Mt. Pepperdine

July 11, 2020 § 17 Comments

“What would you do?” I asked Alex, “if your entire bike trip depended on the US Postal Service?”

“I suppose I’d burn my bike and take up golf,” he said.

The launch was slated for 5:00 AM, pointy sharp, but my hand-made, hand-sewn, hand-plucked down sleeping bag still hadn’t arrived despite USPS Priority shipping mailed out five days earlier.

After a bit of research I learned that the sleeping bag was at the Redondo Beach PO. “No prob,” I thought. “I’ll be there at nine sharp, pick it up, and head out of town.”

At the Redondo Beach PO the surly lady told me she “Couldn’t find out where my package was.”

I told her I had a tracking number and the recording told me it was there. She harrumphed and went into the back. She returned. “It’s in PV. Your package is in PV. Went there this morning.”

That was kind of a bummer. My bike weighs sixty pounds fully loaded and the PVPO is a thousand feet of steep and hard climbing. I turned around and climbed back up the hill.

The man at the PVPO wasn’t as surly. “Oh, your package was never delivered here,” he said after reading a computer printout.

“Where is it?”

“It got sent to Redondo by mistake and now it’s at the central routing station in downtown LA. Should be back here in a day or two.” He paused because it was Friday. “Business days, I mean.”

“Well, my address change was supposed to go into effect today.”

“Where’s your new address?”

“Long Beach.”

He sucked on his teeth. “Ah, well, they’ll send it there, then. But since it has a PV address it may come here first. Then we’ll send it on to Long Beach.”

“About how long will that take?”

“Not long. You should have it by middle of next week. Early week after next at the latest.”

I left the PVPO and rode back down the hill to the REI in Manhattan Beach. My new REI sleeping bag only cost $369. Added to the one that was at the post office and presumably on its way to Long Beach, I was now the proud owner of a $669 sleeping bag.

I was now ravenous so I got some food at Trader Joe’s if food is what you call it. At 12:30 I’d been on my bike for about four hours and had ridden ten miles up the road.

The afternoon headwind had begun in earnest. I vaguely recall Eric Hallander saying “Don’t go north. It’s too windy.”

And I clearly remembered Dave Jaeger’s text from this morning. “North? That’s a headwind all the way.”

Apparently it was. By the time I got to Pepperdine hill in Malibu I was crushed and my legs cramping. Midway up, a badass zoomed by me, then cracked. Pride being pride, I chased him and dropped him. But exhaustion being exhaustion, I stopped at the top of the hill and cried a little.

The PCH traffic was worse than I have ever seen it. Every park, every beach, every restaurant was packed. People were driving fast and passing me close. That’s the thing about LA. People love living here so much they are willing to kill you to leave it.

By Trancas I was double bonked. I stopped at the Rich People’s Grocery Store and bought chicken, an onion, two mushrooms, a jalapeno, some olive oil, a baguette, and some wet wipes. I pedaled on forever into the headwind until I got to Sycamore Canyon Campground; the whole day took about nine hours and I was only a few miles out of LA, in Ventura County. I had a secret reservation for a small piece of dirt under a beautiful tree off the MTB trail hidden by some bushes.

I took a wet-wipe shower, which was refreshing and reminded me how much good stuff was in my lungs after all those miles through LA and along PCH. I thought about doing a Donald Trump lung bleach cleanse but didn’t have any bleach. I checked my phone which said, “No service.”

Tomorrow was kind of vague. How far would I go? Would I even go? Had I made my point? What was my point? Is the food any good in State Park Campground Violators Jail?

I dumped out my bags and took out the food.

First I gnawed on the baguette, covered in peanut butter. Then I unpacked my shit, cut the vegetables and put the chicken in the pan. It was so good, but not good enough to resolve the aches everywhere, and the realization that if the rangers found me I’d be in hot water. I spread out my pad in the dirt. A cool breeze flowed over me. The birds sang and squabbled; an Anna’s hummingbird buzzed in to see what I was doing.

Inside the grove, which was a mile or so up the trail, there was no hint of cars or traffic or PCH. It was perfectly quiet and calm. The air was fresh and sweet. The leaves smelled like wet incense.

Mountain bikers whizzed by but they couldn’t see me because I was hidden in the grove. I listened to them talk. One group had a dad and a couple of kids. “Shift! Pedal! Shift! Pedal!” he yelled. He didn’t seem happy.

But I was.

Day 2: This is going to be the shortest trip to the Canadian border ever. I got up at 5:00 and was destroyed. Getting into the grove in daylight the day before had been hard; I’d had to climb over dead trees, limbs, bodies, and piles of etcetera, but getting out at dawn was Rambo-esque. I punctured my thigh on a wooden prong and almost tore off my rear derailleur.

The whole night I’d been parched but afraid to go to the campground and get water. As I sneaked out of the site I saw multiple empty sites (so much for “booked til 2022”), and realized that all the park department’s fucks had been given back when the covids came to town; I could have drunk, crapped, and danced a jig-cum-Chaucer recitation and no one would have noticed or cared. More the point I could have snagged one of those posh tent sites.

At the Rock I made coffee and oatmeal, my arithmetic was 8,000 kcal expended since the day before and 2,500 kcal taken in. I was going to look great in my bikini when I finished my trip on Monday.

I finished breakfast and hoped to make Santa Barbara by 9:30. Then I’d recharge everything, eat a second breakfast, some pancakes, and a house, call it a day around noon or one, eat another house and maybe a garage, and find some more dirt to roll around in for the night. It didn’t work out that way.

