The Power Ploy

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S-2 #86 attacks the Geysers Fire in 2004


A debate raged for several days prior to the event. Although Eric (A.D.) had suggested a power plant run, Shawn had discovered that there were hot springs in the area of Socrates Mine Road and lobbied hard for an ‘exploration’ trip to the area. Two schools of thought emerged from the discussion. One would have the ride on a known, predictable setting with minimal navigation issues and possible hot springs, the other school contained the elements of surprise, adventure and an unknowable outcome. In this case the unwillingness to leap into the unknown was the factor that determined the ride. That, in addition to Eric’s claim of having announced a ride first. Furthermore a rookie was involved. There was a desire by some to select a ride that would predominately dwell in the easy, soft elements of the Luna experience. Subdued for this event would be the cutting edge, daring challenge to charge across the borders of normal restraint and venture into the void, lock stock and barrel.

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Eric S. joins the ranks

Ten riders would ride on this night. There were two contingents, an Oat Hill duo, Austin, and Jer and eight takers for the Power Plants run. The ridge run between Lake and Sonoma counties had been done in recent times, but not to the far reaches where the fire burned thousands of acres two years ago. Sebastian made the roll call from Portland once again. He rivals Linz for miles traveled immediately before a major bike ride. Michel tore himself from the home fortress. There was puzzlement likely in the eyes of the three-month-old Lucas; “Daddy seems unusually fired up…” Somewhere in her heart, Leticia found the compassion to allow the intrepid hubby to go off on another one of his wingnut adventures. She must know of the passion it stirs in her man, and the strength he gains from dwelling briefly in such a cherished arena.

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A joyful soul pedals through the night

Michael, Linz, Shawn, Eric (A.D.) and Jim K. made up for most of the rest of the group. At six at the shop, there was some discussion whether the other Eric S. would make it. Shortly, a confirming call arrived announcing that indeed Eric S. was enroute. After the usual last minute adjustments, including a shifter housing fix by Linz using a beer cap, the group all headed towards Middletown. There the various segments piled into the van and headed to the start of the ride.

The temperature was summer like. It was warm and balmy. The sky was cloudless and the young La Luna was high in the planetarium as the eight bikers departed the well traveled road for the far reaches of reality. It didn’t take long for a flat. The skinny tires on Jake the Snake were subject to a couple of flats. Linz managed to slice a rear sidewall and flat. His front tire later in the ride would join in solidarity by flatting at the dinner stop.

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The van hatches a gaggle

Despite the long winter rains, the road was in OK condition, Ruts had begun to form, but had not reached the magnitude of what was to come later. The ride proceeded along the ridge with views to both counties. The group was energized and happy to be on another mission, albeit not the choice of all. Being in the moonlight far from civilization has its own rewards. There is a special quality to the night, rarely experienced by most. Even a tame, easy ride carries special meaning when directed by the Lady of the Night. The ride consists of a series of sharp climbs as the terrain heads towards Pine Mountain.

The choice for dinner was the preferred overlook that gazes upon some very impressive northern California real estate. To the southwest, the populated areas of Sonoma County lit up the valleys. Mt. St. Helena stood majestically to the south surrounded by a vast area of rugged and hard-to-penetrate hills. Middletown, Hidden Valley and the huge area towards lake Berryessa was clearly visible in the bright lunar light. The happy cyclists stood near the 3000 foot level. Only Mt. St. Helena and Cobb Mt. were higher.

The dinner offering was delightful. Steak, sausage, apples and Portobello mushrooms made the palate happy. Enough beer and an unusual treat of Tequila helped to underscore the gaiety of the evening. The wind cooperated by being reasonable. The exposed nature of the dinner site has precluded dining events in the past. Not tonight. This was exclusive seating for the Lunatistas.

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French cooking

Upon the completion of the culinary event, the group left, except Linz. It was at this point the discovered his second and last flat. Once fixed the group made steerage towards the whole point of the evening; the Geysers. The darkest part of the ride occurred shortly after dinner. A section of the ride is on a steep, backside of high terrain. The moon was blocked almost completely. The road was in good condition and offered no real threats to the travelers, though no one knew that until the light reappeared.

The ridge road eventually connected with the turn to the Geysers. The condition of the trail to the power plants was unknown. It was figured to have been renewed with the fire, and it was. In the past the road was overgrown, rutted and nearly impassible in parts. Now the road was clear and easy, though steep. The ride through the transition was made without incident and in good time. Once the final climb was made, the monstrous power plants appeared close at hand.

Shawn was leading the pack with his quick cross bike. Not noted for being shy about the downhill, he lead the way towards the next section. He had disappeared out of sight. Suddenly he reappeared, on his feet waving furiously to get the others to stop. Just a few feet behind him the road had completely disappeared in a landslide. There was a ten foot drop for anyone who didn’t get stopped in time. The effort to cross the hazard on foot took some time, but all made it safely.

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Suddenly the road ended...

After another drop the road became paved and the group headed into the complex and past rumbling, steaming buildings that house the turbines that produce the electricity for happy home dwellers in the valleys below. The magnitude of the operation is impressive. Huge pipes snake across hillsides carrying super heated steam to power the stations. At the first intersection there was enough concern to check the map. It was determined that this was a wrong turn. The group headed on. Confusion entered the picture. Wasn’t there supposed to be a climbing rock here? The group continued along the pavement now uncertain whether they made the proper turn. There was supposed to be a guard shack.

The group proceeded figuring that they might end up on Socrates Mine road. Then the guard shack appeared. The group stopped and considered the strategy. A fence seemed to block the road, whereas in the past it had a small opening. However, the shack seemed to be dark. Did the fact that Cal Pine was in bankruptcy have an effect on the payroll? Why did they even need a guarded entrance way up and into the complex? At any rate Mike took the lead and proceeded to ferret out a nice chicane through the fencing and past the empty guard shack.

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Massive wood buildings house huge turbines to power TV's in the valley

The way was, again, known. For a while. The next turn was identified and taken. Then the long descent towards the Callayomi Valley begins. The issue at this juncture is to NOT pass the stealth turn into the woods. A previous ride had underscored the negative effect of bad navigation in this area. After another map check the group carefully dropped downhill. It was a cautious descent with discs nearing a red glow on the very steep, paved road. The Forward Navigational Specialist positively identified the correct turn. One fence climb later and the crew began the most intense technical part of the entire ride. The unimproved jeep road was washed out and rutted in many areas. The trail was in thick woods making the light marginal at best.

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"Possible Steam Obstructed Visibility" added to the list of challenges

The trail was easy to follow for the most part. The group descended rapidly and came to an old abandoned mine. This was familiar. The core group had been there before. Now the task was to find the hot springs. Another map check was made. To no avail. After some searching, another abandoned cut seemed to go in the proper direction. Soon lights from nearby houses began to signal the ending of the deep woods. Expecting to come out in someone’s back yard, suddenly the group found themselves at the Anderson Springs community pool.

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Nimble Lunatista exits the ride

Although the hot springs remain undiscovered, the ride served the Lunatistas well. All of the elements conspired to make the ride very pleasant. Eight riders traveled the hinterlands once again to touch the moon glow and be for a moment released from the constraints of normal living and ushered into the special, natural realm of beauty and fun.


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Mr. Stealth






Notes: Gaiety: n. pl. -ties. 1. A state of joyful exuberance : merriment. 2. Festive activity. Syns; FESTIVITY, FUN, MERRY MAKING, REVEL, REVELRY