Napa Valley Century Ride

I have this girlfriend who is training for a big, multi-day ride:

She wanted to do a century this weekend, so I suggested a modified Tour de Cure Napa Valley route. We started out on the Silverado Trail, just past the intersection of Silverado Trail and Trancas Boulevard. We got a bit of a late start (9:30 am), but still we expected to be done well before 6:00 pm. Little did we know the adventures that were in store for us.

Just before we started our Napa Valley Century, July 15, 2012

The ride started out quite chilly. Luckily for me, I always overdress because I cannot stand being cold. My friend overheats easily, so she didn’t have the layers on that I did, so she was pretty chilly at the start of the ride. The fog started clearing and the sun warmed the Valley nicely. The first stretch of our ride was lovely! We rode all the way to Calistoga on the Silverado Trail. I think that’s quite a bit safer and more comfortable than Highway 29, especially as wineries open and wine tasting hours begin. Highway 29 is nice early, early morning, but we started out too late for that.

We rolled in to Calistoga. I wanted to avoid the downtown traffic on Lincoln Avenue, so we took a side street that wrapped around. Little did I know the excitement that would ensue. Maybe 1/4 mile down Lake Street, I heard a tap-tap-tap-BANG!!! Followed by a fast and loud pssht! Aw, no … that can’t be good. Yep. Flat, flat, flat back tire. Dang it! Hopeful that a quick change would get us back on the road, but in looking at the tire … well, see for yourself.

And so the adventure begins ...


Fortunately, we were just a few blocks from the Calistoga Bike Shop ( Not sure if rolling my bike would damage the rim, so I carried my bike part of the way. My friend carried it the rest of the way (OK, most of the way). We have different strengths, what can I say? Almost $90 later for a new tire and tube (they very kindly waived the labor charge), and a snack at the Village Bakery, we were on the road again, headed up towards Healdsburg.

Want some great bread? Try Village Bakery in Calistoga.

Village Bakery Seeded Sourdough Toast

We headed out of town and along Highway 29 until it turned into Highway 128. We then headed up valley, out of Calistoga, up over the hill into the Alexander Valley. This part of the ride was pretty uneventful, just some beautiful weather, a little nice climbing and downhills, a few stretches of flats, and tons of beautiful scenery. We stopped at the Jimtown Store (, which I hear is a great place to stop for lunch. I groused about paying $3.10 for a 1.5 liter bottle of water, but was so thankful later in the day that I had made this wise investment. We continued to the end of Highway 128 in Healdsburg, had a brief rest in a nice shady spot, a snack, some conversation with another cyclist – we had seen him earlier at the Jimtown Store. I struck up a conversation with him because his jersey said “Klein” – as in Klein bikes! He told me about a shop in … a town in Southern CA that is still selling brand new Kleins. I’m skeptical, but I’ll look into it. How cool would that be?!

We had a nice chat, then headed back.

Playing "Chase the Jersey"

More than halfway done!

Top of the last climb on the way back to Calistoga

As we descended on that last hill back in to Calistoga, we were greeted near the bottom with a line of stopped traffic. An elderly woman driving a Cadillac had hit (and broken) two utility poles before hitting a third one head on. (See article:  I’m pretty sure she hit a third pole, not a fence as the article says. The good news is that she walked away from the accident and seemed to be OK, shaken up, but OK. Her family came to get her; she did not leave in an ambulance. The bad news is that this delay added about another hour to our ride. The article says the road was closed for about 35 minutes, but it was more like an hour.

Adventure continues ... downed power lines and wildfire!

Cal Fire in action

Cal Fire helicopter

We got to see firefighters in action and that certainly added an element of excitement to our adventure. I grew up around firefighters, so I have an especially healthy appreciation for them. I tried flirting with them when I was a teenager, but they would have nothing to do with me. I think it’s because my brother was Ambulance Captain and it must have been an unspoken rule. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it; I’m sure it had nothing to do with my teenage nerdiness.

We had an unexpected and lengthy rest stop while the fire crews put out the fire, police & CHP blocked traffic, and then finally PG&E was able to get through to deal safely with the downed wires. The elderly driver of the crashed vehicle kept trying to get out of the car, but police and firefighters would not allow her to because there were live wires down. That’s why they would not let us through, either. So we all waited.

Aaah ... ice water ... The menu looks lovely, too. I'm looking forward to trying this restaurant soon!

We finally got through … and headed back through Calistoga to the Silverado Trail and back towards Napa. At first we were well-rested, but I think we were both getting tired. We made a few quick stops along the way. My friend ran out of water before we reached Rutherford, so we took a little side trip. We stopped briefly at Alex Italian Restaurant ( and they very kindly let us fill up with some very refreshing ice water. After a short rest, we headed back to the Silverado Trail and on towards Napa again.

The wind had started to kick up, the sun was going down, and it was getting cool again. I was quite thankful at this point to be slightly overdressed. To keep myself motivated and positive, I kept repeating the mantra, “The wind is an excellent training tool … the wind is an excellent training tool …” and focusing on high cadence and good cycling form. At the end of the ride, I felt great. I was definitely ready to be done with the ride, but I felt great. Lightly salted almonds made for a terrific post-ride snack on the drive home.

It seemed to take forever to ride those last 15 miles or so, but we finally made it back to the car. I don’t think my friend has ever been so happy to see her car. This was her first century ride and it was full of surprises and adventure. She is a very strong rider and is far more prepared for her multi-day ride than she thinks. We finished with about 15-20 minutes of light to spare, more than 2 hours after we expected to be done.

I’m looking forward to my next century ride!



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