Posted by: acooksca | 04/03/2009

A Favorite Wine Country Pedal

dry-creek-valley-2aSo here’s my job: tell you about a great bike ride in wine country, where to rent the bikes and where and what to eat for lunch after the ride. Your job: get there early enough in the day to avoid traffic and the summer heat.

Sixty miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge is the wonderfully intimate Dry Creek Valley, Healdsburg. This valley gets a fraction of the traffic of its well known neighbors Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley of the Moon. A bike ride in Dry Creek Valley is up close and personal with quiet family wineries and farms embraced by redwood and pine forests on the West and rolling hills on the East.

Start your adventure early as this valley warms up and holds the mid day heat. Drive north from San Francisco on Highway 101 to the Central Healdsburg exit, go two blocks to Mill Street and turn right. Spoke Folk Cyclery is just in front of you and where you will rent bikes. They provide helmet, pack, lock, map and route suggestions. Take water in your pack as this is a rural ride without markets.

Head for the less trafficked, more scenic west side of the valley by following Mill Street under the freeway overpass and onto Westside Road. Pedal 1 mile, crossing over a metal bridge, and come to the intersection in front of the historic Madrona Manor. Turn right onto West Dry Creek Road.

This two lane country road rises a few feet higher than the valley floor and you meander past superb vistas of vineyards and farms below. Just a half mile across this narrow valley to the east you can see the straighter, busier Dry Creek Road. Several weeks ago we rode the west side for miles before seeing any traffic except other bicycles.

This west side of the valley is the more comfortable side, being well shaded by old California oaks and dark forests of coastal redwoods along the ridge above. The road curves past Victorian farmhouses and vineyards with signs that tell what varietal is being grown. Some fine wineries call this west side home: Rafanelli, Lambert Bridge, Quivira.

About 6 miles along you will intersect Lambert Bridge Road. Stop and notice the whimsical metal sculpture of goats playing a card game in the yard of the corner property. Continue on another 4 miles to Yoakim Bridge Road. This is where you will turn around and return by the same road you came. You can also turn right and follow Yoakim Bridge Road for ½ mile to taste samples at a peach farm (Saturday and Sundays only).

The return ride is less strenuous as you take advantage of a gentle downward grade. If you want to make a loop you can cross the valley at either Lambert Bridge Road or Yoakim Bridge Road and take Dry Creek Road south. This leads back to the north end of Healdsburg. Turn right onto Healdsburg Ave., the main street through town, pass the shaded old fashioned square and head to the south end of town and the Spoke Folk Cyclery.

Either before or after you drop off the bikes stop for lunch at Willi’s Seafood and Raw Bar on Healdsburg Ave. This is a relaxed place with outdoor seating and well prepared small plates. Be sure to order the lobster roll. Willi’s has a full bar and a fine selection of Sonoma County wines all available by glass, half bottle and bottle. The service is excellent and just about everything we have tasted there we would happily order again. But it is that lobster roll we consider the treat at the end of the bike trail.

Rent bikes at Spoke Folk Cyclery
http://www.spokefolk.com/

Lunch at Willi’s
http://www.willisseafood.net/

Originally published in Farmstead Cheese News by Karen Bolla, edited for A Cook’s California (A Cook’s CA)  by Karen Bolla.

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