The San Francisco Forty Steiners


The dreary winter rains just kept on coming all through the month of March and into April. For most of the winter the sun had rarely been seen. The weather for the winter of 05-06 seemed to underscore the worst of climate change. The normally beautiful, warm days of the winter months had been replaced with cold, wet and dreary weather. It seemed unrelenting.

Phenomenal, record rains pummeled the area as the date for the April moonride approached. The only option for such bad weather in the past has been the default Harbin ride. This route places the wet, cold bikers in hot pools at the end of the ride, making it suitable for an occasional conjunction of the full moon and rain which in the past, has rarely happened. Looking for something different the lunatistas, recently involved with beer brewing, decided that a brewpub to brewpub ride would solve the issue of hypothermia and a miserable death in the woods. Even if wet the reasoning went, the riders would be able to refresh at each pub.

Eight riders undertook the task of fulfilling the monthly duty of reveling under the watchful eye of the full moon. Morgan arrived already soaked from a long day of tree work in the rain. Sebastian made another gargantuan trek from Portland to face weather that is the norm in the N.W. Jim K. volunteered to drive a second vehicle, making the commute much more comfortable. Shawn, Mike, Lindsey and Sebastian traveled in the van. Kevin threatened to come along, but had some errands to run. It was doubtful whether he would actually make it.

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Cedar St. Brewpub

Lindsey and Shawn visited the Calistoga Inn, the first of a long string of pubs for the evening. The rest of the riders joined forces at the Cedar St. Brewpub before leaving town. The contingent of three vehicles left Calistoga in a driving rain. Each rider had carefully selected their best rain gear. The rain pelted down but did not dampen the spirits of the riders. There had been some skepticism about the ride. This was an enormous departure from the standard, men-on-a-mission ride in the boondocks. Some complained this concept would work better during the day with mixed company. Yet the anticipation began grow despite the conditions.

As the vehicles sped towards Sausalito, the rain began to let up just slightly. As the cars past San Rafael the rain ceased and the clouds began to break . After a brief loop around the terminal area, Jim and Mike found suitable parking. The van disgorged seven bikes and the riders began to swarm. Within a couple of minutes the ferry approached the dock. After the boat discharged the passengers, the ferry was ready for boarding. Only a dozen people would be on the ferry. The bikes were stowed downstairs and the bikin’ crew assembled in the salon upstairs. Sounds of the boat being readied for departure were heard. Just as the gangplank was about to be lifted, one more passenger darted down the ramp. It was Kevin! He jumped on the ramp with his bike just as the boat pulled away from the dock.

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Kevin slips aboard

With the weather improving, the sense of the mission slipped into overdrive. The water on the bay was smooth as glass. The skyscape had turned to one of wondrous, atmospheric beauty. The clouds were dynamic, shapely and artistic in the late afternoon sky. The Golden Gate Bridge posed magnificently in the west. The bridge towered over the calm water of the bay. But there lingered concern about crossing the bridge later. Would it be open to bikes late at night? Would Homeland (in)Security have to blow away the innocent bikers as they tried to poach the bridge?

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The ferry made rapid progress across San Francisco Bay, past Alcatraz and to the Ferry Building at Pier 39. Along the way, several of the riders partook of refreshment available on the boat. This would be considered another brewpub, by proxy. The server, Regina took good care of the lunatistas, forecasting the friendly spirited evening that awaited the riders.

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Regina tends to the biker's needs

The first stop on the docket was the San Francisco Brewing Company. Given time constraints, the general plan called for a quick beer at each stop. Two pitchers were ordered for the eight bikers. It was a good, reasonable start. However, as the colorful group created somewhat of a spectacle, people inquired about the event. Within moments more pitchers of beer appeared from an instant fan. Before leaving, the cycling revelers had made much greater progress towards a buzz than had been planned.

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San Francisco Michael launchs the fools

The riders had ridden with great care and responsibility for the first few blocks taking time to get a feel for the traffic, etc. They stopped at the lights and waited for the proper signals. However after the first dose of electrolyte therapy, the discipline began to crumble. Within a few more blocks on the way to Gordon Biersch the orderly group dissolved into a full scale urban assault. Morgan couldn’t resist any airshot along the way, Kevin, in full motocross mode, ricocheted off several cars looking for the hole-shot at the next corner.

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The well tuned riders all made it to G.B. An alert Host steered to bikin’ fools to an outside seating area. The threat to normalcy was recognized by the employee. He could see this party already getting out of hand. Massive amounts of carbonated beverage followed. While enjoying the nice setting, a street vendor was noticed walking across the street. He was sporting a cool, balloon hat. Within moments he was at tableside soliciting business. His act and hats were too cool to reject. Within moments Linz would sport a hat that would make him hard to miss.

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Jonathon decks-out Linz

The group eventually exited G.B. and pedaled with enthusiasm to the 21st Amendment. The place was rocking with business. It was for a good reason. The beer was excellent. The place was so populated that it precluded much of a stay.

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By now the riders were well lubricated. The urban assault continued. Not only were traffic lights, signs and any other attempt at order ignored, pedestrians on the sidewalks seem to make a great slalom course. Amazingly the pedestrians didn’t seem to mind. It didn’t seem anything new or unusual to them. Add the mix of weird homeless types and the scene became fitting to San Francisco’s reputation for tolerating unusual people. The Thirsty Bear was the next brew spot, though some members of the group no longer could remember going there.

