The Bikin' Fools
Snow, wind and the digery doo
The e-mail read; "sources say bad storm a brewing -stop- troops pushing for wednesday ride -stop- much brighter -stop- not nearly as wet -stop-..." The weather map displayed a powerful pacific storm mass just off the California coast. The towering, recycled typhoon was bearing down on an exact line to the bikin fools planned ride. There was great reason to push for a ride on Wednesday. The skies were nearly clear and the moon rose rotund and majestic. She climbed powerfully into the cool December night and lit up the landscape in fanciful light. But the temptress could not seduce the fools into changing the plan. The next e-mail read: "Well OK then. A ride in the rain is a billion times better than no ride at all. Looking forward to much mayhem..." Indeed, much mayhem and folly were to be had on the next, cataclysmic evening.
Giant weather blob headed for a rendezvous with the bikin' fools
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the unmistakable pitter-patter of rain drops began to lightly drum on the roof of the bedroom. The aquatic dance grew to a frenzied pace and remained that way through most of the morning. Around noon, snow flakes began to fall in Calistoga, and snow could be seen on the hills immediately surrounding town. It had to be surmised that many inches of snow had fallen above the 1000 foot level. Boggs stands just over 3000 feet! Concern began to mount about the possibility of highway 29 being closed. Or, worse, highway 175 is notoriously disastrous in the winter.
The snow flakes grew in size and intensity. The vision outside became surreal as the flakes expanded to mini-platters that were the size of silver dollars. This was the most amazing weather event of the year. It was appropriate that it coincided with the fools outing. Each ride during the ten years of activity has provided a stellar moment, a peak experience far from the known and ordinary venues of our lives. Nine daring souls offered their bodies to be an experiment with this questionable choice of rides. Matt from the bike shop dragged his unsuspecting friend Daniel along, assuring him all along that it "would be fun " Sebastion made another heroic drive from Portland. His effort would exponentially raise the esprit de corps. Shawns grin was inerasable. He made no secret of his love for snow. Mike and Lindsey would again provide the fuzzy logic and elder guidance. Sean Large showed up looking like Little Lord Font Leroy. There was immediate concern whether his dress style would pass the test. It did. Eric and Jim Korte showed up wondering about the snow and how much bike riding was likely to happen. There was an atmosphere of excitement and adventure as the nine bodies piled into the two four-wheel drive vehicles.
Shop at Six
There was discussion of where to start. Gifford Springs was one option. The choice ultimately was to proceed to the helicopter pad with the hope that the troops would be able to drive nearly four miles to the end of road 500. From that point, the rest of the journey would be relatively easy and fun.
The drive over Mt. St. Helena was surprisingly easy. It had taken Dave nearly three hours earlier in the day. The snow had turned to rain. Once the snowplows had cleared a path, the road stayed free of snow. There were several cars and trucks in the ditch on the way. It was going up highway 175 that resembled a scene from Armageddon. Cars were strewn everywhere. Dozens of sport utilities sat useless in the ditch clearly not living up to the massive hype associated them.
Again luck visited the bikin fools. 175 was completely clear and passable. However the thickness of snow beside the road was impressive. The snowplows had created large banks along the road, zigzagging around the stuck vehicles. Curiosity began to creep in the minds. Just how much snow would be at Boggs? Just short of the summit, two beer trucks had failed to make the top and sat vulnerable in the snowy darkness of night. The two cars turned into the demonstration forest. Suddenly the road was no longer clear. Deep ruts from a few vehicles sliced through many inches of snow on the road. The answer to the question; "could they drive to the end of the forest road?" was answered with a locked gate.
Shawn testing the waters
There was little hesitation to park the cars, assemble the bikes and prepare to ride. It seemed possible to ride in the parking lot. At long last, this epic adventure began to roll. Everyone was able to ride for the first 100 yards past the gate. There the road begins to climb. It took a great effort to ride at this point. Soon it was clearly easier to walk. The snow was deep enough that the bike would not roll beside the rider. It had to be carried. Occasionally there were areas under trees that had little snow. For a few feet at a time one could ride. The riding lasted only for the shortest distance. Just outside the drip line of the tree was an even deeper snow bank. When one got off the bike, it just stood there by itself, propped up by the snow.
There was never any thought about plan B. All nine riders schlogged, on course through the snow. The hike was heat producing especially carrying the bike. Walking took at least the same amount of energy as it did to ride the bike up the hill. The only difference was the speed. The progress was about one-fifth of the normal riding speed. It would take hours to process the nearly four miles of uphill road. As the elevation increased so also did the snow depth. Finally near the campground there was a slight downhill section before the last leg to the end of the mountain. Yet it was still impossible to ride. It took less effort to walk than to try to ride.
The troops assembled at the campground. It was in the minds of most that his was about half-way to the nose of the mountain where gravity would, one way or another, replace the burdensome trudging. That notion created from years of riding mostly down the road was inaccurate. The distance was nearly twice of what the nine bikers had just completed. The effort was immense. But the excitement and the camaraderie carried the squad into the night.
