I’ve learned over the years that it’s easier to lure people into things if you highlight the good parts and gloss over any potential downsides. Much like how I coerced Kerry Coldhands out to Phoenix for the Squealer by convincing her that riding National trail was all downhill after the gazebo past Telegraph. Afterwards she called me a boldfaced liar and pouted her way out of the desert. Again, I’m sorry we drank all the beer. So I was somewhat surprised that she took me up on the idea of a Wine Country booze cruise when I floated it past her and the fiancé. I pitched it like this: “I got an idea. It involves a ferry, Napa, a brewery, maybe poached camping, the bar on Huey Lewis’ ‘Sports’ album cover, and the Golden Gate Bridge. You guys in?” And a quick “How could we not?” was all I got in return.
So a couple weeks ago we canceled work for a Friday and met in San Francisco. To avoid major baggage fees we procured bicycles from The Bike Hut, down at Pier 40. It’s a resource for local cyclists that doubles as a place for kids from low-income communities to learn some shop skills. How cool is that? They have rentals, sales, parts, tune-ups, and local knowledge of routes and trails. I’d rather support a non-profit eight days a week before I give the fucks at United $100 each way. If you’re ever in need of a ride in the Bay, pay these folks a visit.
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Wheels in hand it was off to the ferry, with a one-way ticket to Vallejo where we’d pedal north to Napa. Now we had naturally found a 6am bar by the hotel in North Beach, Vesuvio, where we threw down a couple bloodies and screwdrivers. So we had a solid foundation laid already. But about halfway to Vallejo Anthony heads to find a bathroom and comes back with three beers. THERE’S A GODDAMN FULL BAR ON THE FERRY.
We jumped off in Vallejo rode north to Napa where we stopped at the farmer’s market for some lunch and the obligatory glass of wine. That right there would be the first and last semblance of any behavior that could be viewed as “classy” in the traditional Napa sense. From here on it turned into a two-day dive bar hunt. PBRs in the bottle cages and a 64oz. flask of whiskey in the pannier.
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We turned west and headed to the sleepy town of Sonoma. The wind and hills were starting to grind us down a bit so it was a sight for dry livers when we happened upon a legit saloon in the town square. Full of true locals shooting pool and throwing darts with glasses of whiskey in their hands. A couple drinks in Coldhands asks “What’s your special today?” And in this town surrounded by world class wineries, this bartender whips out a tray of fucking jello-shots. Hell yeah Miss, I’ll play along. Do as the locals do, I always say.
Riding further west towards Petaluma some of the traffic started to dissipate and the late afternoon sun made for a nice mellow vibe. The vineyards turned to farms and a light breeze took away some of the sting of hills. On the south end of town we happened upon Ernie’s Tin Bar. At the intersection of Stage Gulch Rd and Lakeville Hwy, it’s literally a tool shed with a stocked bar. Complete with rusted tractor parts and bowls of peanuts spilled all over the floor. A very welcome spot to hydrate and change a slow flat on the patio. At some point Anthony briefly pulled out his phone and almost instantly the waitress came over. “Sir, I’ll need you to put that away. If I see you with your phone out again, the entire bar gets a round on you.” No half joking smile either. She meant it. Which is awesome, we need more of that in our world today.
From there we made a beeline to Lagunitas Brewing. It was getting late and we wanted a growler. Although we did stop briefly to don long sleeves in front of the Baptist church. And take a few swigs too.
We made it just in time for a couple rounds and our necessary growler. If you’ve never sampled their Undercover Investigation Shut-Down do yourself a favor and find a bottle. With the night’s supplies in hand we checked into the world’s nicest Motel 6, complete with wooden floors and a flat screen TV, then set out for food. Turns out Petaluma is stocked with great breweries and above average motels but can’t do shit for regular bars after 10pm. And that’s how we found ourselves eating queso and taking shots of Wild Turkey at an Applebee’s at 1am. I’m really ashamed I actually shared that with you just now.
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Come morning we found a killer diner downtown in the quaintest of artsy squares with fresh squeezed mimosas. Whoever invented morning drinks I hope got a medal. There was even a demanding pie shop.
Riding southwest towards the Nicasio Reservoir the hills began to accumulate and weekend traffic made for a couple sketchy sections of riding. However I am on record as saying that the second day would be back loaded with fun. Just needed to get the day’s actual riding out of the way. We eventually turned south on Sir Francis Drank Blvd and caught up to the Cross Marin Trail. A sweet 5+ mile stretch of redwood path leading you down into the village of Lagunitas.
We continued into Forest Knolls and stumbled upon the Paper Mill Creek Saloon. Fantastic local pub that you’d never find without their chalkboard sign on the street. At this point we invoked a one beer per stop limit in order to keep pace. At the Paper Mill we were directed to the Gestalt Haus in Fairfax and were told it was the best bicycle bar around. Sure enough they had bikes hanging inside, and cute ladies finishing their ride with beers and brats. And a little Strava hate on the walls for good measure.
Five miles further it was the Silver Peso in Larkspur. And then finally we made it down to The 2am Club in Mill Valley. Home of the cover photo for Sports. We slammed a quick whiskey drink and jammed some Huey Lewis as we headed for the Golden Gate Bridge. Right on cue the wind picked up and it started to drizzle just as we began climbing up to the bridge deck. Despite her moniker Coldhands was not happy. Once back in the City the rest of the night was spent emptying pints, filling jukeboxes, eating pizza, and climbing ridiculously steep streets.
Sunday we had reserved to tool around town and drinksee. Drinksee: to visit local drinking establishments and go about seeing sights of interest – intransitive verb
We brought our breakfast to the bar at Vesuvio again, and then made our way towards the Presidio. Once more our good fortune lead us to a lawn party complete with music, frozen mimosas, and bbq trucks.
Finally the trip was capped off with a stop at the lovely Baker Beach to enjoy the only bottle of wine that we lugged down from the north.
And then it was back to the Bike Hut to return the wheels and head for the airport. I’d like to think that’s the best possible way to spend three days in the San Francisco area. Nothing but bikes, booze, and good people. Hell that’s the best way to spend three days anywhere.