You’re in our way!

June 12, 2013 § 44 Comments

“Oh Dog,” I kept reminding myself as idiot after idiot took the mike. “These are the ones who bothered to show up. These are the smart ones.”

Sitting at the San Pedro town hall meeting at Peck Park a few minutes ago reinforced the truth: The wheels of democracy are turned by those who show up.

It was supposed to be a big showdown between the Pedro Troglodytes Who Hate Bike Lanes and the South Bay Enlightened Bicycle Riding Community, but only half the fight card showed up. As usual, the bicycle riders were too tired from the NPR, or from commuting, or from relaxing at home post-ride with a beer and a bong and a steroid cream rubdown to show up and advocate for something as pedestrian as bike lanes.

Despite the LA County Bike Coalition and lots of other do-gooders’ attempts to rally the troops, the troops sunk deeper into the La-Z-Boy and ceded the field to the true crazies. I mean, hey, why show up to a real meeting with real people when you can post meeting notices on Facebook and show your activism by sharing Jon Stewart takedowns of Dorothy Rabinowitz?

I showed up on my ‘cross bike with a helmet, jeans (pant leg rolled up), Krypto lock and shoulder bag. There were a few other bicycle riders interspersed among the frothing Pedro bike haters, and they all looked as frightened as I felt.

The Pedro outrage at the All Powerful Bicycle Lobby Enterprise

Los Angeles has one of the nation’s most anemic, lame-ass bike plans for a city of its size, but it’s a lot better than nothing and in its own fumbling way the city is trying to expand the plan. So what if implementation won’t finish for another thirty years? 79 will be a great age for me to enjoy a semi-connecting series of bike lanes. Part of the city’s plan involved striping some bike lanes on a couple of streets in San Pedro, a sop to the numerous cyclists and bike commuters who have to daily navigate that city’s bad roads and toxic atmospheric soup.

At the meeting it became clear that, as is almost always the case, the bike lane on Westmont wasn’t actually put there for bicyclists. It was installed as a “traffic calming measure,” which is engineer speak for “getting the lazyfuks in their gas guzzlers to drive 30 mph over the school zone speed limit rather than 50.”

Apparently, the bike lanes on Westmont had their intended effect, which was to slow down morning traffic by the school and also give bicycle riders a short lane in which to feel free and protected before being tossed out again into the sharkpit of Pedro’s bike-hostile streets. However, the sag-ass, droopy-bosom contingent was not amused and they had demanded a public meeting at which they could show they were stupid AND out of shape.

Until this meeting, I thought that all the congenital idiots on the Palos Verdes Peninsula lived in PV Estates and RH Estates, as I’ve attended bike meetings in both city council chambers and been impressed with the general cluelessness, rabid prejudice, and willful ignorance openly showcased by morons in both cities. However, the Pedroites in opposition to the bike lanes showed themselves every bit the match of their richer neighbors when it came to pigheadedness, sloth, and hatred of bicycles.

One fat slob with ankles that were bigger around than my neck kept interrupting the city engineers with catcalls, scornful “harrumphs,” and the kind of drunken public behavior that you expect at Godmother’s but not at a public meeting. Another turdblossom was panting and out of breath simply from the exertion of sitting down. Both took the mike and scored points for the large segment of the population that doesn’t just want to be fat and ill, but that wants you to be that way, too.

The real problem with bike lanes

The Pedroites made clear what the problem with bike lanes was: Bicycles get in their way. The dialogue went like this:

City Engineer: “Bike lanes slow traffic and decrease death and injury.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

City Planner: “Bike lanes increase bicycling which decreases traffic congestion.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

LA County Bike Coalition: “Decreased carbon emissions are part of a state and federal mandate to combat global warming; bicycle riding decreases those emissions.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

Traffic Engineer: “Bike lanes increase ridership which improves air quality and helps meet state and federal clean air requirements.”

Pedroites: “They’re in our way!”

Unfortunately, the bike coalition people, traffic engineers, and city staff attempted to accommodate and conciliate with the rabid, stupid Pedroites who hadn’t bothered to read the Bicycle Master Plan but felt qualified to criticize it anyway. As is often the case at town meetings, the desire not to antagonize the local idiots frequently runs afoul of the truth, which in this case was painfully obvious.

Painfully obvious truth: Bike lane opponents were dreadfully fat and sickeningly unfit

The great thing about America used to be that it was okay to be morbidly obese and encourage your children to adopt lifestyles that helped them get quickly on the path to Type 2 Diabetes while they were still in elementary school. I grew up in Texas, where horrible health was and is a matter of pride, and of course I’ve always supported the right of my fellow Americans to be disgustingly fat, even when it means their obesity impinges on me in the neighboring airplane seat. I’ve even supported giving free, nationalized health care to people who intentionally eat themselves into a whole medicopia of obesity-related diseases.

