October 26, 2016 § 35 Comments
Do you remember the movie “Escape from New York”? I don’t. But I do remember the hero’s name because it was awesome: Snake Pliskin.
Snake had been dropped into New York, which had been turned into a free-range maximum security prison filled with, well, dicks. Very bad dicks. “So, how’s that different from the regular New York?” you may be wondering. Good question!
Anyway, the plot was that Snake had to do something to get something from someone in order for something to happen or not happen to someone important. At the end, he stomped a bunch of dicks and got the whatever and gave it to the somebody except at the last minute he did something that was a surprise.
This was our screenplay for “Return to Dick City,” where the Biker Gang overran the PVE Prison. We recruited the most awful, nasty, violent, badass biker gangsters we could find in the South Bay, like this stone-cold killer:
As if this vicious outlaw weren’t enough to strike fear in the heart of the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch in Dick City, an even tougher contingent was recruited with one goal in mind: Join the traffic at the intersection of Malaga Cove plaza, put our feet down, and show the town’s dicks that as much as they hate us blowing stop signs, they hate us even more when we don’t.
For the first hour we rolled around the square. Traffic backed up to San Francisco and the traffic cops were not happy except for the fact that they all got overtime. Two gangsters were pulled over and cited for “impeding traffic” in a Keystone Kops maneuver where the poor cop didn’t even know the code, and where the “impeding” involved two bikes riding 10 mph in a 10 mph traffic jam.
(Legal note: The biker gangsters are now huddling with their mouthpiece/consigliere to keep ’em out of The Rock on trumped charges of traffic impedance, tax evasion, and seventh-degree murder.)
After the one-hour stop-sign-festival and happy firefly pedal through the plaza, several things became clear: Riding your bike at night with your buddies, all of whom are lit up brightly, at slow speeds, chit-chatting and grinning while the cagers are stuffed up inside the bowels of their inflammable steel boxes is AWESOME! It was the best night ride ever.
How awesome was it? It was so awesome that the biker gangsters declared that evenings when PV Estates City Council schedules its meetings (two Tuesdays per month) are officially designated Dick City Gangster Ride and Free Pizza Night. Bring your bike, and don’t forget to run front and rear lights as well as side reflectors! It was a blast seeing fireflies as part of traffic, cruising through intersections after putting down one foot and slowly getting started again, and enjoying the camaraderie of the evening.
After the Firefly Ride, many of the riders had to go home to dinner, but others did not, and we assembled for the city council meeting. Our plan was simple: We were going to read the city council the entire NIH study that shows with numbers and sciencey stuff and fact thingies how awesome BMUFL signage is.
Since the city council, in voting down the whole five BMUFL signs recommended by the traffic safety committee, outside consultant, and city engineer, demonstrated that it had no fucking idea what it was doing, we decided that we would rally a couple dozen biker gangsters to read them the study in 3-minute increments, the allotment given to speakers. The study had been provided to them as part of their materials in the previous meeting but they hadn’t bothered to read it, preferring instead perhaps the monosyllabic soliloquies of Frank Ponce on NextDoor.
However, the city was well prepared to defend against this onslaught of rational thought and science. When they saw 20+ cyclists in chambers, they approved a motion to move public comment to the end of the meeting. Boom! The thought was that by forcing the flatlander gangsters to sit through hours of the dumbest deliberations known to man, they would give up in despair and go home to their gangster families and do hard drugs cook meth and kill other flatlanders.
At first, the flatlander gangsters were dismayed at the inanity and apparent endlessness of the proceedings, until the council launched into its one-hour presentation of the Resident Satisfaction Survey. After ten minutes the entire city council had thrown out their shoulders from the violent self back-patting that ensued. PVE residents (7 out of 10) rated their community excellent! (Dick City secret police are, even now, rooting out the dissident 30% to have them shipped off to Torrance and other flat lands.)
The city learned fascinating facts such as:
- Members of the golf club enjoy golf.
- Members of the tennis club enjoy tennis.
- Members of the stables enjoy riding horses
But as the council members groaningly tried to get their shoulders back into socket, the flatland biker gangsters were treated to the biggest issue ever to hit Dick City!! The Mystery of the Contaminated Torrance Soil Dump! Apparently nasty Torrance soil had been taken to pure Dick City and dumped there.
Was it contaminated?
Was it loamy?
Who knew what when?
Nasty, nasty Torrance dirt, dirtying up the clean dirt of Dick City! Bad flatland dirt! You are a nasty dirt! Loser!
