June 24, 2016 § 15 Comments
I was at the San Marcos crit several weeks ago retiring from a fabled amateur cycling career that was filled with fables. As I retired before doing the 45+ Grandpa Low T race, I ran into a gal who I will call Ms. J.
Ms. J. had begun bike racing this year and was doing really well. She had made a couple of podiums and already understood the fundamentals of bike racing, fundamentals that to me often seem like math equations that fill a chalkboard (Note: I failed Mrs. Morcom’s Algebra 1 class and had to retake it in summer school in order to graduate from Jane Long Junior High).
As we chatted about bike racing and I picked up from her what useful information I could, I noticed her hands, and how small and lovely they were. When she got to the part where she was going to tell me something that might actually help me win a race, I interrupted her. “Hey,” I said, “I hate being an advice sausage but I’m really old and I’m a grandpa and I can’t help noticing your beautiful hands and I gotta tell you something.”
She paused. “Yes?”
“You gotta wear gloves.”
“Yes. All the time. Long-fingered ones.”
“Because whether you have pretty hands like yours, or ugly old nasty things like mine, it’s super hard to pick your nose without any fingers. And all it takes is one good bicycle falling off incident or getting doored while training and your hands will be all garfed up for good. Ask Charon. He used to be Mr.-Tom-Boonen-Gloves-Are-For-Sissies until he slid 400 yards along the asphalt on his palms.”
She looked at her very lovely hands. “I think I’ll get some, but my race is about to start.” Off she went and got on her podium in one of the hardest races on the calendar and I didn’t see her again.
A few days later I got an email telling me about her race. “That’s great,” I said, “did you get the gloves?”
“Well … ” she replied.
So I went online and got her a pair, like the ones I use, the Giro Somethingorothers. I’ve got a couple of pair and even after years of use they are ragged but still in great condition. They are long-fingered, incredibly comfortable, warm in winter, cool in summer, stylish, and thick enough to save your hands when you need it but thin enough to give you great touch on your bars. I mailed them off, because grandpas hate it when young people dilly-dally around with important stuff like HANDS.
Then a funny thing happened.
There is this woman who rides in the South Bay named Michelle. She’s a great rider, sure, but more than that she’s a great person. Positive, earnest, fun, and always finding the bright side of things. If Michelle’s around you’re going to be in a good mood unless of course you’re Eeyore, which, sad to say, I often am.
I went out to the mailbox and there was a thick mailing envelope. I opened it and inside it was a pair of my very favorite Giro Somethingorothers, only in an even more stylish color than my tan ones. And along with the Somethingorothers, gloves that she had carefully noted on my hands and found the exact make, model, and size for, was a note. This note:
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June 1, 2016 § 10 Comments
Off to the races, or rather, back from them …
- Heartfelt victory: Bart Clifford of Surf City Cyclery won the Barry Wolfe 45+ crit on Sunday, an event he’s been trying to win for years. Bart lost his daughter when she was only fifteen, and Thousand Oaks was a place filled with memories for him as he and his daughter lived not far from the current race course. We spoke the day after the race; no words can do justice to what he’s been through, or what it means for any parent to lose a child. Hats off to you, Bart. WE LOVE YOU.
- Shout it from the rooftops: The City of Palos Verdes Estates has a traffic safety committee meeting on Wednesday, June 1, at 7:30 PM. Show up and tell these folks that we won’t tolerate any more violence against cyclists in their supposedly “safe” city. Agenda here.
- Crime reporters: Several cyclists have shown up at various law enforcement agencies and filed reports for assault with a deadly weapon. That’s what it’s called when a car tries to hit you and fails. Here’s a link to an editable Word doc that you can use to file your own crime report when a driver tries to hit you. Whether the police investigate the crime or not, the report becomes a statistic that they’re required to report annually to the FBI, and statistics, unlike cyclist lives, matter.
- Licking their wounds: South Bay racers returned from masters nationals in North Carolina deploring the horrific crash-fest designed by the incompetent, greedy boobs at USAC. The local ER went into triage as a result of the bloodbath, and the idiots at USAC didn’t even bother to inform the hospital that there was a race the day of the crits. My lone appearance at masters nationals in Bend convinced me that as crazy as I am, I’m not crazy enough to do a race where there are half a dozen big crashes in a 60-minute crit. Jeff Koontz writes a very restrained criticism of what was a shitshow put on by a confederacy of dunces.
- Rise again: Local South Bay artist, icon, and lifelong cyclist Steve Shriver is on the mend after a horrific collision on PCH. So great to know that this gentle and talented guy is going to be back. Also cheers to local rider Marvin Campbell, back on his bike after a horrific collision last year in which he was hit by a car.
