Saturday, September 22, 2012

Who Put This Road on the Map?

I really want to know who thought it would be funny to send us on today's route.  So would the tribe members.  It is my understanding that the route we took today was to cut the mileage from trips past.  Thanks.  If the hill into Sugarloaf wasn't bad enough.

We turned off of 128 just outside of Calistoga onto the Petrified Forest Road.  Petrified is right.  That is what I was for the next 12 miles.  We were routed onto a one lane, at best, road that wound up and down and around and around and up and down some more.  There was not shoulder, no visual of what lied ahead, steep ups and downs.  Fortunately we stopped for an early lunch in Calistoga and did not have to pass any riders.  It is a beautiful route, but not one for the big yellow truck.

We had lunch at a deli in the old train cars just across from the grocery store in Calistoga.  This is a must eat when you are in town.  The sandwiches are amazing as are the burritos and quiche.  I was in heaven.

After the tricky Forest roads the tribe landed on the River Road and made their way into Guerneville and then on to camp at the Casini Family Ranch.  Many bottles of Korbel Champagne were lugged along the way: it was a popular destination!

The tribe set up camp and dined on a green salad and veggie salad with honey mustard dressing: spiced pork chops: East Indian vegetable stew: orzo with pesto sauce: and more pecan pie bars and brownies for dessert.  The tribe has finally found their appetite: I was a little concerned going out the gate because they really didn't eat like cyclists.  They are now!

Following dinner Jerry led the tribe in some new dance moves.  Yes, the Mocorana.  YES, the Time Warp.  He didn't lead them in this one, I did.  A new low to my  blossoming resume.  I hope I still have a job after this!  Did I mention I have seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show somewhere in the neighborhood of 50+ times? No, I don't dress up. Jack does: but I won't share the pictures.  I think I want to stay married.  So, it's just a jump to the left.........

.We hit the tent early: it's been a long week.  Tomorrow is a long day into Olema......and is a great bakery in Duncan Mills that we need to visit, as well the Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes.  More cheese....YUMMM!

Bread from the Model Bakery: scary charging system we have here!: great new book available through ACA: geese rule at this park: dinner on the patio

Wine, WIne, Wine

There is no shortage of wine on this trip!  I am convinced this tribe has set a record for the number of bottles of wine purchases on this tour!  As well, the number of wineries visited!  Today was the perfect opportunity for the tribe to seek out the tastings: they criss crossed the valley form Calistoga to Yountville to St. Helena and finally to Calistoga.  It was a gorgeous day for riding and sampling.  The weather has been perfect on this trip: not too hot, not too cold....

An interesting fact that I found out about today!  When traveling through the vineyards many of them have roses planted at the end of each row.  I have always wondered why: now I know!  1) It's tradition 2) roses and grapes grow the same and are very similar: roses are more fragile than grapes and are prone to the same diseases of grapes: if a disease hits the rose will come down with it first.  This marker potentially saves the grapes!

We headed out of comp and beat feat for St. Helena: I LOVE the Model bakery there and couldn't wait to see what goodies were in store for us.  We made it by lunch time and I splurged on a chicken and artichoke panini while Jack had salmon lox & capers on french bread with a bowl of fresh mushroom soup.  We loaded up on loaves of ciabatta and french breads for tonights pasta dinner and headed into camp.

The tribe had a great day: those who chose to ride through St. Helena did have to deal with some pretty awful traffic..lots of cars and very slow.  But following that it was not bad at all.  A couple of the tribe members stopped and had lunch at the Culinary Institute of America.  I am SO jealous.  But, I have a hard time justifying $100.00 for lunch for two.  Maybe next year.

At camp we prepared a pasta dinner that included a green salad nicouse: linguini with a homemade meat sauce: orzo with pesto and sundried tomatoes; sauteed zucchini and grilled breads from the Model bakery.  Pecan pie  bars for dessert.  The tribe ate well.

After dinner many of the tribe members and staff headed into Calistoga for a soak in the hot springs.  We have never done this, but will in the future!  $20.00 for 2 hours of bliss......I can't wait to come back.

Tomorrow's route should prove to be interesting: we have not gone this way before.  What lays ahead for this tribe?  We'll see.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pics of the Trip

Arlen leading the first map meeting

The tunnel from.........###

Picking up cheese at the cheese factory outside of Petaluma..