But just as I’ve never tried to encourage any of them to lay off the tater tots or, for Dog’s sake, go ride a bike around the block, I’ve also never supported the right of those people to force their lifestyle on me. They want to die from diabetes or heart disease after a lengthy illness and years spent in an electric cart. I want to die on the hood of a pickup. To each his own, right?

It’s too bad that our society has become, on the one hand, mean and nasty, and on the other hand, afraid to say things that are mean and nasty and true. In the case of the Pedro bike lanes, the cruel truth is that the bike lane opponents were caricatures of an anti-bicycle lobby that is fat, lazy, and hideously out of shape. Their hatred of the bike lanes was nothing more than a reaction to the fact that each bicycle rider was a reminder of their own laziness and sloth. It never dawned on any of the haters that the reason they were overweight wasn’t because of the bike lanes.

“I had to wait five extra minutes to drop off my kids!” wailed one lady whose bosom drooped around her ankles and whose ass-halves looked like they hadn’t been worked since 1982.

“We need to fix potholes, not add bike lanes!” shouted one drunken lardass, whose three chins jiggled so violently that they shook off beads of sweat that had collected in between the folds.

“Bike lanes are dangerous for drivers!” complained one dyspeptic old sow, matted white wig askew on her liver-spotted skull, three stomach folds drooping down like a series of miniblinds, and front-tummy pouch busting so hard up against the zipper on her sweatpants that the little flap of cloth stood straight out from the zipper seam.

One teletubby in front of me stood up, lost his balance, and almost tripped over his own chair because his stomach was so big that he couldn’t see the edge of the seat. “Why weren’t we told about these lanes!” he shouted, even though the engineer had just rattled off half a dozen public meetings in San Pedro at which the whole thing had been discussed and approved by the community.

In other words, the people who were most incensed about the bike lanes were the ones who felt most threatened by the idea that someone could pedal a bike up the moderately steep incline on Westmont without having heart failure. It was personal.

Helping bridge the gap

When it came my turn to speak I praised the bike lanes, praised the bike master plan, and made fun of the people who were so lazy and slothful that rather than make their kids walk or bike the .5 mile to school, they insisted on driving them in a traffic jam. In response to their wailing about the “dangerous” bike lanes, I pointed out that of all the injury cases I’ve handled, I’ve yet to have a driver come in and say, “I was severely injured by a bicyclist who ran over my Suburban.”

I reminded them that they were fat, out of shape, and that like it or not, we bicycle riders had a legal right to use the street and we weren’t going away. They booed and catcalled, and as I left one nasty, droopsy lady accosted me.

“How many kids do you have to carpool?” she shouted.

“None.”

“Well, I have four!”

“You should make the little fuckers walk or bike so they won’t look like you.”

“Are you calling me fat?”

“No. I’m calling you morbidly obese and dumber than a box of hammers. Now get out of my way before your blood pressure and high cholesterol get the better of you.”

With that exchange I left, pleased to have helped more people have positive, enlightened feelings about those of us who bicycle. It’s hard to win friends and influence people, but you can do it if you try.

The week in beer

June 7, 2013 § 6 Comments

Pop sent me an email today titled “The Week in Crazy.” He’s at that age, 77, when dads wake up late, have a cup of coffee, read the paper, check their email, and then forward something interesting to their kids/grandkids before going down to the local junior high to troll for schoolyard trash.

Pop’s wife is a mosaic artist, and an accomplished one, and Pop isn’t, but Pop never met a project he didn’t want to help out with, so he goes down to the schoolyard every day and comes home with a bag full of junk thrown away by the kids. Pens, pencils, bottle caps, love notes, rubber bands, paper clips, and of course lots of pens, pencils, paper clips, and rubber bands. He’s become quite famous, actually, even though most of his fame, at least initially, was in the form of a “high alert” report distributed by the school’s security service.

It seems that an old fellow tromping around the schoolyard in this day and age raises questions, such as the time the football coach accosted him. “Excuse me, sir, what are you doing?”

“Me? I’m just picking up pens and trash and things. My wife is a mosaic artist, and …”

“Sir, you don’t have a permit to be on school grounds. Please leave.”

The coach was burly and quite on the turdesque side, and Pop is gentle and always smiling and about as non-confrontational as they come. “Okay,” he said, and ambled off with his little plastic bag partially filled with goodies, all of which were later deposited, discreetly, by his wife into the trash.

Next day, though, Pop was back. This time the coach was even gruffer.

“You! Sir! I told you not to come here without a permit!”

