overlooking the ocean (great portabello mushroom sandwich) what was the town’s principal business. She answered “bird watching.” Hitchcock chose wisely.
The way back took us over California Hwy 116, as twisty as a twizzler through majestic California redwoods so close to the pavement one could reach out and touch them, save for an instinct for self-preservation. The towns along the way — places like Monte Rio and Duncans Mills — are little more than a fire department and a tavern, unpretentious as a chicken dinner fund raiser.
The road parallels the Russian River, which is its own viticultural area (much like Medoc in Bordeaux). Korbel brandy and sparkling wine and Rodney Strong are vinted here.
The following day I traveled east across the Mayacamas mountains along Trinity Road. More twists combined with a crumbled road surface turned my knuckles white underneath the fingerless leather gloves. Where I could take my eyes off the next blind curve I marveled at the ingenuity of building mega-homes this far up; some of the driveways had to have been 20 degree-rises or more.
Trinity Road took the HD Iron 1200 to the more manageable Mt. Veeder Road and ultimately to the Silverado Trail, well into Napa County. On a whim, veered east onto Highway 128 (aka Sage Canyon Road), maybe my favorite. Wide and freshly poured pavement, few signs of human intervention (beyond the dam on Lake Hennessey) and almost zero traffic. Nirvana!
Pulled off the side of the road to sit on a hillside to hear the rushing stream well below, largely hidden by spruce and oaks. The only thing missing was my lovely Lisa, who just doesn’t ride.
Her choice and mine. Blaska postponed the wine tastings until after each drive but there is an element of danger in motorcycling. Mistakes are less forgiven, nothing between you and the idiot in the next lane but a layer of leather, no seat belts or airbags.
All part of the thrill of life.