The plan was simple: 4 days of tekkit-teasy cycling in Napa Valley. 4 buds (two roadies, one all-purpose masher, and one easy-rider) a host of wineries, and a pool waiting for you at the end of each day. I kind of figured it would be a fire and forget weekend, where we’d not be challenged by much, terrain, weather, technology or otherwise. But things worked out a little different. Not bad different, but it turned out to be a more interesting weekend of challenge-overcomage than I anticipated.
The bus, the rides, the panniers!
Friday: Monkeybites and I were making the first leg ourselves, on the bikes, from Napa, where we left the old VW Combi bus behind, to Calistoga, where our apartment for the weekend awaited. It’s a 27 mile portion of the Silverado Trail with an actual bike lane, an easy stretch at a noodle pace. I tend to ride fast, and Monkeybites rides more mellow, so we were going to just tekkit-teasy, stop at wineries along the way, and the like. We had cantilevered bike racks connected to our seatposts, and panniers (saddlebags) with all of our stuff for the weekend in them. At a modest 14 miles an hour, it would be a two hour ride, excluding booze stops. But at mile 2 or so, I was getting irritated at a squeak at my left cleat. I stopped to adjust it. At mile 5, the squeak continued, seemed to be from my crank. Mile 6, sure enough, my left crank arm on the Bianchi (my steel road bike I have at work normally for lunchtime loops) has mysteriously cracked. After 7 years of continuous, no problem use. It started as just a fissure crack at the bolt point, but since the locking ring had disappeared, it would unwind the crank and slip out of place in the bottom bracket as I pedaled. We decided to continue, because who likes going back? As we continued, that crank got weaker and weaker, eventually completely stripping out. I would stop every mile or two and hand tighten the bolt, moving the crank 90 degrees to give it something to hold onto until that stripped. I was galloping for awhile, kinda funny, when the cranks are facing the SAME direction. Eventually it stripped clean and just dropped. I rode most of the remaining 20 miles or so on one leg, and eventually gave up and walked the rest of the way into Calistoga. It was by now 8pm, thanks to our late start and my technological disaster.
One-legged riding aside, my TRDL-powers were still impressive.
The weather was hot, but we were well hydrated. Nonetheless, hours in the sun sucks you dry and we were ready for that pool! We had called Muadib and Ironlung once the crank had gone, and Ironlung’s most excellent (and foreshadowing) suggestion was to retrieve my other road bike, the carbon LOOK that was my pride and joy, and bring it up with them to Calistoga that night, as they were coming up for the weekend, but not doing the Friday and Monday legs on Silverado. Nice dinner, delicious calzone, wine to taste, and pool-based hydration.
The guys got in later that night, Pacifico and Jack in hand, and it was a boozefest until pretty late, I believe about 33.33333% through Big Lebowski, played through Ironlung’s most excellent ipod-to-TV adaptor kit engineered specifically for such an occasion.
Saturday: So, we were hampered a bit by hangovers (all of us except for Muadib, who in his typical style, seemed to be hangover free. I think it’s the supersoldier serum) and had a nice lazy breakfast at a diner in Calistoga called ‘Sarafornia’. I thought my scramble and such were pretty tasty, but the surprise delight of the morning came in the form of Ironlung deftly spying a familiar drink under a different name. He knew it as the ‘red beer’, basically a bloody mary with a cheap beer mixed in. It was incredibly good.
The photo they would show on the news if we were never found again.
