West County Ride – Occidental To The Ocean

Yesterday, Saturday January 10th 2015, Andy and I agreed to meet at Fulton Rd on the Joe Rodota trail, in the flats, half way between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol at 7:15 am for about a five hour ride. Andy rides from his house in Santa Rosa about 8 miles, I drive in my warm car; Andy is from Wisconsin, I, a California boy. I get to our meeting spot a few minutes before Andy and am trying to get acclimated to the foggy, 40 degree temp. When Andy shows up the dew and moisture is dripping off his helmet, he looks cold / it is cold. You try and dress for the elements gloves, face mask, 4 layers, toe covers but it is still cold. Why did I get out of bed to do this??

Exercise, catching up with Andy, he spent 10 days in Mexico over the Christmas holidays with his wife Mary, checking out the sights of the country side we are about to explore, the grind. We don’t have a complete itinerary for the ride but we know we are heading to Occidental which will be about 1000′ climb. After a half hour my fingers are numb and uncomfortable and I think of the hot tea I’ll get in Occidental; Andy says his fingers are good but his toes are cold. Otherwise the first hour flies by as Andy tells about his trip to Mexico. There are 3 roads you can take up to Occidental, we decide to take the middle one Graton Rd. It is the one we can get to the quickest and we figure we will warm up as we make the 5 mile climb. As soon as we started climbing, the fog disappeared and it got 5 degrees warmer. Graton Rd is heavily forested with Redwoods, Bay, Oak trees, and green hillsides. Fresh air.

We pull into Occidental to the Union Hotel built sometime in the late 1800’s real hardwood floors 2 x 12 planks. I get my hot tea and this fresh amazing apple pastry thing. Andy told me the name but I forget now, something like a gluout. We discuss our options for the next leg of our ride and we agree on heading over Coleman Valley Rd. to the Pacific Ocean. From Occidental we continue our climb up Bittner, to Joy Rd. (for those of you who went to Novato High we pass Cathy Caldwell Daly’s house) and then on over to Coleman. It turns out that Coleman Valley Rd. on this day is our own private bike path; 10 miles and not one car. A little pass half way, the road is such that you can let off the brakes and enjoy the downhill, I think I was going 32 miles an hour. You come around the corner and there in wide angle view is the Pacific Ocean.

We are about 700 feet above sea level and the ride down to HWY 1 is a bit scary at 15, 16 % grade. Andy goes pretty darn fast down this section (must be that Wisconsin upbringing). The air and ocean are calm and still lots of surfers out and because of the calm ocean, paddle boarders. We hang out and enjoy the sights, smells, and talk with a few of the other spectators. A couple from Sacramento taking it all in. We head south toward Bodega Bay but decide to go over Bay Hill Rd. (another 1000′ climb) instead of going through the narrow road in Bodega Bay. We get back on Hwy 1 through Valley Ford make a left into Bloomfield, a few more lefts into Sebastopol and back to Fulton Road. 4 hours 39 minutes, 53.3 miles, 4650 feet of climbing, 3421 calories, and a great day hanging out with Andy! The man from Wisconsin road back home giving him a total of 70 miles. Can’t wait to do it again!