42.8 mi / 10.2 mph / 1700 ft. climbing
Home: Bothe-Napa Valley State Park hiker/biker campsite
Despite there being four other adults (including one working the night-shift) and two kids in the house whose living-room floor we slept on, it was a quiet night of sleep, with our early-rising butts being the only disruptors. The fancy two-person sleeping pad that Will and Sierra loaned us to try out (matching our own two-person sleeping bag) surely helped too. And the morning dawned with the first actual visible fog we’d been in at ground-level, making us all the more grateful for the walls and roof to keep us (and our stuff) dry!
As their final bit of hospitality, Will rode with us through the fog of the first few miles to help guide us out of town. And while riding with someone new is always fun, I didn’t realize how genuinely pleasant it would be to ride for several miles without needing to give a moment’s attention to the turns we needed to make!
Fall is our favorite season, and as children of the Midwest and upstate New York, the glow, crunch, and even scent of autumn leaves is something that warms our souls. So the last couple 3rd-seasons in Washington, where very few native plants color as they decay into winter, have left a bit of a hole for us. And then this year, we were on the ocean coast or in the redwoods for most of October, so we figured it was another lost fall season.
And then we saw the Sonoma and Napa County vineyards in November. Why did no one ever tell us that grape leaves change colors?!? It seems unbelievable that this is a fact that neither Rett or I had ever learned in our lives. It seems like simply browsing a “17 Instagrammable Things To Do On Your Napa Vacay” listicle (which we’d done) would mention the fall colors!
So while the riding was beautiful (especially once we got off the busy streets and onto Chalk Hill Rd), the wine country created a problem that we weren’t used to: no place to pee or to eat lunch! With our folding camp chairs, we pride ourselves on being able to stop on any not-obviously-private patch of land, plop down, and eat. So in a rural area, that usually means most places along the road, and in an urban area, it means any sort of park or public space. But this wine country was a “rural road”, but with houses, wineries, and so many fences right up on the road that we rode for miles on ever-dwindling energy searching for a spot where a winemaker wouldn’t come out with a shotgun. Eventually, with the help of a local cyclist, we found a suitable (and very pretty!) spot to eat, but then peeing, which has all of the lunch-constraints plus additional visibility requirements, was still nearly impossible. Curse this country made beautiful by the careful work of man!
After lunch we turned onto CA 128, which got busier and less-fun than Chalk Hill Rd., but took us up over what remained of the ridge dividing the Sonoma Valley from the Napa Valley, and turned us south once again. Despite the sun and gorgeous 70+ degree fall day, it looked like we’d be heading up into another wet camp, as the sun at 3pm was already starting to hide behind the valley’s western mountains as we rode in the shade along them.