Thursday, November 15, 2012

Closing the loop

Harbin is one of most idyllic natural places I've ever experienced. Trees and pools and places to sleep, tucked away in a rustic corner of the Mayacamas Mountains. The hot pool and cold plunge reach deep into the muscles in my shoulder and neck. Almost nothing works on them. The hot pool is excruciatingly hot; this has something to do with it.

Unfortunately we humans find ways to spoil natural perfection and this is true of Harbin as well. Let's not even speak of the men in the pools who stare. The staff who should be professionals are members of a church who earn room & board by working here. In other words, volunteers who can't be fired. And despite an early morning start, 100 miles on a bike, a beer and a soak I don't sleep well. It's too warm and the other inhabitants of the women's dorm are not friendly.

Somehow I manage to hand in my bedding and key and make it out of there. Breakfast is down the hill in Middletown this morning. We hit the road around 9. Today will be an easier day - only 60 miles and 2500 feet of climbing (not 7000).

Fall colors greet us on the road to Pope Valley. There are more grapevines than when I first rode a bike here in 1998, but otherwise it's the same. Joe Callizo grew up and spent most of his life here, so he has seen changes.

For a refuge from human nonsense, though, this is the place. Don't really know why it's not all done up in subdivision and corporate winery and spa. Land rights? Lack of water? Only Howell Mountain sits between us and the Napa Valley. Lucky for us, Pope Valley keeps its secrets.

The little market is open, and after 15 minutes Bonnie doesn't want to leave her plastic patio chair. The temperature is just right, the sun warm, the view of the old blacksmith's shop across the street.

Three French oak wine barrels sit in front of the market under a sign that says "Barrels $25". We discuss potential uses, such as planters for the yard. You could cut a barrel in half and get two planters.

On a bike tour, this is a theoretical discussion.

The strong wind from the south is not so theoretical. It signals the storm that's coming in, pushing the wind in our faces and streaming high clouds. Tonight the rain will start. It will mat down the leaves into layers, soak the fields, saturate lichen hanging from the oaks. Its visit will last a whole week, filling up the creekbeds that today are only rocks.

In times of transition, it's helpful to have a reason to move on. Head south on Chiles Pope Valley Road to Highway 128 and past Turtle Rock. Retrace the way we came yesterday.

Our cars and our lives are waiting to be picked up again.

1 comment :

  1. I was starting to wonder how you were going to rig up a barrel on a bike...! :)