Mid-Week Rides: Mt. Veeder Ride
We were to meet yesterday (Wednesday 10/10), at the North end of the Golden Gate Bridge, in the view area at 7:45 AM, with breakfast in Petaluma at 8:30. It poured buckets the night before. Only three riders were expected – four when I went to bed but a phone call in the wee hours informed Bill Grass was a washout.
The talking heads and informed, as rain streaked my windows that the ride would start on wet streets but the day was expected to be bright’n sunny. I picked up my newspaper at 6 am and could see stars and airplanes through holes in the cloud cover. Could be a great day and left the house for the rendezvous sans rainwear. On the Great Highway, which runs along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, I spied a rider taking pictures. Wait a minute! That’s Dick Zunkel, one of the intrepid three. I too took a picture of the Cliff House, the 4th incarnation of this San Francisco landmark. We rode together to the rendezvous point pausing just briefly for another picture of the famous Bridge.
Arriving in the view area on time we paused briefly in the hope of another rider joining us but alas, it was not to be. We captured a couple photos of the City across the Bay, hiding under low clouds and headed up for Petaluma, about 38 miles north.
We gassed-up at the restaurant’s next door Chevron and sat down to await our expected 3rd member, Jon Beining. We got tired of waiting and just before our order arrives at the table, Jon appears. Three riders expected and three riders there were.
Our plan was to ride Mt. Veeder Road which runs up and along the top of the Myacamas Mountains, that range of coastal mountains that separate the Napa Valley from the Sonoma Valley. Petaluma sits at the southern end of the Russian River Valley - hills were in our future.
We rode Stony Point for Railroad, then east Petaluma Hill Rd. but some dummy (me), turned north on the Old Redwood Highway instead of staying or Railroad. However, the record should reflect I was using my turn signals. We got an impromptu look at Cotati and did arrive at the end of Roberts Road as initially planned, albeit from the wrong direction. The grape vines are turning now, giving the hills a golden yellow flecked with a little red. In another 3-4 weeks the hillsides will all be a flaming red – just before the vines shed their leaves. It’s a pretty time to be in the ‘wine country.’ We turned right at the end of Roberts Road where it ‘T’s into Sonoma Mountain Road and were confronted by a sign that informs the road is closed 3 miles ahead. Well, since motorcycles don’t need much ‘road,’ we don’t need no stink’n sign! Yeah, right!
We wend our way through one of most beautiful spots in the greater Bay Area on this road (Steve Methia and George Ruper where here! Where the road is a path – lined with orange-red needle droppings in the attached pictures). Sure enough 3+ miles of this – our road is blocked with a 20’ long concrete barricade. I can get past but because of moisture (read mud), and camber, I slide a saddle bag into the end of the barricade. We agree to turn around after Dick shoots a couple pics.
We double back on Sonoma Mountain Road, pass Robert’s Road and connect with Bennett Valley, stopping several times to check with Jon Beining on intersecting other roads. I didn’t carry a map (should’ve perhaps…), but Jon has GPS. We find our way into Glenn Ellen, located in the Valley of the Moon where the writer Jack London built his rock home.Turned N. on Highway 12 ever so briefly and east again Trinity Road, a road which changes name at the Sonoma/Napa County line to Dry Creek. This is a generally well-paved, well banked but steep climb with several 10 MPH turns and rises over 1000’ in seven miles.
Dry Creek Road intersects the northern end of Mt. Veeder Road and we take a break.There’s a discussion, Mt. Veeder ends as it turns into Redwood Road and that runs right into downtown Napa, near the Hess Winery - also a modern art museum. Years ago I introduced this place to Jon, Dick, an artist – hadn’t a clue. Jon was keen on introducing Dick to the Hess Collection so that was put on the day’s itinerary then’n there.
Our weather was holding, we caught but a few seconds of ‘spit’ on Bennett Valley and the roadway was frequently ‘wet’ from the night previous. We negotiated Mt. Veeder Rd. cautiously and without incident. We found ourselves on Redwood Road and I was then busily looking carefully at every side road for fear I’d miss the turnoff for the Hess Winery, located on Mt. LaSalle.
I didn’t miss the turn and, note to WWWobble, signaled my intentions. We toured the Hess Collection, a three-story portion of an active winery. Dick said we needed ‘Kulture’ (his spelling), and we got it. All of the Hess Collection is modern art – very few pieces impressed me (I’ve obviously lost my ‘K’ in culture), some were moving works done in electronics, one ‘hot rocks’, was a video presentation done in a dark room (pumpkin colored pic in the attached). We got to view a video presentation of the vineyards which artfully explained the importance of the hillside vines, soil problems, the art of choosing when to pick and harvesting-but nothing on wine making otherwise. There were view windows here’n there where you could peer into the actual winery and see some aspects of the process. The Hess Winery combines old’n new. It’s a modern operation, using modern equipment, with modern buildings but ones which incorporate the stone buildings of two winery operations that preceded Hess at this location. The most recent was Christian Brothers at Mt. LaSalle where wines were produced by the Brothers until about 1971.
p> Jon Beining bought some wine – it’s really expensive stuff, but he also wanted to eat.We followed Redwood right into downtown Napa and the first sit-down beanery we found were a Mexican Bar’n Grille and two doors away, a Sizzler’s. We opted for the Mexican. It was an upscale operation, linen tablecloths, linen napkins and the food’n service were exceptional – even the presentation was fit for the cover of a restaurant guide.
My initial plan was to ride Mt. Veeder from Dry Creek to the outskirts of Napa and take a parallel road, Dry Creek again, from Napa back to the top of the Oakville Grade. It was getting late so we road Dry Creek back to the northern end of Mt. Veeder and retraced our route in reverse – it all looked different. We bid Jon a G’day on Railroad Avenue just outside Petaluma (his home town), before Dick’n me beat a path back to the Golden Gate Bridge. We have to cross the Bridge before 6:00 PM, or pay the $5./vehicle toll after Six. We arrived early enough to stretch briefly just above the bridge’s north anchorage.
Great ride – not long on miles (170 ‘er so for me), but fun-filled.