Matt Burton's Napa Valley Ride Report

Jun 10, 2006

Napa Valley

This past weekend I slipped the confines of Boulder County to bask in the beauty of the Napa Valley in northern California. I had the opportunity to rent a 2005 Specialized Roubaix Comp featuring a full carbon fiber frame and Shimano DuraAce drive train.

On Saturday, June 10 I set out early from the town of Napa, CA to wind my way through the back roads of Napa county, over the hills ringing the valley, west through the town of Sonoma, CA and finally swinging southeast for the return to Napa. My planned route was just under 50 miles. I had an incredible bike, plenty of water and nutrition, and an entire day to kill.

The first 10 miles was on a two-lane road following a small creek that climbed from Napa's perch at 17' about sea level to a brisk 554' above sea level. The next stage in "Tour-de-Wine-Country" put me to the test in a manner similar to our own Flagstaff Mountain. The aptly-named Trinity road rose from 554' to 1750' in a mere 4.7 miles, including several sections with grades in excess of 9 percent. The road for my efforts was a 7.2 mile down-hill section of steep grades and beautiful views.

Steep grades abounded

After coming down the west side of the hills I entered the small town of Glen Ellen, CA - Home of Jack London State Historic Park. After some two-hours and change into my ride I took a break in Glen Ellen for a well-earned Clif Bar. From there I headed south towards Sonoma, passing the infamous Agua Caliente Road. After another seven miles or so I entered the outskirts of Sonoma, CA.

Attempting to bike through the town of Sonoma took nearly an hour. Navigating the side streets and bike paths was slow and difficult. In retrospect I should have circumvented the town for a bit less stress and a bit more cycling. I left Sonoma headed southeast on the shoulder of California Highway 12 towards my starting point in northwestern Napa.

The next nine miles along highway 12 were uneventful, even with the high traffic, due a rather large and recently paved shoulder. Just before entered the southern part of Napa-proper I elected to take a detour to the west on Old Sonoma Road to by-pass the southern section of the city. After my misadventures navigating Sonoma I figured that a few extra miles of enjoyable riding was more prudent that returning quickly.

Winding roads of CA wine country

Old Sonoma Road too me to a familiar road that ran near the house I was staying at for the weekend. I savored the last few miles with the knowledge that I had little stamina left for further riding that day and I needed to return the bike that night. The ride took just under five hours including a quick lunch stop in Glen Ellen and many, many frustrated stops in Sonoma attempting to navigate the city.

The vertical profile took me from 17' in Napa to 554' near Dry Creek to 1750' at the top of Trinity to 206' in Glen Ellen to 50' in Sonoma andfinally back to 17' in Napa.

This was a truly fantastic ride. I could not have done it without Steve Bailey and his daily prodding to get me to start cycling and his constant encouragement to continue.

Thank you for the plug, Matt! I'm always happy to introduce people to the pleasures of masochism! Ed.