In Ventura I was passed by one of the huge morning Saturday rides and I’d been battling this fucking headwind since dawn so I hopped in. They weren’t thrilled to have the guy with panniers and the wool jersey and sneakers but try as they might, and mightily they tried, they couldn’t shell me. I got a huge tow all the way to Carpenteria, my bike making increasingly weirder sounds but I was focused on not getting dropped because ex-bike racer.

Some chick was driving the whole thing like a motor and I was first impressed until I noticed she was hardly pedaling and oh, she had a kickstand, and oh, she actually had a motor, I mean a motorcycle, I mean e-bike. Whatevs.

No one spoke to me until the very end but then they were very nice. I pulled over to take off my sweater and then decided I’d check the funny clacking clunking noise. Turns out my whole fucking rack was about to come off and commit suicide (and felony murder) by leaping into the rear wheel. The bolts had all loosened and I’d been going so fast with the group (25? 30?) that everything was whomperjawed. There wasn’t a warning sign on any of the equipment that said “NO SPRINTING” “NO DRAFTING AT THIRTY GOING OVER ROUGH SHIT.” Clearly defective and a great lawsuit.

As I diassembled the rack to try and get it to sit straight, two cyclists rode by. “Hey Seth!”

I looked up and saw Ted Conrad and Stephanie Lin out on their morning pedal. I was sweating and bent over and cursing. We chatted for a few seconds. “Didn’t recognize you there with all that hair!” said Ted before they kept going.

In Santa Barbara I was bonked, late, and desperate to find the McDonald’s so I could charge up my phone and load up my gut with a couple of Big Macs. I got to the end of town on State Street and all those stupid rollers, whipped into the Mac and found out that there was carryout only so no phone/laptop charging. I got worried but felt better after the two Big Macs, so good that I went and ordered two more. The guy looked at me funny. “You eating all those?”

“Yes. I need them to survive.”

“Nice problem to have.”

I sat out back of the restaurant with a crow that wanted some of my leftovers but there weren’t any. I looked into a hotel and called a couple of friends to see if they would come pick me up. Fuck the Canadian border. It’s closed anyway. They all pretended they weren’t able to pick up their phones, so I rode on to Goleta hoping to find a Starbucks that would let me charge my shit. I found one but the manager had to take it in the back because they don’t allow unattended phones in the store and seating was outdoors only.

People on the patio seating were stoked to see me pull out my t-shirts, socks, underwear, and snake skins as I dug into my pack for my charger. I’d decided to forge on to Capitan State Beach where there would be no food, maybe no water, probably no camp sites, but a lot of wind and hopefully some sand. A brief reconnoiter of the map, but only brief enough to realize I’d done the LA-CAN equivalent of going down to the corner for some milk, confirmed that tomorrow and Monday would be eternal, lonely, and devoid of any reasonable place to to do anything reasonable. Fortunately my trip was everything but reasonable so, np.

At the stop light in Goleta a truck rolled up and the driver stuck his head out the window. “Bahati shorts? On a touring bike?”

“You know Rahsaan?”

“I’ve known him forever!” Then the light changed and the Bahati buddy sped off.

This really has been a terrible mistake.


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Take only Molteni, leave only citations for illegal camping

July 9, 2020 § 32 Comments

Here is the one thing I’m taking on my bike trip that is indispensable, and it isn’t the bike.

As I get closer to my 5:00 AM Friday departure, it’s looking less and less like that I’ll get as far as San Francisco, much less the Canadian border. If it turns out to be a 3-day trip to Ventura and back, I’ll be a touch chagrined.

Here is what made the final-final cut.

Rain jacket, wool hat, cycling jeans, tent footprint, maps, u-lock, wool socks, t-shirt.

Base layer shirt, fuel, stove, spark striker, matches, socks, wool gloves, salt, pepper, pot, pan, pan gripper (stowed inside the pot/pan).

Dried tomatoes, oatmeal, sponge, Skippy, extra baggies, walnuts, granola.

Tent, light, front carry-bag.

Jersey, egg holder, tights, bibs, socks, underpants, jacket, space blanket, wool sweater, passport, notebook.

Arm warmers, wool jersey, shorts, socks, gloves, sunglasses.

Sleeping pad. Not pictured: Laptop, phone, charger, wallet, sleeping bag, pen, multitool, pocket knife, Yeti cup, toothbrush, floss, shoes. The sleeping bag hasn’t arrived yet, so if it doesn’t get here today I’ll be leaving whenever it comes.

I’d like to say I’m brimming with confidence, but with campgrounds closed, the covids on the loose, and a general sense of global disarray … we’ll see.


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July 8, 2020 § 35 Comments

Velo Club LaGrange hosted a meeting on Zoom last night to discuss racism and violence against blacks in the context of Black Lives Matter. They began the day before in style, with one of their board members re-tweeting a message that said something to the effect of “If black people can say ‘black power,’ why can’t white people say ‘white power’?”

The answer of course was that they can, and if they re-tweet such things they will be swiftly encouraged to resign and then the remaining board members will dance around a camp fire with the offending member’s head on a stake.

Which is pretty much what happened.

And although some people might think it’s a bad sign when a mostly white club warms up an anti-racism discussion with a good ol’ fashioned racist re-tweet, I think it’s perfect because it shows how profound the problem really is. You can’t even talk about racism as a problem without some bonehead modeling his Thin Blue Line license plates, or unrolling his Confederate flag, or showing everyone the KKK tattooed on his armpit.

VCLG’s ex-president Robert Efthimos did a good job putting the meeting together, but no one really wanted to talk about racism in VCLG except in vague terms; i.e. no names were named. Moreover, when I asked the black panelists about racism in local cycling clubs and what could be done to address it, Anthony Freeman said something to the effect of, “Racism isn’t just in cycling clubs, it’s everywhere.”