Our plan for the day was a ride down Silverado Trail to the Conn Creek road turn-off which would lead to Lake Berryessa. The original plan for the day was an aggressive ride to Healdsburg, looping south and then crossing a river on the way back, but the net on that was 70 miles or so, and we thought it might be too ambitious for our mixed-biking-style and hung over crew (one of which with a wonk leg after that crank arm incident) so the Lake seemed like a nice mellow choice. As it turns out, it was more involved than initially believed. But part of the goal for the weekend was to not worry about the details, just go at a mellow pace and see what happened. So we did. I was now on my sweet, sweet LOOK. The ride up to Lake Berryessa was good, a mild but long descent, with a second one leading to the Lake itself off of Conn Creek rd. At this point, Ironlung was carrying my panniers (I couldn’t any longer because the LOOK’s seatpost is crushable carbon) filled with our winery clothes, a gin flask, a bottle of miller, and the like. But here’s what you have to understand. The three of us were on road bikes or varying grades, but all with two to three chainrings, 9-10 speeds per ring, modern brakes, and road riding seating positions. Road bikes. Here’s Ironlung, on his beloved GanstaLean™, a Frankenbike built from a triathlon frame, big blade aluminum forks, 650cc rims, a BMX handlebar, one brake, two front rings (a second ring was added for the trip temporarily) but no derailleur, and hordes of electrical tape. It’s a sweet ride, but not what you would expect to see on a climb in Napa. Further, he self-applied that pannier set-up in a drunken proclamation the night before, so the heaviest, least-appropriate bike for the journey was carrying the most load.
Ironlung with panniers, on a unique ride… in jeans…
Plus, Ironlung doesn’t do much climbing. Plus, he’s doing it in a t-shirt, BMX helmet, Addidas and JEANS. It’s about 95 degrees. He eventually trades off the panniers to Muadib the supersoldier on a composite carbon Klein frame, though once he shifted to his second ring (by foot, not by derailleur, a trick he would do throughout the weekend and never lose a toe or crash) he was in much better straights.
Panniers being switched over- hey. Shrug! Dammit!
Lung somehow managed to not die that day, though it was probably more of a toss-up than we would like to admit. He was blowing down the descent, standing up, with his arms behind him, throwin’ threes at me. I spent most of this descent fumbling with my camera to take the shot, but when I did look down, I was doing a respectable 36 coasting, and he was pulling away.
Threes thrown, with velocity, shown.
We eventually got to Lake Beryessa, where Ironlung hung out under some trees, sipping a Miller, while Muadib and Monkeybites stripped down and took a leisurely swim across the narrower channel of the lake inlet to the other bank. I was a little behind them in deciding to swim, so unlike their moderate, slowly-acclimating approach to the icy water and steep shelf of the water’s edge, I dove right in and started mashing to the other side. You see, I used to swim a lot when I was younger. Took a lifeguard class. Lots of bodyboarding in LA. But here? Cold water, haven’t swam in years, terribly overconfident. And about half way across, my asthma seized up my lungs something fierce. I couldn’t breathe, not even enough to maintain any of my strokes, not even enough to dog paddle. My efforts to wave down Muadib were not understood at first, but eventually he and Monkeybites jumped in and fished my exhausted robot-ass out. I was in a panic at that point, just completely adrenalized and out of my mind. On the other side, I couldn’t even lift my legs, as the adrenaline drained out and I was nauseous and stymied. What a maroon. Some guy came by with his boat and ferried me back to the other side, thankfully.
Moments before seeing unfinished Finit-e flashing ‘afore me eyes…
Our ride back up out of the valley was tough. It’s a climb, not ferocious by the usual standards of what Muadib and I do, but here we have Lung, in jeans, tapped, Miller his fuel, and me, completely blown from the swimming debacle. It took awhile to get up to Conn Creek, where a general store was auspiciously located, providing us with Gatorade, candy bars and such. The way back to Calistoga was better, but towards the end, Lung was completely blown. I’m pretty sure he was asleep for about three miles of it. This guy hadn’t ridden more than 10 miles at a time on GangstaLean™ and here he was, all told, on a 60 mile ride with climbs. Incredible. We joked that he had two riding speeds: mash and coma. He also was able to summon unseen reserves in order to pull his ‘opossum hop’ maneuver.
Recovery in the mineral pool.
That night was spent first in the pool (Muadib and I went to fetch proteins at the market while Ironlung and Monkeybites percolated in the mineral pool, and on our return, Lung disappeared into the cottage with chicken and poppers and slept under the gale-force wind of an air conditioner that featured his own two-position switching) and then in town, where we had delicious Mexican food at Puerta Vallarta. Margaritas and everything. I discovered shrimp wrapped in bacon, so I was golden.
