June 26, 2017 § 60 Comments
“What the fuck do you mean, this is your first ever dirt ride?”
“Yeah,” SOS said, shifting uncomfortably. “Me and Imprint just got new bikes and wanted to practice some.”
I wasn’t smiling. “This is a terrible place to do your first dirt ride. There’s no dishonor in going home now. You have to go to work on Monday. You guys have families. This ride is no joke. People have finished this thing up in the ICU. Do you really want a catheter up your wee-wee because your spine has been broken in four places?”
SOS and Imprint smiled nervously, unsure whether or not I was serious. “It’s only seventy miles. How hard can it be?”
Jay-Z, whose arm was in a cast, shook her head. “How hard? Look, SOS. It’s going to be the hardest fucking anything you’ve ever done in your life. That’s how hard.”
“Guys,” I said, “you gotta understand. This is no place to do your first ever dirt ride. You can pull the plug now.”
“Why should we?” asked SOS.
“I’ll tell you why,” I said. “Because when you get halfway out and have a bad crash or run out of steam or get a bad case of diaper rash or die, no one fucking cares. Everyone’s just trying to survive. No one fucking cares. Get it? No one. Fucking. Cares. And you will be on your own.”
SOS shrugged. “I’m not scared,” he said.
About that time the motel room door popped open and in came Duct Tape, wheeling her bike into the room. “Hi, everyone!” she said. “Tomorrow’s going to be fun!”
“What the fuck is that?” I asked.
“It’s my bike, silly,” she said. “I haven’t ridden it in nine months, though.”
“And was that last time through a rust pit? What’s that shit on the spoke?”
“Duct tape? On a spoke?”
“Oh, it’s on good, though. I daubed some Gorilla Glue around the spoke holder thingy.”
I looked at her bike, a rusted out $350 Specialized commuter bike with a velcro water bottle cage. “Did any of you people talk to anyone before you decided to come out here?” They shook their heads. “Do you know what the Belgian Waffle Ride is?” I asked.
They shook their heads.
“Do you have prepaid funeral plots?” I asked.
They shook their heads.
I got a splitting migraine. “Okay,” I said. “You’re all going to die.”
“But you’re not hammering tomorrow, right?” asked Duct Tape. “If you’re not hammering I’ll ride with you the whole way.”
“No,” I said, wearily. “I’m not hammering.”
I climbed into the bed, which I was sharing with SOS. “I brought some earplugs,” SOS volunteered. “Do any of you guys snore?”
We all lied and said no and went to sleep. “Me, either,” said SOS. “I lost my septum back in the 90’s.”
Within minutes SOS was snoring like he had a small family of bullfrogs lodged in his chest. Then his alarm went off at 3:30 so I was able to stay up until mine went off at five. Before we left for the ride Jay-Z came into our room. “What time did you guys get up?” she asked.
“3:30,” I said. “SOS’s alarm went off at 3:30.”
“I always get up to go the gym at 4:00,” he said.
Jay-Z looked at him. “You work out?” she asked.
About 120 idiots had shown up to do Joann’s Wafer Re-Do Ride, hosted by Michael Marckx in honor of Jay-Z’s selfless assistance to her teammate who got t-boned by another teammate and wound up in the ICU. However, two weeks before the re-do ride came to pass, Jay-Z shattered her wrist. But of course the show had to go on, and if she couldn’t go as a rider she and Michelle planned to go as sag specialists.
Michael assembled the riders and, posing in front of everyone, surreptitiously ordered that someone “take a picture of my butt.” Then he gave a grand speech. “We’re going to try to keep things together today,” he lied. “Those of you who are more confident and know the course can go on ahead, but the purpose of today’s ride is to stay together as much as possible and get to hang out with our friends.”
This monstrosity of a bold-faced fraudulent utterance went unheeded by the assembled victims, all of whom knew they were dealing with a pathological liar who could no more “stay together” with weaker riders than the sun can orbit around the earth. A few miles into the ride Michael unleashed a vicious attack, splintering the group, which was filled with the weak and infirm, and dashed on to a glorious victory, finishing so far ahead that he was able to shower, shave, and coif before the next finisher even arrived.
