The Bikin' Fools
The phone rang. It was Wednesday morning. "Hello." Eric answered.
"Hey, its Linz," the friendly voice said, "I was going to try to get a bike ride in today."
"Hey, sounds good," Eric replied, "Im off work today anyway. Im sick."
Sick in this case had two components. First, there was a dose of crud going around. Second and more important, Eric was feeling the ravages of his Piscean nature with regard to work, existence and all of the big ticket issues associated with this life and of the reasons that can arise to prevent spontaneous bike rides. It is critically important that one be open to the universe and not so structured that life whizzes past, leaving the participant standing on the sidelines wondering what happened.
"What did you have in mind for a ride." Eric queried.
"Well, Im open for about anything." Linz replied with the refreshing challenge of adventure coloring his response.
"Ah, if we hustle, we could do the Girl Scout loop." Eric posited.
"Hey that sounds good." Linz replied without hesitation.
Being somewhat sick, Eric did not set the trail on fire. But the lack of top end power didnt seem to affect his mid-range cruise ability. That brings up the subject of riding through illness. Most often when one is ill, the last thing on their mind is a bike ride. The old wives tale has it that rest is needed to heal the body. Yet there is a body of information that suggests in some cases the illness can be more quickly processed by physical activity. The elevated metabolism more quickly processes the funk in the system.
At any rate, the two set off up the Oat Hill Mine Road with less than three hours of daylight left. The loop is about a three-hour event.
"It could be close on time." Eric suggested.
"It looks good to me." Linz said. He was referring to the fact that at that moment it was broad daylight. To any good Zen person, all that counts is what is in the moment. At that moment the day could not have been any nicer. It was a premier October offering from the Universe. The sky was clear, the temperature was mild and pleasant. Both knew they would likely not be back by the time that darkness set in. All that was really needed was to get to the Girl Scout Camp by dusk.
The ride up the Oat Hill Mine Road was routine. Very little traffic exists during the week. The awesome views were crisp and deep. Despite Erics weakened condition, he still managed to do the upper section with only three dabs. This intense workout is very challenging under the best of circumstances. Yet, there is the relaxation factor that often yields better results than the dyno efforts that seem to be required in difficult technical obstacles. By not caring whether one makes a challenge, often a better line is followed and the lack of tension allows for a more fluid transit. Linzs speed uphill was considerably faster than previous rides. The 180 mm cranks made a huge contribution to the increased velocity. Plus Linz seemed to be in the zone.
At the Holmes place the two stopped to contemplate the beauty of it all. Again, the subject of the ride was revisited.
"Do you think we have enough time?" Eric asked, looking at the fading sun in the gorgeous western sky.
"Sure," Linz said without hesitation. It was still light.
The two proceeded behind the top of the Palisades. In short order they were looking at the sacred cave. Local scuttlebutt has it that the cave may have been an ancient burial cave used by the local natives. It has the presence of something special. Neither Linz nor Eric saw the White Owl that is supposed to be the guardian of the shrine.
Beyond the Holmes Place the trail is friendly and easily rideable for a mile or so. Then several technical sections are scattered along the way. Most all are relatively short. It takes less than a half-hour to get to the stealth turn that travels over the hill to Poke Eye camp. A few more minutes of uphill struggle and one arrives at the Tunnel of Terror. This part of the trail is hollowed out of very gnarly buck brush. It is only tall enough to clear by bending as far down as possible. Even then, one almost always gets grabbed snagged and scratched in their attempt to burl through.
The sun was now below the western hills. The light was soft, mellow and filled with lovely pastel hues. The sense of the season was full and bright. Fall colors dotted the hillsides where deciduous trees were beginning to turn color. The sun was much lower in its track across the heavens.
Linz, now sensing some urgency to be out of the woods by dark, set a blistering pace. The two quickly shredded the Van Ness section. Although Eric looked for the Tin Cup spring, it once again eluded the eye. It is a spring that exists next to the jeep road and provides the thirsty biker with pure, sweet water. (the same water that is now transported to Calistoga, put in bottles and sold for a high price)
Eric and Linz pedaled up to Jims door and knocked.
"Hey, Jim," Eric greeted, "Is it OK to ride through the camp?"
"Sure," Jim replied in his typically friendly manner. "There is nobody here, except for one of the workers who is living up there."
"Groovy," Eric replied, "Wed better keep stroking, its becoming dark rapidly."
As the two headed off into the wonderful old woods, Linz flatted. A quick tube change took only a few minutes. It was getting dark. As they proceeded up the ancient, unused old road the twilight began to illuminate the path in faint colors and patterns. The lighter colored leaves stood out while the darker areas of the earth simply vanished. The surface of the ground became surreal as the light continued to fade. The trail faded as darkness began to win the tug-of-war between night and the end of day.
By this time the bikers had accrued some weariness. Now it was a matter of grunting to the top. By this time, the twilight had yielded to complete darkness. The timing was pretty good as the two stepped from the woods onto Highway 29 at Robert Louis Stevenson Park. Now a very challenging event was next on the docket. Riding on the highway at night can be very tricky. The two had a twisting six mile downhill trek ahead. The traffic passed in groups of cars. In total darkness the fog line at the edge of the road was faintly visible. The dash in the dark took on a dreamy state. Nothing could be seen but the subtle line passing at thirty miles per hour. When a car approached, the oncoming lights blinded the biker almost totally. For a brief moment nothing could be seen until the vehicle passed and the faint lines could be made out again. It took an inordinate amount of time to process the mountain. A turn was considered at the Old Toll Road, but its pitch black nature with no fog lines made it unusable.
Finally the two rolled back into Calistoga, jazzed from an outing that morphed from a routine fitness run into real adventure. It was less than four hours, but filled with the joy of the autumn, great single track and simple exercise.