There was much moaning and groaning and gnashing of teeth and several concerned citizens vowed to get to the bottom of the conspiracy behind the dirty Torrance flatland soil and who killed JFK’s black helicopters. The biker gang phones exploded with hilarity at just about the time that “Trees” Sarkisian launched into a tirade against the city about the illegal planting of a tree 40 years ago.
In one of the most evil conspiracies since the Torrance dirty soil dump, a council member was accused of illegal tree trimming of a tree that had been illegally planted! Horrors! Would Dick City ever be the same? What was next, self-circumcision without a permit?
Three dead cyclists on Hill, rejection of BMUFL signage, and procedural chicanery to silence cyclists were all A-OK in Dick City, but the nasty Torrance soil, the illegal tree, and the water facility security breach deserved top billing … and they got it.
Suddenly, realizing that they were surrounded by idiots with an infinite capacity to talk about pony poop, golf, tennis, and illegal trees, the flatland biker gang bonked. How would they continue? Defeat seemed imminent as the Satisfied Resident Survey consultant was only on his fifth bar graph and we hadn’t even heard about the city manager’s departmental report, replete with his grades from junior high.
Then out of the blue, BAM! Biker gangster Geoff L. arrived with a ginormous tray of gangster sandwiches!
The ravenous flatlander gangsters fell upon the grub with abandon, stuffing themselves full and returning to the sitting fray just in time to hear councilman Rhea wake up and ask if the methodology of the resident survey was scientifically sound. Thankfully, the consultant scientifically said “Yes!” and Councilman Rhea was able to go back to bed, dreaming of ways to ban flatlander soil-carrying biker gangs from Dick City.
Unfortunately for the city’s procedural chicanery, which stuck the flatlander soil-carrying biker gangsters at the end of the dance card, it gave us plenty to time to post to Facegag and the Twitter to encourage others to join us. John K., Joey C., and a host of others begin trickling in after 9:00 PM, and one of those was none other than the meanest, most vicious, killingest cut-throat ever to sail the Spanish Main.
Aye, lads, it was the flatlander from Hell, the scourge of the Royal Navy, the man sailing with a bounty on his head who feared no man, no beast, and certainly no Dick City council.
Armed with a sack of red cannonballs, he showed up with his granny, Ms. WM, who brought two cases of water, a giant bag of mini-Doritos, a giant back of Reese’s and Snickers, as well as the appearance of the 2016 Spouse of the Year Married to a Gangster.
The reinforcements arrived in the nick of time, as the council finally got around to the biker gangster flatlander soil-carrier comments. And they were none too happy when they found out they would be getting hear a one-hour-plus public reading of the study they had been too lazy to read two weeks prior. One by one the speakers read their allotted time, even though the city council sought to reduce the misery by chopping the gangster time from three minutes to two.
Several speakers helpfully advised the council that this was a public service to help them use facts the next time the issue came up, rather than caving to venal petty politics.
By the time the soil-carrying flatlander biker gangsters had read the methodology, background of the NIH, and reviewed the history of signage and the conclusions of the study, the council had wilted like a daisy in a blast furnace. They were plainly angry at having to listen to facts, because it just wasn’t as much fun being admonished with science as it was listening to a paid consultant confirm that 7 out of 10 PVE residents thought the place was excellent and that golf club members liked golf.
Especially stirring speeches were given by G$, Kristie F., and Ms. WM, who admonished the council to “Not be so angry, slow down onna cars ’cause you only living onna one time! Car drivers is crazy!”
We closed it down just shy of midnight, then hung out for a while chatting and enjoying the night-time air.
Was it a success, though?
Well,the city council still hasn’t put BMUFL signs back on the agenda and they’ve made it clear that they are digging in. This is going to take time.
Was it a failure?
Of course not. We got to ride our bikes, advocate peacefully for change, be heard in a public forum, eat sandwiches and Doritos, and laugh at the Great Torrance Soil Contamination Conspiracy with Illegal Tree Add-on.
What are our next steps?
There are no next “steps.” There are, however, next pedal strokes. There will be another Dick City Firefly Pedal and another educational session for the benefit of the council. This next time we’ll have a full complement of free non-alcoholic drinks and pizza and we really will make a party out of it, even more than it already was. Riding bikes with friends, hanging out in the lobby playing with the baby, knitting, cracking jokes and enjoying snack crack was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Hopefully they’ll shove us to the end again, allowing us to boost our numbers even further since so many people don’t get home and finish dinner until 8:00 or 8:30.
Until then, Snake Pliskin and the gang made another daring escape. Can’t wait to go back.
