Monday, February 16, 2009

From The Archives

'm away on a non-bicycle-related vacation so I've dug this one out of the pre-Big Bikes archives. This was an email I sent out to some friends after a particularly eventful New Year's Day group ride out in Marin, CA a few years back. Please excuse the formatting and glaring flaws, I chose not to edit it at all and leave it in its original, somewhat raw state

New Year's Day 2006.

Once upon a time the idea of waking up at 8AM on New Year's Day would
have seemed anathema to me, today it just seemed incredibly painful.
Prior to the scheduled ride I had to install a new front derailleur
on Mo's bike and take a hike up the street to get some photos of the
massive mudslide which had taken out a large gazebo, two SUVS, and a
Mercedes, as well as partially destroying a 2 million dollar home. I
managed to pull all this off with a couple minutes to spare, none the
less we still somehow showed up so late to the ride that it was coming
toward us as we rolled into to downtown Fairfax. I was shocked, it was
a pretty huge crew, especially for a rainy cold day, a rainy cold new
year's day morning no less, the final head count was 17.

Like all rides in Marin this one began with a couple hours of
climbing, immediately the group became strung out, I followed Ron and
"Crazy" Andy (thus called due to the fact that he is known to ride a
fixed gear on mt. bike rides in a pair of SPD sandals and crash a
lot) the three of us were on single speeds so the climbing pace was
more comfortable. The slower you go, the more you grind. At the top of
the climb we had to wait a while for the full crew to assemble.

Bringing in the rear was a guy in a full face helmet, complete body
armor, with a fluorescent yellow rain cover over his huge backpack,
all that and he's riding a ten year old hard tail with rim brakes.
From the get go I knew this guy was trouble. We dubbed him "Full Face
Fred" as in "who are we waiting for?" "oh, just Full Face Fred". And
wait we did.

As the ride progressed it ended up being me and Ron on the front,
him leading and me holding on for dear life. Don't think I mentioned
that Ron is 46, 46 but with
3% body fat, total Ned Overend type.
After what seemed like hours, oh wait, it was hours we arrived at
the top the climb,
my legs officially ripped off. When the group was intact the "Candy
Juice" emerged,
a concoction of Ron's rumored to be based in Swiss Rum. Whatever it is
it looks like brake fluid and tastes like, well... brake fluid.
Properly hydrated we started the traverse i.e. the fun part. Here Pete
went to the front, I took up a position a few folks back, virtually
everyone in this group was an unknown to me and I didn't want to get
in anyone's way. This traverse is pretty hairy on a good day, but
after the storms and mudslides new elements were added to the
equation: head-high blown down branches,
unridable-killyadead-washouts, and sections of trail blocked by
tangles of full-size trees washed downhill by the slides. We had only
had one guy go over the edge and he was able to arrest his fall on
some shrubbery and escape unscathed.

We came to the true downhill portion of the ride and waited for Full
Face Fred.
Now here I thought we'd see Fred's true power, I thought that although
he was upwardly challenged that perhaps he was a sort of down hill
thriller, waiting in the wings to school us all on the descent. After
witnessing him ride down a wet staircase with his brakes fully locked,
front wheel twitching back and forth, rear wheel levitating, barely
getting away with it, I knew this was far from the case.
I was able to stay almost within site of Pete on the real nasty
stuff, dabbing several times, sliding through some sections one foot
out, letting out all kinds of bizarre vocalizations, but never
completely coming off the bike.

As we waited at the next juncture two hikers with telescopic hiking
poles, high-gaiters, and wide-brimmed hats came bearing down on us,
I'd heard that these were the type of people who might give a mountain
biker a hard time...sure enough
"Did one of you see a large mushroom back there, pick it, and then
throw it in the air?" "no, why?" "oh, because a large mushroom just
mysteriously fell out of the sky and hit her on the head". Just like a
mountain biker to a.) notice a mushroom while traveling at 20-30mph
b.) come to a screeching halt to pick it, and c.) hurl it high in the
air in the hopes of clocking some Sierra Clubber in the head. I
imagined the type of grief they'd give us would be more along the
lines of "you're causing erosion
by riding in the rain" or "your squealing brakes scare the newts" but
this, this was just surreal, I mean what were the odds of that
mushroom I threw actually hitting someone in the head? I joke.

At the next regrouping point we came up two riders short, Alan,
another sandal and no sock wearing guy, and Full Face Fred were
unaccounted for.
One of the adventure racers on the ride decided to run back and try to
find Fred.

Ron and I rode upward to the next fire road intersection, and anyone
with cell reception tried to call Alan, no one had a number for Fred.
This is when the rain really began to come down, we were all wet, out
of food, pretty much out of water,
and completely ready to get down to Iron Springs Brewing Company and
eat fried food. After close to an hour of searching, calling, and
cursing we came up with nothing,
so we split into groups and descended the mountain in several
different directions,
hoping to run into our errant riders. Pete, Ron, and I were the first
back to Fred's Fred.

We went back to the house to get dried
out, when the next group arrived at the parking lot, Alan had turned
up, but still, no Fred. So Pete got on the phone with search and
rescue, just putting out Fred's description, Pete: "ya, red full-face
helmet, fluorescent yellow windbreaker, body armor..." Dispatcher:
"sir, sir can you describe his face?" Pete: "Mam he's wearing a BRIGHT
RED full-face helmet" Dispatcher: "that doesn't help me" Pete: "are
you serious?".
It went on like that for quite a while.

Eventually one of the other riders found Fred at a parking lot very
far from where his truck was on the west side of Mt. Tam. Initially
Full Face refused a ride back
saying he "wasn't a quitter" and that he'd "been lost on a motorcycle
in the Mojave desert", apparently he had a wealth of experience when
it came to getting lost.
This was evident by some of the decisions he made after becoming
separated from the group. First off he didn't stay put, then he
followed a stream because "water flows down hill" (which hill?), and
my favorite: he came to a lake and it was dark to the right and light
to the left so he naturally went left. Of course this took him in
precisely the opposite direction of where he wanted to go, it was well
past noon and he wanted to go east, the "dark" direction...jackass.

After being informed that search and rescue was about to go out
looking for him and that fifteen people were waiting around expecting
to hear that the rangers had found a fully armored body he acquiesced
and took the ride back to his truck.
Altogether a great ride to start the new year, I mean what's an epic
ride without a call to search and rescue? Can't remember the last time
that happened on a group ride in the Fells.


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