The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 18: Let’s all learn Chinese!

June 27, 2016 § 20 Comments

Old bicycle racers focus a lot on their physical fitness but don’t pay as much attention to their mental faculties, which decline even faster with consequences even more dire than losing the 55-50 KOM for 225-lb-and-over on the Garbage Can Alley .01 Mile Segment.

Here is a quick test to see if your mind is rotting due to senility:

  1. You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F
  2. You often forget things you’ve just read. T/F

If you answered true, you have memory loss.

Rather than going out and doing a bunch of hill repeats, the best thing to beef up your soggy neurons are brain intervals. What is a brain interval? It is something devilishly, fiendishly difficult that will leave you gasping for air after a mere 2-4 minutes of effort.

The important thing is that you select something you used to be good at rather than something that you always wanted to try but never did. For example, when you are an old dude and you take up math, even though you were always horrible at math, you will quickly give up. So even though the fierce brain interval caused by trying to, say, add up five numbers in a column, will cause a great increase in brain sharpness, you’ll quickly give up by day three and be back to the same old, same old.

If you were one of those people who liked to study foreign languages when you were young back in the 1920’s, my advice is that you study Chinese. Now, a couple of qualifiers: If you’re already Chinese, this won’t help. Also, if you’re not already Chinese and you try to learn Chinese, you’ll sound like a complete fool no matter how many years you study it.

This is because Chinese has tones that completely change a word’s meaning. Problem is, you can’t hear the tones. Only Chinese people can. And while you’re sitting there smiling into your video cam while you do your online lesson with a cute teacher in Shanghai, and you think you’re saying, “I ate a hamburger last night,” because you got the tones all garfed up you’re actually saying, “I licked the dog’s butt last night.”

You’ll never know that, of course, because your teacher is very polite and she doesn’t give two hoots whether you ever learn Chinese or not as long as you keep paying the monthly lesson fee.

Still, even though you will never learn Chinese, it is so terribly hard that you will spend the rest of your life struggling with it and making practically zero progress, so it’s a lot like bike racing. Plus, each time you memorize a kanji (even though you forget it the next day), it will build approximate 200 new synapses. Example: Memorizing the characters 互聯網圖片is the neurological equivalent of growing three new brains.

Perhaps you don’t want to learn Chinese and figure that instead of three new brains you’d be happy learning Spanish, or Russian, or Igbo, and only getting the equivalent of one new brain’s worth of synapses. Regardless, you should visit www.italki.com, a language learning web site that offers instruction for pretty much any language in the world by native speakers at incredibly cheap rates. Its tag line is “Become fluent in any language!” which is of course a complete lie. You can also use the web site to do a free language exchange (these never work, by the way), where you swap a half-hour of conversation with an English learner who already speaks English better than you do, for a half-hour of murdering your target language with the fluency of a cat.

Check it out. You’ll soon be chattering away, and even though no one will understand you, you’ll be synapse-rich and doing crossword puzzles backwards while your bike racing compadres are drooling in the Alzheimer’s ward. If they aren’t already.

END

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Who’s the flaccidest of them all?

June 12, 2016 § 23 Comments

Tomorrow there is a championship bicycle race for old flaccid fellows with leaky prostates and I intend to win it.

Please advise the promoter that I wear a size small champion’s jersey.

Before you roll your eyes so far up into your head that the optic nerve shows, consider that this is a detailed victory plan built upon the three B’s: Wax, Wheels, and Bread.

Prior to assembling the perfect game plan I carefully analyzed my results on the CBR Flaccid Fellows race course over the last few years:

2016: 2nd
2015: 4th, 3rd
2014: 4th
2013: 3rd

We will ignore for a moment that those are the cherry-picked results from the ten thousand times I’ve done this race. What we will not ignore is that of all the racing I’ve done, this is the only one with even the faintest, remotest tint of possibility with regard to a win. In other words, it may be completely hopeless, but it’s infinitely less hopeless than winning UCLA Punchbowl for example, where my results have been 38th, 24th, 29th, DNF, 15th, DNF, and 32nd.

