Our staffer, Patty, tells us about her two-wheeled adventures on the tracks around the area…lover of fruit, cheese, wine and fast bikes!
My state is amazing! Yes! MY state. I was born here and have never left after all these years. It is a gift I cherish everyday! Won’t say how many out loud, but I was born in the “summer of love”. Figure it out!
So, my California Delicious this time around is not about this state’s amazing food or drink finds. What is “delicious” is not always edible. My “taste” this time around is the incredible motorcycle race tracks we literally have in our backyards here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am quite a foodie and wine lover, but sometimes the smell of fresh rubber tires or that taste of gas fumes from the track is enough to satisfy your soul! I know, it sounds weird, but this addiction does call to you in many ways!
In 2011, I decided to get back on two wheels (previous experience only a 150cc scooter) and buy a sport bike! Crotch rocket, rice burner..whatever you want to call it! A 600cc black beauty Suzuki GSX-R. This is a race replica “supersport “ bike. Pretty crazy for this ahem..middle aged gal to be riding, right?? Nahhh!! After some initial “confidence issues”, I fell in love with riding..all the cool and friendly people you meet who are also passionate about the sport as well as even cooler places to ride. Riders tend to like to go where many cars do not, stopping off for delicious cheese, wine, fruit and another food along the way. The very tasty, twisty back roads around the Bay Area. In the last almost 2 years, I have been places I have never seen, right in my own backyard!
My “zen” is what are called “track days”. This is when you get to take your motorcycle in a controlled environment of a track and really learn what you and your bike are capable of. My bike’s top speed is about 150mph. Since I could not really do those speeds on the street, the track is the place to go to get anywhere near that fast, safely.
My favorite track is Thunderhill Raceway in Willows. Willows is about a 2 ½ hr drive north of San Francisco. This track is all about speed. Easy turns and a nice straight away to get in some top speeds. This is where it is recommended to start your track “career” as it is not as technical as others in the area like Sonoma (see below). My first track day there was in April and my last was just Thanksgiving weekend. The last of the season. This track lets you build speed as you build confidence. Though I may not get up to my bike’s potential top speed, getting up past 100 mph legally is well…FUN!!
My second choice is Sonoma Raceway (formerly known as Sears Point or Infineon) It is only a 20 minute drive from my house which makes for an easier track day. This track is much more technical than Thunderhill, so what you may not gain in speed here, you learn in lots of tight turns. It is quite a work out to toss your back back and forth at top speeds. The track sits up high right in the middle of Sonoma’s southern most wine country. This track hosts Nascar, Hot Rod and numerous other car and bike races. It is quite an honor to roll out onto that track and take some twists and turns.
As always, after a good day at the tracks I sit down with a glass of of California Cabernet Wine and some soft cheese and relax. I look back on the season and realize how lucky I am to still be able to do this crazy stuff at my age but also live in what truly is a state full of twists, turns, dusty and paved back-roads, hills, mountain views, ocean views and many yet to be discovered “delicious” California experiences!
to Thunderhill Raceway
1.5 hours from Sacramento
2.5 hours from San Francisco
Under 7 hours from Los Angeles
to Sonoma Raceway
Over 1 hour from Sacramento
Under 1 hour from San Francisco
5 hours from Los Angeles
Thunderhill Raceway Park
5250 California 162
Willows, CA 95988
29355 Arnold Dr
Sonoma, CA 95476