Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ride the West - Day Five

Cloverdale to Petaluma: Our ride out of Cloverdale this morning was under clear skies with the promise of plenty of sunshine. Moms were walking their children to school. Folks were headed to work. Work for us? Just 69 miles of riding in some of the best scenery of the week. Our breakfast this morning was 1.2 miles down the road. So we left the hotel, biked a little over a mile, then stopped for pancakes, eggs, bacon, and coffee. We decided at this pace, we'd be stopping to eat over 50 times today!

Following breakfast, we found ourselves in the heart of wine country. Vineyard after vineyard made for amazing scenery. It was like a smorgasbord for the eyes... brilliants greens, lush purples, warm browns and yellows. Every turn was a new scene perfect for a postcard. The roads were a bit bumpy, but the light traffic and the easy rollers made them a blast a to ride upon. I found myself riding for most of the morning with two 70+ year old gentlemen, Tom and Rick. I can only hope that I can ride half as fast as these guys when I'm their age! Rick, in particular, is a hammerhead. We flew along these roads, cresting one small hill and dashing down the other side, over and over again.

Tom's buddies, Bill and Paul, had skipped the restaurant in order to get a head start on the day. But at our fast pace, we caught them. "Hey Bill and Paul," I shouted. "You forgot Tom, so we brought him to ya." Then Rick and I mashed on the pedals and we the first ones to arrive at the one and only SAG stop for the day.

Following the SAG, the terrain and scenery changed. We were riding along the Russian River on a forested road named "Bohemian Highway" through little towns like Guerneville, Monte Rio, Occidental, and Freestone. I would have enjoyed stopping in Occidental and checking it out. The main street had an old town flair with lots of cute shops, bakeries, and "dry goods." 

As we neared Freestone, the terrain changed again. This was cow country. Happy cows come from California. And I saw a lot of the them this afternoon. Smelled them, too. The rolling hills, scrubby trees, and family farms dotted the landscape. In the town of Valley Ford, several of us stopped at a small grocery store for lunch. I grabbed a piece of pecan pie, sat on the step out front, and counted my blessings to be enjoying the sun, riding my bike, and having a great day.

The last 20 miles of the day took us up a couple of climbs, gave us a nice descent past more farms and cows, and dropped us outside of Petaluma. This city of 55,000 suggests that we're no longer out in the boonies of Northern California. We're getting closer to San Francisco, the fourth most populous city in California, and my destination of this ride. Tomorrow is my final day of riding and it will take me right across the Golden Gate Bridge!

(If you'd like to read the blog by our route leader, Mike Munk, visit this link and see more photos of the route and meet the other riders.)

Dist: 71.09
Time: 4:44:18
Avg: 14.9
Max: 34.7
Total Ascent: 3464 ft.
Max Elev: 601 ft.
Temp: 54 degrees in Cloverdale, 84 degrees in Petaluma
Weather: clear and sunny

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