Having run the statistical analysis and concluded that tomorrow is unquestionably my day to win, a number of problems presented themselves, in order of importance:

  1. Why are you such a delusional old fool?
  2. How are going to beat Bart Clifford?
  3. How are you going to beat Craig Miller?
  4. How are you going to beat Ted Rupp?
  5. How are you going to beat James Wiznura?
  6. How are you going to beat Marvin Hall?
  7. How are you going to beat Kenny Rogers?
  8. How are you going to beat Steve Gregorios?
  9. You are going to beat Anthony Reguero.
  10. How are you going to beat Josh Gruenberg?
  11. How are you going to beat all the other people you’ve never beaten before who will be in the race and who will be primed and ready for the kill?

Fortunately, my battle plan effectively resolves each of the above problems with scientific efficiency by applying the three B’s: Wax, Wheels, and Bread.

The first B, of course, is Wend Wax. By proper application of this space age technology which dates back to the  Qin Dynasty, 221–206 BC, which was actually several years before carbon frames and wireless shifting, I am able to ensure that my bike gains an estimated 2,305 gigawatts in power at the decisive moment in the race.

Unfortunately for No. 1-11 above, it’s too late for them to get a Brazilian chain wax job before tomorrow as I ordered three containers of all existing Wend product and they won’t have more until Monday. Sucks to be you, suckahs.

wend1

Note the ultra-boss podium hat I will be wearing on the top step of the podium as I look down in pity on Bart, Brett, Craig, and the other unhappy wankers who will be gnawing their livers in angry defeat while spouses and small children cry in disappointment.

The first step in plan B is of course to properly prep the surgical field, a trick I learned from Dr. Sherri Foxworthy, an expert in prepped fields. With the Qin Dynasty Wend chain cleaner-upper I carefully remove all unsightly hairs along the bikini line as follows:

wend2

Old bikini hair removal with Wend Wax-Off is critical to maximal smoothness of chain penetrating into hot maw of spinning gear teeth.

Next I sealed the victory deal with careful application of the roll-on waxy stick which ensures crisp shifting, minimal friction between the chain and the toothy thingies, and also smells good and you should slap on a roll or two under your arms when you’re teeing up for that special first date with Ms. Swipe Left.

wend3

Comes in three refreshing scents: Hunky Surfer, Studly Tall Man in 3-Piece Suit Who Opens Doors for Ladies, and Mouth Foaming Aged Bike Racer.

Now that I’m all waxed up and feeling smooth and sexy and happily well-scented in prepration for being on the top step, even though I WON’T be raising my arms like some clown on a trampoline, it’s time for the second B: Wheels.

Nothing is more critical to my race plan than the lethal acceleration of the FastForward F2R Wheelset Unpaid Advertorial Except for Those Two Pairs of Free Bib Shorts ($500 retail value, thanks JD). The FFWD F2R wheel is simply the finest 100% carbon full carbon wheel that accelerates very fast in a forward kind of way. It is highly superior to the Mercury/Zipp/Enve/Mavic Fast Backward models, which are made of only 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% not-quite-full carbon and have been laboratory and wind tunnel tested to deliver more speed when going in reverse but less speed than FFWD when traveling forward. So ask yourself: “Would I rather go fast backward or fast forward?” Duh.

ffwd1

Sexy FastForward Wheelbag which doubles as a Cat 2 apartment bag. Baby swimmy pool thing and potted dwarf stone pine we use every Christmas because I’m too cheap to buy a tree not included.

While Problem Numbers 1-11 will all be using a deeper profile 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% not-quite-full carbon wheelset, the F2R will prove decisive in my victory bid because although slightly less aero than the deeper dish wheelsets, the unbearable lightness of being compared to heavier wheels allows for much quicker acceleration out of the turns, and more importantly, when I make my winning move which is designed to break the others with my tremendous power.

FFWD F2R, in addition to lots of capital letters, comes with an ass-kicking thing that lets you put air in and let air out to your desired specifications. And no, don’t bother asking my ace mechanic Boozy P. to glue on your fuggin’ tubulars. He’s busy today if you’re in my race.

ffwd2

These things are sick light; racers start your hidden seat tube engines ’cause your gonna fuggin’ need ’em when these F2R’s start to roll.

