September 27, 2013 § 65 Comments
There is a Strava segment outside my apartment. I made it. Until a few days ago, only three people had ever ridden it, and two of those rides were before it became a segment.
Let’s get this straight. There is no reason for anyone to ride up the street, Ravenspur. It parallels Hawthorne and doesn’t go anywhere except to my apartment. It is steep as snot, but there are fifty dozen better climbs within a half-mile that can logically be incorporated into your ride. Among its other drawbacks, once you reach the end you have to make a left onto crazy-busy Hawthorne across four lanes of speeding traffic.
Why segmentize it? Because I don’t ride with a Garmin and I wanted to know how fast I could go up it. Oh, and to also sneak myself a little KOM-action, because I hardly have any left. “What the heck,” I thought. “No one ever rides up this street. It’ll be a nice little vanity-KOM that I can take out, polish, and caress for a few months, maybe longer.”
Uh-oh, looks like YOU SUCK!
So you can imagine my chagrin when, four days ago, I got the dreaded message. “Uh-oh! Your KOM was recently devoured whole by Spencer! Enjoy the rest of the day, gnawing on your own liver!”
If it had been anyone else I would have felt sad, despondent, and very blue. This is because I’ve never retaken a lost KOM. But to have it taken away by Spencer, a dude with eight entire pages of KOM’s, was infinitely worse. Why? Because one of the best Strava riders in our neighborhood had targeted me and my piddly KOM. It was important enough for him to track my activities, drill down to my rides, and wrench the precious little KOM from my soft, chubby hands.
I’m sure the moment he took it, the elaborately programmed disco ball in his living room went off, the stereo began playing “We are the Champions” by Queen, and he threw on his ermine robes and tinsel crown as he paraded naked in front of the mirror.
My sad face transformed into one of violent rage, and I set out to reclaim what was rightfully mine.
The devil is in the details
One of the things that was going to make my retake so hard was the very nature of the street. Coming home from work I’m headed uphill, and have to turn left across two lanes of fast, oncoming traffic in order to begin the short but steep climb. This means that when I set the KOM, I did it from an extremely slow starting speed. Spencer’s time was twenty-two seconds, one second faster than mine, and I knew that in order to claw back two seconds over a .1-mile segment it would take everything I had.
As I approached the left hand turn I slowed, hoping for a break in traffic so that I wouldn’t have to unclip before hitting Ravenspur. Sure enough, the timing was good and I slid through. The bump is quite steep, so I had it in my 39 x 25 and instantly ramped it up to max rpm. By the time I hit the finish, I could barely see. I got off my bike and, unable to stand, had to lean on the top tube to keep from falling down.
But I smiled. “Take that, Spencer.”
Imagine my shock when I uploaded my iPhone data and saw that not only was Spencer still the owner of my own little personal front-door segment, but my hardest effort ever was a full second slower than my earlier best time of 23 seconds. Now the devastation was complete, and a part of me died that day. I wiped away the tears and ambled to the dinner table while my family consoled me.
“It’s okay, you don’t suck at everything!” said Mrs. Wankmeister.
“I’m proud of you, Dad, because you’re helping me learn through failure,” said my supportive 15-year-old.
The spirit of a warrior
The next day I woke grim and determined. The day flew by, and I hastened it by leaving the office an hour early. My legs felt light, strong, powerful, rested. I warmed up on the ride home, doing quick bursts on Anza and two steady efforts on Via Valmonte and Silver Spur.
When I moved into the left-hand turn lane, I was going a solid ten miles per hour. Magically, a breach appeared in the oncoming traffic. Perfectly geared in my 53 x 21, I launched up Ravenspur. This time there was no question. I raced to the top, collapsing as I had the day before, but secure in the knowledge that I’d reclaimed my KOM.
As I whipped out my iPhone I crowed to Mrs. Wankmeister. “Finally put ol’ Snotnose back where he belongs!” She had no idea what I was talking about, but nodded and smiled.
What happened next was too terrible for words, and I collapsed in a heap, sobbing. My “record time” was a full second slower than the day before, which was already a second slower than my all-time best. The better I rode, the slower I went. A couple of hours later, after I’d stopped crying, I called Derek the Destroyer. Through chokes and half-sobs I explained my problem.
“Dude,” he said. “You’re never gonna get that KOM back.”
“These Strava geeks grab the segments strategically.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The two biggest factors are temperature and wind. Go back and look at the time of day he took it. It was in the morning, when it’s cooler. You’re always going up that thing at the end of the day, when it’s hot. What were you wearing today?”
“I had on my long-sleeve winter jersey from my morning commute into work. I was sweating like crazy.”
“Your body won’t produce the same wattage when it’s 80 degrees as it will when it’s 70, or 60, or 50.”
“No, I’m not. That’s why you never see any of the Strava geeks take the hard climbs during a group ride. Do you actually know this guy?”
“I’ve never seen him, in fact.”
“It’s not that they’re stronger riders, it’s that they’re better Strava riders. Also, go back and look at your segment. Is there only one approach?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re coming at it uphill, right?”
“Yeah. It’s a ball-breaker.”
“Is it possible to hit it by coming down Hawthorne and turning right? You’d have a huge head of steam there, wouldn’t you?”
“Oh, come on. There’s no way Spencer would do that. It’s a completely different attempt, doing a standing start up a 13 percent grade versus hitting the climb after a 25 mph sweeping turn. Nobody’s a big enough wanker to coordinate temperature, wind, and a downhill just to rob me of my one silly KOM.”
Derek laughed. “If you say so.”
The terrible team of titans
I opened up Strava, unwilling to believe what I’d just heard, and there it was. Spencer had hit the Lungpopper segment on the Hawthorne downhill, after dropping off Highridge. A more evil, sneaky, dastardly, unsportsmanlike thing I couldn’t imagine.
This morning after the NPR I was rolling around the Hill with Manslaughter, the Destroyer, Jake, and Whatshisname. They were very curious about the segment. As we discussed the awfulness of the whole thing, a gleam appeared in Manslaughter’s eye. “Whattaya say we go and ‘pay Spencer a visit’?”
Soon enough we were charging up Via del Monte. When we turned left on Hawthorne and hit the downhill the speed ratcheted up. I signaled the turn and one by one we swooped through it, then jumped as hard as we could, scattered across the road.
When Spencer checks his email later today, he’s gonna have to go looking for six spare seconds, because that’s how many he now needs to climb back atop the leaderboard. The Destroyer, Jake, and Manslaughter are ahead of him, too. And my front-door segment KOM? It’s back where it belongs. And just in case you’re thinking about coming out and taking it away, I’ll tell you right now: I have a car, and I’m not afraid to use it.
September 23, 2013 § 12 Comments
Lots has happened.
