Healdsburg-Occidental:Stage 3

19 Oct

Today was a tune up for the queen stage tomorrow. I’m a big fan of the Tour de France and the toughest stage of the Tour is known as the Queen stage and without a doubt stage 4 would be our toughest day.

After breakfast we packed up and left the H2 hotel and its sparkling water. Today we would ride through Armstrong Woods and on to Occidental about 40 miles.  I didn’t know much about the area (except for the redwoods) but from the looks of the route sheet we were in for a climbing warm-up at the end of the day.

Little did I know we wouldn’t have to wait for the end of the day.

We had another beautiful day! Amazing luck with the weather this trip. We originally were signed up to do this trip in June but had to cancel and reschedule for August. We had to cancel then too so we rescheduled for October. I’m glad we did because the weather and the fall color couldn’t be beat.

Today was a day I had really been looking forward to: seeing the redwoods. We left Healdsburg the same way we came in yesterday passing the Hop Kiln winery again. Not a problem, all of the scenery was so gorgeous it was nice to see it again. Plus you notice different things traveling the other way.

We were rolling along and decided to stop and take a picture – the first of the day – my stop – when Mark’s bike decided to throw him off. In the road on a blind corner. I was afraid a car would come along and since they wouldn’t see him they would run over him – so being the loving wife I am I screamed “GET UP”!

When he didn’t right away I did what any other loving wife would do I moved myself into the corner so they would see me and hopefully not run over either of us. As Mark pointed out a couple of times, most recently just now, there were no cars around. I say you can’t be too careful.

I bring this all up because as I was going through the pictures I couldn’t figure out why I took the following three pictures – until Mark reminded me.

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The last one is pretty and I guess the reason I originally stopped to take a picture.

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After leaving Westside road we traveled on the fairly busy River Road for several miles riding on the shoulder. We turned off onto Rio Nido Road then turned on to the Armstrong Woods road. Path might be more accurate. It was very narrow and seemed to have a stream flowing over it. It was unbelievably dark because of all the trees. The road was steep but rideable until we got to the section where the water was flowing. Once my back wheel started to slip I unclipped and got off and walked until it flattened out. The temperature dropped quite a bit – only filtered sunlight could get through the tall dense cover of trees. It was really cool and once we reached the park entrance it got even better. Green and dark. The further we rode into the park the darker it got.

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Neal took us to see the oldest redwood in Armstrong Woods – the Colonel – at 1400 years old, and the tallest (by 2 feet) redwood Parson Jones. In addition to be dark and cool it was also incredibly quiet. I could have spent hours there, the trees were truly awesome.

We left the park a different way from how we came – I’m sure we were all happy about that. The ride out was also pretty and on quiet roads. Pretty quickly we came to Guerneville and the Coffee Bazaar. After a pretty light lunch we were back on the bike and headed to Occidental with Gayle and Rod.

There were two tough climbs on the last part of the ride (565’ and 870’), I had to walk part of the second one. If you’ve walked your bike up a steep hill you know that riding up the hill is actually easier than walking – not to mention easier on your pride. If you can keep pedaling fast enough to keep from falling over that is. I panicked and unclipped and couldn’t get going again. Gayle is a strong cyclist and pedaled up both – way to go Gayle!  Mark and Rod rode together trying to see who was going to be last and have to buy the beer. Either way there would need to be beer.

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Once the last hill was crested it was downhill into Occidental. What a pretty town! Actually the last hill wasn’t crested until we rode up the STEEP drive to the Occidental Inn. I knew for sure I was going to fall over – only pride and stubbornness kept me upright. It was close let me tell you. Once the bikes were dropped off we were off to the bar. Beer before shower is my new rule of thumb.

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For the day – 41 miles, 2766’ up and 2274’ down.

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