April 29, 2016 § 28 Comments
I was standing in the bar, downing my third craft water and feeling my prostate start to bulge. BD was downing something with a bit more horsepower, and he was not happy.
“Fuggin’ wanker brake-checked me! Tried to take me out.”
“Bummer, dude,” I said.
“Bummer? Eff that! That guy’s a fuggin’ head case! He brake-checked me and tried to take me out! Why didn’t you do anything?”
“I didn’t see it. And I’m not your mother.”
“Eff that! It’s your ride, dude. You’re the enforcer. That was bullshit!”
“It’s not my ride, I’m not the enforcer, and every pelodrama has at least two versions, if not a dozen. Plus, you’ve been doing this long enough to know The Rule.”
“The only person responsible for what happens to your front wheel is you.”
He thought about it and drank some more Thought Stimulator. “What’s your next race?”
“I don’t know. Barry Wolfe?”
“Ugh. Crits. So no Dana Point?”
“No. I’m off the bike for the next few days.”
“I just did three back-to-back days of 5-hour rides and I need to rest.”
“What are you training for?”
“I’m taking a trip next week.”
“Mallorca for ten days.”
BD stared, then had some more Thought Stimulator. “Dude! You’re going to Mallorca? To ride?”
“Yes. And yes.”
“Oh my fuggin’ dog! That’s bike porn! You’re going to be buried in bike porn for ten fuggin’ days!”
“Dude! It’s the best riding on earth! It’s Disneycycleland times a billion! Who are you going with?”
“A group of crazy people, unfortunately.”
“Taking the family, eh?”
“No, they’re staying home. I’m meeting up with Ol’ Grizzles from Texas and his band of Ted Cruz Moral Majority crazies, and then we’re going to be joined by Ole Oleson and his band of Merrily Grim Norwegian Salted Fish Eaters.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Ol’ Grizzles is a riding buddy from Texas. We became immediate and lifelong friends when I showed up on a ride on my steel Eddy, no helmet, and wool jersey, and beat the snot out of the local West Houston posers. He and some of his gun nut abortion-haters go to Mallorca every year and do a week or so of super hard riding, which basically means one day of going full gas and seven days of recovery beer and feasting on smoked hog testicles.”
“What’s the Norwegian reference?”
“So Ol’ Grizzles and his buddy Shit in the Lane had another friend, Ole Oleson from Norway, who was stationed in Houston as part of his company’s plea-deal to avoid prison. He could have gone to jail or to Houston, so he picked what he thought was the lesser of two evils and found out he was wrong. Anyway, Ole rides like a maniac for the three weeks every year that Norway isn’t covered in snow and ice and mud and vodka, and he brings some of his buddies to meet up with the Texas crazies, and it’s kind of a Man Tour on testosterone supplements. They’ve badgered me the last couple of years to join them as they need riding lessons, but all of my kindergarten-bike classes are too advanced for them so I’ve always declined.”
BD heard about half of what I said, maybe. “Dude!” he urgled. “Bike porn!”
“Yeah,” I said. “Bike porn. Whatever that is.”
“So what’s the plan? What rides are you doing?”
I took out my phone and showed him the latest missive from our Directeur de Démembrement:
Dear Weak-legged Ones,
Le Tour de Mallorca 2016 is coming up fast, much faster even than your carefully planned training schedule, which you meticulously plotted out last August yet doubtlessly put off until the week before departure. That is okay. You are likely well prepared for eight days of hard, mountainous riding with those two extra-long rides to and from the liquor store. Mallorca is mostly easy riding and will accommodate your efforts much as your manufacturing sector has accommodated the “inferior” competition from China.
In short, do not worry.
