The Bikin' Fools






The phone rang early Friday morning.

"Hello." I said.

"Eric, its Lindsey."

"Hey Lindsey, how’s it going, what’s up." I knew Lindsey was calling to announce plans for a bike ride. It would likely be a routine, maintenance run up Oat Hill or something equivalent.

"I’m going to ride this afternoon." Lindsey said.

"Great, what time?" I answered.

"O’ about 1 or 2." He replied.

"Ah, that might be workable, the later the better," I said, "I’ve got to fly Babcock up to the Lost Coast this morning, but I should be back about noon or so. I’ve only got one job that I have to do, after that I’m free."

"Well, sounds good" Lindsey said, "No big deal, if your there good, if not I’ll go by myself."

"Great, talk to you later." I said as I hung up the phone. My day would now be one of those days of great intensity. I could feel it in my bones. First there would be the small airplane flight up to the Lost Coast of Northern California. That in itself would be worth the whole day, an adventure spike on the chart for the whole week. It was also the first of the month. That meant that I had to have the company billing in the mail. The early hours of the morning were spent trying to chase down some quirk in the invoicing. The routine job took an extra hour, so when Dave Babcock showed up at my door, I wasn’t quite ready. I threw together my lunch, grabbed my bikin’ clothes and headed out the door. We still had to put gas in the airplane, which meant going to the hanger, getting the truck with gas, driving up to the airplane, filling it, take the truck back to the hanger and get airborne. Time was beginning to be a factor if I was to meet Lindsey. Even though it would only be a routine, maintenance ride, I always enjoy his company.

The original plan was to fly to Eureka. There, Dave would deplane and try to find a ride to the Lost Coast. I would get additional gas for the return flight and hopefully get back home around one o’clock. However, as we headed up the coast, scoping out the terrain that Dave would be hiking for the next several days, we discovered an airstrip midway in the territory, a nearly perfect, serendipitous spot. This would prevent a day's wasted time trying to get to the trailhead and allow just enough gas for me to get back. Although there was an "R" next to the runway (restricted), Dave looked at me and said: "’R’ for Runway!" Dave made a low pass down the gravel strip. We saw nothing alarming. He turned around and touched down on the primitive landing strip, no wider than the landing gear of the airplane. Without shutting off the engine, Dave jumped out of the airplane, grabbed his pack from the back seat, stepped back from the front door, tripped over the landing gear and ended up in a heap on the gravel. I had been trying to get out of my side of the airplane, but my seat didn’t want to slide back. So when I turned around to see what Dave was doing he had disappeared off the radar screen. Finally I decided to slide directly into the pilot’s seat. As I did, I saw where Dave had gone. He was getting up off the ground trying to fix his watchband that had blown apart in his crash to the earth. This was great high adventure. After a ‘high five’, and Dave was clear of the aircraft, I firewalled the 0-320 and within a short distance I was winging my way back to Crazy Creek.

The return flight was awesome. The air was smooth and the wind was light. Due to the somewhat abbreviated nature of the flight plan, there would be plenty of gas, the bane of longer cross-country flights. After a victory pass down the runway at Crazy Creek, the aircraft was stashed and I hurried home left a message with Lindsey and rushed into town to complete the one job that was a requirement for the day. After the mow and blow at Carone’s I checked my cell phone, and found two messages from Lindsey. The first one indicated that he was on his bike riding back from Santa Rosa to his house. The second was similar, explaining that he had just had a flat and would be home in a ‘few’.

"Humm," I thought, "This doesn’t bode well for much of a ride. Lindsey will be wasted. But that’s OK." Although I had interest in some sort of extended ride, it seemed that would not be in the program if Linz had already clicked off ten miles on the road. We finally connected by phone. Lindsey reported that his truck had suffered a radiatorial aneurysm and would be out of commission. Could I pick him up? Not a problem.

As we drove towards Calistoga, I queried, "Well, Linz, what are you up for?"

"Well," Lindsey said, "I’d do just about anything."

"Shall we do something a little more extended that the usual Rock run?"

"Sure," Lindsey didn’t hesitate, "I’d be up for that."

