Russian River to Calistoga, 37 miles

OK, this is where the blog gets real.  The last few days have been hell.  Staying in an RV park last night wasn‘t that bad.  Cruising by Sonoma County vineyards this morning was beautiful.  Climbing huge hills has been really good. 

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But my mind and my heart have been filled with familiar questions, regrets and a lonely, aching sadness.  Why am I doing this?  Why am I alone?  What have I done with my life, that I‘m 47 and still don‘t know what I want or who I am? 

I know, I know – I could have ridden this tour with a friend – in fact Bruce wanted to go with me.  But I chose to go solo, as I did on many tours back in my 20‘s. Out on the road alone is where I work things out, where I find myself.  And when that doesn‘t happen, at least I have the wheels and the road and the miles flying by to help soothe my questing soul.

The ride today was ridiculous.  Google Maps did it again – gave me the shortest, most direct route to Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown.  Unfortunately the terrain and road conditions were completely wrong for cycling.  I found myself on a steep winding narrow mountain road with rock trucks whizzing around blind corners and go no shoulder at all!  Then the Calistoga Grade descended at 12% which really cooked the brakes.

In Calistoga I took a lunch break, got a haircut and worried about what was next – the Lake County Highway, which climbs to 2200 feet over Mount Saint Helena.  I was waiting at the corner to turn onto the climb, watching heavy traffic at full speed, seeing no shoulder again, and an 8 mile climb which would take 2 hours or more.  A pickup pulled up, also waiting to turn.  “Going to Middletown?“ I asked and stuck out my thumb.

Yep, I got shuttled right over that dreadful mountain pass. The friendly driver took corners at breakneck speed, so I was a bit queezy when he dropped me off in Middletown.  I felt a guilty too – you see we true bicycle tourists do not hitch!  We carry our own loads, over hills, over the miles, wherever we need to go.  But in this case, I was glad to avoid 15 miles on a dangerous and unsurpassable road.  Also the driver told me of an easy route back south, on a rolling valley road with less traffic.

I rode the remaining few miles up to Harbin Hot Springs, checked in, and resumed my pondering and questioning, but this time with hot springs and sauna to help.

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