Old marines never die, they just dig in

August 27, 2016 § 4 Comments

I haven’t done Eldo in several years because it’s too far away in Los Angeles County miles. A Los Angeles County mile is unrelated to the standard English measurement of 5,280 feet. An LAC mile is measured not in distance but by the hour of the day.

For example, a Texas Panhandle Mile measured between Pampa and Canadian (this unit is kind of like West Texas Intermediate Crude, the world yardstick for oil), which is also 5,280 feet (the mile, not the oil), takes roughly one minute if you are traveling 60 miles per hour. There is some math here but I can’t explain it. Ask your father.

However, the same “mile” in Los Angeles County, although theoretically the same distance as a Texas Panhandle mile, changes drastically based on the hour of the day. An LA County mile between Palos Verdes and Long Beach on Tuesday around 5:00 PM has a time value of about 10 minutes rather than one.

I can’t explain that math either but I can explain this: I haven’t done Eldo in Long Beach in years because even though it’s only 20 minutes away measured in standard Texas Panhandle miles, it take about 300 years in LA County miles. Plus, here in the South Bay every Tuesday at exactly the same time we have the Telo crit which, I’m real sorry to inform you, is a lot fucking harder than Eldo. You can laugh all you want, but that just means you’ve never done both.

Eldo has gone through some changes in ownership, but what has continued without interruption is a first-rate bike race that stretches back decades. The difference in the new management and the old management is that unlike old management, there’s no screaming and cursing and hollering and berating, and more importantly it’s a USAC-sanctioned race where you can get upgrade points and huge bragging rights, and most importantly it attracts some of the best crit racers in SoCal like Charon Smith and Dave Koesel, and most-most importantly it has categories for Cat 4’s who can have their own forum for massive braggage and victory salutage and Facebag postage. Cf. Ivan Fernandez.

But most-most-most importantly, the Eldo Under New Management has, for the last three years, provided a forum for the development of junior bike racers, for which we have two people to thank.

One of them is Gil Dodson, a very old marine who is old enough to be your grandfather’s grandfather. He’s so old that when he takes off his helmet you wonder if he remembers the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But then he puts his helmet back on and drops about half the riders who are one-fifth of his age and you STFU. Gil’s foxhole buddy has been Steve Hegg, gold and silver medalist at the 1984 Olympics and current holder of the Genuinely Nicest Guy in Long Beach Award.

Gil has poured money into Eldo by paying for every single junior rider’s entry fee for three years and ending each season with a free bike frame giveaway to the junior at the top of the standings. It’s been a huge investment and it has paid huge dividends. Eldo provides the only regular venue for young riders to compete, earn upgrade points, and sharpen their skills before being tossed into the shark pit. Thanks to Gil, or rather no thanks to Gil, we now have a crop of young riders who show up at other group rides and smash their elders with glee.

The other person who has made Eldo a success is David Wehrly. Like Gil, he has provided significant financial support, without which the race simply couldn’t continue. Unlike Gil, Dave is so far in the background that you might think he’s with the Israel cyber ops NSO Group. But like all of the good works that David does, although he himself may be deep cover, the results and the beneficiaries are out in the open for all to see.

I’d better stop here. This is starting to sound way too happy.

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Giant of a man

August 26, 2016 § 24 Comments

Marshall Perkins has been around a long time. “How long, Wanky?”

Well, one time we were sitting around and I asked if anyone remembered when coffee became part of cycling. In Texas there sure as hell weren’t any coffee shops in 1982 where you could swing by and get a quick cup before or after the ride. The closest thing I remember was Sweetish Hill Bakery in Austin, but nobody sat around drinking coffee pre- or post-ride.

Marsh remembered, and he even remembered the first couple of shops that served espresso, some joint in Santa Monica back around the time they invented tectonic plates. I got a great education about coffee-shops-back-in-the-day and we all agreed that they were a massive anomaly, but then again, so were bikers.

Marshall is a giant of a man and not just physically. He’s always stood up for the downtrodden, always been ready to lend a hand, always taken the side of the underdog. In our cycling community, he and his wife are pillars of support for those who wind up in need, especially when winding up in need is the result of a biker winding up on someone’s bumper.

I always wonder about what makes people good. Then a few days ago I saw a magazine article from 1982 about a guy named Captain Jim Perkins, California Highway Patrol commander of the Ontario office.

Here’s the link to the story, which is even more relevant today than it was in 1982. The entire article by Captain Perkins is typed out at the end of the document for easier reading. Captain Perkins is, of course, Marshall’s dad. The apple stayed pretty close to the tree.

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No short cuts to mediocrity

August 25, 2016 § 14 Comments

A buddy sent me the recent sad news about Robert Baatz (rhymes with “snots”) and Kimberly Ciolli, the two unfortunate Texas bicycle racers who were caught cheating. It appears that they used anabolic steroids around the time they were racing their bikes and, what’s worse, around the time that the USADA dope testers were wandering around with empty pee cups looking for someone to fill them up.

