November 07 moonride

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                                  Warmth in the cold November night


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                                    Fuzzy, hopelessly addicted to adventure

Story and pictures generously donated by Eric Sayetta


The lure of adventure was too much for Fuzzy and Lorna to resist. A bikin’ fools full moon ride with the

exotic destination of Harbin Hot Springs was simply too juicy to pass up. Lorna, a true amphibian, was

instantly intrigued by the idea of riding under the silver glow and slipping into a steaming pool in the

middle of the night. But wait, she said, remember that bikin’ fools ride I did last May? Remember the

rain, the fog, the shapeless grey blobs, and the narrow impenetrable tunnels of pine? Remember the

feeling after nine hours of brutal hiking and almost no biking? Did I not let loose a torrent of obscenities

during the final descent to Inverness as my body slipped into hypothermia? Did I not experience extreme

light starvation, shouting “I just want some fucking light, right now!” ?

“Don’t worry,” Fuzzy said, “I’ll call Mike. If he says you can do it, then you can do it.”

So Fuzzy talked to Mike and got the low down. “It will be two-thirds as hard as the May ride,” he said.

Mostly jeep roads, a little bit of well-lit singletrack, and no singletrack in the deep forest canopy. This was

somewhat reassuring, but Lorna was still wavering. “Call Mike yourself,” Fuzzy suggested. “Ask him for

more details.” She called and got precisely the same story that Fuzzy had just heard. With that, the two

apprentice bikin’ fools decided to throw caution to the wind and join in the quest for lunar enhancement

and sulfur therapy. Bring bathrobes and towels on the ride, they were told. Fuzzy learned that the

Camelbak Mayhem pack, which was designed to carry a helmet and full body armor, was probably not

designed to carry terry bathrobes.


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The van, with wings spread, is ready to fly

At the shop -- which according to Mike is a place where husbands can get away from their wives and

wives can get away from their husbands -- the happily unmarried couple met Mike, Jim, Shawn, and

Michelle. The two apprentices received a grand tour of this unique refuge which is certainly unknown to

the tourists who, less than one block away, are finding solace by relieving themselves of $500 extra cash

in the posh boutiques and restaurants. Fuzzy and Lorna saw an enormous set of wine cave doors under

construction, and quite a few other things under construction, including the amazing Bella Donna, a true

dream boat. When this canopied vessel of mahogany and copper hits the water, you will want to be there

in your Sunday best. But it might take awhile, because a refuge is more attractive and useful if there is

unfinished business.

After the usual unhurried ritual of standing around at the shop with beer and various rolled substances,

bikes were loaded into the van and people put themselves in the van or Jim’s comfy pickup. The

unhurried pre-ride preparations are a special feature of the full moon rides. There is no compelling

reason to rush when you are probably going to be out all night, anyway.

Michelle and Jim managed to break free from child rearing duties after missing too many full moon rides.

Shawn established an attendance streak of two months in a row. Lorna re-affirmed her foolishness by

attending a second full moon ride after learning first hand that adventure and the quiet grace of lunar

riding comes with a severe penalty of exhaustion, discomfort, and starvation.


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Lorna, Mike, and Michelle prepare to depart

The shuttle vehicles headed up the pass on route 29 and descended into Middletown, passing only a few

meters from Eric A.D.’s home. It would be a rare absence for the minister who usually presides over the

Church of the Holy Spoke and he would be missed, but Fuzzy made the best of the situation and quickly

volunteered to keep the tradition going in full swing by writing the ride report.

Soon after passing through Middletown, the pickup truck was deposited at a “Y” intersection and

everybody piled into the van for the ride to the demonstration forest on Boggs Mountain. The chill of the

night could be felt on that ride, but glimpses of the moon through the back doors kept the spirits high.

Finally the shuttling was over and the riders prepared to embark on the adventure. Fuzzy vaguely

recognized the demonstration forest from previous outings, but was still relatively disoriented. Lorna had

the privilege of seeing everything for the first time. It is likely that many of the bikin’ fools have forgotten

what that is like, but a completely virgin trip through unknown territory adds a dramatic element of mystery

and discovery.

