Country Roads Take Me Home

Vineyards in Napa Valley

I ride through the back country roads of the Sonoma wine country, rich in history, song and nature to admire the homes (a restored Victorian especially), living amongst the old Oaks. 

Along the way, I marvel at the rural rustic barns holding up against the hot sun and the deep blue sky with all their might.   

This bike path, in particular remains a favorite of mine on Burndale Road.  A favorite, not only for the scenic sites, but for the strong emotions these historical and natural views conjure up inside my being.  My father once said to me, “How fortunate you are to live in thick of Nature.” How true are his words.

These back country roads take me home, literally, figuratively and spiritually.  I ride for meditative purposes, where the stilled rhythmic movement, riding cyclically into the quiet workings of nature, brings me front and center to what really matters in life: simple joys, which the world at large seems to easily look over.  And these simple joys couldn’t be better conveyed in the song my sister shared with me recently from the play, Pippin.

“Simple Joys”

Sweet summer evenings, hot wine and bread
Sharing your supper, sharing your bed
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Why not go ahead?”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til he’s cold and dead

Well, I’ll sing you a story of a sorrowful lad
Had everything he wanted, didn’t want what he had
He had wealth and pelf and fame and name and all of that noise
But he didn’t have none of those simple joys
His life seemed purposeless and flat
Aren’t you glad you don’t feel like that?

So he ran from all the deeds he’d done, he ran from things he’d just begun
He ran from himself, which was mighty far to run
Out into the country where he’d played as a boy
‘Cause he knew he had to find him some simple joy
He wanted someplace warm and green
We all could use a change of scene

Sweet summer evenings, so full of sound
Gaining a lover, gaining a pound
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Take a look around”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Or a newt on the root of a banyan tree
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til he’s underground

Sweet summer evenings, sapphire skies
Feasting your belly, feasting your eyes
Simple joys have a simple voice
It says, “Time is living’s prize”
And wouldn’t you rather be a left-handed flea
Or a crab on a slab at the bottom of the sea
Or a newt on the root of a banyan tree
Or a fig on a twig in Galilee
Than a man who never learns how to be free
Not ’til the day he, not ’til the day he
Not ’til the day, not ’til the day he
Dies!

So, with that song in my head, and knowing time is life’s living prize, I ride from my home on Lovall Valley Road, down 7th Street East, towards Denmark Street.  There, I look out over the rows of vineyard and soak in the region’s unique beauty; Turning left and towards Gundlach Bundschuh winery, I think of its rich history and vast production of full bodied wines; knowing this. 

In 1858, Jacob Bundschu purchased 400 acres in Sonoma and christened it Rhinefarm.  He went back to Bavaria, married his childhood sweetheart and spent their honeymoon traveling through France and Germany purchasing the rootstock he would be planting here in Sonoma.  The wines, made to perfection over those many years, are a delight to the palate.   I especially love their 2009 Tempranillo.  Anyway, I digress, but what a love story of finding Gundlach’s woman and wine.

As I carry with me, the song of simple joys, Gundlach’s history, with its blood, sweat and tears labored in those wine country hills, I ride further across Napa Road to Burndale, taking a quick right on Hyde Burndale Road for a mile or so, where scattered homes hide alongside the bumpy, rocky road. 

I take a deep breath to muster the stamina to ride up Burndale, a killer hill (there’s a reason they call it BURNdale), panting and praying for the burn to end.  I make my way, very slowly back to Denmark and then, home when another song comes to mind. 

Country Roads by John Denver.  He once sang, (and my mother would sing in her own lyrical, funny sort of way) to my brother, sister and I, Country roads take me home, to the place I belong.”  These country roads in the wine country take me home, back to simple joys, simple living, where I can hear my simple voice, loud and clear, amongst the noise and confusion.

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