- Pizza and crime reports: South Bay cycling club Big Orange is going to put on a workshop for crime reporting so that you can have the tools of the trade at your fingertips when some asshat tries to kill you for exercising your legal right to ride in the road. Details coming soon.
- Top of the heap: South Bay cycling club Big Orange, according to USAC stats, has the most wins/podiums/race entries of any club in Southern California. Just sayin’!
- Bragging rights (but not worth falling off your bicycle for, please): SoCal elderly fellows’ state crit championships happen on June 12, courtesy of the occasionally courteous Chris Lotts and CBR. Come on down and watch the people who always win, win again. The flyer’s not up or I’d post it. Special guest: My 7-month-old grandson.
- So fly: I got a Cycliq Fly-12 handlebar-mounted video cam. It records for 10 hours on an infinite loop, installs easily, and will get its first test tomorrow morning, which is the day off that I’m not going to ride at all, not even a little bit except for maybe just a touch. You know, stretch the legs, recover from the racing, record some crimes …
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May 17, 2016 § 8 Comments
Lots happening in the South Bay and environs, especially, say, France.
- How do you say “asskicking” in French? Big Orange rider and French transplant Evens Stievenart won the Route de l’Oise, a stage race just north of Paris that has over 200 racers and that includes the town of Compiègne, best known as the starting city for Paris-Roubaix. Evens is best known in the South Bay for riding everyone off his wheel on training rides; what’s less known is that he has only been racing for six years and already has close to 50 Cat 2 wins in France to go along with his most important victory, a win at the local Telo training crit a couple of weeks ago. Congrats, Evens!
- Blazingly fast! VC La Grange junior rider Ivy Koester won a state crit title at Barrio Logan Grand Prix on May 8. She is super fast, super smart, and has one of those smiles that let you know she’s having fun.
- I’ll have some victory on those pancakes, thanks. Southbay Wheelmen might consider changing its name to “Wheelwomen” thanks to junior rider Makayla Macpherson, who continued her batteringly good year in Bakersfield a couple of weekends ago, winning the Jumpstart crit, the road race, and then placing second in the women’s open 3/4 San Luis Rey road race. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that she’s 13.
- For a fistful of dollars. Big Orange junior Bąđĕŕ Āqîł got his first race win on the challenging tough guy course out at Rosena Ranch this past weekend. Hats off to a dedicated and hardworking young man.
- Over the moon. Swami’s junior racer Ryder Moon Phillips picked up two more wins in what has been a breakout year, with victories in the time trial and crit at the Kern County Stage Race. We’re all looking forward to more great things from a talented competitor.
- The nerds strike back! Local South Bay riders were assaulted by a cager in a McLaren and they took what is now becoming the default defense for cyclists who are fed up with the casual violence directed against them: They went to the police, in this case the Palos Verdes Estates PD, and filed a complaint. The police not only took them seriously, but they opened an investigation. This clown’s world is about to get a lot more complicated. Please take a minute to read this post to see what you can do to defend yourself when you’ve been buzzed with a deadly weapon.
- Return of EA Sports, Inc. Rumor has it that the most feared sprunter in the South Bay, and the nicest guy anywhere, Eric A., is back on his bike after rebuilding his house from the nails up. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
- Watering the grass. Joe Yule of StageOne Sports, a company otherwise known for making the best fitting, most comfortable, most stylish apparel in the cycling world (go suck an egg Rapha, ThorfinnDopesquatch, etc.), has single-handedly revived the venerable Torrance institution of the Telo training crit by posting a leaderboard, keeping track of finishes, rustling up sponsorship with the generous help of Dave Perez and Samsung, and has now even created a weekly winner’s jersey (I wear a men’s S, thanks). Telo now regularly hosts the best riders in the South Bay, including Evens S., Smasher Alverson, Derek the Destroyer, Paul Che, and any day now, YOU.
- People who make a difference. If you don’t know Joann Zwagerman, you will. A California native, she has come back home from the East Coast and thoroughly embraced cycling. She has singlehandedly created rides that focus on fun, friendliness, and welcoming people regardless of ability (whatever that is) who share the passion to pedal. Her legendary FDR Saturday ride in the South Bay, a wholesome alternative to the Donut Ride, is massive and actually features real donuts. More than that, her smile, her selflessness, her pro knack at getting the best selfie angles, her toughness (did the BWR Wafer ride without a hitch and finished it smiling!), and her willingness to help get done whatever needs doing are unmatched. One Joann has sent out ripples of kindness and enthusiasm that have, at last count, touched thousands.
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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 § 52 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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