End of Summer Berry-Picking Ride

The last four times I left the hovel in the late afternoon to get a ride in, I turned around after half an hour’s worth of spinning up the Bolinas Fairfax road, never an easy climb in the best of times. Pure dead vertical if you’ve Had A Day full of energy-draining dithering, my strong suit. This meant arriving back 2 hrs early and admitting I just didn’t have PML (Pine Mtn Loop) in my legs that day.

Sometimes I’m lucky and some unsuspecting rider passes – good as a start gun. BUT I don’t do this on bike paths, honest! I usually ride alone, though. I DO know that carefully crawling up the hill yields better results. So crawl I did. Overhead, a thin veil of mare’s tails to the west, a warm breeze . Crunch down the black wool arm warmers chopped from a tragically shrunken thrift shop sweater. A flimsy silken capilene shirt (thank you Matt Bussina) flapped against me coolly, and the black yoga pants radiated a nice heat to my legs.

There was a surprising number of hikers out. Usually everyone cruises out virtuously on Sunday mornings. Word must’ve leaked out: Sunday evening’s the uncrowded time up on MMWD land.

“THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO BE OUT, HUH? NICE AND PEACEFUL!” I’d warble, forgetting that just because the crunch of gravel renders ME deaf doesn’t mean THEY are. At least the 3 a.m. slot is still empty of humans. Ask me about the time I talked to the fox.

My ‘ham had recently gotten a new chain and last ride it skipped (= “Wombat De-Furred Maintenance”). I’ve had eons to fix it (Charlie does the work, but I have to point out the shark-toothed chainring cogs that cause the skippage) but we never got around to it. Somehow, the problem evaporated. No dremel tool . No waste of CC’s time. Just feathered the pedals around and pray a lot.
The air was clear. A delightful aroma of a fireplace says: it’s fall.

Inhaling those toasted oak and bay leaves reminds me I’m ALIVE. I feel the season’s change. It’s like you’re in a canoe tipping over a harmless little drop, and downstream the water is a completely different color.

I know dogs do a better job with their nose, but much hinges on my discerning sniffer. I (heart) smelling everything I pass and that passes me…but now and then there’s the cigarette-smoking motorist (here in FFX it’s marijuana more often) but a pox on the homes with the chemical plumes blasting out of their drying machine vents … Blech! I guess stiff laundry is illegal here, along with riding single track trails, using a turn signal when driving, and waving when passing another cyclist. Er, sorry. I’m off track.

Ah the trail…is decorated with tidy piles of undigested seeds of Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (bear berry, kinnikinnick, manzanita shrub)… The coyotes and foxes feast on those red berries. 3 years ago I began doing same. The Miwok ate them as candy I bet, yep, and just looked up medicinal use for the leaves. Yep, as I thought. You’ll have to dig that up yrself. But the shit, the shit: is a nice curled pile, usually arranged on a rock.
“Broadcast that stench, baby. Get their attention.”
I didn’t see any mtn lion scat (large-bore, lots of hair, a giant gray dreadlock).

The surface of the trail (Pine Mtn Truck Rd, technically) had that summer’s end layer of dry dirt on a bed of lumpy cracker-rock that feels like knakkebrod (Rye Krisp?) that bumps you for all two and a half hours. My tires were inflated at the “no flats” psi, so I shuddered along, carefully straightening my line through the marbly turns. No crashing. No crashing.

The bear berries are well-gleaned up to 2 feet, but above that there are loads this year (means a cold winter?) and I ate a couple of handfuls. They’re delicious, full of Vit C but mostly seed, not a lot of fruit. Still, all those bears (long since chased out ) and coyotes can’t be wrong.

Flowers still blooming: Silene californica and Aqueligia exemia, the latter specific to Marin…that’s the columbine that only grows in serpentine soil. This patch of them is at the last water crossing on the bottom of Big Carson gulch. They are red and yellow like the common A. Formosa. Must get Tommy (Breeze) and his young friend Keenan out here before the fleurs drop off. This is the next generation of bike racers. They’re in sixth grade, (or is it seventh, oh God) and totally into the long hard rides, like their dads.

I hope to get ‘em to look at native plants, animal turds, cloud design.
Fauna: a couple huge ravens sitting like Amish picnickers in the golden oat-grass hill overlooking Woodacre, looking straight into the burning sunset. Phil Frank and his alter ego, Bruce the raven, pecked into my mind.

I passed about 10 feet away but they remained stuck to the hill soaking up rays. Or watching the detectives. Who knows? No threat of dark overtaking me…I had an hour before the sky even dimmed. I was surprised with an impulse: “Hey, I’ll rip Repack!”

Looked at my watch (I need about 20 feet of clear road to get a reading—the numbers are squared off and all look the same. Or my sunglasses need a stronger prescription lens…), 5:49 How will I remember those numbers? No time to worry, the flat top section’s nearly over. The road has been groomed and this is my best shot at coming close to the five minutes forty five seconds I did in 1984, before suspended forks, and before they buffed the hell out of this formerly rutty gravity graveyard.

The familiar two dozen turns had no surprises, I never lost my adhesion, and of course it took me seven minutes to do. Twice as slow as Gary F. did it back in the day. Ah, but we were all so reckless then. I am WRECKLESS (knock on madrone trunk) so far…

~ by jacquiephelan on October 1, 2007.

One Response to “End of Summer Berry-Picking Ride”

  1. You were always living the life I wanted to…back in the day.
    Now I am finally on a mountain bike (road too!) and loving every min.-even tho I only started when I turned 50. It’s never too late!
    Like your writings…caught your blog from another lady rider. Thanks other lady rider!

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