Fear and loathing in North County

April 18, 2012 § 14 Comments

When our small pack of starving, drought-ravaged, beatdown wankers hit the second rest stop at mile 65.4, it was pandemonium. Fistwads of BonkBreakers, heads doused in cold Coke, unpeeled bananas devoured whole, and all the while smokin’ hot SPY babes making hashmark soup of our numbers to ensure we were credited for reaching the checkpoint, and me boring straight for the water, refilling my bottle, and jumping back aboard while most of the others were still gobbling PowerBars, sticking a finger down their shorts to see how egregiously their stinky diapers needed changing, or just rolling in the dirt and softly moaning.

A hundred yards past the transfusion station it hit me: whenever your ride involves a half-naked woman in her 80’s wielding a broom and threatening to kill you with it, you’ve just crossed the threshold from epic and wandered over into the batshit crazy realm of the surreal.

In fact, my last encounter with a crazy octogenarian woman during a bike ride didn’t involve one who was half-naked or carrying a broom, it involved one who was completely naked and barefoot, and ten miles from the nearest farmhouse.

Spit and Spanky Muffins

Spit&spankymuffins, or Clanghorn Leghorn as he was also known, had been whooping it up on the side with this little package from Granger, the only town in Texas that still had a Czech newspaper, and as far as I know, the only one that ever did, or for that matter, wanted to have one.

I don’t remember her name because I always just called her Czechmate, and that particular morning in July of 1984 as I rolled up the frontage road along I-35 to pick Clanghorn up at his house for a ride, I could tell from a distance something was amiss. For one, in front of his little white rental shack there was a silver Z-car, and the only person I knew who drove a silver Z-car was his fiancee, the little ballerina, who I always called “Bally.”

For another, from the distance and angle I could see a maroon Ford pickup parked out on the back lot, obscured by the mesquite and the brokedown storage shed. Clanghorn didn’t own a car, and the only person I knew with a maroon pickup was Czechmate.

For a third, I could see the side window that abutted Spit&spankymuffins’s bedroom, and it looked like a head was sticking out, a head with long brown hair, which was odd because Clanghorn always had a crew cut. For a fourth, even from that distance I could hear the godawful pounding on his screen door and see a highly agitated Bally making more racket than a 92-lb. ballerina ought to be able to make.

The only thing that meant we weren’t going to need a homicide detective was that Bally had approached from the north and thus couldn’t see the truck out behind the house, and that Bally didn’t carry a handgun. Most days.

By the time I got up to the fence Spit&spankymuffins was slowly opening the screen door, in tandem with Czechmate falling clumsily out of the window in her panties and hopping like a crazy woman through the goatheads and fire ant mounds to the safety of the thorny mesquite and her pickup, where she carried a handgun every single day of the year.

Bally jumped inside the house and was yelling so loud that she never heard Czechmate drive away. I played dumb and added a little more to the distraction while Clanghorn did a disappearing act with Czechmate’s clothes that would have made Houdini blush.

No country for old women

Clanghorn finally convinced Bally that nothing was amiss, and she was never the wiser until the big shindig the night before their wedding, when I raised my glass and made a toast that more or less wandered off onto the topic of Czechmate and how glad I had been that Bally had left her .45 at home that morning. That, along with their subsequent divorce after the world’s shortest marriage, is another story.

THIS story is about how Spit&spankymuffins and I decided that Bally was going to be laying in wait for most of the day, so the only way to throw her off the scent was to go do a nice long 120-miler, the only problem being that it was now 8:00 AM and the temperature was already 104, and if we waited much longer it was going to get hot.

Clanghorn thought he knew a couple of routes that would at least take us near a convenience store where we could get water, so off we went. By mile 90 we were both delirious. The temperature was well over 110, and the ambient air temperature four or five feet off the asphalt was easily 130. Clanghorn got turned around and we missed the convenience store, so we now had to either get something to drink or die.

By some miracle we hit a low water crossing that was mostly filled with nasty green stuff from a dairy farm upstream, but we were pretty sure we didn’t have to worry about brain damage, as no one would notice, and so we filled our bellies and bottles on that nasty green sludge, which, if I say so myself, was the sweetest and best tasting water I’ve ever had in my life, notwithstanding the cramps that night followed by the vomiting and diarrhea that ensued for the next three weeks.