The final part of my victory Plan B trifecta is of course bread, and that means none other than Mrs. WM’s homemade staff of life, hot out of the oven, finished on a cooling board, and slathered in heaps of soft butter the mere sight of which will cause Surfer Dan and MMX to break out into a cold sweat.

By carbo and fat and yeast loading on a full loaf of Mrs. WM’s wonder bread and a full stick of butter my muscles and tummy will be supercharged with the power needed to unleash my tremendous power just as everyone else gets flabby, flaccid, and weak at the knees, while at the same time the extra bread power will go straight to my brain and unlock amazing powers of on-the-fly race analysis and canny strategic placement that guarantees victory.

mrs_wm_bread

No, you can’t have any. Yes, I’ll have two buttered slices in my water bottle.

The fourth and final prong of my Three B’s plan is of course “Speedsuit.” Each race, people get more and more envious of my StageOne speedsuit with its speedy dimples and its cool product placement of sponsor names like Beachbody Performance, which supplies me with excellent recovery chocolate milk that I can drink after races to recover from the bread and butter. With its speedy look, form fitting clingy-ness and slinky girlish fit just above my hairy and bony knees this outfit adds a dozen watts to any effort and doubles as gorgeous evening attire for any kinky party with leather-clad people who have names like Chester, Malvolio, Sir Pain, and Prissy Bitchyface.

stageone1

When you click on the Beachbody link, ignore the hairy ape in the Borat uni-thong. No matter how much recovery drink you consume, you won’t turn into him.

END

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Five products

June 8, 2016 § 16 Comments

The Dr. Wanky product recommendation committee recommends you purchase the following products immediately, except for the one you shouldn’t buy just yet.