Julie Cutts, who rides for La Grange, won two world masters championships this weekend, one in the time trial and the other in the road race. More about this at a later date, but suffice it to say that this is staggeringly, incredibly, amazingly fantastic news. Julie was joined in Trento, Italy by Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, and Tony Restuccia, who all raced in the men’s 35-39 world championship. Although everyone can appreciate Julie’s two victories, not everyone can appreciate the men’s results — 15th, 19th, and 60th. Let me be the first to say that these results are extraordinary. Out of 101 finishers, these three racers performed exceptionally on a global stage, on a brutal course that ended with a 20km climb, in the epicenter of world cycling. Simply being invited to the biggest stage for masters racers is a tremendous accomplishment. Finishing as strongly as these guys did is testament to their toughness, ability, and racing skill.
Cyclocross is here
The 2013-2014 cyclocross season kicks off in Southern California next Sunday, September 29, at the historical downtown LA state park. Dorothy Wong brings cyclocross back for another year, only it’s bigger, better, and promises even more participation and excitement. Even as road and track racing stagnate in the state and nationwide, ‘cross continues to grow. Why? Because it’s audience-friendly. Road and track focus on the athletes, and with the exception of blowout races like Tulsa Tough, it’s unheard of in SoCal to see a road race, circuit race, or crit that’s packed with spectators.
Cyclocross brings people in to watch. The courses are exciting and spectators can put their tents right next to the most thrilling parts of the course. The racers go slower and they come by much more often, and spectators are encouraged to cheer, heckle, and give questionable hand-ups. ‘Cross courses are “parky,” so kids can run around. After racing, the athletes are often found under the tents drinking beer, hanging out, and enjoying the rest of the day. What’s also interesting is that, as far as I know, there’s little or no prize money — and the racers could care less. They’re energized by screaming fans and a fun time, not the illusory professionalism that comes from getting a “paycheck” of $25 and a box of Clif bars.
More PCH tomfoolery
I did another couple of Sunday rides on PCH, taking the lane all the way out to Cross Creek and back. The criticism of this approach was initially massive by the local cycling community, or at least among the people with whom I ride. Then, thanks to a video captured by a biker on Sunday, I saw an entire crew of “gutter bunnies,” 50 riders strong, taking the lane. So that’s awesome. One disappointment has been the almost complete absence of “take the lane” advocates, folks who are quite vocal about taking the lane and who spout lots of facts and figures regarding the merits of this method, but who can’t be bothered to actually do it on PCH. Maybe you don’t believe in your method quite as much as you say?
My kingdom for a stem
On the way to the ride this morning I ran into Mike Barraclough, who was sidelined just past Malaga Cove with a flat tire, a short stem, and no stem extender. My wheels are box rim aluminum Open Pros and so they take any length stem, no matter how short, but when I went to the bike shop to get a new tube the only ones they had in stock were the 60mm. It turned out that this was just the right length, so we swapped his spare 52mm for my 60mm, and we got underway. Dave Kramer, also en route to the ride, had also stopped to help. Pressed for time, we took the most direct route from Redondo to Manhattan Beach, which is PCH, and we took it at full speed. Mike and Dave had breathing problems along the way, and we had to back it off a notch to stay together. Then, once we turned on Gould and dropped down to Valley, Dave and Mike blew a stop sign that had a police cruiser parked off to the side, waiting for speeders. This was our lucky morning, though — I put a foot down for the first time in recent memory, and the cop just watched us pedal away. When we got to the start of the ride, Mike and Dave looked like they were on the finishing leg of RAAM. Ron Peterson looked up and laughed. “You were supposed to exercise the horses, son, but instead you done broke ‘em!”
Can’t say enough about these shoes
I’ve been riding Bont shoes for about six months now. My first shoes were Detto Pietro. My second shoes were Marresi. My third shoes were the Sidi Revolution, the first shoe with a velcro strap. My fourth shoes were Duegi white patent leather track shoes with wooden soles … I used them on the road and almost died in them atop a high mountain pass in Japan, but that’s another story. My next shoes were Sidi, and I wore their various iterations for twenty years until two years ago I bought the Specialized S-Works under pressure from a local dealer. My feet eventually adapted to them, but the dials constantly wore out and it was frustrating and expensive to replace them. It also felt like a bit of planned obsolescence, so that I could keep spending money on the shoe. It rubbed me the wrong way.
I was given the Bont shoes as part of my team’s sponsorship package. Basically, they give me a bunch of world-class gear so that I can go place 57th in the local crits and DNF the occasional road race. I was skeptical about the Bont shoes because you have to put them in the oven. They are also flexible like well-cured concrete. And the road shoe looks a little boxcar-ish. Once I had cooked them and used them for a week, my feet molded perfectly to the interior of the shoe. Everyone loves to talk about their “stiff frame” and “stiff BB” and “stiff soles” and “stiff” whatever, but it’s a word I’ll use with care for the rest of my life after wearing the Bont.
So, how stiff are the Bont shoes? They are “sailor on shore leave” stiff. They are stiffer than a fused spine. Stiff like glass. When you push down on the pedals, the shoes are so stiff that, if your bottom bracket is sufficiently robust, the earth will flex on its axis before you’ll flex the soles on these beasts. The ‘cross version of the Bont Vaypor is just as good, with several modifications for the rigors of cyclocross. If you’re unhappy with the flexiness of your current shoes, consider the Bont.
July 6, 2013 § 8 Comments
I have been banging the drum here in L.A. for some time now regarding the great bicycle riding opportunities in North County San Diego. This is not because I want to encourage people to get to know others, have fun, and enjoy cycling. It is because I get vicarious pleasure out of seeing my friends and riding buddies suffer obliteration. Although riding in North County won’t make you faster, it will permanently devastate your self-esteem. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”
I joined my first SPY Holiday Ride yesterday. The evening before we had a team celebration at RIDE Cyclery. MMX, Slim Jim, and Brent had stocked the deck with giant coolers filled with fresh growlers of beer from Lost Abbey. None of the growlers had fancy beer names like “Working Stiff” or “Take Five” or “North County Rough Road.” No, they just had percentages of alcohol content written on the caps with a Sharpie.
This was beer for people who were serious about drinking beer. The Lost Abbey figured out how to make the beer, and apparently it was your job to figure out what to call it. The next morning I awoke with a screaming, blinding, pounding, stomach-churning hangover from hell, so in the future I will call their beer Sbpsc Hfh. Add vowels as needed.
It would be easy to blame the next day’s dismal ride performance on the hangover were it not for the fact that I have never done a hard ride in North County that didn’t either kick me out the back or reduce me to a whimpering puddle of drained legs and melted ego.
Why you should do this ride
1. There is no “B” ride. It is uncompromising. You will suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, be kicked out the back, and forced to find your way home alone or in the company of other lost damned souls. How many things do you do in life that are uncompromising? That demand everything of you and guarantee nothing but defeat? (Don’t answer this if you’ve been married for more than five years.) That bring out the best in you even when your best is a pathetic, sniveling NOTHING? So, you should do this ride because it replicates, in the tiniest of ways, your natteringly, immeasurably insignificant place in the universe.
