A star is born!

October 16, 2018 § 16 Comments

Nothing very interesting ever gets into my inbox. But somehow, against all odds & filters, THIS DID!

For starters, if you read this love grenade and didn’t laugh there is something wrong with you. Not wrong as in “you had a bad day” but wrong as in “you are an incurably pompous jackass and probably a smelly, molded over asshole as well.”

Yeah, you.

The greatest bicycle kit controversy ever

No sooner had this awesome seal letter hit the Internet than its author, the infamous SB Baby Seal, began receiving calls to his cell and text messages galore from the Big Orange board. He did what anyone with a brain does when such notifications arrive, that is, he ignored them and kept working.

That’s when the pressure ratcheted and the phone calls began arriving at his place of employment, and, well he had to take them.

It seems that Baby Seal committed two pretty egregious infractions:

  1. He made fun of the Big O 2019 kit, which could hurt sales.
  2. He betrayed the trust and confidence of the club’s private FB group users by copying and pasting unattributed snippets of their comments about the kit, then sending it out in an unauthorized email.

So, let’s review.

There was actually a living, breathing, sentient human being who thought that you could make fun of this:

kits

Yeah. Because these designs are so, uh, serious?

How do you make fun of Green Jizz v. Orange Nutter? Answer: You don’t have to. They are already so juiced up with lobotomy that words, like these ones, are superfluous.

And by the way, these kits weren’t created by a person. They were created by a committee over several MONTHS. If it never occurred to anyone that these were the goofiest fucking things ever to curse the eyes of man, then shame on you twice: Once for not knowing, and twice for proceeding anyway.

The great Facebag betrayal of 2019

With regard to the “betrayal” of the “confidence” of those on Facegag who had an “expectation of privacy” that their “private comments wouldn’t be shared,” I offer you the following legal analysis: Bwaaaaaahaaaaaahaaaaaaa!

You really think anything on the ‘Net in general, and the ‘Bag in particular is private? Did you not read the 42-page EULA that goes along with your Facebook registration? Do you know what the “share” button does? Is this the first time you have ever taken the Internet out for a drive without Dad in the passenger seat? Can I sum FB’s policy up for you?

We can freely monetize and use everything you write or post, including all private data you don’t even know that you are submitting to us.

More juicily:

You are a complete fucking moron if you think Facebook is a private forum. Yep, you.

So to recap, the kits are garishly, over-the-top ridonculous, and no, yimmer-yammer yip-yap on Facebag isn’t attorney work product that’s protected by the attorney-client privilege. WHO KNEW???

All hail the First Amendment

Baby Seal’s newsletter achieved its aim. It pissed off people who think their opinions are beyond criticism. It made people laugh. It garnered a couple of new members for our team, Big Orange, who predictably liked the kit and proved the adage “There is no bad press (although there is unquestionably bad taste).”

And of course it drove a few sales for the Bike Palace. How do I know this? Because immediately after reading it I drove down and bought an inner tube and a Bike Palace t-shirt. You can have my First Amendment when you pry my dead, sweat-soaked Bike Palace t-shirt off my back.

Like the shrunken pricks who send me outraged cancellation emails saying “You made fun of my favorite children’s charity even though it is actually a scam that harms sick children!” or “You don’t wear a helmet which makes you a child molester!” the people who got skewered by Baby Seal deserved it.

Take a deep breath and be thankful that there are still people out there who aren’t afraid to poke fun at the smelly turd you piled onto your plate and tried to tell everyone was actually a filet, and don’t forget to shop Bike Palace or to join my club Big Orange, which despite the occasional stick wedged up its butt, is still a pretty awesome club.

END

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See ya, President Sausage

October 15, 2018 § 2 Comments

It was a sad day for bike racing in SoCal when Robert Efthimos stepped down as president of Velo Club La Grange, but probably not a sad day for President Sausage. After four years of handling the grit, the nit, and the shit that comes with being the figurehead of the biggest racing club in the U.S. and the one with the oldest pedigree on the West Coast, there is no way on earth he can possibly regret not having to deal with emails like this:

Yo, Sausage. My kit that I got two years ago and only have 20,000 miles on has a thread loose on the left inside lower leg panel. Can I get these defective bib shorts replaced?

