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Part 4 - Mt. Wilson
At Redbox, the turn-off for Wilson, the snow stops but the world is still barely visible under a foggy-white floor-to-ceiling mist. Inside the Ranger Station a local Native American tribe is celebrating. They are also selling cokes and snicker bars to the rattling hum of space heaters set to 11. We shake down our pockets for Ziploc bags, cold quarters and wrinkled dollars, and tear into our newly purchased cargo. On the way out we batten down the hatches, Velcro is aligned, draw cords are pulled tight and zippers are tugged taught.
Ira, Cole and I leave the parking lot together and roll through the gate together until 10-feet later, 10 feet into the last five uphill miles of the day, when as we naturally reestablish the order of things, Ira then Cole leave me to contemplate the void through which I ride alone. Alone except for the incessant sound of an empty coke can rattling in my bottle cage. The sound is muffled and damp and metallic. I feel like an ancient indigenous person on a black hand built Tony Pereira Yak crossing the highest pass in the known world. My coke can, rattling and clanging and jangling away, a tool to ward off bad spirits and weather. I am a loud, sweaty, shivering, tired, cracked, steaming and intrepid explorer with a bike and a coke can. I’m riding to the top of Mt. Wilson. I am euphoric.
At the top I find Ira and Cole smiling and small, hunched over their bikes once again waiting for me. Among TV towers and radio towers, everywhere there are towers. We have an hour now to ride the last 35 miles before the world goes dark. A chilly thought brought home by the thick, wet, ill-fitting blanket we’ve been under for the last two hours. It hangs off us like ectoplasm and blocks the sunset we hoped would light our view of Los Angeles and the coastline behind it.
It's brutally cold and my teeth chatter. It’s odd but I notice the road for the first time now that I’m headed down it. On the left is an eroding and dripping hillside hemorrhaging large rocks and sand. The edge of the road is soft and indefinite and often imposed on by overhanging rock. On the right a low stone ledge follows every contour of the road. It reminds me of Europe, this small homemade wall that wouldn’t for a second stop you in a car or on a bike from blowing through the corner and dropping into the white featureless abyss crowding the road from the far side. The road, once 20 feet wide, is losing the battle and the war; the mountain is reclaiming it slowly but very surely.
I’m out in front but we’re close. We pass the Ranger Station turning left down the mountain. With every passing minute the temperature rises. Over the next 40 minutes we experience every manner of turn and pitch and curve. We unthaw and drop like rockets returning to Earth’s atmosphere with all the usual heat and speed. We vie the whole way down, passing and drafting and pace lining and drilling and pinning it. Halfway down we get front row seats to a brilliant sunset and watch, between trees and hills and each other, the city of Los Angeles reflect and shimmer and float like a sky-city above the basin we’re destined for.