Thursday, September 17, 2015
Five weeks out…
The first good rain of the season came yesterday and everybody knows how good it smells the day after a rain. The dry grass lays down and emits a glorious, sweet aroma. Puffy white fair weather clouds dance across the sky, sometimes clinging to the tops of hills like whipped topping on a deep purple mocha. All the dust and smog and smoke from nearby fires is knocked out of the air and all the roads all appear to be leading to Eden.
It’d had been nearly five weeks since I’d gone in for surgery on my little finger. Recovery from that trauma reminds me that joints in guys my age provide ample venues for arthritis to invade. Not only is that gimpy finger stove up, so is the whole damned hand. Perhaps a short spin on a lovely day will loosen things up a bit. Maybe the vibration from the Guzzi’s throttle will be like a gentle massage. Plus: the weather's so nice.
A favored short loop runs north on US 101 to Hopland, west-southwest on Mountain House Road and east on CA 128 back to Cloverdale. The route includes both freeway speed and twisting turns against a backdrop of vineyards, open range, oak studded hillsides and historic barns and bridges. The perfect route for a slightly rusty rider.
South of Hopland, the old 101 is now called River Road. It traces the eastern side of the Sanel Valley through a canopy of oaks. Cattle graze the hillside and pears grow in the bottomland. Its two lanes are bucolic, superior to the nearby US route.
At the Campovida Winery (nice tasting room, wonderful gardens, superb wines) River Road intersects CA 175: closed to the east due to fire this day. A jog west crosses the Russian River and puts me back in Hopland just south of the Bluebird Café (funky, homey, filling breakfasts; you’ll be treated like a regular). Heading south on 101 for about a block, a right turn places me on Mountain House Road. A mile on is the Terra Savia winery and olive oil mill (try the Meritage and pick up some Meyer Lemon Olive Oil.)
Mountain House Road is marginally maintained. It’s easy to go slow and enjoy the rolling hills of the Coast Range. Here, I find out that the Moto Guzzi massage-therapy theory I’d been operating on is, in reality, not so therapeutic. My game hand didn’t appreciate having to maintain a consistent grip on the throttle while jarring across hummocky, broken pavement.
I stop ostensibly for some photos, flexing that out-of-shape hand. The Spanish moss looks rejuvenated in the rains from yesterday. The chill that had accompanied the front prompts colors to change on some of the area’s black oaks.
Crossing the historic Mountain House Road Bridge, I wonder if this road preceded River Road as the major north-south route 100 years ago.
Ten miles southish, I intersect with CA 128. A right hand turn would take me 58 miles through wine country and redwoods out to the glorious Mendocino Coast. But a left takes me eight corkscrew miles back to toward Cloverdale. I elect to head back to the barn. Sporting as the Moto Guzzi Breva is, my confidence has ebbed a bit; I pull to the side to allow an Audi to pass, receiving a courtesy wave in response.
A warm water soak on my hand, once home, loosens things up enough that I can type. I’ll try this again in a week or two…
Church of the Open Road Press