Quick – let’s head up to the Bay Area and camp in the salty air, while it’s still warm enough! Let the girlies frolick in the sand and play with drift wood and catch sand crabs and race the ebbing shore break and get grossed out by seaweed grabbing their legs and build castles and draw our names on the ground and be bums for a few days.
On our way up to Bodega Bay Campground, we decided to spend one night in Petaluma. Not known as a mountain biking mecca by any extreme, but being so close to wine country, I figured they had to have some rolling hills with fantastic views, right? After all, I did the 24 hour race in Los Olivos a couple years ago, and it was one of the most beautiful settings for riding bikes… so I did a little interwebs search on the trusty MTB Project, and boom – Helen Putnam Regional Park popped up — nothing crazy, but completely accessible by bike from town = no driving… as always, a super plus for me. I let the ladies sleep in at the swank motel (am I allowed to use those words together, even in jest?) – actually, nobody slept in, because it sounded like our upstairs neighbors were rolling a keg around all night.
Anyhoo, after a short pedal through town and up a hill, I arrived at Helen Putnam Regional Park. I wondered who she was, and why have a park bestowed in her name. So before getting shreddy alongside lots of horse people, I checked up on her. Turns out, she was my kind of woman. She did stuff and inspired others to do stuff. A mother, school teacher, principal, mayor of Petaluma, and Sonoma County Supervisor – you name it. She passed in 1984. Putnam encouraged everyone she dealt with to pursue excellence – I got jived up, and kept that in mind as I rode around her park.
Ok, ok. To the riding. This is not a huge place – a quaint 8-10 miles of trail total. A couple big fire roads for access, but there definitely is some sweet singledingle and killer views that make it worth it. Beware of HORSES and hikers. Seems like those are the main users, and quite frankly, I’m surprised they even allow bikes here – but another great example of a multi-use trail system with all user groups getting along nicely.
After a nice warmup climb, views open up, and it’s hard to believe a few minutes ago you were in historic downtown. It’s easy to navigate and well-signed, so next thing I knew, I was just flowing on the mostly smooth, hardpack singletrack. There are lookout points all over the place, with benches and fantastic views to sit and enjoy your bagel.
Nothing techy or gnarly, but this was more like a “sunrise walk in the park”. Within an hour, I’d done Pomo, Panorama, South Loop, Savannah, Ridge, Arroyo, and Fillaree. Guess what? That was everything. Yeah, I guess it could get kind of boring (and honestly, all the trails felt pretty much identical, so boredom was setting in already). If I lived here, it would be my post-work workout ride, and I’d be like Cliff on Cheers – everyone would know my name… and the sound of my bike bell.
Just up the road in Santa Rosa is the fabled Russian River Brewing Company – perfect for post ride libations… you can get one of the craziest flights around – certainly the biggest one I’ve ever tried – 18 beers. Whoa!!
One last note – while camping in Bodega Bay, someone stole my bike from my campsite while we were sleeping in the tent. It was a heart-breaker, as my green One 9 had been with me through a lot. Long story short – I found it for sale on Craigslist 2 weeks later. A sting was set up, bike retrieved, justice served. Crazy, huh? Now I just have to get back to Bodega Bay before the snow flies to pick her up out of evidence… Maybe a good excuse to ride Susanville? Hmmm….