It’s thankless work crushing your own re-do training practice friendship ride in honor of a good Samaritan, but someone has to do it.
In addition to winning his training thank-you ride, MMX also arranged for the casual ride to be fully supported in the finest BWR style. Bad Sea Coffee had amazing coffee, hot and cold, throughout the ride, with mobile repairs provided by Velofix, drinks by GQ6, a start-finish venue by the Lost Abbey Brewery, and several sag stations to provide sustenance to the riders.
But back to our story. As Imprint, SOS, and Duct Tape started the first descent, which plunged down a twisting series of soft, awful, suicidal dirt hairpins that had sheer drops on one side and a cliff wall on the other, Jay-Z and Michelle drove up behind them and screamed, “Slow down! You’re going too fast! You’ll kill yourself, you idiots!”
Imprint shrugged and shouted back. “I got disc brakes! I’m good!”
At that moment he lost control and slammed into the cliff wall, which was made of brush and soft dirt, leaving a Wile E. Coyote imprint in the cliff. “Oh my dog!” the sag drivers screamed, as SOS and Duct Tape stopped to see how badly he’d been killed and whether or not they could wrest the gold band off his ring finger before he regained consciousness.
Imprint staggered to his feet and waved his friends on, who were in fact, like all cyclist friends, no friends at all. “I’m fine, he mumbled,” as large brain clots formed inside his skull.
“Maybe,” said Jay-Z, “but your tire’s flat. Get in the car. You’re done for the day.”
“No!” he resisted. “I gotta keep going!”
“Okay, well change the flat then.”
Imprint sighed. “I don’t know how to take the wheel off.”
“How can you not know how to take the wheel off your own fucking bike?”
“It’s new,” Implant said, “and I don’t know how to take off the disc brake axle and thing.”
Jay-Z, who was wearing her best 5-inch platform heels, floppy summer hat, and stripper’s negligee, got out in the knee-high sand and pulled the through-axle, changed the flat, aired it up with the floor pump, then cleaned the rubble out of the disc before pushing him back on his way, all with a shattered wrist in a cast. Having left the starting gate promptly at 7:30 AM, Imprint would not be seen again until almost eleven hours later.
In the meantime, Duct Tape began what would be a series of bicycle-falling-off incidents, some related to the wheel that wouldn’t go around in circles, others to the massive rocks and obstacles in her path, and her final, game-ending crash the result of plain old gravity. She finally gave up and lay on the road side with her hands above her head, in a sort of horizontal victory pose if you will, where the podium is the ground. Jay-Z and Michelle scooped her up and deposited her back at the brewery as they got yet another call, this time from SOS.
“Who is it now?” asked Jay-Z as Michelle’s phone lit up.
“It’s SOS,” she said.
“What does he want?”
“All he texted is a map and the words ‘SOS.’ For reals.”
“You’re fucking kidding me.”
They raced to the pindropped location, where SOS was seated at the roadside, bonked, sunstroked, and mumbling incoherently. “Uber lady,” he said. “That fucking Uber lady.”
“What Uber lady?” asked Jay-Z.
“You know how Wanky told me to pull the plug last night if things got gnarly?”
“Well, I had an emergency.”
“Oh, no. What happened?”
“I got a cramp.”
Jay-Z and Michelle looked at each other. “So?”
“It was a cramp,” he said. “And it really hurt. And that motherfucker Wanky and Patrick and that German girl, when I shouted out ‘Cramp!’ you know what they did?”
“They just kept riding away. They rode away, those fuckers!”
“Wait a minute,” said Jay-Z. “Wanky told you about this last night. I was there. What part of ‘No one gives a fuck about you’ did you not understand?”
“But I thought he was kidding. And then that Uber lady.”
“What Uber lady?”
“So I pulled the plug after I cramped like Wanky said to do and I called Uber XL and the lady came, this black lady in a really nice brand new sedan with leather seats, it was perfect for me and my bike.”
“Yeah, and she took one look at me and she was like, ‘Hell no, I ain’t putting your nasty ass in my car, hell no,’ and then she fucking drove off. That bitch!”
Jay-Z looked at SOS. “Well, you’re covered in white salt that looks like jizz stains and you’re as filthy as if you’d been riding for fifty miles in a sewer, and your bike is covered from stem to stern with grease and dirt, who the fuck would want to put you in their nice car? Except me, of course.”
