The February 2001 moonride approached with some confusion. The date wasnt set until just a few days before the event. Lindsey would be in Mexico for most of the week. He would step out of the airplane and into his Bikin Fools outfit to perform deft surgery on the concept of normality. He would bring with him the essence of the mountain jungles where thick vapors drape the stage of the mystical realm.
Other factors during the week conspired to muddy the event. Illness and personal challenges cast grave doubt over a favorable outcome of this heavy duty sporting event. With deteriorating weather forecast, further suspicion was enhanced. The day broke utterly clear and continued as such for most of the day. Eric was encouraged. Almost always there are high beautiful cirrus clouds that forecast the weather systems. It would appear by mid afternoon that the Fools had dodged a bullet.
The only opportunity for a lunar quorum would have to be on Thursday. As the early part of the week unfolded, the night skies were bright, clear and offered the brightest moonlight of the yearThe Church of the Holy Spoke was selected as the destination. This unique natural temple would be the perfect spot for this evenings frivolity. This natural structure was made by God explicitly for the Bikin Fools. It is remote and somewhat difficult to get to. This discourages the average Wal Mart shopper. It is a facility that is reserved for the chosen few.
Shawn treks up the steep technical section
The plan slowly fell into place. Michel made contact and would be on board. Jim Korte volunteered to depart early and prepare the Holy Bonfire. Master scout and wilderness guide Shawn would coordinate the complexity of the radio-controlled, four-phalange assault on the mountain. Brent rallied to be a strong part of the event. This time he would not forget his dinner and he would ride with surprising power. Ryan Gracy brought to the ride his cool charm and forty-pound Heckler to pedal whimsy and youthful abandon into the heart of the experience.
Adding an entirely new dimension to the concept of moonlight mountain bikin madness was the addition of a pedestrian: Dave. He would make a heroic trek, solo for most of the twenty miles. He burled up the Oat Hill at a rate that compared favorably with the Bikin Fools. Later in the evening, he would make his most grand statement ever.
The original plan was to leave in the mid afternoon and take a leisurely cruise up the Oat Hill mind road. Linz however reported delays in his return to the Norte. The projected time of 7:30 would morph into something closer to 9:00. However, Jim Korte had already left, or so it was thought. It made sense that a contingent should proceed ahead and simply wait at the destination as opposed to waiting at the shop. It made sense. So Shawn and Brent left along with Dave. Dave stopped at the Estates to pick up some gear and rejoined the trail only slightly behind. Word got to Eric of further delays. He and Ryan pondered the choices and decided to go on up the hill. They were about twenty minutes behind the others.
All moonrides have their own special quality. Generally the rides are taken on the waxing side of the light when La Luna stands higher in the sky at the beginning of the evening. She is an eager and willing companion, always ready to explode into the moment with enormous adventure. This dynamic combo has oft exceeded the limits of fun, and has frequently teetered off into the realm of uncontrollable, severe euphoria. This ride, however, would be after the full moon. It would have a significantly different quality to the experience. This ride would encroach upon the profound, the foundation of the universe and a sense of ageless wisdom and energy. It would be a ride of reaffirmation, of reconnecting and of revitalizing the sensory strunods. The ride would put in motion a sense of gratitude that would last until the next audience with La Luna and beyond.
The elation with the chance of clear skies was throttled with the sudden appearance of thick, dark clouds. The moon was low and near the horizon as the first wave of lunatistas began the long arduous climb towards the distant peaks that now flirted with the clouds. Although the moon could not be detected in the sky, the subdued light was adequate and diffuse. The good news was that the temperature would stabilize and not plummet, as it will with the clear winter sky.
Abruptly three radios crackled with the report; "Has anyone seen Brent? Over." Shawn and Brent had become separated. This seemed suspiciously familiar to the Penumbra Shadow ride when Brent had a drive-train failure, no tools and was out of earshot of the rest of the group and had to turn back. Somehow Brent was ahead of Shawn who thought Dave was ahead of him. About this time Eric and Ryan caught up with Dave. He was making good steerage to the Holmes place.
Dave wondering if a helicopter might be available
For the next hour, the four bikers and one hiker would work their way to the saddle. It was getting close to nine oclock. Suddenly an excited voice sounded on the radio; "Were just heading out!" It was Lindsey with the rest of the entourage. He, Mike and Michel were about an hour behind Eric and Ryan. After a brutal and physically challenging climb to the Holmes place, Shawn and Brent pressed onward while Eric waited for Dave to catch up. Dave was making terrific time for being on foot. Shortly he joined Eric. His speed came at a price. When he arrived at the top of the Palisades he was wasted. He had that dazed, far away look, a look that people have when they wish they were home in bed. Eric whipped Dave onward. Reluctantly, but with some power he struggled ahead. At the Church lookout, Eric and Dave came upon the bewildered Shawn and Brent.
