However, we are suggesting as our second option—for those who may want a few more miles—a modest detour on Dry Creek. The plan would be to turn left on Dry Creek and ride a little less than two miles north to the Visitor Center below Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma. The journey is the main thing here, getting there being half the fun and getting back the other half. But the Visitor Center is worth seeing too. There are a number of exhibits of the usual outdoorsy, educational sort, but the real attraction is the part of the facility dedicated to fish, in particular the steelhead and salmon that swim up this creek to spawn. There are a number of places where you can see these impressive creatures, at least when they're in season.
With or without this optional detour, we will eventually have to deal with Canyon Road, which is our biggest climb of the day. It is never difficult; never steep. It is 2.2 miles from one end to the other, and the 200’ climb takes up quite a bit more than half that total, for the descent into Alexander Valley on the other side is much shorter and much steeper. That means the climb, the way we’re going, is long and lazy. The downhill into Alexander Valley is not only steeper, it is almost dead straight, all the way to the bottom, so riders who feel bold enough can schuss down the mountain at a pretty good clip.
At the bottom, the route turns right on Geyserville Avenue and rolls up into the town of Geyserville, a sleepy little village that hasn’t changed too much over the years. There are a few new homes here and there and a few new businesses, but anyone who lived here in 1940 would still recognize the town today. We’re zipping right through town, crossing the Russian River on a long, new bridge, and heading south on Hwy 128. This road may not be quite as bike-friendly as West Dry Creek, but it’s close. As with West Dry Creek, there are no significant climbs or descents, and in fact the rollers on 128 are sort of smoothed out compared to those in the other valley. Nothing is too abrupt or severe. What little ups and downs there are will be soft and easy.
As far as wine-related impressions, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley are much the same. Local enologists might quibble over subtle differences in micro-climate or terroire, but from the seat of a bike, it all looks similar.
We leave Hwy 128 for a left turn onto Geysers Road. No, we are not going to climb over the legendary Geysers today. There is a little less than a mile of the road down here on the valley floor before it turns up into the high country, and we are using that segment to connect to Red Winery Road, a quiet bypass off 128. Scenery is exactly the same on Red Winery as it was on 128: vineyards sprawling away across the valley on the right; wooded hills rising up steeply on the left. At its end, Red Winery tees into Pine Flat Road. This is another famous cycling road: a huge, challenging climb. But that is to the left, up into the Mayacamas Mountains; we’re going right, on a short, flat section of Pine Flat that returns us to Hwy 128. We turn right on 128 and roll along for just a few hundred yards to a rest stop at the Jimtown Store.
This is a regular stop for cyclists passing this way. It is the darling of food and wine and travel writers as well, and a great deal of journalistic ink and film has been expended extolling its virtues. Even Martha Stewart stops here. In 1989, former Silver Palate partner, John Werner, and his wife, artist Carrie Brown, chanced upon the store while visiting from New York City. Soon after learning it was for sale, the couple bought Jimtown. They restored and reopened the abandoned 1895 general store and filled it with a sophisticated variety of merchadise and food...everything one might need for a gourmet picnic in the wine country. For cyclists, the appeal is a perfect location along a number of classic routes and a very bike-friendly atmosphere. There is a head-high hose bib up the side alley with a sign inviting cyclists to refill their bottles. There is comfortable seating under the big porte-cochére out front. There are bike racks, provided by our own club in a cooperative venture with the store’s owners. And there is great food in the deli inside: sandwiches made exactly to your specs, constructed from the very best ingredients. And of course there is the obligatory gourmet coffee.