SOS saw the logic, loaded his bike on the rack, and crawled into the car. “I can’t believe that sonofabitch Wanky left me for dead. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he mumbled.
“Yeah,” Jay-Z said. “Until next year.”
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April 25, 2016 § 8 Comments
I carry around my over-stuffed suitcase of non-courage, zippers broken and shit spilling out, handles frayed, two of the casters broken and the other two wobbling frenetically in opposite directions, only to find that it’s too big to be checked, or that there’s an extra cargo charge of $250, or that the best memories inside have fractured in transit into microtiny carbon splinters, or that the TSA has stolen my prized participant ribbons, or that upon reaching my destination the bag has been shipped to Malaysia on a Dutch flight that can no longer be found but is certainly somewhere over, or more likely in, the Indian Ocean.
The suitcase of non-courage is heavy, too heavy for a mortal to lug, and is so mixed with history and life and regret and misremembrance of things past that I wonder why I continue to drag it around from ride to ride, from race to race, from overwrought faux Grand Fondue to overwrought Faux Fondue.
This is precisely where I found myself on Saturday, another wasted weekend spent in search of that which by definition you will never find, and it was exactly at the nadir of the whole experience that the chaff fell away and the kernel lay, revealed.
I’d been relegated to the sidelines, which was fine, because after completing the first four BWR’s I was done abusing myself for the sake of someone else. The exhaustion and wreckage visited upon man and equipment alike by the Belgian Waffle Ride was nowhere more evidenced than in its effect on the ride’s founder, Michael Marckx, who had finally cobbled together the Dual Divinity: A ride so hard that he was afraid to do it, and a companion easier, shorter, flatter ride that he could actually win. It made me happy to see my friend, after so many years of teeth-gnashing defeats and failures, finally declare himself victor of his own event.
But more than the happiness of seeing Michael hoist himself on the shoulders of the myriad volunteers, friends, and admirers who had come together to make the BWR happen, I saw something else, something that penetrated, at least for a few moments, the hardened shell of skepticism that coats what remains of my battered and tattered old suitcase.
It was the incredible happiness of my friends and comrades at Big Orange cycling who launched into the event with full abandon and reaped the confidence and success that comes from lining up and finishing such a monstrously difficult ride. For the first time in my five years of struggle with this terrible day in North County San Diego, I stood at the finish line cleaned and scrubbed and utterly un-tired and un-hungry, watching in awe as my friends pedaled squares past the big banner, their faces as drained and beaten as any historic shower-stall photo from Paris-Roubaix.
Covered in dirt, many of them sported torn-apart clothing, shattered equipment, bloody limbs, and a kind of disbelief that they had managed to ever get back. One friend collapsed on a table, unable to even remove his helmet. I’ve never seen anyone collapse on a tiny round bar table, standing.
But as each rider revived, some after spending twelve hours battling a course that was simply designed to punish, and as they ate, then drank, then plunged their faces madly into the mounds of ice cream-covered-waffles, smiles began to play and the stories began to roll out.
Stories of fellow riders who simply dismounted and quit. Riders who were carted off in an ambulance. Equipment failures of every variety. Mental failures, physical collapse, “the wall” of endurance, pushing beyond, far beyond, anything they’d done before, and conquering this beast of a ride with sheer desire to complete a ride that the ride’s founder himself didn’t dare to attempt.
Although my suitcase of skepticism no longer has room for flowery praise of the “resilience of the human spirit,” the grandpa in me appears to have room for nothing else. These friends have accomplished something–what they’ve accomplished is unique for each of them, and its significance will really only reveal itself over a rather long period of time. Thanks for letting me sit on the sidelines and cheer you on.
Big O Riders (If I’ve left off your name or last name please add it in a comment!)
Stella de la Vega
Big O Cheerleaders
Big O Saints: These two guys spent the day in Dan’s Jeep covering the route and fixing bikes, providing medical aid, getting injured riders back to their hotels, and serving as roving rangers to protect and serve.
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January 20, 2016 § 11 Comments
It’s that time of year. Oh, wait, no it isn’t.