I could almost hear the collective Zoom of white cyclist relief. “Whew. It’s everywhere. And goodness knows we can’t fix everywhere.”

And that is the problem. Any time a white person talks about racism in an open-minded way, or tries to listen to the plight of blacks in the U.S., that white person then immediately pats herself on the back. “See? I’m listening to these black people. I’M NOT A RACIST, EVERYBODY. SEE?” And then the white people and the black people all shake hands and the white people are happy AF and go home and have a nice bottle of anti-racism wine and the black people go back home and get murdered by a cop.

Not a single person brought up the racist re-tweet by ex-board member Joe Duerr. Not one. Not a single person said to Jaycee Carey, Robert Efthimos, Rich Hirschinger, or the other board members at VCLG, “What the fuck is wrong with you people? Everyone knows that Joe Duerr is the world’s nicest guy and also the world’s staunchest supporter of the cops, appears to be a hard-core Trump supporter and arch conservative, and has never done one fucking thing to use his vast wealth to meaningfully address racism in his own cycling club. And this guy is your board member? And you’ve tolerated him for this long? What the fuck does that say about you?”

I’ll tell you what it says.

It says that that as an organization, VCLG is racist.

It says that Joe Duerr is racist.

And here’s the other thing: It says that I’m racist, too–I’ve belonged to VCLG and never showed up to a board meeting demanding that my membership money be used to recruit blacks or fund blacks in cycling. If you’re going to hang Joe Duerr out to dry, and brother does he ever deserve it, what about everyone else? Do we get a pass because we logged onto Zoom in our underwear?

Until we all come clean and quit talking generically about the racism of other people and start talking about our individual complicity in racism and our personal duty to fix it, it’s all a big steaming pile of bullshit. Black people have been robbed at gunpoint for over 400 years and they’re being robbed at gunpoint today. What’s your individual commitment to giving them back the money that your forebears stole, and that you are stealing right now, today?

The black panelists let VCLG know they appreciated the forum. They thanked the white people for taking this important step. They moderated their feelings. They kept the racism impersonal. They kept their comments within the paramenters of “at least we’re talking which is better than being ignored or killed.” But I think there comes a point when white audiences also need to hear this:

  1. You are all a bunch of fucking racists and we’re sick and fucking tired of your shit.
  2. Give us the money now.

The stories that the black panelists told were gut-wrenching. Stories about the daily grind of harassment and abuse, the emotional toll of being constantly beaten down, the humiliation and anger at being told a pool was for “whites only” or that an obviously functioning toilet at the Ranch Market in Palos Verdes Estates wasn’t working. They told of the bitterness at not having a single white “friend” reach out to talk with them about the murder of George Floyd, of the personal breaking and despair at the police murder of Elijah McClain, a 140-lb. self-taught violinist who played music to abandoned animals in a shelter. They told of being forced to whitify their language, their clothes, even their earrings to conform and deny their blackness, even as white society steals their culture, adopts it, makes millions from it, and leaves its progenitors broke, in jail, or dead.

Some of the panelists talked about the small pieces of racism in local cycling. The South Bay racist who told Tony Sells to “get his ass to the back” after taking a pull; the unfriendly reception of a sole black rider at an all-white ride, and of course, saddest of all, the gratitude of a new black cyclist at being treated well and having someone buy him a cup of coffee after the ride.

Why saddest of all? Because the exclusion and marginalization of blacks in cycling is so great that simply buying someone a cup of coffee is a powerful and memorable statement, a reminder that even though most people are complete fucking racists, one or two can break out of the role and be decent every now and again.

The panelists spoke strongly about the offensiveness of “I don’t see color,” about finding “She’s black, put her in the back” being scrawled on a job application, and about the daily fear for a child’s life because he’s a large black male. It was a brutal cascade of reality that represented only the tiniest sliver of black reality in 2020.

On an extremely positive note, Anthony and Ken Vinson told listeners that white clubs should spend their money to recruit black cyclists, to support black businesses and black race teams. There was at least the beginning of a discussion of specifically, what money should be spent where. And that’s not only positive, but VCLG deserves credit for doing what no one else in the cycling industry has done, which is try to fix their own shit.

As they say in the drinkypants world, you can’t fix your problem until you admit you have a problem. VCLG has owned up, or is in the process of it. What about Origin? South Bay Wheelmen? Big Orange? Do they have a racism problem? [Hint: Of course they do.] And what are their plans to address it?

I hope VCLG has another meeting and I hope it cuts to the chase. How much of their budget are they going to dedicate to black clubs, black recruitment, support of black bike shops like those run by Ennis Looby and George Turner? How much of their individual wealth are individual LG board members going to begin spending on black businesses, or simply transferring en bloc to black non-profits, community groups, or into the cups of homeless drug addicts begging on the off-ramps?

Support and talk is great but this is ultimately about money. How much are you going to spend, where are you going to spend it, and when?

Almost 120 people listened in, an astounding number when you consider how little time cyclists have to devote to anything other than riding, recovering from riding, reading about riding, and #socmedding about riding. Do those listeners think they’ve done their civic duty, and are now absolved from being racists until the next murder?

I saw so many people thank the panelists at the end of the session. Were those gestures soon to be followed by money? Or were they simply another example of happy white people who’ve been given another anti-racist pass for the day?

I also hope that the black cycling community takes this opportunity to make demands. Not suggestions or requests but demands. “This is what you have stolen and this is what we want back.” And where the hell was Elijah Shabazz? I bet he would have said “Y’all nice, give me my fucking money that y’all stole.”

It might also be nice to hear names get named. It was awesome to hear the Ranch Market in PVE get called out because that place serves the most overtly and proudly racist clientele in the South Bay. How can people accept that their friends and cycling family are racist if everyone’s anonymous? How can people change if they aren’t made incredibly uncomfortable?