  1. Wend Wax: Rating: 12 stars out of 3. Source: Given to me for free at no cost gratuitously by the company. Possibility of biased review: 100%. Reason for rating: If you love nasty, filthy, sticky, greasy lumps of shit on your chain, hands, face, calves (Scott Dickson called them “turkey marks”), and if you like big black swathes of nasty, unremovable smears throughout your tiny apartment and on your underwear and under your nails and all over your brand new white brake hoods, you don’t need Wend Wax and should stick with lubricants that make your life a living hell and that make everyone think you live in a tar pit. However, after many months of racing, training, and blogging, nothing can compare to the easy-on, easy-off, super lubicity of Wend Wax. You put it on just like armpit de-stink; comes in a roll-up container and goes right on your chain and never on your calf. Your chain will shift in silence, drawing attention to your painful, labored breathing. Super-bonus: The person in charge of your laundry and hair and nostrils and ear-holes will love you.
  2. FFWD wheels: Rating: 12 stars out of 3. Source: I paid for these bastards; got a discount because of extended begging, but they still cost me real cash. Possibility of biased review: 100%. Reason for rating: How much do I like these wheels? So much that I bought two more (sets, not individual wheels. Even I don’t ride around with three bike wheels). We can simply start out with the only thing that matters. These carbon wheels are full carbon and made of 100% carbon, plus they are made by Dutch people in Holland, where carbon is fully 100% at all times. These carbon wheels come in two varieties, and I have both: Full carbon and all carbon. There is a third 100% carbon model I’m thinking about. I have the F4R clinchers which sound like a fighter jet but in reality are bulletproof training and racing wheels. Okay, they aren’t bulletproof, that’s a coffee shop but they’re almost as strong as super strong coffee. I have abused the hell out of these wheels (not to be reprinted when sold on eBay a few years hence as “pristine, hardly used”) and they have always delivered. With good tires they are awesome race wheels as well. The other wheels I have are the Tiny Joe All Carbon Skinny Dude Carbon Climbers. These tubular sex pistols weigh 1 gram each. They are lighter than mosquito hair and they accelerate quicker than Chris Lotts cashing your race entry check, in other words, light speed. They remain true no matter how often you cheat on them, are comfortable, quick, well-built, and best of all have super awesome decals that make you look even more super pro. Plus they come with giant luxury carry bags that you can sleep in when in between girlfriends.
  3. Cycliq Fly12 Onboard Videocam: Rating: -109 stars out of 30,900,234.1234. Source: Paid full retail. Possibility of biased review: 100%. Reason for rating: The camera works for everyone except me. It’s supposed to orient naturally whether you have it right-side-up on your bars or whether it’s hung underneath the bars. That’s supposed to as in “This was supposed to be fun” when spoken after a bike race. My camera orients upside down when upside down, which means that you can take lots of upside down video, which makes your head hurt. My camera shuts off every fifteen minutes, which makes its 10-hour run time a death-defying 40 efforts to find the little clitoris of a button while sailing down a deadly incline and trying to please it without falling down. My camera refuses to connect to the app that supposedly lets you fix all of this and edit and more. After a dozen help tickets that resulted in no help at all, I’m ready to open a help ticket with Cannondale to find out if there’s a way to fix the problem by riding my bike upside down.
  4. StageOne speedsuit: Rating: 12 stars out of 3. Source: Paid full retail. Possibility of biased review: 100%. Reason for rating: Joe Yule and Jon Davy are my friends. You think I’d trash them in my blog? Dream on. Even if my StageOne speedsuit was a miserable, ill-fitting, badly made gunny sack with a pad made out of burlap I’d still tell you to buy a dozen and one for your granny. Happily, this speedsuit, like all their bicycle clown outfits, is incredibly comfy and fast. I sleep in it. It has dimples. The pad is soft but firm, gently coddling your droopies and cozily wrapping your stick up against your lower tummy so that it’s properly set for maximal outline in podium pics, not twisted into a pretzel so that when you’re on the top step everyone’s staring at your junk and wondering if it’s only two inches long or just naturally born with a double half-hitch in it. Bottom line: Best junk-positioning speedsuit ever, and its speediness got me an astounding fifth place last weekend, along with the Wend Wax and FFWD Tiny Shrimp Climber Wheels.
  5. Camelbak squeeze only Podium bottle: Rating: 12 stars out of 3. Source: Gift (Thank you Michael and Creative Disruption). Possibility of biased review: 100%. Reason for rating: Camelbak has found the Holy Water Bottle Grail with this gem, as it solves the conundrum of every cyclist: How can I be lazier and get better at the same time? As every rider knows, it’s a huge chore to reach down, get your bottle, fiddle with the nipple with your tongue or lips, squirt some carcinogenic doping product down your gullet, then re-close the hole and replace the bottle. The whole thing can take a second or two, BUMMER, time you could have spent looking at your Garmin. And if you’ve ever tried the Open Hole Method, where you don’t bother closing the top, within days your front derailleur freezes from the sugary doping glop that spurts out, drizzles down the seat tube and onto the derailleur. The Camelbak operates like a woman’s breast: It ejects sugary doping products when sucked, but automatically stops ejecting when you stop sucking. No need to turn off mom’s milk-laden breasts, and no need to turn off the Camelbak, either. It just stops. Unlike mom’s breasts, it doesn’t need a bra pad and never leaks. This device will save you microseconds in every race or ride which can be tacked onto your three-man tandem state championship time trial event where you’re the only team aside from Brad House and therefore the champion. Winning!END

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The new performance bicycle

May 27, 2016 § 33 Comments

A long, long time ago back in March if you’d said that you wanted to buy the most high-tech, high-performance bike out there, I would have advised as follows:

  1. Full carbon
  2. 100% carbon
  3. Aero carbon

No more.

Although carbon is still the material of choice for those who want to go fast, or more importantly look fast, or most importantly, talk fast, it is no longer the first requirement for a high performance bicycle simply because you can’t look fast and aero and pro while you’re dead.

The new high performance bike must have:

  1. Diablo or equivalent headlight with max 1,200-1,500 lumens for continual day/night operation.
  2. Lezyne or equivalent rear taillight with max 100 lumens for continual day/night operation.
  3. Front-facing video camera with spare batteries for swap-out during ride.
  4. Rear-facing video camera with continual 6-hour loop.
  5. Strava/Garmin data to record speeds/stops of the entire ride.

Of course if you’re fine being dead (and certain religious sects maintain that this is actually a preferable state of affairs), all you need is carbon.

Carry on.

END

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The ebikes are coming! The ebikes are coming!

April 26, 2016 § 57 Comments

One time I was whining to friend about using computer technology to compose music. “So bogus!” I declaimed.

