That’s Steve and Bridget, their two dogs and one of their chickens. Probably Henrietta. Bashful but extroverted, she would bob toward us and then scamper away.
Morning of our second trip, we woke up stiff but exhausted in the way only reckless physical exertion can leave you. Bridget apologized because she only had one farm fresh egg to feed us. They fed us breakfast!
Bridget, she’s a phenom. She was a little uncertain about us, a little brusque at first. But Rachel can make anyone feel at home, and she had Bridget chatting about her work before the coffee finished brewing. She carved John Muir out of bronze; now he sits in the Yosemite Visitor’s Center gazing out on his legacy. She molded giant dinosaurs and hungry carnivorous plants for the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco. She keeps a collection of venus fly traps & relatives on her window sill, and old bones she carved out back in the enclosure with the turtles.
When we had finally packed our gear up, Steve asked if he could join us. He showed us the way out of Petaluma and rode a good ten miles with us, over the short hill between home and Sonoma. He turned around at the strawberry stand; we gleefully stained our hands red, sitting cross-legged in the dirt under the shade of the tent.
We made it another five miles or so along flat roads to the Cheese Shop in downtown Sonoma. I can’t eat cheese, but I eat the samples anyways. I’ll eat almost anything that’s free.
We do a quick wine tasting at the back (it’s the best deal we can find). The lady pouring the wine takes a liking to us and fills a fourth glass for the both of us. We buy fudge for our future hosts, a family of a friend of Rachel’s, over another couple of hills in Napa.
We meet them sooner than we intended.
Too-rested, stomachs taught with sandwiches, and maybe a tiny bit tipsy, we climb back on our saddles. Past a bunch of pretty houses, up a couple of hills, down a big one and we're sailing. The wind running past drones into white noise and all you’ve got is a trust that friction’s going to hold your tires to the road and momentum will keep you moving forward and gravity won’t slam you into the pavement on one side or the other.
Rachel gets her first flat right after that hill.
Rachel gets her second flat right after that.
Rachel gets her third flat right right after that one.
Well this is really embarrassing.
Neither of us can figure out what we’re doing wrong, putting the new tubes in. But we don’t have any more left, so Rachel calls her friend, Anthony, and he comes with his aunt and uncle and they drive us the last five miles to a bike shop in Napa.
There the mechanics kind of shake their heads at us and tell us Rachel’s tires real right, so we better practice. We are still embarrassed.
But that’s why we’re taking this first trip, to learn how little we know. Anthony’s family takes us to a house and the hostess, she’s related to them somehow, a marriage maybe. It’s a big house and the men there are hilarious and kind of old and made of money. The women are too young for them but they know, it’s okay, it’s all good fun and I think they really like each other. We eat fried chicken and baked chicken and a myriad of salads: fruit, orzo, lettuce.
We camp in the backyard and the weather is amiable. Rachel stays up to read Vonnegut. I drift off easy.
To be continued…