This years DATMBA was different than in years past in that it was chosen more for its social aspects and its beauty than for its crazy ride venue. It was also very similar to years past in that it was to provide us with many, many stories that we could share and expand upon in the future.
I woke on Friday to the sound of cars driving by on wet pavement...never a good sign when there’s a ride planned. It didn’t look too bad though and after touching base with Jerry and Tracy, it was decided that although it was probably too cold and wet for Caleb to go, it wasn’t cold enough or wet enough to keep his grandpa home. Besides, with Deb working and the girls out battling the crowds at the mall, where else would I be but riding my bike?
And since I wasn’t going to be pulling a trailer, I was able to bring the SS mt bike which, with no shocks and big wheels is absolutely perfect for ripping up the fire roads we were going to be riding today.
Tracy and his neighbor picked me up in Tracy’s new truck (sorry about the scratch) and we headed for the base of Mt Tamalpais in Marin County, the birthplace of Mountain Biking and where keeping up with joneses means you have more anti-Bush stickers on your BMW than they do...(ok, just kidding about the scratch Tracy. Although I'm sure you already stopped reading to run out to the parking lot and check)
No-one ever said mt bikers weren’t a crazy group. Where else, on the day after Thanksgiving, when rain is predicted and the high is supposed to be below 60 degrees, are you going to find 13 people willing to crawl out of bed and go for a ride?
But here we were...
Originally, this was planned as a picnic. Tracy and I were going to be hauling trailers with everyone bringing food and drinks to share. As soon as it was decided though that Caleb wasn’t coming and I wasn’t bringing a trailer, it all fell apart and most of us brought only the sandwiches and snacks we could shove in our camelbacks.
I did put the rack on my bike in which I had 3 beers, plus the two I had in my camelback and the two I was able to convince Tracy to carry, so there was beer at least. Here’s a little lesson I learned - put the beer in first so it doesn’t smash your turkey sandwich.
Chris though, decided to stick to the original plan (or maybe I forgot to tell him the plan changed) and loaded up his single speed road bike with full panniers and brought a stove, coffee pot, plate, silverware, tablecloth and the makings of an open faced hot turkey sandwich – complete with stuffing and pie!
The ride up Mt Tam is a pretty sedate ride and although it’s a constant climb, none of the pitches are too steep. (unless of course you happen to be riding an SS road bike with 42-17 gearing and full panniers)
The fun in a ride like this is really getting to hang out with everyone and in keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, I’d like to say I really am thankful to be able to count all these people as friends and to be able to spend time with them doing something we all enjoy.
I was especially blown away by the fact that Cheryl and Mike, Jerry’s daughter and son in law, brought their son Alex with them on the ride. As I learned, he had just the day before turned 9 and, as I also learned, that kid is a stud! He kept up a really good pace the entire way to West Point. Never once did I hear him complain and every time I’d see him, he was just spinning away up the hills with a smile on his face.
Several times on the way to the top we stopped to regroup and take pictures. It was still cold, but the weather system that was supposed to be coming seemed to be holding off.
At the top we found the picic area is actually pretty sheltered from the weather so we took some time and ate our respective lunches.
For some it was a clif bar, for others a smashed turkey sandwich and for Chris, it was a veritable feast followed by hot coffee and pie. I have to admit, I was really regretting not having put more effort into preparing my lunchtime meal that morning.
Well, as you can imagine, one of the best parts of climbing a mountain is in the going back down. And Mt Tam did not disappoint. Although the first part of the descent was cold and damp, we eventually came out below the clouds and enjoyed ripping our way down the wide, fast fire roads.
It was probably because of this that none of us noticed we had lost John until we stopped at an intersection to regroup.
Some thought he had continued, other thought he had turned down the wrong path. After talking about it for a bit, we decided that Troy and I would go down the wrong path to see if he had gone that way and the others would continue on the regular trail.
So, using the excuse that we were only trying to catch up to John, we released the brakes and proceeded as fast as we could down the trail...way down the trail...and even part way back up the trail as it turned back towards the summit. Eventually though, we decided he couldn’t have gotten that far ahead of us and turned back.
Here’s another little lesson for those of you that haven’t been paying attention. If you go a long ways down a steep fast fire road and then turn around...yep, you get to go a long ways back up a steep, fast fire road.
And, seeing as I'm tossing out all these little life lessons today, I’ll throw in another. If you and another guy have no idea where you are and haven’t ridden in an area ever before, you might want to let someone else volunteer to go searching for a lost rider. You guessed it, Troy and I rode for quite a ways (again all downhill) before finding a parking lot and realizing it wasn’t the one we wanted. So, once again we turned back uphill until we found the turn we had missed.
Eventually though, we made it back to the truck only to find John hadn’t turned up. And, just as we were trying to figure out how to tell his parents we had lost their son, they pulled up asking where he was.
After much discussion and no small amount of worry on their part I’m sure, we reached him on his cell. By talking to him we were able to figure out where on the trail he was and Troy and I again headed back up the hill on bikes while Tracy drove up the road just in case he came that way.
Just as we got to the top of the hill where we thought he might be (and just as my legs were beginning to cramp) my cell phone rang and Tracy let me know that John was back at the parking lot safe and sound.
So, I have no idea what my mileage was or how many feet of climbing we did. Originally it was supposed to be something like 16-18 miles and about 3K of climbing, but I know for a fact that Troy and I had at least double the miles, double the climbing and double the stories that we would have had, had everything gone as planned.
Another fantastic DATMBA in the bag!