That time of year is Spring, April 24, 2016 at 8:00 AM sharp.
What now is, is the time of year when you sign up for the Belgian Waffle Ride far enough in advance so that you think you’ll be ready for it. The good news is that you will be! The bad news is that you won’t.
This year’s edition, the fifth, features another leisurely spin through the gentle rolling hills and well-maintained road surfaces of North San Diego County. As in past years, the BWR will be pain-free, fun, easy to complete, and filled with happy conversation as you pedal long miles side-by-side with friends, catching up on family news and philosophizing about life, dark matter, and what’s really going on with Chinese stocks.
Of course there may be one or two riders with a different agenda, and who, rather than seeing the BWR as a casual LSD pedal, see instead a painful mix of dirt, tarmac, water, gravel, and rocky sections buffered on all sides by difficulty, epic challenges, and extremely tough riding conditions.
But what do they know?
Well, they may know this …
Although each BWR has been more monumental than the one before, the 2016 edition is the toughest yet. At 144 miles, it is the longest, has the most dirt sectors, and rarely traverses an intersections. The complexity of the course means that there’s something there for everyone, except those who really want to stop. For them, there will be six major and six minor aid stations, some of which will offer tequila or Belgian ale while still offering water, Coke, and event-sponsored beverages.
Some of the sections are so hard you’ll have to walk unless your name is Phil Tinstman or Neil Shirley. Some of the heroic dirt sections from past years such as Black Canyon, Canyon de Oro, and Lemontwistenberg will rear their ugly heads, but the new challenges of Lusardi and San Elijo also await. The rock garden of Lake Hodges has to be traversed in both directions this year, same as the Mule Trail. Perhaps the best feature is the Highland Valley beatdown, five miles of unvarnished climbing hell out to Ramona where you can contemplate forging ahead or calling it a day.
The only way you’ll find out, of course, is to do the dance and sign up for yet another year of full-gas pedalmashing. Better yet, if it’s your first time you can toe the line and discover what’s so fun about slamming a great waffle-egg-bacon-coffee breakfast, riding hard, competing against the best, capping off the ride with more good food and even better beer, then collapsing in a heap and hoping like hell you thought far enough in advance to arrange for a ride back home.
Registration is here: https://bitly.com/bwrreg2016.
Over the next few weeks I’ll put together a series of training plans tailored to the different needs of the various BWR participants. For now the simplest plan is also the hardest: Ride yer fuggin’ bike.
For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and learn how to survive the BWR. Not thrive. Survive. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!
April 29, 2015 § 29 Comments
The story of the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride was the story of a bunch of people, the majority of whom didn’t even do the ride.
My slog across the dirt and somewhat-paved roads of North County San Diego was essentially a mosaic image of good-hearted volunteers, beginning on Saturday morning when scores of orange-shirted SPY employees began setting up the expo area. The weather was rainy and cold and it seemed as if the day of the big ride would be a true Belgian mudfest, but no one seemed in the least bit perturbed. Dispositions were as sunny as if the sun had been out and forecast for the next 48 hours.
Led by Victor Sheldon, volunteers like Logan Fiedler, Brian Zink, Stephen Lavery, Tait Campbell, Dan Cobley, and a whole host of others sallied forth to put up markers and hammer in wooden staked directional signage for over 125 different turns, many of which were set along dirt paths miles from pavement.
The pre-registration tent was staffed with people who cheerily took on the task of putting names and ID’s to packets, and of course dealing with the inevitable registration snafus of “Where’s my fuggin’ packet?” and “Can I register for my pal Dilbert?” and “I ordered an S but do you have an XXL?” Didn’t matter. They were equal to every task.
The day of the ride everything was more intense by orders of magnitude. A giant start/finish area had to be set up and a short cobbled section was installed, but participants saw none of that effort because we were welcomed to the area, seamlessly and flawlessly, by more orange-clad volunteers. It’s easy to believe that they were smiling at the beginning. It’s incredible that 8 or 9 or 10 hours later they were still smiling and cheering us on as we crossed the home line.
