Thursday, July 23, 2009

More cycling in Sonoma County - Mill Creek Road

Last night I had the opportunity to do a short ride from our house on Limerick Lane. Not wanting to go too far, I rode through downtown Healdsburg and onto Westside Road and then turned right onto Mill Creek Road.

Mill Creek Road is a dead end to cars that goes several miles into the hills West of Healdsburg. I had been up a mile or two when we were looking for property, but never taken the opportunity to ride to the end on my bike. The Sonoma County Bike Coaltion map listed the summit at 1320 feet, so I figured it would be a perfect workout.

The hill starts steep, 7-8 percent grades for a mile or so, then settles into a rolling uphill with many intermediate descents. You quickly leave the grape fields and go along a stream surrounded by Redwood Trees. It reminds me a lot of going up Steven's Canyon Road in Cupertino.

There are many houses tucked in the trees - people who clearly value a bit of privacy by living up here, but I had no problems with the few cars that were driving up the road. In fact, several miles up a guy in a truck pulled up next to me just as I was heading up a steeper pitch and asked if I needed a ride.

I stopped and chatted with him a bit, asking where the finish was. He said "About a mile but the next bit is REALLY steep. The road ends at address 10,000, you are at 8700 now. Good luck!"

He wasn't kidding. This next part did not remind me of Steven's Canyon - it reminded me of Redwood Gulch. 15-18% grade for the better part of a mile. A real grunter, right outside my door! A great find!

I did take the requisite picture at the top.

mill creek rd

I was going to stop on the way down and try to get a photo of the steep bit, but I came off of it with so much speed that I didn't want to stop. The descent is tricky, the road is narrow so you need to be careful lest there be a car around a blind corner. The steep section is very twisty so I basically rode the brakes the whole way. And the pavement is pretty chopped up. And of course, since there are intermediate descents on the way up, there are intermediate climbs on the way down.

Check it out sometime. And please be mindful of the residents, hold your pee until you get to the bottom and use the bathroom at Mill Creek Winery.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Tuesday Night Music in the Healdsburg Plaza!

Last night we were lucky enough to be able to go downtown to the Healdburg Plaza, where there is live music on Tuesday nights as well as a mini farmers market.

The band was in full swing playing some rocking tunes.


Get there early or you might have trouble getting a place to sit. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets. It can get really packed.


Some people really prep up with some serious picnics.


If you can't bring your own stuff from home, the Farmer's Market has lots of good stuff, Yucatan Tamales has some pretty amazing Mexican food made with interesting local ingredients, and there are a few markets in walking distance - Shelton's Market (formerly known as Anstedt's), and Oakville Grocery. Shelton's is a cool place with a "crunchy granola" vibe to it with a lot of organics and the like, Oakville is sort of a "very high end" deli.

Me? I prepared by getting some Racer 5 Ale from Bear Republic Brewery.


The farmer's market runs from 4-7, the music goes from 6-8 PM.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cycling around Healdsburg - bike ride on the Chalk Hill Loop

This past weekend I took a bit of a breather on our trip to Healdsburg and instead of obsessively pulling weeds from the garden, I took my bike out for a spin.

I started at Le Tournesol and stopped to take a compare and contrast photoset.

Here is Limerick Lane Winery, tucked in behind some of their grapes.


Here is the view across the street.

new grapes on limerick

Newly planted vines - they went in this past week. These won't be wine for a few decades. I'm told there won't be a tasting room added because Limerick Lane is already maxed out with Limerick, Christie, Christopher Creek, and Mietz.

I headed South on Los Amigos into Windsor. Left on Arata, straight on Hembree, left on Old Redwood, left on Pleasant. This is where things get more pleasant, as you leave the outskirts of Windsor and head into the hills on Chalk Hill Road.

Chalk hill - always a good place to be on Twitpic

Chalk Hill is a very popular cycling road near Healdsburg, a part of the Santa Rosa Cycling Club's Wine Country Century and the Vineman triathlon. You often see hordes of triathletes scoping out the course. I rode the hill in the opposite direction of both of those courses - I prefer this direction because the descent is much more twisty and fun.

At the North End of Chalk Hill Road I turned left onto 128 and into the Alexander Valley, which as you can see is just an awful place.
This photo was taken at the driveway to Alexander Valley Vineyard's winery, the tasting room is tucked up into the hills and is quite striking. I highly recommend their "Redemption Zin".

128 takes you into the hamlet (2-3 buildings) of Jimtown. Here you can refuel at the Jimtown Store, known for cyclists stopping to fuel up and for their various olive and artichoke tapenades.


I took Alexander Valley Road straight to Healdsburg Ave, a detour on Lytton Springs is perhaps a more pleasant route, you can go under the freeway onto Chiquita Lane which is a rolling scenic alternative to the rough pavement on Healdsburg Ave. Both roads take you to Grove which takes you into downtown Healdsburg. A scenic cyclist bypass (if you don't want to go check out the Healdsburg Plaza) is Kinley Road, which runs along 101 on the West side from Dry Creek Road to Westside Road, past Horse Farms and grapes. Finally I got back on Old Redwood and returned to Limerick Lane, and sat down on the back deck and enjoyed a white peach from our tree which is in full flight.

Not a bad day at all!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

One small step towards SMART rail

Freight trains will return to Sonoma County soon. From the Press Democrat