Thursday, 25 April 2013

Merced and on north to Sonoma wine country

On the way back from Kings Canyon, we stopped off at Merced for two nights, before driving north to Sonoma.  It's a great place to visit the parks from, being much less expensive than staying nearer, and with great food.  Went to Applebee's for good, inexpensive food, and sat at the bar, as it's a great place to hear the craich, and chat to the locals, who are always very friendly and chatty.  Found a great place for a cheap lunch, a Mexican supermarket, a block away, which served an amazing chicken soup, quesadilla and bottled water for $13.  Weather has been really hot and sunny, not seen a cloud for several days, and 29deg C.  Guys at the bar said that it would normally be more showery and unsettled at this time, so unusually hot.  Snow and heavy rain in the Mid West and 90'F in Fresno, near Merced!

North to Windsor, in Sonoma county.  We're not visiting the vineyards and tasting the wine, because last time we came, we found that they are extremely expensive to taste and buy, compared with supermarket.  We are going to make an exception with one vineyard on the way back, later in the week!  But this is a lovely area to cycle around and not far from the family.  We hired bikes from Healdsburg.  Trouble is hiring bikes around here is so expensive, but worth it for a day's cycle into the wine growing valleys - Dry Creek and Alexander.  We did this last November, after the harvest, so it was wonderful to cycle along shady roads, lined with fragrant rambling roses, with vines, some low, some standard, covered in bright, new green foliage. Vines as far as the eye could see.  Cycling in the shade became important as temperatures reached over 30' in the afternoon.  We arrived back in Healdsburg, after a 52ml circuit, in time for a beer at the micro- brewery, Black Bear Brewery, where we sat and chatted to an group of American women from New York, who, spotting my Ventoux top, told us that she had done the climb and other passes in the Alps. One of her favourite places to visit in US- Bolder and Breckinridge, Colorado.  Always a great place to chat and sample local brews, although you had to be careful of the %, some 8%!

That evening the temperature dropped dramatically.  We explored Old Windsor, and found a great Himalayan restaurant and then walked briskly back, shivering.  It's weird the weather the temperature changes around here, particularly as you get closer to the coast.

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