Destination: Bike, Wine, Very Short Bike
Mileage: 19 miles
Trailhead: Murphys Public Parking
Elevation: 1,378 to 2,402 feet
We found the original route to attempt on SeniorFan.com – Five Sweet Rides Through Scenic Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties. There was mention of three wineries. I didn’t expect to be terrified on such a ride. None-the-less I found myself flying down a patchwork-quilt of a road, making the steep descent and hairpin turns all the more treacherous. With all of this passing at breakneck speeds I kept repeating, stay loose, don’t ride the breaks, look ahead…and my hand is cramping…oh dear road rash hold it together.
Starting at the Murphys Public Parking on Algiers Street we rode north, then left on Church Street, and up the hill to the right on Sheep Ranch Road. There is a climb up to the saddle and then the initial descent to the turn off for Mercer Caverns. Stop for a break or keep riding down the aforementioned patchwork quilt, don’t miss the left turn at the fork with San Domingo Road. Soon after turning onto San Domingo we came across an absolutely lovely vineyard.
Then came the gravel, dirt, and rocks. The article on SeniorFan.com said, “There are some dirt sections on San Domingo and Six Mile, but these are navigable by road bike.” Navigable by road bike, while technically true, is a bit generous for San Domingo. I think our exact words were, “I thought we decided to road bike instead of mountain bike.” Thankfully Basil and I both managed to make it back to pavement without a flat or crashing.
After our back-road adventure, the left turn onto Dogtown Road was like riding on a cloud. We decided to adjust the route to avoid more off roading on Six Mile Road and stay on our cloud of smooth pavement. We turned left on Gardner Lane and another left on Murphys Grade Road. AKA my new favorite grade for climbing on a road bike. The climb is so gradual I felt like I could climb all day. All day until we came upon a tasting room that is. We were on the outskirts of town so if we wanted wine along our bike ride it was now. No “or never” – just wine. So Val Du Vino was our stop. Taste the full wine list for $5, per usual the is fee waived with a wine purchase.
After tasting we pedaled back to the parking lot and switched out bike shoes for normal shoes. The first stop was food, the owner of the winery recommended fish tacos from Firewood. I was sold at fish tacos and after eating there, will second the recommendation. Then we walked down to the Black Sheep Winery tasting room where the tasting was free – cheers! Our last stop was Prospector Brewing Company and it is a beer gem hidden amongst the wine. All in all a success and I’m glad I had wine and beer to balance out the terrifying start to the day.