Hard as a ham sandwich

June 14, 2014 § 17 Comments

Derek the Destroyer looked at me and began speaking. His speech was slow and syrupy, disembodied almost from the movement of his mouth. Through his sunglasses I could see his listless, dying eyes.

“Wanky,” he said as we coasted down the Latigo bump on PCH towards the filling station. “I wonder if they have any ham sandwiches there?”

We were 130 miles in. We’d climbed Yerba Buena, Decker, the endless undulations of PCH, and the backdoor bonus climb at Zuma Beach. Derek had gone from bonk to the far-away stare of death, and his brain had regressed to its most infantile state, the state where, as you ponder hunger and starvation and the slowly decelerating circles of your legs, the part of your brain responsible for mental pictures of food (the subcutaneous trochanter) begins flashing images that contain the food requirements necessary to keep you alive.

For Derek, it was a ham sandwich.

“Dude,” I answered. “The only thing that gas station has are candy bars and diseases on the toilet seats. There ain’t no ham sandwiches there. There ain’t no ham sandwiches for another ten miles. Maybe the ‘Bucks at Malibu.”

He nodded dumbly. He’d known the answer before I gave it. “But don’t worry,” I encouraged him. “We only have thirty miles left to ride today.”

Surfer Dan and Manslaughter churned away on the front until we reached Malibu. We stopped at the coffee shop. Derek bought a ham sandwich and a single chocolate-covered graham cracker. He chewed slowly, his eyes staring emptily at the bricks on the sidewalk. “1, 2, 3 … ” he counted to himself.

“What’s he doing?” asked Surfer.

“He’s counting the bricks,” I said.

“I, 2, 3 … ” Derek repeated.

“He can’t seem to get past three,” Surfer noted.

“He’ll feel better soon,” I said. “Tomorrow.”

If you Facebook it, they will come

I had innocently invited the general public to join me on a mid-week jaunt up PCH after tackling the morning New Pier Ride hammerfest. This nasty 160-mile, 8,000-feet, all-day butchering attracted a solid contingent of about fifteen riders, all of whom thought that “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

At the top of Yerba Buena, a godforsaken, crack-filled, pothole-scarred, 8-mile climb, we were only at the 85-mile mark. One by one we stragglers reached the summit that the Wily Greek, Surfer, and Derek had arrived at several hours before, and we were all thinking the same thing: “There’s no fuggin’ way I’m going up Decker after this.”

Decker is a beast in its own right, a 4-mile, 8% climb with a couple of super steep sections coming at the very beginning of the climb. In our case, it came at the 97-mile mark, and no wanted to climb it. The easy choice was simply to continue home along PCH. Decker would have been easy to avoid. All we had to do was pedal by it and say nothing. No one would have complained or jeered until we had gotten back to Manhattan Beach, after we were tucked safely into our bar stools.

Sadly, as we sat atop Yerba Buena and tried to collect our wits, Derek broke The Rule and voiced our fears. “Uh, dude,” he said. “I don’t think anyone wants to do Decker.”

“Well, fugg those fuggers,” I said. “‘Cause I’m fuggin’ doin’ Decker.”

“Looks like you’ll be doing it alone,” he said.

“No,” said Manslaughter. “He won’t.”

The taste of one’s own words, chewed slowly

As we approached the left turn onto Decker, the Wily Greek slinked to the back and denied that he was really a Cat 1. Sammy claimed that today was a “rest day.” SB Baby Seal, who had manfully ridden me off his wheel on Yerba Buena, stared at his Garmin and tried not to look embarrassed. Toronto shook his head like a whipped mule that wasn’t going to walk one more step. Tumbleweed dug out and flashed his AARP card, and even the ever-resilient Frenchy made it clear that she had to get home in time to watch the paint dry. Boozy and Wheezy shook their heads.

Hoof Fixerman was blunt and unapologetic. “Time you wankers get home I’ll be on my fifth Racer 5.”

So Surfer, Manslaughter, Derek, and I pedaled off to our doom up Decker, which was a thousand times worse than we thought it would be. Like a bad kidney stone, however, it too passed, and once Derek had overcome his ham sandwich attack we pointed our noses home and flew down PCH with a whipping tailwind.

Back at the bar, Surfer ordered four plates of nachos, three pizzas, and a meat pie. The rest of us had a triple-beef bacon burger with bacon sauce and bacon dressing, topped off with bacon-flavored french fries with bacon bits. Manslaughter and I selected our favorite IPA in handy 32-oz mugs, and Derek ordered an 8-oz Michelob Weenielite, which doesn’t taste great and isn’t particularly filling, either.

The ride, which was only 155 miles but had swelled to 180 by the time Mrs. Wankmeister came to pick me up, had already become a legend in our own minds, a legend that could only be confirmed with another large mug and a visit to the ice cream shop next door. Everyone agreed that although it had been an epic unforgettable day, and although it had been worth it to see Derek exhibit for the first time the human trait of frailty, it was a complete waste of time, it had ruined whatever race fitness any of us pretended to have, and it was certainly the stupidest thing we’d ever done with the exception (perhaps) of getting into cycling in the first place.

So of course we’re doing it again next Thursday. See you there.

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

§ 17 Responses to Hard as a ham sandwich

  • forest says:

    Looks like I picked the right week to get my bike stolen! I guess I could do it on a flat bar hybrid…

    #ridethebikeyouhave

  • dan martin says:

    If you look up batshit crazy in websters new dictionary it says WM, SurferD, Manslaughter, and Derek the Destroyer.

  • Rick says:

    We did a similar killer ride yesterday over Mt. Maddona. Only 100 miles but at least 15 of those are on dirt. I was living in the post bonk pre death netherworld you described so well. And the food and beer are soooooo good. I was told by a German friend after the ride a German saying that rings true.

    Hunger is the best cook.

  • Nothing innocent about that invite.

  • Sandy Hackney says:

    Well you SoCal dudes sure pile on the miles. Having just finished the Black Fly Challenge yesterday – check out the website – a mere 38.5 miles of the loveliest mountain terrain you would ever want, loaded with terrifying gravel-filled, rock infested, STEEP downhills loaded with sharp curves and hurtling fearless teenagers going past, heart-breaking climbs with the same gravel, mud and rock, but now if you go too slowly – under 5 mph – the black flies come after you (that is as fast as they can fly). Come on east and see what we have to offer here! A lot of fun!! Beer at the finish, too.

  • Peter Evans says:

    Some day …. some day …. I will be in this group … rock on guys was great to see some of you “on the donut”

  • No one of consequence says:

    Great read. Like I was there myself. Which is infinitely better than being there myself. Cheers.

  • Tom says:

    160-mile, 8,000-feet ….

    Wouldn’t that be considered a “sprinter’s stage” at Giro d’ Italia ?

    • fsethd says:

      Good perspective on how badly we suck!

      • Tom says:

        More an indication of the enormous gulf between top regional amateurs and elite world-class athletes!

        It’s true in any sport, but cycling has some relatively straightforward metrics (vertical climbing rates, 40km TT, etc) with which to compare.

        Eg, a Tony Martin or Brad Wiggins can average 31-32 mph on a ~20km TT course. I could manage that for maybe 30 seconds, on a good day, with a strong tailwind ;-)

      • fsethd says:

        I could, too, with all the advantages you mention plus a motor.

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