As Directeur de Démembrement I have promised to come up with an assortment of rides. This seemed daunting at first since, given your riding profiles the only “assortment” that would fit involved flat rides to the liquor store, as mentioned above. However, there should be something for everyone, from large sections of flats where Shit in the Lane will hammer for a mile or two until he has to dig deeply into his Suitcase of Excuses (which will be well-filled prior to departure), and climbs where our Norwegian contingent has finished translating a few chapters of Egyptian hieroglyphics before the Ted Cruz Contingent catches up. We even have rides where Ol’ Grizzles will be able to tag along, at least until the right turn out of the driveway. Maybe. The distances vary from 65-ish to 100-miles with a possibility to cut some of them short, and a guarantee to cut all of them short for Grizzles and SITL. Note that I use miles because the complexity of the metric system is too confusing for a group of Texans who are still trying to decide whether a birther Nazi or an Islamic State Christian are the better standard bearers for America’s highest office.
We are a rather large group, although we will become much smaller as the days pass and the rides tend to select towards fitness, preparation, ability, and mental fortitude, meaning that we will more and more tend to be exclusively Norwegian. My hope is that early on, if the Cruz Contingent can avoid complete drunkenness on Night One, we can manage some discipline and should be able to cover some ground. However, knowing some of you guys and my experience with you on the West Oaks rides I know that things will most likely fall apart. My scheduled plans for the rides are just that; plans. To borrow one and the only intelligible quote from Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
Just a suggestion, but bring face masks.
Enclosed are both the GPX and KML coordinates for the rides. I doubt that anyone with an American high school or college degree can read them, however, the files can be uploaded to Google Earth or other applications such as AskYourChild.com. Mapmyride is free and takes only a couple of minutes to register, although its terrible interface and complexities (you will need to have your child help you with the instructions to “log in” and “register”) will deter most of you. Your 5-year-old, however, will be good to go and will see the routes with distances, feet of climbing, and other cold, hard facts that no amount of bragging to your wife will now allay. SITL and others should be wearing diapers when they see the daily routes for the first time.
Should you have a GPS device please upload the rides. It won’t help you go faster, and it will certainly subject you to merciless shame should you have the bad judgment to upload your ride times to Strava, but it will help when you get utterly, completely, and thoroughly lost, which will happen each time the road tilts up, the speed picks up, or we pass a bar. You do not want me at the front all the time shouting directions, as when excited I revert to my native Norwegian, and for safety reasons we certainly do do not want any of you up there.
After speaking with our Officier d’Hébergement I trust that he is in control of the accommodations. The left pig sty is for SITL, and Ol’ Grizzles has first dibs on the horse barn. I know you will all enjoy the new culinary experience of Mallorca. Make sure to bring your favorite bowel irrigation device.
Please make sure that you all include cycling shoes, a bib short, and jersey in your carry-on, though for most of you a pair of gym shorts and flip-flops would more than suffice given the length of time you will survive the actual rides. The Specialized “bicycles” that our US friends will be shipping over may be impounded by Spanish authorities as imitation bikes; don’t say we didn’t warn you in advance to rent rather than travel with 400-lbs. of poorly made American-branded junk.
Please let me know how the GPX/KML files work out and if there are any issues uploading them that your children can’t immediately resolve.
Directeur de Démembrement
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April 9, 2016 § 22 Comments
I’m allergic to joyfulness and have been for years. It’s one reason I love cycling. You can have a good time on the bike, but it’s always in the context of some larger unpleasantness. Sometimes the misery is contact with the pavement, sometimes it’s contact with other people.
Hey, life’s a bitch. You’re born, you get old, you die, and you’re forgotten.
So when it comes to pure, unadulterated joy, I’m not your guy, which is why having a grandson has been so difficult. No matter how I try to find the negative, it comes up sugar.
No matter how grimly I try to fit this experience into the framework of cosmic irrelevance, hope and joy bubble to the surface. It’s like going to a bike race where you actually win, and where everyone is happy for you, even your teammates who did everything they could to chase you down at San Dimas. In other words, it’s not like a bike race at all.
Having had three kids, I wonder what’s changed? How did I not notice any of this before? Where the fuck was I?
- You are older. A lot.
- You were even more clueless then than now (incredible, but true).
