Unthanksgiving Day

November 25, 2017 Comments Off on Unthanksgiving Day

Sometimes the mood overtakes me and I make a list of things I’m grateful for. I usually post it on Thanksgiving Day. But other times a different mood overtakes me and I make a list of things I’m ungrateful for. I keep that list to myself.

But not today!

  1. I’m very ungrateful for the shabby state of our democracy, led by a bully with a yeast infection where his brain should be.
  2. Super ungrateful for not winning the Latigo Hillclimb by a lot of minutes.
  3. I’m way ungrateful for the people who designed Chinese, which is basically unlearnable, at least by me, despite hundreds of hours and thousands of wasted dollars.
  4. My ungratefulness knows no bounds when it comes to the lady who sat in front of me on the way to Austria, demanding that the flight attendant remove the lady who had a crying baby. Remove him to where, lady? We’re in a fucking airplane.
  5. Lots o’ ungratefulness when I reflect on the Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch who tried to run over my wife while she was descending Via del Monte this morning.
  6. I am ungrateful for global warming. It’s not “climate change,” asshole, it’s “we’ve turned earth into a boiling cauldron and we’re all stuck in the middle of it.”
  7. Ungrateful for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all sales of every kind, everywhere.
  8. I am decidedly unthankful for the NRA and the whackjob gun lobby. I don’t like your fake rendition of the 2nd Amendment and all the dead people that result from it, like the lady today who was “mistaken” for a deer while walking her dog and killed.
  9. Big unthankfulness over here in the cheap seats for TV.
  10. No thanks whatsoever for drivers who endanger cyclists, injure and kill them, and prevent the spread of more bicycling for more people in more places.
  11. Huge helping of thanklessness for everyone who didn’t vote and is now “outraged” by the composition of the judiciary, Congress, and the executive branch.
  12. Not feeling much gratitude right this minute for “pro” bike teams that don’t pay their women racers. A lot.
  13. Zero mindfulness/thankfulness/appreciation for Serfas, who, although they keep replacing them for free, also keep sending me tail lights that don’t last very long.
  14. I am hereby ungrateful for doctors who overprescribe antibiotics. And opioids.
  15. Ungrateful, here and now, for getting weaker and slower every year. But nominally pleased not to have yet been served with the alternative.
  16. Unappreciative of #socmed and all the YEARS that I donated to #facebag, #stravver, and #thetwitter.
  17. Not very happy about the thorn in my front tire that I didn’t find until it resulted in two flats.
  18. And of course I’m ungrateful for Merkel’s failure to form a governing coalition. Adios, world’s last functioning social democracy.
  19. Okay, I ran out at 18, so I’ll finish it with the one thing I’m daily grateful for: Being alive in this amazing world … defects notwithstanding, it’s a great place to be!



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Three meetings

October 31, 2017 § 25 Comments

First Meeting

We had just finished the NPR on a brilliant fall day in October 2014, I think. There was a new guy from Arizona, wearing a blue-and-white kit and it was his first Pier Ride and we sat around drinking coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, smalltalking like we always do. You could tell how much he loved the vibe, soaking in the easy conversation as we splayed on the bricks and cast glances over at the cobalt waves.

“You guys doing any more riding after this?” he asked.

“That wasn’t enough for you, huh?” My legs were wrecked.

“No, man, that was crazy hard. But if anybody’s doing more miles I’d love to join.”

Surfer Dan piped up with that smirk of his. “I’m doing a little extra credit but it’s on dirt. Seth’s coming with me.” Dan’s “little extra credit” was always stupid hard.

“Seth doesn’t do dirt,” I assured the guy from Arizona. “And sure as hell not with Surfer Dan.”

“That sounds fun!” the new guy said, so I was roped in even though it sounded awful. Somehow we wound up with five or six other riders; I recall Jon Paris, Christian Quant, and a couple of other suckers following along as Dan took us up the steep trail behind the Malaga Cove library, then onto the road and over to the narrower, steeper, dirt walking path that went up and over a ledge and dumped out onto Via del Monte. Most of us fell over trying to mount the ledge, but not Dan.

The new guy got dropped hard and fell, too. At the top we waited for him and waited for the curses, but we were disappointed when we saw the new guy grinning ear to ear. “That was a blast!” he said, scraped up, covered in dirt, and kit scuffed to shit.

Surfer Dan and I looked at each other. “We got ourselves a live one.”

That was my first ride with Rob Dollar, and it may have been his first bike ride in SoCal. It wasn’t more than his second, that’s for sure. The guy was a densely packed ball of fire and good vibes. He was new to cycling, but a veteran at life. I could tell that his brand of full-gas and crazy was going to fit right in.

