The 5-4-1 Split

It was a special moonride on this Oct. 21st, 1999. It was a couple of days before the official full moon. Wednesday nite was the opportune night for the event as we had a special treat for this ride with the visit of Sebastion. Sebastian was now living in Portland, a mere hour and a half jet ride away, a far cry from his last dwelling spot of N.Y., N.Y.

Several people had expressed interest in this month’s moonride. As bodies started showing up in Middletown, it appeared to be a record ten people! As Jim Korte motored towards Middletown, he was seen to pull off the road apparently to find a cigarette lighter. Now this seemed like a simple task for an experienced driver, someone who has been around the patch a couple of times. Jim seemed to be laboring under some excessive amounts of cerebral activity.

There was some confusion as to what vehicles would be taken from Eric’s place up to the helipad at Boggs. It was eventually figured out that it could be done with two trucks. Five people would cram into Shane’s extra-cab Ford and five people would fill Mike'’ Nissan to overflowing. Jim left his truck at Eric'’ place, it wouldn't be needed (until later).

Given the huge number of participants, the navigation and decision making could be disastrous. It is difficult with just a couple of people to decide just where to go. There was some question at the onset about how the group would get to Big Springs which was the call for this evening’s gala, festive, dinner event. However there didn’t seem to be enough energy with the group at large to do the Hobergs loop and the full Boggs experience. It was decided to ride to the campground. In relatively short order, the crowd managed to get the bikes out of the trucks, assemble loosely and begin the trek up Road 500 towards the campground. The evening was supremely beautiful. There were plenty of lumens from the nearly full moon. There was no wind, the temperature was mild and there was a giddy sense of joyous abandon with the crew, Except Jim.

The bikers now strung out during the mile ride to the campground began to filter in. Jim had seemed a little anxious and agitated and mumbled something to Eric about; "I gotta keep moving." As the last of the crew arrived at the campground, Jim headed out followed by Dave. Meanwhile a discussion ensued about which way the ride was going to go. There were several people interested in doing some single trackin’, and several others content to motor easily along the jeep road to John’s trail to Big Springs. As it turned out five people headed towards the single track, and five people took the dirt road.

As it turned out, Dave had started after Jim but then noticed that nobody else was following him. He elected to turn around and find out what was happening with the rest of the crew. Jim continued ahead. Dave returned to meet three others, Morgan, Sean and Shane. Lindsey, Mike, Shawn, Sebastion and Eric headed off on Road 500. The road was sweet and easy. It would not be a burly, Rough Rider night tonight. Tonight was a night for sheer pleasure with a minimum of work.

At the Burnt Cabin end of Road 500, the five turned left and proceeded up a short climb to a right turn, then several hundred yards to a veer left. It was a little tricky in the woods, as rocks like to hide in the shadows. The rocks were feeling benign tonight and offered no interference. Everyone missed the big rock at the turn. In the deep woods the light was filtered into a patchwork mosaic on the ground. Eric was marveling at the beauty of the night when the shadow of a large owl passed directly in front of his wheel. It was a generous offering from the Great Spirit to welcome the mountain bikers to the domain of the pure and natural.

Soon John’s trail turn-off trail was looming. Eric, in the lead, took the five off on a wild goose chase with a navigational error. For a few minutes the five blundered around the manicured forest, not finding the single track that was supposed to be there. Returning to the jeep trail the crew continued downhill for a couple hundred yards to find the trailhead to Big Springs. There was no doubt in the minds of the road riders that they would arrive well ahead of the single trackers. Shawn rode the steep descent ahead of Eric, Mike, Sebastion and Lindsey. As the four approached the bottom of the trail, voices were heard ahead. Who could that be? It must be intruders. As the road party filed out of the trail, lo and behold, the single-trackers had beaten them to Big Springs. Everyone was there except Jim.

"Where’s Jim?" Eric asked.

"He took off." Dave said.

"What’s the deal?" Shawn said.

"He was ahead of me, ‘til I turned around and I never saw him again." Dave said.

"Well, it’s pretty hard to loose nine people." Lindsey stated flatly.

"He made the choice, I don’t think it was a mistake." Mike added.

"Well, I don’t hear anyone suggesting we start a search party." Eric said.

"No, he was in a funk, I think that he decided to bail." Morgan mentioned.

It was a done deal. The great merriment and fun that was occurring quickly removed concerns for Jim off the radar screen. As the fire was Daved into a major conflagration, Items begun to appear out of the packs to be placed in the heat of the burning wood. The fire was adorned with dozens of items; potatoes, corn on the cob, squash, sausage, steak, hot dogs and an apple filled with delightful seasonings.

Eric was so hungry upon arriving at Big Springs that he ate a Luna Bar. As he was eating the bar, Shawn took notice.

"Eric, you know that thing is made for girls, don’t you?" Shawn asked.

"Yea, I noticed that. When I first saw the bar I saw Luna (the moon) and said; ‘that’s us’. Then I saw in fine print down below that it was a Clif Bar made for girls. Ahh, I hope my tits don’t get sore, or I start feeling bloated or something." Eric remarked.

The Big Springs roared in the background. The atmosphere was cool and refreshing. The fire cranked out heat and warmth, and mesmerized the attendees with its magic dancing flames. One by one items came off the campfire. The corn was the first. Then sticks appeared to roast sausage and hot dogs. Steaks, marinated in their own juices, came out of the embers. Finally the potatoes were ready. Everyone was delightfully hungry and ate huge amounts of food, way more than what was required for the evenings riding.

