Into the Fog
February Moonlight Expedition
A moonrider struggles to make steerage towards the promised campfire
It was an epic evening, replete with virtually all the ingredients that could, conceivably visit the Lunatistas on a moonlight ride. It would be the hard core moonriders and Azul who were mercifully, the only ones summoned to endure the full-on lunacy that took the entire night to play out. It would be Dr. J.(Mike) Linz, Shawn, Jim, Morgan, and Eric. Eric would explore the world of single-speed bicycles. They would bear the slings and arrows of outrageous mt. bikin adventure and ford new frontiers in areas that only fools would consider.
This particular gig had its roots in the previous moonride where, due to something, the ride fragmented. All agreed that the pack would run as one cohesive unit on this special night. Shawn daringly showed up with Jake the Snake, his beloved 700 mm cross bike. The ride called was the Pomo to Pomo lost loop. The loop had been scouted earlier by Dr. J.. The ride would travel several miles through low lying meadows fringed with redwood forest, then begin a long climb into the folds of the coastal range topping out with a view of the ocean before rejoining the fabled Sizzling Tandor loop. The ride was advertised as mostly being on modern to old jeep roads. There would be some single track and a minor amount of boonie thrash to avoid the only dwelling in this remote area.
Shawn, Morgan and Azul ready to ride
Jim was the first to arrive at the campground. He would wait impatiently while the Calistoga contingent frantically tried to get out of town. Lindsey motored hard from Sebastopol and would arrive at nearly the same time as the others at the remote campground near Jenner on the California coast. As luck would have it, the campground gate was wide open for the takers on this winters night. The six riders made final preparations and hit the trail under the guidance of Dr. J., the only person who had transited this territory. The parking lot was wet and a precursor of things to come. Much of the beginning of the ride was on nearly level ground. The previous torrential rains had rearranged much of the earth, created barriers and was soft in many places.
Lindsey was the first victim. As the riders proceeded single file, a voice ahead called out; Stay to the right, uphill!
It was a nice gesture for those at the rear, but Lindsey was, on this night, En Feugo. He was running at the front of the pack. Without warning he hammered at great velocity into a mud bogg. For a while Linz looked like a pro as he slipped and slid across the muck. However as fate would have it, somewhere something went terribly wrong. Linz and his bike parted company. There are certain types of crashes where one can emerge as a hero. Mud isnt one of them. For a brief, unforgettable moment, Linz was seen body surfing across the earth at a pretty fair clip. Getting wet and muck-slimed in the first ten minutes of the ride isnt high on the favored list.
Riders head into the adventure zone
Erics turn for humiliation was next. While pedaling through the forest, fate intervened with a stick strategically placed to lodge in the derailleur just at the point of great effort on the cranks. Despite slamming on the brakes at the first sour note from the drive train, it was too late to avoid the awful sound of the aluminum casting catastrophically failing. A meek attempt was made to get the busted piece to magically go back together, but for naught. Eric was a single speed for the rest of the ride. The good news was that the bike performed flawlessly, and the shifting strategy was greatly simplified.
Dr. J. continued to lead the way. He frequently noted; Yea, this is right, I remember this And the crew merrily continued on. Life was good at this point. The moon was high overhead, full and opulent. Some wispy, low lying fog laid in valley. The air was cold at the beginning, but warmed as altitude was gained from the valley floor. Despite the wet conditions, Shawns skinny tires performed well. He had no trouble rolling along with the mountain bikes.
Suddenly Jim said; Did you hear that?
I did. Morgan replied.
What was it?
Dunno, Jim said, But I think it might have been Sasquatch!
It was totally weird! Morgan conferred.
Linz powers up the grueling climb
The ride continued up a long steady climb through the redwood forest. The trees all grew in close circles around gigantic stumps. The ancient ones had been axed, and now, mostly, rest in landfills. Their glory and strength, their wisdom and beauty gone to sate the bottomless desire of those who cannot see a forest in its perfection. Doggedly the redwoods continue. On this night they hosted a contingent who shared and reveled in the pristine beauty of the landscape. The Lunatistas were being inoculated with the spirit of nature and sheltered by the boundless beauty of the night.
Wait! Dr. J. called to the front runners. I think we turn here and go across the meadow.
Seemed reasonable enough. The group crossed another fence and began a trek across a wide open grassy area. The moonlight was bright and the entire area was illuminated with the soft, delicate light. Navigation was easy. The six now hiked mostly up the steep hills. The next clue was to be a road to the right. Although there was a weak cut across the hillside, it didnt seem correct. The bikers continued uphill, towards the only light in the remote area. Eventually the riders approached a barn, turned and crossed the hill towards the crest of the ridge. A flock of sheep started to protest. Its their job. Besides, it gave Azul something to think about. The riders pressed close to the wooded area for stealth. Then a truck was heard. It seemed to be approaching from a distance, yet no lights were visible.
