Golden Days in the Gold Country

September 14-17 was a superb weekend of biking, wine drinking and relaxing in Amador County. Five of us went up on Thursday. Phil B made the 90 mile trip from Pittsburg Baypoint BART by bike. The rest of us (Dave G, Michael S, Mark H and Bill) made the trip in a couple of hours by car. For those of you unaware, Amador County is east of Sacramento and is home to outstanding bicycling terrain including golden hills dotted with oaks, vineyards, pine forests and stunning vistas that stretch from the Central Valley to the Sierras.

We stayed in adorable cedar cabins at the 49er Village RV park in Plymouth. Despite the associations with blue collar retirees, the accommodations were perfect and allowed us to soak in the hot tub before walking to dinner each night in Plymouth. The Gold Country is dotted with little hamlets founded during the Gold Rush: Amador City, Volcano, Drytown, Fiddletown, Mt. Aukum and more. Take a look at the photo album!

 

Friday’s ride was the most challenging, about 75 miles and 7,500 feet of climbing, all within the first 50 miles from Plymouth to Cooks Station. Highlights including multiple crossings of the scenic Cosumnes River, an unintentional out and back on Grizzly Flat Road, Slug Gulch (with its sections of 15% grade) and a screaming descent into the pitch perfect near ghost town of Fiddletown. We rewarded ourselves with a fun dinner at Incahoots, a great BBQ restaurant with cheap local wines and lots of local color.

Saturday’s ride started with several small but difficult grades, but was well worth it when we arrived in Amador City at Andrae’s Bakery. Thanks to Phil for putting this one on the map! After many, buttery calories and coffee, we enjoyed more of the route from the Sierra Century on the way to another adorable town, Volcano. I think this was probably the most enjoyable cycling I’ve done all year.

After lunch we completed our 60 mile, 4,500 foot ride by descending to Sutter Creek (a cute town completely choked by the stream of cars on Highway 49). Overall, the road surfaces and shoulders were excellent and the views stunning. Dave G. did seem to draw several shouts of “get off the road” from local Yosemite Sam types driving in white pickup trucks. It appears there is a tension between the near-Deliverance woodsy past and winery/retirement mecca of the present/future in them thar hills.

Sunday saw our ranks dwindle a bit and Michael and Dave had to leave for the City on Saturday evening and Phil took a train back to Berkeley via Sacramento. Mark and Bill logged another 40 mile ride. We headed north from Plymouth on a most scenic stretch of Highway 49 to the town of El Dorado and then completed a counter-clockwise loop through primarily rolling hills. After a goodbye soak in the hot tub and a shower, we sampled excellent zinfandels, syrahs and viogniers at several of the local Amador and El Dorado wineries.

We enjoyed near-perfect weather, lots of local color and some of the finest terrain and vistas California has to offer. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

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