“Oh,” said Pop, a bit crestfallen, vaguely remembering the fellow from the day before. “My wife is a mosaic artist, and I’m collecting items for one of her works, and …” In mid-sentence Pop spied a broken ballpoint pen and bent over, picked it up, and carefully inspected it. Then he looked at the coach, whose fists were on his hips and whose scowl had migrated all the way down into his soul. “This is a beaut, isn’t it?” Pop asked.

Pop’s smile can melt granite, and something about the whole thing took the coach’s eye off the ball. “Yes, I suppose that is, uh, a nice one.”

“Here,” Pop said, magnanimously. “You can have it. I’ll find another one.”

Coach looked at the outstretched hand and the ancient skin and the kind smile, and took the pen. “Just don’t get close to the kids, okay? These days, you know…” he trailed off, gently, watching Pop quickly shuffle over to his latest find. Coach apparently had a dad, too.

As the months went by, Pop’s initial infamy became a kind of fame. Kids who were still on campus late would see him, run over, and give him their junk. Someone had done some background, and learned that he’d taught at a prestigious university for almost forty years. The kids all called him “Mr. Professor.” Some even added the honorary “Sir.”

“Mr. Professor Sir!” they’d call out. “Here!”

And Pop would thank them with that warm grandpa smile and happily put their trash into his little plastic bag as he moved along, patiently combing the schoolyard grounds for some unheralded treasure.

A little beer, a lot of crazy

As I sat down with a cold beer to read his email, “The Week in Crazy,” he’d notated #9 in the list. Pop’s razor-like brain isn’t the knife it used to be, but here and there it’s still plenty sharp. “I didn’t realize you were so all-powerful,” he’d written. “Congratulations!”

His irony was aimed at this blurb, which I’ll reproduce here verbatim:

Dorothy Rabinowitz [Editorial Board member of the crazy-ass, right wing Wall Street Journal] assailed the newly unveiled bike share plan being rolled out in New York City. She complained that the city’s best neighborhoods were being “begrimed” by the bikes put in place by “totalitarian” Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She also described the “bike lobby” as an “all-powerful enterprise.”

Normally, I shrug at stuff like this. In my world, the world of bicycle commuting and bicycle riding and bicycle racing, endless numbers of people hate me, and a sizable number want to kill me, judging by their driving behavior. Rather than getting angry at verbal tirades, I focus my energy on staying off the bumpers of those with a more physical bent to their anti-bicycle aggression. The hate is part of the package. If you’re going to eschew the car coffin in favor of the bicycle, you better have good life insurance and a sanguine acceptance of your own imminent mortality.

When beer meets rant meets broken ballpoint pen

Today is the day before I go up to Pasadena with Dan Martin to participate in the Chris Cono Memorial Ride. We’re going to celebrate the life of a dude neither of us knew, and we’re going to forgo a Saturday slugfest for a morning of slow pedal, easy talk, and fellowship. Chris is one of a bunch of people who’ve died riding their bicycles this year in Southern California, and as I read Blurb #9 I thought about what it really means to hate people for riding bicycles, and I wondered if people like Rabinowitz know how damaging their words are.

In our bicycle community, we have lots of people with opposing views, and we disagree pretty openly. I think James and Shon and Brad and Matt are whacko gun nuts, and they think I’m a deluded liberal, scheming to take away their contutional rats. Despite our differences, we can still have a dialogue, a dialogue that’s made possible by our shared bicycle community. The act of riding together means sharing the work and looking out for each other. Don’t ever tell them, but I’d actually support a lot of their crazy-ass notions if every gun owner were half as responsible as James and Shon and Brad and Matt.

This is another way of saying that despite “philosophical” differences, the practical community — the coming together of people who ultimately have to look out for each other — means that when push comes to shove we do what we can for those in our tribe, even though we suspect they might be one enchilada shy of a full fiesta. We accommodate them. They accommodate us. That odd two-wheeled contraption brokers a kind of peace, or at least a cease-fire.

But before I got very far with this thought, I thought about Pop out there on the schoolyard, looking the bruiser in the eye and handing him the shards of a broken pen with a smile. Your worst detractors can sometimes be turned in the most unexpected of ways. In the act of giving, a wall came down. Would it surprise you to know that it was Pop who taught me how to ride?

When the whip comes down

June 6, 2013 § 11 Comments

If your computer shook and blew a little smoke out the back this morning, there’s a reason. The record for the most iconic climb in SoCal fell, and not by a little. Josh Alverson took eleven seconds out of the fastest time up the 1.9-mile Palos Verdes Switchbacks.

This is a climb whose top times include monster riders like Kevin Phillips, Tony Restuccia, Derek Brauch, Evan Stade, Pete Smith, Jeff Konsmo, and one-off wankers like G3, Tri-Dork, and Stormin’ Norman who can pull some amazing stuff out of their shorts when they have to. Out of 15,567 efforts by 1,983 riders, Josh’s time reigns supreme. Hats off to this madcap, funny-talking moto hammerhead!