Special thanks to all who showed up to the Firefly Ride, and it was awesome to hear G$ tell the council that he had a 1.5 hour commute back home to Venice (it was already 11:00 PM), but he was excited because he was “gonna be on his bike!”
Super special thanks to all who stuck around for the party and who helped read the NIH study. It was especially special when Mayor King tried to close the meeting and Kim F. and Chuck C. raised holy hell about not having gotten their chance to speak … and they spoke!
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October 25, 2016 § 10 Comments
Here’s how another writer put it:
Tired of people pulling in to the Donut peloton? Did you know there was a hit and run on PVDE last weekend? Tired of this bullshit? Then do something!
Bring lights. Wear regular clothes. Malaga Cove Fountain, 6:20PM, followed by 7:30 Council Meeting, where we will be reading verbatim a study to the council – no need to prepare remarks – everything will be provided. No need to stay for the whole meeting – read for three minutes and leave. This was the study that convinced the Traffic Safety Committee and that the City Council didn’t even bother reading it – so we will read it to them.
What do we want? The same thing we asked for this summer:
1) Residents to stop killing, maiming and intimidating cyclists
2) PVEPD enforcement of the three-foot law
4) BMUFL signs
Despite three deaths, testimony from hundreds of concerned citizens, direct threats on cyclists via NextDoor, and daily examples of unsafe driving by residents oblivious to vehicular law, City Council ignored the unanimous recommendations of City Staff and Traffic Safety Committee. They ignored science. They ignored studies. They want you to wait two years before taking action recommended by the National Institutes of Health.
PVE cyclists of all ages are the first constituency in the history of the City that has asked for common sense safety protections and been denied. Resident parents are afraid to let thier kids ride to school (367 kids at our school… one lonely bike in the bike rack). Residents are afraid to ride the streets. Myriad invitations to ride with us have been ignored by City Council, City Staff and PVEPD. PVE streets are unsafe for cyclists and anyone who thinks otherwise is in complete denial.
The City Council vote graphically demonstrates that the city does not care about cyclist safety. Question: How many tickets for violations of the Three Foot Law have ever been written in city history? Answer: Zero. Yet every day drivers drive dangerously on PVDW, endangering mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers with families who depend on them. Cyclists of all ages are scared.
The Council’s reaction: Stop signs, stop signs, stop signs. Despite nearly all cyclist testimony beginning with “We fully support PVEPD equally enforcing vehicular law.”
Residents yell “I don’t care” in the city hall parking lot when they are informed your only agenda is returning home safely. They try running you over and intimidating you. This has got to stop.
The time is now for Protest. Here’s the best part: You will simply ride as the city residents have asked: single file, complete stop at all stopsigns, foot down, use hand signals, proceed as an individual when safe. Drive your bike as if it were a car. #cvc21202.
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October 24, 2016 § 16 Comments
Now that the Palos Verdes Estates city council has voted down BMUFL signage against the recommendations of its own traffic safety committee, traffic engineer, and outside consultant, it’s apparently necessary that they be reminded why signage got on their agenda to begin with: Three cyclists have died on the peninsula this year and blatant, over the top harassment of cyclists who dare to abide by the California Vehicle Code.
Moreover, the city has sent a clear message to cyclists by voting down signage: It’s okay to terrorize cyclists at will. And cyclists now report a scary uptick in harassing behavior, such as this dick move by the person driving CA license plate number 6USG423.
And from an even scarier view …
At 6:30 PM this Tuesday, October 25 (THAT’S TOMORROW), some cyclists will, as part of traffic, ride through Palos Verdes Estates and ride in and around Malaga Cove Plaza, while doing exactly what the residents have demanded: Fully obey all traffic laws and come to a complete stop at every stop sign. The idea that some residents have made, and that the city has bought into, is that PVE should not consider safer streets (five BMUFL signs) because all cyclists don’t stop at every sign, every time. The city council needs to see again how this faux demand has nothing to do with safety and is a deflection from the real issue: Cars terrorizing bikes and the city’s caving in to the howls of an angry and unrepresentative minority that wants to exclude nonresidents from cycling in PVE.
After riding in and around the plaza as normal traffic, cyclists also plan to attend the PVE city council meeting at 7:30 PM, held in the council chambers just across from Malaga Cove Plaza. During the period for public comment on matters not on the city’s agenda, cyclists will each speak for their three minute allotment, reading from the NIH study that shows signage makes roads safer for bicycles. The council failed to read this document at the last dog-and-pony-show that voted down BMUFL signage, even though it was provided to them in their materials.