As we rode out of the shade from the water crossing, ten miles from the nearest farmhouse, we saw a figure approaching us in the distance. As we got closer, we saw it was a woman. A very, very old woman. Naked. Barefoot. Walking on that frying pan asphalt looking as starry-eyed batshit crazy as we felt.

At first neither of us could believe it. “You see that?” I asked Spanky.

“Uh-huh.”

We pedaled slowly by. “Hi, ma’am,” I said.

She never looked to the right or the left, and I couldn’t help noticing that her body was perfectly brown all over, with nary a tan line anywhere. “Hey, Wankmeister,” Clanghorn said after we passed.

“Yeah?”

“Why don’t we just pretend that never happened?”

“Deal.”

No country for lycra-clad whackjobs on the BWR

While I’d been downing plasma and EPO tabs at the transfusion station, a group of about twenty riders had taken the hard right turn down the dirt road that led to the quagmire of mud and water and slop and hell known by the bitterly ironic name of Country Club Road. As I made the right turn in their wake, I was surprised to see them all coming back again, pedaling pell-mell and screaming at the top of their lungs: “Turn back! There’s a crazy lady with no teeth and a broom barring the way!”

Well, all the motivation I needed to go full steam ahead was the chance encounter with a crazy toothless broom Hilda. Within seconds the SPY broom wagon came up, shouting the same thing. On I went until there in the distance I could see her, hopping up and down in a blue fury, one-piece burlap sack jostling about her skinny frame, three-foot breasts slinging thisaway and that like two bad dancers, one of whom wants to tango and the other of whom wants to do crossword puzzles.

“No blog,” I thought as I got closer, “will ever top this.” Then, as I saw her making some pretty fair batting cage slices with the broom, cuts that, if they connected, would at least be good for a ground rule double, it hit me: Crazy half-naked lady with three-foot breasts doing major league swings with a broom can only mean that her son, who is probably also her husband and the father of her grandchildren, has finally pulled on his burlap bag, loaded the guns, and drained the rest of the turpentine bottle prior to going out on the porch to see which raccoon or possum or skunk or crow or lizard or trespasser he’s going to have to shoot the legs off of.

“Fuck blogalistic integrity,” I thought. “I’m outta here.”

The surrealistic hell of the North County

After a mad dash I connected with the pack that had flown from broom Hilda, a completely different amalgamation of wankers than the dead and dying who I’d left at the doping station. The inaugural Belgian Waffle Ride was already an unmitigated nightmare of British proportions. The last thing I could clearly remember was the sight of MMX churning away at the front on Green Canyon Road, with zombie The Bone battering away, and freakish K. Strychnine grinding up each roller with the nasty efficiency of an industrial food processor.

As I struggled at the back, bladder almost bursting, I could only think enviously about the pee stop at mile 20, when MMX had urinated while riding his bike, splashing a fine, 12-foot film of hot piss along the public bike path and most of his hand. “Why can’t I do that?” I wondered. Several miles later, when I watched him absentmindedly wipe his nose and mouth, I wasn’t quite as envious.

By mile 39 the lead group had less than fifty riders, many of whom were already gassed from the 100mph run-up to the first sprint followed by the inhuman attack up the mile-long gravel road that looked like it had been paved with artillery shells.

The schmoes who had showed up uninvited to bandit the ride had long ago been crushed and shat out the back, and those who had shown up with minimal preparation were already well into the most miserable day of their lives, including the first time they ever rode an aluminum road bike.

During the neutral portion I had found myself next to a giant dude in a purple jersey. “Name’s Fred,” he said, with a perfectly straight face. “I’m a track racer from back in the day. Mounting my comeback.”

I looked at him to see if this was part of an elaborate joke. It was and it wasn’t. “I don’t think there’s a velodrome on the route today,” I offered.

“Yeah,” he muttered. I never saw him again.