For sheer survival the vast majority of riders could not have finished without the volunteers who staffed the refreshments stands. The bananas, electrolytes, energy gels, cokes, and gallons of water made the difference between finishing and not, and the aid stations provided their services under incredible stress: A group of 20 or 30 would roll up, screaming, gasping, choking, famished, begging, elbowing, and in a matter of seconds each rider would have multiple refilled water bottles, pockets filled with food or gels, a pat on the back, a shout of encouragement, and a push to get going again.
The volunteers did this for twelve solid hours.
Our survival was further abetted by the turn volunteers. Tricky or potentially problematic turns like Lemon Twist and Questhaven (staffed by my friend Serge Issakov), or the turnaround at Del Dios, had small crews to slow or stop traffic, wave us along, and make sure that our safety was paramount. They did all this with smiles and extra bottles of water for those who needed them. The small crew who had set up their own tent en route to Fortuna saved my BWR by plying me with the last two bottles of GQ6 electrolyte. Without it I’d still be out there somewhere, mumbling, dessicated, looking for the beer garden.
Getting back in one piece was also a function of the sheriff’s deputies and city law enforcement who stopped traffic at intersections, provided rolling enclosures for the leaders, waved us through intersections, and made sure that the cagers gave us a wide berth. They were professional, expert, and seemed to appreciate Sam Ames’s giant waffles heaped with ice cream, fruit, and chocolate fudge after their shifts finally ended.
The physical act of survival was one thing, but the mental part was a whole other world. My mind had come unhinged going up Double Peak when up jumped the devil. “Want a push?” he asked.
“Hell yes!” I said, and he gave me a fiery lunge that propelled me yards up the road.
Another bystander watched me flail and gave me another huge push (was that you, Kelsey?), and just as I caught my breath cresting the top I got the cheer of all cheers from Jenna K. who made me feel, despite my earlier faceplant and ragged appearance, like the champion of champions.
Each person who shouted, cowbelled, cheered, encouraged, handed up, and stood out in the hot sun for our benefit made the ride, to say nothing of the bikini-clad babes and guys at the Oasis who bathed our sore eyes in the most beautiful of sights while simultaneously offering us kudos, cold cokes, and a hug if we needed a shoulder to cry on. And we did, right Marvin and Pablo?
Once the ride finished “we” had done our job, but the people running the BWR still had hours of labor ahead of them. The Strava validation table worked feverishly to ensure that riders had in fact completed the route; the Gear Grinder folks cranked out miles of sausage and yards of chicken; the Lost Abbey beer tent loosed the heavenly fermented waters; and David Wilcox at the Rapha tent slung the world’s tastiest espresso like it was last days on earth.
And none of this even touches on people like Maddy I., who poured out the pre-event PR and made sure our inboxes were populated with funny and enticing emails. Trina J. is probably having nightmares from the thousands of emails she got asking if “I could move my registration to next year ’cause I got a boo-boo on my bo-bo,” and if Phil T. ever reads another message starting “Can I get into Wave 1?” he will probably shoot his iPhone. Roving SPY johnnies-on-the-spot like Aden, Zach, and slew of other people whose names I don’t know were always there and always getting ‘er done, whatever the ‘er of the moment happened to be.
In sum, this year’s BWR was so big and so seamless and so well executed that it transcended ride status and ascended to the status of cultural event. And how did that happen?
I’m honored to say that it happened by dint of the imagination, inspiration, originality, and relentless quest for improvement of my friend Michael Marckx. Great things only happen with great vision, and the BWR has, thanks to Michael’s efforts, turned a fun gathering of friends into a broad-based cultural event that spotlights bicycles, food, drink, fun, camaraderie, challenge, and Belgium in the epicenter of Southern California’s bike culture.
Michael’s passion for cycling and his restive will to always make it better than it was before have infused the BWR with a new and funny way of looking at the world. And while I wouldn’t say that pounding the pedals on some dogforsaken stretch of gravel-studded mountain path made me any happier, finishing my fourth BWR and relishing the accomplishment sure did. For that little piece of serenity, we’re all in Michael’s debt.
If you missed this signal good-time-gone-great in 2012, 2013, 2014, or 2015, don’t worry.
We’ll be back!
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April 27, 2015 § 21 Comments
The 2015 SPY Optic Belgian Waffle Ride is a wrap.
