Lindsey’s birthday ride


Tuesday, the 12th of ‘Sept. was an exceptionally hot day for the end of summer. It was a day that defied the concept of a huge bike ride. But, there was a birthday imperative that mandated an event. After several rounds of electrolyte therapy, the tendency seemed to be headed towards lethargy. Linz, Eric and Shawn teetered on the brink of indecision.

However, Linz managed to surge beyond the inertia and called for a Brewpub to Brewpub excursion. The ride would be a totally new one, not an easy feat since the Bikin’ Fools have spent the past two decades covering nearly every rideable area in and around the Napa Valley.

This time birthday party would ply a new area. The valley floor would provide an interesting, unusual ride. Almost all mt. Bike rides are in the scenic hills surrounding Calistoga. However, Google earth along with some local knowledge indicated an opportunity to travel from Calistoga to St. Helena completely off-road.

The ride started with the bike trail from Calistoga to Sterling winery. That was easy enough. From Sterling onward, the route was left mostly to intuition and the fact that there used to be rail tracks that ran the entire length of the valley. The constraining elements were the vineyards, an occasional stream crossing and a few houses.

From Sterling, an obvious and open vineyard avenue headed in the proper direction. The travel was swift and easy until it ended at a driveway. At this junction, fences blocked easy access to the intended direction. A scouting mission up and down the road finally yielded an unlocked gate that seemed to offer the best possibility.

Suddenly Shawn yelled; “LOOK OUT!”

The ground was covered with the dreaded goat-head thorns, the bane of bikers this time of year. Carefully the three riders crossed the area and began to ride again through the vineyard. Eventually the vineyard came to a stream. After a short boonie thrash the riders again contacted the next vineyard and proceeded to travel at good speed.

Eventually the trio came to Larkmead Lane. The old rail bed that the riders followed happened to exit exactly into the parking lot at the Hans Kornell Champaign cellars. It seemed only fitting to taste and toast for Lindsey’s B-day. The three relaxed with friendly banter before heading on.

From Larkmead towards Bale Lane required more navigational effort. There was some confusion, yet one vineyard lead to another and often the old rail bed was obvious. After crossing Bale Lane, the group fragmented when Shawn ditched Eric and Linz who stood at the old rail bed wondering why Shawn was pedaling with gusto towards the Brewpub. After a long wait, Shawn failed to rematerialize. Eric and Linz contemplated the possibilities and decided reluctantly, to follow Shawn.

Eventually the three regrouped at the Brewpub and settled into a festive mode for the rest of the afternoon. The beer flowed freely, barbequed oysters and hot wings satisfied the hunger.

There was a short discussion about the return trip. The possibilities were to ride on the road, tour through Bothe park or return through the vineyards. The latter choice found fertile ground. This time all three stayed together. Once established on the route, they took a break to celebrate the beauty of the moment, the gorgeous setting and enjoy the efforts of unique bike riding.

The ride proceeded with ease as the return trip was able to avoid the pitfalls of the first passage. What seemed like an easy ride actually took a major amount of effort. The ride was nearly twenty miles, much on soft dirt. There was actually a short section of hike-a-bike across a drainage that required great effort. There was one bike toss on the first part of the ride. Eric’s bike ended up so deep in the berry bushes, it was briefly considered to be not retrievable .

The sun touched the western horizon as the riders began the last part of the ride. The bike trail to Calistoga is smooth and flat, though the tiring bikers had to work to make the last miles. The ride officially ended at the Cedar St. Brewing Co. It was a grand outing for the birthday boy, who managed to continue the birthday tradition of a bike ride for one more year. Happy B-Day Linz!!!