The unmistakable beam of the sheriffs spotlight stabbed the sides of the three vehicles parked on the berm of Highway 128. While most of the eleven riders bailed off the side of the highway, attempting to avoid being seen, Mike was inside the escape limits and confronted the officers.
"We had a report of someone hanging off of a fence out here." One cop said.
"Well," Mike said trying hard not to broadcast any possible involvement, "It sure wasnt one of us."
That seemed to satisfy the cops and they drove off. Shawn had to climb all the way down to the river to retrieve his rope bag that he tossed. He didnt want to get caught with evidence that he may have had some hand in the placement of the sign.
After the cops had gone, the next step on the mission was to simply descend the embankment by the side of the road and hike up the opposing hillside. Seemed like an easy concept, yet the steepness of the bank was grossly underestimated. The result of this misperception resulted in the SLIDE-FOR-LIFE event that all eleven riders experienced. It was major L-factor as one after another Bikin' Fool participated in the very questionable mode of descent for this particular twenty-five feet of hillside. Almost any other option would have presented way less potential for serious, body-tweaking stackage. The hill was mostly scree. With one downhill step, the loose nature of the medium acted like ball bearings and gravity shot the hapless Bikin' Fool at high velocity towards rocks and trees at the rivers edge. All of this was in darkness. What was truly amazing about this scene was that each fool seemed compelled to undertake an overtly stupid act when logical, safe alternatives were nearby. Perhaps it was in part due to haste in wanting to create distance from the cops. The group needed only to get a few feet into the woods on the other side of the creek to be safe from the ravages of the civilized world. Once into the boonies, the sense of having slipped the surly bonds would take hold.
Major slippage of reality occurred more than once on this evenings outing. Once the rider had completed the Alice in Wonderland slide down the bunny hole, he was then greeted with having to de-shoe and wade through knee deep water for twelve feet to the other side. Once upon the further shore, uncontrollable euphoria visited the attendee. This joy was not doubt a reaction to having faced a dire life-threatening experience and surviving. Interestingly this part of the ride was predicted to be rather routine, drab and simply a campaign to cover a certain ridge line in the moonlight. Yet, it was off to a great start as the cops/slide-for-life caper was the second major event of this unique evening. In fact, many notable events and major adrenaline spikes occurred prior to the lemming event.
Eric overheard Lindsey, who has never been on a rock, say that he was interested in trying a rappel down over the 100-foot sheer face of the "un-climbable" rock. Making this otherwise simple rappel quite difficult is that it has to be started by climbing over a fence, then "free" climbing down to a point where the rope will take the weight. Not an ideal launching point for a zero time novice. But that is really what the L-Factor is all about. Somehow knowing that it is OK to take risk. The reward is a generous application of adrenaline. Watching Linz prepare for this death-defying act was similar to watching the space shuttle launch. 10 9 8 7 No matter what, it was known that this event would more than likely succeed but with a notable level of entertainment. Linz stepped over the fence and over the edge (again). As he struggled to get in position, a sketchy quality began to settle about the event. He was struggling to get his balance, to transition to the rope. The eight people at the top of the wall last saw Linz listing hard to starboard as he disappeared over the edge in concert with scrapping sounds on the wall.
So also did Dennis get to do a rappel for the first time. He fared slightly better than Linz and went back for seconds and thirds, each time with more dancing and playing. Jim Korte performed another pinwheel eyeballs act by rappelling without a rope. Well no it wasnt quite that bad, but he did seem to think a harness was a waste of time. Shawn wasnt climbing for fun. He was on a mission. He had to labor with several pieces of equipment, fix himself on the rope to be stabile so that he could perform operations that required much the same tactics as repairs to the space shuttle in orbit. Michael rounded out the climb mission with a heavy pack, a pesky grin and a green sign.