How do I know he got emails like that? Easy. Because that’s a copy of one I sent.

Of course it’s not true that being El Presidente is thankless. Everyone who knows what the job entails thanks their lucky stars that it was he, not they, who was on a firing line where every shit pistol was loaded, cocked, and aimed at your inbox.

Sausage legacy

Different people will appreciate different aspects of what Robert brought to the job. Some will praise his diplomacy, pointing out that in four years he never shouted, screamed, pulled hair (his own or others), or tossed anyone out of a window.

A different executive would have had heads on platters if someone had tanked up the bitchin’ Mercedes-Benz Sprinter customized race van with gasoline instead of diesel, but not President Sausage. He realized that to err is human, but to colossally fuck up is simply in the nature of bike racers borrowing someone else’s car/bike/race wheels/spouse/etc.

Others will point to President Sausage’s skillful ability to manage and organize teams. Under his watch VCLG’s racing results skyrocketed and race participation blossomed. The women’s racing squad got every bit as much attention as the men’s, and more when it was called for.

Robert always knew how and when to say “thank you,” how to give credit to others, how to leverage the goodwill and dollars of sponsors, how to make sure that the club contributed to broader social and cycling advocacy issues, how to integrate safety and education into the know-it-all culture of competitive cycling, how to have opinions without being judgmental, how to pump up club events like the legendary La Grange Cup, how to accommodate non-racers in a racing club, and how to show respect and appreciation to every member regardless of how fast they rode or what kind of rig they pedaled. Oh, and he was a kick-ass herder of cats.

That’s all well and good. So thank you, President Sausage.

But for my part I appreciated something else.

Watt’s it all about, Alfie?

Robert Efthimos was — and is — a fuggin’ bike racer.

He is a nice guy, sure. Diplomatic, yes. Sharper than any razor. Hell, yes.

But in the competitive sphere he always brought his very best, and as president of a racing club, that is what made the difference. Whether on NPR, Amalfi, the NOW ride, sojourns to the South Bay’s Donut Ride, Telo, or racing the weekend crits, Robert was a fuggin’ bike racer, and a good one.

My best recent memory of him was this year when he magically appeared on the Flog Ride after a 2-year absence. Unbeknownst to me, he was a week away from a state TT attempt and wanted to put the final edge on his blade. He shredded the course (and us) and set a top-10 overall time on a segment that has been raced full gas by national champions.

Not sure how he did in the TT, but I don’t care. He never hesitated to do the hard rides and do his cutthroat best to win.

In my opinion this is part of why he had such credibility and respect among racers and non-racers alike. Ultimately if you are the head of a racing club and you don’t race, everything you say will be heard with an asterisk.

When President Sausage spoke–always in a normal tone of voice, with patience and perspective, there was invariably an exclamation mark at the end, the explanation mark that you can only write with your legs.

END

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We won’t get fooled again

October 14, 2018 § Leave a comment

After yesterday’s bloodbath I went over to Team USA’s hotel to drop off a loaf of sourdough rye/wheat. I figured they can always use some good nutrition.

Daniel Holloway met me in the lobby. “Hey, man, thanks for the bread!”

“Sure.”

“Did you do the Donut this morning?”

“No.”

“Oh. How come?”

“I was, you know, destroyed and unable to walk.”

“From yesterday?”

“Yeah.”

He nodded. “Well, I’ll shoot you a text next week when we have an easy day on the schedule.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m good.”

END

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There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again! Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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Tokyo Olympics, here I don’t come!

October 13, 2018 § 7 Comments

On Thursday night I was really tired, three days into my planned two weeks of rest. I was looking forward to the weekend, where I was going to do a lot of nothing and do it exceptionally well and vigorously.

Shortly before lights out I got a text from Daniel Holloway, he of the many U.S. national crit and road championships, and he of the Madison/Omnium portion of the U.S. national track team. “Ride tomorrow with the team at nine? Five hours.”

I wasn’t sure the text was meant for me, so I texted him photos of the new Big Orange 2019 cycling kit and said, “Can I wear this outfit?”

He immediately pinged back. “I don’t care what you wear. But wear your DAMN helmet.”