"Theres no fire in the cave." Shawn stated in a low tone indicating he was prepared to indulge in some Korte bashing. Bashing well deserved for promising to go ahead, then whimping-out. Such behavior is below whale shit. The four stood silent wondering what to do.
Then a clear and bright call came from the cave. It was Jim! Not only did he not bozo on the troops, within moments the Bikin Fools could see a fire come to life and create a warm welcome glow in the cave across the gorge. It would still be a notable effort to descend several hundred, very steep vertical feet down to the creek. From there a difficult trail climbs up the opposing terrain to the cave. In the woods the trail vanishes several times. At each turn, the fools plus Dave made steerage to the very-much-needed fire and warmth.
The evening so far was cold. Rain had begun on several occasions but quit after short sprinkles. A person stays very warm when trudging uphill with a heavy burden. When the person stops, the body shuts down production of energy. This is a survival instinct. The body is thinking that the brain is out of control with this mission and will allocate only energy that has a chance of getting the tired body back home. Dave was clearly flagging. He was wearing cotton in wet conditions. Add 10 extra burly points.
Happy Campers in the Cave of The Holy Spoke
It was approaching 10 oclock when Shawn, Brent, Ryan, Dave and Eric crawled up the outer lip of the huge cave. The cave stands twenty feet tall along its opening. The saucer shaped cave is 75 feet across and 60 feet deep. The ceiling is consistently fifteen feet high. It has a quality about it that suggests that it has long been a very special place. Its generous accommodations, view across the valley and inner resource of water qualify this spot as holy in the lexicon of the Bikin Fools. Its remote location keeps traffic at a minimum. The warmth of the fire would re-energize the tired bodies.
It was pushing midnight when Mike, Lindsey and Michel appeared out of the mist that now swirled through the valley between the Oat Hill mind road and the cave. From time to time moderate amounts of rain came down. But it was never sustained. The gourmet dinner plan had been somewhat wrinkled with the staggered timing of the guests. It was more like a rolling buffet. None the less, there were several entrees that could be booked only at high class restaurants. Among the winners was Brents au gratin filet, stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. Parmesan chicken sausage on a stick kept idle minds occupied watching the flames dance around and over the delectable tubular treat. Apples, baked with brown sugar and butter, are always a favorite. Ryan weighed in with quesodillas, a new item.
Two volunteers made a sortie for more wood as the evening became late. It was time to pack up and make the hike back to the bikes and back to civilization. Dave however, chose to stay. He would rest until first light then hike back to Calistoga in the morning. One by one the bikers gathered their gear and began to file out of the cave. The tricky path kept anyone from looking back. It was only after several hundred yards, when the trail became obvious and easy, that someone looked back and exclaimed; "WOW!" In the heavily moisture-laden air, a giant shaft of brilliant orange light flooded from the cave. Dave had added the entire, remaining stash of wood to the blaze. Flames licked at the ceiling. The cave would be seen for the next forty-five minutes. The spectacular light show dazzled the eye and tingled the brain each time one turned at looked at the holy glow. The sight was inspirational.
The fire has been DAVED!
The bikes were retrieved and the eight remaining travelers convened at the Pickett intersection and continued for a quarter of a mile to the top of the terrain. There, the wind blew thick waves of vapor so solid it could be sliced. The visibility remained good, though fuzzy. The relaxed focus made riding easier. When clarity exists, often the brain becomes overloaded with information. In blurry resolution, vision becomes less of a tool for riding. This realm requires bikin Zen, the willingness to pedal into the void.
The bikers eventually came out of the clouds as they descended the two thousand vertical feet back into the Napa Valley. The distant ridges along the Palisades wore a thick gown of stormy clouds. Just as the Bikin Fools reached the pavement, rain began. It would stay steady for the rest of the night. By three oclock, most of the Fools had established a relationship with the sheets.
This ride had every reason to go awry. The weather could have been viewed as crummy, yet it offered a dynamic template to enhance this unique experience. Scheduling was interesting. Again, there was a sensible solution to the age-old problem of the inadvertent bovine-flanking maneuver, when too many riders populate a bikin herd. The overwhelming healing power of La Luna granted clemency to a variety of maladies. The alchemists brew of ingredients for this moonride produced a spirituous elixir that would linger on the palette of adventure for a long time to come.