The Alpha and the Omega

The ride would start at Western Mine Road and the County line. It would traverse the high ridge separating Lake and Sonoma Counties. The ride climbs for several miles, sometimes steep, sometimes not. Past Pine Mountain the ride drops down to Locke Cabin. It then travels to Indian Rock, down the Jolly Jeep road and finally out of the hills and onto 128 near Maacama Creek. The highest point of the ride is nearly three thousand feet. The starting point is slightly over two thousand. The finish is about three hundred feet above sea level.

Ten riders appeared at Mike’s shop for this month’s moonlight adventure. Dennis would prove why one might not want to take up the sport of mountain biking. Lindsey would get to celebrate his birthday. Jim and Shawn would attempt to navigate the partially new route. Jim Wilson would flog his iron beast to the limits and beyond while improving his stylistic dismounts. Sebastian traveled all the way from Portland to join the lunatistas. Michel arrived from Berkeley to experience another departure from normality despite having to be in the classroom at 8:00 the next morning. The youngster Ryan Gracy made a heroic appearance after spending part of the afternoon in the emergency room, having something to do with a roof, ladder and the ground. Mike and Eric rounded out the crew.

At 6:30 p.m. the car shuffle began. Two vehicles would be required to make the ascent to the top of Ida Clayton Rd. and one would be left at the bottom. Shortly after 7:00 the ten riders of ninth moon began the journey from normalcy into the realm of the extraordinary. It was two days before the "official" full moon. Yet the amount of lumens was not diminished and the moon was well into the sky as the group proceeded along the high terrain of the county line. A group of friends and fellow enthusiasts has a multiplier effect on the funnometer. With this many bodies present, the sensitive needle began its ascent in the yellow zone, soon to be smashed against the backside of the zero peg.

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The trail was in good condition though dry. Evidence of hunting season could be seen in the form of vehicle tracks for the first several miles and again past Pine Mountain to Locke Cabin. A significant feature of the early part of the ride is the Backbreaker Hill. So potent was the group energy that the riders passed the steep, technical climb without realizing it. The power of the evening superceded any questionable mojo associated with that spot.

The temperature was in the eighties even after sunset. Pockets of very warm air wafted across the trail. The combination of endorphins, group energy, staggering vistas and the lovely weather created an archetypal Bikin' Fools event. To round out the requirement for an official happening, the L-Factor would find its way into the mix. Navigation in the beginning was relatively easy. Both Shawn and Jim had traveled most of this route at least three times. It was only at the very end of the ride that new territory would be transited.

With ten riders and twenty tires, there were many pauses in the action. Normally this can be distracting and a bane to progress. Yet on this wonderful evening, these stops gave rise to the awareness of the beauty and awe that surrounded the riders in this gorgeous natural setting. The event teetered between great technical mountain bikin’ and the ravishing splendor of the setting. Great adrenaline rushes were interspersed with quietude when the rider would find himself agog in the glory of it all.

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Soon the group threaded its way past the Bacon Flats overlook. This Grand Teton stands haughtily next to Pine Mountain. With its commanding view of Northern California, this sight has been the location of two previous dinner runs. The route past Pine Mountain was interesting. It was in the shadow of the moon and produced areas of zero detectable lumens (I.E. pitch black). It was only possible to know where the trail was by use of sensory strunods that science has yet to discover. Everyone made it through this interesting passage and regrouped at the Red Rocket turn-off. Shortly thereafter Sebastian experienced a flat. Again progress was halted for some; others had proceeded onto Locke Cabin.

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The entire group spent the better part of an hour at this unique hunting cabin. The cabin sits perched high in the mountains, very near the ridge. It has the distinction of having the greatest view in the world from an outhouse. The camp also has a very nicely constructed spring basin. The water wells directly into a low, covered tank. It never runs on the surface. It has no taste and feels perfect on the palette.