It was uneventful for me, except for that one part where I was on Sandy Bandy behind some wanker who was in turn stuck behind a woman who had gapped us out. The guy said, “I’m passing!” and the gal said, “Pass me on the left!”
He did and she moved hard to the left as he passed, sending him sprawling in the sand and scratchy planty things. I was now terrified, and sat waiting for an opportunity to sprunt past. I did but then had a big gap to make up on the receding leaders.
Turning onto a wide dirt road I shifted the U.S.S. Aluminum into the biggest gear and raced to catch up. Dropping my head briefly, when I looked up I noticed:
- There was a 90-degree turn immediately in front of me.
- I was going way to fast to make the turn.
- This was gonna hurt.
And it did. I launched like a SpaceX rocket, hands out, legs akimbo, and face exposed to fully absorb the full impact of the rocks, cactus, and gravel. I lay there for a few seconds, then jumped up and tied my chain into a double half-hitch trying to get it back on the chain ring. A SPY van rushed up and got me going again. My neck throbbed and my legs dripped a mixture of blood and gravel slurry. With more than a hundred miles to go, it was going to be a long day.
But it wasn’t. I had been sent off in the Wanker Division, a/k/a Wave Three, and spent the day sweeping up and spitting out countless riders who had gone off almost half an hour earlier in Preen Wave 1 and Women’s Wave 2. At the end of the ride, numerous finishers came up to me, test-lifted my 30-lb. behemoth with its 38mm bulldozer tires and said, “Think how much faster you would have gone on a road bike!”
Of course, on a road bike I would have died on the very first dirt descent, and if I hadn’t I would have shattered the frame and wheels on my SpaceX launch. Far from hindering me, the heavy bike with massive tires reminded me early on to go slowly and conserve– and it all paid off with a finishing time of 7:42:04, fifteenth in the Wanker Division and good for about 50th overall. Most importantly, I beat Surfer Dan with whom I’d carpooled (he still owes me ten bucks) by .5 second.
There were amazing displays on offer throughout the day, but none more impressive than James Cowan, who attacked early and rode the thing in 7:11, good enough to eviscerate the Wanker Division and faster than all but fifteen riders for the entire day. Moreover, he did it without the help of the Cat 1 peloton’s shelter and speed.
So many riders got to savor the joy of simply finishing. Guys like Dan Kroboth, who dropped 75 pounds over the course of the year and endured a tough training regimen, came away with his first BWR finish. Behind the scenes the event “seamlessly” happened thanks to people like Victor Sheldon, who marked the course, then when the markings were rained on and blown down, remarked it again on Saturday, after which they were blown down again, requiring him to remark the entire course a third time, finishing at 2:00 AM on Sunday. The turns were impeccably marked and made the difference between the BWR being a ride and an Eagle Scout project in orienteering.
As expected, the food at the Gear Grinder grill was off the hook, as finishers were treated to sausage, chicken, and Belgian waffles heaped with ice cream, chocolate fudge, and cardiac arrest. Those who didn’t die immediately were carried off the Lost Abbey beer tent.
For my own selfish purposes, nothing was as important as the hand-ups of GQ6 and Coca-Cola. I swilled both throughout the ride, and wouldn’t have finished without them–that and my secret stash of Trader Joe’s trail mix, of which I ate an entire half-bag.
I was going to write an epic review in twelve parts, but this will have to do. My neck hurts. See you in 2016 … as a volunteer!
Note: What follows was sent to me by my friend Denis Faye, a fellow sufferer and finisher of this year’s BWR, who followed the strict protocol for requesting a mention something on this blog: 1) Be nice. 2) Hit the “subscribe” button.
From Denis: “I started cycling in earnest 2-3 years ago when my friend Steve Edwards (former La Grange, now a dirty MTBer living in Utah) gave me his old Cannondale Cat 5. We’ve been friends for 25+ years and he’s one of the great human beings. Currently, he’s going toe-to-toe with Lymphoma. I wanted to do something to both honor him and make a difference, so I’m doing a Birthday Challenge to raise funds for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. On May 30-31, Kevin Nix and I are riding from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two days. (That’s a little over 450 miles in 45 hours for my 45th birthday.)”