2. You are a chickenshit. Yes, you. You, who hide behind wheels, always take the short route home, sandbag in the easiest categories, or “compete” by “racing” exclusively against Strava and your own “personal records.” Thing is, you don’t have to just be a chickenshit. You can go on this ride and be a smashed chickenshit and earn the contempt of the august men and powerful women on the SPY Holiday Ride who will crush you like an eggshell beneath the wheel of an Antonov An-225.
3. There is order in the court. Unlike the Manhattan Beach Holiday Ride, in which 300 freds and 50 solid riders usurp the roadways of coastal L.A. in a mad, undisciplined dash to Mandeville Canyon, the SPY Holiday Ride is ordered. Yesterday about 175 riders went two-by-two for the first five miles, a sick single file for the next four, and all-hell-breaking-loose at the nine-mile mark when the peloton shattered at the base of the San Diegueno climb.
4. Prizes galore. Yesterday an entire case of The Lost Abbey’s BWR Bad-Ass Ale was awarded to the sado-masochist who spent the most time on the front. Unsurprisingly, the winner was Phil Tinstman. KOM winners got cool SPY sunglasses. OTB-wankers got as many servings of ridicule and contempt as they could swallow.
5. Natural selection. This ride rather quickly separated the wheat from the chaff, and you eventually rode with the category of your true ability. Once the pain train hit Lake Hodges, those who had pulled early, blew early. Those who had sucked wheel in hopes that a miracle would get them up the punishing rollers had to re-evaluate their faith. Those who had saved so they could punish finally “Let the Dogs Out.”
6. Variable terrain. The terrain in North County is different from much of SoCal, and punishing. It doesn’t feature many long climbs, but it continually throws rollers in your path no matter which direction you go. These variations wear you down, break your will to live, and leave you looking for a quaint coffee shop with yummy pastries, or failing that, a Starbucks, or failing that, a house with a garden hose. But there are none.
7. Heatstroke. Once you leave the coast it gets A-fucking hot. The poorly hydrated crack, crumple, and cave. The lucky ones die.
8. Benign indifference. Although close two hundred riders started, only a tiny handful finished with the lead group. The rest were ground beneath the wheel, or, as Hesse would say, “Unterm Rad.” This is of course how the universe views you: With benign indifference. Many people go to Sedona or buy crystals or use Feng Shui to align themselves with the universe’s forces when really all they need to do to discover their true quotient of universal meaninglessness is go get their balls stomped on the SPY Holiday Ride.
9. Free salt for wound-rubbing. Post-ride, one wanker said “We normally ride a bit faster going up to the first climb, but we had a pretty gentle roll over there today.” This was the section where I pulled my fucking brains out, drove the pace like a madman, then cracked and split open at the bottom of the first climb only to learn that it had been a tad on the slow side. Sorry bastard motherfuckers.
10. Lots of awesome Strava KOM’s. The SPY Holiday Ride is a great chance for you to bag some prestigious KOM’s, kind of like “The lottery is a great chance for you to get rich.” Only, the chance for you is zero.
11. Regrouping. The SPY Holiday Ride regroups a couple of times, although neither time is for your benefit. It is to allow the baby seals to rejoin so they can be re-clubbed and re-skinned. And you will be.
12. Race simulation. The pace was very much like a tough road race with a series of difficult sections, each of which caused destruction at the back of the pack. Unlike real road races, however, where you can conveniently categorize yourself according to age and gender, this ride forced you to match matches against monsters like Thurlow, Full Gas Tinstman, MMX and the SPY Train, Brett Clare, and a handful of very strong wheelsuckers who never took a pull but attacked and attacked hard.
13. Fireworks. Although illegal due to the dry conditions and high temperatures, the ride offered constant explosive detonations that occurered when riders like Zink, Hatchitt, David A., Stinger, and Tait lit the fuses of Those Who Shall Not Be Named For Now and watched as they snapped, crackled, fizzled, and popped with a whimper.
14. Del Dios KOM. This bad boy has over 6,500 riders on Strava, but yesterday Full Gas Phil whomped the snot out of the record time and set a blistering new pace of 12:38. You should do this so you can be like me, who gave it everything he had and got 98th place. 98th.
15. The 130-lb. Exemption. After the first pitch the road flattened out and this was where, if you were still there (you weren’t), various hardmen went to the front. Then some dude hit the jets, even though he had never taken one pull the whole day. His reasoning? “I don’t have to pull, dude, I’m only only 130 pounds.” So take notice: Anyone 130-lbs. or less need not bring along so much as a shred of self-respect.
16. Watch Brett sprint. On the return there was a sprint into Rancho Santa Fe. Those hoping to pass Brett, Full Gas, Thurlow, MMX, Josh, etc. brought mopeds.
17. Pity the fools. The 3 Witches ascent had the next sprint at the top, featuring three risers that topped out with a nasty sprint. For the first two witches, a couple of wankers from SDBC set tempo with Thurlow, Full Gas, and MMX sitting behind. For the third and final witch, Thurlow pulled and dropped the fools, with Full Gas Phil taking the sprint, MMX next and followed by Thurlow. Everyone else was shelled here. You were, too. Oh, wait, no you weren’t — you were shelled like an hour ago.
18. Visionary delusions. After a few more merciless beatdowns, sprunt points, and complete draining of all bodily adeonsine triphosphate, the handful of remaining riders “remarked what a great ride it had been.” Uh, sure. Whatever. Bunch of fucking liars.
19. Horrific inland heat. The weather got hotter as the ride went inland. The heat sucked the life out of the weak, the lame, and the too-many-Lost-Abbey-brews-the-night-before. I staggered into a convenience store in Del Mar and doused my head in water, then lay on the cool pavement and hoped for a gurney or for someone to run over me. No one did.
20. Making great friends. After Zink flatted I was miserably stuck on his wheel for 30 miles while he “repaid” my assistance with the tire change by dragging me up hill, down dale, periodically dropping me, sitting up and waiting, towing me for a while, dropping me again, and generally making my life a living hell while trying to help me out. Note to self: Don’t ever stop to help Zink change a flat.
– 60 miles with 3800 feet of climbing
– 4 sprint waypoints, and the KOM at Del Dios
– Held every national holiday. Next one will be on Labor day.
– Ride size: 100-200, depending on weather and time of year
May 11, 2013 § 27 Comments
It’s really simple: We have the best early morning weekday rides. San Diego doesn’t.
What is a “best” early morning weekday ride? It’s one that begins around 6:30 AM, has a huge regular turnout, and rips your legs off.
“Oh, no!” I can hear you wailing. “We have the awesome Tuesday-Thursday ride! It’s hilly and it shreds the field!”
First of all, our ride is better because yours doesn’t even have a cool name. That’s because you’re too dumb to think one up. All that supposed surfer-cyclist-artiste creativity in North County and the best you can do is two names of the week? Sad.