The view going down to Petaluma

Some of the older homes in Petluma

Partaking in the cheeses for happy hour

Our cozy camp with NO rattlesnakes

Pretty pink bike


Posing for the blog at the Sugarloaf campground


Going down and down out of Sugarloaf

Yard art!

Two of the homes coming out of Sugarloaf


The garden gate at the Napa campground

YMCA? Nice moves, Mo

The Electric Slide?  Maybe a little too much vino?

The Tribe That Loves to Explore!

Arlen has deemed this tribe the Tribe That Loves to Explore.  I don't think anyone stayed 100% on route all day....they wandered from winery to winery, criss crossing the route along the way.  Why not?  It was a short day with a screaming 2 mile downhill to start the day.  Screaming was what I did all the way down.  Jack informed me that if he used the brakes anymore than he was, we wouldn't have any brakes.

Some of the homes that we have seen on this trip are amazing.  When we get into camp tonight I will be able to go back and post the pictures that I have taken along the way.  In Petaluma the houses were the old mansions from the late 1800's and early 1900's.  A couple along the road to Sugarloaf were breathtaking.  Of course the wineries are spectacular....

After a day of pedals and wine most of the tribe headed into Napa to explore the old town.  We found our way to the Oxbow Market on 1st Avenue.  If you make it to Napa it is one place to see.  It's an open indoor market with everything wine country that you could imagine.  An olive oil shop,  cheese shop, herb and spice counter, restaurants, (two of which featured 100% gluten free menus), oyster bar, coffee bar, produce stand, cupcakes, chocolates.....too much to take in!  Unfortunately it's also very pricy.  A bowl of clam chowder was $16.00: the cheeses started at $20.00 a pound.  Around the corner from the market is a meat shop named "The Fatted Calf".  It has every cut of pork, lamb, beef, whole turkeys, ducks, chickens, geese.....amazing place.  But, beef jerky was $40.00 a pound.  I bought a bag of organic dried beef dog treats.

We stayed tonight at the Skyline Wilderness Park just outside of Napa.  It's a great little park with a beautiful Native Habitat Garden to wander through.  We saw Blue Jays, Acorn Wood Peckers and Wild Turkeys.  Unfortunately this camp ground had one set of two bathrooms and two showers at our end of the park.  Made for some long lines in the morning!

After a dinner of spicy cabbage & pepper salad, curried chicken, peanut yam tofu, rice & sprouted beans, sautéd snow peas and chocolate birthday cake, (we had two birthdays today), the tribe followed along with Jerry and learned a few new line dances.  Pretty cute.  I think tomorrow night it's the mocorana.  Maybe even the time warp!  Oh how I love the Rocky Horror Picture Show!  But that's another story.

Tomorrow we're off to Calistoga.  I think the tribe will be exploring the whole valley, back and forth from winery to winery.  We are heading through the great town of St. Helena to hit up the Model Bakery.  I'll let you know what we find.

Shake, Rattle, and.........

Roll.  That's what the did after leaving Petaluma.  They rolled on two wheels through the valleys and vineyards into the Sonoma wine country.  Most of them rolled into a winery or two for tours and tastings. Kendall Jackson was a favorite. The tribe did a good job of supporting the wine industry today!

 Then, they rolled to the entrance of tonights overnight: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.  We should know by now that any venue with the words; ridge, hill, mountain, crest, view, bluff, etc.; means that you are going to have to go up.  Up is not what you want for the last two miles of your day on a bike.  Again, someone at ACA has a warped sense of humor.  Should of had a clue when Arlen announced last night that they would be happy to shuttle anyone into the park from the turn off of the main road......though he didn't offer to shuttle my big yellow truck.

The climb into the park started out on a nice, wide, two lane road flanked on either side by organic vineyards.  Beautiful clumps of dark purple grapes hanging from leafy green vines took your attention away from what lay ahead.  Gradually the road narrowed and wandered through a  quiet canyon with oak trees reaching across from each side.  Gradually the road started to climb.  Not so gradually it went vertical.  2 miles of vertical.  (12%???) Not so gradually it opened up on MY SIDE of the truck to a stellar view of what we just went up.  That means a cliff.  That means my palms are sweating and I'm breathing a little irregularly.  It also means that we have to go back down tomorrow.  Drats.  Finally we made it into the park and up to the top to the group sight that was reserved for us.  That's where the rattle comes in.

