33rd Annual Appetite Seminar draws 1000 riders

Repack Rider

New member
I managed to get in a ride, with about a thousand of my closest mountain bike friends. We have a local Thanksgiving Day traditional ride called the Appetite Seminar. This year was the 33rd annual.

There is no leader, no organization, and no starting time. There is just a traditional route, over the top of Pine Mountain, down into the canyon on the back side, and back up to Woodacre Ridge, then to Repack and the screaming downhill into Fairfax. Total climbing is 3500 feet in just over 18 miles, with two of the best downhills in Marin County.

I wanted to get an early start this year, and I was planning to leave about 7:00 a.m., but I stopped to roust Gary Fisher and his girlfriend Sheila and it took a little longer to get them out the door. We ended up hitting the road about 7:30. Our friend Pat had gotten cold waiting or us, and had already headed up the hill.

The Java Hut is where everyone starts, and they were giving away free coffee and pastries. The temperature was in the mid-30s as the first rays of sun hit the parking lot. By 10:00 a.m. there wasn't an empty parking spot in Fairfax.

The first target is the top of Pine Mountain at 1780 feet. The climb takes an hour or so out of Fairfax, and Gary and Sheila hammered me but were polite enough not to laugh. By the time we got there we had taken off all extra layers and the weather was suitable for riding in shorts. On the way we caught up with Jacquie Phelan, who normally would have stayed ahead of us but who was burdened with considerable baggage, including her banjo. Locals gather on a spot called Smoker's Knoll, out of towners on another hilltop.

Here's Gary celebrating at the top of Pine Mountain with the first beer of the day, around 9:00 a.m.

Jacquie always brings her banjo. Is it me or is she morphing into Michael Jackson?

One of the great descents in Marin County is the back side of Pine Mountain. The route we follow has two types of road surface, a red clay, or a rocky and very rough serpentine. The descent of Pine Mountain is all on the red clay, which is like infield dirt, just damp enough for perfect traction and not a pebble on it. The proper line down the mountain is burnished to a high polish by hundreds of riders.

From Smoker's Knoll we watched the riders bunch up before taking the plunge down Pine Mountain, 1000 vertical feet of ear-popping, brake smoking descent.

Considering the expensive hardware on display, I was amazed at how many riders were off the trail doing repairs. I must have passed a dozen "mechanicals" on my way down Pine Mountain. On this corner there were four riders working on their equipment.

Once you finish the Pine Mountain descent, it is a tough climb out of the canyon, and the pace gets very casual. I saw another jersey like the one I was wearing, and it was Joe Breeze. Time for another picture. Gary, Sheila, me and Joe.

At the top of the big climb out of the canyon there were samples of energy foods being handed out. Years ago someone at a bike company realized that hundreds of avid riders would pass this spot and take a break after climbing the steep hill, so they brought out lots of energy bars and the like.

We kept moving along the ridge, because we still had about 500 feet of climbing left to do out of our 3500. The last trail junction before we reached Repack offers an alternative route down, and another crowd had gathered while riders discussed the options. Josh, the mechanic who works on my bike, had trailered in a complete bar setup with coffee for hot toddies.

Here's Gary, lining up for a shot of courage before we hit the last screaming downhill, Repack, two miles of 13% grade.


Global Moderator
Staff member
Looks like a great time CK. You can really tell the spirit of this ride by your photos and your description. Thanks for posting! It's great to share Thanksgiving with friends.