Thursday, December 29, 2011
Wyatt and I head out to Jimtown to meet up with Phil and Stephanie for one of the most classic rides in Sonoma County-The Geysers. This 46 miles clockwise loop will take us around Alexander Valley and Geysers Rd. There is plenty of parking along the side of the vineyards off Hwy 128. Water and restrooms are available at the Jimtown Store.
We head north on Hwy 128 for the next 10+ miles. Even during the winter, the vineyards around Alexander Valley are beautiful! The mustard flowers are in bloom; creating gorgeous golden yellow strips between the rows of vines. The open fields are abounding with the flowers too!
The crimson red orange leaves of lingering vines are also a gorgeous sight. I get an overwhelming sense of peace and calm as we ride through the morning fog. The mystical beauty of the area provides a great visual to start the day!
Hwy 128 takes us through Geyserville; it’s a very quiet morning-there is no traffic!
We continue on Hwy 128 towards Cloverdale; the north end of Alexander Valley. The fog is hovering over the vineyards and surrounding mountain areas. It’s slowly clearing up in the distance. Many of the vines have been pruned back in preparation for new growth.
Hwy 128/Geyserville Ave becomes Asti Rd; this road parallels Hwy 101 and runs along the eastern edge of Cloverdale. The next 6+ miles brings us pass more vineyards, wineries, the Cloverdale Airport, a church and a lumber company.
The turn on E 1st St/Crocker Rd takes us across a bridge to River Rd. This area has several vineyards and wineries plus a residential neighborhood. The colors on the vines are magnificent!
The climb up Geysers Rd is about 12.9 miles to the T intersection at the Yield sign. The road starts off relatively flat; once you pass the residential area, the two lane road changes to a single narrow lane with sections of loose gravel. Be cautious! Washouts and landslides are a high risk and common hazard on this road.
This area is very remote with no services. You have to bring enough water, food and of course, be self-sufficient; plan accordingly! This country back road is nearly traffic-free.
During the summer, this area can be brutally hot. For today, the weather seems perfect-not too cold with temps around the mid 50’s and no winds! That works for me!
The ascent of the Geysers begins with a series of short climbs and descents along Big Sulphur Creek canyon. The steep pitches are not very long with grades maxing out at around 11%. In between, the road levels out a bit with several downhills. This area is quite beautiful! The rugged rocky face of the canyon has a unique look of its own.
There are a few ranches hidden back here and a “Member’s Only” picnic area with tables and a porta-pottie. The gate is locked with barbed wire fencing. Members of what-hunting?
The final descent drops you down to the Geysers Road Bridge. It was originally erected in 1909 and relocated here in 1937. It’s a gorgeous old iron bridge!
The next 4.5 miles along the canyon is fantastic! There are rich ferns growing on the slopes and you can catch glimpses of the creek below. Most of this road is shaded by trees and the huge cracks and potholes from prior years have been patched over. That’s great! Take advantage of the gentle terrain here; the steep section is coming up soon.
Calpine operates the power plants at The Geysers. They harness the natural occurring steam to make clean renewable energy for use in Northern California. You can see all the pipes laid out like a puzzle along the Mayacama Mountains and smell the sulphur from the steam vents.
Once you make the right turn at the junction-Yield sign, the steep climb begins! You are now on a two lane road with wonderful pavement and minimal to no traffic. The 1.5 mile climb has gradient ranges of 9-14%! You’ll be glad to get to the top.
Wyatt and I get out of the saddle for a short duration of the climb and suddenly hear the chain snap! His quick reaction saved us both from a fall! We pull over to the side of the road and the chain is repaired in no time with the use of a proper tool. We are back on the road!
Once you’re at the top, the road levels out a bit along the ridge. There is another gradual climb before we reach the lunch stop. It’s a wide open area to the right with a railing and locked gate. Terrible Two uses this exact spot as a rest stop. The views from the summit are fantastic!
The climbing doesn’t end here; there’s more to come!
The fog is quickly rolling in and it’s gotten much colder up here-it’s time to leave! It’s a very frigid descent for the next few miles; we’re really looking forward to the upcoming climb! It’s over a mile long followed by another nice descent and another shorter climb.
You’re near the second summit when you see the huge gate for the Hawkeye, Ridge and Geyser Peak Ranches.
From this point, it’s all downhill for the next 5 miles! You still need to proceed with caution-there are a few sections with loose gravel, cattle guards and a couple of technical turns. After that, it’s a sweet descent on smooth pavement all the way to the end at Red Winery Road. The panoramic views of the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley are spectacular-even with the fog!
The turn on Red Winery Rd and Pine Flat Rd takes us through the beautiful vineyards back to Hwy 128. I spot a few big persimmon trees loaded with bright red orange fruit! What a marvelous way to end the ride!
Thanks to Phil and Stephanie for leading the ride! I love this loop around “The Geysers”, it’s quality miles with quality climbing and quality people! THANKS!!
11 people in attendance with 2 tandems
46.67 miles with 3912′ of elevation gain
Weather: GREAT! Overcast skies with fog, temps ranged from the mid 50’s to low 60’s
Follow this route sheet for today’s ride: