Exactly one week ago today at this exact time (9:18am), I was fixing my flat tire on Henno Road, on the outskirts of Glen Ellen in Sonoma County. I was on Day 3 of leading my third bicycle tour in wine country. The tour was going great so far - It was a singles group and everyone seemed to be connecting and having a great time. The evening before, we were ahead of schedule and I actually had time to enjoy myself and soak up the luxury of staying at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. I sat in the most comfortable chairs made of old wine barrels, poured myself a glass of wine (naturally) and called my dad to brag about this wonderful way of life.
As I was riding along with a couple of guests on the quiet, windy road through the humble farmland surrounding Glen Ellen, I suddenly felt the instability of my bike and knew I had a flat tire. Dang thorns! I was glad that I caught it before the descent down to Warm Springs Road. A few minutes later my bike is upside-down, old tube out, new tube in and my arm looks like it's having spasms as I attempt to use my ridiculously tiny pump to fill my tube to 100 PSI. This could take awhile. I think I see an angel as the white, 15 passenger van plastered with photos of people on Backroads adventures approaches. Suzie pokes her head out the window, "Need a spare wheel?" We do a quick swap and I am back on my bike, down Henno Road.
A mile later, after crossing Sonoma Creek, I am in my lowest gears, climbing up the steep Sonoma Mountain Road. It's a 3 mile stair-step climb, with breaks in-between. Compared to Colorado Mountain passes, the climbs around here are steeper in some sections (up to 18%!), but they aren't as long and sustained. The elevation is also much lower, making it easier (for me) to breathe. I like this climb. Some of our guests choose to skip the climb and shuttle directly to our morning stop at Matanzas Winery.
I look at my watch. It's 9:50am. Good. My training leader gave me a hard time for not having a watch on my first trip. I don't like wearing a watch. She was so insistent that she gave me her extra watch to wear for the trip. I now have on the old sporty Timex that my mom used to wear when she was in nursing school. It needed a new battery, so I made friends with the guys at Radio Shack and they replaced it for me. As I climb along with two other guests, we all become silent, breathing and pedaling to our own rhythms. My thoughts drift back to our dinner last night.
We all ate like kings at the famous Santé. I tried the lobster pate with shaved truffles for my appetizer this time. For a moment everything around me was silenced as all my senses focused on the smooth, savory morsel that I just introduced to my taste buds. Such decadence! The waiter comes over and informs me that my co-leader would like to treat me to a glass of wine. I look over to the next table and my co-leader raises his glass and smiles. I'm seated across from a pretty woman in her early 60's who is as sweet as can be. She's delightful and engaging and I am secretly relishing that I am able to enjoy this without feeling like it's straining me to get through the long dinner. As she shares her chocolate soufflé with me I ponder why she's been single all her life.
As I approach the top of the climb my foot slips off my pedal. I try to click it back into place and I can't get it to stick. What the heck? I'm stubborn and don't want to stop so close to the top so I continue pedaling without being clipped in until I reach the top. It feels strange to lose the power to pull up on my pedal on one side. Upon inspecting my shoe and pedal I realize that the spring in the pedal is broken. Hmph! I'll have to replace my pedals with toe clips for the rest of the trip. I'll make the swap at the winery. By 10:30 we are all at the top of Sonoma Mountain Road. Hurray! Now it's all downhill until the winery. I've been down this road 4 times before - Twice driving and twice on my bicycle. I warn guests that the first section is extremely steep and bumpy and has a sharp turn to the right. One guy starts down and shortly after I follow. Three more are behind me, including the Suzie, our support driver.
I felt good about my route rap this morning. Since the horrendous route rap I gave on my very first day as a trip leader over a month ago, I feel like I've come a long way. I used the map, I was clear and enthusiastic and set realistic expectations. It was especially rewarding to have everyone's undivided attention and to see the looks of excitement on their faces. I've learned to have my bike ready to go and to have my helmet and gloves on so that I can hop on my bike and ride with the front riders for the first part of the day.
The descent down Sonoma Mountain Road makes me a little nervous. I take the sharp right turn with controlled speed, and it's a good thing, because a car is coming up the hill as I am going down and makes my turn even tighter. I continue down the straight, narrow road, gaining more speed, and suddenly my front tire hits a bump (or pothole) so hard that it forces both my hands to come free up off the handlebars...You can probably guess what happened after that. (It wasn't good.) As much as I hoped in that millisecond that I could grab a hold of the bars again, it was out of my control. Instead, my handlebars turned back toward my bike almost 180 degrees, stopping my bike and propelling my body forward, with only the black, bumpy asphalt to catch my fall. It felt like things were happening in slow motion. I think my shoulder and elbow hit first, then my helmet and knee and hip. It's hard to say, since there was no one to witness it and I obviously did not have the most ideal view. I remember the sound of my helmet scraping the ground, and it seemed to go on for a while. I'm guessing that I skid about 10 feet. Are you cringing yet? My apologies to any queasy readers (myself included). The comforting thing is that it wasn't as painful as one would think. The body is amazing at pumping out endorphins when you need them and allowing you to think clearly when you need to. I gathered myself and my bike off the road and sat down. Three guests came down and stopped to help. They did a good job of staying calm with me. I asked them for both my water bottles and to call Suzie to come down. I rinsed my wounds with water and one of the women tried calling Suzie but it was a bad connection. Our German guest (bless his heart) started riding his bike back up that steep bitch of a hill to get Suzie. He didn't have to go very far because between the choppy connection Suzie caught the words "Tracy" and "fell" and was on her way. I looked at my blood covered body and started to feel queasy. I noticed that the band of my watch was just barely hanging on to the watch face. My inner Goddess that could care less what hour it is felt quite satisfied at that moment. The time displayed was 10:43am. When I heard the sound of a motor coming I looked up and that big, white, 15 passenger angel was there to save me again.
I'm lucky that road rash and sore muscles are the worst of my injuries. I could have broken bones or worse, injured my head. I am pretty religious about wearing a helmet and now I have even more of a reason to wear one. My helmet saved me; there's no doubt about it.
How I was really feeling:
Another leader filled in for the rest of my trip. It was sad to say goodbye to everyone early, and I questioned whether it was really necessary, but eventually I understood that I needed to take care of myself and let my body rest. Before heading back to Berkeley I took some time to reflect and relax on the bay. I found a little gem, and then a gem within a gem: Café Aquatica in Jenner, California. This beautiful coffee roastery with healthy food, delicious coffee and a great view of the bay, sits in the quiet town of Jenner. I ordered a big salad and a latte and soaked up my surroundings. The woman playing the guitar and singing classic Beatles and Bob Dylan covers added to the serene ambiance. I better enjoy this while I can. These next few days (and possibly weeks) are going to be rough...