At around mile 13, Hwy 128 passes a road called Pine Flat. We are suggesting an out-&-back on this road as an optional add-on for those who want a few more miles, and especially for those who like a climbing challenge and the fun of a great descent. Pine Flat climbs 2000' in 7.5 miles, then levels out for a few miles and finally climbs another 1000' in a little over a mile, for a total of 12 miles...24 miles, round trip. This last pitch is brutal. It may be the steepest climb in the county, topping out at a leg-breaking 20% for long, painful stretches. Usually, when cyclists do this road, they stop at the 7.5-mile level, where there is a superb view over the valley. Pavement on this road, at least in the lower half, is very good, and that, taken with the slinky curves and just-right gradient, makes this descent one of the best in the entire North Bay region. If you like descending, this one is a must
At mile 13.5, the route arrives at the Jimtown Store. This is a regular stopping place for cyclists in the wine country, with benches in front for basking in the sun and a water spigot for filling bottles up the alley at the side. Inside is an intriguing store, combining antiques, goofy gag gifts, and real general store merchandise under one handsomely restored roof. Best of all, there is an excellent deli-style lunch counter with a changing menu of delicious cuisine.
After a break at the market, continue on 128, but only to the next stop sign. Here, 128 turns right and heads north, but this route is going straight ahead, onto Alexander Valley Road (which looks and feels and rides pretty much like the preceding miles on 128). AV Road crosses the Russian River and after two miles turn rights onto Lytton Station Road, then right again on Lytton Springs Road, under Hwy 101, and up a little hill. Once up the hill, Lytton Springs heads west across a flattish plateau, past Healdsburg’s small airport, and then follows a slinky little descent to a junction with Dry Creek Road.
Turn north on Dry Creek Road for a bit less than a mile to a junction with Lambert Bridge Road. That little climb and descent on Lytton Springs has delivered us from Alexander Valley to neighboring Dry Creek Valley. Now, near Lambert Bridge, we are in the heart of the valley, another prestigious and scenic (and bike-friendly) wine region. There is an old store with a new deli at the corner here, and if you didn’t stop at Jimtown, this is the only other spot for store-bought chow around the whole loop.
Our route takes Lambert Bridge and crosses Dry Creek: a pretty old bridge over a pretty stretch of creek. At its far end, this little road tees into West Dry Creek Road, where we turn left and head south.
Both Dry Creek Road and West Dry Creek run north and south, one on each side of the valley. Dry Creek is smoother, wider, and busier. It carries all the traffic to and from Lake Sonoma, a large recreational destination up at the end of the valley. West Dry Creek is the preferred cycling road. It is narrow and winding, has slightly lumpy pavement, is forever dancing up and down over an endless series of little hills, and carries almost no traffic.
What it does carry are legions of cyclists. This is quite possibly the most popular cycling road in the area...perhaps one of the most popular in the state. It’s the sort of road that you would create, were you to sit down and try to design the perfect back road cycling experience. As a consequence, it is featured in the catalogs of every company that runs catered cycling vacations. It is used for at least two centuries (including our club’s Wine Country Century), for triathlons, for road races, and for several other mass rides. Plus of course, it plays host to an endless succession of weekend club rides and visits from individuals out for a spin among the vines.