- Riding my bike.
It’s hard to articulate the joy of a grandchild. He is so fat. How fat is he? He has rolls on his ankles and wrists. Why is it okay for grandbabies to have fat ankles and necks and wrists, but not for adults? I don’t know. Maybe because the adults sweat and have moles with hair growing out of them and blackheads? I just know that I don’t want to nuzzle some adult’s bellyroll, or daub their flabby triceps across my chin.
I’ve tried to focus on how exhausting he is as a negative, for example. They say it takes a village but that isn’t true. It takes as few as one person and as many as a zillion, because babies can vacuum up all the energy in the room. Whether it’s one or infinity, no number of adults can supply the vacuum-sponge of a baby, who will leave each adult spent and exhausted, especially old grandparents who didn’t start the day with much vim anyway.
But the exhaustion isn’t like staggering off a bike and collapsing face-first into a plate of meat sauce, or coming home from work and flopping like a dead fish on the sofa. It’s the most gratifying exhaustion I’ve ever felt.
It’s the only gratifying exhaustion I’ve ever felt.
And when my grandson smiles and laughs, the whole world laughs with him, even his crusty and sour old grandfather. “Where is the down side to baby laughter? There has to be one, doesn’t there?” I wonder. And I got nothin’.
In fact, as I listen to his voice, my vulture’s croak is overpowered by a warbling birdsong that rushes over it in a torrent, reminding me of love.
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March 28, 2016 § 50 Comments
Cycling is a community like your family or your workplace, which is another way of saying “I can’t avoid the assholes.” But the community, despite its dysfunctional parts, grinds along like a very old Toyota Camry with 350,000 miles. It’s not very fast, it’s not very sexy, and it’s not very efficient, but it gets you where you want to go.
Everyone focuses on the Camry, its mileage, the dent in the back that you got in the parking lot and that (as of 2016) more than 23 people have left business cards under the wipers that say “Fix bumper dings! $25.” Or they focus on the driver. He’s old, he’s not very good, and he drives 65 on the 405, which would back up the freeway for miles if it weren’t already backed up for miles.
But it takes more than the driver to make the car run, just like it takes more than the profamateur old fellow bike racer to make the cycling community go. One of the people who makes our cycling community go is Sherri. And as of March 17, that’s DOCTOR Sherri to you, pal.
I don’t know how many people have gotten their doctorate from UCLA while selling crotch cream and straightening handlebars in a bike shop, but there can’t be a lot of them. And the number shrinks even more when you consider that Sherri had to overcome a minor obstacle or two, like the time her brain broke and they had to saw open her skull and put in another bag of sand.
But what I do know is this: When it comes to encouraging, to helping out, to being ready with a pat on the back and a “shut the fuck up and get back on your bike you whiny little bitch” no one’s as good Sherri. No one’s even close.
She’ll patiently listen to your 15-minute angst-filled soliloquy about 23 mm vs. 25 mm and then draw it to a close by kindly sticking the on-sale item in your hand and running your card. She’ll hand you up the water bottle as you totter towards the turnaround, dropped with a 12-minute gap and another 30-mile lap to go. She’ll be at the shop at 5:30 AM to make sure the bagels, cream cheese, donuts, coffee, and heavy cream are ready so that you’ll have a 3,500-calorie breakfast for your 500-calorie ride. She’s not only smart enough to do the math, she’s kind enough not to remind you of it.
And when you need her, you really need her, she’s always there for you with a hug and a smile and a heartfelt “You can shut the fuck up now, I’m not your mother.”
While caring for the tender sensibilities of countless self-absorbed cycling weirdos, Sherri somehow also managed to get her Ph.D. in forensic pathology. She once told me in detail what that was, but all I got was that it was like being a doctor for dead people. So it cracked me up when, after a friend announced that she had successfully defended her dissertation and passed the turkey-carving portion of her examination, a bunch of people posted on Facebag asking if Dr. Sherri would check out their this or their that.
