Tales From: The Ride Up to the Rockpile AVA Part 1

Yesterday, I published the final post about a rather remarkable tasting that occurred at Grape House, a bed and breakfast owned by Donald and Catherine Goodkin. We went out to dinner afterwards and although all the half-consumed bottles were still on the counter calling my name when we returned, I resisted the urge. The following morning the plan was to ride up to the Rockpile AVA (they might have referred to it simply as “Rockpile” but I am not one of the cool kids from Dry Creek–yet). I was told there would be five of us all together: Donald (a former Masters racer), his wife Catherine (a former Cat 1 cyclist), Richard (the owner of the über bike shop Spoke Folk Cyclery in Healdsburg, and former racer), and their friend Mike (who did not race, but according to Catherine and Donald “was the strongest out of all of us”).

Once I heard about the line-up, I decided to take a pass on the nightcap and headed to bed. I am not even slightly religious, but I might have said a silent prayer that night before dozing off—something along the lines of “Dear God, please don’t let me embarrass myself.” After all, I write this blog, claiming that I am a cyclist, with pictures of some guy racing a bike, trying to look all badass (sorry for the terminology, but after minutes searching, it is really the only word that fits).

With Mme. Salvatore at her incredible champagne shop in Epernay, France (she’s the one in white).

With Mme. Salvatore at her incredible champagne shop in Epernay, France (she’s the one in white).

I woke the next morning, and got all kitted-up (that is a cycling term that basically means getting your team uniform on—here is one of the few pictures I have of me in my “kit” (ignore the red thing—it’s a fanny pack—one of my many endorsements).

I made my way downstairs to find Donald casually drinking a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. After an exchange of “Good Morning” he informed me that he would not be joining us on the ride as he had over-indulged the night before and was in no condition to “Do Rockpile” (I think those were his words, but as I write this, I am feeling more and more like one of the “cool kids of Dry Creek” so that might be my interpretation of what was said).

I was disappointed that Donald would not be joining us, but it also meant that I just moved up a place on the GC. (That is ultra-cool cyclist talk for “General Classification”—basically the standings in the race. Sure, there were only going to be four of us, but coming in “fourth” sounds incrementally better than “fifth” no matter how many people there are). Shortly, we were joined by Catherine who informed us that she just received a text from Rich (the bike shop guy) who would not be able to make it either. Since I had yet to meet Richard, I was not all that broken up about it—after all, I just made it on to the podium before I even climbed on the bike (“podium” is another ultra-cool cycling term, which means to finish in the top three on the GC).

You can't tell me that looks appealing (from reddit.com)

You can’t tell me that looks appetizing (from reddit.com)

Catherine asked if I would like some oatmeal, and I lied. My mother always taught me to accept all food, no matter what your predilection, so I said yes. Truth be told, I can’t stand oatmeal. To paraphrase my deceased grandfather “I have no desire to eat something that looks like somebody already ate it.”

He used that phrase repeatedly in reference to pizza, but I figured it was apropos (French term) for any food that was not visually appetizing.

I am a rather adventurous eater, though–there are really only three categories of food that I avoid: hot beverages (I tend to burn my tongue very easily, and as a result, I have had only one cup of coffee in my life—this category also includes soup), the squash family of vegetables (which also includes eggplant), and meat on bones (although I have come around on this and it is now mainly chicken on bones that I try to avoid). And we were about to embark on a ride that by all accounts was going to be tough–I needed carbs. I did not want a repeat of THIS.

Catherine’s oatmeal, however, was incredible, one of the tastiest breakfasts I have ever had. This was not the microwavable oatmeal that constituted the majority of my experience, but imported Scottish oats with fresh fruit.


I might even be a convert (I should have taken a photo of Catherine’s oatmeal, but I was a bit stressed out about the ride, and I was also worried that it would drain valuable battery from my iPhone, which I needed to record the ride on Strava [geeky bike app that tracks your ride via GPS]).

We headed outside where we met Mike. I immediately knew I was in big trouble–the guy was barely bigger than my left leg and much more muscular. If there was an ounce of fat on him, it was in the Fig Newtons in his jersey pocket. I think he said something to the effect of:

“Ready to  do some climbing?”

Normally, at least in Philly (when I am not 25 pounds over-weight like I was at that moment), this statement would not cause me much angst–I am certainly big for a bike rider, but I can usually hold my own on rides around the city since most “climbs” are rather short and usually big-ring affairs (another mega-cool bike term, which basically means a big gear) that I can just power over.

That would not be the case today.


I loved riding this bike–considering buying one now (don’t tell my wife).

I hopped on my Specialized Tarrmac that was provided by the kind people at Spoke Folk Cyclery in Healdsburg and we headed off down Dry Creek Road. Soon, we were at the base of a slight rise, which was not that steep at all. So, instead of doing the logical thing and shifting into a smaller gear and riding behind the others, I kept it in the big ring, jumped out of the saddle, and hammered on up.

This is what I have done countless times in Philly, hoping to crush the hopes of others on the ride.

Problem: this was not Philly.

I turned the corner and saw this sign: Little Flat

I actually did not see the sign at first, but rather the grade of the road, which increased dramatically and did not have an apparent end. The sign, which reads “Little Flat” was the name of a parking lot, I presume, but it also would describe the next hour and a half or so of riding–there would be little flat, and most of it would be going straight up.



About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cycling, Dry Creek Valley, Wine and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Tales From: The Ride Up to the Rockpile AVA Part 1

  1. Nancy Chovancek says:

    Your abomination for oatmeal is my husband’s equivalent to hummus. I, on the other hand, love both. At least I know when I get older and have no teeth, I’ll enjoy eating something.


  2. sallybr says:

    “She’s the one in white” – sorry, this caption made my day, I am laughing so hard I cannot stop


    thanks for clarifying, because for a moment there I thought for sure she was the Drunken Cyclist! ;0))))))


  3. Amanda says:

    Wow that sounds difficult, but fun. I love that you rediscovered oatmeal. I would love to try that on my new Bianchi! Sounds like a major quad workout! I love that your hard core cyclist friend drank too much so opted out. That’s me.


  4. Completely understand your aversion to oatmeal! It looks gross and tastes like paper mache.


  5. Rocking that cycling gear mate!


  6. I’m looking forward to the rest of your adventure! And why the aversion to boned meat? (Just curious. I totally understand about the oatmeal.)


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