The first time I met Josh was on a Donut Ride. He was wearing a Bike Palace kit and hadn’t gotten the memo that you’re not supposed to attack out of Malaga Cove, attack onto Paseo del Mar, attack out of Lunada Bay, attack in Portuguese Bend, attack at the bottom of the Switchbacks and then drop the field. I would have personally delivered the memo had I not been languishing several miles in the rear.

Josh now rides for Spy-Giant-RIDE, and along with teammate Eric Anderson and Big Orange wanker Peyton Cooke, they made an assault on the Switchbacks after doing the NPR and Via del Monte. The arrangement was as follows: Peyton led from the bottom to the first left-hander. Eric took over from there until the steep section after Turn Four. Josh soloed to the finish.

News reports indicate that Peyton went so fast and so hard on his section that he almost fell over when he swung over. Eric, a fierce and unpleasant wheel to be on even in the best of times, buried it for the next three turns, fading just before the juncture with Ganado. Josh sprinted/sat/sprinted/sat/sprinted all the way to the finish. Strava link here.

Kudos, all three of you!

Now go get jobs.

When worlds collide

June 4, 2013 § 27 Comments

Some things are so weird and bizarre and completely down my alley that you have to see them on video to believe them. Here’s what happens when a (presumably) Hispanic kid gets caught BWB (Biking While Brown) through an area of Brooklyn that is patrolled by an informal religious security force of Hasidim.

The title of the video and obvious nutjob religious whackadoodlism of the security force immediately promises to be a rich vein of humor overlaying an incredible travesty of assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and assholicism of the first degree.

They probably don’t like us very much

Or, more succinctly put in these R-rated lyrics by Puddle of Mudd

Ted Rogers’s most excellently adventurous bike blog ponders the question of why motorists hate bicycle riders. This video, all eight minutes of conflict and hostility and potential violence and racial edginess, shows why motorists hate bicycle riders. Let me deconstruct it for you.

