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2003 Tour of Napa Valley
(Sunday, August 24 in Yountville, CA)

See also my photo album from this ride.

Sarah and I drove to her friends Lee and Randy's place in Calistoga on Saturday morning and spent the remainder of the day playing tourist in Calistoga, where we had a tasty lunch at the Flatiron Grill, and St. Helena, where we mainly boggled at the prices at Dean & Deluca's kitchen store/market. After a nice outdoor dinner, we capped the evening by soaking in Lee and Randy's hot tub, staring up at the stars - yeah!

Balloons rising over Napa We woke up at 4:45 on Sunday morning, got ready, and hit the road at 5:20, en route to Yountville, about half an hour south of Calistoga. We checked in and soon found Kristin and her friend Susan. At 6:40, we rolled out. Sarah left our group almost immediately, as she was doing the 100km route while we were doing the 100mi. Kristin, her spin buddies Ruth and Darryl, and I headed south towards Napa on Solano Avenue and watched a bunch of hot air balloons rise nearby. After a little zig-zagging, we turned onto Veeder Mountain Rd. and began the first of two "real" climbs of the day. The first few miles were gentle middle-chainring terrain that gradually got steeper until I had to drop into my granny gear to maintain a comfortably-high cadence. The views were lovely, and kept getting lovelier we climbed. I stopped at the top to regroup with everyone, then enjoyed a fast and curvy descent back into Napa and rest stop #1 (29.8mi). I spent but a short time here, and ran into Susan as I was getting ready to leave, so we rolled out together. As we left, Kristin et all were arriving, but that was the last we would see of them.

Grapevines in Napa Valley We headed east to the Silverado Trail, then north for a ways towards Hwy 128. A fast-moving paceline passed us, and we hopped onto its tail. It soon grew to 10 or so riders, with one fellow in the front pulling the whole way - cool! I fell back on the ascent of Silverado Trail's rolling hills, but caught back up on the descents with no problem. We turned east on Hwy 128 and in a couple miles, arrived at the second rest stop (46.6mi), just below Lake Hennessey's dam. Susan and I didn't stay too long, just grabbing a bite and stretching before heading back out.

Riding through lovely Pope Valley We went around lovely Lake Hennessey, then turned north on Chiles & Pope Valley Rd. This was a gentle but moderately long climb. I lost Susan as she's a faster climber than I, and enjoyed riding on this quiet, virtually deserted road. I soon came to familiar territory from the Davis and Knoxville double centuries. Although I've ridden through Pope Valley a number of times, I haven't gotten sick of it yet! As always, it was just lovely; the myriad vines hanging heavily with grapes. I passed the ever-shiny Damonte Ranch ("Hubcap Heaven") and eventually turned on a lovely side road to Aetna Springs, our lunch stop (66.3mi). Sarah and I had agreed to meet here between 11 and 11:15, but I didn't see her. I also hadn't seen her on the way in (the previous 4 or so miles get back-tracked after lunch), so I assumed (correctly it turned out) that she'd arrived much earlier than 11 and didn't want to wait forever for me to arrive. I did, however, find Susan hanging out and relaxing in the shade. They had lots of good food options, sandwiches and the like, but I opted for a couple hard boiled eggs and salted boiled potatoes, two of my favorite ride foods - yay! After a little while, Susan and I rolled out.

Clowning around on Ink Grade We retraced our route for a few miles, past Hubcap Heaven again, then turned off on Ink Grade Rd. In keeping with every other hill, Susan promptly boogied on ahead. The first mile or so was a nice climb, and thankfully pretty shady as the temperature was getting pretty warm. There was an unexpected rest stop a mile up the road (not listed on my map). I didn't have any desire to stop now (it was only 5ish miles past lunch), but a sign indicated that they had shaved ice available - decision made! They were blaring opera music, had misting machines, clowns, and an available swimming pool, along with the advertised shaved ice - now that's my kind of rest stop! I had a cone of blue ice, talked to a ride who was wearing clown hair under his helmet (uggh, hot!), then continued up Ink Grade.

The rest of Ink Grade wasn't difficult and was very pretty. Again there was abundant shade and very, very little auto traffic. Near the top, I saw Catherine, whom I hadn't talked to in over a year. She was tandeming with her new hubby Jim. After talking briefly, they zoomed on down the hill, as tandems will often do. It was a fun descent down White Cottage and Deer Park, followed by a little zig-zagging back to Silverado Trail. I'm not entirely sure why we didn't just take Deer Park to Silverado Trail, but no matter, it was nice either way! It was now definitely hot (near 100°F), and my pace slowed accordingly. A few miles south on Silverado I got a flat, but at least it was a slow one, so I could ride to the nearest patch of shade to fix it in relative comfort! Before long I arrived at rest stop #4 (88.4mi) and found Susan had been waiting for me, which was very nice of her. I snacked and stretched, then we rolled out.

Mt. Veeder rises above Napa Valley We caught a paceline continuing south, but it soon proved too fast for my liking on the Silverado Trail's rolling hills, so I fell off the back. I motored along at a decent clip on my own, retracing miles ridden earlier on the way north (but in this case I didn't mind, as Silverado is a lovely road). Eventually I arrived at Yountvill Cross Rd., and turned southwest back to Yountville and the finish at the Veterans Home.

Sarah was sitting in the shade by the car, and after a quick change, we went to get some grub. They had tasty BBQ, pasta, orzo, etc, and a live band. One couple was actually dancing in the sun - I guess they hadn't gotten enough exercise and/or heat for the day during the ride? Before long we drove back to Lee and Randy's, cleaned up, and headed homeward.

This was a beautiful route pretty much for its entire length. Save for the too-hot weather, it was nearly perfect! I'll definitely do this ride again.


Ride Stats:
Distance: 99.9mi
Total Time: 8h 20m
On-bike Time: 6h 32m
Average Speed: 15.3mph
Average Speed (including stops): 12mph
Maximum Speed: 46.8mph
Total Climbing: ~5,000 ft
 
Rating (out of 10):
Difficulty: 5
Support: 9
Food: 8
Route: 9 - very lovely!
Overall: 8
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Last modified 08 February, 2011 MST
Copyright © 2009 Adam R. Paul
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