The Bikin' Fools
And the fat lady on the Harley grinned
If one is alert, tiny signs can foretell the fate of ones upcoming event. Such was the case when the six lunatistas, enroute to a scintillating moon event, passed an exceptionally Rubenesque lady driving a Harley. She was so big that visions of her would have jarred Capt. Ahab from a deep sleep. But she was at clearly at peace with the world and exhibited a big, easy grin that radiated volumes of "Life is Good" as she putted down the highway. In the few seconds that we viewed her, it was apparent that at least one human being was having fun. She was only moments ahead of our version of fun.
"Are you comfortable with the fuel situation?" Mike had asked that morning. He was very diplomatic when he asked, wondering if Eric was actually going to try to fly the airplane with both tanks registering "EMPTY!"
Having speared the earth like a giant lawn-dart in a Tri-Pacer once in his life because of a "fuel situation", Eric has always paid close attention to that subject, including a visual inspection of both fuel tanks on this Sunday morning. Eric confirmed what most pilots know: Fuel gauges are meant to read very, very conservatively to prevent the hapless pilot from turning into a not-so-good glider at the wrong time. There was at least an hour and a half of fuel. That would be plenty for a 45-minute flight. The party winged their way from the Crazy Creek gliderport towards Napa and the region to the northwest, the realm of Atlas, the Peak, the Legend. Mike and Teresa scanned the rapidly passing landscape. The many mines, hiking trails and assortment of cool geology kept the crew glued to the windows.
Arriving at the Atlas Peak area, the three started to visually catalog geographic landmarks that would be critical information about ten ours hence. They circled several times following trails, dirt roads and open areas in the brush that would have to be transited. The goal was to start near Atlas Peak, ride up it and then begin a descent that would eventually place the Fools at the very east end of Rector Reservoir. Although the distance in a straight line was barely five miles, the terrain contained a "mini" Grand Canyon, the Haystack and terrain so steep that it turned to cliffs.
Several items were significant. First there was a burned area that marked the area of the starting point. (Classic moonride serendipity). Otherwise it would be difficult to determine the start point from the tiny winding road that eventually dead-ended near the peak. They noticed a couple of gray roads (stone) that led to Soda Canyon Road (highway). From the highway they would need to make a turn either at an intersection with an "X" within one hundred yards, or a turn where Cyprus trees lined the road. A hugely significant observation was the white houseless driveway that dropped into a very rugged area. It appeared to be concrete. It was at least a mile long. From the airplane, things tend to look much more flat than they are. From the giant concrete circle, utterly out of sight from the world, a jeep trail appeared to drop off towards the lake. It stopped at the top of the cliffs which guarded access to the lake below.
The final stage of the plan was to swim the entire length of Rector Reservoir, floating the bikes on flimsy, cheap air mattresses. The sheriff wasnt part of the plan. However, when the funnometer gets stressed for extended periods in the red zone, something must be illegal!
Dennis would return along with Lindsey, Jim Wilson, Shawn, Mike and Eric for an exceptional outing on the mountain bikes. Jim parked his vehicle at the base of the spillway at Rector Reservoir. The six bikers piled into Mikes and Erics truck and drove into the mountains for a half-hour before coming to the end of the road and the start of the ride. The group managed to get riding nearly one hour before sunset. They would need the daylight to negotiate the first boony thrash down off of the peak. Twenty minutes into the ride, Jim noticed that he had spaced his helmet. A debate ensued whether he should return to Mikes truck to get it. He passed, taking the "Ill be careful" option. Even if he did return for the helmet, it wasnt there anyway. It was in his car at the bottom of the ride, hours away.
The aerial survey produced two distinct possibilities for the descent off of the peak. One would have the crew peel off of the ridge just before the summit and the other would find its way down past an obvious area of white rock. The view on the ridge prevented seeing clearly where the open patches of grass meandered through the buck brush. A navigational bummer could spell the blues, producing bike tossing and gnashing of teeth. Uncertainly led the group over the peak and to the white rock area. From there they picked their way slowly down the steep slope of Atlas Peak, sometimes in the drainage, other times in open areas on the flanks. Although it was slow, they managed to eventually find a secondary dirt jeep road.
