The Brothers Milanes
Adventures in the misty moonlight of the Ancient Trees
The Calistoga area contingent making serious preparations for the ride
An incredible number of fourteen people assembled in Arcata for a unique weekend. It would involve a romping reunion of friends and family and would host a phenomenal, moonlight bike ride. The ride would slash across the history of moon rides as one of intense beauty and sweet, frivolous drama.
For weeks there had been talk of a North Coast moonlight ride. The confluence of several factors led to grease the wheels of this concept. The moon was nearly full on a weekend. Auriahs brothers Jonah and Stephan were visiting from Southern California. Austin, Cirrus, Eric, Shawn, Jim K. and Alfred, a rookie rallied from Calistoga. Davie, having spent many of his younger years at Montesol and another rookie reappeared after a 14 year stay in Hawaii. Ryan Gracy reappeared in the picture after several months of globe trotting. Doctor Die jumped at the chance to be involved. The Castle Family, Morgan, Lucy and Azul, was on hand to supercharge the senses. Together this gathering would to re-enter the realm of the mystical lunar zone.The experience would be extraordinary and intensely poignant.
Ever concerned about hygiene, Azul bathes before the event
The plan, originally, was to cruise north of Arcata to Prairie Creek. But as the party raged on, there was talk about a shorter, easier ride near town. A review of beer sales in Arcata for this weekend would likely indicate a sharp, upward spike as the bikers reveled hard in the joy of so many friends and family all in one place. Soon there was talk of no ride at all. At some point in the evening, Auriah started making the rounds much like a responsible parent and suggesting that the bikin fools needed to fulfill their obligation to undertake a special ride.
A shorter, warm-up ride was undertaken earlier in the afternoon by most, while Shawn and Eric waited for the pizza to be delivered. With three massive pizzas, more beer and camaraderie off the charts, it seemed a daunting task to rally this many people. Yet fourteen bikes worth more than the truck were heaped into the bed of Jims vehicle. Five plus Azul rode in the cab. Seven others mobbed the rental Durango while Eric and Dr. Die toured in comfort in the Beemer.
$40,000 worth of bikes in one load
The weather was a factor all week. The perfect, clear weather came to a major change when the sky became cloudy on Friday and rain arrived on Saturday. The rain threatened to cancel the event. However, the weather recovered during the afternoon to provide the evening with an interesting offering of a wispy, moist and fluid atmosphere. The moon played hide and seek as the crowd drove the thirty miles north to the Redwood Park.
The bikes were unloaded and motion began to awake. Several riders performed the required wheelie maneuver across the parking lot while others stretched and made final preparations for the event. Ryan would wow the bikin world with a concept never before seen on a major ride. He would pedal his Heckler over this class V event in Birkenstocks. Having platform pedals would have been a huge plus for the lad, yet he managed to find the tiny Look pedals often enough to make the bike move across this monstrous ride.
Riders gear up for adventure
Although there was some familiarity with the route, confusion reigned as the fourteen struggled to find a common direction at the start. Several factions split and insisted on knowing the way. Pandemonium ensued as the energy began to pulse into the yellow zone early. Several laps were made on trails near the ranger station as if trying to lobby for a bust. The leaders returned to the cheesy map several times only to try to figure out what was meant by the big arrow that stated; You are here. When it seemed that no one knew what was going on, somebody discovered nearby a trail sign that plainly indicated the trailhead to Fern Canyon.
All doubt disappeared instantly and the group spontaneously fused with the glorious energy of being oriented on a mission in new territory, in a serenely stunning setting. Right away the group was offered an audience with the Ancient Ones, the sentinels of life, of beauty and eternal wisdom. Humongous old growth redwoods towered into the misty sky. Their bases spanned length so big, it seemed other worldly, as if in a fantasy land. The spirit of the woods enveloped the lunatistas like a warm coat from the cold.
Austin, Lucy and Stephan in the woods
For the next several hours the group would pick their way across the landscape. The trail varied from well lit, beginner easy to pitch black, root wad hell. Everyone would pay fun tax, but none came close to Alfreds attempt to actually fly most of the ride. Alfred made much of the passage without his bike. At one point he successfully completed a full gainer, layout position dive off a fifteen foot ditch. His guardian angel, fearing injury, breathed a sigh of relief when he landed in the water and not on the rocks.
The fourteen riders strung out through the woods. If one stopped for a moment and listened, the sounds of drama echoed in the woods. Bikes bounced off roots, bikes hit the ground, cleats clipping in and out (except Ryan), grunts and sounds of joy filled the usually quiet woods. The local critters had to wonder. If one stopped and took a moment to look around, it was unreal. It was a sight that very few people ever have the privilege to experience. The magnificent trees reached high towards the heavens enveloped in the swirling mist of the cool night. The moonlight descended towards the ground in silvery shafts of dancing energy.
Jonah navigates the forest
The trail was lined with numerous bridges and wooden walkways. Jim would revel in this passage, having been, years ago, involved in building the same structures. As the trail neared the coast, a few options appeared. A loop around Fern Canyon caused some confusion. The group splintered (more than usual) and it took some time for all of the attendees to reach the beach. Just before exiting the woods, a token Elk, with a big rack stood as if in a petting zoo, immediately adjacent to the trail. He stared statue-like even as Eric stopped and took a picture. There was concern that the flash might cause the huge animal to go postal, but he just stood there, perhaps wondering why he was seeing only a large purple dot.
"What the ....."
The group reconvened at the picnic tables at the beach. Happy banter, beer and laughter filled the night. No one, nor no bikes were broken yet. Each had many, many stories of the challenge, the anguish, the success and failure to clear the myriad of interesting situations that presented on the dynamic trail. A much better map was present at this location and a discussion of the return route followed. Morgan lobbied for more single track while more sane minds agreed that a smoother, rideable jeep road would better fill the bill.
Happy revelers at the ocean
The bike wad buzzed along the smooth jeep road under tall cliffs. Gears clicked into higher speeds not seen all night. All was great until Auriah sensed something awry with his crank. The crank bolt had departed and the crank arm was about to fall off. There was head scratching and suggestions as to the fix. Finally Shawn pulled a trick out of his bag. It was the Cool Tool chain press bolt that could be used (in an emergency) to replace the missing item. Although wobbly, it lasted the rest of the ride.
After several miles of easy riding, the group reached the planned turn to an official bike trail. However, just as the group was about to make the turn, Davie arrived with a wobbling front wheel and a loose crank. The wheel was easily fixed, but the crank issue would be resolve with a heroic effort by David to ride with only one pedal for the last several miles. This easy, mostly downhill passage offered a fun romp through an area of woods that was mostly dark. The trail was occasionally wet and muddy causing the bikers to deal with unusual, sketchy traction in the dark. Jim and Ryan opted for the longer return loop, claiming it would be faster. Everyone reached the end of the ride at nearly the same time. Slight navigational anomalies caused some fragmenting of the group at the very end, but each finished strong.
The ride contained so much benediction it overwhelmed the senses. The funnometer pegged early in the weekend as the lunatistas gathered to celebrate all aspects of joy and adventure. The fourteen riders penetrated the dark woods and entered into a zone so special that words falter in painting the glorious landscape of the extraordinary experience. Each bonded with beauty and truth well beyond the meager offering of this otherwise ordinary living. The ride provided the forum to have audience with the most gracious, rare and compassionate Lady of the Night, La Luna. The memory will forever buoy the spirits, even in the darkest of nights.