Nick trying hard to avoid a stack into the star thistle
The July 09 moonride started slow. Initially there were only a couple of takers, with Eric trying unsuccessfully to bail on the operation. However, when Linz called expressing his usual, uncontained enthusiasm for the moonrides, Eric relented. Patrick had mentioned days earlier that he was willing to throw all caution to the wind and participate so long as the ride would be over before he was required to be at work the next morning. Matt indicated he was coming (apparently meant something else) but failed to show. There would be five virgins to the moonride experience. Mario and Nick showed up from the Calistoga Bike Shop. Archie and Karl who were visiting the Napa Valley just happened to find out that day from the bike shop and thought it might be fun. The seasoned veterans included Dr. J., Tony, Linz, Jim K. (had to pull out the stops at home to get a pass ), Dave F., Aaron and Eric (A.D.).
Riders enjoying a barbecue at the shop
Dr. J's effort to push the St. Helena Downhill was met with considerable resistance. Eric lobbied for the Wild Lilac lite, while Jim offered up the KVR ride. It was reasoned that the trail would be thorny, overgrown, dry and sketchy. Dr. J. was not swayed. In the midst of the debate he was heard grumbling; "St. Helena Downhill!) He finally won after a vote in which he counted himself five times.
Some of the riders weren't happy with the seating arrangement
As people continued to arrive, it was obvious that the van wouldn't hold the entire entourage. The twelve bikes and seven people squeezed into the van while Nick took the rest in his truck. There was concern about the five-minute-per-person-per-hour delay syndrome. It wouldn't happen on this night. The group was swift, skilled and properly tuned.
Van disgorges a full cargo of fun
The sun had just set as the group began the climb up the switchbacks to Robert Louis Stevenson's cabin site. Concerns about the virgin's performance was quickly dashed as the entire group shredded the first part of the ride.
Karl heads up the trail ser snell (very fast)
Patrick floats up the hill with his pack of orbs (created by joy and merriment)
Archie finds himself immersed in unlikely fun
The group paused only briefly at the RLS cabin site. The twilight was idea for the passage. The moon had just arisen while there was still light from the setting sun. The passage was easy. The crowd scrambled down a steep drop, then across Silver Street to the paved road to Turk's Head. For some bizarre reason, the State had paved this unused, untrammeled section of the ranch road. It made for extra quick time as the group traversed the southwestern flank of the stately lady, Mt. St. Helena.
First official safety break at the cabin site
The group made good time traveling to Turk's head. The usual waiting for stragglers didn't happen. It was a swift run to the Turk's Head meadow where the second required stop was made. From this vantage point, much of the Napa Valley can be seen along with Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. The moon was in a perfectly clear sky. She illuminated not only the passage, but the festivity, the frivolity and the camaraderie of the event.
La Luna watches over the pack at the Turk's head rest stop
The next part of the ride is notable for its thorny passage. The thick buckthorn resists attempts at passage. Jim managed to plunge over the side of the hill once, but came up unscathed. All of the riders would experience their own personal implantation to the ground at some point in the ride. Once past the hall-of-thorns the ride arrives at the namesake of the event. The grassy hill slopes gently at first, then becomes steep, then becomes steeper until it is virtually unrideable. Several of the riders refused to acknowledge the physics of the situation and rode the hill anyway.
Linz plunges into the void
The sidehill trail is one of the most serenely awesome scenes on the ride. At night, in the soft lumens it unfolds across the sight with dazzling beauty. The grassy hills cover much of the panorama accented by the lovely hills and distant valleys. All of the riders were able to handle this tricky section with deft and quickness.
Riders pause briefly on the extraordinarily steep sidehill trail
The ride continues across the open hills and into the woods. With limited light it was tricky at best to navigate the path. At times it was clearly better to not see what was going on with the terrain. There were places of great danger and steep drops.There were several downed trees that made for some serious struggle to get over or through. Yet the pack continued to make heroic progress to the vaginated tree.
Vaginated tree made famous in a previous moonride
It was at this point when the first bit of confusion reigned. The riders in front of the pack decided to go straight while others in back insisted that the climb over the hill was the better route. It was too late to recall the front runners so the contingent split in half. Six went into the woods and the other six climbed the grassy hills. It mattered not because they would all end up in the same place in about twenty minutes.
Orbs don't lie, Mario and Aaron are having fun
The riders continued on the last section of the outing. This part is mostly old ranch roads and other than thick stands of thistle is easily transited. The group selected Chino Flats as the last safety stop. It coincided with the only flat on the ride.
Somewhat flagged, but happy riders gather at Chino Flats
The ride off the hill was fast. The only slight glitch was the barbed wire at the gate which is usually easily climbed. On this night the riders would have to put slightly more effort into crossing the line back into the reality that most know.
Dr. J. crossed the gate carefully
The streak into town was swift and easy. There was only one police sighting and he apparently had better things to do. The group arrived at the shop just after midnight. The evening had been exquisite. The sky was clear, the temperature mild and the trail fair and just. The combination of participants created an elixir of sheer happiness and abandon. For a few brief hours the Bikin' Fools again slipped the surly constraints of average life and slid into the gracious realm of La Luna for a journey to a special arena where fun reigns supreme, where happy orbs shower the landscape and the spirit soars.
All smiles at the end