On the Wrong Track

May 27, 2001

The Bolinas Ridge three sat on benches in a corridor on the 19th
floor of the U.S. District Court building in San Francisco on the
morning of May 11. Neal Daskal, William McBride and Michael More
wore coats, ties and expressions suggesting they might soon throw
up.

They were waiting outside courtroom number 8 for something called
their initial status conference, even though their status isn't
all that complicated: They're up the creek. According to a
federal indictment, all three were caught in flagrante delicto on
Feb. 4 gouging an illegal bike path through a pristine forest on
Bolinas Ridge, 30 miles north of San Francisco. The bushwhackers,
who have pleaded not guilty, were busted by park rangers who also
found a tarp-covered cache of their trail-cutting tools. Because
part of their forbidden, four-mile path was cut through federal
property--the Golden Gate National Recreation Area--the threesome
has been charged with two federal crimes. They're looking at a
maximum of 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Bummer, dudes, I would have said, had I gotten a chance to speak
with them. (They weren't talking.) I do feel your pain, but hey,
the next time you're frustrated by the dearth of legal
single-track in Marin County, where I, too, live and bike, get up
at dawn and find a deserted trail. Or drive someplace where
there's more single-track. Or move to Moab, Utah. Do not--I
repeat, do not--cut a private path through public lands.

The government's lead attorney in the case is a spitfire named
Davina Pujari, who told me she hikes not far from where the
Bolinas Ridge Three left their mark. She intends to hammer them
for despoiling land that provides habitat for endangered species
such as the northern spotted owl and the California red-legged
frog. While I wish those creatures no ill, the species I'm more
concerned about are the Pith-Helmeted Sourpuss and its cousin,
the Rheumy-Eyed, Harrumphing Old Fart, also native to these
parts. No matter how courteously we bikers greet them, no matter
how slowly we pass, they look at us as if they'd like to jam
their walking sticks in our spokes--or someplace even less
comfortable.

They were hiking these hills, they'll tell you while wagging a
liver-spotted finger in your face, long before mountain-biking
pioneers began barreling down them on 60-pound Schwinns in the
mid-1970s. Those joyrides spawned a sport, ensuring that the
hikers and horseback riders no longer had the trails to
themselves. They're bitter enough about that; we don't need to
gift-wrap ammunition for them, as these three knuckleheads have
done.

What was Mr. More, for one, thinking? Until his resignation two
days after he was caught, shovel in hand, More was a member of
the Marin County Open Space and Trails Committee and a staunch
mountain-biking advocate. Way to advance the cause, bro. "We've
got 20,000 acres and 12 people enforcing the law on it at any
given time," says Bill Hogan, ranger supervisor of the Marin
Municipal Water District, which the illegal bike path also
crossed. "There's got to be a trust between the people managing
the land and the people we're managing it for. These guys
undercut that trust so they could have a new place to jam. It's
pretty lame."

Sure is. Scores of illegal trails have been carved over the last
few years on hillsides from coast to coast. They're a symptom of
the selfishness afflicting some members of the fat-tire
fraternity who too often diss both the land and the people around
them. To every idiot who has pushed 25 mph down a fire road
crowded with families, listen to former world champion downhiller
Missy Giove, and learn: "When you're around people, you can't
ride that fast, 'cause you're gonna hit somebody," she says. Even
on steep, legal single-tracks Giove takes precautions. "I wear a
cowbell," she says, "so everyone on the trail can hear me
coming." Upon forgetting the bell one day, "I put rocks in an
empty beer can and taped it to my forks. Worked great. Sounded
like a friggin' earthquake."

That's what a real biker does. You can make the trail your own
without taking it away from anyone else. It's time to stop giving
people new reasons to harrumph. The Bolinas Ridge Three give us
all a bad name. They deserve what they get.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG VON DOERSTEN

"These guys undercut our trust so they could have a new place
to jam. that's pretty lame." sure is.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)