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The Ice Capades

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Nature's offering for the day


Sunday morning, January 15th was the coldest morning of the year. The thermometer rested way down on the 15 degree mark in Middletown as Eric (A.D.) arose to prepare for the scheduled bike ride. Preparations were more along the line of getting ready to go snowboarding than bike riding.

Eric S. had called indicating that the Marin contingent would be only himself and Lisa, recently back in the neighborhood from Cuba. A.D. had talked to Kelly in passing on the Oat about the ride, but didn’t really consider that he would show up. In addition A.D. managed to have a major senior moment in forgetting that Michel, the most needy of a bike ride would be attending. It was only when A.D. drove past the trailhead and saw Michel that the brain synapses finally fired. Standing with Michel was Kelly.

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Riders soak up sun and fun

The plans had changed back and forth. A.D. requested a meeting at RLS, but then changed his mind when he decided it wasn’t a good day for the dogs. Good thing! Heaven only knows what might have happened to Michel and Kelly had the RLS plan stayed in place. However, the required car shuffle complicated matters making an Oat hill trailhead the simplest method to deal with the issue.

Michel had been A.W.O.L. (Away With Out Levity). Duties around the family, a new house and his job (one of the few bikin’ fools with a job) kept him from indulging in the realm of the Wholly Spoke.

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Kelly deftly shreds the Rock of Sages

With all of the confusion put to rest, the riders assembled at RLS and began the ride. The ground was crunchy from frost and the wind howled through the trees. Although bitterly cold, the sky was clear and the sun was bright. The group quickly warmed as the tough climb forced the cyclists to work off the altitude.

Eric S. was the appointed trip leader. He was in training to master the ride and the landscape. He made all of the possible wrong turns. In the process he learned the trail in a way that isn’t possible when riding with the pack.

The ride proceeded nicely across the park, across the transition to the Wild Lilac and down the trail, including the Rock of Sages, where one becomes instantly enlightened when watching their life pass before them on this scary, huge, exposed rock. The trail on the W.L. was frozen into an interesting composition of ice and dirt. Sometimes the tires rolled easily across the hardened surface, other times whole chunks of the frozen earth broke up making the passage sketchy. The parts where the trail is in the creek bed, normally flowing with water were frozen solid. One could have ice skated vast sections.

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Michel in awe of the mini ice catheral

Due to the freeze, the water in Van Ness creek was low and easily crossed. The ride up to Bear Valley was pleasant. The wind was not a factor, the temperature had climbed and the sun was brilliant. Eric led the troops on to the next interesting feature of the day. The second crossing of Van Ness occurs at the top of Bear Valley and is usually easy. Today the crossing was frozen over with a sheet of ice. It looked treacherous though there was the usual line around the edge of the hazard. A.D. dabbed but didn’t get wet. Eric, who usually cleans this item, stalled and fell backwards into the brush that contained about six inches of water, burrrrrr….

It was Kelly who would provide the memorable event of the ride. His attempt to navigate the tricky challenge met some resistance. In the process of loosing his balance, he put his foot on the ice and performed something close to a figure skating move. He did a cool split and ended up falling backwards into the middle of the pool of water. Surprisingly the ice didn’t break. But, he was momentarily stuck, unable to make any traction while the ice slowly began to creak and break. Moments before disaster, A.D. was able to lend a hand to pull him off the sinking ice.

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No break for Eric's guardian angel on the teeter toter

The next official stop was at Pocai Camp. The group took an extended break basking in the intense sun and enjoying a variety of eats and drink. The section after Pocai is cruelly steep. After a meal and a period of leisure the Igneous Meadow is a formidable challenge. It was a challenge that most of the riders would have walked, except that Lisa managed to power up the hard climb as if she had been in training and not in Cuba.

The ride to the Holmes place was pleasant and relatively uneventful. Again the group stopped at the top to soak up precious sunrays and bask in the glory of being in such a beautiful place. The ride down the upper section is always tough, but several riders were able to clean the section. The pack decided to add the full option package to the already massive ride. Starting at the saddle, the group processed, one by one, the myriad of cool single track options that parallel the Oat.

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The final descent to Calistoga

The ride finally spilled off the hill and into La Prima pizza where Lisa would wait and watch the bikes while the car shuffle took place. It was then time to raid the Calistoga Inn for beverage and food. The joyful day drew to an end. Each rider took from the ride a sense of gratitude for the fantastic great luck that allowed the five to have so much fun on this fridged January day.