  1. Outdated Shimano shifters. You can see as the video begins that the poor schmo on the bike is riding some ancient, non-Di2 form of what look like 9 or even 8-speed Shimano shifters. This is ghastly. What driver wouldn’t want to kill someone on that? Really.
  2. Creaky bottom bracket. The first and last part of the video reveal what is the creakiest bottom bracket in Brooklyn. This grated on me so horrifically in the first few seconds that I was hoping someone would take him out just to spare my ears that grinding sound. One time Rick Kent and I were on a long ride to Marble Falls and he had a creaky BB. I’ve still not forgiven him.
  3. Friendly greeting. Everything starts with the typical friendly Brooklyn “Howdy!” in this case when Schmo says “Fuck you, hey motherfucker!” as the minivan cuts him off. “Fuck you, hey motherfucker!” although rough on some ears, is totally normal conversation between Brooklynites meeting for the first time. It’s actually an invitation to become better acquainted, like “Can I buy you a drink, you fucking motherfucker?” or “Hey, motherfucker, get off of my fucking doorstep before I fucking blow your head off, motherfucker. Want to go bowling tonight at nine?” So far the interaction is normal, slightly weighted in favor of the minivan since Schmo is riding outdated equipment and presumably not wearing Rapha.
  4. Minivan aggression. Although the minivan appears to intentionally chop Schmo and drive him into a narrow crunch chute between the minivan and a line of parked cars, potentially maiming or killing him, New York Vehicle Code Sec. 2301(a)(ii) specifically allows each registered minivan one “free” bicycle chop per driving incident, so the initial aggression by the minivan doesn’t count. Schmo, who’s unaware of the vehicle code, is a bit miffed by the chop, so at the next stoplight there’s another friendly exchange of greetings. “Hey, motherfucker, what the fuck were you doing over there?” The rest of what he says is inaudible, but we can assume it’s something like “How’s the wife and kids?”
  5. The GoPro threat. Mr. Minivan is starting to react, and Schmo threatens him at the stoplight: “I’ve got you on camera!” he warns. Now, when you’re in a knife fight in Brooklyn, or someone’s getting ready to mow you down with a cement mixer, there is no single phrase more certain to strike fear in the heart of the aggressor than “I’ve got my GoPro, motherfucker!” You want to scare somebody? Show ‘em your GoPro. Mr. Minivan is temporarily terrified, but as his shomrim buds gather, they overcome their GoProphobia and take action to defend their streets from the invasion of this deadly Puerto Rican bicycle commuter from New Jersey.
  6. Second chop and less friendly greeting. At about 1:41 in the video, Mr. Minivan takes his second chop at Schmo, in clear violation of the vehicle code, which does not allow for a second free chop. Schmo, still friendly, but a bit agitated, says, “Shut the fuck up, motherfucker,” as he passes Mr. Minivan. We can sense behind his friendly words that a conflict is brewing.
  7. Shit finally goes down. Mr. Minivan then takes his third chop and traps Schmo in an open parking space. “Hit me, man!” says Schmo, which is odd because when Mr. Minivan gets out we see he’s actually Mr. Toomanydonuts, and something less than an imposing physical specimen. Plus, he’s wearing an old baseball referee’s uniform from the 20’s and hasn’t shaved the sides of his head in a couple of years. Mr. Toomanydonuts then approaches Schmo and we’re ready for all hell to break loose, expecting a barrage of Brooklyn admonishments like “You fucking slap my car again motherfucker and I’ll kill you and your whole fucking family and feed their fucking carcasses to my pit bulls, you understand me, you stupid little two-bit cheap ass bike riding piece of Jersey shit don’t you EVER fucking touch my car, you got that motherfucker?” after which we expect Mr. Toomanydonuts to whip out his piece and shoot the spokes out of Schmo’s wheels. Instead, Toomanydonuts advises him, rather formally, “You are not allowed to drive in the middle of the street.” This completely confuses Schmo, and us, too, because in fact Schmo IS allowed to drive in the middle of the street. Like, is Toomanydonuts that stupid? As the confrontation escalates, we realize that yes, he is.
  8. The Moe Moment. There is a moment in every man’s life when he realizes that The Three Stooges were based on someone in real life. This is called the “Moe Moment.” At 2:24 in the video, Mr. Toomanydonuts tells Schmo, “Don’t be a wise guy.” I don’t know about you, but having some goofball with a stupid haircut and ill-fitting referee clothes stolen from the Goodwill dumpster telling me “Don’t be a wise guy!” can only elicit one reaction, and we steel ourselves for Schmo’s hand to shoot out, palm down, flapping up in the air as Toomanydonuts follows it, terminating with an eye poke or forehead slap or ear yank. But it never happens. This is perhaps because Schmo is now surrounded by a vigilante gang of fat people in old referee outfits and bad haircuts, and he’s actually scared.
  9. Lecture time. Toomanydonuts next readmonishes Schmo: “You don’t drive in the middle of the street. You know what that means?” Schmo apparently doesn’t, as he’s been riding in the middle of the street all day, and presumably all year, and we don’t know what it means, either. So Schmo calls 911 and says “I’m being harassed!” to the operator. Toomanydonuts laughs and says into the phone “Liar! You’re a liar!” What happens next? Will Schmo say “Am not!” and TMD respond with “Are too!”? Will tongues be stuck out? Shins be kicked? More importantly, will the operator, who’s swamped with simultaneous incoming NYC 911 calls from people being raped, stabbed, robbed, chopped into bits, and being dick pic-ed by Anthony Weiner, give a rat’s ass that Schmo is being called “liar” by the leader of an erroneous vehicle code legal advisory team in old referee outfits and bad haircuts? At some point we presume the operator is going to say, “Hey, dumbshit, turn your bike around and salmon up the sidewalk. These fat fucks haven’t chased anything faster than a donut since they were nine.”
  10. “Baloney, macaroni.” It’s not often that you get to hear someone refute another person with the phrase “Baloney, macaroni.” But at 2:52 that’s exactly what Toomanydonuts says. For that alone, he wins the contest. In fact, next time I’m in court and someone argues equitable estoppel as an affirmative defense to a civil cause of action, I’m gonna look the judge straight in the eye and say, “Baloney, macaroni.” Take that, mofo.
  11. The real reason for the confrontation. At 3:00, Mr. Toomanydonuts shines his ample tummy at the GoPro, which is trying its hardest to burst forth from the white tablecloth underneath the referee outfit, and utters these immortal words: “Don’t block my car.” All kidding aside, there you have it — the essence of conflict between cars and bicyles. Bikes block cars. Ted Rogers, are you listening? They hate us because we block them.
  12. Bike harassment. As Schmo desperately tries to get the 911 operator to quit laughing by saying “He’s harassing me! He almost ran me over several times!” Toomanydonuts disagrees. “He’s harassing me!” says TMD. This actually has a grain of truth in it. Schmo has blocked the minivan by legally using the street, whacked its side panel after almost getting killed, and is now harassing Toomanydonuts by forcing him to stop the minivan, get out, and surround Schmo with his vigilante referee suit and tablecloth gang.
  13. Tummy rub. Although Toomanydonuts and the referees seem to have the upper hand, at 3:30 TMD realizes that over five minutes have passed since the last donut stop, and he rubs his tummy. He’s getting faint, and without a quick infusion of lard and sugar and salt, he’s going to falter. Schmo’s fitness and wrist strength from those clunky shifters are paying off.
  14. Rule #2: Don’t block cars with your car. Although Toomanydonuts is wrong about Schmo’s right to ride in the lane, he’s right about one thing — blocking cars in Brooklyn by parking your minivan in the middle of the street to harass a bicycle rider will immediately gain you the attention of other motorists. At 3:32 other drivers start to honk and get pissed. Toomanydonuts is either too weak from hypoglycemia or too confused by the vehicle code, so he rubs his tummy again and ponders this predicament: Donuts or more bicyclist harassment?
  15. Tummy tuck. At 4:04, Toomanydonuts’s hunger becomes overwhelming as he reaches into his pants and stuffs his tablecloth back down into the referee pants. We see a shiny silver belt buckle and a little holster where he keeps freeze-dried donut powder for moments like this, when his system is crashing and the nearest donut shop is in Lower Manhattan and he’s stuck in traffic because some bicycle rider is blocking his minivan. Shit’s getting real.
  16. Big Puerto Rican Dude, enter Stage Left. Pretty soon another minivan pulls up, this time filled with a Puerto Rican family. They ask Schmo what’s going on, and Toomanydonuts tells them to “move along” because they “don’t know what happened.” Schmo fills them in, and out from the second minivan hops Big Puerto Rican Dude with Popeye Forearms and Even Bigger Stomach than Toomanydonuts. Big Puerto Rican Dude pushes through the referee gang and easily proves himself the match for all seven referees, who realize that they’re now dealing with a legitimate Jersey Puerto Rican badass who looks like Prez after a bad hair day + 300 burritos. Dude is ready to rumble, and the referees are now wishing they’d picked on a skinny white Baptist from Kansas instead.
  17. Enter, then exit, the Pudknocker. Not to be outdone by Big Puerto Rican Dude, the refs bring out their enforcer, a gelatinous youth with the worst haircut in a bevy of bad haircuts, who literally tries to throw his weight around. Big Puerto Rican Dude balls his fists, shoves a few referees who clear out like ten pins hit by a 16-lb. ball, and then Pudknocker, who we expect to whip out some fancy moves or a roundhouse to the chin or a pair of nunchucks or a .38 special or an old-fashioned can of Old Testament Whoop-Ass, instead begs everyone to calm down and takes out a video camera. It’s going to be his iPhone v. Schmo’s GoPro, a true Brooklyn battle royale. Big Puerto Rican Dude still hasn’t gotten the memo that everyone’s a candyass who just wants to go home and tell the old lady how tough they were, and he’s ready to start knocking heads together. At 6:44, Pudknocker the Enforcer gets so nervous that he grabs his sideburns and gives them a hard yank. We expect Goofy to show up and say “Gawrsh!” but he doesn’t.
  18. Battle of the bellies. Schmo’s GoPro has stayed fixed at tummy level the entire time, and it’s clear that Big Puerto Rican Dude’s tummy will win the day. Toomanydonuts and Pudknocker have, it is true, respectable girth, but one close look at PR Dude’s spare tire and we realize it’s a Caterpillar among Michelins.
  19. Schmo 1, Referees 0. Big PR Dude gets tired of the crap, ascertains that there’s no damage to the minivan, and bulls a passageway for Schmo, who creaks away as quickly as he can, which, frankly, isn’t very quick. Other referees appear on the side view like cockroaches, as you belatedly realize that Schmo was surrounded by about thirty yahoos, and all it took was one pissed off Puerto Rican from New Jersey to clear the whole street.