It’s really awful that a couple of sagbottom masters hackers are taking dangerous pills for little to no performance gain because they aren’t simply cheating their competition, they’re cheating themselves.

Mediocrity isn’t as simple as getting a nice race bike, joining a fancy club, and doping. Any poseur can do that. Flash-in-the-pan half-assedness is as common as your nearest Corvette dealer.

True mediocrity takes a lifetime to achieve and there are no short cuts. Sure, you can dope up and get 15th and people will recognize you as pack fodder. But is that real mediocrity? I say “No.”

Real mediocrity isn’t just shrunken testicles and male-pattern baldness, mediocrity is a lifestyle and it takes decades to perfect. In bike racing, it means getting shouted at, year in and year out, for sucking wheel in the break the entire race only to get last in the break.

Mediocrity means not simply borrowing money from everyone and never repaying it, but never putting in more than $5 for gas when your friend is driving his Sprinter van across the state. You may feel a twinge of ordinariness when that package of syringes arrives from Thorfinn-Sassquatch or from Joe Pappsmear, but the long game, the long buzz, the steady burn of not-really-worth-a-shit only comes from spending years, years I say, of forcing yourself to eat powdered drink mixes that contain kale and beets and still only manage to eke out 37th place.

Drugs are never a short cut to worthlessness. They get you the fame of being a cheating douchebag, or a douching cheatbag, but never with the consistency of having the most expensive stuff money can buy only to get dropped on the easy part of the group ride every single time. To be truly mediocre it takes years to develop the inherent suckiness that is you. It can’t be bought or imported or injected through a needle.

So do yourself a favor the next time you’re wrestling with the “Dope? Not dope?” quandary.

Think about what people will say when you get busted. Instead of saying, “That guy sucks. He is the worst bike racer ever. Why doesn’t he quit?” they will say, “That guy sucks. He is the worst bike racer ever. Why doesn’t he quit?”

The choice is yours. Do you want to earn mediocrity through the slow plodding of a lifetime riddled with failure and decay? Or do you want to achieve instant lameness through a couple of injections and your own clothing line? Will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror when, after getting busted, you get selected for the U.S. Olympic track squad? Will you?

Be inspired by the words of our most famous First Lady, who singlehandedly won the war on drugs with the slogan “Just Say No.”

Go on, say it. We’re listening.

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Chinese drivers

August 24, 2016 § 19 Comments

I’ve heard this phrase a lot, usually prefaced with the colloquial equivalent of “fornicating.” Never heard “black drivers” or “Mexican drivers” and certainly never heard “white drivers.” Used to hear “women drivers” a lot back in Texas.

I can’t testify as to whether Chinese drivers are worse than the general driving public. Traffic collision reports, from which collision statistics are generated, have a place for race but not for nationality. Also, my wife, who is a terrible driver but is Japanese, might get lumped in with Chinese drivers by angry cagers who witness one of her famous swoop-and-brake maneuvers.

What I can testify to is that I’m a really bad driver. I know this by process of elimination. I know about three good drivers — Manslaughter, Evens, and Derek — and I have nothing in common with any of them. Good drivers are like good bike handlers. They are fully aware at all times of the vehicle, its capacities, its limits, the road conditions, and the positions/behaviors of everyone around them.

That isn’t me. All I know is that shit is happening way too fast on the freeway and someone’s going to get hurt. And that’s at 65. Seventy mph is crazy, speed demon stuff.

So I slow down. Going slow, I’ve been told, is just as bad as going too fast. But since the people who say that are always in the passenger seat, I ignore them. If you want to go faster than 65, get out and walk.

On city streets I’m not a defensive driver, I’m a defensive fortification. Tons of room between me and the idiot in front. Turn signals. Hamster-like apprehension that there’s a hungry cat around every corner. Enough insurance to cover a major earthquake. And so although it’s possible that Chinese drivers are extra awful, I wouldn’t know since I’m always focused on staying alive, which means dealing with idiots of every race, color, creed, and bumper sticker. Careless, distracted, inattentive driving doesn’t seem to discriminate based on nation of origin. Everyone is distracted and angry and wants to kill me, and there’s only one of those three problems I can affect.

So you can imagine my surprise when I finally got to Chapter 25 in Book 2 of the New Practical Chinese Reader, 2nd Edition, and saw that the title was “The driver drove us to the hospital.”

Turns out that in addition to learning about the high speed trains in China and the Chinese New Year and how to ask for toilet paper when the roll runs out, the editors thought we’d also benefit from learning about traffic collisions.

Lina, an exchange student, was coming home from a movie with her pal, Xiao Yun, and they were coming home on bicycles. As soon as I saw “bicycles,” I knew how this story was going to end.