"Are you sure you haven’t already spent your daily exercise calories?" I asked.

"No, I think it would be doable." Lindsey said, way over estimating his condition.

"Well, I had the Oat Hill, Bear Valley, Middletown run in mind." I said cautiously.

"That sounds fine." Lindsey replied.

By this time the clock was ticking its way into the middle of the afternoon. I called home to see if Cirrus was home from school. We would need a ride back to Calistoga after the event to retrieve the truck. He would be there. So the plan was in place. After a quick trip to the bike shop for a couple Clif bars, we started the climb up the notable Oat Hill Mine road. Although the pace was reserved, it still took a huge amount of effort to climb the two thousand vertical feet required to reach the Holmes place. Not only does the altitude gain extract a toll, the upper section, especially, requires huge efforts across an onslaught of technical tribulations. However this is mountain bikin’ at its best. The trail is mostly do-able, but has technical challenges for the most talented.

Finally we crested the five-mile trail and took a break at the old Holmes House foundation. We scarfed down on Clif bars and contemplated the next step of the ride.

"What time is it?" Lindsey queried.

"Dunno," I said, "but we have enough time to get to Middletown if we choose.

"But," I continued, "I’m sort of wasted, we could do the Pickett run. That would save the car shuffle and we’d have plenty of time."

"Hey, that sounds good," Lindsey replied, "I haven’t done Pickett in a long time."

We sat for a while and pondered our situation. It was a beautiful day; the fall weather was nearly perfect. It was warm, but not hot. The autumn sun was low in the afternoon sky.

"Another possibility," Lindsey added, "Would be to do the hiking trial that we did in the moonlight."

"Yeeaaa," I said. But I was still holding on to the idea of the Montesol run. The riding from Holmes place to the backside is great single track with awesome views of the very rugged countryside between Calistoga and nowhere. We sat in indecisive silence for a few moments. Then I played the trump card.

"You know Lindsey," I said with a brilliant flash of the situation, "The beer is better in Middletown."

"We’re there!" Lindsey said without hesitation.

We gathered ourselves and started riding the route towards the wind cave, cougar pass, the bike camp, Dr. J’s lost trail and the Wildwood driveway. I was amazed at Lindsey’s endurance. He had already ridden a significant road ride, and the effort to get to the top of the Palisades is no easy feat. But the trail now ran mostly level for a couple of miles. There were some hazards and tricky spots, but for the most part it was clear sailing at speeds much greater than the previous hour and a half.

Somehow we passed by the wind cave without seeing it. The trek up the short cougar pass flashed by and delivered us into the Van Ness creek drainage. A short climb up to the stealth turn-off and then the run through the tunnel of terror. The bushes were ornery today, they ripped and scratched at us as we tried to be as small as possible in getting through this section of bush so thick, it was literally a tunnel. Then a brief stop at the signpost, a rock outcropping that lends itself to a visit. It is a wonderful spot to spend time, just gazing at the wilderness. But today the sun was very low in the western sky and we had to keep going. Although we had enough time to get through the boondocks section of the ride, the worry was about the six miles that we had to do on highway 29, on Friday night. That, as usual, would be the biggest hazard in the outing.

The Gods were with us again as we managed to not get flattened. It was dark by the time we headed down the highway. The advantage to darkness is that one can gauge the position of the vehicles by your shadow. If it is straight out in front of you: Big Trouble. If your shadow is slightly to the right and moves to the right as the car approaches, you are safe.

Finally, the big sign for the Mt. St. Helena Brewing Co. came into view. By this time we had earned enough endorphins to be feeling as conquering heroes. We were! (At least in our own minds) Serendipity visited us once again with a pizza offering that frazzled the remaining, functioning brain cells. Pizza and good beer after a monster bike ride is one of God’s gifts to humankind.

The remaining hours of this great day were spent in getting Lindsey back to his place and me getting back over the mountain. It was just one of those days when everything goes right. There’re not all that way, but this one made up for many that were less glorious. As I slid off to sleep, I had a feeling of great benediction and good fortune that mountain bikin’ had made its way into my life.