There is no way to adequately describe  in a blog format the entire meaning of this title. As with most of my stories, I will circle back to the title after a bit of explanation.

In 1991, I made Sonoma County my permanent home after a brief stay in the late 80’s. What attracted me to this place that I would call home for half of my life is the texture of it: the varied climate, the undulating roads that have surprises around every turn, the landscape from ocean to valley to mountain, and the people themselves. Sonoma County is unique!

After riding dirt trails mostly for the first half of the 90’s, I became ill in the fall of 1996. To help in my recovery, I bought my first road bike the following summer. At first, riding five miles was laborious, but the mystery of what was around the next corner is what kept drawing me in. A year later, inspired by Marco Pantani’s battle in the mountains with Jan Ullrich during Le Tour, I ascended Pine Flat Road for the first time.  At the time, I remembered thinking that this road is not unlike what the pro’s ride.  I could not have ever imagined that in the time since, nearly every Tour champ including Ullrich himself has climbed that same road that first inspired me. In fact on my last ride in the Geyser’s, I was passed by 2011 champ Cadel Evan’s. Pretty cool stuff!

How did it happen so quickly? Levi was a big part of that. He is not only the ambassador, but along the way he proved to the pro peloton that SoCo is a damn good place to train. Add in the Tour of California, Gran Fondo’s, a little pixie dust and here we are today in cycling Oz. The wine industry has embraced lycra crowd as they have a symbiotic relationship to one another. Like it or not, together they are a staple of our economy.  This is where I attempt to tie this story together.

Six months ago, my phone rang unexpectedly to an offer that stopped me dead in my tracks. It took two months and 1,000 miles of drilling the pedals, but I had made my decision, “A deal is a deal.” In 1991, I tore my wife away from her home and family in Redding to move here with me. My promise to her was that if she gave me 25 years to let me have my career,  the next 25 would be hers. It was only 24 years, but whose’s counting.

Being a car dealer is demanding. Only those who are involved in the industry truly understand what it is like. My personal record was 66 consecutive days without a day off. Often, five o’clock is just getting the day going and that can be a Sunday. Had 2009 never happened, my two franchises GM and Chrysler not filed bankruptcy, I may have not even considered it.

To use an overused cliche, the game changer for  was that in 2009  my future was being held by a government committee whose job it was to pull pins from a map  representing all the GM and Chrysler dealers nationally. They called the dealer network bloated and the culling of 2,000 franchises in exchange for bailout money would be part of the deal. For the dealers there was no net. Only financial ruin for a lifetime of commitment. It did not seem fair. How I escaped having my pin pulled is another story entirely.

The most naive people in the world are those who belief system is one where they do not believe that history will ever repeat itself. I told myself at the time that if the exit sign ever lights up in the future, run for the door. That phone call was the  exit light.

On Wednesday, the moving truck will pull up to our house with a one way ticket to Redding. The new owner has given me a position to work for his company which has 35 dealerships where I can make our house the home base. The riding has suffered greatly during the transition, but I am looking forward to new adventures which is what life should be  about. The summers can be insufferably hot, though the roads have many similarity’s to Sonoma County. Bullskin Ridge will replace Pine Flat Road, the best riding is still where the pavement meets the dirt, which leads me to another challenge. The toughest ride on my horizon will be the Shasta Bally ride just west of town. In just seven miles, the ascent is 5,500 feet with much of it over 20%.  Maybe it will be a hike a bike ride, but I am going to do it.

As far as Sonoma County goes, I will still come here during my store visits with bike in tow. With Gran Fondo’s, Grasshoppers or just the casual ride, riding here is  just too good to pass up.

Bruce McConnell

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