The Sta-Puff Caper
As the summer of 99 rocketed across the calendar, the July moon-ride arrived on the heels of too much fun and activity. Four (soon-to-be-lost) souls volunteered for this maintenance effort of the ongoing lunacy. The string of moon-rides had exceeded a half-decade, each ride being a transforming and significant event.
Dr. J had been thinking about the extension of the string of rides that had covered the high ground from Cloverdale to Lake Hennessey south of Angwin. The topo map indicated the possibility of riding from Hennessey to Rector reservoir. It appeared to be only five miles or so in a straight line on the map . So it was expected to be an easy outing, er, with the possible exception of the small spaces on the map that werent covered by old jeep roads. Those empty spaces did appear to have many contour lines crammed into them. In addition, the spillway from Rector reservoir is visible from the Silverado trail. It looks to be one of the most exciting downhill runs a bicycle and (or) rider could take.
Lindsey shows up after root canal
Three and a half people showed up for the ride. Half of Shawn was still on his new motorcycle or jeep, cruising in his mind the hinterlands of northern California. It had been 28 days since his last bike ride. Lindsey arrived fresh from the dentist who had spent most of the day hogging out the root canals of Lindseys chompers. His decision to go on a bike ride was poor at best, but his undying enthusiasm over-rode good judgement once again, keeping the L-
Factor in a state of high readiness. Mike was more than ready to shed the constraints of normal consciousness by immersing himself deep in the boonies with no real plan of how to get out. Eric was in full Zen mode, practicing contact with this very moment so as to be able to soak up as much payload of extraordinary experience as possible.
Around 6:00 Lindsey placed a call to Eric: "Howdy, were getting down to the final adjustments, when will you be here?"
"Should be about an hour." Eric replied with some confidence that he could get two hours worth of stuff done in one hour.
Finally, all of the minutia was accounted for and Eric jumped in the CRX and jetted over the mountain to join with the awaiting lunatistas. With four people for the ride, the car shuffle would be exceptionally easy. One this outing, only one vehicle had to be shuttled to the planned end of the ride. With the relative short distance, it was assumed that the ride would be over by a reasonable hour.
With Lindseys car at the Rector reservoir spillway, the crew piled into Mikes truck and proceeded to Lake Hennessey. The sun was nearing the western horizon as the four began the short pedal on the road to the beginning of big-time adventure. The first gate was encountered, considered and crossed. A steep climb up the old pavement was undertaken for several hundred yards until the sound of a motor vehicle was heard.
"Uh oh," Eric said, "Wed better hit the bushes!"
Near miss with cowboy
The crew clambered into the brush to avoid contact with other humanoids. The sound lingered for a short period of time then seemed to diminish. Cautiously the four continued up the road. A water tank appeared and the road seemed to end there. It made some sense that there would be an improved road to the tank. Yet, the map showed a road continuing along the ridge. Immediately, tracks were found leading past the tank. Suddenly the lunatistas were in the presence of a major bovine convention.
"Check it out," Shawn said, "There's fresh hay here."
"That explains the vehicle that we heard." Eric replied.
"I can sill hear a motor running." Mike said.
"Yea, I hear it too." Lindsey added.
The four proceeded quietly along the established dirt road, past the contented cows. The noise of the motor became louder. Another dirt road appeared. It was a possible choice of direction, although the correct way seemed obvious. The crew wanted to stay along the ridge; the other way seemed to go into the valley. Carefully the four rode towards the noise.
"Wait!" Shawn suddenly said, "There's a structure ahead."
Sure enough, there was a small trailer with a generator running nearby. The steering committee was convened.
"Whaddya think we should do?" Was the generic question.
"Let's check out that area over there." Mike said pointing to what appeared to be a route going behind the enclave. The group quietly rode up the hill and behind the camper. There was no vehicle present. It may have been that the resident was off getting more hay, or something. Clearly this was an active cowboy residence with the tenant close by. There were no dogs. Curving back to the road from behind the domicile, there appeared to be a split.
"Which way?" Eric asked.
"We should stay as high along the ridge as possible." Mike said.
The four climbed up the road. It was less traveled than the previous road, though a caterpillar had been there recently. The sun had set. The light was a combination of afterglow and moonlight. On this evening two days before the 'official' full moon, the gracious celestial body was already high in the night sky, providing the soft sweet light. For a couple of miles the road continued to climb steeply along the ridge with occasional views of the valley and the opposing mountains across Napa Valley. The riders proceeded with gleeful abandon. The ride was proceeding with the grace and benediction that has come to be the hallmark of these lunified experiences.
After a pleasant period of bikin' (except for Shawn who had stacked because he couldn't get out of the clips) the riders of the night came upon a primo, perfectly paved, obviously private road. Immediately to the right was vinyards. They opted to follow the road uphill to see if it connected with a higher road/trail that might have taken the crew behind the high terrain that guarded Rector reservoir. Right away, the lunatistas came up what appeared to be the caretakers house guarding the road. The owner obviously lived up the turn-off with the tree-lined promenade disappearing over the high knoll.