Rattle snakes.  Hundreds and hundreds of them.  The group sight nestled up to a big outcropping of black rocks.  The park manager informed our luggage guru that the rocks were home to hundreds of rattle snakes.  They are pretty docile he said.  They won't bug you unless you get too close or step on one.  I don't think so.  Since Arlen was not available the three of us decided it was necessary to explore other options.  (Plus the showers and restrooms were 1/2 a mile away, nay for the one pit toilet in the parking lot. )  We settled on a beautiful sight in the lower campground, away from the rattle snakes, tucked into a grove of trees with lots of comfy camp sights.  It was a good choice.  The only critters were three young deer that visited in the morning.

Our well imbibed tribe dined on bbq'd pulled pork, opa's sausages, texas wedge salad, broccoli salad, sauerkraut, steamed asparagus and veggies, fingerling potatoes, and and a huge plate of brownies.  They then rallied around the campfire well into the evening then tucked in for a cool night of sleep.

Tomorrow will find them exploring more wineries and the town of Napa.  Another boost to the economy is about to happen!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day Two....No Vegimites?

Day two started foggy and early...note early enough for with the coffee for some of the tribe!  We weren't supposed to be in the kitchen in the hostel until 7am, so no coffee until 7:30.  And, it was instant as we did not have time to brew the real stuff.  The tribe was tolerant, though.  There are a million coffee shops in town.

This is our first tour ever in 17 years that we have no vegetarians.  SCARY!  I don't know what to do!  Only a couple of small food issues among us.......maybe Jack can be a vegetarian just to even things out. :)

The tribe headed out on the Coastal Route  from the hostel.  We didn't dare take the truck that way: Mo said she wasn't even sure the cars could make some of the hills.  Back through the tunnel for us.  Just how I want to start my day!

From the coast the tribe headed inland to roll through the hills of Marin County to Petaluma.  Miles and miles of ranches and farmland.  Plenty of places to get lost, as some of the tribe did.  The marks on the road needed to be adjusted a tad bit, from what was said.  But, everyone made it into camp!

We took the freeway here but made time to backtrack the route to the Marin County Cheese factory to procure some fantastic bries for the appetizer hour before dinner.  Across the street from the factory was a large group of Sherifs and police with a helicopter and 4wd vehicles.  We asked the girls in the store front what was going on.  They said there had been a 5 million dollar pot bust in the hills last week and they were out to find more.  It's California, they said!

The KOA that we stayed at is much much quieter on a Monday night than when we were here on Saturday.  No screaming meanies!

After a dinner of Greek Citrus Chicken, tossed green salad, leftover pea and pasta salad, steamed sprouted beans and rice, carrots and cauliflower, sautéed kale with a balsamic glaze (DOUBLE YUMMM!) and brownies for dessert the tribe headed to the map meeting and enjoyed an evening of a camp fire and camaraderie.  It's a nice group, especially since Hillary is along for the ride!

Tomorrow is a trip through the wineries and up to Santa Rosa.  Pictures will have to wait as the internet service is so slow I would be here all day.  On to the next camp.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wine and Whine.......

I shall partake in both.  This trip has just begun but the challenges started on the second day of driving down here.  It's not bad enough that we have  a 2 day drive in the big yellow truck.  Crossing Oregon we have to pretend to be a real truck and drive no faster than 55mph.  Crossing the California border we have to go through inspections: fortunately the gal that questioned us really didn't want to deal with us, so she sent us on our way.  Not so at the weigh station south of Shasta.  I did have my seat belt on.  Kind of.  Jack says that is why the State Trouper pulled us in to inspection.  Not us really.  Jack.  I stayed in the truck for the hour he was being interrogated.  Maybe it was the t-shirt that read, "I love guns & coffee." The trooper asked him if he had to be disarmed.  Plus,  it didn't help that the license plates on the truck I leased belonged to a stolen Freight Liner.  He was oh so close to being in hand cuffs. With much research they decided us to be legit.  Only now Jack has to keep a drivers log while on the road.  A slight oversight on our part: I guess we are now officially truckers.

