The Bikin' Fools
Over Powered !!!
January 17th rolled onto the calendar of the bikin' fools as the appointed night to join with the mystical lumens of the winter moon. The El Niņo winter had relented a few days earlier and offered the eleven lunatistas a smashingly good event, except for Jim Korte who would find the term smashing applied in the literal sense.
The task selected for the ride was the power plant run. Shawn and Eric had lobbied for this route. This classic ride straddles the county line above Lake and Sonoma counties. It travels from the shadow of Mt. St. Helena to the rumbling, steaming geothermal generators located high in the mountains above Middletown. International flavor was represented as the venerable Frenchman Michel arrived from Berkeley, Jim Wilson had fine tuned the veteran Tasman, Matt arrived to represent the single speeders and Auriah appeared with his winterized Heckler. Lindsey arrived with a basket containing most of the pieces of the well-used Bo-Ti. After a quick rebuild, it was ready to shred, although it only had a couple of gears working at the start. Dave Frame appeared after a years hiatus.
Two vehicles rolled to the start of the ride. The moon was well above the horizon when the group arrived at the start of the event. However, the first part of the ride is north facing and in the woods. It was dark and impossible to see all of the hazards on the trail. The air was delightfully warm which contrasted with the very cool air of the valley. The trail was in good condition although it was soft from the previous rains. It made for slower riding in many areas. Fortunately it was not too muddy. As the ride proceeded across the ridge, the views opened up in spectacular fashion. Mt. St. Helena stood majestically to the south. Middletown and Hidden Valley were clearly seen to the east. The lights of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county glowed mystically under the layer of thick fog that enveloped the coastal region.
The ride proceeded across the terrain without incident to the rock. This out cropping of stone is an ideal place to take a break and appreciate the view. It lies about two thirds of the way between the start of the ride and the appointed diner spot. It is past the back-breaker hill and much of the climbing for this part of the ride.
The troops again filed out and along the trail. Within a half-hour the lead riders scoped out the diner site. The original plan was to convene at the top of the hill that overlooks Pine mt. However this delightful spot was exposed to rather heavy winds. The nervousness about the campfire brought the bikers to choose a wind protected area. Wood was readily available. It took only minutes to have a large pile ready for the torch. Unfortunately the road flare fizzled. The next option was to try using the fireworks to start the fire. It stretches incredulity to consider that the method might have any merit whatsoever. Miraculously it worked.
Dinner was the usual assortment of flesh and vegetables. Sausage, steak, potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic bread circulated around the gathering of the bikin' fools. Sharing a meal in the unique natural setting, far from the hazards of civilization gave the group the sense of being especially blessed. Few mt. bikers ever collect so much benediction at one time.
All too soon the entourage gathered their goodies and set out again for more adventure. This point in the ride should have been the end of most of the climbing. But a navigational glitch put the riders on the lesser side of Pine Mt. It was reasoned that each way around the peak would provide about the same distance to the power plant cut-off. This proved wrong. The choice to go downhill cost the riders several hundred vertical feet of extra climbing. The trail descended to the spot, where several years ago, the moonlight marauders had another dinner party. On that occasion they were visited late at night by a jeep full of hunters headed to their remote cabin.
Jim Wilson and Dave Frame put in exceptional performances. Dave motored like a draft horse, never lagging and always at the front of the pack. His years absence seemed to augment his moonlight riding. Jim Wilson had tinkered and tweaked with the Tasman to the point where they became as one, one swift smooth shredding machine in total control. There would be no high speed bailouts or ottering for Jim W. on this night. He would leave that to Jim Korte, whose effort was severely hampered when he belly flopped onto a rock pile, badly bruising ribs. He would have trouble breathing for the rest of the night, but quietly and valiantly endured the massive ride.
Riding with single speeders is always interesting. One learns after a while, just when the single speed rider will come thundering past. Usually on the beginning of a hill when most riders are gearing down, the sound of a fast moving bike is heard. Matt would flash past and grunt uphill until he had to bail. He would pick up the feather weight bike and start hiking, usually about as fast as those with gears were pedaling.
The course proceeded past Pine Mt. down the wrong way and then back up to the stealth turn. From that point the road cuts diagonally across the open terrain towards the now audible geysers. The roar of the steam turbines could be heard from a mile away, growing louder as the crew approached the generators. The massive geothermal power plants cover a huge area of the mountainous terrain to the south of Cobb Mt. Huge insulated pipes carry steam from wells to massive wooden structures that house the turbines.
Mike, Lindsey and Shawn discussed the navigation. When a choice was offered to cut the ride short, Mike immediately turned his bike 180 degrees to indicate that he was going "there". The there being the geysers. Lindsey would insist on the most convoluted route possible, including a wild goose chase at the end of the ride when 9 of the 11 quietly prayed for the end of the ordeal. Lindsey insisted that a road existed "on the other side of the canyon". Given his way, the entire group would have boonie thrashed all night to get there. After a huge and errant downhill loop, Shawn decided to climb the pipe line, figuring it was a shortcut to the spot of known navigation. To the great relief of the group he was right.
The new route that was supposed to be there turned out to be a bad reading of the topo by Eric. The old, original road was obvious and lead the bikers down through the woods towards Anderson Springs. A strange error happened in the woods and the eleven came out in the middle of the community instead of the upper end as before. O well, it was after two oclock in the morning and most were interested in closing the chapter on this epic outing. The five mile ride to Middletown on the pavement was cold but easy.
A fairly easy car shuffle collected all of the loose ends of this adventure. At 4:20 in the morning the entourage arrived back in Calistoga to close yet another unique and interesting adventure deep in the woods under the watchful eye of the Lady of the Night. La Luna had blessed the attendees with a generous portion of life compressed with esprit de corps, abandonment, awe and the sense of having touched elements of this life beyond the ordinary.