Not to be outdone by a few angry yellowjackets, Louise the second-generation owner and operator of the Christmas Tree Ranch started replanting tiny trees on the fly, moving irrigation lines and taping a reroute to save the race day. The saplings were still so small and sparse they’d cast perfectly in a Charlie Brown Holiday special, which meant they’d be no match for a parade of bicycle tires.
“I need every one that I’ve got!” She said while pulling the last of the saplings to safety. She wasn’t hyperbolizing. During the CZU fire, the family had to evacuate as flames burned up the drainage from Big Basin State Park. Her son stayed behind facing the harsh reality of the moment. They started cutting down the trees, their livelihood, building fire lines as the flames ripped up the mountain. They saved the property, but not before losing 50,000 trees to the wood chipper or flames.
The chipped remains were scattered and piled across a bare field where generations of families have happily harvested their Christmas Trees. Thanks to tough choices and brave actions folks will still be getting their trees from the ranch as the new crops grow back.
But in the meantime there was still plenty of cheer to be had even on the conifer remains. It was upon them that people camped, bands played, cowbells clanged and the course wound, still extracting cheer from the piles of Christmas Trees past. Nearly 700 people raced over them during the course of two days. Some wore smiles that had been hidden during a two year event hiatus, while most donned the pain faces that only cyclocross brings out.
The bike racing itself was as you’d expect it to be. Worth about a paragraph of your attention span here, but providing hours of all time entertainment in person. CX veterans Caroline Dezendorf and Tobin Ortenblad won both days, fending off some serious threats from the groms, with 16 year olds Vida Lopez de San Roman and Dan English taking second in the elite races both days. That bright future of NorCal cycling was enough to even make a crusty old cross racer’s heart swell with pride.