Here’s the FB page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1447394325551415/
Here’s a blog post going into more detail: http://denisfaye.com/2015/03/26/450-miles-in-45-hours-my-birthday-challenge-to-beat-cancer/
And here’s the donation page: http://www.lymphoma.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=306330&supid=418211276
April 25, 2015 § 39 Comments
Today is supposed to be a happy day, as 800+ bicycle riders try to come up with reasonable-sounding excuses as to why they can’t actually participate in tomorrow’s Belgian Waffle Ride despite having paid the $136 entry fee, purchased $3,402.71 in new cycling equipment, and retained the services of a professional coach.
But for me, even though I’m going down to San Diego in an hour or so to help mark the course and pick up my number, it’s not really all that happy. I can’t stop thinking about the refugees from Syria and Somalia who are drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in dinghies, rubber rafts, and leaky vessels, all in order to reach Western Europe.
The US State Department in Washington, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.
[The owners of the boats] knew even before the [boats] sailed that its passengers might have trouble disembarking in [Europe].
The voyage[s] of the [refugees] attracted a great deal of media attention. Right-wing [European] newspapers deplored its impending arrival and demanded that the government cease admitting [the] refugees. Indeed, the passengers became victims of bitter infighting within the government [s].
Many [Europeans] resented the relatively large number of refugees whom the government had already admitted into the country, because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs. Hostility toward immigrants fueled both [anti-Mulsim sentiment] and xenophobia.
This is not an edited clip from a newspaper describing the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s an edited clip taken directly from the online story on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Museum about the voyage of the St. Louis, a German ship filled with Jewish refugees who in 1939 were refused entry to Cuba and to the United States as they fled Hitler’s campaign to exterminate European Jewry, a campaign whose earnestness was shown to all who cared to look in the Kristallnacht attacks of 1938.
Most oblivious to the historical implications of denying entry to refugees are the Australians, who have advised the EU to deal with refugee boats the same way that they do, by simply telling would-be immigrants that they will never set foot on Australian shores, that they will be turned away by military vessels, that no aid will be given, and that if their boats are not seaworthy, they will drown under the watchful eye of the Australian coast guard.
Australia touts the effectiveness of the program. Before implementation, over 1,200 people drowned trying to reach the continent. Today no one dies at sea because the PR campaign has effectively discouraged people from trying. Instead, refugees flee to New Guinea, Cambodia, and other places where the Australian government pays those governments to take in refugees. The governmental payees pocket the money and let the refugees try to “find a better life” in the squalor and poverty of some of the world’s worst slums. “There is lots of work in Cambodia,” one Aussie official was quoted as saying.
But at least the refugees aren’t dirtying up the streets of Sydney, stealing the jobs of white Australians and contributing to crime and unemployment. As in America, white Australians are apparently falling all over themselves to do the brutal, back breaking jobs typically done by immigrants.
As I was doing a BWR prep ride with a small group a couple of months ago, I chatted with a fellow rider about the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would have given amnesty to undocumented immigrant children brought to this country by their parents and who, through no fault of their own, quite literally live in the shadows.
“Well,” he said, “those kids … that was me.”
“What?” I stared in disbelief.
“Yeah. I didn’t have a green card until I was eighteen. I lived my entire childhood as an illegal, and it wasn’t until the amnesty of 1986 that I stopped living in daily fear of arrest and deportation.”
There we were, riding bikes, getting ready for the ultimate expression of privileged, middle aged faux athleticism, chatting about wives, kids, and the “travails” of white-collar jobs. We were both productive members of society–sort of–,responsible husbands and fathers–sort–of, and the beneficiaries of limitless opportunity, but one of us could only have gotten where he was by the stroke of a legislative pen.
And here we’re about to go ride our bikes again as thousands of others are about to embark on a deadly venture across the open sea, ruled by cut-throats, smugglers, and gangs, risking starvation, disease, and death because every one of those outcomes is better than what awaits them if they remain at home.
The Belgian Waffle Ride is about to happen with its supposed hardness, toughness, and difficulty … indeed.
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April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments
It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.
“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”
“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”
“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”
“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”
I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.
And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.
You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)
The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.
Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”
Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”
Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.
So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:
- Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
- Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
- Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.
So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!
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