Lina and Xiao Yun were chatting and not paying attention and having a good old time when, making a right turn, Lina slammed into a parked delivery car. Fortunately, the kind driver took her to the hospital, paid for her medicine, and made sure she was okay before leaving his business card and returning to work.

Of course Lina’s admission of liability raised all kinds of questions. Was the driver legally parked? Did he have his flashers on? If she hit him immediately after turning, isn’t that prima facie proof that he was parked too close to the intersection? Was he in an unloading zone? Was there a local ordinance requiring him to put cones out? How long had he been parked there? Was he insured? Did he have a commercial license? Was he in the course and scope of his employment? Had his coverage lapsed? Did Lina have adequate UM/UIM coverage? Were there MedPay provisions in either policy?

The textbook didn’t say. Lina just made a big deal about how lucky she was that she’d hit the car rather than the other way around, a typical cyclist ploy. The injured rider is all stove up with a rod in his spine, a dick broken in three places, and a titanium plate in his skull, and all he can feebly say through his breathing tube, aside from “How’s my bike?” and “When can I get on the trainer?” is “It could have been worse.”

Well sure it could have been worse, that’s because you’re a cyclist and you’re terminally aware of the ultimate worst-of-all outcomes when you pedal a bike. But that doesn’t mean the jerk who was parked in front of a hydrant to unload a carton of condoms had the right to be there, or that your injuries are somehow better because they could have been worse.

Then Song Hua, the helpful chaperone who’s been squiring Lina through the textbook (I think he’s a government spy and they’re having a torrid affair), comes to see her at the hospital and praises the valiant driver for taking her to the hospital, as if there’s something special about having a shred of, you know, humanity.

One thing’s for sure, though, and this was the original point I wanted to make: When you’re riding a bike on the streets of Beijing, you’d sure as hell better watch out for the Chinese drivers.

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The date is October 22

August 23, 2016 § 14 Comments

That’s on a Saturday. At 6:00 PM. In the brewhouse at Strand Brewing Co.

Which is in Torrance.

In California.

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After that night at Naja’s where we stormed the bar during the Worthless Series, hung up Toronto’s spray-painted bedsheet and declared victory, we never thought there would be a second one. And then after the second one where the bar manager ripped us off and filled “our” patio with Ohio State and LSU fans and “someone” showed up with a 7-foot inflatable, uh, sausage (which was later seen dancing down the otherwise respectable streets of Manhattan Beach), we knew there would never be a third. Finally, after the inaugural South Bay Hall of Fame and star inductions of Tony Cruz, Nelson Vails, Marilyn Sonye, and Ted Ernst, we knew we’d never be able to top it.

And what do you know?

Now it’s Number Four.

The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, a/k/a the “Wankies” is coming to a brewery near you. As usual, we’ll offend the shit out of three or four people. And we’ll make a dozen or so people pinkly happy when they waltz off the stage with their Wanky Award. A couple hundred others will vaguely remember having had a good time and not being arrested, all in the same night.

In any event, this is THE event. Seals will be clubbed. Wankers will be anointed. Friends will get to see each other for the first time since last year with clothes on. All grudges will be checked in at the door except for one or two I’ve been nursing and which are now full-fledged and able to eat on their own.

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As usual it will be free. We’ll celebrate another year of not being @heathevans44, of not being @si_peterking, of not being @jennyvrentas, and mostly of not doing this …

heathevans_3

… and calling it fun. (Yes, that’s the lovely physique of @heathevans44, dude who wants to run over cyclists in his car. Can you say ‘roid rage?)

This year the South Bay Cycling Awards will also serve as the launching pad for the SCNCA’s various racing honors. So after we’ve handed out all the Wanky Awards and all the SCNCA prizes, everyone will literally have gotten a ribbon. There will be no losers.

Except for @heathevans44.

See you there!

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The dogs must be crazy

August 22, 2016 § 38 Comments

There is a guy named Heath Evans. He is a football journalist. I know, that reads like a joke.

Then there is a guy name Peter King. He is a serious sports journalist who writes for Sports Illustrated. Get it? “Serious sports journalist.” Not as funny as football journalist, actually a pretty bad joke.

Then there is a woman named Jenny Vrentas. She doesn’t know how to drive a car or care to learn how. She’s not funny at all.

So what do you get when you put a joke, a bad joke, and a reckless driver on Twitter? You get this:

heathevans

peter_smith_jenny_vrentas

Both of these tweets are self-explanatory. The football journalist thinks it’s okay to publicly muse about his desire to kill or injure bicyclists.

The serious sports journalist thinks it’s okay to encourage reckless driving, record it, and then “no comment” on it while the flunkette he’s abetted drives in a bike lane.

