Porsches behind us

Porsches in the distance

The road ahead

Napa Valley Dreaming by Joan and Mark Campagna,
                                             Photos by Simone Kopitzki

Could the day have been any more perfect: The sky a striking blue above us; the sun a playful conspirator, now blazing down upon us, now dappling our vision as we sped beneath a canopy of green. Ahead of us waited a road less traveled and a satisfying meal. All that stood between our 25 Porsches and that destination were 60 miles of driving pleasure.

The April 20, 2013 run of the Redwood Region Porsche Club, our club's second breakfast/lunch run of the year, started at the Oakville Grocery in Napa, CA. Established in 1881, the Oakville Grocery is said to be the longest continually operating grocery store in California. (Unfortunately, we couldn't say the same that day for their restrooms...)

Gathering our group together, club officers provided a brief business update. Together we welcomed new members, listened attentively at the Driver's Meeting, got in our cars, and turned right onto CA-29 N. Across the highway were hundreds and hundreds of bicyclists riding in the Napa Rotary-sponsored Cycle4Sight fundraiser, and the reason today's run would leave out its planned western link up Mt. Veeder. Instead we traveled the valley floor, classic Napa scenery stretching out before us as we traveled down Rutherford Road (CA-128 E) and Silverado Trail. To our left an historic train route originally built in the 1860s and still in use today. To our right the strange trees lining the entrance to Peju Winery, sticking up like twisted bayonets rising from the earth. As it turns out they are ordinary Sycamore trees notable for their unusual pruning.

Bits and pieces of local life flew by as our pace picked up. There was the pink and green spotted cow that matched the pink and green spotted mailbox (and this was before the margaritas!). There was the elderly couple in the purple buggy chugging along. Riots of flowers and roses smiled back at every turn; vines cast shadows that crept up the hillside like stitches holding it all together. Though today's ride would be entirely within one county, it would not lack for beauty or variety. Kudos to club member Greg Matsumoto for planning and leading a wonderful Napa run!   

Regrouping before Deer Park Road, we began our first ascent of the day, a smooth, easy, grade that warmed us up for things to come. At some point the road changed to Howell Mountain Road, and then the vista opened up and we could see how high we'd climbed and how steep the land around us was. Greens and yellows and oranges raced by, intertwined, some natural like the poppies encroaching on the road, others yellow and man-made and rectangular.

n Angwin we pulled into the grocery store parking lot for a second regrouping.  Our route had us continuing north on Howell Mountain Road till we came to Chiles Pope Valley Road where we turned southeast. Along the way we passed a couple of our favorite signs:  Narrow Winding Road Next 4 Miles, and Watch Downhill Speed. Now we were really warming up!

Chiles Pope Valley Road was in good condition, and like most of the roads that day lightly traveled. We began to rise again. Tight curves interspersed with open road occupied us for miles. We slowed a bit as we approached the halfway point of our run. On our right we saw boaters on Lake Hennessey - kayakers it seemed, a couple leisurely paddling on the still lake. At Sage Canyon Road (CA-128 E) we turned east for another enjoyable 12 miles.

Running along Sage Canyon Road were numerous small, bubbling creeks, inaudible beneath the sound of our engines. Off in the distance to our right was Atlas Peak, a place whose history is (allegedly) as rough and tumble as its terrain, and today is known for its extraordinary wine and American Viticulture Area standing.

At Monticello Road (CA-121 S) we headed south on the last rural link of the run. Another 11 miles of Napa delight! A roller coaster of sorts, our cars bright bobbles of color rolling down the hillside like M&Ms. By now we were wind-blown and sun-kissed and ready for a meal.

At the outskirts of Napa we detoured north down Big Ranch Road to avoid the congestion of Trancas Street. A left on Salvador Avenue brought us back across the valley floor, and a second left on Solano Avenue delivered us to the Red Hen Cantina for a well-earned lunch.

In keeping with the day's outdoor theme, our group was seated on the umbrella-covered patio. Lunch was a club deal; for an all-inclusive $20 we had a choice of one of four Mexican entrees, a non-alcoholic beverage, and the ubiquitous chips and salsa. Not to mention great company! Some members sat enjoying the stationary view. Others found their way to the bar and returned with all manner of concoctions. Groups formed and shifted and formed again, conversations and laughter trailing in their wake.

Food was served; another round or two of beer was ordered. As the afternoon warmed we settled into our post-meal contentment, sounds drifting in with that summer-like quality of lazy distance, breezes sneaking in under the umbrellas and whispering that siesta time was fast approaching. Members began to drift homeward along with the sun. And so did we. "Es hora de ir a dormir!"