A few weeks ago, I made a trip out to the Santa Rosa and the Dry Creek Valley. My first two posts were about BikePartners.net and the Charles M. Schultz Museum as well as a couple of restaurants in the Santa Rosa area. The following day, I had a quick breakfast in the Equus Restaurant at the Fountain Grove Inn, I hopped in my father-in-law’s car and jumped on the 101 North. The Dry Creek Valley starts just to the south of Healdsburg and continues up the Valley that lies to the west of Geysersville, ending near Lake Sonoma. I was meeting my hosts for the next few days, Donald and Catherine Goodkin who own Goodkin Vineyards on Dry Creek Road (before you all scramble to see what their wines score on Cellar Tracker or with that other guy–they are growers only).
The first event on the agenda was a bike ride, and I have to admit, I was a bit worried about it. As I have lamented countless times recently, the winter in Philadelphia was horrible and I really did not get out on a bike all that much this winter. Thus, I had put on some weight, which is rarely good when it comes to cycling. Add that I discovered that Donald was a rather accomplished amateur cyclist and Catherine was even scarier–she was a Category 1 racer (for those of you keeping score at home, Cat 1 is the highest level for amateur cyclists–the next step is going professional–I am a registered Cat 3, but I got to that level simply by longevity–in other words, the US Cycling Federation took pity on me and bumped me up a couple notches). I counted up all the outside road miles that I had done in the last four months and let’s just say your average runner would do more miles over the course of a long weekend….
My family and I were going to be out in California for a few days beforehand, so I would be able to get a few miles in at my in-laws house, and even though the weather would be great, I was not looking forward to riding much at my in-laws house either (albeit for different reasons). It was not so much about riding in Eastern Contra Costa County where cyclists are rare and seem to be treated as some sort of wildlife by the motorists. No, the main reason was the bike. I bought it a few years ago to leave out at their house to ride during our rather frequent visits. Let’s just say it is not all that advanced, and would benefit from some TLC. It is so old that it only has a six speed cassette. to put that in some perspective, about every 5-7 years bike manufacturers add a gear or two. Currently, the newest bikes sport 11 speeds (that makes my bike at least 25-35 years old–sometimes good for wine, rarely beneficial for any mode of transportation). Oh yeah, and it’s a manly lilac color. I did get a few rides in before heading out to Sonoma, and I felt actually pretty good on the bike (its name is “POS“–the first definition). At a tasting in New York City, I ran into Ann Petersen, the Executive Director of the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, and I told her that I was woefully out of shape and worried about the ride. I figured I had to cover all my bases (and my ego). I showed up at Donald and Catherine’s house around 8:30, and we got ready for the ride. They had a bike for me from Spoke Folk Cyclery in Healdsburg, a brand new carbon fiber Specialized Tarmac (there goes one excuse), which I was very excited to try (I have been in the market for a new bike for over five years):
Just as we were heading out, I started listing for Catherine and Donald the litany of excuses that I had compiled as to why I might, well, suck wind. Donald, who is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, said that Ann had already relayed the message I gave her in New York and she told him to take it easy on my out of shape carcass (Ann used much less judgmental language). He then asked me if I had received his email response (I hadn’t). He then turned to me and said very calmly: “I said we were going to #%&*!&# crush you!” Oh boy. He must have noticed all the color drain from my face, since he quickly added “I was only kidding, of course.” I laughed the kind of laugh you use when you just meet someone and you are pretty sure they are kidding, but not entirely, and the laugh is a way to release a little tension, since it is a much better option than soiling your bib shorts. Well, I had absolutely nothing to worry about: the bike was incredible and Donald and Catherine certainly took it easy on me. We rode up and back down the Valley, without going up anything close to a hill. They showed me several wineries along the way, filling me in on some of he history of the appellation (more on that in a subsequent post). We also stopped by the Spoke Folk Cyclery, whose bike I was riding, and met the owners Liz and Richard, both originally from England, but have lived in the U.S. for quite some time. Their shop is impressive–a host of bikes for rent and sale, and one of the better clothing sections I have ever seen (and I have been inside a ton of bike shops). Rich and Liz were delightful people (I had dinner with them the following night), and I would highly recommend their shop to any cycling enthusiast that is passing through Healdsburg. They have a top-notch service department and rent all levels of bikes (not just the top of the line, fancy-schmancy-pants bike that I used).
Besides, it is always great to support the Local Bike Shop (LBS) whenever possible! (Yes, they are both from Britain, but we won that battle centuries ago. They have also both been here so long, that Richard’s accent has morphed into something rather confusing: a cross between Hugh Grant and Sylvester Stallone [a little Rocky–Philly reference there in case you missed it].) An absolutely fantastic beginning to the day, which was only going to get better (details next week).