The Bikin' Fools



A well earned beer

This particular march 3rd 2000 was a delight to the senses. It was the first day, official or not, of the influence of spring for this year. It was warm and the mustard was exploding out of the vineyards. It was Friday and Eric was trying to come up with a good idea for a bike ride. The phone rang.

"Hey, Eric, it’s Lindsey." The familiar voice announced.

"Great," Eric said, "I was just thinking about a ride."

"What did you have in mind?" Linz asked.

"Dunno for sure, but I’d like to do something of significance." Eric stated. "Maybe we could do the Girl Scout loop, or go to Middletown."

Eric knew that the appeal of the brewery in Middletown could influence Lindsey’s thinking. It worked.

"Sounds good," Lindsey agreed. "I’ll be there about one."

This would be the fifth ride for Eric on the Superlight. So far the relationship was still in the honeymoon. The bike had thus far proven to be a huge leap in Eric’s mountain biking career. Subtle differences in geometry paid giant dividends on the very technical sections. The disc brakes ushered in a whole new sense of confidence, allowing the brain to focus on the matters at hand and not on disaster scenarios.

The Oat Hill Mine road is Calistoga’s premier mountain bike route. It begins just a half-mile out of town and climbs for two thousand vertical feet before crossing the Maacama Mountains and heading into deep, backcountry. The trail starts out easy and becomes more difficult near the top of the climb. The upper section has numerous technical challenges that come one after the other, leaving the intrepid biker gasping for just a few more Newton’s of power to clean the next challenge. It is all ride-able, but there has been no known cleaning of the entire trail.

The lower section of the trail is moderately steep. There are only a couple of challenging spots that require attention. For the most part one can grunt out the miles while enjoying the spectacular northern California scenery as it unfolds below. At first one can see the vineyards surrounding Calistoga. Further up the trail, St. Helena and points south come into view. Eventually one gets to see over the west side of the valley into Sonoma County. From the Holmes place at the top, the view stretches all the way to the ocean to the west and to San Francisco to the south.

There were several people on the trail. With the completion of the new hiking trail across the bottom of the Palisades, the Oat Hill Mine road has become more populous. On this beautiful spring day, many people were taking advantage of the nice weather. The winter had been wet and cloudy for the most part. When the sun finally does appear, it lightens the senses and fosters outside activity. On the upper section, Linz and Eric met the 42-year old enthusiast. He was full of energy and full of himself mentioning twice, his age. It is a groovy sport that supports people in their forties.

Once at the Holmes place, Linz and Eric had to make a decision about their intentions. Lindsey lobbied for the brewery, while Eric made a weak proposal for the Girl Scout loop thereby negating the transportation dilemma involved with the Middletown run. Lindsey’s plan won. It had been several years since anyone of the Bikin' Fools has transited the Tablerock hunting camp. There is always the threat that someone may be present. They are very territorial about their compound and are especially annoyed by the intrusion of their antithetical counterparts. The hunter dudes and concubine enjoy sitting around drinking, shooting guns and generally wasting time, which is OK until the mountain bikers show up. Then they have a mission. Thus it is beneficial to time runs through the camp when the Rambos are not in attendance.

The route past the Holmes place starts out nearly ideal. The single track is level and smooth and cuts along a very steep canyon, yielding spectacular views of very wild country. It is simply too steep to develop. It is likely that this remote area will stay unchanged for many decades. Hopefully the grape disease, that great drug folly will subside before this precious, untrammeled land falls to the axe and grape stake. Northern California has been decimated by the alcohol culture that sees its drug as perfectly OK while the gentle and gracious herb remains demonized by the liquor lobby. Strange logic, for just down the trail, the duo made a stop for an official safety meeting. This adjustment of the sensory strunods ushers in a lovely overlay of appreciation for the moment, for the event and for life itself. The safe mode of living tends to focus one’s energy in the moment, eliminating the constraints of a wandering mind, a mind that will never find peace in the past or in the future. The safe mode of being allows full use of the physical body, unlike the alcohol potential that can blot out the senses, create apathy and lead the user into physical, emotional and spiritual bankruptcy.

