January 22, 2005: Tamarancho, take 2

The last time Romulus and I tried to tackle Tamarancho, Romulus blew out his rear derallier, and we ended up limping back to the car with total mileage of about 10 miles (See October 9, 2004: Friends of Tamarancho). Not satisfying. Today, we were going to give it another shot. I bought a day pass online and headed off to the City to meet up with Romulus.

The climb of life is a rocky one my son
Our first album cover
Some day

From the City, we rolled to the house of Gary the Wrench, who conveniently lives at the foot of the trail. There we met up with CrankenFine and DJ McNipple. In the pits at Casa de Wrench, there was a lot of last-minute fiddling and oiling and pumping and pissing. The thing with a group this large is to initiate and coordinated action, we must overcome the significant inertia of five "fellow travelers" in order to get moving again. On the way to the trailhead, we picked up another rider for a grand total of six.

The first stretch is called the Alchemist Trail, and it is one of the sweetest pieces of uphill singletrack you'll ever ride. It's challenging, technical, and uphill, but it's also at the perfect gradient to really lay some wood on the field and let gravity peel riders off. I spent the first half of the Alchemist getting my sea legs, then after a regroup, I busted out and ripped on up to the top. I LOVE CLIMBS!, especially this one.

Somewhere along the Goldman Trail, we halted for a safety meeting. A heavy, Argonne Forest fog hung down low in the trees but dissolved on its way up the hills, revealing an awesome collection of sunny hilltops looking like the tips of corn candy sticking out of a schmeer of vanilla frosting. Even in the sun, a chilly wind worked quickly to turn a well-earned lather into cold, wet clothes. Eventually, everybody started to feel the chill a bit and we resumed riding towards the Serpentine and the Wagon Wheel trails.

Working our way around the Tamarancho loop, we started to bog down with some stoppage, especially on the long climbs. It soon became clear that we would not really have enough daylight to achieve significant mileage. Everybody brought a set of lights, but it's technically illegal to ride 'Rancho after dark, and we're all law-abidin' riders occifer.

Somewhere along the way, I lost track of the right turns, left turns, proposed turns, possible turns, and turns to take next time. It was brilliant trail, including some of the hairballinest rockgarden downhill you could hope to ride. Throw in wet conditions and lots of extremely slippery tree roots, and hang on baby, you going fer a ride!

At the "top", we used a "secret door" to access a wicked little stitch of insider's singletrack. The "secret door" consisted of us hopping off our bikes and traversing briefly cross country to the hidden stitch so as to leave no wheel tracks. To our dismay however, we noticed that some chucklehead had ridden a bike from the main trail to the hidden stitch. Ya know, . . .

Somewhere else along the way, we encountered another beautifully challenging rock garden stretch of maybe 150 yards. This one was even better because it was uphill. I pulled it, but there were a couple of spots where I almost didn't have the speed to roll over the loose, awkward rocks.

At the top of the hill, we paused to look around. Up there, we were so damn high we should've filed a flight plan. It was all downhill from there, in a good way.

The downward plunge included the legendary Repack trail. The action was fast and furious with Gary the Wrench, DJ McNipple, and CrankenFine setting a quick and nimble pace. About halfway down though, Romulus pulled up lame with a flat. Rom seems to get his flats mostly on downhills, which would scare the crap out of me. In the gathering dusk, it took about 10 minutes to change the flat, but that time saw our window of light close down and everybody donned their lights.

Other than a minor spill by me during the first couple of minutes after we started up again, the rest of the ride was a whirling, spinning, shifting, braking, shit-eating grin of a downhill run on exquisite singletrack in the darkness under the Redwoods. I entered dream state.

Lest we venture out into the bustling streets of residential Fairfax dazed and drooling menaces to other motorists, the citizenry, and of course Fairfax's finest, of which I have some personal experience, six or seven icy stream crossings at the bottom of the trail were as effective as a cattle prod. The first crossing drenched my feet and put the chill of God in me right quick. By the last crossing, I was pushing the pedals with two footcicles. It must have looked pretty cool from elsewhere in the woods to see five sets of lights swishing down the trail and through the creek.

The forest at night, is just right, for hallucinations of fancy's flight.

So in the end, the mileage came up a little shorter than I had hoped, but the trails did not disappoint and it's always fun to ride with the crew. Leave a little bit left for next time -- that's part of the Cannonball trail-riding ethos. There's more of Tamarancho left undiscovered to me. Some day, some day.


Mileage: 15.59 Time: 2:05:20 Avg: 7.4 Max: 25.5 Weight: 

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