A break in the recent string of very hot days in Northern California and the need to take a break both from work and a time-intensive project I’ve been working on led me to jump in the “Mazda-rati” and go for a drive, looking for a road I could label as Sports Car Country. I got on I-80 and, on a whim, decided to take the Waterman Boulevard exit at Fairfield. Beyond the Safeway supermarket on Waterman, I had no idea where the road would take me as I had never been beyond the Safeway on Waterman. What lured me was the sight of the hills, knowing that on the other side of them was the Napa Valley.
Traveling roughly in a westerly direction on Waterman, the road changes names to Mankas Corner Road and I continued along it, passing a farm that produces olive oil.
Mankas Corner Road takes us to a wide spot in the road known as — drum roll — Mankas Corner. There is a winery there and a restaurant that, judging by the number of cars parked outside, was very busy. Continuing northwest on the road, not far beyond Mankas Corner is another farm producing olive oil, but the farms on both sides of the road all along the way were also growing wine grapes.
Mankas Corner Road intersects Suisun Valley Road which is laid out at this point on a north west to south east axis. I continued traveling north west.
Continuing roughly west-north-west, the road changes names for no apparent reason from Suisun Valley Road to Wooden Valley Road and I continued along the road, happily tossing the “Mazda-rati” about on the curves. The vineyards came right up to the roadside on both sides of the road.
I am now at the crest of the line of hills and Wooden Valley Road intersects CA 121. If I go left, CA 121 will take me to Napa. If I go right, the road travels roughly north and intersects CA 128, another road that cuts through the two spines of hills that form the Napa Valley. Up to this point, I had been driving on roads that were new to me, but I have previously taken CA 121 out of Napa to CA 128. Thus at this point, I knew where I was going. CA 128 will pass Lake Berryessa and take me to the delightful small town of Winters. At that point I will be only a few miles from home.
Lake Berryessa is a man-made lake. It supplies water to the cities of Dixon, Vacaville and Fairfield (and probably others). It also generates electricity at the dam, but during the recent drought years, the dam was unable to generate electricity because of the very low water levels. The drought finally broke this past winter and the dam is once again producing power. The day was a beautiful day with moderate heat and hundreds of people had taken advantage of the weather to go boating on Berryessa. Because of the number of vehicles towing boats on CA 121 and CA 128, I couldn’t toss the “Mazda-rati” around on the curves as I would have liked, but it was nonetheless a splendid day for a drive, one where the sunroof MUST be open!
CA 128 runs roughly along an east-west axis. Traveling east on CA 128, I came to Winters, a town of about 6,000. Winters has a nice little downtown area that has a cheese maker and several good restaurants. People come from miles around to dine in Winters. The most famous of the Winters restaurants is the Buckhorn Steakhouse. Buckhorn seems to draw enough people that the other restaurants do very nicely off of Buckhorn’s overflow.
At Winters, you can continue along CA 128 which will take you to Davis, home of the University of California, Davis. At Davis, you can re-join I-80. Just on the east edge of Winters, is I-505. If you take I-505 north, it will take you to Woodland which is east of Sacramento. If you take I-505 south, you will re-join I-80 at Vacaville. I elected to take a country road that ran parallel to I-505, ultimately getting on I-505 at Midway Road and then back to I-80. Altogether, a delightful drive and the “Mazda-rati” seemed to be happy to run and play a bit!