La Luna attempts to dodge the clouds
The moon was as close to the earth as it would be in another 16 years. Its orbit carried it to a special intimate rendezvous with the earth, and in particular with the bikin' fools. Michel started the affair with a pleading to have the ride on Friday the 12th even though the previous evening had all the glamour of Marilyn Monroe. Thursday was crystal clear. The moon shone with uncommon brightness. Mutterings of a missed opportunity were heard. The weather forecast for Friday was rain showers, possibly snow.
The ultimate bike rack
As the fools gathered at the shop, wisps of clouds paraded past the moon. Rumor had it that Dan from CBO was in. Not only that, but he was bringing a virgin. Sweet talking Dan somehow convinced her that a ride in the boondocks at night without lights was a great idea. And, her forty pound, 2 or 3 speed bike would be just fine.
Eddie and Tone ready for adventure
Friday meant that many of the hard working fools would be able to attend. In fact it turned out to be a mob scene. Tone managed to bamboozle two more unsuspecting virgins into the sphere of questionable undertakings. Both Adam and Jason arrived in jeans (known to kill people in inclement weather) ready for what Tone promised to be a good time. He also managed to convince Edwardo, owner of Palisades Deli in Calistoga to come.
Adam and Jason sport daring cycling gear
Don't-taz-me-bro Siedel was on board to redeem bad chips from local law enforcement. After 50,000 volts, a romp in the cold rain seemed like a free pass to paradise. We'd hate to think that's what it takes to get Shawn on a ride. Dr. J. had a no-car shuttle arranged until it became clear that it would take more than the space shuttle to get the thirteen riders and bikes to the elementary school in Angwin.
As if the gathering crowd needed yet more energy and craziness, Dave the-downhill-Frame threw his gnarly ass into the caldron of broiling nuttiness. He would not tolerate any wandering from a routy, hilarious, rockin' good time. To be sure, he packed two forty ounce Red Bull's. Jim Korte was another beneficiary of the Friday event. He arrived primed and ready to go big.
Pre-ride tuning at the shop
Eric made the trek from Middletown and delivered the bad, sky-is-falling news to the gathered crowd; "Radar shows rain just north of here...." pause..." it could get wet...." pause..... blank stares followed briefly before the attendees returned to conversations as if uninterrupted. There was, for instance, no suggestion of a more reasonable, shorter event in view of the possible bum weather. The whole concept of bad weather simply skipped over the group without as much as creating a ripple.
The event planned was the massive ridge ride from Angwin to Calistoga. It was no easy undertaking, and involved a rather serious commitment at some point. For much of the first part of the ride, it would be possible to bail and coast back down a long hill to the cars. However, once past the Machu Pichu junction the riders would be subject to no easy way out.
Mike Dunn's handy work
Dan and Chandell were the last to arrive at the shop. After a trip to Cal Mart they were ready to go. The contingent drove in two vehicles to the start of the ride. The A.R.D. effect (Additional Rider Delay) was in place. It is estimated that with each additional rider over three, there is an additional 10 minutes per hour in lag time. Finally all were ready. Tone had been champing at the bit for twenty minutes. Now the blob began to move. Immediately the group fragmented. At the Buckeye turn, there were already questions; "Are you the last ones? Where's Tone?"
"Are they ahead or behind us?"
The moon had ducked behind clouds, clouds that grew increasingly dark. The light was diffused but perfectly OK for the conditions. The pavement continued out Buckeye, past the water plant and past the last vineyard. The well groomed rural, gravel road came to an easy-to-cross gate. The road continued in great condition. The only possible complaint came from Dave when his front wheel washed out and he stacked in the middle of the road. It was a routine crash with no damage to Dave, but in the process one of his 40 ounce Red Bulls exploded.
Red Bull carnage
The group continued for the mile or so to the hunting camp. A sign greets the arrivals and announces gratitude to Mike and Lori Dunn for their contribution to the Napa Land Trust. Mike Dunn's contribution to mountain bikin' continues into the legendary zone. From the hunting camp to the cave and beyond, the route mostly climbs continuously, sometimes steep but often pleasant. Chandell was not geared for the steeper climbs, but managed to walk at a pace nearly the same as the riders. A light mist started to fall. Would it become full fledged rain?
Gate climbing 101 - a required skill
Stops at each junction allowed the group to reform. As the contingent progressed deeper into the boonies, it became clear that the point of no return had passed. Now if the weather turned really bad, the quickest out would be to continue. Finally as the mist became heavy enough to wet clothes, the party arrived at the cave. The timing was nearly perfect. The sky showed no sign of clearing. A few people gathered firewood. As it turned out, there was an ample stash in the cave. In addition, there was a large metal backing to the fire place. This feature helped create a perfect fire that radiated much of the heat back into the cave.
