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  1. #1
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    Second Tandem Tour - Napa and Sonoma, California

    Some of you may remember a thread I posted here a few months back relating my experiences on my first tandem tour with my wife in the San Juan Islands:

    First Tandem Tour - San Juan Islands

    At the time, we had planned another self-supported tandem tour through Napa and Sonoma counties, based on the Wine Country Tour from Lonely Planet Cycling USA West Coast. A couple of things we learned on the San Juan Islands trip is that my wife is not interested in dragging around all of our stuff on the bike, nor being limited to the tiny capacity of four panniers or a trailer. Nor was she interested in serious climbing. So a self-supported tour through wine country was out of the question, especially considering there were some very serious climbs over the ridges between adjacent valleys.

    We had already put in vacation requests and made reservations for accomodations along the way, so we decided to continue with the trip. Instead of a self-supported bike tour, we changed it to a car trip, with a tandem bike on the roof rack. That way we could drive with all of our stuff from one destination to the next, and reserve the tandem for leisurely day trip loop rides for sightseeing. At that made all the difference!

    For our revised itinerary, we consulted the book Wine Country Bike Rides by Lena Emmery for suggestions of good loops, cross-checking against the Sonoma County Bike Map to avoid rides with step climbs.

    In the end, we ended up taking three day trips on the tandem over the course of our nine day trip. We had intended to take a fourth trip on our last day, but I came down with a cold, so we drove home early instead. Each ride was roughly 15 to 20 miles long, usually along flat or gently undulating roads in the Russian River Valley and Napa Valley. The scenery was lovely, surrounded as we were by lovely vineyards covered in ripe grapes, dotted with beautiful wineries. We started each ride around noon, stopping for picnic lunches and visits to wineries. I was the designated driver on our tandem team, so my stoker could sample some of the tasty offerings. By the third day trip, my wife was even up for a 5% 0.8 mile climb up Rutherford Hill to the Rutherford Hill Winery.

    So the excellent news is that despite the rather less than fully successful tour the first time out, we have discovered that under the right circumstances, my wife really does enjoy tandeming with me. She actually excited for our next tandem trip!

  2. #2
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    Glad to hear you've converted her. Way to go!

  3. #3
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    Got to keep the stoker happy
    The hill - It is long - Lungs filling - Heart pounding - Muscles Pumping
    It hurts so good - I am alive
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  4. #4
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Stoker getting ready for the next tour . . . ?!
    Kudos to stoker on the 5% hill climb and also to pilot for exhibiting great understanding.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  5. #5
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    My wife was actually the one who suggested the side trip up Rutherford Hill, and didn't seem to mind the climb. It makes it all the more worthwhile when there is a beautiful olive grove, a panorama of Napa Valley, and a tasty Zin port at the top of the hill. And putting the big hill at the end of trip, after a few days of ramp-up doesn't hurt either!

    On our last day on the trip, my wife bought a cute little pink bike shorts/skirt, for our next tour. She wants to look a little more stylish when we stop by a winery next time. And she's excited to try out some of the rides we didn't get to from the Wine Country Bike Rides tour. Things work out well we we combine my love of cycling, with her love of wine, and our love for each other!

  6. #6
    Senior Member ftsoft's Avatar
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    You didn't do Oakville Grade?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ftsoft View Post
    You didn't do Oakville Grade?
    Not a chance. On this trip, we tried to stay away from Highway 29 and hills steeper than 5% grade, and we didn't make it any further south than Skellinger Lane on the tandem.

  8. #8
    DoubleTrouble cgallagh's Avatar
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    We ride the Napa area a lot. We live in Vacaville and ride over either Mt George or come over from Berryessa through Moscowitz Corner on 128. This Saturday we are riding an unsupported Century. We will come over Mt George into Napa. We then climb up Redwood rd. to Mt Veeder rd. then on to Dry Creek rd and descend down Oakville grade for a little rest at the Oakville Grocery. We then go back home over 128 and over Cardiac hill, down into to Pleasants Valley. We may run into Winters for coffee and pastries to make it home. That is such a beautiful area and there are so many options.
    Two blondes walked into a building-You think one of them would have seen it.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member ftsoft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgallagh View Post
    We ride the Napa area a lot. We live in Vacaville and ride over either Mt George or come over from Berryessa through Moscowitz Corner on 128. This Saturday we are riding an unsupported Century. We will come over Mt George into Napa. We then climb up Redwood rd. to Mt Veeder rd. then on to Dry Creek rd and descend down Oakville grade for a little rest at the Oakville Grocery. We then go back home over 128 and over Cardiac hill, down into to Pleasants Valley. We may run into Winters for coffee and pastries to make it home. That is such a beautiful area and there are so many options.
    What kind of gearing do you use for this area and do you stand on the steep hills? I've only ridden this area on single, but would like to do the tandem some day.

    Frank

  10. #10
    DoubleTrouble cgallagh's Avatar
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    Our tandem has a 54-42-30 and a 12-27 nine speed cassette. We only stand if we need a butt break or if the hill gets over 15% for any long run. Then we will stand together and we also will alternate standing one at a time for short spurts if the hill gets over 18%. We mostly just sit and spin and we are not afraid to visit grandma.
    Two blondes walked into a building-You think one of them would have seen it.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member joe@vwvortex's Avatar
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    We ride Napa alot too - but try and stay away from any of the 128/121 routes during the summer due to the trucks with boats/trailers. TOO many close calls - especially on Mt. George and coming up Cardiac. Hell we almost got taken out on 128 going up towards Pope Valley. Unless you get out VERY early - like 7 am or something - it's not worth it IMO. Now - there are many other places in Napa and Sonoma to ride though.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member ftsoft's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgallagh View Post
    Our tandem has a 54-42-30 and a 12-27 nine speed cassette. We only stand if we need a butt break or if the hill gets over 15% for any long run. Then we will stand together and we also will alternate standing one at a time for short spurts if the hill gets over 18%. We mostly just sit and spin and we are not afraid to visit grandma.
    You guys must be pretty strong. I can't see us climbing something like Oakville in a 30/27. We have a 30/34 though. 2 years ago I was doing about 4 rpm in my 39/26. I really thought I was going to fall over.

  13. #13
    Co-Mo mojo
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    Quote Originally Posted by joe@vwvortex View Post
    We ride Napa alot too - but try and stay away from any of the 128/121 routes during the summer due to the trucks with boats/trailers. TOO many close calls - especially on Mt. George and coming up Cardiac. Hell we almost got taken out on 128 going up towards Pope Valley. Unless you get out VERY early - like 7 am or something - it's not worth it IMO. Now - there are many other places in Napa and Sonoma to ride though.
    We scheduled a Davis Bike Club tour starting the day after Labor Day. There were very few cars, and only one boat, that day going by the Dam, up Cardiac and on to Moscowite. Traffic was almost non-existent from Moscowite to Lake Hennessy. We refer to some of those crazy vehicle combos as FISHTABs. "TAB" stands for Towing a Boat. FISH? Well, the "I" stands for Idiot. The other letters cannot be revealed on this family-friendly web site.

    I stay away from Mt. George 12 months a year -- no shoulder on the climb, blind corners, and fast drivers. However, plenty of people (including Red Rider and Chris) go up the hill without a problem.

  14. #14
    Senior Member joe@vwvortex's Avatar
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    I've been riding these roads for the better part of 19 years and lately it just seems over the past two years i've had too many close calls during the summer months - now that it's fall - it's much better to ride.
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