As promised, the ride began on wide jeep roads in the forest. The riders were immediately bathed in the

soft blobs of moonlight that filtered through the trees. The riding was easy and it was possible to stare at

the multitude of abstract silver shapes that distorted and enhanced the riders’ sense of reality. The light

show is one part of the full moon rides that has to be experienced first hand to be appreciated. When

photographing the scene with an automatic digital camera, the soft light is completely washed out by the

harsh light of the camera flash.


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Easy cruising in the demo forest

Junctions were reached and turns were made. The navigation must have been completely routine for the

Calistoga contingent, but Fuzzy and Lorna had entered the realm of complete mystery and suspense.

The group turned onto a jeep road that had enormous 3 – 4 foot high moguls, and Mike explained that

they were giant waterbars, and that we would soon understand why they were created. Some of the

waterbars were just at the edge of ride-ability, others were not worth the effort. The road had never been

in such bad shape, Mike assured us. The X-factor had finally come in to play with the group of six. Lorna

began what would be a long series of hike-a-bike excursions. After fighting the moguls for some time, the

group came upon the promised explanation for the waterbars. Erosion ditches of monumental scale were

encountered. The ditches were up to twenty feet deep and 15 feet wide. A moment of inattention could

lead to disaster. A careful glance far ahead was necessary to determine which side of the ditch to ride


The blurry splotches of delicate light eventually blurred the minds of the guest riders. At some point a fire

was made and dinner was eaten. It may have been before the giant waterbars, and it may have been

after. Under the light of La Luna, a ride can proceed in non-linear fashion. The rider may feel like a

character in Last Year at Marienbad. Whenever it was, the usual smorgasbord was consumed.

Cheeses, olives, baguettes, salmon, and the ever-popular roasted Portobello mushroom were passed

around. A flask of rum made the rounds and was emptied. Champagne was discussed but materialized

only in the world of fantasy. A healthy fire warmed body and soul. After the better part of an hour, a

partial consensus was reached to stop feeding the fire. Michelle, however, was oblivious to the

agreement and continued adding large amounts of fuel. For a few moments, Mike could be seen

removing one log as Michelle simultaneously added a same-size log. The bizarre spectacle continued for

a while until Michelle returned to the same time-space continuum as the rest of the group.


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A fire warms the crew somewhere on Boggs Mountain.


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Telling tall stories by the fire

After dinner (or was it before dinner?) the group was confronted by a choice of routes. The ease of fire

road travel was weighed against the beauty and grace of a singletrack option. Mike lobbied for the fire

road route with his guests in mind, but the golden rule of mountain biking eventually swayed the group.

Fuzzy kept quiet, having no clear idea of what the choices were, and Lorna bravely volunteered to walk if

need be. The singletrack was not very narrow, but the long downhill stretches were crazy steep. Only

the fingers and forearms could be placed in front of the seat; the rest of the rider’s body had to be

dangling over the rear wheel. Lorna opted to scramble down the slopes with YB (Yellow Bike) in tow.

There were some steep uphill climbs mixed in with the downhill action. Fuzzy and Lorna began to grasp

the epic nature of the ride. “It’s still not nearly two thirds as hard as the May moonride,” Fuzzy stated in

optimistic tones. “There’s still a lot more riding ahead,” Mike said in a soft voice, trying hard not to sound

too ominous.

Perhaps there was more jeep road, and perhaps not. There may have been lots of rocks, or maybe it

was rock mirages caused by the moonlight. Leaves were everywhere, or maybe not. Each memory

melted or evaporated instantly. A sense of having travelled a long distance was the only certainty.


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Cold sparkling water to refresh the body and kill the fire

Next, the six bikers grappled with a singletrack that may have been a traverse. The moon was now at its

apex and the entire forest was basking in the feminine glow. At some point on a long full

moon ride, the participants become completely acclimated to the subdued light, and what was foreign and

mysterious a few hours ago finally seems normal. The sense of time is stretched or disappears

completely. The heart beats slower. A feeling of gentleness and quiet floats in the air. Any rider who has

paid the dues to get to this point may become addicted to the experience.