“Guess it wasn’t sent in error,” I concluded.

You never get in trouble for coming early except when you do

The ride started at nine so I showed up at 8:30. Everyone was sitting around a table by the pool so I pulled up a chair, realizing belatedly that I had just crashed the team pre-ride meeting. But no one said leave, so I stayed.

I got to listen to the riders talk about the team and also eavesdropped on the discussion that their coach Clay had about the concept of initiative. It was intelligent, well thought out, and perfectly articulated. I’ve never thought about teamwork and about how teams come together, not for ten seconds, ever, much less considered how you get a group of world-class, Type A athletes to work towards a common goal. Getting to listen to a world class program preparing for the Olympics, and getting a glimpse into the different theories of the psychology of success was flat out fascinating.

At the end of the meeting Gavin Hoover announced the route. “Going north,” he said, which sounded awesome because it meant a few hours on the PCH rollers and then back home.  This made sense because it was a track team and you wouldn’t exactly expect these riders to seek out the hardest climbs in the Santa Monica mountains. Throughout the team discussion the riders and Clay had been mentioning the 2 x 15’s on the menu. I knew what a 2 x 4 was and that in Japan carpenters preferred 2 x 6’s, but I had no idea what a 2 x 15 was or why anyone would get such a serious look on their face when they said it.

Someone asked Gavin about exactly where “north” they were going.

“Latigo, Mulholland, then finish on Piuma,” he said, mentioning two of the hardest climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains, and the hilliest arterial highway.

Did someone say “Olympics”?

The only reason I went is because I was invited and it is rude to turn down invitations. I had zero desire to ride with ten world class cyclists in their 20’s, and one or two “old men” in their early 30’s. Why? Because I knew my time with them would either be brief and painful, or long and painful, after which I would get dropped. And not simply dropped but dropped in a completely shattered state, beyond recovery.

To make matters worse, Daniel had introduced me to the group as a “local legend” (mostly false), and a “good rider” (total bullshit). All I could do now was fail big, and I took comfort in my extensive experience doing that at least.

Riding on PCH was an education in itself. Track racers of this caliber literally ride shoulder to shoulder. The gaps and spaces I created were small, but compared to their disciplined riding style my holes looked big enough to drive a truck through. I’m sure the hairy legs and fourteen blinking lights helped instill confidence.

I also realized that virtually all of the riders, even though they were fully dedicated for 2-3 years to the national track racing training plan and racing schedule, were also accomplished road and crit racers. Whatever happened later in the ride wasn’t going to be pretty. For me.

Those fears ebbed as we got one long flat tire change and made two pit stops on the way to Latigo. How bad could it be? The rider I was next to, Jonathan from South Carolina, asked me “How long is Latigo?”

Someone else chimed in. “About 30 minutes,” he said.

I am not a Strava/time/KOM dude, but I do remember that at the peak of his doping career Levi Leipheimer set the record at right around forty minutes.

Every Olympian an amazing story

Although this was not the full track squad, it comprised a good mix of the team pursuit riders, Madison riders, and omnium riders who were going to compete in two weeks’ time at the World Cup races in Toronto. In short, they were peaking, and this was a big race simply because the selection process for Tokyo puts a lot of emphasis on World Cup results. They aren’t decisive, but good results in these big races matter. This wasn’t an early season “team building” training camp. It was a “finishing touches” or “final sharpening” camp, after which the riders would be at their best for a huge international competition.

I reflected on that, too. Riding with the A Team as it peaked for a major pre-Olympic “qualifier.” WTF was I doing here?

Sublimating that for a moment I focused on my riding partner, Jonathan. Four years ago he weighed 300 pounds and was a party-time football player, wrestler, and college kid working in an Asheville, N.C. bike shop. He took up riding, then moved to South Carolina to be near the velodrome, started racing, upgraded to Cat 1 (it’s that easy), made the national team, and decided to target the Olympics. Um, okay.

“I went all in,” he said. “Just threw the whole bowl of spaghetti on the wall and waited to see what stuck.” Apparently it was the most glutinous bowl of spaghetti since Marco Polo came back from China, because from the look of things the whole thing was still on the wall.

