By Jocelyn McCanles Hurst, recent grad. of the Fat Tire Finishing School
After being liberated from my soul-crushing job recently, I attended the Mammorial Day Crampout Not only did I get to spend three glorious days with fabulous women on Mt. Tam, but I didnít even have to go back to work on Tuesday!! Instead I got to sit around stretching my sore muscles and reflecting: "How can I get paid to do that every weekend?"
We had beautiful weather on the mountain. The ever-present lip of fog barely grazed our temporary residence at the Secret Bat Lodge on Tam's south face. Every day we rode under blue skies and over dry trails. Well, we rode when we weren't eating, which was most of the time, really. I'd always thought that the "Tea" element of WOMBATS referred to the actual beverage. Now I realize that it refers to "tea" in the English sense: food.
We had many teas. Pesto on bruschetta tea, fig bread with rhubarb marmalade tea, mango sausage ratatouille tea, and many Sierra Nevada Pale Ale teas. Our amazing gourmet chef/WOMBAT Sandra Nugent made sure we were well-fed and fully sun-blocked before we waddled out to our bikes, propped our bellies onto our handlebars and teetered off into the trees. The eight of us were at different skill levels, but I think a full stomach is the Great Equalizer.
On the first day, we rode up from Jacquie's home in Fairfax. I opted to ride with schedule-oriented hammerheads Jacquie and Cora Haselbeck while the others enjoyed a more leisurely meander up the mountain with a lakeside lunch break. I like to meander, but I am also silly and lack reason. So I rode up the mountain like a Bat out of hell while Jacquie and Cora practically fell off their bikes trying to go slow enough to stay with me.
After rattling our teeth over Eldridge Grade, we broke out into a panoramic vista of the Bay, San Francisco, and the ocean beyond. The Secret Lair is perched above this remarkable view. It dates to the early 20th century when it hosted wealthy vacationers who came up on the Mt. Tamalpais Railroad. The building has been beautifully preserved. It is open daily to hikers, bikers, and wanderers, and overnight guests are responsible for a few various chores.
During the course of our stay, we WOMBATS-in-training developed unrivaled finesse. Joan Murakami managed an endo while demonstrating how to "buck" the back tire (it's not that she failed to buck the tire, she just did it too well. What an overachiever!). Elenore Agenbrod's brakes failed, though I think we were more troubled by this than she was, the fearless Bat! And Lynn Katano vacated her saddle on a nasty downhill but bounced upright without a scratch or a Bat of an eye.
Despite these victories, we eventually succumbed to Jacquie's and Downhill champ Chris Culver's crafty teachings in the art of track stands, hairpin turns, obstacle-conquering, singletrack psychology, and downhill confidence. I initially held out in my determination to squeeze my front brake and lean over my handlebars on steep downhills, but Chris and Jacquie eventually succeeded in getting me to counter the effect of my front brake by putting my weight over the rear of my bike. Hey guys -- ever consider that it might be faster to simply fall down the mountain? Now I ride down all graceful-like and get bothered with questions like, who's your sponsor, didn't I see you on ESPN and whatnot.
These setbacks notwithstanding, it was a wonderful trip and an education in Fun. I'd like to take this opportunity to say "hi" to all my partners in crime (and thanks for the pictures, Heather!) -- I hope to ride with all of you again soon!