August 18, 2018 § 3 Comments
Last Sunday we had the inaugural All Clubs BBQ sixth South Bay Cycling Awards at Eldorado Park in Long Beach. The two people who made this event happen, Ken Vinson and Kristie Fox, arrived before the sun rose to get things set up.
There was a guy sleeping on a park bench and Ken asked him if he would help out in exchange for a meal. The man’s name was Ben Millane, and not only did he help, he took ownership of his tasks and being part of the event. He did the leaf blowing for the entire area and helped clean the venue. He was kind and talkative, and seemed as excited as anyone to be there, maybe more.
Without being asked, he stayed all the way through tear down. He talked numerous times throughout the day to all kinds of people. As the final things were loaded up, Ben thanked Ken and Kristie, said he loved the event, then asked if it was a one time only happening. Kristie said the event would definitely be back next year and that she would contact him. Ben has a FB page, and wondered where he could get one of the cycling t-shirts made by Origin. Kristie said she’d get him one.
This kind of interaction between strangers is what the day was about.
Six years is longer than you think
At the end of the South Bay Cycling Awards last year I was pretty wrung out. We had gone from humble origins at Naja’s dive bar in Redondo Beach to a huge event at Strand Brewing in Torrance, each year bigger than the last.
But after last year it felt like the event had run its course. There are only so many times you can give out twenty awards of distinction in a small community before you really are simply recycling names. Instead of an organic gathering of friends we had become a choreographed event with moving parts, all of which had to be timed and integrated.
It was a big old hassle.
As we were tussling with the idea of what to do in 2018, or whether to do anything at all, we were invited to join one of Ken Vinson’s Movement Rides. I’ve written about that experience, but it brought home the fact that if our event was going to represent the broader cycling community, it would need people from those communities who had skin in the game. Our decision to merge the two events was a quick one that left us with little time to pull it off.
“Don’t worry,” said Ken. “If give me the green light, we’ll make it happen.”
Let the people breathe
One thing I learned is that it’s hard to step aside. It’s kind of painful to see that when you’re not there, there are plenty of people who can do it better, more efficiently, and more effectively. And while it was great to see so many people come to the fore and do fantastic things, it also drove home that when an event is identified with one person it sort of sucks the oxygen out of the room for everyone else.
Apparently I was a pretty big oxygen suck, because when I turned the keys over to Ken and Kristie a whole host of new people stepped up to make the event better than it has ever been before. It’s hard to single out any one person, but some things really stood out.
One of them was Jeff Prinz of CBR, hopping around on a bandaged leg as he organized kids’ games and turned the first half of the event into a genuine icebreaker. It’s one thing to get black and white and brown people into a single venue, but a whole other thing to get them to talk. Racial barriers are real and they don’t come down easily. Although physical proximity is the key, it’s sometimes not enough.
Enter the world’s biggest game of musical chairs. Under Jeff’s direction the entire central area was converted into a game of 150-seat musical chairs, and this is where the barriers shook, crumbled, and fell. People diving for seats, laughing, bumping into each other, connecting as human beings over a simple child’s game … it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, made supreme by the fact that the child’s game was won, of course, by a child.
Let the people eat
Throughout the park, master cooks Harry McQueen, Patrick Barrett, Geoff Loui, and Jonathan Fraser cranked out the tantalizing smell of their pit creations, building to a fever pitch when the barbecue judging began at noon. Judges Sherri Foxworthy, Orlando Hutcherson, and Marvin Campbell did the hard work of eating the best barbecue imaginable, then trying to pick a winner.
And pick they did, anointing Patrick Barrett the winner’s laurels in a hard-fought contest. With heaps of non-contest meat also being grilled, people wandered through the area sampling, eating, and enjoying an amazing mix of camaraderie, community, and family. Shortly after noon Toni Smith and her Flawless Diamonds opened their food line and things got even more serious.
The first 150 people ate free; after that it cost ten bucks a plate for barbecue, cornbread, beans, and dessert. The Flawless Diamonds made sure that at this event, like every event they cater, no one goes hungry who can’t afford a meal. This too was a symbol of the day.
Let the people race
Around the corner from the stage, Zwift had set up a booth where you could strap into a spin bike and show your watts. The biggest wattage for the day, man and woman, each won a Zwift subscription along with a $1,200 indoor trainer. Competition was intense, to put it mildly. Zwift was one of many organizations who supported the event, including Race for RP, Velo Club LaGrange, and Big Orange Cycling. I’ve linked to the other sponsors in a previous post here.
The biggest race of all, of course, was the race of the people who showed up. It’s the first time ever, as was noted by keynote speaker Nelson Vails, that such a diverse community of cyclists has shown up to support, encourage, promote, and pay homage to the diversity of cycling. Award winners in 2018 made this event the most diverse one ever, and we didn’t even need an Oscars scandal to make it happen.
How did it happen? By doing the right thing for the right reasons with the right people.
After it was all said and done, we showed that people can work together, that unity is stronger than discord, and that the things we share as human beings that bind us together are infinitely stronger than the minor differences that people use to try and drive us apart. We showed that the first step to a better a world requires us to share the same physical space, that the second step requires a little bit of fun, and that the third step requires that we break bread together. The driving force for all of this, of course, is the bicycle, and anyone who doubts that bikes can save the world wasn’t at Eldorado Park last Sunday.
From volunteer photographers like Fred Smith to volunteer set-up hands like Ben Millane, from organizers like Ken and Kristie to the clubs who showed up in force, From Erick and Kurt on the sound to Peta and Rudy on the sack race, all I can say is that if you liked what you saw last week, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
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August 17, 2018 § 1 Comment
I still remember when the tall skinny guy came up to me. It was several years ago at Smasher’s old shop, before it had been inherited by Boozy P.
