Something amazing has happened that never was possible before.
I’ve always wanted to independently tour the Wine Country by bike, but not all the way from my southern Marin home up to Healdsburg. At this point, I am physically not able to do that, so instead I’d drive my car the 150 miles round trip.
However, with the advent of the SMART train and e-bikes, it’s now possible to experience a world-class, European style bike tour holiday/excursion right at home! Here’s how we did it:
On a Thursday morning, my husband and I packed our e-bike panniers with some clothes for dinner and the next day, a few toiletries, and a picnic lunch/snacks, and set off for the Larkspur SMART station to board the 12:15 northbound train for a 40-minute rider to the end of the line, Sonoma Airport in Windsor, CA.
We secured our bikes on the shiny clean train car (and yes, there’s a pristine lavatory onboard), in the designated area, with their attached bungees; adjacent are several power outlets for charging – YES! Plug in your e-bike battery/charger & juice-up while you enjoy the ride, lovely view, and a picnic lunch – how SMART, and economical!*
I booked one night at the Calderwood Inn, a gorgeous Victorian B&B in downtown Healdsburg, walking distance to all the great restaurants and shops, and a member of the Wilson Artisan Winery Group’s lodging options. One of the perks is free wine tasing at any/all of the wineries in the group, and 10% off any purchases. We set off pedaling East/North from Windsor, via Chalk Hill Road & Hwy. 128. About 15 miles in, we stopped at Soda Rock Winery for a private hour tasting, while we again charged our batteries, and bought some prime Zinfandel!
From there it was < 8 gentle miles to the B&B, in the Alexander Valley, and along the serene rail-trail once past Simi. The Inn welcomed us with a generous pour of wine, and freshly baked cookies, a grand room, robes, etc. Of course, they charged our batteries and stored the bikes in their garage for the night! The next morning the Inn fed us a copious breakfast. We checked out, and set off for West Side Road, with another picnic in tow from Oakville Grocery on the Plaza. Just 4 miles later at 12 noon, we checked into Matrix Winery, (another charging chance), enjoyed the hour+ of slow, delicious little sips, and bought another bottle of exquisite Zin.
Now it was time to return to Windsor, through the lush redwoods towards the Sonoma airport. We rode the 15 miles in high assist, to catch the 2:15pm train, and enjoy our late lunch, since we had dinner plans in Belvedere and wanted to regroup/rest beforehand. Otherwise, we easily could have taken our time and enjoyed the scenery or perhaps another Wilson Family winery, or even stayed another night! Because, there still was the Dry Creek Valley to explore, of course, with many more wineries in “the group” and great roads to ride…and the Calderwood Inn has beautiful grounds designed by Luther Burbank, complete with a Bocce court and redwoods, so that would have made for a sensational day two of three.
Frances Barbour is a Certified US League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor, and a southern Marin Elite Bay Area Coach for Bicycle Solutions.
*SMART Cost: $7.50 or $3.50 for Seniors; via Clipper Cards only. At current fuel prices, the 60 mile drive to Healdsburg is >$10.00.