She will, honey, but when she does she finally won’t have to tell you to shut the fuck up.
Congratulations, Sherri. I wouldn’t be able to grasp how you got a UCLA Ph.D. in four years if I didn’t know how smart, hard-working, and dedicated you are underneath all of that charm. You’ve made all of our lives better. Now get out there and heal the dead.
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March 2, 2016 § 51 Comments
Before I could book my flight to Austin I had to sign the General Austin Flight Agreement, which says that, “Once arriving I solemnly swear to agree with everyone how much Austin has changed for the worse.”
On the flight my neighbor told me she loved Austin. “But it really has changed so much since I moved there ten years ago.”
“Yes,” I said. “For the worse?”
“Definitely,” she said. “The old Austin is pretty much gone.”
“That’s too bad,” I said sympathetically.
Yesterday morning I took a walk along Shoal Creek and then Waller Creek to downtown. It looked mostly the same as it had in 1982 ago except for a few big buildings.
Once I got downtown I stopped by Mellow Johnny’s bike shop. I’ve yet to see a bike shop in Los Angeles like MJ’s. The first thing that strikes you is a giant Ride Board that lists upcoming club rides every day of the week. The second thing is the coffee shop that is more a part of the bike shop than the retail area. The third thing is the repair shop that greets you when you walk in, and the fourth thing is the shower which is available to pretty much anyone who needs to de-stink.
What’s striking about Mellow Johnny’s is the fact that foremost it’s a place for cyclists to hang out, and only after that is it a place to buy bike crap. The placement of the repair shop is awesome. Regular customers don’t come back often to buy new bikes; they come to get their derailleurs adjusted. Oh, and the shop opens at 7:00 AM, when cyclists are up and about and in dire need of a coffee fix.
As soon as I walked in a sales guy asked me not if I needed any help, but “What music are you jamming to, dude?”
We started talking. I told him I’d walked from 24th and Lamar. “Amazing amount of construction, huh?” he said.
“It’s incredible how Austin has changed,” he said.
“Yeah. My wife and I moved here four years ago. It’s a completely different city.”
“For the worse?”
“Mostly. The old Austin has been swallowed up by development.”
“That’s too bad.”
About that time a group of riders came in from the morning ride and lined up at the coffee counter. I got in behind them and started chatting. One was a guy named Alan, a judge. The other was named Matt. Finally I walked over to the big wooden communal table where everyone was sitting. “Mind if I join you?”
“Sure,” said a guy named Martin. “As long as you’re cool. This is the cool table.”
“I’m not very cool,” I said.
“That’s okay,” said a guy with a huge mustache that was waxed so stiffly on the ends you could have hung your coat on it. “As long as you say something cool.”
I asked about the rides and people began talking animatedly. Bikers are the same everywhere. They are happy to chat with you about the local rides, which ones are hard, which ones hilly, who are the hammers, and the good-natured back-and-forth between friends about who dropped whom when and how and where. Most of the guys at the table rode for the Violet Crown Sports Association, Austin’s oldest racing club.
“I used to race for VC,” I said.
“When?” asked Martin.
“My first race was in January 1984 at the Bloor Rd. to Blue Bluff time trial, where Jack Pritchard gave me a Laverne & Shirley board game for winning. Our team kit was a blank purple Vigorelli jersey.”
There was a bit of awed silence as I pronounced the mythical words “Jack Pritchard.”
Suddenly I wasn’t some stranger in jeans to whom they were being polite. “Do you know Jay Bond?” asked a guy named Andy.
“Yeah,” I said. “He built my first pro bike. Or maybe it was Phil. A Picchio Rigida. The ones that all had cracked rear dropouts. It was purple.”
“Wow,” said Andy. “Jay’s my neighbor.” The triple authenticity label of mentioning Jack Pritchard, Phil Tomlin, and Jay Bond could only have been strengthened by saying the hallowed words, “Tom Paterson,” which of course I did.