Robert felt the discomfort and it was evident on his face. He knows he’s part of the problem and he knows that the rest of us are too. But to paraphrase Rahsaan Bahati, “Leaders, you need to lead.” What a concept, that the people who run cycling clubs are responsible for that club’s approach to racism. Joe Duerr got the boot in the ass he so richly deserved, but he doesn’t deserve to be a scapegoat. He’s got lots and lots and lots of company because silence is compliance.

Some people may need a lump of sugar with their medicine, but I don’t. The time for understanding racism is past. If you don’t know that we exist the way we do by virtue of slavery, and if you don’t know that we continue to tax black dollars, black minds, and black lives in every sick way conceivable, you are an illiterate fool who lives with his head willingly jammed into the sand.

Racism isn’t an “issue” any longer, it’s a fact. What comes next? Cash, I hope, on the fucking barrelhead.


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Celebrate good times (come on!)

July 4, 2020 § 26 Comments

Okay, so I’m no flag-waver. But I’ve always recognized that I was lucky to be born where and when and to whom I was born.

When I was a kid I loved the 4th of July because, firecrackers. And barbecue. And because it seemed a thousand years away from the end of school and two thousand years away from the beginning.

The 4th was always one of those holidays that seemed safe. I didn’t have to pray to the Jesus I didn’t believe in or feel weird because everyone else did. No presents, which was a bummer, but the bonus was that I didn’t have to buy any, either.

Unlike Thanksgiving there wasn’t a giant dead bird in a pan, there was a giant dead cow on a grill. Plus it was hot, everyone was in the backyard, the adults were all drunk by noon, and the kids could therefore do whatever they wanted.

As a kid I had read all the “We Were There” history books in the school library, and especially loved “We Were There at Lexington and Concord.” The Revolutionary War seemed so pure and simple. Evil Britain came to tax our tea parties, so valorous silversmiths fought Indians while building the Transcontinental Railroad as George Washington fought the Battle of Valley Forge as Thomas Jefferson wrote the Constitution and Ben Franklin invented electricity while flying a kite over the Delaware River as King George was slain by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys over by Mt. Rushmore.

It was an exciting time for a little kid to live, and the 4th was the perfect day to celebrate the final conquest of General Thomas Jefferson at the head of the ragtag American army singing La Marseillaise and Yankee Doodle as they whupped the bloody British at the town of New Orleans.

As I got older and rode my bike more I got more skeptical about everything. I saw things on my bike that didn’t comport with Admiral Jefferson’s siege of Vicksburg and his “damn the torpedoes” assault in Mobile Bay. I turned over “all men are created equal” in my mind as, pedaling, I saw that not only were men created unequal, but far worse, they were treated unequal.

And then as I got really older, the new history about Jefferson’s stature as a benign slaveholder began to trickle out of various scholars’ pens until it became a torrent, then a tsunami. This article in the Smithsonian from 2014 makes it clear that Jefferson was a rapist who ordered the torture of the small children enslaved in his nail factory. His never attempted ideals about the equality of men were, by the 1790s, dead and gone with his arithmetical discovery that simply owning slaves earned a guaranteed 4% profit due to what he termed their “increase.”

In plainer English, this means that he had calculated, had put a number, to the true economic value of slavery, which lay in the sexual intercourse and impregnation of people held against their will, leading to the birth of infants who in turn became slaves and producers of more slaves. The beauty of the equation for Jefferson and every white male slaveholder? Jefferson the pedophile could literally fuck his way to wealth. The more children of child-bearing age he raped, the richer he became. It’s undisputed that the genetic link between Jefferson and his slaves began at least with his father’s rape and fathering of slave children, and that the African and English commingling of genes continued throughout Jefferson’s life. No serious scholar seriously disputes that Jefferson had continual sex with enslaved women and children throughout his life. Because they were enslaved and thus deprived of free will, by definition, there was never consent. Not one time. Never.

So what is it we’re celebrating when say that July 4th is a holiday? Are we celebrating a nation that was founded on a principle, “all men are created equal,” when it’s undisputed that the author of that phrase believed nor practiced nothing of the sort?

Are we celebrating the Constitution, a formalist, legal, slave-holding document dedicated to the maintenance of the slave trade and of slavery?

Perhaps we’re giving a thumbs-up to the “long con” that led to the theft of land and dispersal of Native American communities?

I think that we all need holidays. They’ve been around as long as there have been people, days to celebrate myths, foundational stories, births, deaths, resurrections, and the mysteries of the universe. We need holidays, “holy days,” to remind us that we’re parts of a whole, a whole that we’ll never really understand of fully grasp.

And as I was pedaling up a long hill yesterday, thinking about the evil of my slaveholding forebears, I also thought that we need July 4 as well, as a holiday to think about, contemplate, and reflect on the extent to which this nation exists by the grace of its black citizens, their contributions to our national weal, their ongoing struggle, and our duty, today, to do something about it.

The Independence Day we all need is the the one that gives us independence from the lies of the past and lets us depend instead on what we all know to be right, the simplest law ever made: Do unto others.


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Let’s talk about racism in cycling

July 2, 2020 § 10 Comments

I got an email from Robert Efthimos, the deposed president of Velo Club La Grange, and it wasn’t a plea for me to take up his appeal to get him reinstated. Robert knew that the statute of limitations had long passed, and as an attorney he was well familiar with Bush v. Gore, which holds, and I quote:

Any time a President appoints someone to the Supreme Court, that appointee is obligated to twist the laws in the appointing President’s favor.

Bush v. Gore, 2001

So, SOL.