“STFU,” he advised, being a composer. “If Mozart had had it, he would have used it. Musicians always use the best thing available. The piano was a revolutionary instrument and Mozart owned it.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but if he’d used a program to compose I can guarantee you one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“His music would have sucked.”

The first time I saw an ebike up close was a few years ago. Greg S-J had a new Specialized ebike that, with a tweak and a twist of Old No. 72, had been programmed to go 30 mph. “Great,” I had said. “Next we’ll have Smedley Sagbottom on the bike path doing 30 as he learns about things like the grippyness of sand in a screaming turn.”

As old and change-resistant and bitter and grumpy people are wont to do, I predicted the following:

  1. People will begin racing them.
  2. They will become ubiquitous.
  3. It will be the end of civilization.

Two out of three isn’t bad.

When I was in Germany last summer dragging my son uphill along the Rhine from Cologne to Koblenz, we passed hundreds of ebikes going the other direction. We never passed a single ebike going in the same direction.

The ebikes were all pedaled by old German people who were getting exercise or running errands or casually whipping by the world’s fittest and most delusional 52-year-old profamateur SoCal bike racer from New Jersey who grew up in Galveston and Houston. And that last part made them sooooo happy. The first hundred times a creaky-kneed Opa showed me a wrinkly pair of heels it made me grind my teeth so much that I lost most of my enamel. But actually I was just following the Five Stages of Grieving for Getting Owned by an Ebike.

  1. Anger.
  2. Rage.
  3. Murderous rage.
  4. Wild, uncontrollable fury.
  5. Defeat.

So then back at home the ebike thing continued to grow, and continues. Some people complain because of e-doping, where pro cyclists put tiny motors in their bike to add a few watts when the going gets tough, cf. Fabian Cheatsalotta in the Tour of Flanders. Others complain because it ruins the purity of the sport, where results depend on training, diet, natural ability, computerized watt meters, a race director with a radio who can instruct you exactly how hard to pedal and for how long, and a doctor who can advise you how to beat the drug tests.

In fact, some people care so much about ebikes that they have left cush jobs in the cycling industry, as if any job is cush, and as if cycling is an industry instead of a mafia for dumb people.

But back at the Mozart Ranch, though, where you pretty much have to admit that people will grab whatever technology gives them a leg up on everyone else (Charles Darwin wrote a book about it once), the world is shrugging. Motors let fat sprunters climb with the goats, and they let skinny goats sprunt with the big boys. Just kidding. If you are a tiny climber you will never beat a sprunter, even if he’s on a Big Wheel and you’re on a Ducati. That’s because sprunters win mainly on balls not watts. However, I’ve heard that Specialized is coming out with a pair of eBallz that will take care of that problem, too, and also make a cool ornament for your trailer hitch.

No, the world doesn’t care that we’ve moved on from human power to e-power in bicycles. The slow will get really fast, the homebound will get out and take the lane, and the nature of racing will shift from drugs-radios-computers to drugs-radios-computers-and-motors. Ah, excuse me. IT ALREADY HAS.

And don’t cry on my shoulder. There is actually a world for people who like obsolete shit that performs badly and only looks good because it’s old–it’s called Penny Farthing Racing and Classic Car Collecting. Help yourself to some nostalgia, and don’t forget to wear a helmet.

END

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SoCal profamateur bike racer shocked to learn about non-benefits of water

April 21, 2016 § 10 Comments

Smedley Sagbottom, a full-time profamateur masters bicycle racer from Irvine, CA, has filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau regarding alleged false advertising practices of the Qwantum Watter Cumpany. According to Sagbottom, “I got ripped off more than $500 from their crummy watter product.”

Qwantum, whose athletic performance drink is marketed as Technikal Wanker Watter, is widely used in the sport of Southern California masters cycling, an activity which is described in detail in the Physicians Desk Reference for Mental Disorders. Qwantum claims that its Technikal Wanker Watter contains “double the hydrogen for every oxygen” and “guaranteed to expand when heated or cooled.”

Sagbottom, who competes in an average of 35 races per season or just enough to get one free kit and a 15% frame discount (whichever is less), claims that the Qwantum ads are grossly deceptive. “I bought four cases because you know it’s called ‘Watter’ instead of water and so it seemed obvious they were saying it would you know, give me more watts, more power.”

