By BOB NORBERG

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

31.5 miles

2 hours, 12 minutes riding time

14.2 mph avg

31.4 mph max

The bucolic beauty of West Dry Creek Road and the steepest parts of Dutcher Creek, Canyon and Lytton Springs roads made for a nice mid-week training ride on Thursday.

Even after riding West Dry Creek Road almost weekly for the last six months, knowing where the gravel spills out of a driveway onto the road and where a squirrel usually has his acorns on the road, hoping they will get squished, it always changes, there is always something new. Thursday it was a brief, sweet smell of grapes fermenting even as thick, black clusters of grapes hung on most of the vines and leaves turning yellow, red and brown.

The Levi Leipheimer King Ridge GranFondo is two weeks away and Levi is in town. He tweeted he took a three-hour ride in Annadel on Wednesday. I didn’t see him on my ride Thursday. (I swear I saw him a year or so ago on Chiquita Road in Healdsburg, I can’t verify it, but I’m adding it to the Levi sightings.)

I’m gaining confidence for the 65-mile medio GranFondo route, measuring progress by the familiar hills that are now less taxing and my rides are stretching out … the baseline is now 30 miles, mostly in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys, with longer rides and steeper roads thrown in.

My bike is getting balky, maybe it is the miles, maybe it was the ride in the rain a week ago, but the rear derailleur shifts with a clunk now and I baby gear changes by easing up on the pedals.

It’s going in for a tune-up at NorCal Bike Sports on Monday. Phil Scheidler asked if I wanted the competition tune; I opted for the get-me-across-the-finish line tune.

There was a young woman taking pictures of cars crossing the quaint single-lane Lambert Road bridge at Dry Creek … her back to me, I said hello as a courtesy to let her know I was riding by … I was already 25 miles into my ride and my voice was high in my throat, almost lilting.

I can’t begin to describe the beauty of the county we live in without sounding like a travelogue, but I’ve seen and appreciated more on two wheels than I ever have on four.

Two more weeks and then I’ll have to find another reason to get on the road. I can ride to Jimtown just to get a sandwich.