Romancing the Moon – December 8, 2008

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Just when I thought I had lost it, there it was. My love affair with the bike found a new romance. We met on a warm summer night under the light of a full moon.

We rendezvoused on Skyline Boulevard, a ribbon of pavement perched on the crest of the Coast Range running from San Francisco to San Jose. From atop this ridge you can see the Pacific Ocean and to the east there’s Santa Clara Valley. In the distance on a clear day you’ll see the Sierra Nevada.

I’ve ridden on Skyline at sunrise and at sunset, in the fog and clouds, on clear and on smoggy days, but never at night.

We started from Palo Alto, riding past high-powered venture capital firms on Sand Hill Road and then into the rural setting of Portola Valley. One of the darkest roads to Skyline is Old LaHonda, a 1,200-foot climb.

The moon shone fitfully through breaks in a canopy of redwoods and tan oak. Under the white light of the moon, with our colorful cycling garb, we looked like ghosts drifting through the trees.

In this Stygian darkness I saw monsters — behind a tree, ahead in the middle of the road. But they let us pass with nary a boo to be heard. The headless rider must be right around the bend.

Alone in the night, we enthused about the ride. “Hey, I wonder if our eyes glow in the dark like deer when we see car lights,” said Dave. “This reminds me of a dream I had,” another rider chimed. Is this a dream? “Watch out for bug lamps,” Sterling yelled. “Don’t be drawn in by the light!”

The one-liners continued as we made our way up the mountain, bike lights showing the way. “On your left. Watch out for the hole. Which one? The one I just rode through.” Bump! “You found it!”

The climb had never gone so fast, or so it seemed. Night riding creates a sensation of speed.

As we climbed, someone asked the inevitable: Has anyone ever fixed a flat in the dark?

From the bald top of Windy Hill we looked down on the valley bathed in the glow of incandescent light. To the north, the skyscrapers of San Francisco glowed like inverted chandeliers. Mt. Diablo loomed in the east, an ink-black spot. The still, warm air cast a surreal quality over the scene and I couldn’t help but think life is still a mystery.

With the flash of my camera, I captured another memorable event on film, evidence photos for the grandchildren I suppose. Six people on top of a mountain under a full moon smiled for the tiny black box.

The fun wasn’t over, not with a ride down Windy Hill. We found our way, some riding, some walking, some falling down.

Where the trail goes is anyone’s guess tonight. Head for that grove of trees. Watch out. There’s a barbed wire fence. Nancy, where are you? Crash! Josh is down.

At the bottom of the hill on Portola Road we’re all accounted for. Once underway, we’re Flying Dutchmen speeding through the night, headed for home under the light of a romancing moon.

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