If you are a cyclist who is concerned about safety on the PV Peninsula, you should come to this 100% public meeting, read for three minutes from the NIH study (a copy of the study will be available, I’ve heard), and then leave as soon as you’ve read your three minutes; no need to stick around or waste an entire night at the rest of the meeting. You won’t have to stick around for hours as at previous meetings.
Some riders have said they will be convening twice a month to ride and to publicly comment at every council meeting until the city puts the signage back on the agenda and votes to install BMUFL signage and sharrows. The more cyclists who show up and take their full three minutes to read from the NIH study or otherwise advise the council of the need for BMUFL signage and sharrows, the sooner we can expect the city council to vote to put these critical matters back on the agenda and vote to have them installed.
The city has shown that as long as the vocal anti-safety residents gnash & howl loudest, they will not vote for human lives. You should consider spending a few minutes of your time to come to the meeting and oppose such a horrible position.
Democracy only happens when people show up.
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October 23, 2016 § 16 Comments
The Fourth Annual South Bay Cycling Awards wrapped up with hardly any controversy! There are too many people to list for their wonderful contributions. No, wait, that’s not true. This is the Internet and there is absolutely no limit. So here goes!
First off is Diego Binatena, from Base Cartel. Why Diego? Because I fucking forgot to thank him last night, out of all the people who deserved mention. Bottom line? Buy his shit. It’s awesome and he’s a good dude.
This year the event hit the medium-time thanks to the Southern California and Nevada Cycling Association. They kicked in a ton of money and funded the toilets, the lights, the sound, the stage, free food, chairs, tables, pro photography services, and half the beer. In short, they made the event! My only question is this: Where were all the SCNCA award recipients? Jeez! What is it about “free food, free beer, and cash prizes” that you bike racers don’t understand?
The plus side was that there were plenty of SCNCA recipients to come collect their trophies and cash, and no group better represented the spirit of the night than the crew from SC Velo. What fantastic bunch of kids. I think they may have even learned new cuss word or two. I always take pride in mentoring the youth.
Anyway, on to the thanks!
Jan Luke, SCNCA President. Made shit happen. Made this partnership happen. Lugged in the trophies. Lugged out the trophies. Was awesome in every way!
Chris Black, SCNCA Vice President.
David Huntsman, SCNCA Secretary. Lawyer, advocate, friend, guy who has done so much to breathe new life into SCNCA.
Armin Rahm, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, dad, promoter, businessman, friend. Showed up to show the Amis how a Bavarian drinks beer.
Justin Williams, SCNCA Board Member. Racer, cool guy, friend. Ready with a quip and encouragement, hell of a bike racer.
Suzanne Sonye, SCNCA Board Member. Legend, legend, legend. Oh, and legend.
Matt Wikstrom, SCNCA Board Member. Mr. Git R Done. Handed out checks, coordinated everything for two months before the shit show, brought more goodwill, enthusiasm, and execution to the event than anyone ever. Plus kicked the shit out of everyone on the Donut. Except those two pesky juniors.
Sean Wilson, SCNCA Board Member.
Omar Lozano, SCNCA Board Member. Promoter, dad, husband, and part of the “new face” of bike racing promotion in SoCal. Enthusiastic hard working dude who supports juniors, local, and binational racing.
Dan Munson: Simply the best. Pro photographer. Even as I write this he’s putting together a folio of the amazing evening. Prepare to be blown away.
StageOne: Designed everything. Logo, t-shirts, patches, bar tape, banners, posters, and virtually every kit worth looking at in the South Bay.
South Bay Wheelmen: Local bike club that kicked in hard cash to buy flowers for the lovely deserving recipients.
Wend Wax: Chain wax. Look. This shit works. So go get some. Ryan Dahl generously donated 20 sets of Wend Wax, a billion dollar retail value, for the award winners’ swag kits. So frigging cool.
JoJe Bars: Energy bars. John Abate and Jessica Cera’s amazing energy bars that are organic, wholesome, taste great, and give you an amazing kick in the shorts when you need a boost on the bike or off.
Beachbody Performance: Everything you need to win, to finish, or to prop your legs up on the couch and watch the Cubs win instead of riding your bike. Beachbody has been the number one step up and deliver new sponsor for cycling in 2016.
BonkBreaker: Provided awesome swag bags to award winners containing energy snacks, energy chews, and super cool musette bags. Thank you!
Marc Spivey: Wanky Committee member who filled the venue with the right sound at the exact right time. Marc’s lifetime in the music and entertainment industry, and his passion for music has meant that every single year we’ve had sound that matches or exceeds the most famous award ceremonies anywhere.
