By Sal Ruibal
Photo by Dan Barham
I’m of two minds about Halloween. I’ll have to remember to return one of them to the county morgue on November 1st. Halloween is the most-fun holiday of the year with the most-fun thing to do the rest of the year: Ride my mountain bike with my friends in the woods.
There are Thanksgiving Turkey Trots for runners and Christmas caroling for singers, but Halloween costumes on bikes is both redundant and ridiculous. Think about it. When we ride our bikes we wear baggy, goofy clothes that even the Salvation Army wouldn’t put in a Mystery Rag Bag. We don’t need to go door-to-door for sweets because we have already filled our pockets with energy bars and packets of hideous goo that come in colors not known in the natural world.
And even if we wanted to trick-or-treat, we would have to leave our bikes and click-clack on our cleated feet on sidewalks crammed with snotty tots. I say, “Not!”
When I first started riding mountain bikes, we were stealth bombers flying under the radar of the Neighborhood Watch and the Park Rangers. We had treats, of course, but now that there’s legalization, the thrill of breaking that law is gone, making us more like in-laws than outlaws. Major buzz-kill. Bored straight.
But Halloween is a time to scare ourselves, since no one will do that for us. Time to bring back the ol’ Midnight Derby. Mountain bike Derbies are like the Three Stooges on laughing gas. A finger in the eye earns an elbow in the ear as the big pile of wood begins to burn hot and high in the deep woods. Ramps are quickly constructed from cast-off lumber while a witches’ brew of grain alcohol and Welch’s grape juice is rationed into plastic cups.
As the deep-red and yellow heart of a burning log beats in the clearing, an orange moon the size of a 26-inch wheel rises behind the tall oaks that shield our sacred ceremony.
The beat of sticks on five-gallon plastic buckets is synchronizing with the cracks and snaps of the now roaring fire, our faces aglow with growing adrenaline as the midnight hour approaches.
With a silent signal, the bikes begin to launch off the shaky ramps from all sides, a bastard ballet of bikes and riders who hoot and holler as their flat pedals make arcs of sparks as they criss-cross the Hell below and rise into the endless darkness.
As quickly as it started, the ceremony ends as we see a centipede of flashlights working its way up the steep, wooded slope. Dirt is scooped into the hot pit as beer and piss hiss in protest.
We’re on our bikes, laughing and flashing silently through the forest stinking of cheap beer and wood smoke. Halloween is over, but while the citizens lie snug in their bed, we glide through the night. Boo!