Riding the vines of California; Part #2

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 cheek by jowl vineyards and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Indeed, that is the particular beauty of this place: the neatly tended agriculture mixed and matched with the wild of the forested mountains. Interspersed with modest red barns and opulent tasting rooms. 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.

Mt. Veeder bike alone

The HD Sportster Iron 1200 on Mt. Veeder Road, Napa County

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 mania 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 are allowed to grow right up to the sides of the roads; few side roads have shoulders, which makes almost every road a scenic byway.



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Day One drew 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.

map-napa-sonoma-wine-countryThe 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.

Scorpion helmet CA 1

on California Hwy 1

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.   

About David Blaska

Madison WI
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11 Responses to Riding the vines of California; Part #2

  1. Great blog telling the story of a great trip! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marge Bils says:

    Good for you & Lisa!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Riding the high wine country on two wheels; Part #1 | Blaska Policy Werkes

  4. GARY KNOWLES says:

    Nicely told!


  5. chequamegon says:

    Nicely done! Did you ride out there or trailer it, then ride?


  6. Scott Freeman says:

    What a wonderful trip! Thanks for taking us along…


  7. madisonexpat says:

    Today (78F) I walked once around Notre Dame. Ile de la France and Ile St. Louis closed by a lot of gendarmes. Saw hoses still deployed but the folks are getting on top of it. Mega window (Rosas) is intact with all its lead. A lot of spars now buttressing the walls which came through in good shape. The attic was known as “The Forest” because of all the 500 year old wood up there is gone.
    Could’ve been a lot worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. George's Son says:

    Great fun for you -and still chilly/dark here, yer missing nuthin’. Great update, and map!


  9. Lars says:

    Great, Glad you shared. Reminded me, and my better half, of the last time we were out on Hwy 1, from Bremerton WA. to San Fran. awesome! Thanks for bringing back the memories.


  10. madisonexpat says:

    Many moons ago my friends brought me to a haute cuisine joint in Sonoma to partake of fresh salmon. I told my pal, “It really doesn’t have much taste at all.” A hovering maitre d’ pounced and demanded “What did you say?”
    “Ummmmm, it’s remarkably subtle.” I told him and he left with a large smile.


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