5 AM – it’s raining hard. Hard enough to wrestle me awake despite the surrounding blackness of my room; hard enough to keep me awake, my mind simultaneously buzzing with the orchestral din of the purposeful downpour, and the excitement of the day to come. Thoughts rush through my head in fast forward, the familiar trappings of the excited mind – I envision the mist rising from a sopped forest, wisps of vapor leaning and turning through the pockets of morning light. The mist mimics our motions, just pleasure-seekers and adventurers following the blueprints of miles and miles of trail. I toss over in bed, get to sleep man, we’ll be riding soon enough. But the rain continues and so do the thoughts: why are we out in the woods? It’s the celebration of a birthday, of a person who time and again brings us together to make memories, and, ultimately, of friendship – that great bond that allows us to do what we love, be who we are, and be content. Once again, he’s brought us together for a day of ripping trail, an experience made only more enticing and entertaining by the rain keeping me awake and stirring my contemplation. Corners will be cooked, stumps jibbed, descents rattled and jumps roasted; finally the rain subsides and I drift back into a restful state of thoughtless sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be a good day.
By mid-morning the clouds had cleared, and the crew met up at Another Bike Shop, our friendly neighborhood purveyors of sweet bikes, shitty dudes, and good times. We dialed in bikes as we dialed in our rides to the top (earn your turns, bro!) and decided it would be best to shuttle to our initial starting point as we would have plenty of climbing in the day to come. A bottle of whiskey was passed around to warm our hearts and generally speaking the rest of our bodies as well. It was a cold morning for this area and this time of year, and a brisk wind accompanied our escape from the semi-reality of the bike shop confines to the totally wakkked-out woodland expanses of the Santa Cruz mountains.
Upon arriving at the drop off point we realized that two of our crewmembers forgot their skid lids; we decided inquire about impromptu helmet rentals with a friend and co-worker who lived nearby the trailhead. Our other option was to test the structural integrity of a foam trucker hat, but the former struck the entire crew as a much better idea than the latter, and we left the cars behind in search of siiiiiiiiick trailzzzz and also helmets. We found both. No more than a minute into the ride our crew stopped, united by a common cause to celebrate, we broke out into the birthday song for our fearless leader, Captain Jackson, “Ned Planders” DUDE-hamel Allen esq. All other obligations taken care of, we proceeded to f*%$ing shred.
While our favorite aspect of trail riding is probably the psychedelic sensation achieved when a corner is cooked at the proper temperature Kelvin, the BMXer in all of us simply DOES NOT allow us to pass up a double without getting rad, and probably sessioning it. The longest such session of our ride actually occurred on a fire trail climb from the bottom of our rip-roaring high-octane Michael Bay movie descent into the fiery underbelly of semperviren-laden mountainous terrain. We jibbed a natural tranny for damn near half an hour while we caught our breaths, and refueled on gummies and gluten-free vegan snack bars. Once each and every one of us had gotten our fill (read: got wayyyyy to sketchy on said natty tranny) we resumed our speedy ascent (read: slog) to our treasure trove of stashed Oskar Blues Pinners and the essential halfway point of our ride. Ride note: The “Pinner,” a so-called “Throwback IPA” has all of the deliciously hoppy malty flavors expected from an IPA, but only boasts a Point Something Percent alcohol content, making the “Pinner” a perfect mid-ride libation. DO NOT get this “Pinner” confused with your Dad’s weird hippy friend’s “Pinner.”
Après beers, our crew meandered down a snakingly enjoyable, moderately wet, and fully jib-able section of singletrack. Jazzed up from our brewskies (and the rest of our gummies and gluten-free vegan snack bars) we dropped down some steep rocky loose shit, slashed some corners, and stopped again to session some fun doubles and even a roll-over rock drop onto some good ole fashioned wet slimy ladder bridges. Jackson laid over a mean badboy (read: opposite tabletop), and we struck out to rip some more corners and get sketchy through loose rock sections, all of which we KOM’d with style and grace.
At the top of the classic Puke-on climb, we all took selfies at the bench overlooking Santa Cruz, finished our last communal “Pinner” (the beer not your Dad’s weird hippy friend’s), and we started talking about tacos. Luckily, our ride only consisted of one final descent back into the Cruz via some insanely fun and under-rated singletrack (nahhh just kidding Kooks it totally sucks); and perhaps even more luckily, the Bike Shop lies directly across the street from the Taco Shop, making the mainlining of crispy tacos and Pacifico’s into our faces that much simpler. It is, as they say, the simple things in life that are so sweet. And while the proverbial “they” may indeed be referring to crispy tacos and salted-limed-hot sauced Pacifico’s, they could just as easily be referring to the simple joys of exploring, riding bikes, and making memories with your close friends.
Happy 33rd Jackson Allen, keep kickin ass!