Second, our ride is better because your ride has such a tiny turnout. Five semi-fast guys showing up with a hangover and pulling out each others’ teeth with rusty pliers does not a legendary bike ride make. Maybe it’s the early hour and you wike your wittle warm bwankie. Maybe it’s the lack of a swollen pack of baby seals among which the weak can cower and hide ’til the moment of reckoning. Maybe it’s the fact that the vast majority of bicyclists in North County ride Trek. But most likely, it’s the fact that your riders just aren’t that good.
Third, our ride is better because we have Rahsaan Bahati, Suze Sonye, Greg “32” Leibert, Eric Anderson, and Cory Williams as regulars. Who do you have? That dude with the full purple bodysuit and the bad smell, that’s who.
Fourth, our ride is better simply because of the riders that you have and we don’t. Leaving aside for the moment that none of your guys have even halfway decent nicknames, let me list a few rotten limbs in the pile of deadwood that makes up your “ride”:
Stefanovich–Comes north to do our NPR, returns home a shell of his former self, which was a shell to begin with.
Crazy Legs–The name kind of says it all, eh? Along with him, “Sketch,” “Skitters,” “Twitch,” and “Jerky”…
Andy McClooney–The best rider to never come north and get his serving of NPR humble pie.
Celo Pacific Wheelsuckers–This is a club developed around the riding “strategy” of “do nothing until the end, then do even less.”
Los Ranchos Suckeros–Every yummy pie has filler, but these sandbaggers don’t even taste good when you chew them up and spit them out.
Velo (barely) Hangers-on–Close relatives of NPR baby seals who think “towards the front” is synonymous with “at the front.” It isn’t.
Swami’s B, C, and D Riders–It’s the alphabet soup of lowly categorized wankers. Their best ones make the first ejecta from the first acceleration on the Saturday ride. Their worst ones don’t even have bicycles.
Nytro trigeeks–They don’t always look and ride like idiots, but the 99.9% of the time when they do, they’re so far behind that no one knows or cares.
The Wolf Pack Up-and-Leavers–Last to the fight, first to the feast.
Fifth, our ride is better because we brag about it. If it weren’t for my amazing powers of investigative journalism, I wouldn’t even know your ride existed. If you don’t brag about it, it must not be any good.
Sixth, our ride is better because we have a cool FB page. Do you? Of course not. Without a cool FB page your ride can never be more than sucky. Sorry.
Seventh, our ride is waaaaay better because Robert Efthimos and Cory Williams video everything and then post cool movies of wankers like Jay “Manslaughter” LaPlante trying to murder his buddies. Then we get to spend the entire workday on FB chatting about it. What do you poor slobs do? You go to work and work, that’s what.
Eighth, our ride is better because we actively make fun of people who wear Oakley. SPY is how we roll, yo.
Ninth, our ride is better because we have that cute Asian chick who’s always jogging down the alley as we roll out. Who do you have? That furry dude who lives in the shopping cart behind the Starbucks.
Tenth, our ride is better because we have a ride kit. That’s right. Our ride is so pimpin’ that we have a kit with our cool ride’s name on it and lots of clever “in” jokes emblazoned on it by Joe Yule. Our ride is beautifully tanned Argentine leather. Yours is naugahyde.
Eleventh, we have Joe Yule. You have that dude who lives in his mom’s garage and builds web sites with Dreamweaver.
Twelfth, we have CotKU. You probably don’t even know what that is. Sad.
Finally, after our awesome ride, which is always awesome and so much better than yours, we get to sit around at CotKU, drink coffee, and watch Dave Perez do interesting things dressed up in purple and yellow. What do you have? A bunch of really serious MRI dudes dressed up in electric green baby dwarf artichoke outfits. Hint: You can’t be serious if you are a dude in a baby dwarf artichoke suit. A clown, perhaps, but not a serious dude.
The day of reckoning
Although I’ve already reached my conclusions, invented my facts, and printed my story, I thought I would at least do you the favor of coming down to the next Tuesday ride to confirm that your ride is a complete sham and pose fest. I have no doubt about what I’ll find: A handful of scraggly, half-shaved riders, tummies hanging out of their undersized stretch pants while they suck down a gallon of pre-ride sugar goop pretending that their “ride” is a ride.
Please also be advised that I will be showing up fully primed and prepared to teach each of you the meaning of the word “beatdown.” Although I don’t expect to break a sweat, you should expect to suffer a calamitous clubbing. This is what LA is all about: Schooling the noobs in the south about how to ride their bicycles. After that I will give the survivors a surfing lesson, beginning with “How not to purl every time” and then followed by a video showing you the difference between a rideable wave, a closeout, and whitewash. Not that it will help.
See you soon, and bring your moped. You’re gonna need it.
January 20, 2013 § 46 Comments
The dude in the black uniform with the badge and the gun and the handcuffs and the radio and the mace and the Taser was banging on my door. I looked at him through the keyhole, wondering whether I should wait, or ask for a warrant through the closed door, or dash out onto the balcony, hop down to the first floor and make my getaway.
“Who is it?” I asked in my best falsetto.
“Wanker Police! Open up! I’ve got a warrant!”
I cracked the door. “Show it to me.”
He thrust the paper through the crack. Sure enough, it was a wanker warrant, and it had my name on it. I opened the door and the cop strode inside.
“Are you Wankmeister?” He stared at my pink unicorn socks. “Never mind.” Then he took out his pen and looked at me officiously. “You know why I’m here?”
“No. I haven’t the faintest.”
“I’m Officer Smedley, Wanker Police Bureau, Licensing Division. I’m here to confiscate your license.”
“Your license. Your wanker license has been revoked. Here.” He shoved a piece of paper in my face. “Read that.”
“What about it? It’s a copy of the 50+ race results from the CBR crit this morning. So what?”
“That’s your name in third place. You got third place in a qualifying event, which means automatic revocation of your wanker license.”
“What do you mean, ‘qualifying event’?”
“There were a minimum of 60 racers. Held under USAC permit. 40-minute crit. It even says here in the notes ‘Placed after riding second half of the race in a three-man breakaway.’ That seals it. You can file an appeal, but for now you’ll have to turn over your wanker certification. Sorry.”
“Dude,” I said, “you’ve got to be kidding. You can’t de-wankify me based on one stupid race. I had no idea I was putting my wankerdom in jeopardy. If I had, I’d have sat at the back and sprunted with the field.”
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. By signing your wanker license you’re agreeing to abide by the rules. A top-three placing provisionally revokes your license. A three-man placing from a breakaway is automatic. Sorry.”
“That was no breakaway!” I protested.
“Of course it was. Says right here in the notes: ‘three-man breakaway with Wankmeister, Pinkle Dude, and Furbag.'”
“No, no, no, that wasn’t a real breakaway. You had to be there. Really.”
“What was it, then?”
“It was, uh, a wankaway. Pure wankaway from start to finish.”
“What’s a wankaway?” He looked perplexed and a bit confused.
“Dude, you’re coming here to yank my wank and you don’t know what a wankaway is?”