Second Meeting

This one happened sometime last year, I think it was in the fall of 2016, at Strand Brewing in Torrance. We were having a going away party for Rob, which was weird. It wasn’t weird that he was going away; people come and go all the time. And it certainly wasn’t weird that Rob was at Strand; he was famous for holding his liquor and a lot of everyone else’s, too. What was weird is that it was a going away party for someone who had, in South Bay terms, only just arrived.

In two short years he become Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar, or RMFD, the embodiment of camaraderie and fun and risk and inclusiveness that bike racing is supposed to be about but rarely is. That’s how he introduced himself on the starting line or to a new rider. “Hi, I’m Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar.” And he was.

He formed a hard core rat pack of beginning racers with Kevin Nix, David Wells, Josh Dorfman, Matt Miller, Mathieu Brousseau, Denis Faye, Bader Aqil, Jason Morin, and several other riders whose motto appeared to be “Go fast, go hard, have fun, and make sure the bottle is empty before you go.”

And if Rob was loved by his pals, he was adored by women for his sculpted physique, infectious humor, and for certain angles on his podium photos that more than a few female admirers swore could be seen from Google Earth. There was even a private message chain that certain women shared, providing instant notifications for when Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar’s podium shots were uploaded to Facebook. If you wanted to stop a party in a heartbeat all you had to say was, “Rob Dollar podium” and watch the iPhones come out in the blink of an eye.

I wasn’t part of Rob’s racing crowd, but I always saw his gang and hung with them at the team tent and was privy to the unique friendships that had all coalesced around this one charismatic guy who didn’t to know how to do anything but make friends. In two short years his return to Phoenix sparked an outpouring of people who packed the brewery that afternoon to tell him goodbye. The relationships were genuine and real. Like any human Rob had his flaws, but unlike most of us he was always the first one to apologize and try to do better. And “do better” he always did.

When Rob returned to Phoenix, he stayed a member of Big Orange and joyously greeted his teammates and SoCal friends when they came to Arizona for the Valley of the Sun Stage Race. Rob flew the Big Orange flag as proudly, or more proudly, than he had in Los Angeles. He stayed in touch with his SoCal friends, rode with them when they visited Arizona, and was never the one who let the relationship go flat. And Rob got better as a racer, too, even as he made the same impact on his hometown that he’d made on his adopted one.

None of us thought that goodbye in 2016 was permanent, just a pause in time until he did what he promised to do, which was to return to live and race in the South Bay as soon as he possibly could. I’d say we adopted him but that’s not true. Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar adopted us.

Third Meeting

Last night at 8:00 PM about a hundred of us stood around the surfer statue at Hermosa Beach Pier. We were just outside the circle of light from the bars and activity on a slow Monday night, and a cool breeze blew in off the Pacific. David Wells had constructed a Rube Goldberg contraption with bike forks turned upside-down that held a spinning bike wheel. Each time the wheel slowed, someone stepped out from the circle and gave it a push, keeping the wheel moving.

Rob had been killed the day before descending South Mountain outside Phoenix. A young woman, high on weed and drunk on liquor, had gotten “stuck” behind a “slow moving” cyclist in front of her. I guess “stuck” is what they say when what they mean is “she had to slow down and wait a few seconds.” Sounds more dramatic to use a verb that you associate with glue, or a mire, or quicksand.

Annaleah Dominguez and her friend were in a hurry to get to the overlook and veg out, and she veered out across the double yellow line to pass the cyclist who had slowed her down such that she’d have to wait a few seconds before getting to the place where she could, you know, sit in her car and stare off into space. At that second Rob Motherfuckin’ Dollar, who was descending from the top, came around the turn and hit her square on at speed. He died instantly, no chance to do anything except, perhaps, wonder if he was going to make it.

We stood in the blackness on the edge of the strand and listened as the witnesses came forward and spoke to the beauty and strength of Rob’s life. The voices were choked and humbled and broken and soft, but we heard every word, in part because we’d each experienced the profound goodness of this amazing and decent man. We didn’t have to hear each other’s words; they’d been playing over and over in our heads since the news first struck.

They’re playing still.



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Low fidelity Podcast #2: Pumping

September 23, 2017 § 9 Comments

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away … bike pumping! Click on the above link to listen. Extra special high quality equipment and boss recording techniques approved by sound technicians used in the recording, editing, and post-production of this broadcast.



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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.


Ode to a Japanese rice cooker

September 4, 2017 § 26 Comments

I’m not sentimental about stuff. There is a box up on a shelf in my closet that has my great-great grandfather John Turner’s powder measure in it. He used it in the Civil War; it’s made from the breast bone of a turkey. I’m pretty sure it’s the only thing I own from that side of my family, but you know what? If it got lost or stolen I wouldn’t really care because it’s just a thing.

