Stop

December 17, 2013 § 13 Comments

Sometimes the things he says take a bit of decoding, and sometimes the things he says leave you scratching your head, but sometimes my pal G$ will let a pearl of wisdom drop that is practically Buddha-like in its wisdom. So you gotta be on your toes and you gotta be patient, sometimes extra, extra patient, because when one of those nuggets plops down if you’re fiddling with your Garmin or yapping about your last indoor training session, you’re gonna miss it.

We were coming back from a sedate little pedal up Mandeville Canyon, and we had hit a traffic light, I think it was on San Vicente. When it comes to traffic signals I am like a Republican mom who’s got a double tall chai mocha soy latte in one hand, an outgoing text message on her iPhone in the other, three squalling kids in the back seat, all while running five minutes late for li’l Becky’s ballet lesson.

In other words, my preferred mode of travel when riding alone is to blow through anything that doesn’t have a cop or oncoming traffic. Red lights are suggestions, and stop signs are bad ideas that won’t be adopted in this draft of the presentation.

As I’ve gotten older and more concerned about the opinions and terror of others, though, I pretty much stop at red lights when I’m with a group, and I’ll even slow way down for a stop sign. It freaks people out too much otherwise.

So we came to that ol’ stop light and put our feet down. G$ looked over at me and grinned. He’d been talking about pole vaulters and how they were put together different from other track and field elite athletes, especially when it came to beer and curfews and careful dieting — that is, pole vaulters apparently didn’t believe in either. I was concentrating as hard as I could, trying to remember what pole vaulters did, and trying to follow the details of the bus ride back in 1983 from Kansas down to El Paso in which the pole vaulters had caught a skunk and fed it beer and then let it loose in the opposing team’s locker room.

I was trying might and main to wrap my brain around how you “caught a skunk,” much less “fed it beer,” into a reality framework, and it wasn’t happening, when G$ let drop a nugget. “You know,” he said, apropos of nothing, which is his finest contextual context when it comes to nuggets. “Stopping is good.” Of course, we were stopped.

My brain ground to a halt. He might as well have said “Wife beating is good,” or “Heroin injected through the tip of your penis is good,” or “Bat sandwiches are good.”

Stopping? Good?

“Dude!” my brain screamed, but didn’t say. “Stopping is TERRIBLE! Stopping is the OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE DO! Stopping is to biking what books are to Kanye West!” But instead I just looked at him kind of mutton-headed and said, “Huh?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I used to want to go all the time. But now? Stopping is good. Every time I stop it’s like, you know, good.”

“How’s that?”

“Aw, you know. It just feels good.”

We waited for the light to change while he picked up the story where the skunk and the other team’s star miler found one another, but I had tuned out because I was focusing on my leg, the one that was anchored to the ground and not pedaling my bike. Then I focused on my other leg, which was also not pedaling my bike. All of the pedaling juice that had backed up inside my veins from the trip up Mandeville ebbed away as we stood there doing nothing.

My heartbeat tailed off. Everything relaxed. I looked to the left and smiled at the Brentwood mom and her double latte.

The light turned green and off we went. At the next stop light it happened again; we stopped and it was good. It wasn’t an annoyance or an obstruction or a deliberate plan by the auto-industrial-military-Republican-anti-Obamacare-complex to force me to carry a gun, it was … good. Stopping was so good in fact that, once I’d left the group and couldn’t be observed by anyone who knew me, I stopped for a stop sign.

Then I began to ponder the Oracle of the South Bay and the deeper meaning of his utterance. “Stopping is good.”

What if it wasn’t just about cycling?

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Clawing turkeys

November 23, 2012 § 10 Comments

Iron Mike and I knew it was going to be bad, and not just because we made our first pre-ride pee stop at the elegant planter and walkway entrance in front of the Police Department.

“Can we piss here?” I asked, incredulously.

“Sure. Do it all the time.”

“What about the cops?”

“You see any cops?”

“I see a big entrance to the police department that we’re standing in front of.”

“I asked if you see any cops,” he said, casually uncoiling the hose and helping spruce up the vegetation.

I had to admit I didn’t see any, so I followed suit.

We’d gotten to the start of the Holiday Ride early. It was chilly but the sun had already burned off the mist. It was going to be a perfect day. Every idiot in the South Bay with a bike would be there. Rather than start with the foaming crowd we kept pedaling. After about ten minutes they caught us on Vista del Mar. Rather, they rolled over us like a tsunami.

Did you say THREE HUNDRED?