Derek Brauch: With the help of Jami, put together the most awesome Wanky Swag Bags™ ever. Provided us with meeting space for our numerous and redundant meetings, the best analytical mind around to improve, question, improve, question, and improve until we were even better than the year before.
Trey Smith: The ghost in the machine. Every year Trey provides us with incredible sound that makes the whole thing happen.
Keedar Whittle: Fantastic comedian who kept people in stitches, hit the great stuff, didn’t shy away from politics, race, and biking, and left us all happy and glad he came.
Michelle Landes: Arranged flowers, total selflessness, and was there with a smile, encouragement, and assistance every step of the way.
Chris Gregory: Truly the Spirt of the Wankies. Whether it was ordering the Hall of Fame figurines, designing and making, the necklaces, choosing and assembling the invitations, recording and double-checking RSVPs, taking photos at the event, making elegant podium presentations, keeping things running smoothly, and always helping me just when the confusion was at its max, “thank you” doesn’t even begin to do it.
Lisa Conrad, Sherri Foxworthy, Stephanie Lin, Chris Gregroy: These four amazing women have been with the event since its inception, if “inception” is what you call a bunch of drunks in a dive bar trying to give away awards to passers-by. From the minute we said “Wankies” they donned their evening finest and showed up with shimmering with beauty, poised, happy, funny, gentle, and they’ve been here every year since. Truly, no matter how rough and sort-of-ready the biker gang crowd is, they give us all the class you can’t get all sweated up on a bike.
Jami Brauch: Jami artfully designed and stocked the swag bags despite having a newborn to care for–the bags were so great this year that people simply couldn’t resist stealing them. Can’t wait for next year!
Kristie Fox: She helped with the swag bags, she set up and managed the sales table (books, socks, bar tape, patches, t-shirts), and she singlehandedly ordered and delivered the most massive and awesome cake in the history of the awards. And cupcakes! And done with a smile and ruthless efficiency.
Strand Brewing Co.: No mere words can thank Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello for this amazing venue, for their support of grass roots cycling, and for providing the infrastructure and support to pull of this best-ever event. Oh, minor detail! FREE take-home growlers of White Sands DIPA, their top-shelf, brew, to every adult who showed up.
Tony Manzella and Echelon Color: Printed and delivered the amazing award ceremony posters. Ansel Adams said it: “The negative is the score, but the print is the performance.” And what a performance by Echelon Color it was!
Tara Unversagt: Tara worked to get SBW sponsorship involved, helped with swag bag materials, and did the ultimate job of Cub Scout Den Mother by keeping me organized and on track throughout the event. So much fantasticness in one person!
Phil Gaimon: Best UCI US pro road racer, attended our event, made us look semi-sort of legit, and promoted what is the best Grand Fondue on the calendar: Phil’s Malibu Cookie Dough Gran Fondo. Register here, register now. Phil drove straight from Clovis, NM, to make the event. How awesome is that? Very awesome!
Daniel Holloway: As if Phil Gaimon weren’t enough, reigning US road/crit champ Daniel Holloway brought the star power and picked up right where he left off. Being a part of the South Bay community. Thank you so much for sharing.
The 2016 South Bay Cycling Awards award winners were:
- 2016 Greatest Advocate: Sarah Barraclough for BMUFL/Master Safety Plan advocates
- 2016 Best Bike Shop: Performance Bicycle
- 2016Best Young Rider: Ivy Koester
- 2016 Best Old Rider: George Pommel
- 2016 Most Improved: David Holland
- 2016 Best Club: Long Beach Freddies
- 2016 Best Event: Dana Point Grand Prix
- 2016 Wanker of the Year: Denis Faye
- 2016 Belgian Award: James Cowan
- 2016 Group Ride Champion: Elijah Shabazz
- 2016 Best Sponsor: Beachbody Performance
- 2016 Best Male Racer: Justin Williams
- 2016 Best Female Racer: Katie Donovan
- 2016 GC Award: Joe Yule
- 2016 Crashtacular Fred: Marvin Campbell
- 2016 Strava KOM: Chris Tregillis
- 2016 Most Happy to Help others: Chris Gregory
- 2016 Most Fun: Sochin Lee
- 2016 Best Spouse/SO: Jeanette Seyranian
- 2016 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Tony Manzella
Until next year, thank you!!!
October 21, 2016 § 38 Comments
I first met Dan Chapman about a year and a half ago. He had been riding since 1996 and was a well-known cyclist on the West Side of LA, most especially as a climber who knew every bend, turn, crack, pebble, and fence post in the Santa Monica Mountains. Somehow, we never crossed paths, which is shorthand for “He was a lot faster than me.”
