Saturday, May 28, 2016


More on shopping locally, thirty-five miles from home

I live in a place where there are no bad roads.  Even the freeway that cuts through town is palatable: north to the redwoods, south toward the bay.  Secondary roads?  A week ago, I ventured to a tiny grove of redwoods – just a dot on the map.  Yesterday, it rained and I rode west to the coast.  Today?  I was running short of the whole bean coffee I grind each morning for my single cup of Joe.

My first experience with a really nice motorcycle involved an ’83 BMW R65.  Perhaps a bit too small for my lanky frame, I enjoyed the occasional commute from one end to the other of Sonora in Tuolumne County for a haircut.  I chose a barbershop that required a good thirty minutes on skinny and entertaining roads for my once-monthly riding delight. Twists. Canyons. Pines. Granite. And then the shears.

Long ago, it became my practice to shop locally as far from home as possible.  My intent yesterday was to buy coffee, but I ended up taking a route that led me in exactly the opposite direction to a nice little chowder house with a view of a churning sea just off the pier in Point Arena.  Not surprisingly, today, I was still short coffee.  Funny how wanderlust can derail even the simplest of agendas.

Sonoma County, California, it is said, has more soil types than all of France.  Perhaps this is why Sonoma’s main agricultural endeavor seems to be wine grapes.

Travelling along the secondary roads, over ridges and into vales, vineyards appear as rolling waves across the undulating landscape.  Real picturesque.  Generally, we find Pinot Noir and Sauv Blanc to the west, Zins and Cabs in the drier regions east.  But pocketed microclimates married to soil regions borne through the combination of tectonic forces and eons of erosion bear blocks of myriad fruit, each with specific characteristics based upon genetics and locale.  If one likes wine, Sonoma County is heaven.

Likewise, if one likes a range of riding experience, Sonoma County does not disappoint.  Today’s excursion traced the edge of the Alexander Valley, crossed the Mayacamas hills and descended into the northern reaches of a Napa Valley that may not quite deserve the vaunting wine reviews it receives; at least that’s what those of us in Sonoma County believe…

To be sure, there is – or was – more going on in the realm of agriculture in this region than simply viticulture: cattle are grazed, fruit and nut orchards dot the landscape and tiny farms, organic and otherwise, checkerboard the area.  But overall, the acres and acres of grapes, which have displaced perhaps too many of the old time farms, provide a beautiful backdrop for the twisting, rise-and-fall pavement that invites a casual throttle and a relaxed pace.

The ride through northern Sonoma County into neighboring Napa County is a rewarding two-wheeled escapade.  The city of Calistoga is a berg of a few thousand situated at the north end of the Napa Valley.  Though there is an a comprehensive John Deere tractor dealer on the east end of the main drag – bring a grandson or daughter and buy ‘em a green ball cap – the community’s agricultural roots are deeply hidden by a burgeoning tourist trade: mud baths, a quaint downtown, tasting rooms monikered with names famous for stuff other than wine.

Allow and hour or so to stroll the street.  A great bookstore awaits.  A classic California café, as well.  And the Calistoga Roastery: it offers the whole bean coffee that, they claim, “wakes up Napa County.” 

I use this independent business as my excuse to do seventy miles of enchanting pavement.  The roastery sells whole bean and blends whose essence, the day after, reminds me of the pleasantry of the journey – smooth, warm and satisfying.  Plus, at the Calistoga Roastery, a pound of coffee still weighs 16 ounces.

What could be better?

I’ll ask myself this question tomorrow morning over a warm and fragrant cup and conclude: “Not much.”

For the ride and the commerce, I’ll be back in about three weeks, unless I should happen across another roaster while exploring a different thirty-five miles of twists, turns and stunning scenery – somewhere else local.


Notes:  Info on Calistoga may be accessed at:

Specifically, the Calistoga Roastery’s website is:


Routes:  Yesterday: north on US 101, west on state route 128; south on state route 1 to Point Arena.  Right on whatever the street is that leads a mile out to the pier.  Chowder house is there.  Try the Manhattan.  Return?  South on state route 1 to Jenner, east tracing the Russian to Monte Rio, Guerneville and Santa Rosa; to 101.

Today:  South on US 101, east on state route 128 at Geyserville to Calistoga.  Left onto the main drag.  Return?  Retrace.

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Great post. I am glad you are enjoying the Thunderbird.

    We've hit full on allergy season here in the Willamette valley I haven't been doing much riding. Sneezing in a full face helmet is just no fun.

    1. Damned allergies, anyway! I know that inside-of-the-helmet (let's call it) fog...

  2. Dave, surely you convey such a precious commodity a single whole bean at a time, each by a different route... That is, after all, the only proper way to treat, er, respect well-roasted coffee. ;-)

    1. Each hermitically sealed? Or would that be excessive?