Return of the Tripod


After several months of intense negotiations, a deal was struck for the return of the tripod, held captive by the Marin group of bikin’ fools. This tense situation was the result of a previous gathering of the Sudinistas and the Del Norte contingents of bikers who commenced for an epic ride in Marin Co. The result of that ride was a massive fragmentation of the sensory stunods, delivering so much fun that it left little brain power at the end of the day for Eric to remember his tripod at Lisa‘s place.

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Tripod's last picture before abduction

The intense negotiations resulted in a deal to travel the little known Wild Lilac trail in exchange for the hostage. Six bodies rallied to join in the effort to straighten out the universe. Eric S. and Lisa were joined by John and Marisa while Eric (A.D.) and Jim K. represented the Calistoga crowd. John and Marisa arrived sporting two of the coolest mt. Bikes going. Marisa rode a beautifully designed 29/26 inch Silk Ti while John would roll over everything on his 29 inch Silk Ti.

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Two Castellano beauties

The group pedaled up the Oat as the sun tried to warm things up. The sky would never really clear. High clouds and moisture in the air kept the day cool. However it was nearly ideal for a bike ride. The pace was mellow as the group climbed up the scenic Oat. Coincidentally on the way up the hill, the group passed a mt. Biker coming down hill. Upon close inspection the guy was sporting an older Ibis. It was fitting considering he just passed the designer of the bike.

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Fellow enthusiast riding a classic Ibis

The riders worked all of the little challenges towards View Rock. There the troops stopped to take some time to enjoy the fantastic view from this towering spot. One can see all the way to San Pablo bay, the Pacific ocean and north to Geyserville. A great assortment of birds live in this remote and lofty place. Hawk, eagles, ravens, falcons and songbirds call this place home. At the rock, Eric S. pulled out a tasty fruit salad to fuel the hard working bikers.

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Fuel and beauty stop high above Napa Valley

As the trail gets deeper into the countryside, nature always seems to have some beauty available to gaze upon. On this day, the manzanita were offering their pretty white flowers, shaped like little bells. The California Fuchsia also had brilliant red blossoms left to help augment the beauty of the day and the sense of splendor that nature offers those who are willing to go just a little way from the beaten path.

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Manzanita blossoms

The upper section of the Oat gives the intrepid cyclist a chance to test their mettle. A succession of challenges require a massive output of energy and the application of one’s most precise skills. Nobody gets off without tapping into the depths of strength and energy.

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John rolls the big wheels over big rocks

Even in hike-a-bike mode, it is tough getting to the top. Once there however, one has already accomplished a greater-than-average ride. The crew gathered for a short period of time and considered the rest of the ride. There was talk of checking out the deck cave, but time was a factor as this was one of the shortest days of the year.

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Holmes place at the top of Oat

Now over the top, the trail becomes a little more user friendly. Although it is not easy, it does travel level in places. The climbs don’t last long and the scenery becomes beautifully remote. There is no civilization in sight. The Church of the Wholly Spoke looks across the deep gorge at the Oat. The half-dozen bikers worked across the landscape riding an assortment of differing conditions. Much of the trail is nice single track interspersed with rocky, technical sections.

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Lisa shreds the Silk Ti

The group rode past several landmarks including the wind cave. This spot offers shelter if needed and is usually stocked with dry wood for the daring riders who might find themselves deep in these boonies on a lousy day. The stealth turn from the Oat occurs a brief distance past the wind cave. The trail takes the riders over Cougar Pass and onto the Igneous Rock Field. This huge area of volcanic rock offers a view of Mt. St. Helena and the area of the Van Ness creek drainage.

The planned lunch break happened at Pocai camp. This groovy and remote facility offers a picnic table and spring water. The pool is contaminated only by mountain lion piss. The riders took an extended break to eat munchies and gather strength for the rest of the ride.

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Lunch at Pocai

Once sated, the bikers continued along the fun trail. John managed to clean the big rock just after the camp. This would be noted as the first ever cleaning of this particular challenge, though many have come close. Then the riders are subjected to one of the unique offerings of the route; the tunnel of terror. The thick brush has a small, narrow tunnel through the bush that delivers the rider to the signpost. This notable place was the last link discovered that connects the Oat to the rest of the area behind the Palisades.

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Marisa having too much fun in the tunnel of terror

After dropping down from the signpost, the trail sports a unique feature. A set of steps are chiseled into the rock. This feature was installed by another bikin’ fool who spent great energy and time to create yet another enjoyable item on the long list features. The next part of the ride follows a single track through a narrow valley before emptying out into a bigger valley. From there the ride follows the creek for another mile or so.

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Lisa negotiates the 'Steps'

One must know the turn to the Wild Lilac. There is no sign and no other indication about where the trail exists. Once across the steam, the trail soon becomes obvious, though not rideable. It is at this point where gnashing of teeth starts. Although some of the trail can be ridden uphill, most of it is in brush to thick to ride. Often when it opens, the ground is soft this time of year. The climb is tough but it offers its own beauty and eventually yields cool views of the surrounding area. The climb works up to the ridge that divides the watershed between Napa Valley and waters that end up in Lake Berryessa.

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A view that approaches sensory overload

The view returns to spectacular at the top of the climb. At this place the view includes Table Rock, part of the Napa Valley, and points to the northeast. After another short session of bush-whacking, the riders come to the Table Rock trail. A short transit on the trail brings the riders to the 420 turn-off. Now the ride begins the final drop back into the valley. What was once a service trail for a buried phone cable is now the way for the bikers to avoid having to travel on highway 29. Steep pitches with attendant hazards accompany the rider until they reach the ranch road and subsequently the Old Toll Road.

A dash down the paved section, and a short stint on the highway deliver the riders to the start of the ride. On this outing, all fared exceptionally well. Eric S. threatened his guardian angle a few times, Lisa drew some blood and all were pleasantly thrashed by the end of the day. It was great preparation for a trip to the Calistoga Inn for badly needed electrolyte therapy and food.

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A bikin' feast

The six riders were able to contact the blessing conferred upon those willing to go over the top. They were able to marvel at the loveliness of nature. They all enjoyed the athletic beauty produced by the combination of a bike and a fit body. By the close of the day, the tripod had been returned. This closed a page on the pleasant and ongoing saga of the bikin‘ fools.