Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bicycle-Friendly Santa Rosa Wow Factor Bike Paths

The little boy knows the shape of the creek and its slope, and the kind of rocks he’s looking for. When he plays with the rock in his hand, he stares at the spot where he collected them. I can see this from my bicycle 75 feet away. The creek’s glistening waves pull my attention away. I look back at him. He bends at his side and lowers his head parallel to the pavement, delivering a wide mischievous smile as we ride past. His sister only steps behind him, reacts to her brother’s expression with curiosity about our reaction. From along the grapevine fence where we roll along on our bikes, I can already imagine the wild fennel and the wild blackberries I’ll see when I get off the Brush Creek trail and onto the Austin Creek trail. I know the shape of the turn to get on the Austin Creek trail from the street is a very sharp V that slows down every bicyclist. My husband’s leg reflects sunlight and I feel my toe clip brace my arch.

Calves burn and I feel the slow unification of my hip flexors, thigh, butt and calves boosting me as I let waves of concerns fall away.  The sound of a changing gear tucks itself into my ear like the click you feel when you know exactly what someone else means. The tire on gravel sounds like a record needle set on a vintage record player. My lungs and rib cage expand.

Cycling on creek trails in Santa Rosa makes me wonder how many people take advantage of creek trails where they live or on bicycle adventures around the world. If you visit Santa Rosa, in the heart of Sonoma County, there are amazing trails to experience with wonderful riders and walkers enjoying the outdoors. First, let me suggest that no bicyclist should be without traillink.com to figure out what trails and access points are available to avoid cars, traffic lights while experiencing these interconnected bike paths anywhere.

I know exactly what my tangerine painted bike means when I get on my bike every day, because it reminds me that the battle to feel athletic is still my Mt. Whitney. Cycling the streets of Santa Rosa might give a risk-averse bicyclist a temporary stiff jaw and a smile once you shed the trappings of riding alongside parked or moving cars, but I enjoy feeling more contact with nature. 

Live and valley oak, California buckeye and big-leaf maple lined, with some rocky-shored trails make biking in Santa Rosa very enjoyable for commuters, tourists, and the occasional peddlomaniac. (A peddlomaniac is a cross between a kleptomaniac and someone who adores peddling their bike, but instead of having an inability to fight the urge to steal, they fight urges to tackle the next irresistible biking challenge.) Even though Santa Rosa drivers do pay attention to bikers in shoulders and on well-marked bike lanes, local newspapers warn of injured bikers hit by cars. There are existing laws to prosecute drivers who turn cars into lethal weapons. But who wants a bike ride to turn into a day in court honestly? 
Among milk thistle and wild poppies, the breeze carries the smell of drying long grasses, interspersed with bay laurels and the oaky fragrance of decaying fallen leaves that carpet the creekside bays like nature’s own rap song.  The beat of my heart makes its way into a fifth or sixth vertebrae as my spine flexes left and right and then left again as I stand to pedal just for the sake of feeling free and carefree, momentarily.

My favorite late afternoon rides are when the sun casts long shadows through dense tree lines, along fence lines, or onto tiny ripples in the creeks. I love the impressions blackberries, grapes, wild fennel, and the occasional rider make as they break my solitude and I feel more than the wind on the inside of my knee or on my wrist. Weekly, I roll past Austin Creek, Brush Creek, Santa Rosa Creek and onto the Joe Rodota Trail. The creekside trails pepper the entire suburb and connect with nearby towns in a puzzle of creeks, riparian woods, shrubs, bridges and vineyards to minimize time on the actual open road. Most Santa Rosa trails are unequivocally laid-back, unless you head toward Hood Mountain Regional Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park or Fountaingrove.

The flat trails are wide with other walkers and cyclists, sometimes riding even in teams. The trails range in length from .5 miles to 3.4 miles and 17 miles. I love interconnecting them on traillink.com In order to get from one creek trail to the next, I have to get on a road or two occasionally and find the trail head tucked between houses, but that’s part of being an explorer.
The Brush Creek is steel head habitat thanks to a few restoration projects.  It is a lush environment. The trail itself is designated as a bird watching spot, but before I ever knew that, I marveled at the songs of various birds sitting atop branches and fence lines that separate the trail from backyards. Throw a bird watching book into your pannier. Yesterday, riding the trail in the evening with the canopy of evergreen and oaks, the light through the trees glistened as I felt enveloped by the trees. Ducks sit on the water and red dragonfly fly across the path.

And local attractions, can I get there on the trails?

And what if you do want to get around on bike trails to shop and sample the local finds?
Although it’s good to be cautious on the roads, there are so many cute neighborhoods to explore from east to west.  I’ve met my husband downtown, where the world renowned Amgen Tour of California came through down 4th Street in downtown Santa Rosa.  We parked our bikes and found front row seats at Tex Wasabi’s sushi barbecue where chef Guy Fieri expanded on the concept of sushi brilliantly.  Closer to the West part of Santa Rosa, I’ve ventured off the beaten path off Stony Point Road and occasionally eat at Mi Tierra on Sebastopol Road. If you are near the Santa Rosa Creek trail, explore the local art scene on South A Street (SOFA district) where open studio events and live performances keep Santa Rosa vibrant.  You can check out some art and then hit the trail and make it for dinner at Railroad Square exhibiting an authentic old town ambiance and antique row.  Or have breakfast first at Omelet Express and head to SOFA. Either way, you’ll love this section of town.

Enjoy a ride on the Joe Rodota & West County trail systems, which is built along the old corridor of the old Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway. The rails carried passengers between Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Sebastopol. You can ride all the way to Forestville thru Sebastopol.

For nature lovers, you can use Traillink.com to interconnect various trails to explore Annandale Park, Spring Lake, Howarth Park, Lake Ilsanjo, and nearby state and regional parks. If you love redwoods, you can ride the West County Trail in Forestville and head out to Guerneville.  The magnificent roads you can access from these trails are endless. Still, TrailLink cautions to check if the routes that you create contain streets that aren’t suited for bicycling.
 Love getting in the bicycle seat? Where will it lead you…How about Santa Rosa. Come perpetuate the legend that on the feast of St. Rose, August 30, 1829, Padre Amoros beside the Brush Creek trail baptized an Indian maid from which the city took the name Santa Rosa.

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