We made it to Petaluma on Saturday and headed to the KOA kampground for the night before meeting up with the tribe on Sunday.  Not the place you want to be on a Saturday night.  5 million screaming munchkins wheeling around on big wheels, bouncing on the big bouncy thing, overrunning the pool, commandeering the bathrooms. I wanted to take in the movie at the pool, but The Lorax just wasn't what I had in mind. We just wanted to sleep.  Not much of that happened. We did manage to get into town and have an awesome sushi dinner.  Jack texted Arlen, our fearless tour leader, and told him the good news and bad news: he led him to believe that we were on our way, but Jack was in jail and the truck was impounded.  Want to see Arlen react REALLY fast?  Sorry Arlen.

Sunday morning we were up early and headed into Petaluma to explore town and visit the quilt shop before meeting the tribe and staff to kick off the tour.  AMAZING quilt shop.  They have an inventory of over 5000 bolts of fabric!  I was in quilt hog heaven.  Jack got to chill for an hour in the big comfy chair.  Any good quilt shop has the big comfy chair for the husband.

We finished up in Petaluma and headed to the coast just north of San Francisco to the Marin Headlands Hostel.  Jack was a little concerned about the road into the park.....justified.  Highway 101 is a little sketchy in this truck with all of the traffic.  He wasn't sure about the clearance of the bridge that we had to go under to get to the entrance of the park.  After a couple of sharp scary turns we had ample room to clear the bridge.  Then he told me he was even more unsure about the tunnel.  WHAT tunnel?  No one said anything about a tunnel.  He was sparing himself days of me obsessing about the tunnel.  I have not had the best of luck with tunnels.  That story later.  We got to the entrance and found that we had 6 inches to spare.  The green light at our end was on and the sign said we had 5 minutes of green light time to get through the tunnel.  It was about a 1/2 mile long.  No problem.  Except for the guy on the mountain bike peddling about 1/2 a mile an hour.  There was no room to pass him so we had to follow him, of course with a line of traffic behind us.  3/4 of the way through the light must have changed. The traffic from the other end entered the tunnel and we were at a standstill.  The cars ahead of us weren't very happy........they had to get out and get the 10 cars behind them to back out and let us through.  I swear there is a tunnel God that I offended somewhere along the journey of these tours.  Hopefully he is now satisfied that he has thoroughly scared the crap out of me enough times to be even.

We made it to the hostel and got set up for the first night with the tribe.  We aren't allowed to cook outdoors here, so it was a dinner of cold salads and carrot cake.  Curried chicken, pasta, pea, potato and green salad with lots of sides.  Homemade corn muffins and carrot cake for dessert.  The tribe was pleased, unlike the herd of raccoons that circled camp.  What is a group of raccoons called? A ruckus?  There are raccoon warning signs everywhere.  For good reason.  The luggage truck and mechanic had to take turns manning the hose to keep them off of the bikes and out of the trucks.  Every time we got out of the back of the truck we had to lock it up..they even came in while I was in there.  It's going to be a long week.

We have a great tribe for this trip: many new to ACA and lots new to our tours.  Arlen has a great staff and it should be a fun week.  Except for the raccoons.  Oh, did I mention the skunk encounters on this trip 2 years ago?  Off we go!

The Rest of the Story

Covered bridge in Corvallis: a view of the coast: sunset at Beachside State Park: the tribe venturing into new territory! 

Better late than never?  That's how it will have to be!  Every time I thought of finishing the Oregon trip's blog life got in the way!  And now we are ready to start the Wine and Harvest tour!  My how time flies!

Oregon WAS a great trip.  Some challenges that last few days with the traffic on highway 101: many times there is not much shoulder and you get a bunch of rent-a-rv'ers on the road and it's a bit dicey.  But, the scenery is stellar!

From Devil's Lake the tribe headed south to a night at Beachside State Park where they played in the sand and watched a spectacular sunset.  From there they continued down the coast to the town of Florence for two nights in Honeyman State Park.  Here the tribe explored the sand dunes, kayaked the river, headed out on optional rides, explored the town of Florence and ate clam chowder and crab, built campfires and shared smores and stories of the trip.

Some of the highlights of the coast were: the Sea Lion Caves; optional rides up the Yachats River and to the top of a ridge for a view of the coast on one side and hills to Portland on the other; the coffee shop in Yachats; trying to pronounce Yachats; the old log church and State Park in Yachats; (they liked Yachats); riding through Waldport, the smallest harbor in the world; the stunning views along the coast.

I know I did not do this trip justice on my blog, but it was a great trip with great people and many new friends for rides to come.