They followed the jeep road hoping to contact one of the gray roads. Again the perspective on the ground, the disappearing light and the L-Factor forced a few unnecessary miles before eventually coming to civilization and bumbling onto a gray road. Bingo! Everything was going well. The lunatistas rode until the highway appeared. From there they had to find the critical right turn. All of the possibilities were gated drives. They rode on past the point that seemed correct. Soon they were rocketing downhill with a full view of Napa. They were headed down Soda Canyon. They knew that was wrong. Humm
After climbing back up a significant amount of altitude, they reexamined the possible turns. Nothing seemed obvious. Finally, Mike climbed over one of the gates and explored about one hundred yards worth of the road. Shazam. He found the "X". They now had a positive fix on the location and papers to ride. As the troops continued, the relative position of Haystack Hill stayed correct. The troop made one navigational error that cost energy and led to a house. Backtracking from there, they made their way further across the remote landscape.
"Ahhh haaa," The happy voice of Mike ahead indicated progress. We had made it to the concrete drive. From that point the roadway descended at a blistering rate. Much altitude was processed as the group jammed down the strange drive. A large circle of concrete was at the end of the road. Surprising to Mike and Eric, the terrain actually ascended to beyond the concrete pad. This setting seemed surreal. It was completely out of sight of any road, house or terrain that would yield a view of this unique place. They imagined black helicopters swooping in to meet stealth vehicles, exchanging something and quickly leaving. It had a clandestine feel.
After an extended break, the bikers reassembled for the next task at hand. That was to negotiate the cliffs that stood between them and Rector Reservoir. They followed the jeep trail to the edge of the steep terrain. At that point Eric suggested that they go left. The view of the terrain from the airplane indicated a possibility there, but Mike was concerned that we could end up trapped at the very end of that leg of the reservoir in funk, seaweed and non-navigable water. They skimmed across the top of the cliffs looking for a place to descend. Finally they arrived at a crease in the hills that allowed a barely controllable descent down the steep, rock-strewn slope. It took the better part of an hour to hike-a-bike this part of the ride.
Eventually they arrived at the water. The lunatistas set about preparing for the Great Crossing. The air mattresses were inflated and the bikers went about the tricky task of balancing the bikes and all of their gear on these not-so-large, Wal-Mart-quality plastic rafts. Eventually there was over ten thousand dollars worth of bikes and gear precariously floating across the lake. Although the distance didnt even measure one mile, it took nearly two hours for the swimmers to make the crossing. Progress was slow, in part due to the fun factor. There was no huge rush and the experience of being out on the water under the full moon was beautiful beyond description. Friendly and whimsical banter carried across the lake.
For the most part the flotilla remained near the shore in case of any Titanic type disaster. However toward the end of the float, they began to take a more direct route towards the spillway. This put them in the deepest part of the lake, a part where retrieval of a sunken bike would be very unlikely. Nothing sank and the lunatistas arrived at the dam end of the lake.
Now cold, several of bikers stretched out on the concrete, still warm from the days solar energy. Finally able to move again, they put on clothes and prepared for another spike on this charts table of fun. The spillway drops steeply towards the valley below. After one hundred yards or so, it drops steeper. At the bottom of the spillway there is a lip that thrusts upward to launch water into a boulder pit. A loss of brakes on this part of the ride would equal death.
In the neighborhood of two in the morning, the riders stood at the bottom of the terrain, exhausted from hours of non-stop enjoyment, problem solving and hard work. All that was left was the car shuffle. It would be another hour until the crew was back in the valley headed home. For Mike this evening included an encounter with the local sheriff who stopped Mike for excessive speed.
"May I see your drivers license please?" The officer asked
"Ahh, I dont have it on me." Mike replied, "We just finished riding our bikes from Atlas Peak."
The officers eyes narrowed in confusion. "You mean that you rode down Soda Canyon Road?"
"Ahh, actually no." Mike said, "We rode from Atlas Peak Road through the woods, over the peak, down through the bushes to the Haystack, down over the cliffs and then swam across Rector Reservoir. Thats why Im wearing a wet suit."
The officer was silent for a moment. This wasnt in the Sheriffs handbook. "Its illegal to swim in the reservoir." He stated.
"I know." Mike said.
The cop was confused. The scene was too much for him to process. Mike obviously wasnt inebriated, he did have the wet suit on and Shawn was attired in his biking clothes. Eventually after checking to make sure that Mike wasnt Public Enemy #1, he released the two.
Most of the bikers hit the sheets near the four oclock hour. In addition to being a scintillating evening, this ride represented the final leg of the moonrides that have covered the mountainous area between Napa and Cloverdale, a distance in the neighborhood of 75 miles in a straight line. It was a classic offering of grace from the lady of the night, La Luna.