Monday, July 02, 2007

Downieville Deathtile Loves Me

Let me start by saying "It was a different time, it was the sixties." But, um, really it was the last few weeks. The infinite and limitless true nature of the universe has once again been presenting itself to me, in a very becoming way. One might even call it fecund. If you can imagine it, it exists, and my imagination runneth wild through the densest of thickets, just, whatever you do, oh please don't throw me in that old briar patch.

Some vacations rule my memories with exceptional vigor, like lighthouses along an dark and moonless coast. Those excursions include my first time to Yosemite when I was five, a trip to Mendocino with friends when I was a teenager, my honeymoon in French Polynesia at age 27, my first trip to Burning Man at 31, and...... Downieville, Downieville, Downieville. I could just sit here repeating "Downieville" in a thousand different voices, all night, and every day. Arrived home late last night after spending an amazing 48 hours in the loving vibrations people call the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Historically a mining town, Downieville once had a population of 20,000 and was briefly the capitol of California. It now gets 80% of its annual revenue from mountain biking. The legendary trails called me for years, in the form of tales of fun and serious injuries from a group I ride with mid-week. Of course, now that I've gone, I can't believe I didn't join them every trip since before I was born, stupid parents I guess. Don't worry, they never read this nonsense. The town sits at the confluence of the Yuba and Downie rivers, at 2,835' (930m), a great place to swim after a ride, right there by the old gallows. A shuttle leaves every hour on the hour, and for the paltry sum of $20, takes bikes and riders to Packer Saddle, which floats at 7,100' (2,336m). Magnaminous genii, or perhaps genies, have spent many an hour constructing and maintaining some of the finest (and I do mean sexy) single-track trails the world has ever seen, which connect Packer Saddle to Downieville, with many routes to choose from. Disneyland eat your heart out. Skydiving is weak. Burning Man is OK, but my every third wish is for another run through the alpine gauntlet of perilous angles, with a snowmelt stream skinny dip thrown in somewhere along the way. Aches and cramps wrack my body to point that I could barely operate a car last night, and I'm not good for a whole lot of anything, but nevertheless doubt I'd be able to refuse a shuttle leaving for Packer Saddle in 30 minutes, if I were still in Downieville. 

Part of it is the mountains. I love that color of sky, thin dusty pine air, endless varieties of flowers, alpine meadows green beyond belief, element ravaged trees, roaring emerald pools cascading into louder roaring emerald pools, pouring around islands full of yellow flowers, drunk with mountain love, talking loud, saying sweet nothing. The mountains rock, regardless of your mode of transportation, but try it on a full-suspension mountain bike and the rocks and trees want to eat you alive while feeding you bliss. There's a section called Baby Heads, where all the rocks approximate baby heads. They stare pitilessly at you when you eat shit. Plenty of narrow off-camber sections with drop-offs to certain manglement, where occasionally one's rear tire will spit out a rock to the chasm side, which one can hear chatter down the rocks in the distance behind, tink, tink, tinnnnnk, which gives me what I imagine would be the same effect as shoving a spike full of andrenachrome directly into my already racing heart. To prevent excessive erosion, and perhaps dangerous riding conditions, the trailbuilders have placed weird looking concrete tiles all along the path in certain very steep sections, commonly known as Downieville Deathtiles (they can be a little slippery, although they never sent me down, but would be hell icy). And get this, you share the trail with motorcycles! That's right, roaring, heavy, dusty, momentum machines blasting up what you're riding down, a complete eye-opener. Don't think it's all downhill. Many a brutal climb went on, and on, especially on the Big Boulder trail, many parts of which I had to hike the bike up. Like Greg the bike mechanic's shirt read - "Another Shitty Day in Downieville". By the way, the mountain eats bicycles for lunch, so everyone gets to know the wealthy bike mechanics well.

I stuck my head under a waterfall, sat on one of those islands in the middle of the rapids to get that mega-stereo effect, raced at breakneck speed along the trees, pushed my luck, used my helmet, used my pads, had some visions. Some part of me will live there always now, and it here with me. After jiving with a place that well, every time I go back I will be coming home, tears in my eyes serious, I nub it, til death do us part, om, peace, amen, allah-o-akbar, happy Indepenence Day, anarchy forever, spiritual revolution in my glassy eyes, lightning bolt beer bottle Johnny Cash jukebox Ghostriders in the Sky, yippy yi yay, yippy yi yo.


siobhan said...

oh D'art how I love your thrill seeking, trail blazing, adventurous, love the life you live ways

Anonymous said...

that sounds soooooo fun. the good kind of tired and all that. saw the foxy orthopedist who said i could lift again....kicked my proverbial ass. have to get back in shape so i can do some mt. bking.

Fourth Musketeer said...

love the life we live, comrades in arms, rev it up

the super vivid downieville dreams have begun. last night the trail was impossibly narrow my third time down the mountain, and actually sliding down the hill beneath me. must, get, back, before, snow!