The Freedom (66% French) Ride
The day after the ride, the e-mail from Michel read:
A compact bikin'fools pack yesterday (Mike,Sebastian and myself) but a nice outing in the cold!
Sebastian heads into the darkness
As the weather got gloomier and gloomier, so did the mood in the general population of the bikin'fools. Sebastian, driving from Portland, once again experienced all the commercial hype of the phrase "sunny California". Michel was actually enticed by the harsh weather conditions, thinking that "you should ride no matter what", especially with a good mountaineering gear which fits you well and makes you appreciate Mother Nature in a friendly confrontational way; when She does not "cooperate" you deal with it. Anyway, after a pre-electrolyte therapy at Mike's place, with all the cheerful encouragement of Shawn, Lindsey, Kevin (or did they feel sorry for them?) ...a compact bikin' fools pack departed around 7:30 pm to face the elements : Mike, Sebastian, and Michel. For the first time in the eventful bikin' fools history, there was a majority (66%) of French speaking participants! But is it of any help to cope with the cold and the rain, except for the privilege of cursing in two languages?
Michael dressed for the elements
Anyway, the natural route to take was the much loved local trail. The rain was in and out, temperature was in the high 30's. Pace was slow and regular, but the terrain tougher than usual with the wet conditions. At the rock, there was a well-deserved break. Then the trio decided to move further...but maybe 100 yards further, as a pretty nasty wind blew on this side of the mountain, Mike decided to stop. "I'm not going further tonight" which resembled a rendition from the take-no-prisoner stance of Mother Nature on that January night. Mike has been working a lot recently, but was also not fully equipped for the cold and wet air. His jacket was too thin and he had no gloves.
Michel's dream world; warm and dry
From then onwards, the rest of the ride could have been seen as a "retreat", a half-failure from the stairway to glory. However, there was an escape from shame and adversity, a way to end the ride with fun and dignity: the OPTIONS! They saved the bikers, bless them all! They were so sweet, some of them seem new to Michel, most of them were new to Sebastian. By day and in good conditions some stretches are already pretty technical. They were definitely not always ride-able. Maybe rookie Sebastian did not always assess correctly this technical dimension. He missed one turn on a section which has been bordered by big rocks. Michel was just above him on that steep slope and saw the extraordinary Cirque-du-Soleil-gone-wrong type of move, namely above the handlebars and ,usssh! landing on the soil, not the rocks. A much bigger corporal damage was avoided, but the fear factor became present.
Michel's reality: cold and wet
For the rest of the ride, it would give Sebastian this special feeling of lack of self-reliance which follows this type of nasty fall (unless you are Korte or one of these dirt devils who do not experience fear). The rest of the downhill was smoother, though, and this bunch of die-hards decided to make a little fire to warm-up and fully enjoy the ride. In the meantime, by the way, Mike's coldness was gone , Sebastian lent him 2 (different!) gloves he found in his backpack, and he felt much better. The group decided to stop under a tarp which has been attached to a stump along one of the options. The fire was not easy to start, but pieces of the stump, kept dry under the tarp, were precious in the process. This fire was so welcome, the rain had started again, but life WAS so good under the tarp!
They finished the ride in an exhilarating mood, and were back at Mike's place around 12:15 am , had a steak and red wine brought by the French Deli...
Merci la Lune, merci Calistoga!
Before; Tarpology and stump offers relief from the elements After: Tarp and stump returned to the elements