Thursday, November 12, 2015


Twelve weeks out
Exploring Old Skaggs Springs Road

The harvest is a month past.  Temperatures in the Russian River Valley have plummeted.  Frost crusted the neighbor’s roof just yesterday.  And the leaves in the area’s vineyards, with the help of a low November sun, have turned Technicolor.   

What better time to test out that gimpy throttle hand?

It had been nearly three months since the medicos surgically repaired my permanently bent pinkie.  The quick recovery I’d anticipated was hampered by the fact that the raw materials with which the recovery had to operate were over 60 years of age.  Something, that, if given a choice, I wouldn’t admit.

A prime area for viewing autumn’s effect on wine grape foliage is the Dry Creek Valley west of Healdsburg.   

Here, acre upon acre of bottomland and hillside is planted with a wide variety of grapes, each of which may show color change under slightly different conditions.  In case my hand gives out, perhaps my goal will be to capture a few snapshots.

Dry Creek Road caresses the edge of the growing area sweeping westward toward Warm Springs Dam.  Constructed in 1982, the dam created Lake Sonoma on Dry Creek.  Here, Dry Creek Road become Stewart’s Point Skaggs Springs Road, an epic route from the 101 corridor to the Pacific Coast.  I’ve ridden it several times.  The test would be how far might I go today?

On a recent visit to the Cloverdale City Museum, I repaired to the research library to learn a little about my newly adopted area.  Skaggs Springs was a place name about which I was curious.   I found out that Skaggs Springs had once been a resort with mineral springs frequented by Bay Area folks.   

It was inundated by the creation of the reservoir.  I pulled into a vista area.

Perhaps I could see remnants of the site based upon the drought-depleted lake.  No such luck.   

Lake Sonoma is about 70% full after this four-year dry spell, unlike other Northern California reservoirs that have simply become mud sinks.  Lake Sonoma’s deep blue is captivating.

So is the foliage I’d promised myself I’d photograph.  Black oak leaves and maples are nicely backlit this morning.

There are about a dozen miles of nicely paved and banked roadway on this route, a relocation circa 1980-something of the old road that would be lost to the rising water.  The new road invites motorcyclists from all over the world to enjoy the combination of its engineering and its scenery.  I figured I’d ride west until the pavement got chunky.

I didn’t make it that far.  A tenet of the Church of the Open Road is that any day one can ride a new-to-them road, well, that’s a good day.  And my good day this day would be because of the old road.

Old Skaggs Springs Road descends into a deep canyon formed by a creek in concert with the ever-folding tectonic forces shaping the Coast Range.  The old road’s turns are flat – not banked – and the pavement is maintained by putting irregular patches in irregular places.  A few hundred yards from the Stewart’s Point highway, one feels as if they have been transported into an earlier, rustic time.   

A few head of cattle lazing on the right-of-way confirm this.

The road courses down to parallel the creek, passes from cool moist shade to blinding autumnal sunshine and past an idyllic ranch that might well have been the nearest neighbor to the old Skaggs Spring Resort.

Four and a half miles in, Old Skaggs Springs Road crosses a narrow bridge and a few yards beyond that, is gated.  A kiosk indicates that we have arrived at the tip of an arm of Lake Sonoma, one not easily reached and thus sparingly visited.

I’ve gotten an hour and fifteen minutes in on my game hand – much better than six weeks ago.  Wrist still not near 100%, but with hopes that by next riding season, it will be, I turn back and head for home.

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Congratulations on your first ride back! Last year I had a medical procedure done on my left hand and couldn't operate the clutch at all for over two weeks. After that, I could only ride for short periods because the tension still caused pain.

    Slowly, surely, persistence paid off and I was able to get back to 100%. It just took a little patience and pain to get where I needed to be.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery!

    1. Yep. That'd be me right about now. Fortunately, there are plenty of great little rides within a 30 to 45 minute radius of home. That, and there are plenty of great hikes to secluded and magnificent areas nearby where I can be joined by the loyal and trusting Edward, the lab-mix.

      Still, I am impatient to be able to go full tilt for a day on the bike.

      Thanks for reading the blog!