The Bikin' Fools
A nearly perfect ride
Sunday morning, Feb. 9th was among the coldest to date, yet the brilliant sun began to warm the atmosphere rapidly. Dave, Jim K. and Eric conspired to make the day a bountiful escapade of mt. bikin excellence. The declared ride was a cross country effort from Angwin to Calistoga. This ride is mostly on jeep roads and has the benefit of nearly one thousand feet of altitude. Starting on Buckeye Lane the three pedaled towards the high terrain past the numerous ponds that supply water for the Adventist community. A careful scouring of the map indicated a rather direct route to the hills beyond. The map does not show gates.
Dave gets the message
At a gate labeled Shagnessy the road appeared to continue unimpeded by any barrier of any sort. The road deteriorated considerably. It was obvious that it was not well traveled. This seemed to be good news as it was unlikely we would encounter anyone. However the road traveled to the wrong side of the lakes even though it was generally headed in the proper direction. After passing several lakes and a sign that read; "Go Away", the riders found themselves in the bush with no obvious hint of a road.
End of the road
"Whaddaya think?" Eric asked.
"Dunno," Jim stated, "Ill try looking over here." He headed off into the brush while Dave searched in the other direction.
"Anything?" Eric asked.
"Humm," the three collectively sighed. "Now what?"
Suddenly and surprisingly a vehicle was heard rapidly approaching the trio. The sound grew louder and louder. The truck passed close by, just beyond the reach of the search just conducted.
"I think I know where the road is." Eric said, stating the obvious.
Just as the three were about to access the road, another vehicle approached. The bikers retreated into the bush and waited for the truck and horse trailer to pass by.
"Lets go," Jim said, "Well go until we see someone and ask if we can get through."
The trio slowly and cautiously rode on the well traveled road. Ahead a dog could be heard barking. They stopped. Doubt overshadowed the operation. Hunting camps are notorious for their territoriality. This attitude has long roots in history and doesnt normally include intruders such as mountain bikers.
"Lets just go in there and talk to them." Jim said.
The mt. bikers proceeded very slowly. Ahead there loomed the encampment with several people milling about. The closest person was filling the tank of a dirt bike.
"Ahem," Eric muttered, not wanting to surprise the person. He looked up in surprise.
"Gosh, we sure are lost." Eric lied.
"You got that right!" The man replied.
"Were trying to get up on the ridge."
Another, older gentleman approached.
"Hi, there," Eric said, "Were trying to get to Calistoga."
"O well," He stated with authority, "Youll have to go back to White Cottage and down to the Silverado Trail."
"Err, were trying to find the trail that traverses the ridge." Eric replied.
"Well its pretty overgrown." The gentleman replied as if to discourage the bikers.
After a few moments of discussion, the gentleman kindly offered to allow the three to pass through. This was a delightful and welcomed turn of events, an unlikely outcome. The crew was prepared to be turned away and find other adventure for the day. Now the trek would continue as planned. The highly traveled road looped around the pond and climbed sharply uphill. The three pedaled hard wanting to distance themselves from the compound in case of a mind change in the camp. Near the top of the climb the bikers heard motors approaching. Was this the change of mind? Just at the junction of the spur to a north facing mountain, the vehicles disappeared. They would be exploring other territory. They would just miss seeing the slow moving bikers.
The jeep road proceeded on the shady side of the mountain. Cold frozen ground crackled under the tires. Soon, however, the road began to descend. Now the cyclists could shred at competitive speeds with the motorized vehicles if need be. But there was no need. The bikers were out of range and out of mind. The three came upon a sunny spit of land that jutted off the trail and offered a phenomenal view of the wild lands to the north. This was an ideal spot to chill and enjoy the benediction of the day. The weather could not have been better. It was cool but not cold. The skies were brilliantly clear. Hawks and other birds plied the skies as the three soaked up the beauty.