The crazies come out when it’s muddy

My next companion was the guy who would have won the psychedelic batshit jersey if one had been on offer. In preparation for the 124-mile deathfest and its 9,400 feet of climbing, he had shown up with his hairiest legs and his best single-speed bicycle. “I’m a ‘cross dude, dude,” he said.

“Really?” I thought. “I mistook you for a retard.” He turned out to be very much the badass.

But the most amazing person of all was the rider from Los Angeles who had shown up to bandit the ride and shamelessly help himself to all the goodies. He too was quickly shed.

Legs burning as I hung on the back, I realized that I could either force myself to hang for another fifteen or twenty miles and then be completely wrecked, or I could drop off the back and pee so that my bladder didn’t rupture. It’s amazing how easy a hard ride becomes when you get off your bike.

After remounting, I settled into my own pace, and the remnant grupettos from the wanker rear guard began to pass me, first in ones and twos, and then in small groups. Like the old sailor in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, I tried to warn them of what awaited.

“Yo, Swami’s dork! Have you done this course before?”

“Nah. Why?”

“Because you’re going too hard. You will implode at mile 80, or before, and have to cheat to finish. Ease up now, while you’re still behind.”

They nodded and zoomed off. I saw them all again, of course, many miles later, in varying states of collapse and disarray.

The end of reality bleeds over into the impossible and false

Keeping my own steady pace I hit the bottom of Couser Canyon, and three quarters of the way up the climb realized my bottles were empty. With less than a quarter mile to go to the top, I spied a blue support pickup parked on the side of the road. “Got any water?” I called out.

“Sure do!”

I hesitated because I was carrying my rad CalBikeLaw.com bottles. I didn’t want to give them up, but I didn’t want to carry them empty, and I didn’t want to collapse from heat prostration. As I slowly rolled by I reluctantly handed the guy my bottle. He thrust the replacement in my hand. It was icy cold. I glanced at the logo. It said CalBikeLaw.com.

Before I could fling the bottle away like some talisman from the Twilight Zone, the two dudes were giving me a mighty push to restart me on the climb. The water was life giving. The bottle was brand fucking new. I never saw them again. I recounted the story to Junkyard, who smiled, rolled his eyes, and made the loopy finger motion around his ear.

Fast forwarding to the post-broom Hilda faux turn, the grupetto turned left onto DIRT ROAD at mile 66.98. With the exception of the lead group and a few other individuals, most of the BWR victims missed this turn. They were easy to spot because their bikes, legs, and shoes were devoid of thickly caked mud and slime at ride’s end, and because the first words out of their mouths on completion wasn’t “Oh my fucking Dog, that dirt road with the 18% sandy wall and the narrow, deep river crossing with a rock ledge drop off and trench mud embankment on the other side followed by 1.5 miles of the nastiest, bitterest, slidingest, badassedest unpaved mud pit known to man was AWESOME!!!”

Instead, they would say in a very purple jersey sort of way, “Oh, yeah…I, uh, did that. It was the wide water thingy, huh?” or “I dunno I just followed everyone else.”

I just followed everyone else

Problem is, my everyone made the turn. We launched down the mud to the rock ledge and mayhem ensued. People slid to a halt, fell off their bikes, toppled over, yelled, cursed, and rode exactly like you’d expect roadies to behave when greeted by wet mud.

Except for Singlespeed Nutter and Purple Jersey Andy. These two dirt dogs flung themselves into the water, hammered up the other side, and quickly gapped everyone else by a hundred yards. As I hurtled down the embankment, unable to see the water, I only thought one thing, back from the day that Filds tried make me a ‘crosser going around the golf course, and me trembling every pedalstroke of the way: “Just go fast!!!”

So, fast I went. So fast, in fact, that the only thing I heard when I launched into the river was “Holy fuck!” from some wanker who was lying in the mud and whose head I almost took off with my rear wheel. I landed full force on my front wheel in the water, and to my shock the bike of its own accord rocketed up the other side. I pedaled. The bike went faster.

There aren’t many times in your life when everything around you stops except you. It happened that day. The wankers up ahead just froze. I picked their perfect line and as my bike jumped and jolted up behind them I muttered, “Coming through!”