By the time we met, Dan no longer rode. He had been hit by a truck and the resulting injuries to his neck and spine prevented him from ever riding again. Dan never volunteered any details about his collision and I never asked. He occasionally made oblique references to it, but still, I never asked.
Then, about a year ago, I suggested that he write something and I’d publish it. Here it is, breathtaking, powerful, gripping, horrific, and humbling, a year in the writing but a lifetime in the making.
Before and After
By Dan Chapman
When you ride, you don’t think about after. You just ride, have fun and don’t think a lot about dying. I had been riding on PCH since the early 80’s and it gradually became a place where I felt at ease, even though the cars were buzzing by just beyond my elbow. I usually left early to avoid traffic and went as fast as possible in certain areas to avoid the cars and also to trash my friends. I’ve done a lot of solo rides up and down PCH with both road and TT bike. My wheels touched every climb from Santa Monica to Oxnard many times. PCH and that endless ocean felt like home.
Here began the after as well. I awoke in the hospital two and a half weeks after being run over by a pickup truck I think near the base of Pepperdine Hill. The driver was speeding and lost control. Where the hell am I? I tried to lift my left arm but it wouldn’t move and I thought something was wrong with it. I looked over to see what was wrong and saw multiple tubes plugged into the back of my hand and realized somehow that I was in a hospital. I wasn’t capable of thinking much about anything and looked up in the cool dim dawn and saw a row of doctors looking at me. It seemed absurd but I could not muster even a tiny joke. I can clearly remember leaving my house and then waking up that morning, but in between is blank. It’s very strange to loose time. It took a month and a half to understand what had happened to me and my body.
A year after the incident, I talked my wife and son into driving to the fire station in Malibu. They helped me after the incident and transported me to the hospital. I usually visit them once a year on the anniversary to give thanks. I knocked on the door of the station and a fireman opened the door and invited us in. I told him my story so he checked on who was on duty that day so I could thank them personally. He found that he was the one who had responded. I gave him a hug and we gave them some cookies. On the drive back home, I cried.
I found participating in cycling exhilarating. At a certain point, it seemed to become less painful and more fun where I could ride and train for pleasure. I had spent a lot of time in the hills and had developed a crazy climb heavy program that enabled me to semi-comfortably enjoy the long weekend rides, (or so I imagined). I particularly enjoyed the Nichols ride, with its long casual cruise up and eventual explosion on the hill then holding with the front pack on Mulholland. It’s nice to be strong and comfortable. It’s even harder to leave it behind.
To be able to ride at a high level isn’t just being able to place well, but as we all know, it’s more about the people and landscape. Cycling is a way to visit a road, a place, the sky, the fog, and the environment. It’s difficult to lose this because these places, like Fernwood and Tuna, were like friends. I’ve driven up and down some of my old haunts a few times but it’s not the same. It never will be.
Almost four years later, I’m finally starting to visit where I rode. It was hard initially as the injuries were severe and I had trouble walking for almost a year. I also had trouble with my stamina as I was forced to do nothing, on doctors’ orders for seven months. All of the fine tuned muscles vanished. The place where I noticed the most was in my lungs. My whole style was about breathing in rhythm to the cadence and it, like my mountain bike, wheelsets, trainer and rollers soon vanished as I sold or gave them away. It was also very emotional and this was hard to overcome, particularly when I realized that I would have to retract from almost everything to heal. Not only did I have to heal, but I had to heal from healing.
But really, it was too emotional. I thought I would break down again if I went to one of my former rides. I couldn’t handle it because what really bothered me was the sound. I had cried so many times, not from pain, but the anguish of losing so many things that I could no longer do – basically anything athletic. My family heard me cry, the nurses, and probably the mailman. I’m making myself cry now just thinking about my crying.
Actually, riding is to be in a cocoon of noise, spinning sprockets, gears, wheels and the occasional unbelievable squeak. “I’m sorry, but did you ever think of oiling that black mess in the back of your bike”? The sound says so many things and I can identify what and who is where. Then there is the yelling at dunderheads, who like Pavlov’s Dog, continue to do the same stupid thing every week. I have no bike sound anymore. There is no one to yell at now. It’s too quiet. Then there is the silent noise, a look in the eyes and nod of the head, a pat on the shoulder as you pass an old friend, or a fist bump after a nice sprint. No one is there anymore to fist bump at thirty miles per hour.