Awesome views at the lunch spot
Upon returning to the ride, it was discovered that the distance was shorter than expected to notable landmarks along the ridge. The defining moment of the ride occurred on a downhill dash towards the outer cave. There was a table top jump that begged to be taken. All three caught big air over this section of terrain park. It was such a nice jump that Jim and Dave climbed back up the hill and attacked the jump again. Both soared huge as they momentarily slipped the ordinary bonds of normal mt. bikin. This jump underscored the sheer fun of the day. With spirits heightened they continued.
the flyin' fools
The narrow path, booney thrash was the next milepost. This feature lasts for about a half mile and is composed of the most gnarly of wild land brush. It grabs and does not let go. It scratches and tears with unrelenting strength. One must stay directly in the middle of the path which is hard to do when hiking with the bike uphill. Soon this feature was processed. Included was some trail maintenance that involved sawing an eight inch tree.
The trail swiftly passed. After a couple of quick descents, one on nasty baby heads, the turn to the aircraft wreck appeared. The trio stopped long enough to examine the scene and discover a here-to-fore unknown spring. The natural basin contained crystal clear water suitable for camping. This fact was logged in the archive of knowledge about the area for possible future use.
jim examines the nearly fifty year old plane wreck
On the way down Pickett, the crew decided to take the alternative route over one of the knolls that sits above the jeep road. Trails had been seen on each side of the hill on different occasions. What wasnt seen was the fact that each trail quite before the top. A section of hike-a-bike was required to connect the two trails.
bikes in the bush
Once reestablished on the road the next part of the ride was the ridge extension to Raven Rock. This point of mountain stands high above the Napa Valley with, perhaps, the best view of the landfill available. The scene is surreal. In this giant pit of land tucked in the hills, America discards an astounding amount of material wealth. Entire mobile homes are crushed to confetti and smashed into the earth. Truck after truck haul in material that had recently sat shining and colorful upon shelves of stores. The scene underscored the sense of waste and futility of our transitory lives. The bigger view from this spot was in deep contrast to the scene below. The ancient mountains, draped with its green cloak covered all that the eye could see. One could imagine all of the life that had preceded the arrival of modern times. The natives dwelled in relative peace for thousands of years, changing only slightly the lay of the land. With the arrival of the white guys, forests disappeared, rivers became toxic drains and booze producing vineyards replaced the old, magnificent oak groves. Deep in the valleys the air was gray from burn piles. The dirty, smelly smoke would rise only slightly then settle to the valley floor to pollute the otherwise pristine air. The scene underscored the contrast between natures awesome beauty and mankinds disastrous plunge into the wasteful, short-sighted consumption of the material wealth of the planet.
Unbounded by the sense of land ownership, the trio descended from the high rocks to the valley below taking a direct path down open, grassy slopes. The route had been viewed from above and below and was deemed to be passable. Although parts disappeared into the bushes, it ultimately was an easy descent. Eventually the bikers reached a graded, but washed out road and followed that to one of the highest deer fences ever encountered by the bikin' fools. Once past this obstacle the riders proceeded along a vineyard edge only to have to climb yet a higher fence to extricate themselves from the boonies. This fence require three people to get the bikes over the top.
The ride proved to be another experience of high octane mt. bikin. All of the factors that contained doubt turned favorable and allowed the event to move forward in the glory of nature and in the elevated state of mind of the riders. Jim and Eric stopped at the Inn for a pitcher of beer to add one more dimension of pleasure. The only attempt to degrade the quality of the day was made by a small minded resident of the area where we parked the car. A note that read; No Trespassing was glued to the windshield in such a way that it was difficult to remove. It was a reminder that there are people who possess the most pathetic sense of their place in the world. This was a reminder that smallness continues to exist in the feeble minds of those who cannot discriminate between matters of importance and matters of meager meaningless minutia. Perhaps it is the same thinking that allows Gods greatest offerings to be axed in the name of profit. But the silly act was not enough to derail the great train of benediction that thundered through the bikin' fools experience. In fact, it provided comic relief, a sense of bathos, humorous beyond pathetic. We pray for such people that they may find joy in this life as have the bikin' fools in their simple juxtaposition with Natures awesome gifts.