A Total Eclipse

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Del Sol goes out in a blaze of Glory

Five bikers made the call to venture into the mysterious and disappearing lumens of the October moonride.The ride would totally eclipse normality and the routine living that occupies most of life.  Despite his rookie status Nathaniel would shred the evening with flair and ease. Forward Navigation Specialist Shawn would direct the passage with only a couple of bad turns. He navigated the thorny lane without injury. Dr. J. rallied despite having processed  the monstrous tri-county moonride just a few days earlier. Ryan G. was on hand to handle the photographic needs of the event. Eric tagged along. A last minute communication with Sean Large indicated he and a friend were going to do the same ride, leaving just slightly later.

Because of the full lunar eclipse, the crew started early. The plan was to ride through RLS and get to Turk's Head before the sunset and the moon arose. The plan worked well. The troupe climbed the lovely trail through the park. The condition of the path was perfect as the recent rains had made the surface nice for fat tires. The group passed the monument, streaked down Silver St. and proceeded out the ranch road. Shortly the terrain offered a scintillating view of the setting sun. A few clouds near the horizon created a palette of color that stunned the senses. An aura of magic filtered into the ride. At Turk’s Head several bike tracks lead across the flat area and seem to head downhill. However the correct route exits nearly 180 degrees from that spot. Could this be a point of confusion later in the evening? The crew contemplated the dinner situation. It was decided that the wind was a little stiff at this spot and the crew descended to the official gathering area before the big drop off the nose of the mountain.

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Happy Ryan

Ample fuel was easily gathered for the fire. A shadow appeared on the edge of the moon. It would slowly take over the bright orb, still low in the evening sky. After a brief discussion as to the exact location of the fire, a blaze began the dinner session. The usual assortment of treats began to cook. Ribs, sausage, beets and an apple sizzled in the heat. Several beverages circulated as the group settled in for the evening. It was thought that the eclipse would be over by 8:15. However it turned out that the event wouldn’t finish until nearly 10:00.

At a point well into the evening, it was getting boring. It was time for Dr. J. to break out the entertainment for the evening. He produced several bottle rockets and during the next half hour set them off. They streaked high into the black sky and popped with colored flashes. They would only be visible for a very few people. Perhaps someone from town looking in exactly the right place might have seen them. It was hoped that Sean and company would certainly see them as they approached the location.

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Fire of the imagination

Occasionally someone would walk to the side of the camp and scan the eastern area for approaching lights. It was believed that Sean and company would be traveling with the assistance of artificial light during the dark phase of the eclipse. They would be needed. The night was pitch black and any attempt to navigate without light would be difficult at best. Then, a voice was heard in the distance. Surely it was Sean. The dinner crowd returned the call. Then there was only silence. It was expected that Sean would appear at any moment. Another hour passed.

After what seemed a long, long time, the moon began to emerge from the umbra shadow of the earth. Finally a bright sliver appeared. Slowly the light began illuminate the country side again. Features began to appear and the St. Helena Downhill Trail could again be seen. The glowing coals of the fire were secured and the troupe began to prepare to continue downhill. The condition of the ground was superb. All of the riders were able to descend the steep slopes to the side-hill trail. The riders proceeded along the now bright hillside. The route chosen was the new option that avoids ranchlands and areas totally destroyed by the cows. This ride has been ridden several times since its inception earlier in the year. A single track was obvious for most of the ride. Only a couple of spots defied identification.

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Mike navigates the tricky hillside

Near the bottom, a discussion took place. “Which way out?” Was the question. Shawn insisted that the jeep road traveled back to the road on the west side of the lake. Eric questioned the notion but was willing to go along. Shawn was right as the road quickly joined the road from Chino Flat. After a short distance the road traveled through the shooting gallery. Then a left turn and presto, the lake appeared. The ride across the dam was swift. The water level in the lake was low and allowed the riders to easy access to the spillway and the attendant thrilling dash over the edge.

The ride was a huge success and fulfilled the requirement of being in attendance for the rare eclipse. The riders filed into town and split as each headed home. Mike and Eric drove back up the mountain to retrieve the shuttle van. Surprisingly Sean Large’s truck was parked in the lot. Dang. Somehow the two parties never joined. Now the mystery deepened. What happened to the apparent voices that were heard? Did they take the wrong route at Turk’s Head? They must have seen the bottle rockets. At any rate Sean’s truck was gone the next morning indicating that they had survived. It was an interesting evening replete with the usual camaraderie, a nice campfire dinner and beautiful riding under the light of the moon.