The Bikin' Fools
It was a good idea. The concept of rocketing down the soft, smooth flowing meadows of the lower hills held great appeal. This area of the Maacama range offers an area that could be a mountain bike theme park. Part of the adventure travels across an unused jeep road that is smooth, titillating and a thrill to shred. Yet it would remain not traveled, unmolested by the Bikin' Fools on this night, because they could not find it. It would remain as Sidels totally lost option.
The weather prior to May 16th had been lousy by California standards. Usually by this time of year, the skies are clear and the temperature can nudge the 100-degree mark. However during the week preceding the ride, it was cool and rainy. This led Eric to suggest an alternate plan.
"Whaddya think about having the dinner after the ride?" Eric offered.
"Why?" Shawn responded.
"It could be cold, wet and not so much fun to hang out. Plus we wont have to carry as much stuff." Eric lobbied.
"Forget it," Shawn said not budging at all. "Wed be done with the ride before it even got dark."
The plan was set. The ride would include eight mountain bikin enthusiasts. Dennis would reappear, Michel drove up from Berkeley, Lindsey rearranged the schedule of the entire business world to be on hand, Jim Wilson was hooked, Jim Korte despite having to arise early the next morning would be there, while Shawn, Mike and Eric rounded out the gaggle.
There would be a record number of five cars involved for the car shuffle. Both Jim Korte and Lindsey would need to split soon after the ride. Mike and Eric drove the eight bodies to the top of Ida Clayton road where the ride would start. The first half-mile goes down Western Mine Rd. then a secret turn takes the ride north into the boonies. The jeep road is smooth and pleasant for a couple of miles. The ride climbs in sections of steep hills as it works towards Pine Mountain. Most of the steep sections are barely rideable. The sections in between tend to be pleasant and not technical. The views from the crest of the ridge are beautiful.
The effect of being in a group heightened the experience. This ride is pleasant and fun alone, but when fortified with seven other people, the experience becomes an out-of-the-ordinary event. A notable air of giddiness infected the group. Voices and laughter could be heard all along the trail. Dennis hollered and yelped in delight as the fun-o-thon continued across the landscape.
The "backbreaker" hill that was a bad scene once upon a time, passed with no trauma, except in the memory of Mike, whose back had pretzled on him at this location a couple of years earlier. The climb towards the Bacon Flat overview continued in the diminishing rays of the day. Jim Korte flatted and after a quick repair was back to shredding the landscape.
As the group reassembled on the knoll overlooking Bacon Flat and Pine Mountain, they took note of the beautiful skyscape that had been overcast all day long. There were few trees in the immediate area. This allowed a primo, 360-degree view from the ridge top. The air was absolutely still and the clouds had receded in every direction leaving a giant hole in the sky above the lunatistas. The moon beamed brightly down on the group of happy mountain bikers
Immediately the crew assembled a large pile of wood from the nearby brush. The fire was coaxed to life and began to blaze. The fire was Daved to full conflagration in preparation for the onslaught of food. The usual items appeared. There was steak, sausage, potatoes, corn on the cob and apples. Plenty of beer had been packed in and the bikers wasted no time in cracking open the electrolyte replacement therapy. The dinner party raged on for over an hour.
Finally, with the last light of the sunset gone completely, the lunatistas assembled for the descent into Knights Valley. It would be nearly three thousand feet of downhill romping, supposedly including Sidels Lost Option. The first section of the downhill comes to a gate. It is at that gate where there was some confusion. Eric insisted that the seemingly wrong way was correct; that one had to boony thrash down the hill and find the road. But, the others insisted on descending further down the ridge on the obvious road. The judges are still out. More exploring will determine the truth, but meanwhile the bikers were on a road that seemed less than familiar. Not only did the bike park not appear, the old car was never see either. Parts were familiar such as the baby heads that define the upper part of the descent. It is an area that really isnt that much fun. It is steep and hard to manage the softball sized, loose rocks.
At one point in the woods, part of the contingent became separated from the large part of the herd. For several minutes the stragglers crunched around in the woods trying to find their way back on the trail. Eventually the group reassembled and continued the ride. Now the trail was less steep. Although it was easy riding, for the most part, there were just enough pesky shadows to keep one on his toes (or other parts of the body). There were small shrubs about the size of cantaloupes that looked all-for-the-world like rocks.
One of the great skills of night riding (without lights) is to be able to determine the difference between shadows and bad terrain. A ditch can look just like a shadow. It takes a whole different mindset to navigate across sections of ground that you simply dont know the reality. Feeling and trust are two aspects the nocturnal bikin experience. It takes one beyond the strictly physical plane. It is another area outside the ordinary that makes the moonrides so appealing. It is truly an altered state. One finds in this venue, a departure from the predictable. Life is thrust into a place where the present moment, the present location is forced to be foremost in ones consciousness: Zen, whether you like it or not.
Jim W. seemed to be having a blissful night as he piloted his lead behemoth swiftly across the terrain. On the downhill, the extra weight is not necessarily a bummer. It can crush through obstacles that a lightweight bike wouldnt. More than once, Jim communed with terra firma. Perhaps the most novice of the group, his enthusiasm was intense. So also did Michel add great spirit to the event. He drove all the way from Berkeley to attend his second moonride. Even though he had to teach school in the morning, he felt the choice was worth it though he wouldnt get home until 4:00 a.m.
Several miles later, as the ride reached the lower sections the trail improved. Earlier the riders were riding through brush so thick they were barely able to discern the path. Now, the trail had improved to an easy ride. Soon the structures of the ranch appeared. From there it was an easy two-mile ride out to highway 128. It was about four miles on the highway back to the cars. Jim Korte had to get up at four in the morning to go to work. It was one oclock when the ride ended. Lindsey also had work early in the morning and split. Jim Wilson, Mike, Michel and Eric drove back up Ida Clayton to retrieve the cars from the start of the ride.
The ride was a lesson in expectations. The major plan was to access the groovy ride through the meadows that had thrilled the Bikin' Fools on a day-ride over a year ago. What seemed as easy navigation led to L-factor. (L= Lingering sense of fragmenting in the orientation department.) It is precisely that unknown element that holds the appeal. It is curiosity that seduces the Bikin' Fools to adventures that cross the threshold of mundane into the realm of the unfamiliar and unpredictable. Most of our lives are spent trying to make sense and order of our existence. But once in a while, to be totally lost and to let chaos be the dominant factor brings a peaceful easy feeling about the universe.