Starting the day at Kelly’s Family Campground I elected to try out the showers, 5 minutes for a buck. There were two, both facing an open window and doorway which enabled you to experience the full brunt of brisk morning breezes. You’d think 5 minutes would make for a short shower but I was finished and ready to hop out in 3, glad that I’d opted for only a buck’s worth of early morning entertainment.
Getting an early start I followed highway 29 aka 175 south which meandered through miles and miles of picturesque woodsy countryside. Vineyards popped up unexpectedly and there were lots of small farms, all stocked with healthy looking cattle. This is the stuff photographers love to see but for me snapshots are all I’m capable of.
Highway 175 was as twisty as the coastal route I’d taken yesterday and by noon my arms were ready to fall off again. The temperature was rising and rather than cook inside my red Roadcrafter I stopped in Middletown where I changed into a lightweight leather jacket. The Roadcrafter – aka Big Red – is deluxe when it comes to keeping you dry and warm but air conditioning isn’t one of its best features. Once I’d changed I continued on into Calistoga where I stopped to buy a liter of, what else? Calistoga’s finest bottled water of course.
Outside the crowded store I met an old German guy who was admiring the hack. He told me about the ones he’d been familiar with during WWII, all the while talking with lots of frantic eyebrow up and down movements and more than a little spray for emphasis. I like old guys like him, they’re always fun to listen to. He didn’t say if he’d been one of the Fuhrer’s finest and I didn’t ask, the war’s been over for a very long time, and besides, I was only getting a few of his thickly accented words so maybe he wasn’t really a Nazi.
From Calistoga I motored on through Napa Valley where it seemed like the number of wineries had actually increased since my last trip through several years ago. The roses at the ends of the grape rows were in full bloom and the smell was heavenly. Traffic was as expected, slow to stop but it was bearable and there was lots to see. Once out of the grape growing area I ran fast towards my day‘s destination of Concord where my friends Ron and Rita live. I arrived at their house in mid-afternoon and it was there, after the initial hugs and handshakes that the disaster monster reared its ugly head. The right hand pannier was missing, gone, nowhere to be found, zip, nada, the end. The last time I’d seen it was in Middletown when I’d changed into my leather jacket. Inside it was my new Acer notebook computer with all its ancillaries plus the AAA maps, a brand new Road Atlas, all encased in fancy waterproof bags from REI. Even my unfinished copy of Jupiter’s Travels was inside, the very one I’d carried on two trips to Alaska and had intended to finish on this trip. I called the auto parts business in Middletown that I’d stopped in front of to change and asked if anyone had seen or found anything but to no avail. Then I called the California Highway Patrol and since it was a non-emergency I was relegated to leaving a message. You can probably imagine the priority they’ll give this one. Dammit anyway.
Ron insisted on hauling me around to buy replacements for everything and after a couple of hours I was pretty much outfitted again, except for the pannier. That would have to wait until I could get in touch with Aprilia to see if they even have them, after all the bike is a year 2000 model and what are the odds?
Rita is a cook’s cook and realizing how dejected I was she whipped up an amazing chicken dinner with salad and all the trimmings. I quaffed down a couple of Ron’s beers waiting for dinner and Rita and I polished off a bottle of red during the meal. Things didn’t look so grim after that.