Jim after a rendezvous with Sasquatch on Brokeback Mt.
For the first time, the direction was not entirely clear. Mike no longer claimed to remember anything. Six varieties for the solution flowed forth. Eventually it was up to Dr. J.s intuition. The group retraced much of the meadow area and returned to the road that seemed to hold promise. It had the sense of going in the proper direction until it abruptly ended. Again chaos reigned. Some attendees were even heard to mutter discomfort with the notion that the group was stymied. It is precisely these grim moments that tap into the heart of the experience. Looking around in this very remote area and realizing that it might be a long, long night can evoke a variety of different reactions. Some love it. It is an opportunity to let go, to be open to anything and to trust in the universe. For others it is frustrating and uncomfortable to be out of control with ones destiny.
The group climbed back up a long hill. Another option was selected and this one bore fruit when Dr. J. proclaimed; Eureka! I remember this!!!
Now the riders proceeded with a sense of security and progress. Life was good again. It wouldnt last. As predicted the remote dwelling came into view. It should have been a simple bypass. But the landscape had changed dramatically in the previous half hour. Fog began to blow in from the ocean. By the time the group reached the dwelling, the fog was as thick as pea soup. The view was limited to only a few yards. Dr. J. strained to find a familiar landmark. It was so thick that it was impossible to determine the direction, short of a compass. Jim discovered a flat.
Crew takes a break while Jim fixes his tire
The wind blew fiercely as Jim undertook the repair. Lindsey took refuge behind a fence post while others dressed in their warmest, and last layers. The respite allowed some recovery. When finished with the fix, the group explored several fence lines. It was impossible to determine much without any distant vision. The group choice was to take the ranch road down to Highway 1. The jeep road improved and allowed fast speed. It took only minutes to reach the highway.
Along the road, two distinct camps formed concerning the rest of the ride. The L-Factor (being Lost) was now over. The route home was no longer in question. The choice was either a vigorous ride up the Pomo Campground trail, or simply return on the road. Eric used the single speed excuse, Jim used the Im over it excuse and Shawn had good reason to ride the road with Jake the Snake. An extended break occurred at the trailhead where the two groups would split. Morgan was the first be ready to ride. Energetically he urged the others to come along. Dr. J. and Linz never wavered from the original mission.
One by one, the holdouts relented. They would agree to subject themselves to another hour of fun and awe. Mysteriously all of the dense fog had moved away. The night sky returned to a thin, high layer of clouds. The moon was bright and opulent. The path shined in the magic light. This was clearly the correct way for all. Happy banter and occasional banshee screams marked this part of the passage. The landmarks passed at a rapid rate. It was nearly six hours after the start of the adventure. Now the riders could revel in the safety of home turf. The single track is mostly rideable. It works uphill for most of the 2.8 miles. The trail is wet much of the time and mud rules the day.
Shawn goes pearl diving in the mud (note front tire)
Then the trail drops for the final time into the big redwoods. The light is subdued by the tall trees and the trail hangs precipitously on the edge of a frightfully steep hillside. It is of immense help to have someone in front. It can be nearly impossible at times to navigate alone. Several narrow foot bridges appear on the trail. Eventually the hillside yields to an old jeep road. At times the forest is so thick that the light is extinguished altogether. One can only continue until either they ride off the trail, or not. Speed is very slow and there is very little danger, yet the feeling of floating in the complete dark is fascinating. It is other worldly for brief moments until the faint shafts of moonlight again reappear to guide the trusting traveler.
The campground soon appeared at the bottom. The energized group immediately proceeded to start the campfire. Shortly a fierce blaze lit up the campsite. Food items were placed in the heat. Electrolyte beverage was consumed to help in the recovery process. A ton of food including asparagus, mushrooms, sausage, corn on the cob were cooked to perfection. The food was warming and well earned.
A much appreciated late dinner in the wee hours of the morning
In the wee hours approaching four a.m., the ride began the final phase. It was a long drive back to the various homes. The interesting and unique ride blazed into the chronicles of the moonlight travelers. It contained the full spectrum of possibilities. There was gnashing of teeth, grown men wept openly, there was mutiny, there was drama, wrecks and heroic riding feats. There was confusion that morphed into purpose and direction. There was despair turned to beauty. In the end, the riders would be recipient to the glory bestowed by the elixir of hard work, trust and good fortune. Eric, this time had the longest drive. When he finally put his head on the pillow it was 5:00 a.m., beating just slightly the first light of the next day.