So, how do we stop the madness? What can we do to make our streets safe places for children and for stupid religious zealots in old referee outfits and tablecloths and bad haircuts and funny hats who don’t like having their minivans blocked? What, I ask?

Finding a way out from a terrible impasse

As with most things in life, the answer is not too complex. We must get rid of all minivans. It’s a proven fact that the decline of American civilization began with the minivan.

First, the minivan replaced the van, a manly vehicle that was originally used to do manly things like carry painting or plumbing tools, or, if you’re a child of the 70’s, was an awe-inspiring vehicle lined with shag carpet, a sound system, two couches, and a giant bong. Who can ever forget our 8th Grade history teacher at Jane Long Junior High, Mr. Campbell, and his rolling palace of electric blue love?

The minivan ruined this mighty warrior of the American road, but that’s not all. The “mini” in “minivan” also ruined the Mini. I’m not talking about these faux Mini Coopers that are big enough to comfortably house an XXL driver, an XXL passenger, and still have room in back to bring home a week’s worth of frozen pizza, diet Coke, and peanut butter. I’m talking the real minis, like the one Dogbait Dickson drove to Austin from Iowa, with its 15-inch wheelbase, clearance between your head and the roof that was sufficient only if you were bald or had a crew cut, and a stick shift that reduced the leg room for the driver so much that you drove with your knees whether you wanted to or not.

