Yesterday I did a recon ride for a gravel event I wrote about last year—Old Cazadero. It’s part of the Grasshopper Series here in Sonoma County. Old Caz, as it’s called, is a roughly half dirt, half road event that’s only 52 miles, but includes roughly 5000 feet of climbing, much of it steeper than credit card interest. Our version ended up deviating from the actual route at the end; we went up a fire road climb that, like many around here, I didn’t know existed.

There’s more to it than that. The climb ultimately took us over some singletrack that runs through private land and riding it only happens through a carefully guarded form of permission. Poaching private land in Sonoma County is the sort of no-no that has resulted in guns drawn, citizen arrests, and the way I hear it, a few assaults. We’d never have ridden the terrain we did were it not for the man behind the Grasshoppers.

As I learn my way around Sonoma County, beyond the wineries, microbreweries and county agencies charged with helping children with developmental delays, what is being revealed to me is a place with a fresh twist on libertarianism. The independence here comes in many colors; as a result, there’s a serious no-hassle policy among many I know. You just don’t ask questions and if you trespass, you better pass quickly and quietly.

The upshot is that the riding here has spawned an unusual sense of community, where surprising alliances are formed and careful détentes are maintained, borne of knowing where you can ride, and where you absolutely don’t go.

That I got the invite to join the ride was something of an honor for me. I’m the new guy, not yet an indispensable part of the clan. The first rite is to promise not to Strava the secret bits; I’ve pledged to do my part. I’m not yet sure what the next rite is, but I’ll play the role, if assigned.

For all the great things that have happened in my life this year, there has been a giant, ever-looming challenge that has resulted in stressing one important relationship to very near the breaking point. And it’s still not resolved. I’d never have made it this far without friends, family and that ever-present community of RKP readers. It’s the people who get you through, huh?

At one point yesterday we rode out of the forest and into a clearing. All that separated us from the blue sky were a few dots of cloud. The ridge line of the Sonoma coastal mountains shown green in the distance.

Our guide looked up and said, “A bluebird day in December, boys. It doesn’t get better than this.”


Happy holidays to all of you and thank you for reading. We’re going to take next week off, in part, so I can work on a couple of other writing projects and recharge my battery. We’ll be back with our End of Year Awards after the first of the year. 

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  1. Jeremiah

    So thankful to have shared the day with you Patrick. You can hang on my wheel any time you like. The land we call home is limitless and the abundance of stoke is marked by every pedal stroke. Cheers to you and happy holidays.

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