“Yeah,” I thought. “Just woke up and now I’m trying to make the Olympics four years later. Happens all the time.”

My other riding partner was Adrian, an accomplished road rider who raced for UHC until they folded last year, then moved on to the track. Adrian juggled a full-time professional racing schedule with … law school.

“Took seven years because I had to do it part-time,” he said. “But doing it part-time was way more affordable, so I got out without any debt.”

“Are you licensed?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “I was injured and had a couple of months’ down time so I studied for the D.C. bar and passed.”

“Ah, of course,” I thought. “Just had some down time so I took a bar exam. Why not?”

The focus and caliber of the riders was as evident off the bike as it was on, and that was disconcerting as we approached the “30 minute” Latigo climb.

2 x 15 is not a cut of lumber

“You doing these with us?” Adrian asked.

“Doing what?”

“The 2 x 15’s.”

“I guess so. I’m here. What are they?”

“We ride for 15 minutes at a prescribed wattage, rest five minutes, then do it again.”

“Is that all?”

He looked at me and smiled. “Yep. That’s all.”

“I mean, that’s all the workout for the whole day?”

“For the whole day.”

“I guess I’ll try. Can I sit on your wheel?”

“Sure.”

“What wattage will you holding?”

“340.”

“Oh,” I said in a very small voice. “I guess I won’t be sitting on for long.”

We started up the climb and I couldn’t believe how easy it was. “Man,” I thought as I pressed down on the pedals, “I am crazy strong, hanging with the pros at 340 watts!”

The first five minutes breezed by, hard but totally doable. “Old Man Power,” I told myself.

The second five minutes were exponentially harder, suddenly. Adrian’s cadence had never varied, whereas I was hunkering, upshifting, downshifting, and doing all kinds of research to find the absolute best draft.

“Is my gasping fucking up your workout?” I gasped. “I can tail off if it is.”

He laughed. “You’re fine, pal.”

I wasn’t fine. In fact, the final five minutes were a gore-soaked horror show and all I was doing was sitting in. The interval was finished, and so was I. All I could think was, “OMFG, he’s going to do another one in five minutes.”

As Daniel explained to me later, “Yeah, these are hard because the first one you’re fresh and so the first five minutes are free as your heart rate is climbing; it’s really only the last seven minutes or so that are bad. But the second one starts with your heart rate already up. You get a one-minute breather and fourteen minutes of pain.”

The second one started and incredibly I hung on. The pain started immediately. I couldn’t believe I was able to hold Adrian’s wheel. I didn’t look at my watch but we were at least halfway through. The pain was unbearable and giant black octopuses were swimming in front of my head. My peripheral vision vanished, and Adrian’s rear wheel swelled up in my field of vision like a truck tire.

“That’s enough,” I thought. “I can quit now. With honor.” I sat up and looked at my watch. I had completed just sixty seconds of the interval.

From bad to worse

Their workout for the day completed, everyone was chatty and relaxed. Except me. I was silent and wasted. Mulholland was horrible beyond any words and took forever. The riders were feeling super happy and I got to witness some of the insane bike skills that make THEM different from US.

Holloway took the entire Latigo descent with one foot unclipped, throwing out his leg at 30 mph into the hairpins as if he were going to drag it.

For giggles.

Adrian did a downhill bunny hop about two feet into the air on Mulholland for no reason at all.

Except giggles.

I lizard-gripped the bars on the Rock Store descent as the group bombed it, and I knew they weren’t even bombing it.

“We’re really going up Piuma, aren’t we?” I asked Daniel.

“I think so,” he said.

At Piuma, Gavin, who looked just as fresh as when we’d rolled out of El Segundo almost four hours prior, motioned for the left-hander. At the very bottom of the climb, before it was even a climb, I came off. “Don’t wait for me,” I told Daniel. “I know the way home.”

The first part of that was superfluous, of course.

The group vanished, I flipped a u-turn and got to PCH via Malibu Canyon Road. At Cross Creek I called my wife. I could barely stand. “Can you pick me up at CotKU in an hour?” I begged.

“Sure!” she said. “Hard day?”

I mumbled, put my head down, and pushed the pedals homeward.