The minivan killed all this, and replaced it with a flabby, flaccid, generic roustabout vehicle that was too slow to go fast, too fast to drive on a bike path, and useful only for parking at Wal-Mart or Costco. As this video shows, it’s not a problem of “us” versus “them” or “car” versus “bicycle.” It’s minivan vs. referees wearing tablecloths vs. bicycle riders vs. global warming vs. the Second Amendment.

You know where I stand.

“Slover” doesn’t rhyme with “wanker”

June 1, 2013 § 22 Comments

So there I was, with a game plan. Sort of.

I had met up at 5:40 AM with Jack from Illinois (not his real name), and we did a couple thousand feet of climbing along with a couple thousand more feet of lying about our fitness, and then gave up the whole charade at the Sea Bean and Olde Larde Shoppe at Terranea. After three rounds of coffee and sugary honey buns, I checked my watch.

“Shit! I’m gonna be late for the race!”

Jack nodded sympathetically, the way people do who recognize profound mental illness in a friend but nonetheless tolerate it. “You better get going, then.”

“Yeah!” I answered, seeing the opportunity to dash off and stick him with the check, which I did.

I sped by San Pedro and its Memorial Day weekend hookers, then Torrance and its Republicans who love Medicare, and over to the race course at Dominguez Hills. My race started at 9:00, and I was just in the nick of time. “Yo, Vera!” I shouted to the organizer and money collector and Boss of the Race. “Give me a number and pin me up! I’ll pay you later!”

“You’ve got plenty of time,” she said.

“My race starts in five minutes!”

“Which race?”

“The 50+ Elderly Gentleman With Incipient Prostate Issues Race! Hurry!”

“They went off at 8:00. Slowly. You missed the start. The 45+ Not Quite So Old Gentleman Who Still Enjoy Regular Erections Race goes at 10:30, if you want to do that one.”

I didn’t really want to do that one

The 45+ race is filled with fast youngsters, and I don’t like racing against them because they always trounce me. Left with no alternative, I drew up my battle plan and lined up.

Battle Plan:

  1. Sit in.
  2. Sit in a lot.
  3. Sit in the whole race.
  4. Wait until the last lap.
  5. Flail.
  6. Get a double-double cheeseburger with bacon and extra lard at the Five Guys in Carson.
  7. Roll home. Literally.
  8. Explain to Mrs. WM how I’d almost won.

The race began and a pair of wankers got off the front. A couple of laps later they came back. The peloton slowed to a crawl as the riders thought about the Barry Wolfe crit beatdown on Sunday, the state TTT beatdown on Saturday, the uber-beatdown ITT the week before, the impending beatdown of death in Bakersfield on tap the following weekend, and about how they’d really prefer to chill for 45 minutes and sprunt at the end, all things being equal.

Stick to the plan, man

As soon as the peloton slowed, I attacked with my signature Giant Red Bus Loaded With Passengers Going Up A 25-Percent Muddy Slope attack, and caught everyone off guard. They apparently thought I had a mechanical.

A few pedal strokes later and my effort had succeeded. One passenger tagged along, a guy with as little tactical sense as me, or less, Tony from Pinnaclife.

We traded pulls, with him throwing down Fabianesque efforts that immediately put the field out of sight. “This,” I laughed to myself, “has got the smell of victory.”

Two laps later, Tony swung over. “I’m done, dude.”

I sniffed, sensing the all-too-familiar reek of total defeat. “You fucking kidding me? We’ve got forty minutes to go.”

“Sorry,” he said as giant plumes of flail poured out of his ears, nose, eyes, mouth, and butt.

“Shit,” I said. “Just sit on my wheel, rest, and come through when you can. We’re screwed.”

Keep your head up

Of all the disciplines I’m not known for, the one I’m most not known for the least is time trailing. Every couple of laps Tony would come through, but after a few pedal strokes he would do the Gasket Droop, which happens when you’ve blown a head gasket and your head starts to droop as you look stupidly at your Garmin and think “Wow this is slow but why’s it so painful?” and then your head droops some more as you stare at your thighs and think “Wow this is so painful where is all this pain coming from and why am I here?” and then your head sags so that your eyes are gazing at your navel and you hit a manhole cover at speed even though Lotts has painted it electric green and you crash out the dude behind you and flip yourself over the curb and into the blanket with the nice lady and three kids who are eating peanut butter sandwiches which is now smeared all over your face and derailleur.

“Keep your head up, stupid!” I’d shout, and Tony would jerk his head up for a few strokes, only to let it start to sag again.

There is an art to keeping your head up when you’re gassed and miserable and hopeless and mashing in a two-up flailaway that’s doomed to be caught and shelled, and Tony hadn’t mastered it, so each time he came through, and it wasn’t very often, I yelled at him to keep his head up in a cheerful and supportive way, using friendly modifiers like “fucking” and “dogdammit” and other terms of encouragement.