Telo was about to begin and he had a problem of some kind or another, or maybe he only needed air. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Fred,” he said.
“Fred? You kidding me?”
“What the hell kind of name is that for a cyclist?”
“It’s my name, dude.”
“You’re gonna suffer for that, I hate to tell you.”
When freds collide
This morning I was riding to coffee and a bike whipped up alongside. “Hey, Seth.”
It was Fred. “Hey, Fred,” I said. “What’s new?”
“I was traveling in Greece and Croatia but now I’m home.”
“That’s pretty cool. Hey, man,” I said.
“You remember when we first met out at Telo?”
“And I told you you were gonna suffer from that name?”
He laughed. “Mansolino had already warned me. ‘That is the worst possible name ever for an aspiring cyclist.'”
“Yep. I was like, ‘What’s wrong with Fred?’ and he basically said, you know, Fred equals dork, period, end of discussion.”
“I was like ‘Whatever.’ But I made up my mind that I didn’t care. Whatever freds did, I was going to do the opposite. They could be freds, but I was gonna be Fred.”
I thought about that. Fred was light years better than I’ve ever been. He is super smooth, super strong, super friendly, always looking like he just stepped out of a VeloNews centerfold. And when he shows up on the Flog he leaves us in tatters.
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August 15, 2018 § 25 Comments
The other morning I was out riding around the Hill with a bunch of people in a hurry. In the other direction came a small group of riders who didn’t look like they were in a hurry. They looked like they were out for a pleasant ride. I glanced twice and recognized most of them. They were people I used to ride with all the time.
Donut beatdown? They never missed it. Five-day smashfests from San Francisco to LA? Present and accounted for. Piuma-Stunt from PV and head north after that? Sure! NPR? Twice weekly, baby. Telo? Yaaaah. Then go long to the Rock on Sunday, dragging the peloton behind ’em for 120 miles? Uh-huh.
I only read Moby Dick a couple of times but the thing I remember most about it is that there are no women in it, anywhere. Maybe there was a woman in the church scene, or something. Other than that, it’s 400,000 pages of guys doing guy things like sailing to the South Pacific and spearing whales bare-handed.
The best part in the whole book is the description of life in the sperm whale pod. It was simply the best life ever. When I get run over by a chubby Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch, I hope to be reincarnated as a sperm whale in the South Seas 10,000 years ago. Those whales had it good.
But kind of like bike racing, they only had it really good until they didn’t. And the didn’t part came when a young bull would take on the boss of the pod and run him out of office. Once you got run away from the pod and all your cows got taken away, life pretty much sucked. You swam alone by yourself, grazing on plankton or whatever sperm whales eat, and you lived forever being miserable.
The whales of the Hill
Now don’t get me wrong. These dudes aren’t sperm whales cast out from the pod. They are old whales who have their own old whale rides and they ride along at old whale speeds and chat about old whale things. It’s wholly unobjectionable.
But I wonder what it is that triggers them to turn away from the mayhem of the full-gas Saturday and decide to ride around having slowpoke fun? They used to crave the adrenaline and enjoy the beatdown. They used to turn their noses up at hobby bikers. What happens in a whale to make him say, “Done with that nonsense. I’m going to do this nonsense instead.”
Part of it is probably always getting dropped. You reach a point where you get tired of starting with the group and saying “adios” after fifteen minutes or less. What was the point of that?
Another part of it is probably exhaustion. You can’t do those big efforts and recover like you used to.
And I guess it sucks being surround by young whales who are better than you even though they don’t even train and were up until 3:00 AM drinking cigars and smoking tequila.
Risk has got to be part of the equation as well. The older you get the greedier you get for the few years that are left, even if hanging on means poking around. Better to poke on the pavement than rot under it? Is that it?
Likely, boredom is a factor. When you’ve done the Donut 500 times you know how it’s going to end. You were getting dropped in ’97, you were getting dropped in ’07, come on, already. And beatdown rides aren’t much for conversation, either, when you’re just staring at some dude’s sweaty ass and skinny tire and trying to blot out the pain, unsuccessfully.
Whatever the reasons, and they’re all good ones I’m sure, it makes me sad. I’ll be talking to some whippersnapper and we’ll pass a whale. “See that whale?” I’ll point. “He used to wait until we got halfway up the Switchbacks, start from the rear, and ride everyone off his wheel.”
“That old fart?”
“Yep. That one.”
The whippersnapper will shake his head, not buying any of it.
I look around now and I’m not the oldest guy lining up to get his weekly dose of humiliation, but I’m close to it. I miss those old whales and wish they’d come back. Or I wish I didn’t feel compelled to go do that which I’m clearly unfit for, kind of like those geezers in the 70’s who tried to horn in on the disco craze and just looked silly, polyester shirts unbuttoned to their navels, white chest hair spilling out like somebody tumped over the can of Comet.
Maybe the whale life isn’t so bad. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe.
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August 14, 2018 § 23 Comments
It is crazy how expensive bikes are. When you add up all the stuff, it can set you back $5k or more just to get started. What a ripoff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Heart valve replacement: $170,000
Heart bypass surgery: $123,000
Diabetic medical care: $9,601 per year (multiply times 10, 15, or 20!)
Hypertension: $2,000 per year
Atherosclerosis treatment: $12,888 per year
Erectile dysfunction: $1,727.75 annually ($69.11 per pill x 25 sessions per year)
Drug/Alcohol rehab: $1,000 (outpatient detox), $6,000 – $60,000 (inpatient rehab), $5,000 – $10,000 (outpatient rehab), $4,700/year (medications)
Insomnia-related costs: $1,431 – $1,510 per year
Depression treatment: $8,000 per year
Sedentary lifestyle: $1,437 per year
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