Purple Jersey Andy looked back in terror. “Holy shit!” he yelled “That’s his breathing!”

The noise coming from my lungs was so deep, so racking, so nasty, so fraught with spit and snot and spray and flecks of flesh that I fully expected to have to get off and poke my lungs back down my throat. But I didn’t. Wankers 1 and 2 vanished. I hit the wall and just went harder. Before I could even vomit it was over, and the crippled, broken remnants that were still wiping the mud off their asses might as well have been in Waco.

It’s the only badass thing I have ever done on a bike. It’s certainly the only badass thing I did on the BWR, because the rest of it was a nasty slog to the finish, overtaking one shattered rider after another until I hooked up with Mad Stan and Daffy Dave from the Wolfpack. They worked me over for miles, their shiny bikes proof that they’d avoided the muddy test of mettle, and despite shellacking them on Questhaven, they rode me down after Double Peak and we finished with A Day in the Life of Ivan Stefanovich, the long-haired Swami’s dude who had knocked over twelve bikes and three helpers at the last feed station as he fought off the LA Bandit Cheapass Fuckstick for the last swig of Coke and the last fistful of pretzels. He had passed me on Double Peak like a man on a mission.

Only the strong survived

The BWR got its inspiration from Dave Jaeger and his annual French Toast Ride, a 118-mile death march held every January before Boulevard RR. No one in the SoCal peloton exemplifies the qualities of toughness, fairness, good humor, and great perspective as well as Dave. So it’s fitting that when The Bone, Lars Boom, and Shirley Temple crushed everyone into fine bits of powder and then, like Cat 5’s getting lost on a square office park crit, wandered off course and failed to complete the entire route, it left Jaeger et al. to claim the winner’s jersey.

Nonetheless, the way The Bone, Lars, and Shirley dispatched everyone else who even pretended to contend, and the fact that their deviation was completely unintentional, earned them all the coveted King of the Waffle jersey and matching SPY waffle shades.

Rules still being rules, this meant that the next group of three finishers were the actual wieners of the event. That Dave was able to pull on StageOne’s incredibly beautiful yellow jersey, a jersey nicer than anything you’ve ever seen at the TdF, was proof that there’s a force for transcendental fairness and goodness in the universe. Nice guys sometimes rip your nuts off by the roots, stuff them down your throat, and, yes win.

Steve Klasna and Brent Prezlow joined with yellow jersey wiener honors, Phil Tintsman took the points jersey, and the hardman jersey was shared by MMX, Tintsman, and Zinc Oxide.

The color purple

The Belgian Waffle Ride started with a basic tenet: There will be winners, losers, finishers, and non-finishers, and they will be determined by relying on each rider’s honesty, sportsmanship, and personal integrity. After the laughter subsided at the ridiculous notion that a bunch of scuzzball cyclists would do anything other than lie, cheat, and steal when swag was at stake, it was emphasized that the concept of “It’s okay if it’s MY dog” doesn’t apply. Follow this link for the instructional video. This was of course ignored.

The Belgian Waffle Ride was also unique because on the one hand it was billed as a true hardman event, but on the other it counted Stern-O as a participant. Those who have ridden with this softman of cycling know that despite having been banished from California and sent to live with the horse people of Santa Fe, a city whose cycling community has in turn banished him and forced him to ride in the desolate wasteland of Albuquerque, no cycling event exists at which Stern-O cannot garner the lion’s share of the attention. Worse, his time spent trawling the tumbleweeds, saguaro, and meth shacks between Lower New Mexico and the cultural epiphany that is Tucson mean that when he shows up he’s in particularly fine form.

Whether by chasing down beginning cyclists and berating them for their choice of bicycle/color of jersey/pretensions to athleticism, by instigating a confrontation with a violent motorist and then leaving the mayhem for others to deal with, or by simply whining about his back surgery/broken teeth/brain replacement therapy/AARP membership status as the reason he flailed and got dropped, when Stern-O rides, people take notice.