END

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An unforgettably horrible day with Team USA! Please consider subscribing … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

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Junk shop

October 12, 2018 § 7 Comments

My wife went into the Bike Palace today, where she was met by a very nice salesman. “May I help you, ma’am?” he said in that polite way of nice young fellows addressing a grandmother.

“Why, yes,” she said. “I’m looking for some butt cream.”

The polite young man nodded understandingly, as if every grandmother in San Pedro came in daily looking for this product. “I see,” he said. “You mean …” he trailed off.

“The stuff for your butt,” she said. “So it’s not onna raw meat.”

“Ah,” he smiled, relieved, greatly. “You mean chamois cream?”

“That’s it!” she said.

Rustproofing your undercarriage

I’m sure it’s been around for a while, but I didn’t really know there was such a thing as chamois cream until a buddy had a tube of DZ Nuts lying on the counter.

“Whazzat?” I asked.

“Chamois cream.”

“What’s it for?”

“Your shorts.”

“What does it do?”

He looked at me like he was talking to a simpleton. “It keeps your ass from getting raw.”

“You’re joking, right?”

It was a who’s-the-idiot standoff. I think he won.

Back in the days of barnacles

Fact is, I’ve never used chamois cream. Never needed it. Sure, there have been times when my junk has looked like the meat counter at Whole Foods, but when we started riding back in the day that was called “toughening up.”

In the beginning you’d barely be able to walk. Sitting on the bike was like sitting on an oiled and scalding frying pan. Chamois were rough and sometimes you’d wear the same one a couple days in a row. They were made of leather and had a tendency to easily rip open sores and tender spots. You softened them up with sweat and blood and excretions.

In especially bad cases of “toughening up” you’d get gigantic saddle sores, the size of a nickel or bigger, huge bleeding things that were uglier and more disgusting than a cat’s butthole. Once the cysts burst and the poison drained, the whole nasty mess would scab over, you’d ride a few hundred more miles, the scabs would fall off like chunks of tire from an 18-wheeler, and voila, you’d have a nice thick patch of skin as leathery and tough as a mother-in-law.

This was of course the best motivation on earth to keep riding: terror of losing that giant undercarriage callus and having to go through ye olde “toughening up” again.

More to the point, no one would have ever used chamois cream because there was something weak and cheating about it. “You mean you didn’t get sepsis and have festering, open wounds for six months? You call yourself a bike racer?”

The Decision 2018

I stared at that jar of chamois cream on the table. All natural ingredients. Guaranteed to keep things smooth and supple. Antiseptic, organically sourced, extends chamois life and presumably the life of your undercarriage as well.

It was practically calling my name. “Tryyyyy me!”

I looked at it again and reflected on what the last couple of hours of my 240-mile day had felt like a couple of weeks ago. “Shouldn’t I try it?” I wondered.

Nah.

END

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The problem with Starbucks

October 11, 2018 § 6 Comments

Every cyclist, at some time or other, breaks down and gets coffee at Starbucks. There are only so many hand-picked, fair trade, organic coffee shops with a simple drip for $15.99, and when you need a quick buzz or a place with a lot of chairs and don’t want to be surrounded by people reading Sartre and Hegel, well, it’s gonna be Starbucks.

I’ve noticed that in the morning SB is how people feed their kids. Mom/Dad will swoop in with the kids in tow, order coffee, a junk snack, and breakfast for the children. Some parents will sit down at a table and make it breakfast time, replete with conversations about school and the upcoming day. What about privacy and intimate conversations between parents and children? I guess those are off the table, literally.

That kind of makes sense in a twisted way. You get up late, you don’t know how to fry an egg, the clock is ticking, and by the time you’ve gotten your testicles plucked the traffic outside is piling up and the Starbucks is on the way to school drop-off because no kid walks or rides to school anymore.

What I’ve also noticed is that in the evening, the SB inside the grocery store is absolutely jammed, as is the sugar-and-salt buffet manned by Panda Excess. These are mostly teenagers, who are at the SB for dinner, and by dinner all I mean is “calories.” They are hungry, there is no one home, and they “eat” with a massive calorie bomb and maybe a doughy chemical food substitute. Maybe.

