The Annoying Friend That Always Rides With Me

friends-argueIt was impossible to be anything less than giddy about riding through Sonoma wine country on a sunny day, and when one is giddy, one tends to ignore one’s limitations. Here’s mine.

A little over 12 years ago, I made a bad jump from a sailboat onto a dock and sheared off the plateau of my right tibia – doc-speak for totally messing up my right knee. By anyone’s measure, I’ve recovered very well from it. I’m a little knock-kneed, as the surgeons had a hell of a time trying to get everything back in place and aligned properly, but I can do just about anything with that leg except run for any distance. I’m also beating the doctor’s forecast; he told me to expect that I’d require a knee replacement after 8-10 years, and happily I haven’t gotten there yet, nor do I hope to for another few years.

One of my sons asked, shortly after the accident, whether I was going to give up sailing. “No,” I said, “I’m going to give up jumping.” But I wouldn’t trust that leg on a pitching foredeck anymore, so I did give up crewing in competitive sailing.

I bicycle partly because this is the only form of sustained, intense exercise that the bum knee will tolerate. Most of the time. I rationalize that bicycling is excellent for the knee, to keep it mobilized and more arthritis-free than it would be otherwise. Even bicycling can test it at times, though – such as when I’m racing giddily up and down hills and around vineyards in Sonoma County, outdoors for the first time since early December. Climbing is especially stressful on it, of course, or rising from the saddle to accelerate or to relieve the sit-bones for a couple of minutes. There were some steep hills in Sonoma.

April 3 ride

One of my favorite outdoor routes. It *can* be easy, except when I annoy my friend.

After our return, the weather and roads around Rochester were favorable enough that I worked in two more outdoor rides before cold winds and rain drove me back inside, and by then my knock-knee friend was thoroughly pissed at me. He told me I should have taken it easier on those first couple of outdoor rides back here in Rochester. He bitched with every step up or down a stair and nagged me whenever I’d rise from a chair or climb out of bed in the morning. I tried plying him with ibuprofen, thinking that he’d quiet down a little if he were stoned, but the only way I finally shut him up was just to stay off the bike for a few days and let him lay around like the fatass he is.

There's nothing like a pleasant ride along an icy Erie Canal to irritate my friend

There’s nothing like a pleasant ride along an icy Erie Canal to irritate my friend

Clearly, I need to be more considerate of him if I’m going to fool him into riding 100 kilometers with me in the Rochester Tour de Cure coming up on June 13. This week, he let me climb back on the trainer downstairs for a couple of decent spins, and so far, no complaints.

Today and tomorrow, I’m going to bundle up and sneak out for more outdoor riding, hoping he won’t notice, if I keep him warm enough. Stay tuned.

Oh, and there’s one other thing that makes him happier: when a friend donates money to the American Diabetes Association in support of our ride in the Tour de Cure. If you click here and make a donation, he’ll be ever so much happier…. Thank you!

First Outdoor Ride of 2015: Who Says Wining Isn’t a Strategy?

IMG_3755Nancy and I returned last Wednesday from our Second Annual Mauceli Wine Festival – a week of gloriously sunny and warm weather (at least, compared to Rochester in late March 2015) and challenging adventures in wine tasting around Napa and Sonoma Counties. “Mauceli” because of our generous and gracious hosts, Sandy and Bob Mauceli, whom we knew in Rochester before their move west two years ago, and “Second Annual,” because we find ourselves already looking forward to returning a third time next year. Perhaps we’ll say more about the wine tour over on La Vida Gumbo.

IMG_3738-EditYes, wine tasting was our primary focus for the week, but after riding nowhere but indoors on stationary bikes since early December, I’d have hung myself if I returned home without at least one substantial outdoor ride through some wine country. On our last day in the area, following a tip from freelance travel writer Matt Villano, I rented a Trek Domane 4.5 for a few hours from Wine Country Bikes in Healdsburg. While Nancy and the Maucelis visited (you guessed it) several more wineries in the area, I headed for the back-roads and hills of Sonoma County.

TIMG_3752he day was gloriously sunny but windy, with a gusty wind funneling out of the north and down the Sonoma Valley at 15-17 mph late morning and building to 20-22 into the afternoon. Between Strava and the team at Wine Country Bikes, I settled on a route that first took me north and east out of Healdsburg, eventually into Geyserville via CA 128. My strategy was to suck it up and take on the aggressive headwind early in the ride, then surf downwind (well, sort of) back into town.

From Geyserville, I rode north for two more miles and then cut west on Canyon Road over a scenic ridge into the Dry Creek Valley, counting on at least a temporary respite from the wind. IMG_3743-EditFollowing a steep but manageable climb to the crest on Canyon Road, there’s a scenic and longer downhill stretch that looked welcoming – but gusts of wind coming up the hill forced me to downshift and pedal against them. Some respite.

Dry Creek Valley is a gem to ride, with two parallel roads rolling over the skirts of the ridges that define the valley and an endless series of vineyards and wineries stretching below. I turned north along Dry Creek Road and headed for Lake Sonoma – upwind again – just three miles away. The Lake Sonoma overlook, I told myself, would be the plum at the end of my first 25 miles. There’d be a picture and a clever Facebook post, of course.

Healdsburg rideWell, guess again. I got as far as the Lake Sonoma park, passed the visitors center, and headed up the winding, steep road toward the top. I’m a little ashamed to say that I didn’t make it. It’s that steep, and even worse, it seems infinitely long – especially after a 25-mile ride mostly into a stiff wind. After chugging away for about a mile, my legs barking every stroke of the way, I had to stop. Checking the distance remaining on my GPS, I decided that retreat was a better option than collapsing at the side of the sparsely traveled road, and I turned around to head the 16 miles back to Wine Country Bikes.

IMG_3753That said, the ride back turned out to be the real plum. With the wind now at my back, I cruised over gentle rises and falls to Yaokim Bridge Road, crossed over to West Dry Creek Road, and breezed back to Healdsburg.

The total ride clocked in at 39.4 miles, and after a quick shower back at Wine Country Bikes (yes, they seem to understand that cyclists don’t just go back to their home or hotel and collapse after a ride through wine country), I joined Nancy and the Maucelis at the Banshee Wines tasting room in downtown Healdsburg.  The wines were delicious, although I had to bring a bottle of their cabernet home – just to be sure that 39 miles of bicycling hadn’t made me a pushover.