Rather than requesting legal services, Robert wrote to ask if I’d give some digital oxygen to an upcoming Town Hall Meeting that’s going to feature black panelists who talk about racism in cycling.

My first objection was simple. “Is it going to actually be in a town hall?”

You see, I hate it when things are called “Town Hall meetings” when in fact they are a bunch of people on Zoom sitting around in their undershorts with the camera trained above the waist. In fact, if actual town hall meetings had panelists and attendees in their underpants, I’d probably go to all of them.

Robert confirmed that although it wouldn’t be in an actual town hall due to the covids still running around and biting people on the foot, he assured me that no one would be in their underpants. I wasn’t sure how to take that.

But hard as it is to set levity aside in the time of the covids, I’m writing to say that Velo Club La Grange has taken a step that is long overdue and that is a model for every other bike club out there. They’ve issued an unequivocal statement about violence and racism and they’ve committed club time and resources to doing something about it.

Here’s their statement. Its bullshit content is exactly zero. Please listen up.

Velo Club La Grange believes all Black lives matter.

The senseless killing of George Floyd in Minnesota followed a long line of acts of intolerable violence against Black Americans. As cyclists and persons of conscience, Velo Club La Grange stands together in solidarity with our Black members, other Black cyclists, and the entire Black community, as we commit as an organization to address violence and racism against Black Americans.

As a club, we will not be passive in our condemnation of racism, injustice, and violence. It is in times like these when we need to come together to drive essential change. As the first step in our efforts to listen, understand, and take action against racism, on Tuesday, July 7 at 7 pm PDT, we will be hosting a virtual Town Hall where a number of local Black cyclists have agreed to share their perspective and experiences and then engage in an interactive question and answer session. While hosted by La Grange, the Town Hall is open to all. Please make a note on your calendar to attend the Town Hall on Tuesday [July 7, 7:00 pm PDT] at We hope you will join us for this critically important conversation.

Velo Club LaGrange Board Statement, July 2020

I plan to attend, and I hope that you do, too. Whether you’re in California or not, if your club hasn’t taken a stand on this issue, this will be an important and helpful example of how to go about turning the lens of racism away from “others” and onto yourself. It is crucial to understand that George Floyd wasn’t simply killed by a few bad cops. He was killed by all of us.

Because to be blunt, La Grange desperately needs this. It is an overwhelmingly white, West Side club that has incredible resources, few of which are directed to recruiting black members or building alliances with black clubs–of which Los Angeles has innumerable ones. Even though the La Grange board has unstintingly supported the All Clubs BBQ for the last two years with participation and cash on the barrelhead, and even though VCLG has done far more than most other white clubs, that’s a low standard and this Town Hall meeting is a recognition of that fact.

“It’s always someone else who’s a racist,” I once heard a black woman say, and she’s right.

This type of engagement is also a challenge to South Bay clubs like BCCC, Big Orange, Ironfly, Southbay Wheelmen, Origin, and numerous others who do little or nothing to build alliances and provide financial support to black cycling communities. Of all the things that the covids have done, they’ve smashed the reason for being that has driven so many #profamateur clubs, which is to preen for the weekend beatdown/beatoff.

Black clubs too have an opportunity. Clueless white people are becoming dimly aware that this thing called racism may actually be part of their cherished cycling club. “I don’t see color” asshats who lurk, troll, infect social media, and quietly maintain the lily white status quo of so many clubs are getting some sunshine and they don’t like it. This is where black cyclists can speak up and do it forcefully.

For years the South Bay has had one black voice that is unapologetic, undiplomatic, always willing to tell it from the black perspective, and the more white people it offends, the better. That guy is Elijah Shabazz. A chorus of black voices willing to talk in a straightforward, uncompromising register is exactly what we all need to hear.

And then after hearing, we need to do something the fuck about it.

Thank you Robert and the VCLG board for putting yourselves in the crosshairs, and even more, thank you to the black panelists willing to lead the way.


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Fear of fridgelessness

July 1, 2020 § 13 Comments

I have a veritable Christmas tree of self-delusions, each one a sparkly ornament that I take down, gaze fondly at, stroke lovingly, and hang back up when I’m done with it.

Perhaps my biggest and most beloved delusion is that I’m a minimalist. Of course, that’s the last thing I am, more of a maximalist. Minimalism is less chic-ly known as poverty. The global standard for that? Living on $3.20 per day. Or less. Is your average living expense $5.50 per day? You’re no minimalist, and in many countries you no longer even qualify as especially poor. Kind of moving up, sorta.

Absolute minimalism, a/k/a extreme poverty, where you subsist on the narrow black line between life and death, begins at $1.90 a day. Are you rich enough to support yourself with expenditures between $10-$20 per day? Then you are squarely in the global middle class. More than $50/day? Globally you’re a high earner at $18k per year.

So anyway, I’m no minimalist. Yet.

However, I’m not exactly awash in things, which people sometimes confuse with minimalism. One of the things I’m not awash in is housing. Later this month I’ll be officially homeless. Now please don’t misunderstand. It’s temporary (maybe), it’s by choice, and I’m not sure if you’re really homeless as long as you have a trick bikepacking tent that cost nearly $500, a JetBoil stove, and, uh, a credit card that works. Also, once my bike trip ends, if my bike trip ends, I may decide to pay for a fixed abode again. Henry Thoreau could only hack the beauty of solitude for two years, two months, and two days before he abandoned Walden Pond, never to return.

Part of elected homelessness has meant gradually getting rid of various things, mostly by Craigslist. The last big thing with which I parted was my fridge. I don’t think Thoreau had one of those.