The wind cave almost escaped detection. On the south to north direction, it is easy to pass by this unique natural feature without even seeing it; it sits just a short distance from the cougar pass cut off. After the cut-off the trail cuts between the ‘cones’ and descends towards the remote house that sits as a sentinel guarding the Aetna Springs route to Pope Valley. At this juncture, Linz and Eric made the left turn, crossed several gates in short order and began the descent towards the hunting camp. Several sections of the road are washed out. Eventually the road reestablishes near the waterfall. The waterfall is one of the treats worth stopping for on this ride. The fern laced walls of the bowl cradle the stream in a narrow valley. The water tumbles and falls about twenty five feet creating a fine mist and lovely sounds. This primeval setting nurtures the spirit and soothes the soul. The entire bike ride and all of the attendant obstacles to get to this point are made worthwhile with this offering from Mother Nature.

Unfortunately this pristine setting is only about two hundred yards from the hunting camp. The level of anxiety increased as Lindsey and Eric approached the compound. The plan was set; to blunder into the camp and, if busted, claim ignorance. Plan B could be employed if necessary. That would be the H.C.B. (Hunting Camp Bypass). This route was pioneered several months earlier when Lindsey and Eric set out to prove that there was passage around the obstacle. Earlier attempts to find the bypass route had created some great rides, one at night. As they entered the camp, it was quiet and destitute. No one was there. There were no fresh tire tracks. Now the two could relax. The big obstacle didn’t exist, only the anxiety that it might. This mental exercise provides a forum for learning about fears and the resolution of them.

Now the way was clear for the eight-mile trek to Middletown. The Oat Hill road improved and eventually turned to pavement. For three miles the road descended sharply towards Detert Reservoir. As Lindsey approached one of the remote dwellings, suddenly a dog attacked him. It was a near miss. Then another dog vectored in from the sidelines and also came close to chewing on Lindsey’s leg. An interesting thing happened as Eric approached in second place. Although he should have been dead meat for the dogs, a hard application of the disc brakes created (apparently) a high frequency sound that scared the daylights out of the dogs. Both cowered with ears back and split in haste. Hummm…

Now with the brewery only a few minutes of flatland stroking away, Lindsey proceeded as if possessed. He could feel the beer. Linz, normally not known for being the leader of the pack, spun down the road with such fury that Greg Lemond would take notice. Not only was beer waiting, but the world’s greatest bikin’ food would happen also: Pizza! The dilemma of getting back to Calistoga still had to be resolved. Eric had been unable to raise Cirrus on the cell phone. Another try from the brewery also failed. Finally Eric placed a call to AirDave and left a message on his machine.

The first glass of beer after a major workout tastes so go as to defy description. It is important to quaff at least half of the first glass with one giant gulping. The warm buzz of alcohol began to settle in. The riding was over. The brain, senses and spirit headed towards Blottoland under the direction of the perfectly legal substance of alcohol. Although this beverage trashes one’s coordination, judgment and control, it is not seen as a problem in this bassackwards society. The gentle, life affirming herb that brings sweet solace and spiritual richness is somehow seen as illegal. It is a bizarre, strange society that allows such stupidity. (Hint: It has a lot to do with the almighty governing force in this capitalistic society = money)

The waitress approached the bikin’ duo; "Is one of you Eric?" She asked.

"Why, yes." Eric replied.

"There is a phone call for you." She said.

It was Cirrus. He had gotten the messages and was ready and willing to retrieve the riders from Middletown. The last piece of the puzzle was in place. AirDave was sent home with a ten dollar bill and a piece of pizza for his willingness to help. Cirrus arrived at the perfect time, ate a piece of pizza then drove the wobbly bikers to the end of this great-adventure-on-two-wheels.

The rains returned the next day. It would stay cloudy and wet for several days keeping the eager bikers inside. Soon, however, the spring will burst forth with dry weather, clear skies and warm days. Huge adventure lays awaiting on the trails and singletrack of the world. Only work, responsibility and the mundane of life remain as obstacles to real living, the scintillating experience of fat tires on the beautiful singletrack deep in the boonies.