McGuire Misery


The first Saturday in November seemed like a great day to ride. The weather was cloudy with a light drizzle. The temperature was in the low sixties, nearly ideal. Jim had lobbied for an extensive ride and suggested the Middletown to Calistoga effort, an epic under any circumstances.

The ride starts by crossing St. Helena creek. This time of year it has no steady flow. At Dead Horse flats Eric and Jim saw two pick-up trucks down the road. Would they see the bikers poaching the private property? The two rode hard to get out of sight only to see one truck reappear behind them. A choice was made to bail off the road into the brush and boonie thrash to the alternate trail that led uphill.

After a hearty series of climbs and efforts to penetrate fallen trees on the trail, the two finally contacted the dirt road again. Fresh tracks indicated recent passage by vehicles on the road. Shortly Eric stopped and said; “Jim, there’s someone up ahead!”

Jim pondered the situation for a moment then said; “Hell, let’s go talk to them.”

As Jim and Eric approached the pick-up they thought they heard someone yell out. The bikers continued past the two men who were in the process of cutting wood. Shortly past the two, Eric realized they had made a wrong turn and had to retreat past the two men again. There was some question whether the men had actually seen the two bikers. Jim and Eric rode up the proper road. No further voices, nor a chase ensued. Had the men even seen the two?

The nervousness was not yet over. There were fresh quad tracks on the ground, made that day. However at the gate, the tracks turned around leaving the rest of the way clean and unmarked. The bikers continued up the drive until they finally reached the trail that departs the more populated part of the mountain. From that point the paranoia about being on ‘private’ property dropped. Now the two could focus simply on the passage. It was not easy and it was not fun. The surface varied from soft to brushy. Much was overgrown.

The two worked up hill spending a huge amount of energy. The sky began to close. It became gray with not glimpses of blue as had been seen before. A light drizzle began. For another hour the riders continued up the steep climbs. Eventually they came to McGuire peak. There had been talk of taking a break there, but White point was now within striking distance. They decided to stop there instead. The talk turned to abandoning the original plan and jetting back to M-town. Near the old mine by the Three Peaks, Jim flatted. That in itself wasn’t too bad, yet unfortunately the road surface just prior caused mud to accumulate in thick wads on the tire. Changing the tube was a pain in the ass.

Now the two were over the ride. It was accepted that they would go back to Middletown. They worked the rest of the hill until they finally reached the county road. Jim suggested they go around the corner, find a spot out of the wind and take a food and fuel break. The drizzle was heavy. Water dripped profusely out of the trees. After twenty minutes or so, Eric asked; “Ah, you know we could ride Ansel ridge to the Cold Springs turn off.”

“It’s up to you Holmes.” Jim replied.

“Well, I’m feeling a little better and the riding will be much easier from this point.” Eric said.

“Well,” Jim replied, “If we’re going to do Ansel ridge, we may as well go all the way to Calistoga.”

Without really deciding what choice to make, the two gathered their stuff and began to ride. Within moments a vehicle approached. The driver smiled and passed by. No explanation or excuse or bust. Shortly the bikers turned off the county road and began the transit across Ansel ridge. The ride went surprisingly quick. There was no hesitation to continue towards Bear Valley. A tough section required much energy to cross, but led shortly to the drop-in to Bear. The steam was full as the two began the single track to the signpost.

The usual stop at Pocai was passed. The two trudged up the hard-to-ride rocky slope to Cougar Pass. The drop to the Oat was quick, though Jim was becoming noticeably tired. There was talk about stopping at the Wind Cave, but the light rain and now soaked riders knew they would have top keep moving to avoid becoming chilled.

There was no stop at the Holmes place. The two continued down the oat, processing the tough upper section on slippery, sketchy rocks. Eventually they made it to the saddle where the riding becomes much easier. Now it was just a matter of jetting towards the beer reward at the end of this wet, hard ride.

There was a Cirrus and Lilly sighting. They had braved the elements and were headed happily up the hill. The rest of the downhill flashed by until the very bottom where Jim experienced an unusual flat. He had jumped the rock just past the leaning tree. A sixteen penny nail has somehow managed to puncture the sidewall of his rear tire. It stuck in and out of the tire like a bad joke.

Finally the two rolled into town, into beer and into Shawn’s warm house where he and Lindsey were in the process of brewing beer. It was a nice finish to a questionable ride. The best part of the ride was that it was over. It is not likely that this ride will ever be done again.