Our awe-inspiring Northern California coast hasn’t changed much since the Russian navigator, Vitus Bering discovered the foggy continent in 1742. California Highway 1 meanders along the furrowed coast line providing the perfect ride for: change in elevation, diversity of landscape and an infinite sampling of regional delicacies. Stop for a photo op and/or a picnic at MUIR BEACH (mile 38).
"There to stand on the brink of the great Pacific, with the rolling waves washing its sands and seaweeds to my feet! And there I stood on the shore of the Pacific enjoying the happiest hour of all my journey, till the sun sank beneath its waters, and then by a beautiful moonlight returned on the beach to camp, feeling that I had crossed the continent.' -John Ball, 1832
If local seafood is your fancy, ignore any stomach rumblings and continue north to MARSHALL, CA (mile 70) where they feature a casual atmosphere, local seafood, daily baked treats and BBQ oysters. Outdoor seating with shoreline seats on Tomales Bay make this the perfect pairing of bikes, BBQ and bliss.
WINE COUNTRY (finally)
“It is the wine that leads me on, the wild wine that sets the wisest man to sing at the top of his lungs, laugh like a fool—it drives the man to dancing… it even tempts him to blurt out stories better never told.” – Homer
The second leg of the trip leads you 25 minutes away from the coast and North along the Bohemian Highway starting at town of Freestone. The town is only two blocks but long enough to take you away from any lingering hometown stress. Now, I’ve only lived in major cities but if I had to create a definition of the perfect town, it would definitely include a winery (Joseph Phelps Freestone Vineyards Guest Center), bakery (Wild Flour Bread), cheese shop (Freestone Artisan Cheese), and day spa. Talk about urban planning!!! Other towns and cities may offer more, but what those offer in quantity, they do not offer the same serenity, connection with the land and a general chill vibe that makes NorCal unique.
The 30 minute ride through towering redwoods and the one-time logging town of Occidental, CA (mile 93) to Highway 116 which bisects Guerneville, CA gives one plenty of time to enjoy the view and recite the mantra, “life is good”. Repeat as needed.
Just east of Guerneville slow down and look for Westside Road. (mile 111). The compact size of the Russian River Valley will have you inches away from most vineyards as they fold into the landscape and stretch east to Mt. St. Helena. The undulating topography offers a harmonious platform for the acres of vineyards and vistas of the Valley. The real beauty of the valley are the ancient Black Oaks which frame the vineyards, creeks and hills. 12 miles of this secluded, shady avenue makes this the most picturesque road in the entire wine country.
If you’re ready for a break or a fuel stop, Healdsburg, CA (Mile 122) is the perfect place to relax, refuel and rejuvenate. Healdsburg has all the history and charm of the wine country but without the crowds, pricing and attitude of her more snooty neighbors; Sonoma and Napa. Parking near Healdsburg Plaza is convenient and the shady park is a welcome change from the summer heat on both machine and riders. If you only have the tolerance and time for a single wine tasting, check out Williamson Wines. For a more down home vibe, my favorite place is The Wurst Restaurant. For a proper, relaxing sit-down lunch experience, look no further than Healdsburg Bar and Grill. It’s the only place in all my travels that offers a Creamsicle Milk Shake and tastes as good as any childhood creamsicle memory.
So, let’s review what we’ve seen so far.
- Unforgettable ride along California Highway 1: Check.
- Taste awesome food and beverages? Check.
- Expand your consciousness for beauty, nature and gratitude? Check.
If “Cute” shopping or “Antiquing” are on the list, (we won’t judge) you’ll find plenty of opportunities along the square in Healdsburg Plaza. Find out more at: WINE ROAD.
The last third of the trip stretches along Highway 128 to Calistoga, CA (Mile 148). No matter what time of year, the Silverado Trail at the east side of Calistoga and the Napa Valley offers little traffic, plenty of tasting room options and unlimited joy as you make your way back to the Bay.
This has always been my favorite road trip. At the end of the day, you’ll have experienced everything great about NorCal, 'cept maybe snow and earthquakes but you never know…
The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be. – Anne Frank