Saturday, 15 July 2017

A drink with Yaoming

I was now tackling the California Coastal Ranges, a jumbled line of ridges and valleys running north to south. As I was riding east to west it had required long research to work out a viable route via the sparse network of roads twisting over the ridges. Distances were doubled, and for example the eight and a half mile crow flying distance from Pope Valley to Callistoga took me twenty miles by the only available roads!    I had already faced the difficulties of not knowing whether the roads had public access or how safe they were on the ground, and this thorny issue was about to appear again.  I had chosen to stay at Diamond Mountain stables as it was on a route I had carefully planned which looked to be mainly on quiet back roads.  But Charlie now doubted whether some of the roads (which were on all my road maps) actually had public access, and warned me that the Callistoga Rd into Santa Rosa was narrow and winding with fast traffic and no verge.  The only alternative was to take a more southerly route which would add on an extra day's travel.  He kindly let me borrow their truck on the morning of Tuesday 11th April to do a recce, and I regretfully came to the conclusion that he was right.   So after midday Lady and I retraced our steps south down the road toward St Helena.
Riding through St Helena in the drizzle and regretting the fact that I still hadn't managed to stop and enjoy a glass of Napa wine at one of the many wineries on the way (partly as I didn't have enough cash on me) I saw this by the side of the road!
Was it fate or a happy coincidence which brought me to a Chinese owned winery as I neared the end of a journey which started in China?, Of course I had to take advantage of the opportunity, and manager Sheila Thomas (of Welsh extraction - another stroke of fate?) was happy to offer me a complimentary glass of truly delicious white wine from the Yao cellars to celebrate my achievement.  In chatting about the company Sheila happened to mention that it was owned by a Chinese basketball player and the penny dropped.  The winery had been set up by Yao Ming, renowned not only for his sporting ability but his immense height.  So here I am with Yao Ming himself (it just looks like a life-size cardboard cut-out)...
I left feeling much more cheerful, but had the wine gone to my head?.......
 But I had to push on, as I had another ten miles to go, and a stiff climb up the next ridge out of the Napa Valley.  Charlie had gone to the trouble of finding me somewhere to stay with client Sharon Hinzman, who lived tucked away a couple of miles up a magical hidden valley incidentally overlooked from high above by estate of the late Robin Williams...
We arrived as dusk fell, Sharon led Lady to a stable and hay, me to supper with wine and very congenial company.... 


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