“It’s my first season,” he apologized.
“Ignorance of the law…”
“Is no excuse,” he finished, sheepishly.
“Exactly. First of all it was a 50+ race, and it’s almost impossible to decertify a wanker in one of those. Didn’t you know that?”
He shook his head. “Really?”
“Fact. I mean there we were, standing at the start, and there was more last-minute diaper changing, and Geritol popping, and prostate pad adjusting, and bifocal fiddling, and tiny pee dribbling than you’d see after yelling ‘Fire!’ at a nursing home. Just the creaking noise from all the legs getting thrown over the top tubes was enough to make you think an elephant was walking on antique wooden floorboards.”
“I see what you’re getting at. Wanker City, huh? But what about the breakaway, er, the wankaway?”
“Well, it all happened randomly and according to no plan at all, which is the hallmark of wankdom. A break went early and got caught. Then a second break went and got brought back.”
“This doesn’t sound wankerish to me. Sounds like a hard bike race.”
“Oh, but the second break had my own teammate in it.”
“I helped bring it back.”
“Ahhh,” he nodded. “That’s pretty lame. That’s Cat 5 lame, in fact.”
“And what’s another word for Cat 5?”
“Wanker!” he said emphatically.
“What happened next?”
“Well, they called a prime.”
“That sounds legit.”
“But it was for Cialis and denture cream.”
“Yep. So King Harold strings it out in the gutter as all sixty-six wankers put their lives on the line for an OTC product they already have at home in the medicine cabinet.”
“Wankers, for sure.”
“Hellz. Then Big Steve blasts around for the prime. Everyone’s roasted.”
“And I attack.”
“That sounds like real tactics, not wankerish at all. Attacking after the prime? How much more legit can you get?” He started to scowl.
“I look back and Pinkle Dude and Furbag are on my wheel. I go for a little longer and swing over. Pinkle pulls through. I look back and the whole Pinkle team is clogging the chase. They’ve got ten guys in the race with enough guts and butts to clog an industrial toilet.”
Officer Smedley furrowed his brow. “Yes, but they’re still blocking, and that’s a legit race tactic. Sounds like a breakaway supported by sound team tactics to me.”
“Yeah, it may sound like that, but you had to be in the wankaway.”
“To see the antics of the three wankers in it. You’ve got Pinkle Dude pulling only in the tailwind, if ‘pulling’ is what you call whizzling along in your compact at 123 rpm.”
“And the other guy? This ‘Furbag’ individual?”
“Well, for starters, he’s wearing a mix-n-match outfit. The jersey says ‘Bill’s Sausage Emporium,’ and it’s light blue with green lettering, and the shorts say ‘Team Vegan p/b Mind-Earth-Body Anti-Aging Institute of East Murrieta.'”
“Wow,” he says. “Pretty wankish.”
“Yeah. And Furbag has more hair on his legs than Sasquatch.”
“Well, you can’t call someone a wanker because they have hairy legs. It says so in the rulebook.”
“Exactly. But Furbag hardly ever pulled. I mean, these lousy, slow, lame, fakish little half-efforts for five or ten seconds followed by the Brad House chicken elbow salute and panting and that sadsack ‘Sorry guys I’m too weak to pull but plenty strong to suck wheel in the break all day’ look.”
Officer Smedley shook his head. “Not wankish at all. That’s smart breakaway riding if you’re the weakest in the break and saving for the sprunt.”
“Not him, Officer, us. Me and Pinkle were too lame and slow and weak to drop him. And we tried.”
Smedley nodded. “That’s lame, all right. Wankish lame.”
“Well, what about you? You’ve established that your partners were thoroughbred wankers, but how about you? You initiated the break and you powered it to the end, it sounds like. That’s for sure grounds to decertify you on the spot.”
“No, sir, that’s not what happened. First of all, I took all the pulls into the headwind.”
“Oh,” he said. “Wanker.”
“And then with two laps to go instead of easing up I went harder even though Team Pinkle was blocking like the Steel Curtain, and my teammates, King Harold and Ted ‘the Wall’ were covering every move like a blanket.”
“Stupid. Just stupid. How long have you been doing this, anyway?”
“Over 30 years, Officer.”
“Wow. What a wanker.”
“Yep. And then with one lap to go Furbag stopped taking even his fakish pulls and Pinkle Dude refused to come through at all.”
“So you eased up and got ready for them to attack you?”
“Nah, that would have been clever. I just went harder.”
“Oh, Jeez. What a wanker.”
“Don’t tell me they sprunted around you in the last 200 meters?”
“No way! They dusted me off with more than half a lap to go. I almost got caught by the field.”
“Yeah,” he nodded his head sympathetically. “There’s no way we can take your license for a performance like that. Those are some pretty hard core wanker moves.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” he said, looking over his warrant. “It says here you also won a prime in the break, uh, the wankaway. Is that true?”
“You could hardly call it a prime. It was a half-dozen Depends.”
“Ah, yeah, right. Okay. Well, sorry to have bothered you. We’ll let it slide this time. But don’t be showing up on any more results sheets in the top three if you know what’s good for you.”
“Don’t worry, Officer,” I said. “I won’t!”
March 12, 2012 § 8 Comments
Wankmeister got a text message from New Girl, who had just checked in with Fussy, Blondie, Pilot, Canyon Bob, and Junkyard at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara. “We’re so excited about the Solvang Century tomorrow!” she texted. “Where are you staying?”
“Fess Parker’s was booked by the time I called,” Wanky replied. “That’s the place named after the movie star who played Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, right?”
“It’s, like, swankville, right?”
“Well , the only place I could get was at Fess Haggen’s.”
“Fess Haggen’s? Never heard of it.”
“It’s a smallish place named after Festus Haggen, the illiterate, dirty, alcoholic deadbeat who played Matt Dillon’s deputy in Gunsmoke. They offered me their last room, out behind the dumpsters. I had to pass. So I’m flying in tomorrow with Wehrlissimo & Co.”
“The same guys you did Palm Springs with?”
“Same bunch of wankers.”
Culture and fitness, all rolled into one
Solvang, CA is the picturesque Danish town made famous by Lance Armtwister and the US Pestal Team when they won twelve consecutive Tours without ever doping. Remember when 190-lb. “Twiggy” Hincappy beat 115-lb. “Tubs” Pereiro on the 15th stage of the Tour in 2005, climbing 35,000 vertical miles over two hundred major Alpine passes? That was thanks to the hard efforts the team spent in their Solvang winter training camp, and neither he nor Armtwister ever tested positive, despite being the most-tested athletes in the history of athletedom.
Like any other ethnic “town” (think “Chinatown” in San Francisco, or “Little Tokyo” in LA, or New York’s “Little Italy,” or Houston’s “Cheap Hookers and Meth Village”) Solvang introduces people to Danish culture without the inconvenience and expense of having to actually learn Danish and go to the Faroe Islands to watch a baby dolphin slaughter.