The singletrack was gnarly and challenging, although well lit. Lorna started to feel the strain on her knees

due to extensive hike-a-biking. Mumbling and groaning could be heard occasionally. A long time

probably passed, or not. Fuzzy began to realize why there are no fences around Harbin Hot Springs. A

hike to the backside of the resort would rival a descent of Mount Shasta. The management opted for a

natural look, knowing that only a fool would try to enter from the rear. Fuzzy was reminded of a scene in

Lawrence of Arabia in which the port town of Aquaba is attacked from the rear after a grueling hike across

the desert.

At the end of the singletrack, a large sign had been erected for the benefit of trail users travelling in the

opposite direction. “DIFFICULT TRAIL” was the headline, and under that, “ADVANCED RIDERS ONLY”.

Mike had inadvertently omitted that from his ride synopsis. “OOPS, Sorry!” he said sheepishly. No one is

immune from the amnesia and other aberrations of memory associated with the moon rides.

The group was finally near the Harbin Hot Springs compound. A very narrow trail soon became unrideable

and a long hike-a-bike commenced. Fuzzy’s ridiculously loud Hugi hub ratchet mechanism

would be a problem if he rolled the bike, so he carried it and once again was painfully reminded of his

lack of upper body strength. Fatigue hit a critical mass and Lorna could be heard cursing. “This is the

hardest fucking trail I have ever seen!” she cried.

Hush hush was the rule during the final approach. Disbelief (that it would ever be over) gradually gave

way to excitement. At last the moment came to stash the bikes and undress. The ride was about to

undergo an extreme change of venue.


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Trail to Harbin

The riders disrobed and then robed. That is to say, they got naked and put on their bathrobes. Jim

decided to cash in on a rare opportunity to do nothing for one hour and curled up for a nap near the bikes.

The rest of the crew tiptoed down to the common areas. Lorna and Fuzzy were last, and though Lorna

had been to Harbin Hot Springs many moons ago, the couple was totally clueless and had no idea where

to go. Lorna was shivering and voted for immediate immersion in the first visible hot tub, but Fuzzy was

intent upon finding the rest of the fools, and this even despite the gorgeous Asian girl in the first visible

hot tub. After a few minutes of floundering, Mike was sighted in the “warm pool”. Immersion was

immediate and divine. The sense of relief was monumental.


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Warm Pool

Suddenly a survival experience was transformed into a refined and civilized event. The contrast would

have been too much to bear, if it wasn’t so pleasant. Next, Lorna and Fuzzy tried to venture into the “hot”

pool but chickened out after dipping toes into the 118 degree water. They could swear that they would

walk away with third degree burns. Mike witnessed this hesitancy, and immediately gave advice: go all

the way in and don’t move. This worked.


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Hot Pool

The dry sauna was the next stop. Lorna, Fuzzy, and Mike worked up a nice sweat and then jumped back

into the warm pool. After jumping back and forth for a while between the two pools and the sauna, the

crew gathered their robes and hiked back up to the bikes. After dressing, the audacious group tiptoed

past the pools and the main office with bikes in hand, then mounted their bikes and bombed past the

guard booth to safety. A short but biting cold descent on a paved road brought the crew back to the “Y”

intersection with pickup truck waiting. Everyone had the sense that it was a long ride, but still gasped

when they discovered that the time was 4:30am. After the 30 minute cruise over the pass on route 29,

the fools arrived in Calistoga and the thermometer in Lorna’s car registered 34 degrees. The moon was

setting. By the time the couple reached San Rafael, the sun was beating down on Fuzzy’s outdoor bed.

To say that “Lorna was a trooper” would be an understatement. After just over a year of mountain biking,

she has entered a realm where few have ever gone. She paid the price of admission and was rewarded

with the grace of gentle light frozen in time and calming waters to warm the soul. She slept through the

new day and thus was able to remain in the faintly glowing world of dreams for a full twenty four hours.

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A Fuzzy view of the moon somewhere around 4:00 in the morning