For the most part, the departure of each thing, be it a couch or a bed or a dresser, has been accompanied by the feeling of a giant thing being lifted off my nuts. And that feeling of relief, of being unencumbered by yet another thing, has been wonderful. Do I really need ten suits? That would be “nope.” Can all my clothes fit into a medium-sized cardboard box? That would be “yep.”

But when the guy lugged my fridge out of the apartment, well, things got real. What was I gonna do with all my fresh food? Of course “all my fresh food” meant a couple jars of starter, a tub of ice cream, some bacon, eggs, milk, salad dressing, a few vegetables, and some parsley.

Naturally, I ate it all. Which felt pretty good!

But after that the raw panic set in. The only things left to eat were things. Over the last year I’ve whittled my grocery shopping down (so I told myself) to only having a couple of days’ worth of food, but when Mr. Frigidaire left, I realized that “couple days’ worth of food” was indeed an ornament on the Christmas tree of delusions.

So now all the fresh food I eat isn’t refrigerated. No more chicken sitting around for four or five days. No more gallon-milk purchases. No more week’s-worth-of-carrots.

In synch with those living on $1.90 per day, I have to figure out what I’m going to eat tomorrow today, because if I don’t there isn’t going to be any eating tomorrow. Things get focused and the extraordinary wasteful lives we lead comes more into focus. For example, at the store yesterday I saw a guy loading his cart with a dozen frozen dinners while I eyed, with equally greedy eyes, an onion and a potato. And frankly, I think my dinner was better than his.

Are refrigerators a political issue? They kind of are. Setting aside the cost of the thing, you spend about $200/year to run it if it’s an older model. Newer ones cost as little as $40/year, but that’s offset by the high cost of the fridge itself. So in addition to the costs of ownership and operation, which are pretty tolerable when compared to, say, SRAM e-tap, you have to consider the real cost of the fridge, which is all the shit in it you never eat and ultimately throw away.

Every couple of years my mom used to clean out her freezer. It was always a game of “What is that?” as she’d haul out some freezer-burned hunk of nastiness and toss it in the trash. The back corners of her veggie bin were also ripe places for fermentation of all sorts. Nor was she an outlier. Americans waste a pound of food a day through spoilage. That turns out to a whopping 150,000 tons of food per year, almost as much as the average cyclist wastes in out-of-fashion kits that get tossed into the dumpster, or worse, pushed to the back of the kit drawer never to see light of day again.

Cost-wise, though, an Igloo cooler is even more costly. That’s because in SoCal a bag of ice runs about $4 and lasts for only two days, three at the most, totting up over $700/year if you’re going to refrigerate a few food items with ice.

Now that the fridge has gone, the panic has receded after less than a week. I’m shopping day-by-day. And I’m eating way less. And I’ve lost five pounds, which I’m not sure is the greatest prep for an extended bike ride up the coast. More than the five pounds, though, I’ve lost the weight of all those things I never liked, never really needed, and never really wanted anyway.

But still … not having a tub of ice cream to wash my hair with at 3:00 AM … that, I miss.


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Happiness is $2.99

June 30, 2020 § 48 Comments

Well, actually $2.96 after PayPal takes its bite.

It’s not often I take the time to thank my subscribers, but I’m doing it now. Here’s how it works. You sign up for a monthly subscription and every month PayPal charges your card and sends me a little notice via email.

The notice says “You Received a Payment,” and lists your name and the amount, $2.99.

Do you know how that makes me feel? Pretty darned great. To you maybe it’s only $2.99, or maybe to you $2.99 is a real expense. Either way, I get those little notifications and feel happiness, satisfaction, and the dopamine rush that comes when a few bucks find their way into my pocket.

Why happiness? Because every subscription makes me a professional writer. I may be a lawyer or a cyclist or a memorizer of Chaucer, but I’m also someone who makes a partial living as a writer. That’s thanks to you.

And truth be told, thanks to you I could quit my day job and still live on my blog subscriptions. On oatmeal. In a tent.

All you have to do is google “how much money do bloggers make” and you’ll see that everyone who blogs is a millionaire. Blogging is easy! You work in your underwear! You spend your life on exotic beaches! Everyone is dying to know about your toenails!

The reality is that no writing is easy, and no matter how good you think you are, it is almost impossible to be anything more than a thousandaire, and a small one at that if you’re depending on blog subscriptions. According to the Internets, no one makes money “blogging”; they make it through direct advertising or through affiliate links which are driven by traffic. Even gnarlier, the only real niche of blogging that generates substantial traffic is blogging … about blogging.

Cycling in the South Bay is simply writing. People who appreciate the stories and/or the effort and/or the voice subscribe. Let me tell you how satisfying that is in an Internet world where long pages of nothing but text are dead-on-publish.

In other words, your subscription validates, encourages, and supports me in a way that no advertisement or affiliate link ever can. And even more importantly, because there aren’t any ads or links, the only people whose sensibilities I have to consider are yours. No advertiser has ever been offended because there are none.

Of course I’ve offended countless readers, some so mightily that they have unsubscribed. And you know what? Those unsubscribes HURT. Just as the “You Received a Payment” is an upper, “Bill Billson has canceled his recurring payment” is a blow. If I’ve pissed you off and you’re going to exact revenge with a cancellation, trust me, it works. Chagrin hath no bitter taste like a canceled blog subscription. It’s a fuck-you more beautiful and elegant than any other.

If you really want to make it sting, cancel and then send me an email saying something like “You really crossed a line when you insulted my mom’s rear derailleur. Fuck you, you jerk!”

This is the price of having, as Michael Marckx told me early on, a point of view. You may not think I’m aware of it, but for you to hang onto your subscription year in and year out means that you are putting up with a lot of shit you disagree with, sometimes violently, and I know it. You appreciate this and are willing to suffer the chaff for the occasional grain of wheat.

