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Read "Working Up an Appetite," Darryl Skrabak's 1979 story of the
wildest, worst, and best Appetite Seminar ever, featuring the first published
photo of Gary Fisher on his new Ritchey MountainBike.


Annual Thanksgiving Day Ride


The Thanksgiving Day Appetite Seminar in Marin County is by far the longest running annual mountain bike event. The first ride took place in 1975, when a half dozen riders took their one-speed, coaster brake bikes on the challenging, hilly loop over the top of Pine Mountain, with a traditional stop just past the peak at "Smoker's Knoll," then into the Kent Lake drainage and back up to Woodacre Ridge to the now famous Repack downhill course into Cascade Canyon in Fairfax, California. The idea was that if you burned a few thousand calories, you could gobble even more turkey. Or something like that.

Now the ride draws hundreds of riders, and it even has its very own page on a website. Imagine that.

Here is the gang from the second Appetite Seminar in 1976. No girls, and no one seemed to shave.

The event was confined to a few local friends for a few years, after which I either made a big mistake or did something right, depending on your point of view. I started promoting the ride to the same crowd that by now was racing at Repack.

Here is the poster for the 1978 Seminar, drawn by Pete Barrett. Because I promoted a Repack race on the same weekend, I used one poster for both events. To save you the trouble of reading it upside down, I have flipped this one at the bottom of this page.


The poster below was drawn for the 1979 ride.

As the years rolled past, the ride swelled to dozens of riders, who met in the parking lot of the Fairfax Theater. By the early '80s I no longer knew all or even most of the riders, who were starting to arrive from far points of the Bay Area. I remember that on one ride in the mid-eighties, Gary Fisher pointed out that it was the first ride where there were no longer any converted "clunkers." Mountain bikes now ruled. (Ironically, there is now a faction that rides one-speeds again!)


Dave Bohn did the 1981 ride poster.


I can still recognize most of the riders on the 1981 Appetite Seminar below. That wouldn't last much longer.


The crowd of cyclists who showed up every year on Thanksgiving virtually took over the town as they orbited the theater while waiting for the start, and eventually we came to the attention of the local authorities. One Thanksgiving morning a couple of Fairfax's finest showed up in an attempt to at least keep the streets clear enough for automobile traffic to get through. "Who's in charge here?" one of them demanded of no one in particular. A few people looked at me, and I tried to look at someone else.

At that moment I relinquished any responsibility for the ride. It had a life of its own, and didn't need a leader, since everyone knew the route and the date, and I didn't feel like answering difficult questions. No one else has seemed to want that responsibility either, so it remains a leaderless event.


I'm not sure which year this was, probably 1983 or 1984, but these are the riders who went in the rain. I'm in the middle with the blue bike.


My last vestige of leadership took place some time in the '90s. I showed up in Fairfax as just one member of a crowd that by now was several hundred riders. I figured that since most were not locals, I would just pick out a few of my friends and we would sneak out the back of the parking lot, through the alley, and down a side street to leave ahead of everyone else and avoid the big crowd. Five or six of us took off as unobtrusively as possible, and as I hit Dominga Avenue I looked back at my few friends, only to see that everyone who had been in the parking lot was now right behind me, and I was at the head of a major parade!

Due to changes in the arrangement of the parking lot where we used to meet, the mass of cyclists is now spread over a larger area, and riders show up and leave in small groups over a period of a couple of hours. No one is in charge, and no one needs to be. It just happens.

For those who live outside the area, the Seminar is just a reasonably tough ride with a few hundred like-minded folks, but for the locals who have taken part for years, it is a traveling party, with well-known stopping points. You can ride it in a couple of hours if you want, but on the most recent Seminar as I write this, I took over four hours to complete the loop, and I spent more time sitting next to my bike than sitting on top of it. There are a lot of places to stop and a lot of reasons to stop.

This photo was taken by Dave Epperson on the 1980 Appetite Seminar and published in Bicycling magazine. I have enlarged a section of it below.

This was Jacquie Phelan's first contact with mountain biking. You see her here pushing her three-speed, with basket, that she had ridden over from San Francisco. She is about to meet me for the first time, as I'm standing in the group she is approaching, wearing the yellow t-shirt. Next to me is my brother Jim (no shirt) and Denise Caramagno. At the top of the hill, wearing a blue jacket and a knit hat is Gary Fisher.

Here is the flipped version of the poster at the top of this page.

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