Tour of Napa Valley 2016 Hilly 40

This was our first post-tour family ride. I’ve been bike commuting, but Anne hasn’t been in the saddle since we got home. She was a little worried about how it would go, but of course it was no problem.

We’ve done this organized ride quite a few times before (plus 2014, which I didn’t write up since Anne and Ruth did it while I hung out at the rest stops with two-month-old Max). It’s a nice area to bike, and Eagle Cycling puts on a good show.

This year we decided to do one of the new route options, the Hilly 40. Most years we’ve done the 30 (now 35) mile route, which is pretty flat with just a few rolling hills. The Hilly 40 heads into the hills, following the 65 mile route for a while, before cutting back early. The climb made for a more interesting ride, but still short enough to stay pretty easy.

We had a 4:30 am wakeup call to get everything loaded up and make the 90 minute drive up to Yountville. We were surprised by a highway closure on I-80, but the detour only added a few minutes to the drive. We got to parking, unloaded, and registered, hitting our target 8:00 am rollout. As we started, it was a bit on the cool side and overcast. Ruth asked for her gloves. Because we weren’t packing for the tour, we didn’t have them. Instead, we had her wear Max’s jacket, since Max had a blanket in his trailer.

The route starts with a bike path along the highway (including a helpful CHP/volunteer tag team directing traffic through an underpass), then briefly cuts through town. Then off into the country, past ranches and vineyards.

It turns out we still like biking. Ruth had fun reminding us of all the things she likes to do on a bike. Max took a nap in the morning. Anne and I talked about future touring plans, though nothing too specific.

The road stayed quite flat, but starts to get a few rolling hills on Silverado Trail (actually a road). Then we turned onto Sage Canyon Road for the major climb of the day.

It started off gentle, although you know you’re climbing. After a sharper kick up over a dam, we rode along its reservoir, Lake Hennessey. Once we rolled along the length of the lake, it was time for the even sharper push up to the rest stop. It was definitely work, but we still have the legs for it.

We got nice comments from other cyclists throughout the day, but it’s on hills that people are really impressed by the trailers. Common ones include “I can barely pull myself up this hill”, “Go parents”, “Woah, you have two!”, and of course, “Can I get a turn in the trailer?”

We got to the rest stop and took advantage of the bagels and cookies on offer. We supplemented for the kids with some fruit from our stash (we can’t travel too light, after all..). Anne and I swapped trailers for the second half of the ride, to Max’s excitement and Ruth’s dismay. Daddy is always second choice.

There was only a short climb to the final summit, then we turned back for the Hilly 40 route. The crowd thinned out a lot as we descended back to Silverado. As Anne pointed out, it was nice not to worry about other cyclists on our descent. It warmed up, but managed not to get oppressively hot.

Once on Silverado, it was just a few miles back towards Yountville, then cutting across and back through town. We arrived back at the Veteran’s Home and enjoyed the catered lunch and ice cream, before packing up and returning home.

I was a little sad going into the day that we hadn’t signed up for the 65 mile. I knew we could do it, even though we’d have lost some strength in the weeks since our tour. The 40 was a good choice, though. It had some hills, but wasn’t so long to feel time pressure or wear ourselves out.