“What’s this?!?” you say. “Danish people don’t slaughter baby dolphins! That’s Canadians. And they only slaughter baby seals. Danish people bake yummy butter cookies and have that precious statue of the Little Mermaid!”
Solvang does in fact promote the enticing aspects of Danish cuisine, and numerous places in town exist where you can enjoy a yummy frokost of pickled herring, smoked eel, fried onions, smoked herring with raw egg yolk and saltmeat. For middag you can look forward to more salted fish, boiled potatoes, cabbage, rødgrød, and an appetizer of hot porridge.
Yet, despite the great food, the high point of the town’s celebration of Danish culture remains the annual baby dolphin hunt, carried out in the guise of a century ride.
The baby dolphin round-up
As with the Faroese dolphin hunt, Solvang first attracts the baby dolphins with offers of great weather, beautiful scenery, a memorial patch, and lots of overpriced $5 beer with outrageously overpriced $20 barbecue in the sunshine. When the leathery whalers stepped off Wehrlissimo’s turboprop, “The Dolphin Slaughter Express,” and pedaled into Solvang from the Santa Ynez airpark, it was evident that the round-up had been a huge success.
Thousands of baby dolphins milled around the sign-in area, greedily looking through their goodie bags, happily taping their numbers to their handlebars, and proudly admiring the new “Solvang 2012″ patch that they would never arrive home with to sew onto their jerseys. Some happily munched on the free nutty Clif bar that only cost $65, while others adjusted their tummies to rest comfortably on their top tubes. None was aware of the predators in their midst or the mayhem that would shortly ensue.
As the cold-eyed hunters from the South Bay hungrily gazed out at the roiling ocean of clueless cetaceans, some took the opportunity to sharpen their sóknaronguls, checking to make sure that the steel point of the gaff would sink quickly through the blubbery skin and into the brain of the prey. Given that their brains were tiny indeed, the hunters’ aim would have to be true. DJ, the Chief Hunter & Drunk, looked grimly at what would soon be a mass of lifeless corpses.
King Harald Bluetooth, slightly more humane, had opted to bring his blásturongul instead, preferring the blunt-edged gaff as an easier way to hook the unsuspecting baby dolphins by their blowholes, drag them to shore, beach them, cut their dorsal fins, and slice their spinal cords with an heirloom grindaknívur, handed down from father to son to bond the generations with the joyous, bloody murder of squeaking baby dolphins.
As the harpooners donned their own baby dolphin ID numbers, the better to blend with their victims, they noticed out in the parking lot a particularly plump batch of chubby little dolphin children. Clad in Long Beach Botulism Taco outfits, they huddled together, comparing swag sack goodies and admiring each others’ night-before boastful emails.
“Heh, heh,” squeaked one baby dolphin. “I told the South Bay fakers about my one-hour massage and carbo loading! Katy bar the door!”
“Ho, ho,” squeaked another, who had called in from Long Beach on his iPhone because he was too weak to make the swim. “I’ll post a funny blog afterwards when someone tells me about the ride I was too weak and craven to join!”
“Har, har,” squeaked the last, “they’re about to find out how the Long Beach baby dolphins ROLL!”
How the Long Beach baby dolphins roll
Under the guidance of their Chief Hunter & Drunk the whalers left the safety of Solvang Bay and headed out to open sea with the group of tubby Long Beach dolphins in tow. The hunters of steely mien included Wehrlissimo “Gorm the Old,” Major Bob “Sweyn Forkbeard,” King Harald Bluetooth, Li’l Douggie “Sigrid the Haughty,” Triple “Olaf Hunger,” Polly “Cnut the Great,” ProBoy Alex “Sigrid the Dainty,” and Cap’n Levi, “He Who None Shall Fuck With Ever.”
By mile four the rotating paceline of South Bay whalers had already hooked, beached, and severed the spinal cords of several thousand baby dolphins, most of whom were wobbling along in ill-defined schools led by someone wearing a jersey that said, “Winner–California Triple Crown of Cycling
By mile five the Long Beach cetaceans had already begun to swim in a panic mode, with Dr. Dave wildly squeaking out “Flat! Wheel! Mechanical!” The largest of the blubbery mammals, a juvenile female pilot whale named Martijn the Feeble, called the school to a halt while everyone gathered around the quivering Dr. Dave. No one was able to find a flat or any problem whatsoever, but he insisted. “The wheel was wobbling! I swear!”
Harald Bluetooth looked scornfully and said, “The wheel’s wobbling because your arms were shaking, dude. Okay let’s go. Just don’t get behind this baby dolphin on the downhill.”
The cold bite of the lance
At mile 37, one of the fattest baby dolphins, after taking numerous pulls, swung over to the side, his flippers quaking from the effort. “Thar she blows!” roared Gorm the Old as he took out his long harpoon and sent the steely blade of death piercing directly to the heart of the blubbery mammal. Gore coursed from his mouth, then from his eyes and nose as the helpless creature rolled over, white belly to the sun, jaws agape in the final shudder of death. No more to enjoy the depths of the ocean blue! No more to swim among the chubby schools of baby dolphins, spouting boastful emails! No more to carbo load the night before being driven onto the beach to be pitilessly slain by the tip of the harpooner’s lance!
By mile 40 practically the entire pod of Long Beach baby dolphins had had the sharp end of the gaff driven through their blowholes, with the exception of Martijn the Feeble, Ross the Tenacious, and Craig the Dubious, the latter two of whom were more swimming reptiles than fish. The entirety of the South Bay whaling contingent remained, save Cap’n Levi, who had stayed back to gut and strip the flesh from the fallen prey. At one point in the hunt King Harald Bluetooth dropped back to assist Gorm the Old, whose boat sprang a leak and needed a tow back up to the main fleet. Tube Top, one of the smaller hermaphroditic baby dolphins whose penis was not large or well formed enough to differentiate his genitalia from that of the females, made the fatal mistake of holding onto King Harald’s tow line even after Sigrid the Haughty had driven the tip of the harpoon deep into Tube Top’s innards, penetrating his uterus and coming out through his left flipper. As he sank beneath the foamy brine he was heard to cry, “Why am I so weak?”
Parasites of the deep
Though the Long Beach dolphins had for the most part been easily dispatched owing to the high concentrations of cadmium and mercury in their livers, a vile and thoroughly inedible group of Simple Green invertebrate suckerfish, along with a trio of Canyon Verde gasbag puffer minnows had latched onto the fast-traveling whaling vessel.
Although Martijn the Feeble tried to dislodge them with shouts of “Pull through, you pussies!” it became clear that you cannot appeal to the pride of parasitic life forms who have none. At this very moment a stiff sea breeze sprung up in the form of a howling crosswind, driving the frenzied fish into the troughs of the waves where they could easily be isolated and where the bloody point of death could easily be driven through their miniature brains. They were not seen again.
