Michel lobbied hard for a big ride. He had been cooped up for weeks, marinated in the duties of his new fatherdom. The bikin’ fools watched the weather all week long, hoping it would break from the wet pattern and allow a sortie into the back country without undue hardship. Although the precipitation stopped a day earlier, the last form came down in snow that blanketed the higher elevations.

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Jim, Michel and Eric prepare for a winter outing


When Michel arrived at the shop, there was discussion about the ride. Where to go? Not having a firm plan, the riders simply decided to go up the Oat and see what happened. The day was clear and cold. There were a surprising number of hikers on this cold day.

The snow level was near the one thousand foot level. On the lower slopes the scene was much more spring like. The newest crop of wild flowers had begun to make their annual appearance. Buttercups, vetch, Grand Hounds Tongue, shooting stars and of course the mustard seemed to hale the coming of springtime, though a view towards the palisades would counter that notion.

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Tiny Vetch flowers awaken to a cold day

Jim had vowed to try to make the climb without dabs. Eric paused often to take pictures and Michel carefully metered his energy to stay within his limits that had been curtailed with his absence from the sport over the past months. At the saddle, Eric and Michel took a short break to consume some food. More hikers walked past.

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Michel works towards the top

At the top, Jim waited for the two others. A discussion followed as to the possibilities for the rest of the ride. A Girl Scout ride was offered, but vetoed due to the presence of Miss Swift who could not handle the highway. The 420 option had been tainted on the last outing due to an unscheduled meeting with the land owner at the bottom of the run. Finally, much to the consternation of Michel, the trio decided that the only viable option was the Pickett loop.

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Jim and Michel getting cold feet

The trail from the Holmes place to the top of the terrain was deep in snow. Several inches covered the protected trail. Despite the presence of the white stuff, traction was amazingly good. The tires sank to the earth below and provided enough sticktion to propel the bikes up the steep hill. Walking was only necessary for the worst parts. Once over the top, the ride downhill would be easy, except for Jim who suffered from owing a set of brakes appropriately named “Hope”. Hope is the strong feature of these brakes that belong in the trash heap of technology. For Michel and Eric, it would mean that they would not be left in the dust on the downhill.

The temperature on top of the mountain had been downright cold. As the altitude paid off, the temperature warmed nicely. About one-third of the way down, the three stopped to regroup. It seemed a nice, pleasant spot to take a break. There was no sense of hurry, as Michel had requested something in the proximity of a five hour outing. The Pickett loop can be done in two. The sun shined bright and clear. It warmed the cold feet and hands. Now it seemed much more spring like than before.

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The French Deli fuels the adventure

Michel broke out the rolling deli. He provided the riders with a delightful assortment of picnic goodies, including beer. This stop would go a long way to deflate his bulging Blowfish pack. Casual banter led to a discussion of Big Foot. Michel had not heard of this American myth. Due to a very strange experience on the previous moonride, the bikin’ fools have been nudged slightly closer to believing in the Sasquatch legend. Both Jim and Morgan had heard a peculiar noise in the woods, followed by crunching footsteps that suggested a very large animal walking on two feet. Azul, the highly seasoned canine, also reacted in a manner very atypical of his usual calm, relaxed demeanor. Normally he roams the trail sides near the riders. During this event, he stayed very close to the riders and would not stray at all.

Miss Swift would not have to deal with Big Foot. She had only to harass the local rats, one of her favorite things. While the guys ate lunch, she roamed the fringes and scouted out several nests. Eventually the group continued the descent and rolled downhill to the finish of the ride. The remaining item was the Calistoga Inn for the required electrolyte therapy.

It was an abbreviated ride, but provided a unique experience in the snow. The dawning of spring offered a pleasant variety of wild flowers. Although it was cold in the beginning, the ride turned warm. The event offered the bikin’ fools a reasonable adventure on a day well suited for hanging out in a hot tub.

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Mid-winter mixes with the early spring