Don dropped out. He and Debbie had a wine tasting planned at 11AM and it was logistically impossible for him to return back, take a shower and reach the winery by 11AM. I went solo!
It was a chilly morning. The bike I had rented yesterday was a Felt Z85 with an aluminum frame, chrome fork and Shimano 105 components. I raised my seat just a bit and started riding north on St. Helena Highway for the first mile before taking a right on Oakville Cross Road going east. I was dressed warmly in a red Ironman cycling windcheater that Binita had given to me on my birthday. Winds were relatively calm and the sun was out. It didn’t take me long to warm up.
I took a left on Silverado Trail for the next 6+ miles. I had run a portion of this route yesterday. It is pretty flat, but soon there was a short rise. I passed by some familiar vineyards on the left; ZD Vineyards followed by Mumm. We had visited Mumm back in 1997 with Len and Julie. I looked down at the buildings inside Mumm and smiled; it brought back some fond memories.
At Howell Mountain Road, I took a sharp right turn. After an easy uphill for the first quarter of a mile, the road goes straight up. I was in my easiest gear very quickly and was going slower than 8MPH. My heart rate had already elevated up in zone 3 and was bordering zone 4. I had only done a total of 11 miles. At this rate, I would burn out in the next hour and would find it hard to finish the entire 45 miles. Unfortunately, I had no choice. I kept going…
The road wound uphill with gorgeous vineyards on both sides. The canopy here was heavier than most places in Napa. I alternated in the shadows of tall trees and the open sun. I was breathing heavy and counting down the miles. At around 2.5 miles into the uphill climb, I hit a pot-hole pretty hard. Thunk! My bike swayed but I managed to keep my balance. I was only going 10MPH. I noticed that my front brake was sticking now. I stopped for a minute and adjusted my brakes. I kept going. My front wheel was now making a distinctive rattling noise. I looked down to see but found nothing wrong. This took my mind off momentarily from my effort and pretty soon I had less than a mile to go before the Deer Park Road turnoff.
At 4 miles into the uphill climb, I took a right to continue on Howell Mountain Road. I thought my uphill climb was over, but the road kept climbing (albeit more gently) for the next 2 miles. This is where the downhill decent began. The front of my bike was still rattling as I picked up speed. Since there were some hairpin turns on the downhill, I was constantly riding the brakes. My speed varied between 30MPH and 12MPH as I went downhill for the next 2 miles.
Soon, I merged into Chiles Popes Valley Road and started heading south. This road had pretty low traffic and has some easy ups and downs. I ate a Clif bar and drank some Gatorade Endurance. I was about 90 minutes into the ride and needed this nutrition to keep going.
|Red Breasted Mergansers in the foreground (they look like dots in this image)
At around the 30-mile mark, the road takes a few easy curves as it winds slightly downhill around a mountain. This was the funnest part of the ride with speeds ranging from 23MPH and 30MPH for a few miles. On a slight uphill, I happened to look down at my wheel which was still rattling. I noticed that my front wheel lever had completely come loose. “Dude,” I said to myself, “that could have been absolutely disastrous.” I stopped and tightened the lever. The rattling noise was now gone.
As the road flattened out, I approached a gorgeous reservoir on my right. I saw some red-breasted and hooded mergansers swimming in the waters and stopped for a minute or two to soak it all in. After taking a couple of snaps, I continued on to circle back to Silverado Trail and heading south to Yountville Cross Road before coming back north to the villa.
By the time I got back, it was past 1PM. I had done a total of 46.3 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes. Everyone was out wine tasting. I relaxed for a bit, took a shower and caught a quick nap.
|Napa Bike Ride Elevation
In the evening, Don and Debbie made some exceptionally good pasta and pizza. The recipe for these should go on a food blog! Here are a couple of pics.