The Bikin' Fools
Two Riders and one Tornado
Eric and Auriah were the takers for the Valentines Day moonride . A last minute effort by Eric had failed to recruit riders with the heroic exception of Auriah who enthusiastically accepted the offer with no notice.
"How soon can you be ready?" Eric asked, then stated; "Tanya can give us a ride to RLS."
Tanya offers a no-shuffle ride to the start
"Ten minutes dude." Auriah said flatly.
"Killer, see you in a few." Eric said with notable joy. For him Friday was the only choice of dates available. In addition, the weather forecast was most favorable for Friday.
Although preparation for a significant ride usually takes some time., Auriah managed to show up in just a few minute, complete with munchies and hot tea. The Heckler hadnt been ridden since the last moonride. It would deliver a dialed performance despite some brain wave dysfunction late in the ride.
A strategy discussion took place on the way up the mountain. Due to the darkness of the night and the lack of current information about the drop-in to the Girl Scouts, both agreed that a start from Mt. Millhouse was a good choice. It was.
The air was cool but not cold. It was solidly in the ideal range. The sky was overcast though the moon was visible through the clouds. Wisps of fog floated overhead as Auriah & Eric began the pedal up Van Ness Creek. The sound of water in the creek was notable.
The lower section of the road was soft but easily rideable. A muddy section existed from the traffic of construction work that was taking place near Octagon Spring. This lovely feature has become the latest victim of the quest for more potable water for thirsty Californians. The naturally occurring spring was contained by an eight sided structure and had sat unattended for many years. During that time a variety of flora and fauna flourished near and in the spring. This tranquil spot offered a pleasant escape from the ravages of the more civilized world.
Auriah shreds through the fog
The overcast dimmed the light only slightly. It mattered little as Eric and Auriah are both very familiar with the route. Auriah grew up at the neighboring Kilowana ranch and has shredded the entire ranch many, many times on a variety of motorcycles. Auriah pedaled with power that defied his absence from the sport for the past month. The two easily processed the climbs past the cabin, past the ranch junction and past Wildwood.
This ride is one of the most popular on the menu of events for the bikin fools. As such, nearly every foot of the trail is pretty well known. However the ride hadn't been done in many months with the exception of a day ride that utilized the Wild Lilac Trial instead of the Van Ness Creek approach to Bear Valley. Shortly past Wildwood things changed dramatically. Neither Auriah or Eric were prepared for what they were about to encounter. At first, there was a branch across the road. Then a whole tree. For the next several hundred yards carnage littered the area. The scene was of surreal devastation. It was as though a tornado had touched down among some of the most elder and stately trees on the ranch. The huge Doug Fir at Tin Cup was topped. This mighty tree had stood sentinel along Van Ness Creek for a couple of hundred years. It was hugged often and with reverence for the knowledge, the history and the simple beauty that is achieved with the passing of so many years. The two struggled to pass through the maze of twisted and tangled tree parts.
Auriah inspects damage
The ride through Bear Valley was routine and easy. The features slid past as the two bikers made their way through the soft light of the nearly full moon. The air was thick with mist giving an eerie mystical quality to the evening. The stream was running full at the water crossing near the Bear Valley pond. Auriah chose the bike toss method to ford the river. He then placed one stepping stone in the water and took a huge, giant leap to the other side. Eric didnt feel that he would be able to replicate the maneuver and chose to ride the hazard wetting his feet only slightly. The next section of the ride contains the highest pucker factor of the ride. Lions, tigers and bears exist in this part of the wilderness. OK, tigers havent been seen, but the others sure have. The narrow canyon is prime territory for these wary creatures and their presence has been felt on many occasions. Tracks in the mud confirm the reality of their presence.
The two climbed up Dr. Js lost trail to the signpost. This outcropping of rock overlooks a great expanse of the land behind the Palisades. In the daylight one can visually scour acres of land. The fog prevent the two from seeing much from the point which is a notable feature of the ride. After a short tea break the two continued to Pocai Camp. The original plan called for a break there. Although they stopped briefly, the mood was to continue. Transit was taking longer than expected, though it was all good. It is simply harder to cover the ground as fast at night. In addition the slower part of Van Ness Creek had an effect on the timetable.
The two were about an hour and a half into the ride. In ideal conditions during the daylight, one can do the entire Girl Scout loop backwards in this amount of time. But the special quality of the night begged for the attendee to not hurry, to soak up the energy and the essence of being in this special place under the serene and soft light of the moon. By the time the two reached the Wind Cave the 10:10 jet flew past. Each night at this time a commercial airliner passes overhead as it descends to land at San Francisco. Upon departing from the Wind Cave Auriah found that his rear shifter wasnt working. The lever seemed to be jammed. After fussing with the machinery for a while, it was determined that he was stuck in the large rear ring, but could shift the front chainring. That would give him enough gears to get home. Shortly down the trail he discovered that he was trying to work the wrong shifter. After that discovery the bike worked fine.
The Oat Hill has a couple of brutal sections but is otherwise easy cross country riding. It didnt take very long to reach the Holmes Place at the top of the pass. Both Auriah and Eric decided to walk most of the upper section. The subdued light and the slippery rocks presented a great opportunity for stackage. Auriah was also dealing with wet brakes. Eric was not wanting to get injured. At the Sunset Section the single track becomes rideable and the two began a more swift passage. Despite the flaky brakes Auriah blazed downhill. At the view rock, the two again paused. The lights of Calistoga were now clearly visible.
Auriah performing trail maintenance
Shortly after departing from the rock Erics rear tire exploded. The brand new Continental suffered a major gash. It was a huge tear that required a special blowout patch that Eric just happened to have. It was a patch that had been carried for years and never needed. Most flats are the simple pinch, or thorn variety. But this one was big! The patch held for the rest of the descent to town. Walking would have added another 45 minutes to the ride.
A quick trip to the Calistoga Brewery capped the ride. It had been a classic outing on short notice. There was no shortage of adventure and mt. bikin fun. The evening provided the classic ingredients of a Moonride. It provided adventure, challenge and the unusual appreciation for the experience of communing with a slice of life seldom seen except by those willing to step out of the ordinary mainstream. The two managed to cross the line of normality and slip into the realm of the surreal and return with a dose of benediction. Benediction that fine tunes the spirit and allows life to be seen in a different, yet high quality light.
End of the ride for an ancient biker