Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Mr. Mud Gets Muddy…Really Muddy

Like this muddy…

It’s Erik’s birthday again. I think the last time it happened was a year ago, but I’m not sure. Ever since two years ago I surprised him with a trip to Hawaii (he did not even know we were flying until I dug out the suit cases buried under camping gear when we arrived at the airport parking lot), I have not been able to top that one — the bar was set a bit too high too early.

What did not help was the gray weather forecast outlook for the weekend. Even days before, it was still predicting 20% probability of rain for Saturday and 100% for Sunday. 20% was good enough for me to go ahead and plan a trip away from home. The destination? Napa Valley. Here is how Erik’s B-day went:

8 am: Arrived at Pete’s Pancake House in Oakville. When we did our road ride in the area a month ago, I spent more than an hour waiting for Erik in front of the restaurant. It was closed then, but I had great pleasure studying their menu and was surprised to see that they serve Swedish meatballs along with other Scandinavian dishes. Erik, missing those made by his granny and his mom, always longed for more. I tried to make some based on some recipe I found on line, but was not happy with what I made. Plus, I have never had true Swedish meatballs before, so how am I supposed to know what they should taste like? I bought some from Ikea Food Court, but was not impressed. During the week before this trip, we both very much looked forward to coming here during their business hours (8-2) and we actually pulled in right at 8am. My heart sank — there was no cars around. A piece of paper was taped to the glass door. It was a notice, dated from yesterday,  from the lawyer representing the landlord that the tenant failed to pay the February rent and thus have to either pay up or vacate within three days. Obviously, the tenant had planned on getting out because the interior already looked quite empty.  Disappointment, major disappointment!

8:30: Breakfast at Café Sarafornia in Calistoga. I found it thanks to my iPhone. We had Brannan Benedict and Wildcat Scrambler. Both were very tasty. That to some extent mended our broken heart and definitely filled our stomachs.

Around 11 am: We got ready to ride at Boggs Mountain.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about this place, one of which was it is a good wet weather destination. For example, Annadel is another place we wanted to ride, but everyone was saying it’s too muddy there right now. I now could see why the singletracks hold up well at Boggs, besides good drainage everywhere, the trails are covered by pine needles. We did get muddy, but that was from riding on the fire roads. To make the day better, God sent us an angel in the form of a 70-year old man, calling himself Bob.  He rode by our car when I was still getting ready. Erik and him started talking. He is a local and had exactly the same route in mind as us — the loop that they did in the last years Boggs 8-hour race. He did not mind us tagging along. Even though Erik and I were equipped with the handle bar map readers and I printed the map and the route descriptions, it was still a godsend to have a local to show us the way. 80% of the single tracks on the route were in prime condition. Only Karen’s Trail and Bear Bones Trail were under snow.  We did the loop (skipping Bear Bones and added an out and back on Gail’s Trail) together. Erik and I were extremely impressed how good a shape Bob was in. Most of the time, Bob’s pace was just perfect for me, although I sometimes found myself out of breath trying to keep up with him going uphill. What an inspiration! Bob went home after the loop, so Erik and I went on to do our second loop with modifications. This time we added Mac’s Trail and Creek Trail. Creek Tail would lead us back to our car. But we took a wrong turning mistaking that trail with Interpretive Trail and ended up on some fire road not on our map. We wondered around from one fire road to the next and could not make sense the terrain around us. Erik’s dead reckoning skills came to rescue and eventually it led us back to the real Interpretive Trail. Whew, for a moment, we thought we would end up camping out in the woods for the night!

4pm: Dinner at Boar’s Breath Restaurant in Middletown. Oh my god, I think I can say this is the best restaurant I’ve been to! From the appetizer (Crab Cakes), to the pastas (Homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs, and Basil Cream), to desserts (Bread pudding and Brownie A La Mode) and the Latte, every single order was made to perfection. They did not even charge us corkage fee. Stopping at Middletown, a somewhat white trashy environment, Erik did not expect the food to be exceptional, and he was shocked. I went in with high expectations because I had read good reviews on their food, and I was also shocked. I hope to return to that place soon.

7pm: This is what the real surprise was: a mud bath and a one-hour massage at Golden Haven Hot Springs in Calistoga.  I didn’t know if Erik would like the mud bath, but I just wanted him to get muddy. The process basically includes 15 minutes or so of total immersion in a tub of mud, followed by 10 minutes or so sitting in a jacuzzi of bubbling hot spring water with mineral salts, and it ended with a 20 minute relaxation session wrapped up in a quiet room. Supposedly, the mud has all kinds of healing power. It was quite interesting. The massage was what we really needed. We could use another hour of it since we had tight muscles everywhere.

We stayed at a B&B at Middletown. We were hoping to ride again the next day, but it rained through the night and the day, so we simple relaxed, wondered around in Calistoga and got some good beta from Calistoga Bikeshop for our future rides. We will be back!

All the photos are as usual in our gallery. Here are a few highlights:

Riding with Bob at Boggs Mountain.

Mr. Mud gets muddy! Derek would not like it there.

Yummy, yummy!

And here is the interactive map to our Boggs Ride. Click for the stats and .gpx file.