The BWR was no different. In an event designed to rely on the integrity of the participants, the Man in Purple floated to the top like the very biggest and smelliest chunk, while the participants could only stare in shock like a hapless economy class passenger stuck next to the toilet door on a 13-hour flight. Some observers noted that Stern-O had been strangely absent along the muddy road of death. Others remarked that although he rode manfully through the water after the third water crossing, he fell into the mud after crossing it in the manner of a complete dirt noob, resulting in a boo-boo to his knee. Stern-O’s reported comment? “That ought to get me the hardman jersey!” Still others noted the fact that he actually rode up on G$’s wheel later in the ride was proof positive that he’d shorn at least a hundred and twenty-four miles off the125-mile route, as the day that Stern-O chases down the Gazelle of SoCal is the day that a one-legged sloth outruns a Secret Service agent to a Colombian whorehouse.

While wildly claiming to have completed the course ahead of his betters as he swooped in to snare his finisher’s tee-shirt, his finisher’s bottle of commemorative ale, and his finisher’s BWR jersey, Stern-O failed to produce his number with the proper hash marks, and, what was worse, claimed to have assaulted Double Peak when he was seen sneaking past the turnoff to this bitterest of climbs while glued to the wheel of…oh shame!…a triathlete. In a later document entitled, “Affidavit and Declaration under Penalty of Perjury Regarding the Performance of Stern-O on the Belgian Waffle Ride,” he was even audacious enough to claim that after slinking away from the finish area before being awarded the ignominious purple jersey in absentia, he went off in search of Double Peak in order to find it and climb it.

Unfortunately, he was unable to locate this mysterious hidden landmark, as it’s only the highest point in San Diego County and looms 1,666 feet over the city of Carlsbad like a single rotten tooth jutting out from the sunken gum off an ogre. Plus, he had to hurry back to New Mexico in order to spend time with his family.

As a result, Stern-O received the dreaded purple jersey, an item of clothing reserved for the lamest rider of the entire BWR. On the plus side, it comes with a matching pair of purple sunglasses. If you ever want to see the whole ensemble in action, though, you’ll have to head out to the byways of America’s desert meth labs, as rumor has it that Purple Freddy Gregg will not be invited back.

So how hard was it, really?

Compared to the recon ride, which was shorter, which I failed to complete, and which had no unpaved roads, the BWR was oddly enough a piece of cake. Had I just failed to adequately nourish that fateful day back in March? Had my legs been unprepared for the rigors of the course that fateful day? Had it been a terrible mistake to match efforts with the likes of MMX, Victor, and Purple Parks? Yes, yes, and yes.

The real secret to finishing this grueling course turned out to be simple: Eat lots of cheeseburgers and fries the day before, and realize that I was a wanker amongst men with no hope of following the leaders, and ride accordingly by never going into the red. Towards the end, after the last heart and lung transplant station, I fell in with a guy named Scott who, with the exception of the purple-clad Wawansea wankers, had the ugliest jersey in the peloton. We stayed together through Bandy Canyon, the place of my earlier undoing, and Via Rancho, the place of my spiritual death, and through most of Elfin Canyon, where the battering of the Wolfpack duo finally kicked him out the back. I would have felt a shred of sympathy had he not drilled nails into my head the last forty yards up Bandy.

More than the difficulty, this ride was memorable for its striking natural beauty, for its snow-encrusted mountain peaks, for its leafy green Spring foliage, for its streams, its chiseled rock faces, its piercing blue sky, and most of all for the mob at the last aid station that frantically fought for food as their last ebb of strength and morale failed them before the longest, hardest, most brutal and unforgiving part of the ride was to pitilessly crush them into broken and whimpering fools.

To SPY and the people who made this great event happen, including the wearers of the yellow, green, blue, polkawaffle, and hideous purple jerseys, I’d say thank you. Once the tubes have been removed and I’m well enough to get out of bed.

For further reference:

Nicole Duke’s BWR blog post

Complete results (I’m #131 and not at all bitter about all the cheaters who cut the course and finished ahead of me).

Official recap by MMX (prepare to be scolded by Dad, who is disappointed that you cut the course, took the swag you weren’t entitled to, and in general proved yourself to be a lying, cheating, thieving little turd).

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