Either that, or you’ve forgotten you subscribed, it goes straight to junk, and for some reason you don’t check that recurring $2.99 charge on your credit card statement.

On the other hand, it is your subscription that makes me shrug at the stalkers and voyeurs and critics who read religiously and never contribute a dime, or who run to the Bike Palace to yap about the latest outrageous thing posted in CitSB, or the angry people whose tirades wind up in spam. Fuck all y’all. I have a core of supporters who are with me through thick and thin. Don’t like what I say? Pony up your $2.99 and maybe I’ll care.

In the biggest picture of all, as preposterous as it may sound, you are subscribing to free speech. It’s free speech that has gotten me in hot water before, and will do so again. Many readers who support the First Amendment support it a lot less when they’re in the crosshairs. Your subscription ensures that I’ll carry on a long tradition of exercising the ideas and opinions that the First Amendment was written to protect. Not everyone has a platform like this; it’s taken ten years and several million words to build. And not everyone with a platform is in a position to say what they really need to say. Your subscription reminds me that I have a duty to speak freely regardless of the subject, and as long as at least one person out there is willing to support that duty with a monthly $2.99, I’ll keep exercising the First Amendment muscle. We all know that when you stop exercising the muscle, it atrophies.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the countless times I’ve decided to quit writing, I’ve been brought to heel with this one thought: “How would I explain it to my subscribers?”

The things that get discussed here can be as silly as bike clothing and as essential as the structure of our political system. Somehow, you think that’s important enough to pay for. You may not know how much I appreciate your $2.99.

But after reading this, I hope that maybe you do.


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White money matters

June 27, 2020 § 1 Comment

Okay, this is just a quick note to get your weekend off to a happy start!

A local cyclist sent me this email yesterday, and I’m reprinting it here with his permission.

Hey Seth,

A couple of weeks ago you wrote a blog post about supporting black-owned businesses. You mentioned Penuel bike shop in Inglewood specifically. I took a bike there a couple of days ago after searching in vain for a shop that didn’t have a 2-week backlog here in the South Bay.  Not only did he get the bike fixed as promised but the price was incredible too. He’s a great guy and I really appreciate that you promoted his business.

Thanks again!
Jerry Ferro

Personal email

This is how it works! We make a conscious effort to put our dollar into black-owned businesses.

Thank you Jerry for shopping at Penuel, and thanks even more for sharing the experience.


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George Turner, Jr., owner of Penuel


June 26, 2020 § 19 Comments

When the protests over the murder of George Floyd and numerous other unarmed black Americans erupted, I was skeptical that anything would change.

My reason was simple. The root of racism is economic. America was founded on slavery, built by slaves, and maintained by unpaid black labour. No protest, no police reform, no autonomous zone anywhere will ever change that.

Revolution in America will never be by the people in the streets. It it ever happens, it will be in the tax code. Until wealth is transferred from those who have it to those who don’t, racism will thrive.

But nonetheless, one step to that change is awareness. A lot of people are aware of racism that previously weren’t, and a lot of people who were aware of racism have expanded their knowledge of its breadth, depth, and destructiveness.

On the other hand, many if not most newfound supporters of racial equity are fake. The fakest of the fake are of course in the cycling industry, and I give you a few random examples below. What all this means isn’t that they’re racist–we know that because, cycling. What it means is that you can dress up the windows all you want, but until you address the foundation that the house is built on, you aren’t changing anything and you aren’t supporting meaningful change.

Let’s take a look at USA Cycling. Immediately after the protests crescendoed, USAC said this:

As the leader of the American cycling community, USA Cycling understands we have been a part of the problem in the inequality and representation in our sport. No amount of talk can change the past, we must use our position to take action to embrace, lift up and ride with the Black members of our cycling family to ensure equality, equity, transparency and dignity. Riding bikes is a privilege, to safely explore the streets and trails of this country. We are proud to be ambassadors for this privilege. USA Cycling will use its voice and position as the National Governing Body for a sport that continues to grow in its inclusion and is committed to driving necessary change. We ride with you.

USAC Statement

What does this even mean? “Embrace, lift up and ride with the Black members of our cycling family”? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read from USAC, dumber than their “See no evil” comments on Lance during the doping heyday. Black cyclists don’t want to be embraced, lifted up, and ridden with, at least that I’ve ever heard.

They want a spot on the national and Olympic teams, they want youth development, they want events in their neighborhoods, they want money pumped into supporting black bike racers, and they want access to junior/amateur/pro teams, coaching, and equipment. Cory Williams remains one of the best bike racers in the US. Never once has USAC ever reached out to him for anything, ever. Cory doesn’t want to be lifted up; he lifts himself up just fine. What he wants is a seat at the table and plate with the same food as everyone else.

What black riders deserve is for USAC to carve out half its budget and devote it to black cycling initiatives. That’s meaningful change. But USAC, which has a long and nasty racist past that it admits to having, and I quote, “we are part of the problem,” will never do one fucking thing to financially shift resources from white to black riders and black communities. How do I know? First, their admitted history. Second, they are run by whites. Third, their web site. Check it out.

The home page features a photo of junior girl rider who isn’t white, quickly followed by pane after pane of typical white bike racers. That’s it! That’s the sole commitment of USAC to dismantling racism–one photo of a kid who may or may not even be black. Search their web site for programs, plans, declarations, policies, board resolutions, anything that even hints at changing the racial makeup of the organization or its membership and you will find NOTHING.

Okay, so the organizing body is useless, racist, and never going to change. What about the liberal media that supports racial equity? I’ll lump Velonews and Cyclingnews together here because they are one and the same–slightly journalistic fanboy publications whose primary goal is to sell bicycle clothing and components. For grins I’ll toss in Pezcyclingnews and RedKitePrayer.