We talked about Jay’s famous 55-mph straight-line fred fall coming out of Leakey a couple of years ago, about his sister Felicia, the illustrator for “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” and most importantly about whether or not Jay still had his blue steel Pinarello and his red steel Eddy Merckx.
I checked my watch and saw it was time to head back. “Great talking with you guys,” I said. No one had mentioned how much Austin has changed or about how the Old Austin has gone.
That’s because, you know, it hasn’t.
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February 12, 2016 § 25 Comments
Sheikh Wahabbi al-Wasabi, the Honorable Righteous and Mostly Correct High Potentate of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, has followed up his ban of the Etixx-QuickStep pro team for “disciplinary reasons” with a concurrent ban of all women racers who, according to Sheikh Wasabi, “Are currently experiencing, have experienced, or plan to experience at some point in the future the Unmentionable Thing Of Women Not Spoken Of By The Righteous And Holy,” i.e. that which Donald Trump scientifically refers to as “coming from their whatever.”
Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Sheik al-Wasabi just after the sixteenth prayer session of the day in the High Holiest Mosque al-Wasabi of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar to talk about gender equality, the Etixx-QuickStep ban, and why anyone should give two shits about a religion that makes you wear a hat.
CitSB: First, what’s up with banning Etixx-QuickStep from the Tour of Qatar?
AW: As we said in the press release, they take too much time to change their shoes. This is rudeness to Allah.
CitSB: It is?
AW: Very much. And last year we sent a special lady to hurry them up and they talked to her not in a very nice way.
CitSB: What kind of “very special lady?” Was she wearing fishnet stockings?
AW: She was honorable fifteenth pre-pubescent wife of Secondarily Greatest Plumbing and Hotel Infrastructure Manager of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Hamachi. The riders spake rudely, most rudely.
CitSB: What did they say?
AW: She was told to cough.
CitSB: Cough? What’s rude about that?
AW: We are unclear as to this matter, however, His Excellency the Supreme Translator of English Words and Foodstuffs of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Maguro, insists it was great rudeness to insist that the special lady cough.
CitSB: Well, I’ve heard lots of insults, but “Cough!” isn’t one of them.
AW: It was preceded by the “Fuh.”
AW: Sheikh Wahabbi al-Maguro, His Excellency the Supreme Translator of English Words and Foodstuffs of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar, insists that the “fuh cough” is a great rudeness. We will soon discover how this differs from other coughs and begin disciplinary proceedings and jihad and fatwah and etcetera against the infidel Belgians, but until then we shall ban them for shoe-changing slowness and the fuh cough blasphemy from participating in the Most Supreme and Challenging Display of Human Triumph in the Jewel of the Desert at the Bicycle Tour of Earth’s Supremely Splendiferous Royal Realm of Qatar.
CitSB: Moving on. I understand there are some problems with the women’s race?
AW: This matter is not mentionable by the Utmost of Holy Men.
CitSB: Could you give me a hint?
AW: As was decreed by the Holiest Imam Under The Skirts Of Allah, Sheikh Wahabbi al-Uni, first the lady racers shall be always covered of head and body with great modesty.
CitSB: Uh, I don’t know how much time you’ve spent around women bike racers, but “lady” isn’t exactly the right word here. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a lady blow a snot rocket?
AW: We are unfamiliar with such weaponry.
CitSB: No, no, a snot rocket isn’t a weapon, it’s a, uh, never mind. Anyway. So how are the women gonna race with turbans and long dresses and those facemask-garbage bag things over their heads?
AW: This matter was resolved by His Occasional Greatness Sheikh Wahabbi al-California Roll, who rules all dictates of the lady clothing especially the linen that touches the parts that the holy do not mention yet are treasured in personal collections and worn at special occasions. Sheikh al-California Roll has decreed that for the lady racers, all competition would be done in a stately and processional fashion so as not create exertion or unsightly perspiration or huffing and puffing reminiscent of unmentionable acts which the holy typically only view on select video download web sites.
CitSB: I see.