After munchies, the assemblage prepared for the next item on the evening’s list of fun bikin’ items. This part of the ride transits the grassy hills. This lightly colored area provides great contrast and good visibility. In addition, at least for a while, the single track runs nearly level while snaking around the contours of the terrain. It ends all too soon and dumps the traveler abruptly into rather thick brush. The brush is thick enough to lose the trail if one did not know it from previous experience. There is one particular spot where the trail turns bluntly to the right, then disappears around a small hillock. One can be close to the main part of the group and still become lost when seemingly, everyone simply disappears. Suddenly Sebastion found himself all alone. Uncertain of the trail he retraced his steps for a short distance. By now the rest of the lunatistas were totally out of earshot and with no obvious trail to follow. Eric waited for an extended period and then returned to a point where contact could be made.

The trail then climbs up through thick brush. The only way to make progress here is to hoist the bike high overhead and burl through. Eventually the top of the hill appears, the road becomes established again and the bikes can be ridden once more. The band paused at the Indian Rock. This small boulder can be climbed. Once on top it offers especially commanding views to the west and south. All of Santa Rosa and cities beyond stretch out like glow worms in the night. The vast majority of the world is black to the view, but the populated valleys stand out in stark contrast. They appear virus-like, consuming the fertile lowlands.

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At this juncture the time was approaching eleven o’clock. The temperature remained incredibly mild, even warm. This was the point of departure from the ridge. To this point, the lunatistas had climbed over a thousand feet. The energy had been high and the climbs seemed easy over the first eight miles of the ride. Now the nature of the ride would change dramatically. Jim Korte was perfectly content to ride in the middle of the pack this far. This was the threshold to nearly three thousand vertical feet of downhill romping. This would be no ordinary downhill run. It would be like no other that the Bikin' Fools have experienced in the entire history of these lunar escapades. Serendipity poured forth and flooded the already boggled minds of the ten Bikin' Fools.

Sometime before the Lunatistas arrived at the Jolly Jeep Road, God ordered this very remote and rarely traveled jeep trail to be groomed. Groomed spotless, with no ditches, rocks, logs or ruts. Miles and miles of perfect conditions challenged the Bikin' Fools to "cut ‘er lose" and ride into the void.

When Jim Korte was a youngster, he awoke, one night, bolt upright in bed. His eyes were doing the pinwheel thing. For whatever reason, he jumped out of bed, took four huge, sprinting steps and dove, just like Superman, out of a second story window of his parent’s house. When you’re riding next to a guy who is willing to do that, you gotta be willing to go all the way. Sometimes "all the way" has consequences. Ask Dennis.

As the top of the hill was consumed, the speeds increased, as it became obvious that the entire route seemed to be this good. It created an interesting duality in the mind of the rider. The greater the faith, the faster one could shred within their control spectrum. Finally the ultimate state of mind occurred when, in places of zero lumens, one could imagine the trail and it would manifest itself in reality. The only guiding force was the feel of the bike on the ground. The zero lumen areas did not last indefinitely. Frequently one could ascertain the path by faint shadowy outlines of trees in the distance. Often a cut or tunnel could be gleaned in the darkness ahead.

In the group of ten, the downhill speeds varied greatly. This created a series of downhill dashes. The participants would go for it until, panting with delight, they would stop, regroup and marvel amongst themselves at the insanely bitchin’ conditions. It was during these stops that one would notice the lovely and generous setting in which they stood. The hills stretched out in panoramic beauty, softly illuminated by the bright moon. The serenity of being in the wilderness, far from the maddening crowds, was immediate and unmistakable. The Alpha represents the downhill thing, adrenaline etc. The Omega serves the Divine benediction. It is available to anyone willing to exceed the bounds and tethers of the work-a-day world and venture beyond limits. In this setting the mind is brought to full attendance by the seductive nature of the soft and mysterious forces of the night.