Remember, this is an unorganized, unsponsored, casual ride that has been happening for years on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day, July the Fourth, and Labor Day. But whatever the critical mass was, it somehow got reached. Well over three hundred turkeys strutted out of the woodwork to test their legs in the race up Mandeville Canyon.

And a test it would be. Stathis Sakellariadis, Tony Manzella, Rahsaan Bahati, Diego Binatena, Dan Cobley, Greg Leibert, Cory Williams, Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, and a slew of Helen’s strongmen were all there spoiling for a fight.

Which was fine and as it should be.

What was not fine, and what was not as it should have been, was the outright war for position that began the moment the swollen cancer left Manhattan Beach. Going down Mt. Chevron, some idiots braked for the reflector dots and took their feet out of the clips. The idiots following too closely and watching something other than what was in front hit and went down.

No one cared, apparently because this was a race to the death.

I’m not easily frightened

Well, actually, I am. I’m a cowardly, fearful, trembling wussmaster when it comes to crashing, pain, danger, or getting hurt. And the second we were overtaken by the cancer, my terror level went through the roof.

People who don’t race, who have never raced, who have no intention of racing, and who wouldn’t know how to pin a number on a mannequin were fighting for position like pros approaching the Tranche d’Fuckenberg. Tiny little space between two bikes? The Turkey Pros shot through.

Both lanes filled, curb to center lane? A Turkey Pro would jump the yellow dots, sprint into oncoming traffic, advance ten positions, and dive back in.

Can’t move up by riding in the wrong lane? Watch the Turkey Pros hop the right-hand curb and race up the sidewalk. That nice lady pushing a pram with twins will understand later how important it was for them to be properly positioned, even though she’s drizzling terror pee now.

Only a couple of people figured out the solution, one being Miles Irish. Miles bulled to the very front and kept the gas on all the way to San Vicente while Turkey Pros crashed and burned behind him. Downside? The plumes of smoke coming out of his ears once the road tilted up. Upside? He never planned on winning on Mandeville anyway.

Towards the front, but never on it

The main ploy behind the Turkey Pros was to hop, squeeze, slide, and push their way towards the front, but to never actually get into the wind. It’s a clever tactic worthy of a protected Euro pro in a big race…but it’s a wanker move par excellence for the Holiday Ride.

When we hit the left turn on San Vicente, Hair looked over. “Why the serious face?” he laughed. Dude fucking always laughs, is fearless.

“I’m trying not to crash.”

Hair laughed. “Better spend that energy trying to hang on.”

And he had a point, because when we hit Mandeville Canyon, Josh Alverson opened up the throttle. Tree Perkins followed, with me glued to Tree’s wheel. I held the speed for thirty seconds or so, then swung over. Done.

As the wankoton blew by, I counted. For ten solid minutes riders passed me. I stopped counting at 298, and there were dozens who’d never even turned up Mandeville as well as dozens who had u-turned and gone back before passing me.

Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, back at the Center of the Known Universe

Long before I reached the summit a cadre of South Bay wankers including Joe, Gus, Marc, and Doug came blasting by. They had made the sensible choice not to wait for the endless stream struggling up the hill, and to ride back in a smaller, safer group.

For some reason, however, the closer they got to CotKU, the more ridiculous things got. Dudes who hadn’t been in the same zip code for Mandeville honors were now gunning it, devil-take-the-hindmost, to be first in line for coffee.

The only thing that got in the way of their fun was a Cadillac Escalade, and although they hit it full tilt, the 4,000-pound vehicle amazingly didn’t crumple from the impact of the flesh-and-bone-wrapped-around-some-plastic-tubes.

It did lose a tail light, whereas Carey D.’s entire frame broke. Doug busted a brake, and Marc got an ouchy on his saddle bag.

Back at CotKU they compared notes, trying to understand why their forceful bodies hadn’t been able to easily thrust aside the Escalade. No one could figure it out until King Harold, who happens to be an engineer, explained it to them.

“Mass times velocity,” he began, as the wankers’ eyes glazed over at the word “mass.”

Then he re-started. “Look here, dorks.” Everyone looked at his foot, where a doodlebug was trundling by. He lifted his foot and lowered it quickly on the hapless bug.

“You, dorks, are the bug. The Escalade is the foot. Get it?”

A light went on in the formerly befuddled and confused faces of the crash victims. “You mean…?” said one.

“That if it’s a witch…” said another.

“And it’s heavier than a duck…” said a third.

“Then we burn it?” said a fourth, as the other three nodded vigorously.

King Harold shook his head. “No, no, no,” he said. “I mean that this Holiday Ride thing we just did…”

“Yes?” they asked in a chorus.

“It’s perfect for you. Just perfect. See you on Christmas Day.”

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