This 6-day, 5-night tour stays in just three locations:
Meet in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco and we will shuttle you the rest of the way to our starting location for the day. Once in Petaluma, after introductions and a brief orientation meeting, you'll bike through rolling oak and grassy terrain, then continue through the Russian River wine growing regions to Healdsburg. Team Dinner at Spoonbar Restaurant for “some of the most satisfying and modern food in Sonoma County”, lodging for the next 2 nights at the h2hotel Healdsburg.
Ride today in a loop that starts and ends in Healdsburg. Some of the best rated wineries are on this route, but it's the cycling that makes this route special. The Dry Creek Valley is the first destination, followed by Alexander Valley, full of wineries and butted up against volcanic mountains. Then climb up and over Chalk Hill, known for its excellent grape growing conditions. Rolling along the edge of the Russian River Valley offers splendid vistas of vineyards and the surrounding mountains. The Breakaway Ride heads for an additional loop around Westside Road. Then it's back to Healdsburg to enjoy the rest of the day in town. Wander the plaza, browse the shops, visit some tasting rooms, or get a massage. Dinner tonight will be on your own with many selections to choose from in Healdsburg.
Today we leave the vineyards behind us as we ride through the redwoods of the Russian River to the tiny bohemian town of Cazadero. From there, we have a significant ride up King Ridge Road, one of the greatest cycling routes anywhere. It climbs steeply through a dense redwood forest, emerging into sunlight and grassy meadows of the coast range. Ride from the hotel with the breakaway, or shuttle the first 25 miles and take time to visit the Armstrong Redwoods State Park before hoping on the bike. King Ridge undulates along the crest of this range before plummeting through the redwoods back to the coast. Our lodging tonight is at the Sea Ranch Lodge, with its amazing oceanside vistas. Team dinner tonight at the Sea Ranch Lodge restaurant.
Enjoy the morning today with a leisurely breakfast after yesterday's big effort. Today's ride will hug the Pacific Coast along Highway One, arguably one of the most scenic roads you might experience. The road is a cyclist's dream, with it undulating along the bluffs looking over the ocean's edge with waves crashing below. There is very little development on this section so the traffic is minimal as the road twists and turns along this rugged and unspoiled section of the Pacific's edge. Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa is our home for the next two nights, where you can enjoy the views of the bay from your patio or schedule a massage. Team dinner tonight at the hotel's restaurant, Drakes Sonoma Coast Kitchen.
Roll out south from Bodega Bay along Highway One for several more miles to the town of Freestone and home to one of the best bakeries we've visited. Grab a snack, then it's through the redwoods again to the bohemian town of Occidental. Here, you can breakaway for a ride extension along the Bohemian Highway to the town of Guerneville and back along rolling country roads to Occidental before rejoining the main route. From Occidental, you can attack Coleman Valley Road, one of the challenging climbs featured in the Amgen Tour of California professional stage race. From the crest, you'll descend through rolling dairy pastures back to Bodega, filming site of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", with a return to Bodega Bay Lodge. Final Team Dinner is at a nearby Michelin-starred restaurant and guide favorite, Terrapin Creek Cafe.
Spin out the legs on a loop ride in Sonoma's golden farmland. Coastal views and rolling hills are the highlight for this morning's final cool down. After returning to Bodega Bay Lodge, you'll have time to clean up and check out, and we'll transfer you back to San Francisco where we will say goodbye and you can continue your adventure as you please!
Got back last Sunday from doing the 8-day "Climbs of Northern California" tour with UDC. I could go on and on about the incredible routes that were carefully selected for this tour, the beautiful locations where we stayed (like Occidental & Boonville), the great accommodations (like the H2 Hotel in Healdsburg), and the fantastic meals (Lauren's in Boonville was so good that we ate there twice). All those things are true.
In my experience though what really makes a trip unique and special are the people involved. This is where UDC really stands out. Our tour guides Mike B. and his sister Kim took what would have inherently been a very nice trip (due to the factors mentioned above) and made it that much better. The daily routes were very challenging, with lots of climbing (as the name implies). It seemed that Mike or Kim were there at top of every long climb, offering words of encouragement, urging us along, and heck sometimes even ringing a cowbell! Their positive attitude throughout the entire trip really made it fun and helped us keep going through some of the tougher sections. One of them would ride along with us while the other would drive the support van (they alternated days riding & driving) so we always felt fully supported on the road. It seemed the van was always there at just the right time, with fresh fruit, water, ice, all kinds of snacks, etc. I ran out of water on the climb up Mt. Tamalpais and Mike was somehow there with the van to hand me a fresh water bottle while I kept riding. For a moment I felt like I was in a pro peloton!
I should also mention that mechanical support was top notch. This is another area where UDC stands above many of the other bike tour companies out there. The Scott carbon fiber bikes were meticulously adjusted to our specs before we arrived, so only a few minor tweaks were needed. I personally didn't need any further modifications to my bike however others in the group needed different wheels and cog sets on occasion, and some brought their own Garmins to use for the tour. These changes were handled with ease by our UDC guides and no challenge seemed to fluster them in the least. Each morning our tires were pumped up to our preferred pressure level and our bikes were given a quick series of checks before we headed out.
There was one snag we encountered in Boonville when my roommate and I showed up at our hotel and found out that our assigned room didn't have two full sized beds but rather a queen and a day bed, which is not the best option after 70 miles and 5500+ ft of climbing. Our UDC guides quickly got this straightened out and the result was that we each had our own room for the two nights at no additional charge.
It's worth mentioning that a lot of the roads used for this tour are pretty technical (lots of twists & turns and some of the roads don't have the best surface). Also many of the roads didn't have much of a shoulder, if any. For that reason, this tour (and I suspect many of the other UDC tours) are geared more toward very experienced riders. This should be pretty obvious from their website but I feel it's worth reiterating.
There are many more positive things I could say about this trip and about our UDC guides. Everything was professional from start to finish and no small detail was overlooked. What differentiates UDC from some of the other, larger companies out there is the personalized experience you will get. The next time I'm starting to plan a bike trip in CA, I will head straight to the UDC web site and don't plan to look any further! Thanks UDC, Mike & Kim for a wonderful, very memorable trip!!
TripAdvisor August 2013