Ride Recap: Last Call for the Jimtown Store

Jimtown Store pulled pork sandwiches

Yesterday’s ride from Healdsburg to lunch at the Jimtown Store highlighted many of the aspects of Northern California winter cycling I love. Those of you who cring at riding in anything less than 60F are truly missing out.

Out of the blue we got a crisp, clear, sunny day with mostly dry roads. A clear winter sky, of course, means a cold morning as all the residual heat of the previous day has radiated away without impediment. At Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg it was 38 degrees. Roger and I had ridden the day before, a jaunt over the newly opened Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Marin and back; it had been chilly and we knew today would be even chillier up in Healdsburg. So we were both bundled in multiple layers, fleece tights, lots of wool, thick gloves, you name it. Downtown Bakery is the morning hangout in Healdsburg and the only reason there were a handful of people outside enjoying their morning brew was because the inside, which is moderately copious, was packed with those bristling at the cold weather. A hot, fresh coffee and a pain au chocolat in hand I trotted back outside to await the others while enjoying the sunshine and the chilling, tingling sensation on my face.

Donald Cremers and David Gaus joined Roger and me for the ride along Wine Country Century roads to the Jimtown Store for a farewell lunch. Rana was going to join us but she got stuck in Southern California with the Grapevine being shut down and couldn’t make it back in time for the ride and a pulled pork sandwich. Interestingly all four of us had road bikes with disc brakes. Sigh. It’s the end of an era, folks. All of us also had ‘fat’ road tires and I had the skinniest at 28mm. We live in interesting times. Nevertheless for Sonoma county roads the fatter the better because road maintenance up there is literally sketchy. There are long sections of reasonable asphalt and then you hit something that seems headed for Planet of the Apes status as you bounce your way through cracks, pavement heaves, humungous potholes, and weird county patch jobs.

The early start was chilly but that meant hardly any cars. Certainly no one was going wine tasting yet. The roll south on Eastside was barely warming—we weren’t going fast and the sun only occasionally made it over the trees and hillsides to cast its warming gaze on us. It wouldn’t be until we crossed Wohler Bridge and got onto Westside that we’d be on the sunny side of the street. We stopped at Wohler Bridge to take some shots. No one else was out except for rabid fly fishers in the river below. It was a different experience rolling along the roads that are such a familiar sight as part of the annual Wine Country Century: this morning there was almost no one else about. Westside was eerily quiet—I mentioned to Donald it felt a lot like riding in Europe with nearly deserted rural roads peppered with astonishingly scenic vistas around many a corner. The hillsides and fields so sere just over a month ago were now sprouting green grass. Occasional cyclists roared past us; we were moseying, not racing to get to Jimtown. We stopped for an occasional drink, pee, or to snack; it would be nearly 40 miles before we’d have lunch!

When we got to Jimtown, we were greeted with a packed house. The word had gotten out that it was just days from closing and people were crowding the normally quiet restaurant. Everyone knew that pulled pork was the specialty of the house and though those orders were hot and heavy, the kitchen pumped them out quickly and expertly. Poor David ordered a vegan banh mi sandwich and he didn’t get his until the three of us were well finished sucking down our pulled pork masterpieces. Speaking of the pulled pork, I’m going to miss it. A lot. Jimtown sandwiches aren’t large but they pile the perfect amount of pickles and cole slaw on top. It doesn’t overwhelm the pulled pork and if you’re reasonably careful you can eat it with both hands without drooling sauce and sandwich fragments pell-mell. Oh, and the bun is crispy—you can hear it ‘crack’ with each bite. Awesome. It’s now a part of history. Sigh.

Everybody was enjoying their meal. Hardly any words were exchanged but it had been 40 miles of anticipation (and whetted appetite). As we sat outside eating we had a front row seat at the piles of people and cyclists rolling up and getting ready to munch down. When we arrived the bike rack was empty but now it was completely full. As we chatted and eyed the happy crowd, we could see the hilltops had been burned by fire, which is part of the reason Jimtown was closing. Housing in Sonoma is a scarce commodity after the fires and working people are being priced out. (Sound familiar?)

Eventually it was time to go. I could have eaten TWO sandwiches but if I had I would have sunk into a food coma and never made it back to Healdsburg, just six miles away, without a serious nap first. Also, Noble Pies was awaiting us.

The roll back was an easy, flat six miles. When we got back to Downtown Bakery, no one wanted to get pie (!) Those sandwiches were plenty for lunch! (And six miles isn’t enough to prep for serious pie.)

Unless someone decides to buy Jimtown Store and keep it as is, that will be the last Different Spokes ride there. Of course you’ll still pass the building on the Wine Country Century. But it won’t be the same. Adieu, Jimtown.