The thing I went for a ride on that fateful day was a new pair of shoes. My wife gave me a bag after I returned from the hospital with my bloody cut up kit and at the bottom, my new shoes, perfectly unblemished. They still looked brand new and lasted exactly one half of a ride. They looked so good. I put them on and wiggled my toes. I laughed at the irony of it. I finally get a new pair of shoes and am almost killed trying them out. I had imagined myself showing up at a ride and handing out some punishment like it was easy. I would ride off the front and hear wheezing and choking sounds plus loud curses. “Do you ever fucking slow down”. However, I had no choice but to sell them. A club member responded and he came over. I showed him the shoes and then he talked me down in price. When the buyer left, it seemed many old dreams walked out with him.
It was the first week of January when I finally met the surgeon, Dr. Anthony Virella. Two things he said will stick with me forever. The first was that I was extraordinarily lucky to be alive. My face went white and I wanted desperately to go out to the hallway and stare out the window. The only problem is I could barely walk and I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the door. The second was that I could never ride a bike again. Ever.
Goodbye Golf Course (there are several), Marina, Mandeville, Three Bitches, Nichols, Amalfi, Donut, Simi, Latigo, Circle X, San Vincente, Piuma, Stunt, Mulholland, Cold Canyon, Fernwood, Tuna, Vista del Mar, NPR, Mandeville, Working Man’s Ride, Chainbreak, The Wall (again several), Topanga, Old Topanga, New Topanga, TOPS, Mulholland, Twisties, Switchbacks, Rock Store, Lake Malibou and that blazing hot day when I felt like a million dollars on Stunt, popped over the top then in to the glorious bosom of Tuna, sweating through every pore in my body. God that ocean breeze felt good. I can still feel it.
The deep well I was trapped in to recover from was also accompanied by a vicious concussion. I can’t really describe what I am inside but I was unprepared for the headaches and sleepiness that accompanied it. Three naps a day where I fell into a deep sleep and awoke to resume work became a habit. I was given medication that caused me to be confused, which cured the headaches but left me dependent on Liz to remember my tasks. It was frightening and disorienting. I was weaned off the medication and, yet again, struggled to recover myself again. My psyche is a giant wad of tissue paper that I slowly strip off to reveal yet another layer. There is no reward in the middle, just more paper. The headaches are still there on occasion and just as confounding.
We went to see the surgeon again in February 2013. He said I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the hardware in your lower back is fine. The bad news is that the hardware in your neck has failed. We need to get you into the hospital as soon as possible to fix this. Come to the hospital tonight and we will prepare you for surgery. He said that there was nothing holding up my neck and that if I fell, I could become permanently paralyzed. Liz and I looked at each other, scared to death.
That night we returned to the hospital and after 24 sleepless hours, I was in the operating room again. I toured the room and asked a few questions about the procedure them laid down on the operating table and counted, one, two, three…
I awoke and found a bigger, tighter neck brace on. Instead of four screws, there were now twelve and two pieces of hardware, one in front and one in back of the cervical spinal column. They had to move the entire throat out of the way to get to the spine then delicately place it back. How did they do that? On the back of my head was a giant scar and the entire area was now numb. Now, when I get a haircut, I can’t feel the blades moving over this area.
This time, to make sure the fragile smashed bones would heal, I would not be able to do any exercise or lift more than ten pounds for four months. This was after going through the prior three months with the same precautions. Liz licked her chops at being able to yell at me some more. Oh boy, more atrophy. This time it was serious. Time and memory became fuzzy again as I clearly struggled to maintain my equilibrium. I had a much bigger neck brace on this time that caused people to stare at me, raking their eyes up an down on me like laser beams. My biggest accomplishment was making it to Trader Joes to go shopping. Liz led me around tenderly, making sure I didn’t fall or trip. Like the route of the Marina ride, I knew every pothole in the aisles, the angle to make the turn-around at the milk station and how to smoothly brake when you get in line.
I only had one dark moment, but it scared me. I can still feel it and I carry it with me everyday. I thought I wouldn’t be able to be there for Tab, that I would have to ask friends to help me raise him, to help him become an Eagle Scout and to finish high school. I could not do it, I thought, I was incapable of doing anything. I could not even care for myself. I was so frozen by fear in my hospital bed that I thought about if I had died. It’s not like Ghost, where there is a big white staircase and a bunch of cool people who really want to help you. No, it’s just dark, cold and colorless. I could feel my soul, aching. I can see it with my eyes wide open, in the early dawn, when my mind is still saying to me, better get up and get ready for the ride. And that’s what saved me.