The hunters stopped at the halfway mark in Santa Maria to re-sharpen the gaffs, and a small contingent of mortally wounded baby LB’ers floundered in, trailing blood and entrails. They would expire shortly after the hunting resumed.
As the sailors left the harbor, it became apparent that many of the sturdy South Bay harpooners, tired after such a bloody and successful harvest, were less than eager to begin rowing again in earnest. Worse, the skulking and resilient female pilot whale, despite her sagging tummy and poorly attached feminine hygiene pads, was proving difficult to kill.
Wankmeister saw an opportunity, and easily rowed away, confident that Martijn the Feeble would never close the gap, especially since the remaining heroes were almost exclusively from the South Bay. For thirty miles he toiled, now alone, now rowing with other castaways, now joining a soon-to-be-wrecked armada.
Unfortunately, the unthinkable had occurred. The Chief Hunter & Drunk had made a pact with the devil and he, the Feeble one of the Sagging Paunch, Ross the Reptile, and the remaining whalers now joined forces to row down their valiant and heroic companion. As with most perfidious plans, this one caused terrible destruction within the South Bay contingent, as the catch came just before the Straits of Foxen.
Calamity in the deep
Although the baby dolphins had long ago been harpooned, skinned, doused with spit and piss, and consigned to ignominy, catastrophe now overtook the hunters, as one by one they dashed in their hulls and floundered in the pounding surf. Wankmeister rowed valiantly but to no avail as the Paunchy One, the Chief Drunk & Traitor, and ProBoy Backstabber made their escape.
Once through the straits, however, and despite the fatigue of his godlike 30-mile escape, WM overtook ProBoy and, rejoined by Harald Bluetooth, began a furious chase. But who of this world can run down the Chief Hunter & Drunk when he rows in anger knowing that beer is near at hand, even when he is dragging the useless and snot-encrusted baggage of the Feeble One?
Just as Wankmeister contemplated the futility of the chase, they hit the Foxen Shoals, a devastatingly rocky passage just beyond the straits. ProBoy leaped ahead followed by Harald, as WM was humiliatingly passed by a chubby husband and wife who had set out the night before and were wearing matching Google outfits.
Stung by the triple mortification of losing to the Feeble One, being dropped by ProBoy, and facing death at the hands of two baby Googlefish, WM nutted up, rejoined Bluetooth, then caught and shelled ProBoy, who now as punishment has to go race the Tour of India and the Criterium Nationale de Burundi.
King Harald Bluetooth, Wankmeister, and an Orange Zebra from San Clemente poured on the coal, coming to within 150 yards of the Chief Traitor and the She-whale, who were easily tracked by the trail of snot that the She-whale had left upon the billows. The chasers’ efforts came to naught. Once through the last reef, the Chief Traitor opened up a gap so huge and in the middle of such a vicious crosswind that the chasers simply gave up, beaten in spirit, exhausted of body, and wholly incapable of reeling in the dastardly duo.
Coming in some two minutes adrift with broken oars and tattered sails, the Traitor and the She-whale laughed in contempt. “You,” crowed the whale, “are WEAK!”
Truer words, on this day at least, were never spoken…at least by her.
**An alternative version of this epic slaughter of the weak, sick, and infirm, conjured up by a non-participating delusional Long Beach WNP (Wanker Nonpareil) is also available here. I deny everything.
February 12, 2012 § 4 Comments
“I’ve got a spare seat on my plane if you’d like to join me for the Tour de Palm Springs Century this weekend,” read Wehrlissimo’s email.
“Fuckin’-A!” I replied, still not sure, even after all these years, what the difference was between, say, a fuckin-A and a fuckin-B, or a fuckin-C for that matter. The chance to do a century ride after my recent beatdowns at Boulevard and Red Trolley would be a significant ego-building opportunity, where I could whizz by lumbering freddies and feel fast, superior, and successful. No matter that “I won the century ride” has all the street cred of “I got laid last night…by my wife.”
The last time I had flown a private plane was when I did the hop from Geraldton, in West Australia, over to the Abrolhos Islands to see a colony of Brown Noddies and to get a picture of a nesting Red-tailed Tropicbird.
It was a red two-seater crop duster with pontoons. The pilot was 80 years old and coughed the entire way like he was going to die as he smoked no-filters and spit bloody phlegm out the window. The noise had been deafening, and the water landing horrible beyond belief.
I, Triple, Polly, FTR DS, and Wehrlissimo stood on the tarmac in the dark as Levi loaded our bikes into the King Air Turboprop radmoplane. This was traveling in style. Rather than driving across the desert for two hours and then fighting four hours back through LA traffic we’d be landing in Palm Springs in thirty minutes and home by three in the afternoon.
I tried to remind myself of all these advantages as Levi turned back to us and said, “We’re going to have dip down pretty aggressively once we cross the mountains in order to hit the landing strip, as it’s just on the other side. There might be some turbulence.”
A few moments later the airplane was pointed straight down. We could see the quickly approaching ground through the windshield, and the only thing to make the picture perfect would have been a couple of gunsights through which we could have strafed the airport or the ten zillion wind turbines that littered the valley. “Just like a roller coaster,” I thought. “With no rails.”
I glanced over at Triple. His thighs were held tightly together, as if he were trying to keep something from sneaking out. At that moment we hit “some turbulence.” The entire aircraft shuddered as if it had been hit with a giant club and we plunged, hit another pocket, shuddered again, and a warning light went off with a shrill beep.
I looked at Polly, whose teeth were clenched, not even pretending to be cool. FTR DS had been okay until his engineer’s hearing had picked up the sound of the warning beep. Now he looked scared, too. I took a final glance at Triple, and could only think, “I’m glad I’m not the chamois in his shorts.”
Welcome to Hell
The game plan had been to hook up with UbeRfRed and his Long Beach Freddies, administer a thorough Southbay SPY Blue beatdown to the denizens of Cadmium City, USA, grab lunch, and jet back home. UbeRfRed had other plans.
The moment our group of twenty-six hit the edge of town it became clear why the city of Palm Springs was developed as one of the first wind farms in California: Wind turbines require winds of up to 35 miles per hour in order to achieve the optimum efficiency and profitability. As the route along North Indian Canyon Rd. left the city and exposed us to the full crosswind that was powering the wind farm, mayhem ensued.
We’d started about 7:30, and the road was clotted with thousands and thousands of freddies. So far, no problem. The 30 mph crosswind, however, was literally blowing people off the road. Every couple of hundred yards there would be bicycles lying in a huge tangle, with hapless freddies pulling and pushing and tugging and lugging on their $5,000 bikes that were now part of a giant parts bazaar.
UbeRfRed gassed it, and we clawed onto his wheel as we zoomed by the endless line of flailing freddies. Since the crosswind was so strong we had to echelon across the entire road. This meant that with each clump of freddies that we overook, UbeRfRed would roar, “Riders!”, but the freddies wouldn’t hear until we were right on their asses. Many of them, cleverly riding deep dish wheels, would jerk to the right, the wind would catch their wheels, and they’d go sailing off the road.