During the time that the eleven lunatistas were attending part A of the evenings event, Jim K. became bored and decided to go down to the fence by the road and practice his pommel horse routine. As a car approached, Jims dismount would have been totally groovy but his foot got stuck in the top of the fence and left him dangling upside down staring into the lights of the passing car.
The evening finally settled into a dull roar of heavy breathing when the crowd headed into the hills on the south side of Maacama Creek. It was several hundred vertical feet to the upper regions. The woods were generous with room between trees and bushes for the climb up the steep hills. For the better part of a half-hour, the Bikin' Fools trudged up the steep, soft earth carrying their bikes. Expecting to find open, grassy hills the Bikin' Fools found that the scourge of viticulture had visited the beautiful mountains. Nature had been cast asunder in favor of Americas "legal" drug, a raunchy substance sour on the palette and bane to the well being of its user. Despite all of the hyperbole surrounding the Wine Country, this region remains as a testimony to the pathetic hypocrisy of the drug war and the willingness of humans to trash the earth in pursuit of alcohol dollars. As a solemn overture to the Good Mother, the Great Spirit and to the communal well being of the entire world, the Bikin' Fools convened a prayer meeting for the purpose of ameliorating the bad juju created by the goons who currently have the power in this out-of-control society.
To ensure that the funnometer stayed pegged, shortly into the vineyard section, the fools were confronted with a bike toss event. While trying to stay out of the cultivated areas, the trail next to the tall deer fence ended in a tangled mess of fallen trees and brush. One by one the Bikin' Fools launched their bikes over the obstacle and struggled to the other side to retrieve the flying machines. Finally the path next to the vineyard became fruitless. A fence crossing was required. Again some chose to fly their bikes over the ten-foot high fence. Miraculously no bikes required repairs after this event.
The crowd climbed higher and higher into the hills. The vineyard alternated between soft, fluffy dirt and easy-to-ride hard pack. On one particular steep section, Austin elected to try to ride the hill while everyone else hiked. On a roll, showing deft that defied his recent absence from the sport, he was about to top the hill when he had only to pass Jim Korte who was carrying his bike. In an attempt to burl through Jims bike, Austin wheelied into a 270 degree pirouette and crashed to the ground still pedaling like a wind-up toy that wouldnt quit.
Jim Wilson was to experience a ride on a real bike as he exchanged his regular heavyweight for a Santa Cruz. He was seen making fewer stylistic dismounts.
Lindsey discovered the reason that deer stand on the other side of the fence and stare at the grapes. With the sugar in the fruit approaching the number 25, these varieties taste supreme straight off the vine. The crew grazed for a time on the left over fruit that had escaped the first picking.
As the hour grew late, Sean placed a call to his wife to ensure continued domestic tranquility. It didnt work. He returned to the group mumbling something about a "bad connection". In his scheme of things, he has a limited window of opportunity to experience life outside the marriage without creating undue hardship.
As the terrain began to fall away from the high country, Mike explored the mega chute that lead off the hill. This very steep, straight descent required aft positioning of the body to keep the rider from going over the bars. A road wound down the same area. Most of the riders stayed on the road. At this point, a decision needed to be made as to whether to try for the bald hills or to bail downhill towards Knights Valley. With eleven riders navigation often becomes a matter of following the pack. Such was the case at this juncture as several riders shredded the road downhill.
Jim Korte continued to shred ahead of the pack on the downhill part of the ride with Dennis on the no-suspension Ritchie nipping at his heels. There existed the stealth left turn somewhere on this road. Long before the Fools were ready for it, the ride was suddenly over. Although the participants were prepared for another hour or two of wearily schlogging along, Franz Valley Road abruptly appeared.
Only the five-car shuffle had to be completed as the finale of this event. Austin and Ryan opted to ride back to Calistoga. Michel would make the arduous drive all the way back to Berkeley. The others vegged while cars were retrieved. It was another example of how the universe holds surprise and creative new offerings. The eleven riders completed the excursion with a sense of gratitude for again being allowed access to the Lunar Fantasyland. It was epic.