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Part 1: Empire Grade
It’s clear by all accounts the climb was followed by a long rushing descent punctuated at the bottom by a stop sign. After which they entered a wooded and rolling valley. And that’s it. Until 67-miles later when the ride finds all of them removing their shoes before the entrance of a genuine General Store combination Levi’s Retailer combination Deli. Disguised as a motorcycle hangout.
Exhausted from a day of ninja and vampire movies, I leave Brian’s couch for an industrial park in north Santa Cruz to meet Paul Sadoff, the man behind Rock Lobster. The riders roll-up one by one, each cooked but happy and properly satisfied with their day in the saddle. With the exception of Hahn, they immediately and without solicitation claimed Flamingo Grande was the best ride they had ever done. Ever. They explained that it was not only scenic, but magical too.
Later, when pushed for details about what transpired, or what happened or what was seen to earn Flamingo ‘greatest-ride-ever’ status no details could be provided. Several emails were exchanged, interviews conducted, questionnaires drawn-up, submitted and never returned. At one point hypnotherapy was considered. I have very little experience with collective memory loss or alien abductions but I knew and understood that something peculiar happened that afternoon during the period of time that would come to be known as – The Missing Three Hours Followed By The General Store And A Ride Down HWY-101.
Greg remembers passing on a hill ex-mountain bike pro Julie Furtado. Ryan remembers what can best be described as hours of soothing rolling sensations. Everyone remembers the silver shimmering smell of eucalyptus, busted and rippled roads covered in pine needles, brand new chip seal and potholes. As well as a well-stocked candy store in a campground in the middle of nowhere where they stopped to have their picture taken inside a tree. And the prevailing feeling of unity and ease that nurtured their cycling efforts the entire day. The sound of fog and sun and wind. They remember the absence of complaint and problem. They all say the ride was seamlessly and fluidly executed without need for way-finding or unnecessary stops.
“At the stop sign where we all came racing down the hill to a dead-stop, I had this vision of pinballs dropping through the sky. It’s like we all fell from space to smack-smack-smack-smack-smack the planet earth at this random intersection in Northern California.” – Aaron Erbeck
“I felt indefinitely suspended on the verge of something for 100 miles” – Hahn Rossman