It’s not just Starbucks

Home cooking has long been in decline, if by home cooking you mean “I picked some ingredients up at the store, and through preparation at home converted them into a meal.” This is wildly different from “I picked some shit up at the store and microwaved it,” or “We got carry-out, dumped the shit out of the box onto a plate (or not) and ate at home watching TV.”

People don’t cook less because they have less time. They cook less because they are taught from infancy that prepared food is better in every way. Schools serve big brand fast food, and parents really and truly prefer to eat out. I still remember how my mom worshiped at the altar of Jack in the Box french fries, and how, to this day, the sight of a box of greasy fries warms my heart.

Like being able to do basic repairs on your bike, however unprofessionally, being able to do basic repairs in the kitchen has value, a lot more value than paying an international conglomerate to feed you. What if 90% of the time you took your bike to the shop to air up the tires because “I don’t have time to air up my tires at home.”

That’s where bike tech has been going for decades, in fact: Making things so complex that even basic maintenance has to be done outside the garage, or in my case, the bedroom. How many people can get a disc brake working again if they accidentally close the caliper while the wheel is off?

Boozy P., my ace mechanic, might laugh at the idea of me ever doing anything serious to my bike, but he did actually teach me how to take off the bars and pack it myself in a box for shipping. I only almost killed myself once by failing to properly tighten the headset as I rocketed down a cobbled descent outside Vienna. No death, no foul.

In other words, frying up an egg won’t kill you. It’s cheaper. You got time for it. The whole neighborhood won’t be sitting around listening, and even if you totally screw it up, unlike the loose headset, it won’t kill you.

END

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Sharing space

October 10, 2018 § 3 Comments

One of the things that has become clear to me is that people won’t ever understand each other if they don’t share the same space. It’s why you can’t have a fair society when the society is segregated. It’s why you can’t understand a country to which you’ve never been.

We have a lot of foreign countries in Los Angeles, more foreign than Tibet or the forests of Papua New Guinea. They are foreign even though the people who live there speak the same language and travel on the same passport as I do. They are foreign because people from the wealthy communities refuse to cross the color line unless it’s on the freeway.

A couple of weekends ago I went to an event called the Inner City Lites Health Festival held at Jesse Owens Park in Westmont. It featured booths, music, food, information about various health programs, and free expungement services administered by the Office of the LA County Public Defender. The event is in its 15th year and is organized by Mark Johnson, a guy who works tirelessly to make his community a better place.

I stayed for a couple of hours and talked to people. One guy told me that I was only a couple of blocks away from Death Alley, and that Westmont was the deadliest place in LA, if not the nation. Maybe so, but that didn’t put any kind of damper on the festivities, and as I found out after reading up on the matter, most of the deaths are drug-related and occur among the highest-risk group: Young men.

I haven’t been young for decades and my drug trade involves Geritol. No wonder I felt safe. And how couldn’t I? There were dads, moms, kids, and grandparents everywhere, people enjoying being outside together on a splendid fall day.

People were friendly, and I met guys like Lorenzo Murphy, who has a talk show called Compton Politics. Friendliest of all were the cyclists; every neighborhood has ’em! I met Will Holloway of the S.O.LA Real Ridaz, a group that has show bikes, low rider bikes, chromed-out bikes, and that donates bikes to kids. We talked and made plans for a ride, and then started talking about putting on a bike show in the South Bay. Before I left the guys who had rolled out their classic cars invited us to sit behind the wheel and take a couple of pictures.

There are so many people, our neighbors and fellow human beings, who face huge challenges, challenges that we can’t imagine tucked away here in the South Bay. And there are so many people fighting for change, where change means doing things that give kids a chance, where change means a hot meal, clothes, a roof, basic health care, and a job.

Here’s the thing: I would have never ventured over to Jesse Owens Park by myself if my friend Ken Vinson hadn’t invited me to his MVMNT Rides earlier this year. It took someone reaching out, and a bunch of friendly people, to make me feel like I was welcome in a place where hardly anyone looked like me. Ken and his friends taught me that change is possible. Now. Today.

But you can’t be part of that change until you leave those places in which you feel familiar and comfortable. Like travel of all kinds, crossing neighborhoods makes you realize that people are people. And most of all, it makes you realize that you’re not, and never have been, alone.

END

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