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Mike mobs a set of steps

Staying together in a mob became problematic. Once moving, speed seemed to enhance the experience. When dodging pedestrians became difficult it was easy to jump a curb and terrorize motorists. Throw in trolley tracks and the riding became sketchy, best handled apparently by being three sheets to the wind. The next sector on the ride was a longer leg. It required climbing up 14th St. Jim lead the way never looking back. Had he looked back, he might have noticed that most of the pack turned somewhere. At the top of the hill, Jim, Eric and Morgan gazed around wondering where everyone went and “where was Haight St.?”

After no one showed up, the three proceeded to Haight St. and started asking people on the street; “Is there a brewpub around here?” No satisfactory answer was forthcoming. For a period of time the three waited. Finally Shawn appeared, insisting there was a brewery on the street. Finally the entire group reconvened at Magnolia’s. This fine brewpub, although packed, had fragmented room for the crew. Although food was ordered and served, only a couple of lunatistas found out about the culinary experience. Three riders ended up being stuffed, the others famished.

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Once finished with Magnolia’s the group headed into Golden Gate Park for a badly needed safety brake. With the brake firmly applied, the group began a long descent towards the ocean and the Beach Chalet. This would be Morgan’s opportunity to put a slight twist on the evening. After spotting a cool jump, Morgan decided to take a second run at the feature. Upon completion of this fete, Morgan found himself staring into the black night with no one in sight.

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Safety discussion

As the crew rocketed down Kennedy Ave., several members found an urgent calling from nature. Conveniently at the busy 19th St. intersection, the traffic forced the group to stop. Unable to control the flow of things, Jim and Mike selected respective bushes to water. Suddenly a bright, piercing spotlight lit up the two.

“Mike!” Eric yelled, “It’s the cops!”

The officer patiently waited for the two to regain a respectable mode before telling the group to find a more suitable place for such procedures.

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The seven remaining riders proceeded to the Beach Chalet only to find it was now after hours. It was actually quite a while after hours. The lights were out, the workers gone and no sign of beer greeted the bikers. The only choice was to wait for Morgan. He never appeared. At some point the tough decision to continue had to be made. The group rode the Great Highway towards the Cliff House. Then a long climb took the cyclists uphill towards the area of the Golden Gate. Linz suggested taking 25th Ave. As lunacy would have it, somewhere along the line the group detoured towards the Palace of Fine Arts.

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Palace of Fine Arts

(Jim's private swimming pool)

The riders were greeted by a petting zoo of raccoons who seemed right at home. They lurked just out of reach, waiting for another handout. It wouldn’t come from this crew. Along with a skunk seen later, this made for the most wildlife sighting on a moonride. The Palace stood magnificently across from the reflecting pond. A large steel art piece stood on the other side of the pool. The work of art, much like a fifty foot tall tank stopper was more than Jim could resist. It was too easy to climb. While Jim dyno’d up the massive structure, Linz decided that it would be cool to ride the narrow lip around the reflecting pond. It is hard to comprehend that Linz didn’t end up in the water. That job would be left to Jim after he got down from his art-climb. While attempting to bunny hop onto the lip of the pool, he overshot and cart wheeled into the clear, but highly chlorinated water. Normally this would have been a sobering experience. However “sober” was not to be found in the lexicon at that moment.

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Jim dyno's up the structure

On the way out of the park, the group rode past a display of internment victims. It could have been the bikin’ fools at that moment. The pack rode along the south rim of the Golden Gate. There was a traffic pull-out at one scenic spot. Those in the lead waited for the others to catch up.

“Hey,” Shawn said, “I though I just heard Morgan’s voice.”

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Morgan returns

Within seconds Morgan in his unmistakable yellow rain suit pedaled into view. It was close to a miracle. Morgan was dead tired. He had retraced steps all the way back to the Haight. Then he simply rode hard for the next hour, serendipitously ending with the pack just before the bridge. With all eight riders present, the next topic of concern was the passage across the bridge. The riders descended the last hill and approached the toll booth on the west side. A friendly, happy lady informed the group that they needed to proceed to the east side and wait at the gate. All anxiety disappeared as the moonriders were given exclusive access to the vast span across the Golden Gate.

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Safe Passage for the Fools

The ride across the bridge was nothing short of spectacular. The wind was virtually still, an extremely rare occurrence. The temperature was balmy. The moon had been peaking out of the clouds all evening. The view of San Francisco was serenely beautiful. The city lights and moonlight conspired to make the scene breathtaking. It was a special moment, a fitting final section of this evening’s ride. The blazing downhill into Sausalito was energizing.

The ride had been viewed with skepticism by most when first presented. By the time the riders had boarded the ferry, the doubts were steamrolled by shear fun and abandonment. Friendly people all through the city added energy to the event. The ride gained momentum and rolled into the record as an epic. It was far from the wilderness haunts normally visited, yet the spirit thrived and pegged the funnometer for the entire event. La Luna shed her grace once again on the simple pleasures of a humble few.

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The bikin' fools at the end of the ride