October 20, 2016 § 26 Comments
I had a great ride last night. It was the “Bro Ride,” a group that meets up in Hermosa Beach at 5:45 PM on Wednesdays and does a 35-mile pedal through the city during rush hour. You would think that’s dicey but you’d be wrong. Thanks Matt Miller for keeping things safe and fun.
In addition to the obligatory flat tire change we also did some paceline practice on Westchester Parkway. Joann Z., Kevin S., Tom D., Joey C., Geoff L., and Matt were all amenable to receiving some screamed instructions by a rabid Wanky, and four of the riders did their first paceline ever, acquitting themselves quite well.
You take it for granted that everybody’s done a rotating paceline before but that’s not the case. We did a little seminar at the curbside before starting, and I told everyone not to worry. “I’ll be screaming like a batshit crazy drill sergeant. You’ll never be in doubt as to what you should be doing.”
Funny thing is, it took very little instruction other than yelling “Pull off!” “Pull through!” and “Quit surging for fuck’s sake!” at the right time. Before long people really got the hang of it and commented on how much fun it was. Riding a paceline takes huge concentration, not to mention trusting the wheel in front of you. In LA, where group rides are more akin to mobs, and where there aren’t many unbroken stretches of road where you can rotate, the Parkway proved perfect.
Basic riding skills can be taught quickly, you just have to stop what you’re doing at the time, divest yourself from the moment of “being in the ride,” and take a minute to talk, practice, and learn. Good stuff.
October 19, 2016 § 7 Comments
Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Bradley Wiggins to discuss his use of performance enhancing drugs prior to his 2012 Tour de France win.
CitSB: So you got a TUE for steroids to treat your asthma right before the Tour?
CitSB: And you went on to win?
CitSB: Your asthma must have been really bad.
BW: Bad? Mate, it was killing me. It was so bad I had these little coughs in bed at night. Me throat got a little raw even. It was the most terrible pain I’ve ever felt.
CitSB: And as a result you took a year-long prescription for steroids?
BW: Oh, yeah. Them things work, mate.
CitSB: And you don’t consider that cheating?
CitSB: Why not?
BW: I had to level the playing field, mate.
CitSB: Could you elaborate?
BW: The playing field was all tilted and crooked and whomperjawed. Because of me asthma and I couldn’t breathe so we had to put a jack under the edge of the playing field and level it out.
CitSB: So you think that all racers should be equal?
BW: Oh, sure, mate. Gotta be fair and square or it’s not racing, it’s rigged like the US elections. It’s letting one guy beat another guy because of unfair advantages. That’s why we have the TUE system, mate. Man gets a bit of a breathing problem and he’s suddenly got the table tilted against him, then he takes a bit of the good stuff and *bam* he’s back equal with the other blokes.
CitSB: What are some of the other unfair advantages that a rider would need to use a TUE to “level out the playing field”?
BW: Oh, all kinds of shit, mate. All kinds of shit.
CitSB: Like what?
BW: VO2 max, mate. There’s guys out there with super high VO2 max and some other bloke only has, like, you know, maybe a 45. That’s bone idle wanker unfair.
CitSB: What else?
BW: List is endless, mate. Some guy’s been training extra hard, for example, while another bloke’s been drinking beer and boinking his GF. Super un-level playing field. Or diet. Dieting really tilts the hell out of the playing field.
BW: Is there an echo in here? Yeah, mate. One guy eats really good and stays lean and comes into the Tour at race weight, and the other bloke is 25 pounds overweight, butt cheeks sagging over the saddle wings.
CitSB: You mean Cavendish?
BW: Don’t wanna name names, mate, but you get me drift. Them’s unfair advantages. That’s why we have the TUE system.
CitSB: Some have said that if you have chronic breathing problems so severe that they require regular steroid prescriptions, maybe you shouldn’t be in an elite endurance sport.
BW: Yeah, well you know what? Sick people should get a shot at the yellow jersey same as healthy ones. That’s discrimination, mate. Pure and simple discrimination.
CitSB: Can you tell us about the secret package delivery just before the Tour?
BW: Oh, sure. That was nothing, mate.
CitSB: What was in the package?
BW: Just some orange juice and a couple of aspirin.
CitSB: Why was it shipped in from Italy by private courier?
BW: Italian oranges, mate, them’s the best.
CitSB: I see. Any suggestions for how the TUE system might be reformed?
BW: Yeah. I have this genetic low red blood cell count problem. I’m hoping to get a TUE to reform that. You know, to raise it up a bit. Untilt the playing field, so to speak.
CitSB: So to speak.
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