Bikes are the same. I owned bikes that are what you’d now call “classics,” but if I still owned any of them all I’d ever call them is clutter. Good fuggin’ riddance.

Last week my wife bought a new rice cooker. Here is a picture of the old one, beat to shit.


We bought this Zojirushi rice cooker in June 2000, when we moved back to the United States from Utsunomiya. I calculated that it has cooked over five thousand pots of rice since then, and it has never hiccoughed, much less needed repair. At the time it cost $200, which in today’s dollars is about $45,000,000, adjusting for inflation and poor arithmetical skills.

My sentimental rating for this thing is zero. The front cover has peeled off from being so close to the stove for so many years, and it is covered with more battle scars than an alpha male bull elephant seal. Since it still works fine, we’re handing it off to our youngest, who has left the dorms and signed up for apartment living in his second year of college.

Like I said, no sentimentality for that old thing. Some big corporation made it, I worked to pay for it, it did what it was supposed to do, and now it’s going off to Santa Barbara to do it some more. Most people would love to retire to Santa Barbara anyway.

But even though I’m not sentimental, not even a little, about the contraption that fed us and nourished us and did its job without interruption or complaint for close to twenty years, when you think about it, that old rice cooker marked a lot of time with our family.

When we brought it home from the Asahi Japanese Market in Austin, my youngest son was two. His brother, seven. His sister, eleven. He’s now a sophomore in college and I’m a grandfather. Time didn’t fly, it vanished. These wrinkles on my hands are tree rings, they mark the truth and can’t be obscured.

That rice cooker saw a lot of trials and a lot of tribulations. Terrible family altercations, family illness, family death. Friend troubles, school troubles, work troubles, life troubles. That rice cooker saw paychecks cashed with so little to go around that working poor would have seemed like an upgrade. Through the worst times, though, it coughed up a daily diet of hot steamed rice, nourishing food that left us with full bellies no matter how dire things otherwise might have seemed.

That rice cooker saw a lot of happiness, too. Reconciliations, mended friendships, excitement and adventure, new jobs, California, graduations, nuptials, and the crowning gift of life, babies. Whether we were making up or celebrating a milestone, that old rice cooker kept plugging away, pumping out the mainstay of every meal we ate together as a family for almost twenty years.

Those meals we ate together as a family, sometimes mad, usually happy, often hilarious, always filled with commentary about the things the day had brought, those meals were the glue that bound us, and they bound us in a way that frozen food and dinners out and ready-to-eat Trader Joe’s fare never could have. Whether we argued or whether we laughed, we did it over home cooked food whose backstop was invariably steamed white rice.

And if I’m so damned unsentimental about that old home appliance, maybe you can tell me why I’m so sad to see it go.


Have a Hartt

July 28, 2017 § 17 Comments

One of the least talented athletes I ever knew was Roger Worthington. Zero cycling physique. Couldn’t climb. Couldn’t sprint. Couldn’t time trail. Lousy physio numbers, and he was whatever the opposite of an all-rounder is. An all-squarer.

But as a bike racer, he was one of the best. What he lacked in every other category, he made up for in the only one that mattered: Desire, or in bike racing terms, meanness. Roger didn’t hate to lose, he refused to accept it as an outcome. Roger had more desire than entire teams.

Time and time again he won races in impossible scenarios. Bitter climbing road races. State titles. Stage races. Track races. Crits galore. And even time trails. Roger won a couple of those out of sheer spite. To Roger, no pain was worse than the pain of defeat and he would endure any physical pain not to lose. The ability to endure longer than everyone else comes in pretty handy when you’re competing in an endurance sport.

One time, I think it was in 2007 shortly after Roger had his first hip replacement, he was mounting a comeback. We were doing a training ride in PV and it was a very unpleasant and nasty little lunchtime interlude that he, John Caron, and I did together. We had dropped John and were pounding up the reservoir climb on PV Drive. Roger was in a lot of pain because he hadn’t bothered to let the leg attachment surgery heal properly before throwing himself into a grueling ride regimen.

As we hammered up the climb we passed this old dude who was pretty small. He didn’t like being passed, and he hopped on our wheel, then passed us. We chased him down and he attacked. We chased again and he attacked again. After a third effort we gave up and he rode off. It was the only time I saw anyone out-mean Roger Worthington on a bike.

That day was our first encounter with Steve Hartt. Steve died the following year while descending into Friendship Park when he smacked a park truck head-on at what must have been 50 mph. If you’ve ever bothered to read the little brass plate up by the water fountain atop the Switchbacks, it has his name on it. A ferocious rider, he was a legend.

