Luck was with us this past Sunday for the Sebastopol Apple Blossom ride. Only the previous day we got an unexpected drenching, casting a pall over the prospect the Apple Blossom and making me wonder if I would have to post another last-minute cancelation. Unlike Saturday’s Cinderella participants, who got bombed for most of the morning with rain, we had a crystal clear sunny day with nary a cloud in sight! The six of us—John, Randy, Darrell, David Go., Carl, and I—had a gruntin’ good time surmounting the many small hillocks that pepper Sonoma county between Sebastopol and Occidental. Of particular note is Barnett Valley Road at 14%+; it seemed like all the other cyclists, of which there were many out on such a beautiful day, were smartly heading down rather than up it as we did. About midway to Occidental David remarked to me that we must have finished most of the climbing as we had already had 900 feet of elevation gain, which was the total for the route. No, I said, the RideWithGPS data said 900 meters, not feet! Oh. Bummer. Yep, more to come!
Sonoma roads have not improved since we were last there four years ago. But what had changed is that even more apple orchards were left to wither and be replaced by ever more wine grapes. I can’t say I blame those farmers because it takes a number of years before a sapling is productive whereas grape plantings apparently can be productive in their second year. And when your orchard is old and needs to be replanted anyway, are you going to install more apple trees or put in grapes? Nonetheless we passed at least two orchards what were not only in bloom but were clearly being maintained, which is great because the Gravenstein is a delicious variety. It was still sad to see a number of abandoned orchards, covered in weeds and absolutely no pruning having been done. Those hoary old apple trees were literally put out to pasture.
By the time we arrived at the Union Hotel in Occidental we were ready for lunch. Seated in their outside patio courtyard on a bright day under the blooming redbud tree was delightful. Some had heaping servings of pasta or polenta and others of us, ever mindful of Kate Moss’s ‘nothing tastes as good as the way thin feels’ were more circumspect of the homemade Italian-American temptations. Yes, life is tough for supermodels!
The way back was considerably easier than the leg out. The lumps were smaller, less steep, and we had a rippin’ good downhill just out of Occidental. The views from the hilltops were superb, the crisp country air was rejuvenating, and the relative lack of cars was a welcome change from typical Bay Area conditions.
You may not have made the Apple Blossom ride this year but the trees are just starting to bloom, so go up there on your own in the next couple of weeks to enjoy the bloom and the pastoral setting after such a water-logged winter.