The Bikin' Fools
The Girl Scout Redemption Ride
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Sept. 22nd was hot. It was not necessarily a great day for a monster ride and I had not planned one. But I had a lingering sense of remorse for having bailed on the moonride a few days before. On that evening, several of us were unable to find the energy to complete that epic event. I had the notion of being presented with a wonderful opportunity and saying; "No." It is often easier to say no, than yes. But it is in the affirmative response that allows the doors of life, of adventure to open. So in my mind I needed to complete a venture that was beyond the ordinary.
Riding up the Oat Hill mine road is no easy task. I struggled even on the lower stretches. By the time I got to the saddle I was feeling whipped. I worked hard to ride the lower baby-heads. I cleaned many of the obstacles, but eventually ended up walking far more than my ego would like. It took a great amount of energy to reach the top of the hill. I pulled into the Holmes Place and took a break. A light breeze had supplanted the searing heat. I took off most of my clothes and allowed them to dry in the warm, parched air. After munching on some trail mix, I began my journey again. The backside of the Oat was reasonably easy to ride, though I still didnt seem to have the power that I thought I should.
The backside of the Oat is fun cross country riding. It has many technical sections though none last very long and dont require the Herculean effort of the front side. I looked carefully ahead for any signs of hunters. It is still hunting season and tracks on the ground indicated the recent presence of the animal killers. Near the wind cave the tracks were more defined, though at least a day old. I passed through the area and made the turn towards cougar pass. This put me on the Livermore property and gave me a sense of being on more friendly territory. I proceeded to Pocai Camp for a planned stop. There I ingested an Emergen-C, some trail mix and drank most of the rest of my water. I knew that I could recharge my water at the tin cup spring in a few minutes.
I also took the time for a safety break. For the past two weeks I have been avoiding the steady ritual in favor of clarity (an overrated concept) What I discovered was a pleasant, easy feeling about my day and added enthusiasm for extending the normal Girl Scout loop. I had though earlier of riding to M-town, but now had the hot flash of going to the top of Mt. St. Helena. The food, the cooler temperature in the hills and the effect of the safety device conspired to turn my mind towards an extraordinary event. I began to ride with a sense of purpose. Now I was careful with my energy. I frequently quizzed myself about my strength and what reserves I may possess. I had noticed on the ride up the Oat that I was having a hard time in the technical sections. Yet I still felt pretty good. I think the touring that I had done during the summer sort of put me out of shape for the rigors of mt. bikin. Maintaining a steady pace was easy, struggling with the hard sections seemed to take a toll.
I stopped several times to perform some trail maintenance. There was a couple of sections that had branches over the trail. At another section I filled a rut that had been created earlier. I was in no rush and found that the breaks helped to restore power in my riding. When I reached Bear Valley I noticed very fresh truck tracks. But there were two sets, an out and a return set. The one set was very fresh and I wondered if I might catch up with the vehicle. I listened carefully and heard nothing. I proceeded to the tin cup spring and took another break. I drank lots of water and filled up my Camelback. Now I knew that I had to climb the Girl Scouts hill in good shape to be able to address the concept of climbing another 2000 vertical feet and five miles to the top of Mt. St. Helena. To slightly compound matters, Jim (manager of the camp) mentioned that campers would be present all week. So I elected to take the Crystal Mt. bypass to keep in good graces with the camp management. This difficult climb requires a significant descent, meaning that much of the hill has to be climbed twice, in effect.
Eventually I was able to spin the cranks up the lost toll road to the highway where I took another break. I ate an energy bar, drank lots of water and mentally prepared myself for another major workout. However, as opposed to the Oat Hill mine road, the fire road up the mountain was like a freeway. It was smooth, free of bumps and had zero technical challenges. My body responded to the drudgery of this simple peddling unlike the revolt I experienced on the upper section of the mine road, where the challenges are intense and frequent. On the mine road I frequently found myself draped over the handlebars, both feet on the ground, breathing at a rate that was over-max capacity.
Time was beginning to be a factor. I had taken many breaks throughout the afternoon. I performed several trail maintenance operations and took at least three bone-fide breaks. My original plan was a simple Girl Scouts loop. The G.S. loop alone is twenty four miles according to the GPS. Adding Mt. St. Helena addd another 10, making for long, arduous mt. bike ride. The motivating factor in part was the sense of missing the monster ride on Friday. My ego needed the strokes to reaffirm my minds concept of my greatness. (a highly subjective and debatable notion). What I found enroute, however was that the ride itself was the reward. Whether anyone was to know of this feat bore little importance in the end. What was truly significant was the major contact with the zone, that place where life is good, the world is beautiful and one has a positive and healthy sense of life even though fatigue is settling upon the body.
With the easier riding, the significant features of the mountain slowly slipped past. The first notable milestone was the old turnoff to the cabin where my wife and I spent six and a half years with our two little boys. Then no dogs lookout appeared. This point gives the first commanding view of the Napa Valley and all the way to the Bay Area. Bubble Rock is next. This popular climbing spot was at one time a huge ride for me. Now I rode past and wouldnt stop until two more switchbacks. Then I took my last break before the push to the top. I had heard that the south peak was closed due to the high levels of microwave activity from the dozens of antennas parked there. Now on the side of the mountain away from the sun, I had to guess how close it was to the horizon. I thought I had enough time, but not lots of extra. I pedaled harder than I would have otherwise. I made the last turn and chugged up the grade. Near the top I looked over the edge, as I had scores of times before, and looked down two thousand feet to the pad where our cabin used to stand.
I transitioned across the saddle, now able to see that I had plenty of time to climb the north peak. I did take one short cut, thinking it would save me time. The short hike-a-bike section proved to be more difficult than I anticipated, though it did get me off the saddle for a few minutes. Finally the approach to the north peak was my last task. Just before the final short ascent, there is a spur of mountain that juts to the north. It is on this section that a premier set of rocks stand poised over the terrain, perfect seating for viewing sunsets. The sun was about forty minutes from the horizon. I had to consider my options. To stay for the actual sunset would mean darkness towards the bottom of the mountain. I didnt care too much about darkness on the highway. The fog lines and car headlights alleviate that issue, but in the woods darkness can be sloooow going.
As the sun began its final approach to the end of the day, the sky began to change to an intensely beautiful palette of pastels in the orange/red spectrum. As I rode back across the top of the saddle, my shadow was clear and distinct on the hillside next to me. The dark red earth with the orange light created a scene that was worth the entire days effort. I began to have an intense feeling of benediction.
The descent was blazing. The smooth road, my good suspension and the energy conspired to create speeds in the sure-death portion of the funnometer. What took the better part of an hour to climb, flashed by in minutes. Instead of staying on the fire road, I peeled off at the hiking trail and rode the single track back to the parking lot at the top of the pass. There was plenty of light on the highway and even on the old toll further down the mountain. The last two miles into town were a nice cool down and transition back into another reality.
I had inadvertently slipped the surly bonds once again. This doesnt always happen, usually under extreme conditions, extreme luck or most often, in the light of La Luna with the Lunatistas. Today I was blessed, my bikin soul was redeemed from the sin of passing on most of the previous moonride.