Matt Trudging into the deep, dark woods
The other factor that alleviated the burden was the stunning beauty of the woods in full winter cloak. The softness of the snow permeated the atmosphere. It was utterly quiet broken only by clumps of snow falling from high branches. The moon was nowhere to be seen, yet the lumens infused the forest with the most gentle and soothing light, plenty ample to see. Occasionally tracks of the forest dwellers crossed the road. They must have been amused by these humans who ventured into their snowy realm.
The bikers settled into the forced march. Slowly, slowly the landscape passed. With each turn in the road hopes were raised for an end to the ordeal. When it seemed that great progress had been accomplished, the water tank came into view. This was colossal bad news. It was only about half-way. The snow was deeper and the walking was harder. Those in cleats had the added difficulty of snow buildup on the bottom of the shoe making each step seemingly steeper. The troops had been out for a couple of hours by this time. Most were soaking wet from perspiration, though everyone had managed to dressed with enough layers to provide life-saving insulation from the elements.
Each turn in the road offered a false summit as the hopes for an end to this extreme scene mounted. Then the wind began to blow. This was good news and bad news. The blowing snow detracted from the comfort level, but it also indicated that the gang was approaching the nose of the mountain. Finally the end of road 500 came into sight. The troops gathered for a slight rest. To the delight of the unsuspecting, Shawn and Sebastion pulled out Thermos bottles and treated the weary adventurers to piping hot beverages. There was Jasmine tea and coffee with hot chocolate and peppermint Schnapps. The warmth of the beverages contrasted strongly with the cold, frigid night.
Shawn with life-saving warm beverage
This was the moment to celebrate the adventure with ordinance that had been carried. Sebastion produced a launch tube and Eric broke out the festival balls. One was loaded into the chamber and Mike struck several matches trying to get the fuse lit. When it seemed doomed to failure, the fuse finally fired and began to creep towards the tube.
"You know," Eric said, "The ball didnt go very far down the tube."
"Uh oh " Mike replied with a note of concern.
KER BLOOIE The initial explosion was impressive with bits of flaming debris scattering about the immediate area. The temple ball rocketed into the clouds and exploded with an impressive colored light show.
"Ahh, I think there was already a temple ball in the tube." Mike said.
That explained the extra loud launch and subsequent scattering of burning material. The next launch had a wholly different sound and the ball sailed faster and higher than its predecessor. The colorful explosion nicely added to the sense of festivity in this unlikely setting. It also signaled the end of the climb and struggle.
The route pitched sharply downhill. A whole new set of difficulties arose as the nine bikers applied several varying methods to ride the bikes. The next couple of miles would be a marathon of slipping, sliding and stacking. The snow was deep enough to cushion the falls. It allowed the rider to take risks, most of which ended in a ditch. The road is a tough ride under ideal conditions. There was a monster rut that zigzagged back and forth across the road. A review of the tracks in the snow consistently showed a wobbly path ending up in a tortured snow angel.
The bikin fools worked their way past the Dog House, the chutes turn-off, past the old truck and down to the gate. The depth of the snow paid-off as the elevation dropped. The turn to the Great Bowl route signaled the beginning of civilization. Not far from that junction the group came upon car tracks in the snow. The hill was not as steep. The tracks eventually led down to the valley. The dirt road ultimately changed to pavement and the road became more rideable until, finally, it was only wet.
Santa Cruz standing quietly in the snow
The riders created a discrete bike pile and sauntered into the hot springs resort. It was nearly midnight as the soaked bikers shed all of the layers. The contrast was stark. One moment it was a matter of survival in serious winter conditions, the next it was shear, well earned pleasure in the steaming, hot mineral water. The facility was nearly empty giving the fools the sense that it was their own private gathering. Several rounds of pools and the sauna provided great warmth and comfort.
It was the chosen few who were to have an experience that is somewhat typical for the lunatistas. Often on these rides an event of exceptional magnitude occurs, leaving the hapless fools agog in the presence of an other-worldly event. It happened in the sauna. A few of the crew were sweating peacefully. The heat, the full moon, the solstice and the result of hours of struggle conspired to place the lunatistas in the most pleasant state of relaxation. The door of the sauna opened and an attractive couple walked in. The very beautiful woman was carrying a digery doo. They sat on the upper bench, quiet for a moment. Then the woman asked in a soft voice; "Does anyone mind if I play a little?" The others present nearly fell over themselves to reply; "Not at all, please."
Any chance for normality was all over beyond that point. Within seconds the magic notes of the digery swiftly carried those present into the ether. There was no chance to stay on earth. This was the e-ticket ride to the cosmos, to the dynamo hum that represents the Tao, the ultimate source of all matter. The deep vibration punctuated with timely wows set the stage for a full funnometer explosion. For those in this special place, it was the equivalent of all three temple balls going off in the brain.
Staggered by the serenely beautiful experience, the bikers eventually were able to gain enough composure to dress and proceed past checkpoint Charlie for the four mile ride into M-town. It was nearly two in the morning when the crew arrived to wake Dave from an otherwise peaceful sleep. Bleary eyed, he graciously accommodated the bikers for more partying while the car shuffle to Boggs transpired.
Bikers happy to be alive
At three in the morning the event drew to a close. Packed in the previous nine hours was a lifetime of adventure. The extreme conditions led to an extreme experience. It seemed wholly in accord with the bylaws of the bikin fools: Those who dare to venture into the unknown and survive are rewarded with special gifts from the universe.