In Shasta County, mentioning the Lemurian is like giving the secret handshake. Outsiders won't know what the hell you're talking about; locals will give you a long, interpretative look, at once impressed and piteous -- a connection between fellow travelers. Either you're in the know, or you're not.

Locally, this grueling cross-country mountain biking race is known. It is a tribal feast, a town meeting, a mountain man rendezvous, pulling hardcore riders from their remote forest training camps and bringing them together for an epic annual gathering.

It's not surprising that an event as passionate as the Lemurian is set against the rough, verdant hills of the Mt. Shasta area. Unlike the urbanized Bay Area, Shasta still retains some of its rural innocence. Sparsely populated, ghosts of its hardscrabble past hang in the persistent mists and heavy silence of the mountains. Rugged individualism and personal freedom provide a wellspring for local color and grit. It's a frontier throwback where eccentricity is still respected as a personal right.