Bovine Flanking Maneuver Required
A 180-degree bovine flanking maneuver was made and the crew rode back to the place where the dirt road headed off past the vineyard. It seemed sort of correct. The dirt road split to three. Two connected back to one and the whole thing started getting a little confusing. The general direction was known. The group proceeded using the D.U.H. method (Dubiously Undertaken Hazards). The road finally crapped out with the only choice being a boony-thrash in a questionable direction. Another flanking maneuver put the group back towards the pavement. Before arriving there, Shawn peeled off along the edge of a vineyard. It seemed passable and going in a favorable direction. Finally the end of the vineyard appeared and a cut through some trees seemed to be going somewhere. The group followed the cut and found the remnants of a road. It went in the proper direction.
The moon was high in the sky providing soft magical light. The temperature was starting to cool off and the air was becoming more fog-like as midnight approached. The view across the valley was beautiful. The terrain to the east unfolded in the distance. There appeared to be miles and miles of boondocks between the bikin' fools and Lake Berryessa.
After a short ride along this current road, it curved off to the south to a plateau as the terrain dropped sharply, too steep for any road building. The view from the edge of this canyon showed an enormous drop to the bottom of the mountain. Slightly to the east was the corner of a vineyard. There would have to be an access road servicing this vineyard. The immediate problem that existed was that three of the four participants were not prepared for a boony-thrash. Everybody was wearing shorts, not the attire for crashing through the gnarly, scratchy and resistant buckbrush. Mike had long pants in his pack, Eric came up with his leg warmers, and Shawn had nothing. Mike broke out the emergency Sta-Puff suit (Ty-Vek designed for painting) for Lindsey. The only redeeming feature was the fact that the route was downhill, steep downhill.
Rarely used Bike Toss Technique Employed
Cautiously the quartet began the tedious, slow descent off the high terrain towards the vineyard below. The brush was four to seven feet high. The path of least resistance was always taken, though much resistance was always there. In fact, it was so difficult struggling downhill; it became an intense aerobic workout. It is hard to imagine sweating going downhill in the cool night moving at a pace of 1/2 mile per hour. Yet the brush was so resistant that all of the techniques in the Bikin' Fools Safe Riding Manual had to be employed just to struggle from one bush to the next. Finally, the ultimate tool of off-road, off-trail, outta-luck bike travel was introduced: The bike toss. The mountainside was so steep that footing was very insecure. Most often the bike had to be held overhead while one tried to squeeze the body between the sticky bushes. Any mis-step caused the explorer to "send the bike on ahead". As long as the bike toss left the machine in the tops of the thick brush, progress was relatively easy. It is when the bike sunk to the floor that one had to struggle, pull, strain and sweat to get the bike above the brush and do it all over.
Although the troupe needed to veer slightly left as they descended the mountain, the going was so tough that the direction ended up being mostly straight downhill. Finally the streambed at the very bottom was contacted. This veritable highway led uphill to the bottom of the vineyard. One by one the thrashed bikers scrabbled out of the bush. Eric, Mike and Shawn waited for Lindsey to appear. Sightings had occasionally been made of the Sta-Puff dude as he worked his way down the unforgiving terrain. Finally, when Lindsey made his appearance, little was left of the white suit. It was shredded beyond recognition. It looked as though he had gone several rounds with a Bengal Tiger.
Warning: Do not approach the Sta-Puff dude.
Finally able to actually ride the bikes again, the fools began to ascend the vineyard. It went up, up and up. Eventually there came a more traveled road with one option appearing to exit the vineyard. The crew chose to continue uphill. The vineyards extended seemingly forever. Eventually the bikers came upon a moonscape of devastation to the landscape where new vineyard was being created. Enormous caterpillars and tractors had scoured and ripped the earth until it was a jumble of huge rocks and powered dirt so fine that it sifted into the shoes and between the toes. In the moonlight, the preceding bikers left a cloud of dust as the walked across the wounded earth.
Another road finally appeared. Again the bikes could be ridden. This time the road proceeded to a logical conclusion; a water tank. There was no way to ride, except back down the road. Moments of confusion reigned. Mike climbed over the fence and explored the terrain to the south.
"I know which way I'm going!" He said with enthusiasm as he returned to the challenged group.
"O' yea," Eric said, "What's up?"
"The reservoir is right there." He stated flatly.
The rest of the crew clambered over the fence to take a look. Sure enough, they stood on a hill over looking the water and the dam. It really wasn't very far. The only problem was it would require another boony-thrash to get there. This effort was far easier than the previous encounter with the brush. It took much less time and the end of the ride was in sight. The L-Factor was officially dis-enabled. Mike and Lindsey headed for the water while Eric and Shawn angled towards the dam. Mike and Lindsey would spend the next hour inflating their rafts and swimming across the calm water. Shawn and Eric descended to the dam and road to the spillway where they would wait for the frog guys to navigate their way across.
Finally, with the arrival of the two swimmers at the dam, the beginning of the end of the ride was at hand. Several minutes were spent on the dry spillway. It was a fun place to play. The descent was thrilling as the long, long spillway dropped precipitously downhill, then fell again steeper until finally at the bottom it curved sharply up and would launch any overspeeding biker onto a pile of rocks. The moon was well into the night sky. In fact, Eric was wondering if he was seeing the first light of morning, or the lights of Napa in the background.
The car shuffle was executed and the bikin' fools returned to the civilized reality that they had vacated several hours earlier. It was a great escape, a great adventure and another wake-up call from the lovely lady of the night, La Luna. She shared with the bikers a very special time of peace, sport, fun and a fleeting opportunity to be very much alive in the present.