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Until Saturday, I hadn’t climbed Mount Veeder on a bicycle since April 2012. It was as tough as I remembered.

I was one of some 2,700 cyclists who participated in the ninth annual Wine Valley Cycle for Sight/Rotary Ride for Veterans. I rode 50.23 miles. It took me 3 hours and 48 minutes, which was a little slower than in 2012. Others rode 25 miles or 15 miles. We all started Saturday morning at Justin-Siena High School and ended there a few hours later.

Gary Rose, chief organizer of the ride for the Napa Rotary Club, estimated there were 2,700 cyclists, both young and old, who participated in Saturday’s event. Two of them included Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) and former pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer, a Santa Rosa resident, 2008 Olympic medalist and three-time winner of the Tour of California. Mike, his wife, Jan, and others handed out about a dozen red, white and blue “Team Thompson” jerseys and then posed for photos before the ride.

Others who participated included a number of people from the Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind and Visually Impaired. One of those clients said she rode on the back of a tandem bike and said she enjoyed it, because she didn’t have to worry about crashing. She said she has difficulty seeing, although she could see the mountains and the sky. She and her partner rode 25 miles on Saturday. There were 20 tandems in the event, and 20 visually impaired people got to feel the wind in their faces. How inspiring.

The ride on Redwood Road up to the summit of Mount Veeder was so difficult, so tough – it just kept going up. There was a flatbed truck that also was headed to the top of Mount Veeder and he had to wait for the cyclists to get in a single file so he could pass them. At one point, I was going 4.4 miles an hour and keeping up with the truck – and breathing the diesel fumes.

As I was headed up to the summit, I saw a man with the name “Atlas” written on his jersey. I told him I thought Atlas carried the world on his shoulders. He replied that he was just trying to hold up this hill and make it to the top. After I got to the summit and stopped, he came up the road and crested the summit. We both made it.

There were so many volunteers involved in the event: directing the riders at intersections, making sure the cars stopped in Yountville, for example, and making sure we all slowed down on the back side of Mount Veeder. That road is so torn up with so many cracks and holes in the road. There were signs and flaggers telling us to slow down. They did a great job and, guess what, most of us did.

After coming back to the flat Napa Valley, we ran into the groups of riders doing the 15-mile and 25-mile rides. There were a lot of youngsters on their bikes, moms pulling trailers with toddlers in them, and people poking along, riding their mountain bikes or their cruisers. Going slowly, enjoying the ride.

Lots of sag wagons – cars and vans driven by volunteers, seeking to help the riders – were on the route. Some people had flat tires and were able to fix them without help; other times, the drivers of the sag wagons stopped and offered their help. Making sure the cyclists could continue on their way and enjoy the day.

Lots of volunteers at three rest stops, offering the cyclists bananas, orange slices, water and many different kinds of cookies. At the last rest stop on Silverado Trail – where thankfully, the wind was pushing us home – a rider was asking the volunteers for a water bottle. She had lost her bottle and needed one. The volunteers didn’t have one, but one of the cyclists pulled one out of his jersey pocket and handed it to the woman rider. A random act of kindness.

On the field at Justin-Siena High School, there was a festival, with music playing, wine being poured by a dozen or more wineries, and food and beer vendors selling their goods. I went to the Rotary booth and bought a beer and a tri-tip sandwich for $15. Why? Because I was hungry, thirsty and the money goes to the California Veterans Home “Pathway Home Project,” the other beneficiary of the ride.

One last impression: In the silent auction tent, I could have bid on several old bottles of wine, including a mid-1980s Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon from Martha’s Vineyard, as well as a cellar-full of wine from a variety of producers. Also offered were experiences, including baseball game tickets. There were three packages for the San Francisco Giants – all sold by the time I got there – and a pair of tickets to an Oakland A’s game. It had only one bid and it was far below the face value of the tickets.

I guess somebody paid a lot of money for those Giants tickets.


St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st

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