By mile three there were long lines of riders who’d simply given up, turned around, and headed back to Palm Springs. For us, there would be no quitting, as the Long Beach Freddies’ favorite epithet is to shout “You’re weak!” whenever someone quits, gets dropped, gets passed, turns around, swings off the front, takes a drink, stops to pee, or sucks his thumb, or cries for his mommy.
A confederacy of dunces
The whole idea of having 12,000 idiots on bicycles in a venue that it designated as “ideal for a wind farm” could not have happened by coincidence. Rather, it took the conspiracy of core stakeholders to come up with something this awful.
President of the local hospital: “Let’s do something that will fill the beds! February’s a slow month; we won’t really be rocking until Coachella in April.”
Coalition of local bike shops: “Let’s do something that will require 5,000 people to have to completely replace their bikes.”
President of the Chamber of Commerce: “We can showcase the beauty of the desert by routing the ride through all 427 stoplights and through each of the 19 bedroom communities.”
Bill Snooker, Owner, Bill & Snooker Used Auto Emporiums: “Make sure the route takes ‘em by my fourteen lots. Never know when some idiot’ll throw in the towel and want to drive home.”
Crazy Sam Throckmorton, Desert Survival Adventures, Inc.: “Put 12,000 city slickers on bikes on pothole-filled, thorn-littered, gravel-strewn desert roadways a thousand miles from nowhere, watch ‘em flat and wander off into the scrub and ocotillo looking for water, then do emergency rescues and charge $859 a head. Works ever’ time!”
Freddy Freeloader, 2012 president-elect, Palm Springs Friendly Riders’ Club: “It’ll be just like Solvang!”
It really isn’t anything at all like Solvang
After five miles of battering along in a full echelon as the howling crosswind sprayed sand and grit into our eyes and noses and teeth, with freddies flying off the road and smashing into each other, and with UbeRfRed and FTR DS drilling the pace the whole way, we turned left directly into the wind. Never in my life have I been so happy to have a headwind. For one, it meant no more leaning at a 30-degree angle to keep from being blown over. For another, it meant true shelter, not the misery of a partial draft echelon.
This respite only lasted a couple of miles before we turned right again and back into the crosswind. UbeRfRed now really hit the gas, exploding the remnants of his flailing Long Beach soulmates. I hadn’t bothered to look at the course map and had no idea how long the hell was going to last. For all I knew, it would be fifty miles out into this sandstorm and fifty miles back. My resolve began to fade and defeatism set in as the line of quitters and the clumps of the crashed flashed by.
After a mere 1.5 more miles of crosswind hell, the road turned right into a tailwind. I couldn’t believe it. UbeRfRed, after flagellating us mercilessly for the first twelve miles, held up his hand. “Let’s regroup!” he said.
I looked at FTR DS. He looked at me. We both thought the same thing: “He’s weak.”
I love you, that’s why I hate you
The next sixty miles went by quickly, a combination of straight tailwind and tail-crosswind. UbeRfRed would hammer until he’d dropped all of his best friends, and then make us stop so that they could all catch up and he could catch his breath. Repeat. By mile seventy we were well into the bowels of the poorly marked, suburban, stoplight-filled portion of the course.
At the final rest stop one of the Long Beach Freddies regaled me with the heart attack he’d had while cycling a few months back. “Yeah, I was with the guys and just keeled over.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Heart attack. Piece of plaque came off an arterial wall and chugged into the heart. Everybody has plaque on their arteries. Mine just lodged in a bad place.”
“Yeah…right,” I said, eyeing his beer belly. “Is that what the doctor said?”
“Yeah. Said everybody has it.”
“Did he graduate from a medical school in the Caribbean by any chance? Last name Sojka?”
Freddie looked at me funny. “No. But the good thing about it was, the guys were there for me.”
“Hell yeah. They waited until I’d stabilized in the ICU before they all came in and told me I was weak.”
“Well, at least you’re back on the bike,” I said, trying to make a positive out of a quadruple negative.
“Yep. I took a long time off the bike to recover, it being a heart attack and me almost dying and everything.”
“That’s good. How long were you off?”
Realizing that I was dealing with a true madman, I got back on the bike and continued pedaling.
Anybody can pedal a bike 70 miles…
“But can they drill it for the last thirty?” That was FTR DS’s question, and UbeRfRed answered it with a simple question phrased as a whimper.
“Hey guys,” he said. “Let’s just ride two by two for the rest of the way. Okay? Okay?”
FTR DS smiled a nasty smile, then went to the front and set an, um, steady pace. Alex the Poseur sidled up alongside him to match the pull, but after a couple of minutes went rocketing off to the side in the rickety wobble of someone who is blown and not coming back.
I came to the fore and was joined by Long Beach Freddy Rick. He had done the entire ride in booties, a skinsuit and full TT rig, which included Speed Racer-style bottle ejectors that caused his $40 insulated water bottles to fly out of the saddle-mounted holders and into the spokes of whomever was on his wheel. Showing the most grit of all the LBF’s with the exception of Heart Attack, who we fully expected to die at any moment, Rick matched the pace for a solid five miles.
Ultimately his head drooped, his fanny pooped, and he did the wobble-and-fade back to the ignominy of the rear wheelsuck with UbeRfRed and the Cadmium Crew. With eighteen miles to go, FTR DS came up and joined me. It was as nasty and unpleasant a finish as I can recall, with countless stoplights, and so many wrong turns that we were eventually stuck on the truck-car-senile-retiree highway to hell that is the 111.
So long, it’s been good to know ya
Wehrlissimo had reserved a spot for us at PS Wine, and we rolled up to sandwiches, water, chips, and lots of wine. As each group of finishers passed us by, from their perch on the sidewalk the LBF’s shouted “You’re weak!” to the broken, salt-encrusted, beaten down tourists.
Suddenly one of the LBF’s commanded, “Everyone! Stick your finger in your left ear!” Too drunk, frightened, tired, or confused to object, we all did as we were told. “Remove fingers!” We did. “Inspect fingers!” We looked at our fingertips, which were coated with a 1/8 inch layer of sand and grit stuck together with earwax. This, then, was our souvenir from Palm Springs, finer than any blue and yellow jersey designed by a middle schooler who “wanted to be an artist.”
We said our goodbyes, and Levi the Pilot proved again that he was the real man among men. He’d not only flown the plane and ridden a hundred hard miles, but he’d abstained from so much as a sip of alcohol and looked like he’d hardly exerted himself.
Back on the tarmac in LA, we deplaned and said our goodbyes. I thanked Wehrlissimo for his incredible generosity, and offered him $15 to help pay for gas. “Thanks,” he said, refusing my generous offer.
“So how much does a tank of airplane fuel cost for one of these, anyway?” I asked.
The other guys thanked him, too. He laughed. “All this stuff,” he said, waving at the airplane and hangar, “isn’t really worth anything if you can’t share it with your friends.”