Monday March 9th was set for the moonride. The day wasn't selected for its record cold temperature. It had to due with scheduling for other obscure reasons. Six intrepid volunteers dared to confront the winter-like conditions for what seemed a minimal reward. Yet, despite the non biking conditions the event materialized and grew into another fun and hearty outing. Sebastian contributed a mighty portion of enthusiasm by driving, once again, all the way from Portland to attend. Eric (Fuzzy) also made the choice to sacrifice the entire night for the ride, showing up for work the next day straight from the event (or very nearly). Dr. J. was the chauffeur and fire keeper. A rare appearance from Sean Large added to the insanity of the concept. It is rumored that he told his wife that he was going to the store. Eric (A.D.) was on hand to document the ride in the likely case that few would believe it. Linz was fresh off a weekend of wine tasting and primed to go big (big Redbull).
Five of the takers assembled at the shop. As the sun approached the horizon the van was loaded and the crew drove to Middletown to pick up A.D. Upon arriving at the helicopter pad there was discussion about where to start the ride. It was suggested that they drive to the campground and start from there. Usually these events travel on single track to Big Springs for dinner. However there was enough sentiment to bypass some of the single track and drive half of the forest. At the campground another decision was made to have dinner right there. There were picnic tables and a generous pile of firewood already on hand. Immediately the fire was tended to. The extremely cold temperature, estimated at that point to be near 30 degrees (0 Celsius). In defiance of the needs of the cold riders, the fire was reluctant to come to life. It took a vast amount of small twigs, pine needles, heavy huffing and puffing and finally a flare to encourage the flames to take hold and generate the needed heat to cook the food and warm the bodies
Despite Michel's non-attendance, the food offering was supreme. There were portabella mushrooms, sausage, salmon, lamb, baked garlic, roasted peppers, buttered bread and the ever present Beef Waddell. It seemed to take an extended period of time for the fire to be "cook ready". None the less, the food was heaped onto the inferno while the group swilled beer and whiled away the time in casual banter. Eventually items gained ready to eat status. The feast continued over the period of at least, an hour. The 10:10 jet was observed overhead (several times). The moon beamed with uncommon intensity. She rose with the energy and the fuerte of the March moon mission. The key elements of the blessed union were soundly in place.
It was tough to get the herd rolling. A certain camping, laid back atmosphere was dominant with the 'fools. However the mission at hand prevailed to get the group rolling. It took a mere 100 yards to get lost. Under A.D.'s direction the bikers were suddenly riding off road. The promised easy navigation suddenly was, momentarily in doubt. It took but a few minutes to regain some composure and the half-dozen happy riders were off on road 500. The consensus was to ride the fire road to Darrel's place, then take the Chutes turn off. This would eliminate a couple of hours of single track. The hour was already late. The ride to the end of road 500 was as pleasant as it gets. The moon was high in the night sky. Owls occasionally hooted in the woods. The ride proceeded gently uphill until the top.
The ride is legal until the gate. Thereafter for the better part of a mile, the road is in Darrel's territory. His house is just off the trail. Darrel is insured by Smith and Wesson. He also has dogs, who fortunately are sound sleepers. Adding to the dilemma is the condition of the road. It becomes steep and is badly eroded. It is nearly impossible to be stealth. The sextet descended, skidding, crashing and bailing down the hill. Miraculously no dogs awoke at the nearby, remote residence. The group managed to descend to the Chutes turn-off. Now the pucker factor disappeared (its presence being minimal). There was no possibility of being busted. The ride to the chutes is interesting and challenging. There is some rough, rocky parts then some smooth sandy, but steep downhill before climbing to the premier feature. The terrain is all buckbrush at this point. No trees are present.
The riders assembled at the top of the climb. "Where is the main chute?" Someone asked.
"I think it's over there." Another responded.
After some minor searching, Dr. J. suggested that we needed to descend to another spot. It worked. The six found themselves at the top of the main chute. One by one they dropped over the top. At first the drop didn't seem so bad. But shortly off the top, the straight down track looked more like a ski jump. It was too steep to stack. Whatever it took, one needed to summon the mojo to ride this scary section. Each made it somehow. At the bottom the trail climbs steeply, the drops for a bit then climbs again into the woods. At this point the single track becomes delicious. It descends through the woods, twisting, curving and frolicking down the west Harbin ridge. An occasional bump makes the riders climb for short distances before more scintillating single track.
The group chose two spots to take safety breaks. The first is an open pad that gives an unusual view of Mt. St. Helena and the entire geothermal power plant area and the Callyomi valley including Middletown. The second was at the sign which warned that the trail was very difficult. The next point of the ride was the Tea House turnoff. At this juncture the trail becomes unrideable for several hundred yards as it basically follows a badly eroded trail virtually straight down the steep hill. The trail mellowed at some point and became sort of rideable. According to plan the group stopped short of the resort. The bikes were stowed and the riders continued on foot to their well earned reward of soaking in the hot pools.
The moon shinned bright overhead as the riders enjoyed the mineral waters. Tragically the sauna was closed. Yet the very hot pool still scorched the scrotum and the medium pool provided countless minutes of sheer, floaty pleasure. The empty (of people) heart pool was just warm enough to hang for extended time. One had the feeling the entire resort was for the exclusive use of the Bikin' Fools. Eventually the well seasoned riders reassembled and took the very cold, four mile ride back to Middletown.
The car shuffle ensued while the four others zoned out in Austin's room. By the time the van returned it was near 3:00a.m. For once, A.D. had the shortest commute while the others had to drive at least over the mountain. Fuzzy would have to drive another two hours, arriving home just in time to get ready for work. The six riders conspired to enter the realm of fantasy, frivolity and sheer lunacy. The ingredients created an exceptional event once again under the watchful eye of La Luna. She was in fine form this time, giving to the Bikin' Fools a portion of grace, beauty and benediction of which few even know .
Eric ponders the wisdom of his decision to attend
Seb's lung power supercharges the effort
Flare to fire
Peppers ready to eat
Seb and Large in the cold night
Linz, almost invisible in the camos
Dr. J. climbs to the Chutes
Sebastian heads over the main chute
Break at the geysers overlook
A.D. attempts to become a human torch
Fuzzy appears out of the bush
Linz contemplates suing RedBull
Shadowy sign shines in the moonlight
Linz and Fuzzy slip and slide down the washed out trail
Headin' back into M-town
Miss Swift wistfully watches the van leave