Six of us did a popular loop ride encompassing Pleasants Valley Road, Putah Creek, and Cantelow in Solano and Yolo counties yesterday. Naturally it had to coincide with the first red flag warning of the year. This area was scorched by the LNU complex fire last summer and now we got a chance to tour the damage on a day with an eerie fire hazard reminder. The red flag ‘gift’ of the day was the potent offshore wind from the north, which nicely coincided with our direct north route to Winters! No good deed shall go unpunished.
A morning start to avoid the wind ended up being futile but it did provide a comfy mid-70s temp at the beginning; Roger Sayre had the right idea with a sleeveless jersey. Being puny, overweight, and out of shape meant that I was quickly into another character-building experience. The rest of the group disappeared into the northern horizon. My husband took pity on me and let me draft his wheel. Oh, and this was a 49-mile ride, a length I hadn’t seen since January 2020. The side winds were extra fun too and meant that getting a draft was, well, not getting a draft.
Pleasants Valley Road is now Unpleasants Valley Road. I knew the LNU fire went through this area but I did not understand how much of it was torched. The entire length of the road bore witness to the immolation. Flames must have hopscotched around because untouched farms, vineyards, and orchards were adjacent to burned out groves of trees and in one case, an entire orchard of incinerated trees. The tops of the hillsides were crowned in barren, burned trees. I’ve been doing this ride for 36 years and it has always been a pastoral wonderland. Until now. I doubt it will recover in my lifetime.
We regrouped at Putah Creek, which was bone dry, and turning out of the headwind felt like we were now flying on the road instead of crawling. For a lazy Sunday, Winters looked to be busy. Winters is/was a small ag town but it’s getting gentrified slowly and that means it’s no longer sleepy. When will the Apple Store show up? Of course we stopped at Steady Eddy’s—the cycling epicenter of Winters—for a sandwich break under their canopy. It was nice to see them survive the Pandemic and although less crowded than in prepandemic times it had a steady stream of customers including other cyclists. Clients were all dutifully and respectfully masked.
After lunch was our first leg southward—oh, and the wind was picking up as the day lengthened—so we were propelled with glee down Winters Road. We were doing 20 mph and hardly pedaling! That fun had to end when we turned west to roll through the approach hills to climb Cantelow. Off disappeared half the group, leaving Roger S and I to clamber as best we could with Roger H shepherding us. Unfortunately before Cantelow my ancient front shifter jammed and I couldn’t get out of the big ring. That was extra fun too! Two hills later I stopped and somehow got the chain onto the middle ring and was able to make it up Cantelow with its 14% bonus fun.
We caught up at the top then roared down the other side back to Pleasants Valley. With the wind at our back we had a really nice tailwind all the way back to the cars. Boy, that made up for the morning!
Sidenotes: Stephen had a retirement gift in hand—a gorgeous orange and blue Seven. Stephen, just don’t ride it up Skyline right now… Roger Sayre, who has ridden the same bike for decades, mentioned he was getting a new addition to his family as well, a baby Orbea. We wait eagerly for its birth. Will, who ‘burned’ up the road, is taking a break for a while due to upcoming surgery. We all wished him well. He’ll be back to punish us some more post haste!