Shrimp wrapped with bacon. Golden, I says!
On the way back, we saw a curious and unsettling sight: one of the other people staying at the Carlin cottages, an older rotund man in his 50s, sitting behind the wheel of his Acura, in the middle of a dark street, cabin light on, signal on, no headlights, naked as a pig, drunk as hell, seemingly TRYING to drive, but stymied. We returned to the cottages with the intent to call the cops, but the neighbors to this guy were out front, telling us that they heard fighting and hysteria, and feared for the wife’s safety, so they called the Calistoga police, and we subsequently had the surreal scene of Cops overlayed onto the otherwise well-to-do Calistoga scene. It was weird. It just goes to show that no matter how nice a time you’re having, drinking a bottle of champagne in the hot tub, tempers flare, and one way or another, you’re going to suffer for it. ANYway, as Lung would say (and probably DID say) ‘fuck a whole lotta THAT business!’
Harmonious 33cent Pop Rocks were found.
Beeches, also harmonious in year celebrated, were also found.
Most astoundingly, Tekkit Teasy coffee was found.
More booze and some of Snakes on a Plane followed. You’ll note, still no wineries.
Sunday: Even later start, mellow as a fellow, we returned to Sarafina, but alas, it was closed for no good reason. So we visited a place further up the street, which advertised ‘Pulled Meat on Wednesday’ permanently etched into façade. Another massive breakfast of morning wraps, pancakes, parfaits, and the like, followed, though I erred by ordering a ‘Mango Cosmo’ apparently never considering it would really be…a cosmo… in the morning. GURK! This was an easy day: no heatstroke, no broken bike parts flying everywhere, no drownings. We rode down to MUMM champagne winery, and most of you know: I love champagne. In quantity. We had red red RED champagne, which our hostess described as requiring three tastes to fall in love with it’s otherwise challenging flavor.
Mummery. Note the Bianchi has been replaced with a LOOK. Last photo of the is fine ride known to exist, unfortunately.
Having exceeded the per-visit imbibing limit (probably shouldn’t gripe about that, since limits like that, insomuch as they actually occur with any frequency in Napa, probably kept us alive on the roads out there, those SUVs hurtling along at 75mph with drivers only MODERATELY drunk) off we went, to Story Ridge, where we sampled flights of whites and reds, followed by chocolate. I think most of us picked up bottles here. I took a Muscato. Lung noted a junkyard sale off the side of the road, and all but threw himself over the side in order to see what was there. Of all the finery present, he found immediate need for a sack of car mirrors, of course, and had to have them.
Sack of mirrors, seen.
After this, we mutually agreed that we didn’t have much interest in drinking more wine in 95 degree heat, so we returned up the way to Calistoga, where we swam, drank beer, screwed around, then headed into town for ice cream and gelato, before returning to home base for a final lounge session before Ironlung and Muadib had to return to the city, taking my broken Bianchi and panniers with them. Tuckered by drink and heat, Monkeybites and I watched the history of Def Jam Records on TV, then crashed.
Monday: Another leisurely start, with breakfast at the same place as the day before, and then we were off for the return ride to the City of Napa, ‘Bites having his 30-year old panniers on his rack, me with an unencumbered LOOK and not a care in the world. Unfortunately, my luck returned. On the way through a detour passed the surprisingly crowded and high-traffic Saint Helena, Monkeybites disappeared from behind me. When I found him, his pannier had snapped, sending the spring and hook into the rear wheel, locking up his brakes. It’s astounding he didn’t hurl into traffic, to be frank. We worked on repairing this awhile, then gave up, left the bags with a vendor, and rode back to Napa without them, recovered the bus, grabbed some sweet, sweet Jamba Juices, then drove BACK up to Saint Helena to get the bags, then BACK again… and just when we thought we were in the clear, the bus started making rattling, clanking noises on the freeway (more than the norm)… but in the end, we made it back, and I BBQ’d.
That’s what I call a fine weekend!