Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Occidental, I think that I just fell in love with you

After spending several days doing some climbs around Napa, we finally checked out of our motel in downtown Napa, loaded up our panniers, and headed west, aiming for the tiny community of Occidental. We only discovered after returning to Boston that Tom Waits now calls Occidental home.

I'm not ashamed to admit that John is much stronger than I am. So as a way of evening things out when touring on single bikes, he gets to carry the panniers, as well as being the prime photographer. So he gets to take loads of photos, then hammer up to catch me, take loads of photos, the hammer up to catch me. I am kind and still pack minimally - and I do carry my own jacket and tools and such.

We minimized transit days on this trip to three - the first day from Rohnert Park out to Napa, the middle day to Occidental and the last day back to Rohnert Park. We like to tour this way - a transit day followed by a couple of unencumbered loop rides, then a transit day. We get to thoroughly explore and area, and become regulars at the local coffee shops and pubs! 

Leaving Napa, we eased into the day by heading out Dry Creek, before climbing up Trinity Grade and then Cavedale. We met a couple of guys at the top of Cavedale, who said it was better in the other direction. I don't know what they were talking about! The views were phenomenal. The pavement was a bit rough, but we were enjoying the views and stopping to take photos so often that we didn't notice. And likely thanks to the rough pavement it was almost traffic free!

We found the cave on Cavedale.

We had a great burrito lunch on the edge of town in Glen Ellen. We should have just ordered one to share. I think they each weighed about 5 pounds. We each managed to get through half! And this was in the middle of a tour where we eat like crazy. We did have another good climb straight after lunch, so we showed good judgement in only having half. It was followed by some ickiness getting through Cotati but then we then hit some spectacular scenery approaching Occidental.

We celebrated another great day on bikes at the Barley and Hops Tavern, where we quickly became regulars.

We had a dramatic change of scenery, as we headed into the redwoods.

I had ridden out here with my friend Susan many years ago, and had brought back great pictures from King Ridge Road. John had heard about this road for many years and now it's even more well known for the Gran Fondo. It absolutely lived up to all his expectations. We took a tiny little road that we found on our old Krebs Maps to get us to the base of the climb in Cazedero. As usual for touring, we use traditional paper maps for the planning and big picture, but we plan out our routes with RideWithGPS and navigate with our GPS devices.

The toll-taker on King Ridge Road.

This sign was someone's warped sense of humor. The descent started about 2 miles down the road.

Reaching the coast, we were  amazed by the views, lack of traffic and tailwind! We stopped in Jenner for coffee and snacks, and then put up the sail as we flew down toward Coleman Valley.  

Coleman Valley indeed. Californians are confused. If the road has valley in the name that means it climbs up some steep mountain pass to get from one valley to the next!

The next day, we did a big loop to the south, featuring the bakery in Tomales.

John was thrilled to hear familiar accents from the Irish gals we met at the Tomales Bakery. They were out doing a century to celebrate a birthday. They were facing a tough slog home into a headwind, a wind that had amazingly been at our backs for a while. I said I would wish for the wind to change for them, but it just wouldn't be in my own self-interest! 

When we booked this trip, we were expecting cool temperatures. In the week before we headed out, the forecast looked grim, rain and 50F. But we were so lucky. As you can see from the photos, it was cool, but we had lots of sunshine. And we had a couple of amazing tailwinds in opposite directions on the coast. But luck had to run out, and on Saturday we awoke to rain. It was light at first, but got heavier and I believe it got cooler throughout the day. It would have seemed great had it not been summer back in Boston for the whole week!

But the bakery in Tomales was so good the day before, that we took the long way home and made another visit, before heading back through Petaluma.

This is a small sampling of our photos. John has about 1000+ to go through, and in a few weeks, we'll get a slide show and more detailed report up on the website. We had a fabulous time. We will definitely be back.


  1. Nice post, got me thinking about riding out there. BTW, what's that handlebar bag you've got there?

  2. The small white handlebar bag is the Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Compact. The large black handlebar bag is the Ortlieb Ultimate Plus. Both bags use the same mount, making it easy to choose a smaller or larger bar bag as needed. John used the larger bag on this trip because he was carrying a larger camera and extra lenses. Ortlieb bags are waterproof, making them ideal for keeping things dry, like clothes and sensitive electronics.

  3. Hi,
    I just bought an Ortleib HB pack, partly on your recommendation. Love the pack (a Classic) but hate the mount (Rube Goldbergish). I see the bag also attaches with a Klickfix bracket. Have you tried this or know anyone who has and what do you/they think?

  4. Yes, we use the Klickfix brackets with our Ortlieb handlebar bags, although I was recently forced to use one of the new silly locking Ortlieb brackets, because I needed one in a hurry on an oversized bar. While it seems like a puzzle wrapping the wire around bars and stem, it does work very well, and the latest design works for any size bars and any size stem. The lock on the other hand is the most ridiculous feature ever. Yep, I'll lock my bag on and take out my wallet and camera and keys and carry them around - how...