Table Rocket



The rain clouds finally relented in the middle of March providing some of the best bikin’ known to knobby tires. The timing would be good for the Moonlight Bikin' Fools. Although Sunday, March 19th dawned cloudy, blustery and cool it appeared as though it would be dry for this month’s scheduled night-romp in the boonies. As the day wore on, the clouds receded and the sky became clear.

Nine enthusiastic mountain bike riders would make the scene for this dinner run to Table Rock, a notable formation in the Palisades overlooking Calistoga. Dennis was the rookie for this ride, while the regulars had a surprise visit from Morgan and Azule. Lindsey was on hand as well as Shawn, Jim Korte, Dave, Shane, Mike and Eric. The nine bikers stuffed themselves and the bikes into two vehicles and drove to RLS, where they would poach the previously legal trail to the neighborhood of the Peregrine falcons.

The ride uphill seemed to fly by at warp speed. In seemingly no time, the group arrived at the first safety rest spot, a rock outcropping that yielded a commanding view of the Napa Valley and Table rock. A young couple who thought they were alone watched in concern as one after another mountain biker showed up. This roving band of Bikin' Fools momentarily captured the scene as the late afternoon sun descended towards the horizon.

The next section of the ride was the most exhilarating. The highly technical downhill section provided much adrenaline for the troops. There was nobody complaining about being cold. The trail bottomed out and began climbing in the woods towards the table rock turnoff. At that point, the troops gathered wood from the bushy area that made up the local vegetation. The dinner fire was started in a protected hollow before the gang journeyed to the edge of Table rock. There, they had a front row seat for a generous sunset offering from Del Sol. A spattering of wispy high clouds painted the sky with gentle pastels and graceful shapes. The nine attendees engaged in pleasant banter with much laughter as the sun checked out for the day.

When the bikers returned to the fire, it was nearly the perfect cooking fire. A small bag of charcoal had been placed at the bottom of the sticks. It now provided a perfect bed of coals for the steak, sausage, potatoes, apples, squash, garlic bread and rutabaga. The rutabaga would become a casualty. It was a long shot to try this vegetable, and it took a long time to cook; too long. It was only after the dinner was complete that the large oval shape was last seen deep in the coals, still hard as a rock. Perhaps a wandering raccoon would find it later.

The next item on the list of this evening’s activities was one that Azule definitely did not like. When Mike lit off a barrage of firecrackers, Azule was seen at full stride heading home. He wasn’t kidding even though home was Lake Tahoe. Next on the ticket was the festival ball event. Each of the six or so balls proceeded higher than the previous one showering bright flaming colors into the sky. About ball four, the low-tech launch tube’s structural integrity was severely compromised. The festival ball exploded on the pad delighting all with a fiery, colorful explosion at close range. Two more ‘duds’ followed keeping the funnometer pegged. Azule was the only one who was glad when it was over.

The moon finally made her appearance over Table Mountain which stood tall directly to the east. It was full, robust and bright. This occurrence signaled the time to press on with the mission. The bikers cleaned up the campfire, gathered trash and packed up. Now the backpacks were considerably lighter. The two six packs of beer had been drained and much weight in food was consumed. The trail climbed for just a brief period then began a tortured descent through the steep wooded section of the Palisades just south of Table Rock. Although there were sections that could be ridden, often the drop-off was so steep that death would be likely in the event of a crash. Shane didn’t necessarily believe this as he tried mounting his bike on the edge of a shear drop. as he teetered disastrously towards oblivion in an instant, he saw the light (the beginning of the tunnel of death?). With catlike quickness he hopped off the bike on the downhill side. He saved what probably would have been the worst bike wreck that any of the Bikin' Fools had ever heard of. Jim Korte, of course, did sail off the trail but lived to not talk it.

For the next hour the troops wound down the hill mostly in the dark as the moon stayed hidden behind the Palisades.

"Hey," a voice was heard in the rear, "I don’t see the trail any more."

"Be the trail, Grasshopper." Mike said with a chuckle.

"Its kinda dark out here." The worried voice said.

"Use your void vision." Eric suggested.

"What’s that." The more worried voice asked.

Finally Mike returned to steer Dennis back onto the trial and the procession continued. At one juncture, when the bikers came out into the moonlight, it seemed so bright as to be blinding. One could actually see the ground again. The trail contained many sets of steps. This kept the bikers hiking most of the trail. Once in a while short sections could be safely traveled on the bike. The difference in speed seemed great even though by daylight standards it was sluggish. After winding across several convolutions in the hills, the group of nine came to a stop in an open area.

"End of the trail!" Shawn announced.

"You’re kidding." Eric responded, surprised to be there already.

The ‘end of the trail’ was the spot reached from the other direction a year earlier on another moonlight adventure. That ride had hoped to reach RLS from the Oat Hill Mine road, but the trail was not yet complete.

Now all that remained was to jet down the improved dirt road to Calistoga. Everyone agreed that the road was easy to follow. "You couldn’t go wrong…" But sure enough, somewhere on the ride the L-Factor had to come into play.

"Hey," Eric said upon stopping, "I don’t think that we are in Kansas anymore."

"Humm," Mike said, "I think you might be right. We are supposed to be on the other side of that ridge."

At that point, it mattered not. A retreat uphill was not going to happen. Besides this road was OK and it was going downhill. Soon it dovetailed into another road, one that looked much more familiar. Soon the old army trailer that belongs to Greg Ely appeared. It seemed to come all too soon, yet that was the nature of this outing. Time was compressed and perception was altered; again. What was actually a decent adventure seemed minor. Compared to other rides this one might be considered a footnote, but thanks to the cosmic wormholes in time this mission was a supreme success.