The Bikin' Fools



Night Flight

There is a wall of reasons, logic and argument against going on a bike ride. Add to that winter, nighttime and very cold temperatures. The appeal dwindles immensely. Yet hidden in that unlikely scenario is a chance to find a hidden treasure. A chance to dart away from the norm and tap into… the beyond. It is not just a place, but an experience. As Auriah and I stood high in the hills looking down at Calistoga, we sensed that we were clearly on the other side of normality.

It would have been perfectly normal to stay home. The nearly round orb was high overhead as we pedaled through the cold air in the subdued light. Most people were at home, at that moment, watching television. Near the top of the ride we stopped and gazed at the twinkling lights of town. We became acutely aware of our status on the earth. We stood in the cold, warm from the vigorous exercise. The winter moon was high in its ecliptic and the sky was very clear. This was Auriah’s first moonlight mountain bike ride. It was by no means his first experience in the wilderness at night. It took him only a few hundred yards to adjust to riding with less visual input and to trust the path. (Or bash over the bumps he couldn’t see).

When we first discussed the notion of riding that evening, it was a very close call between the ride and veging. We talked about doing a rollers loop. This one-hour ride is ‘no big deal’. It was the first ride of winter, with temperatures in the mid thirties. The cold temperature makes for a challenging dress code. Too much is bad, too little is bad. Both Auriah and I did well. We were both warm without being hot, and had a layer to put on when we stopped.

The woods at night along the Oat Hill mine road are quiet, sometimes deep and always mysterious. A fresh lion track had been recently been spotted by a local biker and there is fresh bear scat at the Rock. Somehow at night, the woods seem to be filled with lions, tigers and bears, oh my! As modern humanoids, we spend virtually no time in the woods at night… especially without any lights. Yet there is ample light for reasonable bike riding. It is different and sometimes sketchy. The speeds are slower, mostly on the downhill.

All of these factors conspired with the prime ingredient of bikin’ to create an experience that was abnormally good. It wasn’t a very big deal really, but the slightly different slant on the same old ride created a valuable and memorable event. We traveled from the state of lethargy and flatitude to energized and happy. This one-hour afforded us a chance to flee the daunting realities of modern living and shed, for a brief time, all of its baggage We were grateful to have earned a small snippet of glory, if just for a vanishing moment.