Jim had the pinwheel eyes. Yet Dennis was up for the challenge. He shredded wheel to wheel with Jim on the Ritchie no suspension bike. It was an impressive feat. Jim stands not a heck of a lot over five feet tall. He has the toughest, terrier, burly build of any of the Bikin' Fools. With his ultra low center of gravity and a dialed Santa Cruz, he has a huge advantage over the taller of the riders. Ryan would likely have been up there with the speedsters, but he was not on his own bike and was sporting (as we found out later), a broken rib. (The ladder and roof thing).

As Eric rounded one particular corner, a set of bike tracks clearly left the trail. At first this did not compute. Suddenly Shawn was standing at the head of a ten-foot deep ditch calling down into it; "Can you feel your teeth? Can you move your toes? What’s your name?"

Eric saw the figure move. That was good. Then the dazed humanoid was able to squat. Even better. After several minutes it began to move. Finally an alien life form emerged from the arroyo. It kind of looked like Dennis, but kinda not. It had Dennis’ jersey on. The Ritchie sort of had the look that it wasn’t put down easy. Although major bike abuse was present at this location, both wheels responded by spinning. The Ritchie heroically survived. It had to. No one in this group could afford the helicopter.

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When it became apparent that a motion to cancel the shallow grave would pass, the gathering began a much-sobered continuation down the long and (mostly) wonderful hill. A couple of breaks were taken to fix flats and to enjoy this moment of Lindsey’s birthday. For what better celebration than to be experiencing an extraordinary event with your buddies. The ride dropped further into the lower parts of the hills. The troops never saw Ingalls Bluff that had been promised. Eventually a light from a farm could be seen down a drainage. It appeared to be right on course.

But suddenly the Jolly Jeep Road turned away from that drainage and began a steep and serious climb. When it seemed that the climb would be short lived, it continued further in the not-right direction. The pack was stretched out as Ryan led the climb followed by the wheezing senior citizen. Dennis operating on more adrenaline than the others passed everyone. The road ascended for a mile or more before there appeared two distinct items; another road, less groomed and the ridge that delineated the Pine Flats area. The group was unbelievably close to the Millennium Ride. It would take only a short climb to access Pine Flats Road and coast down to Jimtown. But Jimtown would be an extra ten miles of road riding. So after a long break and discussion, the other trail was chosen. It clearly went in the proper direction. One after one the ten riders began a downhill run that would last a couple of miles. It would be more of a normal run with hazards, obstacles and things that can go ‘bump’ in the night.

Although the wreck had sobered Dennis some, it didn’t keep him from his next appointment with the crash-test-dummy team. There are times in the life of a rabbit when it gets surprised on the highway and has to make some quick moves. Often these moves, in retrospect, contain material for criticism. Such was the case with Dennis when he attempted to pass Eric. In an instant, Dennis morphed from groovy Bikin' Fool to low flying Superman. He landed directly in front of Eric. The drop down menu in Eric’s mind contained two items: (1)Stack and maybe save Dennis, or (2) Attempt a bunny hop over Dennis and save own ass. The attempted bunny hop turned in to an embarrassing "nose grind" with the front wheel rolling right down Dennis’ spinal column. Eric could see Dennis stretched out, plowing an impressive rut in the dirt. It was fortunate that the Santa Cruz was in full suspension mode. It allowed the rear wheel, which also failed to clear Dennis, to distribute the two hundred pounds over a slightly larger portion of Dennis’ kidney area.

It was all downhill after that, as they say. The cow trail did finally contact the ranch road. The riders exited onto 128 and began the six mile road ride back to Jim’s truck for the shuffle. Eric and Ryan opted to ride the seven more miles to Calistoga while the others either went for cars, or vegged while the cars were retrieved from the starting point.

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The ride was extra special. The conditions in all regards were perfect. Despite the scare, Dennis, thankfully, received only minor damage. Ryan rode through great discomfort without as much as a hint of pain. Sebastian’s robust spirit and brotherhood magnified the experience. The Bikin' Fools were grateful recipients of La Luna’s generous and unconditional mojo. It was a classic ride with the best of the Alpha and the greatest of the Omega.

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