Hopland to Guernville
My red and yellow ‘sneaks’ out of the vineyard. But as I approach the end of the row, one truck appears. It’s turning around as another approaches. Well shit, I can’t hide now. So I push out of there like I’m supposed to be there. Full of confidence. As I merge onto the main road I glance back and there is a beat up car not far behind me on the dirt road I just left. I head down the pavement and then there’s a car behind. It won’t pass. I appreciate the kindness but enough already. Please pass.
I pull off to the side just before the road T’s into hwy 101. Dismount. I look back and the old old man in his banged up camry is snapping a picture of me. At first I think, Oh he thinks I’m up to something cool. And then I realise it’s probably the car from my where I stealth camped. He speeds past, not making eye contact. And then, my brain is flooded with thoughts.
Oh dang, he’s getting my profile to give to the cops.
He’s going to go back and count the 6 million unpicked grapes to see if I mooched.
He’s going to track me all day.
Was he waiting for me?
Man, he must be a bad driver.
Whatever. Fuck that.
And then a guy with a skate board rolls up. “Do you have any water?”
“I might have a little extra. Do you have a container?”
“Hopland is just back a ways.”
“Yeah, I was just there.”
“Well, the next town is Cloverdale. It’s about 15 miles away.”
“How long will that take to walk?”
“About 5 hours.”
“Oh, that’s a long time.”
“There’s the river too.”
But now he wanders off and I think to myself, dude get resourceful.
I pedal down the 101 undaunted, not giving any of it a second thought. I cycle in and out of the sun fluctuating between extreme hot and cold. I have traveled this tread thousands of times by car. Is it 2000? 5000? 8000? And yet, this is the absolute first time I’ve seen it at this speed. The absolute first. And the sounds and sights are perfect. The rushing Russian River, ducks in the water and hawks calling overhead.
Before Cloverdale, I detour around the 101 on a frontage road that climbs less than the highway. I see a dead hawk on the side of the road and I circle back to honor it. It’s head is tucked under it’s wing but I do not disturb it. I feel grateful and sad. I may be the only person that sees it today. Before I know it I’m on the East side of Cloverdale in the midst of a bicycle race. They’re all headed in the opposite direction. Am I going the wrong way? Next to the vacant Cloverdale depot, I check my path. I don’t need to be climbing any extra hills. The kind of hills that these spandex men gather over beer to brag about later.
Rolling terrain brings me to Healdsburg for lunch. 32 miles by 11:30am. I’ll take it. Leisurely 2hr lunch at the health food store. Best. Sandwich. Ever.
And then I fight my way down Westside Road which is full of speeding cars that pass way too close to me. These shiny beamers with tops down and hair flowing gotta get their wine. Stat. Sometimes I shout and wave my arm. Road construction ahead. Bicycles Prohibited is printed on the biggest road sign I’ve ever seen. “What the hell?” I say as my mouth fills with the dusty grit kicked up by the cars. There are no other roads and I’m certainly not turning around. Screw it. Onward I go.
Be prepared to stop. Flagman ahead. Oh man, I kinda start to panic. And it’s hot. And I’m climbing. I prepare my excuses. And then nothing. No one. No construction on weekends apparently?? I guess they just leave their signs out to intimidate cyclists breaking the rules.
I roll into Guernville about 4:15pm, face crusty with sweat. Hmmm…..the Giants game is on at 5. I probably could find a bar to watch the beginning of the game. But before it’s dark, I’ll have to find somewhere to camp. I lock my bike and tuck into Bull Pen sports bar. There’s only a few people, a couple tvs and I think to myself that I picked the wrong place. But the bartender is friendly.
“You here for the game? I’m going to put down the big screen,” he cheerfully remarks.
I order a Racer 5 and relax. What a day. Probably the longest I’ve ever ridden on my loaded bike. Sense of accomplishment. Go Giants.
It’s not what you know but who you know. I meet a middle-aged woman with tuffs of gray at her ears. She’s wearing tights and a variety of things including a pirates hat. She’s spunky.
“What are you, fishing?,” as she points to my bags. “And what’s with the banana?”
“Bicycle tour. Headed to Monterey.”
“Cool. That’s like Mexico to Canada cool,” she quips.
“Mexico to Canada. That’s my thing. I’ve hiked the Pacific Crest Trail twice,” I excitedly respond.
“Twice? Wow, really? Twice? Where did you start?”
“Where did you finish?”
“So cool. I met some hikers in yosemite and they had giant blisters,” she motions with her hands. “They’d hiked from Mexico. So, I’m pulling for bingo tonight and I’m camped across the street. If you need a place to camp, find the spot with the black Tacoma.”
“Oh wow. Thank you. That would be so wonderful,” I graciously respond.
We high five, I guess to seal the deal, and then she’s off to the land of bingo in her pirate hat. It’s the 5th inning and it’s practically dark outside. So I head across the street with bike and bags and find the spot with the black tacoma. Set up camp and head back to the bar to check on the game. Giants are still up 3-0. There’s a band beginning to warm up and I get the sense that’s it’s going to be loud.
I cook up dinner back at my tent. I put my broccoli cheddar into the dirty mountain house package from last night. That way I don’t have to get my pot dirty. Dang I’m clever, I think to myself. Add a little mashed potato to get the perfect consistency and I bliss out. Giants win it as I eat. I can’t keep my eyes open anymore and drift off to the thumping sounds of the band at the bar.