The feast lasted for an hour or so. Then the energy started to return for more spinning under the lumens of the moon. The campfire was thoroughly doused with water, the rocks returned to the streambed and the ashes spread about. The ride from Big Springs up the jeep road is fairly routine and insignificant with the exception of the big ruts. Everyone but Dave and Eric managed to pass safely. Beyond the ruts, the nine bikers made the stealth turn-off to gain access to the Great Bowl Route. Once up the section of baby heads and around the corner, the route comes out on the front side of Boggs Mt. Great views of Lake Co. looking straight down at Middletown command the eye. The scene is spectacular with Mt. St. Helena to the south, the coastal mountains way off to the southwest and a beautiful skyscape covering everything with our gracious friend Luna looking at all below.

The Great Bowl Route offers some interesting challenges, the first being the Great Canyon. It is a six-foot deep crevasse washed out by El Nino a couple of years ago and deepened each year by the corrosive rains that flow downhill. The Great Canyon leads eventually to the Great Abyss where the road simply disappears off the face of the earth. A speeding biker could easily find himself departing this life altogether if he should speed off the end of the road. It falls for twenty-five feet down to nothing except a pile of rocks where one would bounce and carom down the drainage. Beyond the Great Abyss, the road travels beyond one more spring and down to the shale pit and the junction of the DogHouse road and the road to Harbin. A choice could be made here. Either to continue the normal ride up to the chutes or to bail and go straight to the hot tubs. Eric, sporting a cold, would have been happy to take the direct passage to the tubbies, yet the eight others elected the Chutes option. There is incentive to go this route, not only to experience the chutes but because once beyond the Chutes there is delightful single track that cuts down the West Harbin Ridge.

The entire crew made the relatively short climb, a half-mile or so, up to the Chutes cut-off and reconvened. Eric was the first on the scene at the Chutes. He simply elected to walk the challenge. The Gnarlbush had encroached since the last outing and was so thick and dense that it would be virtually impossible to make the plunge down this steep, straight gully without being yanked, pulled and grabbed constantly by the "bush of iron". The main Chute is steep enough and loose enough that it takes every bit of skill, strength and concentration to have a chance at making the descent. Rider after rider made their attempts. All failed miserably, except Dave who failed spectacularly. His crash was clearly the most notable and noisy. Three quarters of the way down he was making a great run at it, when sounds of skidding tires, crunching brush and finally a notable ‘whomp!’ told us that he had unsuccessfully negotiated this challenge.

"Dave, you OK?" Eric asked with camera poised just out of range.

"Yea, I’ll be alright." He said with a notable tone of disappointment. He had made about 80 per cent of the drop, sacrificing flesh and clothing to the tenacious brush that grabs and doesn’t let go.

Despite having turned his thumb in directions God never intended on a previous attempt at the Chute, Mike none-the-less went for it just ahead of Dave. His attempt was praiseworthy if not foolhardy. His crash was less spectacular, but he likely would have been sporting knobby prints across his forehead if Dave had not crashed. Shawn exhibited the only wise choice by traveling Chute ‘B’ that is steep, but negotiable.

All re-grouped at the bottom of the Chutes and continued toward Harbin. The first short uphill section is very steep, but mercifully short. From the top of this challenge, the single track becomes pleasant and easy as it winds delightfully through the woods towards the TeaHouse turn off. This part of the ride was scintillating, except for Dave who flatted before the intersection. The eight others waited at the TeaHouse trail while Dave repaired the tire. Then the nine bikers clattered down the TeaHouse trail through the trees, having to hike-a-bike much of the narrow path through thick growth of small trees. The trail descended lower and lower into the valley until lights began to appear. Finally, Eric stopped at the gate.

"Be real quiet." He whispered, "There’s someone watching from the office window."

One by one the group filed into the tubby zone. A quick shedding of the clothes and presto! Another layer of tactile titillation was offered from the universe. First there was the soothing warm vaporous waters of the main pool, followed by a dip into the ultra hot, nerve scorching hotter-than-hot tub and finally, if one could handle it like Morgan, a plunge into the super cold pool. There would be no nerve endings left unprovoked by this round of sensory stimulation. To further enhance the natural effect of the encounter with pleasure, the clothing optional feature offered yet another chance to dwell in the realm of optical enjoyment. All seemed comfortable and at ease in the presence of the natural body, except for the one lady who just couldn’t seem to take off her towel. It was obvious that she was very uncomfortable in this setting. She paced about with her boyfriend (in birthday suit mode) until finally she slipped into the buff and quickly entered the pool.

As tubby-time drew to a close, the attendees slowly dressed and prepared for the last bit of riding down the very cold road towards Middletown. When all were assembled and ready to go, Eric discovered that his rear tire had flatted during tubby-time. Seven riders split and Eric set about to change out the flaccid tube. Dave stayed behind to offer assistance.

Once back to M-town, it was first noticed that Jim’s truck was gone. We had suspected this. It was good news to know that our evening was over, that Jim hadn’t gotten lost, hadn’t stacked deep in the woods, bleeding while some mountain lion sucked on his jugular. No late night rescue would be necessary. The car shuffle had to be executed. Lindsey drove Mike and Shane back up to the helipad while the others relaxed and drank a well-earned beer and fought off sleep.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of three in the morning, the adventure drew to a pleasant close. The record number of attendees all contributed to create a huge adventure laded heavily with an enormous amount of sensory overload. The beautiful moonlight night, the wonderful dining experience and the refreshing hot waters filled the Bikin’ Fools with an evening of extraordinary fun. Another supreme event was chiseled into the bottom brackets of the rider’s minds.