Qwantum issued a press release denying the allegations and insisting that it would fight to clear its name. “Our Technikal Wanker Watter has been verified by independent testing to be produced on machinery that does not contain peanuts or other doping products. In addition to immediately causing trans-membrane diffusion and molecular passage through the osmotic stimulation of aquaporins, our TWW has been shown in numerous studies to stimulate seed germination and root growth in trees. The vast majority of earth’s oceans, lakes, and rivers run exclusively on our formula.”

After going on the “Technikal Wanker Watter Diet” for one month, Sagbottom maintains that “It’s all a scam. I pissed everywhere, all the time. One of my kidneys broke and my urethra started leaking worse than a rotten garden hose.”

Despite his disappointment in the failure of Wanker Watter to increase his wattage, Sagbottom insists that he has not given up on his goal of a top-50 finish at the weekly Telo training crit. “The right nutritional-hydrational-epidural product for me is out there, I just have to find it.”

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I’ll have some Eddy with my cappuccino, please

April 5, 2016 § 37 Comments

It’s really hard to get away from bicycling, but I was determined.

My youngest son is in the midst of college admissions season, or as I fondly call it, college rejection season, and I am so glad that he will be the last kid of mine to go through this perverse circus of manipulation, extortion, debasement, and fraud.

My oldest kid got rejected from her first choice school, the Tokyo University of Fine Arts, and ended up going to her “back-up” college, Tokyo University. That’s the university that successful Japanese applicants begin studying for in earnest when they enter kindergarten. It’s the university that receives half of the entire national budget for higher education, and from which most leading Japanese politicians and heads of major corporations have graduated from.

It turned out to be a shit school, though. Lots of prestige and a big empty bag of wind with regard to content, education, development, or learning. And since she ended up back in the US where no one had ever heard of it anyway, it was actually a negative. “University of Tokyo?” they’d say. “That’s … interesting.”

My next kid went to an Ivy League school. “Here in the good old USA,” we thought, “he’ll get a fantastic education at the elite academy that is the University of Pennsylvania.”

He may have got that, but what we got was crushing debt. And when push came to shove, he was wholly uninterested in the real benefit that Penn offered, which was first choice of cubicles at Goldman Sachs. Instead, he failed utterly to LEARN THE LESSON OF THE EAST COAST ELITE WHICH IS MONEY, FUCKER and wound up immersed in philosophy, literature, German, teaching, and other things that are good for the soul and make you happy and a better person and an informed citizen but never get a crowd of angry protesters outside your house cursing you and your corporation for buying their home at a foreclosure sale and evicting them onto the street.

I hate to say it, but he could have gotten all of those things right around the corner at CSU Long Beach and the missus and I would now occasionally be able to splurge at The Habit instead of taking all our meals from instant ramen packages.

But now that we as parents had accumulated our Merit Badges of Offspring Higher Education which allowed us to wear sweatshirts that said “Penn” and to use little leather key rings that said “University of Tokyo” as a substitute for a fat 401k, we were ready to ram our third child through the meaningless and humiliating process of college applications, which we unhesitatingly did.

“Just because it sucks and is awful and stupid doesn’t mean it’s bad,” I consoled him.

Only he didn’t want to be rammed and refused to apply to more than a handful of schools. And when he found out that he’d been wait-listed at UCLA and admitted at UCSB, he shrugged. “I don’t want to go to UCSB, so I’ll wait to see if I get into UCLA and if I don’t I’ll go to community college for two years and transfer. You’ll save money and I won’t have to go somewhere I hate.”

“Whoa,” I said. “Hate? How can you hate UCSB? You’ve never even been there.”

“I’ve heard it’s a massive party school.”

“But what’s the down side?”

“I’m going to UCLA.”

“Son,” I said, “UCSB is reportedly overflowing with beautiful women. You are a young man. Do I need to diagram this?”

He looked at me with pity. “Thanks, Dad. But I’m still not interested.”