Save it for the end

During our doomed expedition, the announcers called two primes, one for a bucket of Cytomax Pomegranate and Liver Flavored Decovery Drink, and another for a bag of coffee. Tony let me have both primes, clearly unaware that they were the first primes I’d won in 30 years of bike racing (except for the used water bottle with mold stains that I won at a Tom Boyden race outside Dallas in ’84), and with these two primes alone I’d notched more glory than in any bike race, ever.

Bored with our slowing flailaway, and with the pack now in sight, the announcer announced a “field prime” to hurry up the chasers and put us out of our misery and them out of theirs, because in the world of stupidly, incomprehensibly, unenduringly boring things there is nothing more numbingly dull and untertaining than watching a slow breakaway in a slothlike Old Folks Crit. Coming out of Turn Three, national champion and General Hero from the Planet Zetron-X, Steve Strickler, launched an attack to bridge to our flailaway.

With him was Gary Wall, who zoomed by me in search of the field prime. What Gary didn’t know is that I had heard that this prime was for a free CBR race entry ticket, i.e. something that would actually save me money, so I stomped after Gary had sat up and pipped him for the incredible, unbelievable, almost inhuman record of collecting three primes in one race. In those few seconds I began to think about doing drugs and turning pro, or at least doing drugs.

When the force be’s with you

Our little sprunt + acceleration had gapped the field, and another Pinnaclife flailer joined us with a La Grange gentleman of the brain-dead variety. We now had a new Breakaway of the Hopeless, and we gunned it. The peloton receded again, and a quick time check after two more laps showed that we had less than ten minutes to race.

Suddenly, fourth place looked possible. As I rotated off and slid to the back, I checked over my shoulder and saw the awful sight from Hell, otherwise known as the Surf City Cyclery Bridge of Death.

Strickler was towing his minions to our flailaway. With him was Kenny Rogers, fresh off his triple platinum recording of The Gambler, and, worst of all, was Smilin’ John Slover.

They caught us, hammered through, and instantly transformed our weak and tattered flailaway into that magical, mythical thing of beauty, an actual breakaway. I now had instantly transformed a nondescript fourth place finish into seventh. Rad!

Strickler, Wall, and Rogers pounded on the front, and I stupidly got into the rotation, occasionally looking back at Smilin’ John, who refused to do a lick of work. “Why doesn’t he pull through?” I wondered. “If he sits in like that all day and lets his teammates do the work, he’s going to win. Idiot.”

Finally, exasperated, I started to whimper. “Hey, John, why don’t you take a pull? It’s fun up here! Really!”

Smilin’ John just smiled as Strickler and Rogers drilled and grilled with such fierce nastiness that now I was the only other idiot rotating through with them.

The man, the myth

Slover isn’t just one of the strongest and fastest riders in SoCal; he’s one of the most experienced and one of the best workhorses. He’s been racing for decades, and when he races in the 35+ crits he’s the go-to guy for bridging, riding the break, and leading out whips like Charon Smith. Sitting pretty in the break, with two of the biggest motors gaining more and more real estate from the field, he’d grin at me each I came through, the grin of a shark about to munch on a plump, tender little baby seal.

On the final lap, with Strickler hammering into the headwind and Slover shouting at him in third wheel, “Faster! Faster!” it was an out-of-body experience. They were going to kick my ass.

“Wait,” I told myself. “They’re already kicking my ass.”

Strickler’s pull was so long and my fourth wheel slot afforded me so much rest that when we whipped through the third turn I’d recovered, and so I dove tight into the turn and made my bid for glory. Three strokes into it, I realized that perhaps I hadn’t really recovered after all.

Kenny jumped hard far over to the right side, which was actually the longer line, and in moment of stupid decisiveness, poor judgment, and lack of confidence, I drove back to the other side of the street and latched onto Slover.

This was like latching onto a rocket just before liftoff, because when we hit Turn Four, Slover was just flat fucking gone. My legs and arms were dismembered at the joints, but I now at least had second place down cold because Kenny was fading.

Like any good thoroughbred, though, once he’d launched his teammate to victory, Kenny heard me panting, gasping, thrashing, and flailing to come by. He put his head down and gave one more huge effort, easily besting me at the line for the giant tub of Gizzard Flavored Cytomax and a $35 check.

Smilin’ John rolled over and clapped me on the back. “Good race, dude!”

I stuffed my tongue back into my head. “Thanks. Urgle. Gurp.”

He did the next race, rode the break and got on the podium.

I went to Five Guys and drowned my happiness in cow parts. Praise be to cows. Oh, and I’ve got a nice tub of Pomegranate and Liver decovery drink for sale. Cheap.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for June, 2013 at Cycling in the South Bay.

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