AW: When it was brought to our attention that in addition to shoe-changing rudeness of the men, many of the lady racers would potentially experience uncleanliness, we canceled their race or offered to let them race in a stately fashion but if the unmentionable occurred we would be forced to penalize them with beatings and whippings unclothed and perhaps prison and a loss of earnings.
CitSB: Which you’ll record on video with your pals, naturally.
AW: But of course.
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January 30, 2016 § 25 Comments
I was over at a buddy’s house the other night. He and his lovely wife had invited us over for dinner. We were having a big pot of Texas chili, a big pot of pinto beans cooked with bacon and jalapenos, a pan of cornbread, and farts. Well, the farts would come later, viciously.
I was sitting there minding my own business when my pal’s friend and his wife stopped by. They aren’t bike racers so I sat there and munched on my chili and beans and blew a couple of 30-weight, light gauge test farts while everyone chatted.
I was pretty pleased with the chili because I had made some the week before and eaten it with another couple of buddies, both cyclists, and their wives, who were well versed in the language of bikers, and everything had gone swimmingly. Anytime you have chili and farts with a dude who used to have orange hair and an Arkansas traveler who spins a yarn a minute, you’re going to have fun.
Anyway, back to the present dinner date … the new dude was pretty funny and was talking about a rad ski trip he’d been on with helicopters and avalanches and shit, and I kind of glanced over at his wife who was diddling the chili with her fork, looking at it like someone had crapped on her plate and called it dinner, but the dude was shoveling it in and smacking his lips so I figured they just had different tastes like married folks always do.
Pretty soon it was my turn to talk so I led with something innocuous, polite, and mildly amusing that wouldn’t offend anyone. It was the story of how I learned my other bike racing pal, B.C., was a legit porn star.
There I had been, looking at this video (I have no idea how I happened on a porn video because I never watch the stuff, yuck), and this dude was doing the monkey stomp dance with this chick and they zoomed in and the dude had this tattoo and I was like “Fuck, that’s old B.C.” so I called my wife over and we opened up his Facegag page and compared the ornate tattoo on his arm with the dude in the video and they were one and the same.
It was pretty funny knowing that you race bikes with a legit sausage swinger, and as I was telling the story everybody was laughing except for Frau Frump the pus bucket, who was making a grossed-out face.
“That’s enough of THAT,” she said, but I misunderstood because I was talking about the cute little Asian bundle who ol’ B.C. was whanging away on, and I thought maybe she wanted me to go back talking about him, so I added some size dimensions and volume output and such but she looked really upset and I finally figured out she didn’t like to talk about motility and guys and chicks getting it on over dinner and so I switched over to a different topic, about how the one thing that Obama should do before he leaves is double taxes and take away all the guns.
As luck would have it, she was a Trumpublican (Who knew? Who?) and would have spit chili if she had eaten any, which she hadn’t because it was so obviously poor man’s food.
I shoveled in a few more spoonfuls of beans and she looked over at me and said real condescendingly, “How long have YOU been married?” but instead of getting the answer she expected, i.e. “I purchased her online last Thursday,” I smiled sweetly and let a bit of chili drizzle out of the corner of my mouth and said, “Thirty years. How about you?”
Frau Pus Bucket scrunched up her face and said, “Five years.”
“Number two?” I asked. “Or number three?”
This made Frau P.B. pretty mad(der) because if she said, “It’s my first,” it would confirm everyone’s assumption that it had taken 45 years to find a guy crazy enough to marry her, and if she said “My second” or “My third” it would confirm that I had nailed her as someone who was about as fun to be married to as a case of wet blankets soaked in piss.
Pretty soon it was time for us to leave, but not before I regaled everyone with a story about the time I joined the Communist Party and lived in a clothing-optional free love compound that manufactured experimental recreational drugs while advocating for abortion rights, a free college education for everyone, and compulsory combat military service for everyone who had ever owned a gun.
I’m not too sure we’ll get invited back, though. You can’t take Mrs. WM anywhere.
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