Velonews has an article about racism in track cycling on its front page, and other than that, the only black face is a woman in the background of a Rapha clothing ad and a rotating ad from Zwift with Rahsaan Bahati.

See? Black person in our mag!!!

Cyclingnews features a story about black UCI pro Teniel Campbell, and buried way deep into the story we learn that, “Systemic racism is a problem in cycling’s highest echelons and black athletes have come forward to describe their experiences with racism in the sport, including French track sprinter and Olympic medallist Grégory Baugé.”

Really? No shit? Systemic racism? WHO KNEW? Equally buried, Campbell lays the blame where it belongs and where it always has belonged and where I stated in the beginning: With money.

“You could say that within Europe there’s a bigger investment in the sport. They have the programmes, the money to finance development programmes, scout talent and they have structure, organisation and money.” Campbell attributes these factors to the reason professional cycling has such little diversity.

Teniel Campbell interview,

Pezcyclingnews is like, we don’t know or care cuz bike racing and white. Their motto “What’s cool in cycling” is obvious. White. White is cool.

And my favorite, RedKitePrayer, continues to post up all white all the time with a sop to bikes being used by the police against protestors … all written from the whitely safe all white all the time white man’s escape land of Santa Rosa, CA, where you can be liberal without having to interact with pesky black folk. Their motto, “The soul of cycling,” is backed up with the most honest photo of all–a past-middle-age white guy with a sagging gut in a lawn chair posing in a cycling kit.

What all of these dishrags have in common is that none is able to see anything outside their white perspective. Cyclingnews, which has started running a few stories about black cyclists, reinforces the racism with every article because black cyclists aren’t going to be helped by inspirational stories about those who’ve beaten the odds, they’re going to be helped by stories about the racism within cycling media and cycling national organizations that actively represses, discriminates against, blocks, and refuses to fund black riders.

Ditto for hacks like Pez and RKP, whose entire perception of cycling is through that of white men. The cycling media won’t address the issues of funding and economic inequality because they’re part of the problem. A real concern with the images of black cyclists and the problems they face would require black publishers, black editors and writers, and the commitment to buying from black service providers.

Even more to the point, it would require people to really own up to the past and what it means, and by past I mean “everything that has happened until today.” Germany continues to openly discuss and honestly represent the Holocaust and to take responsibility for it. It paid reparations to Israel and is the home of choice for people like Daniel Barenboim. That’s because fighting racism can’t be done with a one-day pivot and a couple of photos.

It has to be a discussion, admission, and analysis of culpability backed by cash on the fucking barrelhead. Everything else is complete and utter bullshit cum dissemination, with a dash of hypocrisy thrown in for flavor.

Seven years ago I wrote that USA Cycling Hates Black People. You could update that title by deleting the word “USA.”

Ain’t nothing changed. And until you show black cyclists the money, it ain’t never gonna.


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You’re not “over it” unless you’re dead

June 19, 2020 § 8 Comments

This past week I’ve been thinking about sashaying out to get a taste of the Donut. This past week I’ve been missing the intensity that you can’t get anywhere except by competition. This past week I’ve been getting a little excited about riding the old route with the old knuckleheads in the same pointless exercise of silliness.

This past week I’ve also not been reading the news.

Like, at all.

So after making a date with Donut Destiny for tomorrow at 8:05 AM, pointy-sharp, a friend sent me a quick note in response to me telling him I was going to Do the Doney. The friend said something like:

Uh, you are a fucking idiot. No group disease hug for me. Would you join a condom-free orgy where most of the people had been exposed to bacteria-resistant syphilis? I wouldn’t. It’s not safe to be with people closer than six feet outside of your own quaran-team. In case you’re interested in facts or science, the new Health Officer Order just got posted, effective June 18, 2020, which would be yesterday. Read it if you’re okay with medium-sized words.

Good Buddy, June 19, 2020

This zapped the lead right out of my Donut pencil, let me tell you, but I’m glad he said it.

People need to say the truth. And they need to be prepared to offend all of the lycra-clad people who think that a giant group Saturday Ride is their “right” because they’re “so over the covids.”

Listen. You know who’s “over” the covids? The people who’ve died from it. Everybody else is either being covidded or about to be covidded. There’s no science that shows you develop an immunity to it, and there’s no science that says you can’t get it twice, and there’s no science that says the covids have all moved to Brazil, and there’s no science that says the covids aren’t also mutating into new covids.

All there is, is science saying we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and you can either take reasonable steps to avoid groups or, and make note of this, “You are a bad person.”

Several folks have taken the opportunity to advise me that they don’t care anymore. They are gonna ride their bikes in a big ol’ group and they don’t care if they get sick or not. Good for them, I say. They have proven that narcissism is their strong suit.

But bad for them as it has to do with human decency. Not everyone out there is as sanguine about the covids as they are. Lots of people would like to keep on living, and would like their friends and family to as well. Lots of people have made extraordinary sacrifices in their jobs and businesses by first closing down completely, and second by gradually reopening in order to try and salvage a post-covid existence.

Cyclists who think that gaggling in a large group so they can get their riding fix in are plain ol’ bad people. Your grandmother would have pulled them by the ear, and you too for hanging out with them.

I know you’ve got that new cool kit you can’t wait to display.

I know your numbers are down because no competition intensity.

I know you think science is stupid and that you have a big ol’ bag of constitutional rights that some liberal right this minute scheming to steal out of your tightly clenched fist.

I don’t expect you to miss The Big Ride.

But I will. And I been doing it a hell of a lot longer than you have.


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