You could tweet to @nflnetwork, Heath Evan’s employer, which would be awesome. You could also tweet to @SInow, the employer for fun-loving Jenny and Peter. You could do this, not because the NFL or SI would care, but because it might make your anger at these people dissipate a little bit. Maybe.

Of course, verbalizing violence towards people for riding bicycles pairs up nicely with the reality that people in cars kill and maim bicycle riders with impunity. Lives lost, lives wrecked, families ripped apart, children without parents, just because some dick on his way to a football game is in such a hurry that he can’t wait with all the other people patiently sitting in traffic. Gotta get there first to hit the buffet and the booze in the skybox, dude.

A friend of mine was mowed down last Sunday morning by a fellow who fled the scene. The buddy is still in the ICU and faces a long road to recovery. The felon is probably watching the Big Game on TV. “Guy shouldn’t have been in the bike lane,” he’s probably thinking, if he thinks about it at all.

*shrug*

We saw this casual violence here in RPV last Tuesday when a resident lamented the damage that a cyclist’s body and head had done to someone’s windshield, and we see it in various forms, either on the road or in conversation. “Why do you guys ride in the road?” This is politespeak for “Get out of my way because I want to kill you.”

I even had a cyclist after a bike race today come up and say he thought cyclists should be treated as pedestrians. You know, so we can be legally barred from riding on any part of the roadway at all, forever. “Like skateboarders,” he added, for emphasis.

I looked at him for a minute as if he was insane. But he wasn’t. Just like Heath and Peter and Jenny aren’t insane. They simply think your life isn’t worth shit.

Because.

You.

Ride.

A.

Bike.

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Greek salad

August 20, 2016 § 29 Comments

I miss Stathis the Wily Greek, and I’m not the only one.

Stathis was like a roman candle. He rose quickly, surpassed everyone, blew up, and then moved on to something else. As strong as he was as a rider, he was a terrible racer, at least to the extent that his results never really aligned with his prodigious physical strength.

I still remember a photo from the Nosco Ride a couple of years ago. Stathis was cresting Deer Creek ahead of some of America’s top pros. He made everything look easy, especially the uphill stuff. By the time he was breathing hard or struggling, you had long been shelled and kicked to the curb.

The best thing about Stathis was the way he took the fun out of it for everyone else. Cycling, unlike running, has a massive delusional component. You can endlessly manipulate the goal posts to feel good about the fact that you suck. This is in fact the business model of Strava.

Not with Stathis. With him, you always sucked. My second-fondest memory of riding a bicycle happened with Stathis. He had dropped the entire Donut Ride and had attacked me at the bottom of Crest. I’d hung on.

We got about a hundred yards past the wall and he drove over to the double yellow line, cutting off any hope of staying out of the crosswind. He looked back and saw I was still there and attacked. I struggled onto his rear wheel. He looked back and attacked again.

It was a look of amusement mixed with contempt. No quarter, no mercy, no adjustment for our age disparity, no respect for effort, just an icy calculation of “Now.”

It was the most deliberate, cool, piercing jettison job I’d ever experienced. He easily rode away. At the top of the radar domes he nodded, barely acknowledging that I was on a bike, and proceeded to crush the rest of the ride.

I savored that flaying for over a year. It’s rare that someone who is both a friend and a cyclist will destroy you so casually and so intentionally. If he’d been a Greek warrior he would have been Achilles.

And Stathis did that to everyone. One friend confided that he had given up the Flog Ride because there was, mathematically, no chance of ever beating Stathis. When the Wily Greek showed up, dreams took flight, the way investments in penny stocks take flight. Away. Forever.

This angered a lot of people because we cyclists cherish our delusions, kind of like Costco shoppers who think they’re superior to Wal-Mart because their conglomerate pays a higher hourly wage to its slaves or because their luxury eyeglass brands are 15% cheaper than at Lenscrafters, as if Wal-Mart, Costco, and Luxottica aren’t different versions of the same terrible thing.

Stathis didn’t allow you those delusions, and for me, reality, always obscured, enhances life the clearer it gets. Embrace death. Embrace the absence of an afterlife. Embrace crazy. Embrace the fact that you will never be good enough to even see Stathis finish. Embrace suckage.

My best day on a bike also involved Stathis, because I beat him on the same stretch of climb about a year later. Maybe he was sick, or tired, or more likely, he wasn’t even awake. Didn’t matter. By destroying and tattering my illusions hundreds of times, my one tiny “first” meant everything. It was stripped of everything except fact. I savor it still.

Now that Stathis has taken up something else, I’ve been riding up to the top of his cul-de-sac street, which I now know is the steepest and longest climb on the peninsula. I keep hoping that one day I’ll get to the end of the road and see him putting on his running shoes or oiling his pogo stick or adjusting the harness on his hang glider, but I never do.

But that’s the benefit of having good memories. They stick around long after the person who gifted them.

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