I sometimes think about Steve’s ferocity and the way he battered the snot out of us that day, and for some reason was thinking about him this morning on the Flog Ride. Some new dude had shown up and was putting the wood to us. We’d chase him down, drop him, he’d batter back, we’d drop him again, and he’d pass us, repeat. Just like that day Roger and I got worked over by Steve.

The first five laps we managed to dislodge the guy each lap before the regroup, but it was hard going.

On the sixth lap Adam Flores and I hit him hard, he hung on, but we dropped him over the last part of the climb. As we hurtled towards the bottom of La Cuesta, the 19% monster that we ascend on the last lap, I looked under my arm and saw the dude catching back on just as we hit the bottom of the wall.

Adam jumped away, the dude came by, just like Steve did that day ten years ago, hard, ferocious, annoyed. He caught me and dropped me but the road kicked up more and he slowed, then kicked and caught up to Adam. He was riding on something that burned pretty hot inside. The two of them locked in battle for a while until Adam faded. The dude passed him, then Adam caught a third or fourth wind and battled him around the turn where I lost sight of them.

I got to the top, gassed. “Great riding, man,” I said.

He grinned. “You, too.”

“What’s your name?”


“Brooks what?”

“Hartt. With two ‘t’s.”

“You related to Steve Hartt?” I asked.

“He was my dad.”



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Call of the dead

June 29, 2017 § 23 Comments

By the time you read this we’ll have been underway for at least seven hours, and the early travel buzz will be wearing thin. We’ll be east bound and down, loaded up and rolling with a tankard of espresso, a giant plastic bag filled with beef jerky, chocolate, and three huge cigars that none of us knows how to smoke, and we’ll be several hundred miles closer to Austin than we were when I tapped this out.

I got the news that Jack Pritchard had died and they were holding a Gatheration Omnium for him that consisted of a Prologue ride with a few miles of his beloved dirt roads, followed by Stage 1, an early morning breakfast at the Omelletry, the place he frequented like clockwork every morning at 6:45 AM for the better part of forty years. Stage 2 will be a trip to the CAF in San Marcos, where we’ll commune for a bit with the old airplanes that he had such an affinity for, ending with Stage 3 at the Polonia Cemetery.

“Gatheration” is the kind of word Jack would have used, and probably did use. He was a pedaler of bikes and a smith of words, many of which were one-off creations, fitted up for just that one particular sentence, and never used before or since. A gatheration is different from a gathering, those quiet affairs where people in fine clothes and coiffed hair do and say things in hushed tones or listen to elegant music behind paintbrush-thick makeup and beet-red, drunken noses.

A gatheration is a gathering, all right, but the bastard child of a love triangle between demonstration, aggravation, and tarnation. That combination was Jack, through and through, or at least the Jack I knew. Gatheration, indeed. I hope when I die I get a gatheration, too. Jack would have scorned a memorial service. He probably would have scorned a gatheration as well, especially if it were his.

The last time I drove from California to Texas was never, so Jack’s passing seemed like a darned good reason to rent a car, throw the bike in the trunk, and then cajole my two sons to join me. They will take turns keeping me awake, and would utilize the Googlifier to figure out proper cigar smoking technique. We might have some good father-sons discussions, peppered with the occasional argument and tamped down by at least one good roadside plate of Texas barbecue.

You can’t go home again, and it’s a good thing because even though I grew up in Texas I was born in Princeton, and to make that long a haul we’d need something stronger than beef jerky, and something more like a box of cycling performance supplements from Shanghai.

But Jack’s passing made me think about the pivotal time in my life when I bought my first bike, Jack working behind the counter at Freewheeling, and what a short jump it had been, going from bike commuter to full-blown racing addict.

The things I’ve done in life have all stemmed from that first bike and the unusual people it anchored me to. Faces I’ll never see again remain fresh and set in amber; Jack’s is one of them. Others that have cropped up on Facebook, though impossibly old, haven’t erased or even dulled the razor crispness of memories from days gone by, silly days, maybe, worthless days, maybe, wasted days, definitely, but my days nonetheless.

I’m going to Texas to do penance for my cycling sins, to pay homage to a man who deserves it, to stand in the stead of those, far-flung, who can’t go or won’t, to trample out the vintage of some road time with my two sons, and to ride those few dirt miles into Lytton Springs, roads we pounded long before we knew there was anything strange or unusual about putting skinny tires on lumpy roads, before we knew that every road had an end, before we knew that ours did, too.



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A toast to Tilford

April 24, 2017 § 55 Comments

Just got home from Steve’s memorial service. It was extraordinary in every way, an amazing outpouring of love for Steve. Thank you Trudi, Catherine, Stacie, Micheal, Ned, Roy, and everyone else for such an unforgettable day.

Several people asked me to post the remarks I made — here’s the link.

Up since 3:50 AM, just got home an hour ago. And a hot meal was waiting!



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