Bovine Intervention

 

The March ‘06 moonride was in serious jeopardy. The unseasonably cold and wet weather was poised to derail the event. Recent snows blanketed most of the routes that had been suggested. As Eric drove towards Calistoga, snow fell on the mountain pass. Cal Trans trucks stood ready plow the rare white, cold snow. The sky was a thick, dark overcast. It showed little signs of relenting.

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Cedar St. Brewpub hosts preparations for the March moonride

As the attendees began to arrive at the Cedar Street Brewpub, a slight break in the heavy cloud cover was noted, though the sky remained mostly full of dark, threatening, moisture laden clouds. Sebastian had driven all the way from Portland, much of the trip was through rain. It seemed like a washout was about to befall the moonlight riders. Michel was champing at the bit to ride with the pack and shed, for a moment, the albatross-like trappings of modern day living. Lucy drove through rain and funk from Humboldt to volunteer for the shaky looking event. Dr. J. announced that he would be up for anything, which included a ride directly to the Calistoga Inn, which would be an epic; the shortest ride on record. Jim lobbied for an event in Knights Valley. Eric tried to ascertain the area most likely to be of decent passage. Lindsey worked feverishly on his bike. Shawn suggested the Mt. St. Helena downhill.

Everyone transferred to the shop for the final moments of confusion. By this time, La Luna had made a very nice entry into the night sky. In the east, the clouds had dissipated and allowed the nearly full moon to shine in her glory. Somewhat buoyed by the bright appearance of the Lady, the ride was announced: It would be the favored default ride, the Mt. St. Helena downhill. The eight riders and bikes packed into the van and drove to RLS.

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Eight riders and bikes pack the van

The riders assembled at the parking lot and made the final adjustments before heading into the lovely woods of the park. A young dad was showing his three year old daughter the snow in the dark. “See how much fun it is!” He grinned. She didn’t seem convinced. The riders proceeded into the forest and up the trail. Snow lined the sides of the route, yet was not an issue for riding. The jaunt to the Stevenson’s place was routine. The transit across Silver St. produced no surprises. The octet pedaled with abandon across the Silverado Ranch road as the remaining clouds continued to dissipate.

The group traveled to the headwaters of the Napa river. This was the planned dinner spot. However, with light winds and a better view, the group proceeded to Turk’s Head to build the fire. Each rider had carried a small amount of Midnight Door scraps. The wood, imported from France, provided a nice, hot fire to cook the food and keep the revelers warm in the sub-freezing temperatures. Food was provided by the Rolling Deli and others. The Portabella mushroom won the top honor for taste. The apple smothered in Maple syrup was a close contender.

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Contender for culinary honors

Eventually the dinner party came to a close. By this time all clouds had serendipitously vanished from the night sky. The moon shined bright on the steep flanks of the mountain. The riders assembled and began the ride downhill. The first section contains Nature’s experimental effort to resist passage by bikers. The California Buckthorn had become thick and nearly impenetrable. Fortunately the section lasts a merciful short distance. Once past this obstacle, the namesake of the ride appears. The steep, sharp drop off the side of the mountain is thrilling and hazardous. Most of the riders made the passage without dire incident. Once at the bottom of the drop, the course heads across the hills along the contour line. The steep hillside provides only a narrow ledge to ride. This part of the ride is well exposed to the moonlight. The riders made steerage along the trail. The wooded sections were actually in good condition. The brush was not overgrown and only a few places suffered erosion. The group headed towards the vaginated tree, the scene made famous during the Vagina Moonologue ride.

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Famous Vaginated tree growth

On this night, however, it would not be the intricacies of woody growth, but the preceding visit from the bovinistas. Jim was the first to encounter the bottomless wallow. Jim’s heroic effort to dyno across the muck resulted in a front wheel stick and subsequent relocation of Jim’s upright body to a horizontal positioning in mud that was three feet deep. Others followed with less dramatic results. This was the beginning of the cry-fest.

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Jim experiences unusual stress on the ride

The ride across the high hill gave some momentary relief from the muck. At the bottom of the hill, the riders assembled for the last meeting of the ride. The road seemed good and the spirits soared as the riders jetted downhill. It was hoped that the cows had somehow not been on the remaining part of the ranch road. Just about the time that one began to relax, a huge mud hole lurked in the middle of the road. Everyone nearly stacked. For the next mile, the riders would schlog through ankle deep goo too thick to consider riding except on the steeper downhill sections. Then, one could only go as fast as possible to plane across the surface of the mud.

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Mike sinks into the schlog

Finally, the last climb towards Chino Flat enabled the riders to finally depart the mucky ground for less walking and more riding. The descent into the valley produced freezing temperature. Everyone suffered from cold feet, with the exception of Linz who had hermetically sealed his feet with duck tape. Low lying fog greeted the riders as they pedaled back to the shop.

The ride was an enormous success considering how bad the weather looked at the beginning of the day. Eight riders gathered to celebrated the spirit of adventure. This event offered the attendees a chance to jump momentarily into the void, to allow the universe to take over and to ride the rip-curl of chaos and pandemonium.

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The French Connection enjoys the soft light of the campfire