Wind Dancers 2004 Pacific Rally

Wind Dancers Pacific Rally: September 24 - 26, 2004

It's that time of year again -- this weekend was my third Wind Dancers Pacific Rally. Now, before I get into the write-up, I should put in a disclaimer that I'm writing this while home sick from work, doped up on three different sinus medications. I have no idea what effect this will have on the write-up, but suffice it to say that if I suddenly start talking about the elephants! The dancing pink elephants!, you can pretty well just assume I'm hallucinating. Moving on.

The rally this year was held at the Petaluma KOA in, well, Petaluma. In an uncharacteristic burst of optimism, Peter and I decided to camp this year, with a tent and sleeping bags and everything. Fortunately, we were realistic enough to understand that two nights of camping would be Very Bad Indeed for his back, so we slacked off and didn't ride up to the rally until Saturday morning.

We slept in a little bit on Saturday, and Peter made us breakfast while I finished packing up the bikes. I think it was somewhere in here that he first spoke those three little words to me: "my throat hurts!" Yes, thank you, dear. Hence my current state of couch-surfing on Advil Cold and Sinus. Ahem.

The bikes packed up well: Peter carried his Taj Mahal tent, his sleeping bag, and my borrowed-from-Kim sleeping bag all bungeed to his Ventura rack. I carried our pillows, clothes, toiletries, etc. in my Givi luggage.

All packed up and ready to go!

The ride up to Petaluma was uneventful -- we wanted to do some nice riding once we got there, so we took the direct route and slabbed it up. It's about 80 miles from our house to the campsite, so we got there in just under two hours. We'd have been there sooner, were it not for the fact that Petaluma has about three streets that are open and not under construction. We stopped for gas just off the freeway, and when we turned onto the city street that should have taken us to the campsite, we soon realized that there was, in fact, no road. We pulled over just as the gravel and dirt and not-pavement started, wondering whether we should just ride over it; shortly thereafter, a four-wheel-drive SUV made the same turn as we did, pondered the "road" for a second, then U-turned and went back. We followed: if a 4-wheel drive vehicle wasn't going to chance it, neither were we.

Eventually, thanks to the miracle of my GPS, we took probably every single side street in Petaluma but did manage to find the KOA.

Cupertino - Petaluma

By the time we got there and set up camp, it was just after 1pm, and most people had already left for their rides. Jamie was hanging around, setting up her tent and manning the hospitality cabin, so we chatted for a bit while Peter and I got situated. It made me very happy to finally take a picture of my bike with a tent: my "motorcycle camping" rite of passage!

We were ready for lunch by this point (translation: I was hungry and pissy), so Peter and I went to a nearby Round Table Pizza before heading out riding. I realized I'd left my maps at home (more pissiness ensued), but there was a gas station next door, so I walked over while waiting for the pizza. Five dollars later (!!), we had a map of Sonoma county.

The map was familiar: I'd bought the same one back in 2002 (for, ahem, three dollars: inflation at work!) when Diana and I were planning our Wind Dancers Marin/Sonoma ride. Peter and I had had a great time doing the pre-ride for that trip, so we decided to do some of those roads again.

Sort of accidentally, we stumbled upon a really good way that we travel together: we looked at the map, and chose a road. At the end of that road, we picked the next one and the other person led. It was a lot of fun, and really drove home for me how much the Alaska trip helped/forced me to relax about leading. I didn't stress out too much about leading at all through Sonoma, and in fact, even made a couple of Executive Decisions for both of us. Score!

We started out taking Chileno Valley Road, which is a really fun little road through some farmlands. Peter stopped at the horribly redundant Lake Laguna to watch a farmer toss hay bales off a tractor for his cows. There were some tiny little calves in the herd, and they were really fun to watch -- they were scampering all over, jumping on the hay bales, chasing one another around. Very unlike adult cows.

Continuing westward, we headed for the coast. Since we Do Not Learn From Past Experience, neither of us remembered crossing the Golden Gate Bridge that morning: cold, foggy, gray. Guess what the weather was like along Highway 1? That's right: cold, foggy, gray. :) I was leading this section, and stubbornly continued north of Bodega Bay. After a few miles, it finally started sinking in that I was freezing and we honestly couldn't see shit. I caught a glimpse of a sign off to the right: something about windy road, next 8 miles, no trucks, blah blah. When I looked in the sideview mirror and saw Peter reading the sign too, I started looking for a place to turn around. When I stopped, we had a conference and decided to forgo our earlier plan to head up to Hwy 116, and instead check out this little windy road.

Enjoying the lovely weather north of Bodega Bay

Hurray for microclimates! Coleman Valley Road immediately took us inland and up, up, up: within two miles, we were above the fog. What a wonderful road! It was about a lane and a half wide, clear, and swoopy-twisty: tight enough to be interesting, but swoopy enough to be able to enjoy the scenery. There was some oncoming traffic (mostly local pickup trucks), so it's definitely not a road to space out on, but the cars were respectful and didn't try to run us off the road. We weren't the only ones stopping to enjoy the views, either -- one turnout was full of three or four artists with easels set up, painting the hills and fog.

The bikes along Coleman Valley Road

Fog over the coast/Hwy 1

Following the twisties, we ended up in Occidental. Howard's Cafe was sadly closed for the afternoon, but Peter and I managed to track down root beer floats down the pedestrian walkway at the Union Hotel. On our way there, we bumped into fellow Wind Dancers Sue, Barb, and Kate, who were also out for their afternoon ride. :)

Post-root beer, we were lucky enough to bump into Mr. Mayor, the unofficial mayor of Occidental. Legend has it that Mr. Mayor fell off of a truck in downtown Occidental one day, and the locals nursed him back to health. Now he wanders the main street (even using the crosswalks!) and makes sure that everyone is enjoying their stay in his town.

Mr. Mayor patrolling his street

From Occidental, we decided to head straight back to the campsite, as it was getting towards dinnertime. We took the Bohemian Highway and Bodega Highway south, hopped on Tomales-Petaluma Road, and were back at our tent before we knew it.

Our afternoon ride (~80 miles)

Part 2: BBQ and arm-wrestling