Michel and Linz bring in a load of firewood and Orbs
Within minutes a blazing fire raged. Riders stripped off the wet outer layers and dried them before the flames. Food began to appear. The French Deli had competition from the Palisades Deli. Edwardo produced an astounding assortment of goodies from his tiny pack. Michel, not to be out done, offered bread, chips, sandwich meat and cheese. He even had a grapefruit to cleanse the palate between courses. It rapidly became a full blown pig-out with ample beer to wash it all down.
The party rages on
Dan and Chandell having lots of fun at this point
The party went in to high orbit. Laughter, banter and a jolly time roared across the hour. The cave was filled with happiness, fun, abandonment and a massive amount of Orbs. The little happy spheres were everywhere enjoying the rollicking good time. Meanwhile no one seemed to notice that the sky had begun to clear. The dense fog that prevented any view into the Napa Valley was gone. The moon could be seen behind thinning clouds.
Orbs dominate the scene
Jim demonstrates his phenomenal lung capacity
Eventually people began to pack up. It was then that Dave and Jim had discovered they had severely melted their packs, gloves and part of a jersey. No worries, it didn't prevent the group from leaving. The easy fire road gave way to a brushy single track that carries the journey to a different drainage. This trail had been recently improved with a massive amount of clearing. It made for a very easy passage. At the end of the transition trail the group reconvened. It was at this point that Linz snapped a chain. He made repairs while waiting for the last two riders (walkers).
Looks like a good place to fix Linz's chain
The sky was becoming more clear. It was a miraculous parting of the clouds. Now the entire Bay Area was in view. The moon occasionally busted out of the clouds and shined bright. The ride crested the last hill and began a steep downhill romp to the turnoff to Picket. At the aircraft crash site, the group again stopped. "Hey Linz, where's your pack?" someone asked.
"Aw @#$%#&" Linz replied as he stared blankly back up the hill. It would be a half hour before Linz would return. Meanwhile the scouts attempted to start another fire. Failing to have luck in that location, the group moved downhill into a pine stand and got another proper fire raging to keep the very cold temperature at bay. It also coincided with Shawn's flat tire. While he fixed the tire, Jim, Michel and Eric considered ditching the group and continuing. They had announced their intention to journey past Picket to the Oat Hill. There were no other takers for this option which was generated by Michel who doesn't get enough riding. He kept muttering about wanting to ride the options. It would add a significant amount distance and time to the ride.
Eventually Lindsey returned from his extended climb-a-thon. The group was ready to proceed. It was less than a mile to the Picket turn-off. At that juncture the ride split into two groups. The Oat hill trio departed towards the deck cave. The others began the long, fast (for some) descent. Eric and Jim elected to walk the steep hill to the Deck Cave. Only Michel attempted to ride the whole thing, which he did. At the Deck Cave the three stopped for a brief visit. The climb from there to the top of the terrain is relatively short. Finally they were done climbing, except for a few short sections of the options.
Michel kickin' it at the deck cave
The ten others had varying success with the downhill. Adam and Jason tore it up. Tone, loving his new bike only stacked once. Shawn flatted one more time near the bottom. It would a gift of time to the two who were not able to keep up with the rest. There were several waiting periods. Meanwhile the Oat hill three were able to move quickly with no other stops. They processed the top of the Oat, continued past View Rock and down to the Warrior Trail. Despite waning energy, the three took the option and climbed to the Warrior camp site. The single track through the woods was magic. The dappled light instilled a sense of the mystical. However by the time they reached the Wedding Meadow, two were finished, only Michel wished to continue the options. He was out voted and they bailed back to the Oat hill.
Jim and Michel near the end of the ride
Hours past midnight the sky was now almost completely clear. The moon shone with great brightness. It made dark shadows. The rest of the ride to the bottom was easy and uneventful. One by one they exited the trail and stopped at the parking lot.
"Hey look, there's someone on a bike." Jim said.
"Nobody we know." Eric said.
"No, its Edwardo!" Jim said.
Eddie should have been down long ago. The Picket run is much quicker and shorter that the Oat.
"Hey, Eddie, what's up?" Jim asked.
"Aw man, we had to wait many times......" Edwardo said in a very tired voice. Jim, Michel and Eric proceeded back to the shop where the others had just arrived. Everyone had made the trek. The gaiety and high energy had changed to fatigue and survival. The night now seemed very cold as the ride came to an end somewhere before three in the morning. The ride spanned nearly eight hours.
The ride contained the best elements of the Moonlight Adventures. There was L-Factor. (Left his pack, a Lady, Light rain, Laughter, Libation and Liberation) The dreaded rain never materialized. The skies parted and the energy raged all night until utter weariness set in. It was a very special event, one that redeems the misunderstood notion of Lunacy.
The magical, mystery tour