Having moved to Davis from Sonoma County over 13 years ago, the drudge of Highway 80 became unbearable, especially when fighting SUVs in peak Lake Tahoe tourist seasons. There had to be a more scenic, motorcycle friendly route to visit family in Healdsburg and to the beaches of the Pacific Coast where I spent many a weekend as a kiddo. It didn't take long to discover that Highway 128 was going to be the two-lane adventure that would to save me from the four-lane monster. After 10 years of happy exploration I've found the perfect path to the ocean with only 12 miles of freeway to land you in the quaint seaside town of Elk, transforming a freeway grind into a day of twisties through wine country and redwood forest to experience all that makes Northern California so very special.
Napa and Sonoma is what we've traditionally called "wine country" here in the San Francisco Bay Area. But newer and very scenic riding can be done in the "other" wine countries like the Santa Cruz Mountains in the South Bay, and the East Bay's Livermore Valley.
Wine tasting isn't usually on the menu for motorcyclists, but olive tasting? Bring it on! Jeanne Cooper reports for SFGate that "Inland spots on the Central Coast such as Carmel Valley, Corral de Tierra, Paso Robles and Edna Valley are blooming with olives as well as grapes, and olive oil tasting rooms are sprouting up. And just as the region's wine tasting rooms remain a more low-key, less commercial alternative to those in bustling Napa and Sonoma, the Central Coast's olive oil experiences are equally inviting to the novice and expert alike." Read more at SF Gate.
Riding to Bodega Bay from Sebastapol on the Bohemian Highway, my group zoomed right by Freestone and Wild Flour Bread but I came to a full stop and stood in line with about 20 people including a tough-looking guy on a Harley who said he rides two hours here every weekend to stock up on bread.
A weekend's journey beach-bound to Mendocino, Caspar, Fort Bragg, Gualala, and Point Arena becomes a cornucopia of ride-to-eat destinations. But, the real delectable delight would be our last-minute detour inland, riding the twisties through Comptche and Booneville to Mountain View Road, becoming the unexpected highlight of the tour.
Sometimes I ride to eat, but often I'll just ride to ride, taking a power bar with me for a quick snack. But fresh produce stands always get me to pull over. Sonoma County, located 50 kilometers from San Francisco, has a ton of them. Sonoma is our wine, spa and coastal playground with more than 350 wineries, over 100 organic farms, and 80 kilometers miles of stunning Pacific coast. We love to ride there, and we love to eat there. And summertime brings lots of farm stands where you can stop to enjoy fresh fruit from the source. Here are a couple that might tempt you to pull over, too. Know of others? Tell us!
The plan is is motion, the destination set: Ride some of the twistiest roads connecting Mendocino and Lake counties, find a better-than-decent lunch in Lakeport, overlooking beautiful Clear Lake, and ride some more. The only meals I've partaken of in Lakeport prior to today are burgers and fries at the drive-in (Renee’s Cafe with 15 flavors of milkshake, most excellent on a hot Lake County day), burgers and fries at the local chain restaurant, or burgers and fries at Lakeport Speedway (but more on that later). Today we'll be sampling the fare at Park Place Restaurant, reputedly one of the finer eateries in town.
Summer's solstice brings the sun and heat to the Napa Valley to ripen the abundant multifarious varieties of local vines, and also cultivates the visiting crowds. Rather than watching my temperature gauge go up and burn out a clutch cable, I prefer to take roads less travelled. My objective for the day: to leisurely make my way to the charming little town of St. Helena in the Napa Valley by intersecting mountain ranges, valleys and scenic roads that are fun, challenging, and practically car-free!
When you live in a small town sometimes you just need to escape to the big city. Lucky for me San Francisco is just a short ride from my home in the beautiful Napa Valley. When I heard that one of my favorite bands was playing at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco, I headed out for the 53 mile ride to enjoy a night on the town without hesitation.
After a long day of riding the twists and turns of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco, I longed for a plush place to hang up my gear for the night. As if by magic, a charming cluster of cottages appeared among the ferns, redwoods and wildflowers growing wild among the cottages sitting perched on the hillside. The appropriately-named Fern Grove Cottages are in the perfect setting along River Road in Guerneville.