“Why not? You’ve never even been there! All my friends who’ve graduated from UCSB swear by its, uh, academics. Destroyer went there for dog’s sake.” As soon as I said it I realized that this was not perhaps my strongest card. “Look,” I said. “UCSB is a fine school. Beautiful, uh, location. Beautiful, ah, weather. Really hot, uh, summer days. And gorgeous, er, beaches.”

“I want an education.”

“Damn it, son!” I was so frustrated thinking about all the trips I wouldn’t be getting to take to visit him  at UCSB and sit on the benches that I temporarily lost my cool. “Before you make up your mind about whether you’re going to a school that hasn’t even accepted you, we’re going to take a trip to Santa Barbara, which has. You’ll see. It’s awesome.”

“Have you ever been there?”

“No.”

He rolled his eyes. “Okay, Dad.”

We got up and drove to Santa Barbara. On the way up I told him to check his phone and find out if there were any good places to birdwatch. We had brought our binoculars. He started rattling off places. “Damn,” I said. “That lagoon place sounds good. Where is it?”

“It’s on campus,” he said.

We got to the school and the weather was spectacular. We did a self-guided tour and noticed that the campus was bustling and lively, but kind of quiet. “What is it?” I asked.

We stood and looked around. “No cars,” he said. “There are no cars allowed on campus.”

He was right. There were bike lanes, a bike roundabout, and skateboard lanes, but no cars. After lunch we wandered down to the lagoon, which was brimming with birds. As we thoroughly misidentified most of what we saw, trying to turn ordinary things into birds-that-haven’t-ever-been-recorded-in-the-Western-Hemisphere, a student strolled by.

He glanced at our binoculars. “Are you birders?”

“Yes,” we said.

“Me, too! What have you seen?”

“We can’t figure out that hummingbird,” I said, pointing to a tiny hummer atop a tree branch. I offered him my binoculars to take a look.

“It’s okay,” he said, declining to take them. Then he unzipped his backpack and took out his own. He gazed for a minute. “Looks like an Anna’s to me. Is your son going to go here? If he does, give him my contact info. We have lots of birders here on campus.”

ucsb1

As we got ready to drive back to LA, Mrs. WM wanted to get coffee. “Can you find a good coffee shop in town on your phone?” she asked my son.

He fiddled with his phone. “How about Handlebar Coffee Roasters? It’s got a bike theme of some kind.”

We drove into town and found the place. A tall, tan, very fit looking dude was shoveling beans into the roaster. “Hi,” he said. “Welcome!” He looked at my Giant-Liv gimme cap. “You ride?”

“Yes, when I can. You?”

“Not so much anymore. But I used to ride a lot.”

“Did you race?”

“Yes, professionally for a couple of years.”

“Wow. Who for?”

“Have you ever heard of Telekom or Saunier Duval?”

“No,” I said. “Are they local Santa Barbara clubs?”

He paused, realizing I was a complete idiot. “No.”

“East Coast?”

“They were actually European teams.”

“Oh, so you weren’t good enough to make the big time here in the U.S.?”

He paused again, kindly. “Well, I did my best. I finished a couple of tours in Italy in 2006 and 2007 but I was never really contending for the win. Rode with a guy named Simoni one year. He was really good and actually won a couple of them.”

“Tours? Yeah, they have those here a lot, kind of for people who aren’t ready for Cat 5 racing yet. Solvang Century and the Central Coast Century are the biggies, I guess. It’s okay for beginners. Did your pal Simoni ever get out of the touring stuff and do actual racing?”

Aaron smiled again. “I think he stuck mostly with the tours.”

“Cool,” I said.

The coffee shop had a mint Eddy Merckx Molteni bike hanging from the ceiling, but more important than the awesome vibe and the bike decor was, you know, the actual coffee. I had a cappuccino that was easily the best cup of coffee I’d ever had, which made sense because Aaron looked like he was checking each individual bean as it roasted, and unlike the bulk beans I buy that look like ragged ball bearings run through a wood chipper, his beans were highest quality, beautiful, and perfectly shaped.

As I got ready to go he forced a t-shirt into my hand. “Thanks for coming by,” he said.

“I really hope,” I said, looking at Woodrow, “that I’ll be back. Because college isn’t just for kids anymore.”

And just like pretty much every other day in my life, this one ended with bicycles, too.

END

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