Evident signs that you lack humility

February 24, 2015 § 15 Comments

A buddy sent me this list. The title made me laugh, and the list made me think … lots here for the cycling world, the world in general, and, ulp, me.

  1. Thinking that what you do or say or have is better than what others do or say or have. “Yeah, but my frame has a lower serial number.”
  2. Always wanting to get your way regardless of how it affects others. “My bars can fit in that quickly slamming door, and if I go down, sucks to be the guys behind me.”
  3. Arguing when you are not right,  or, when you are, insisting stubbornly or with bad manners. “Of course those tires are 25mm, you idiot.”
  4. Giving your opinion without being asked for it, or when charity does not demand that you to do so. “If you want to win more races, you need to … “
  5. Despising the point of view of others. “Who cares what those maroons think? They’re tri-dorks.”
  6. Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan. “You know how come I won? Because I fuggin’ earned it!”
  7. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honor or esteem, of the ground you are treading on or the things you own. “Check out these killer Fakebook photos of me on the podium! Awesome, huh?”
  8. Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation. “When I think about great race tactics, it reminds me of the time I attacked with three to go in the Hooterville Petit-Prix.”
  9. Speaking badly about yourself so that others may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you with flattery. “Aw, I’m such a maroon to have won that stage race by ten minutes.”
  10. Making excuses when rebuked. “My fault? The guy in front crashed me out!”
  11. Hiding humiliating faults from someone you depend on so that he won’t lose the good opinion he has of you. “I only have one glass of wine a day. With dinner.”
  12. Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you. [Strikes very close to home, that one.]
  13. Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you. “She’s not that good. I beat her two years ago at the Hooterville Midi-Prix.”
  14. Refusing to carry out menial tasks. “Air up my tires, would you?”
  15. Seeking or wanting to be singled out. “Didja get a picture of me in the break? Didja?”
  16. Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige. “When I was awarded the Legion of Honor for saving everyone on the ship, I was so embarrassed–it’s not the kind of thing we brain surgeons train for.”
  17. Being ashamed of not having certain possessions. “We can’t invite them over, honey. They’d see how we really live.”
  18. Add your own!
  19. END

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Global spam alert!

February 21, 2015 § 46 Comments

I have done a lot of things in my life. When I was five I sold fudge at the Bolivar Ferry Landing in Galveston for “Y” Indian Guides. I didn’t make a lot of money because I ate most of the fudge.

When I was eight I sold newspapers and mowed lawns. I also sold Christmas candles door-to-door year round, but I never made much money because I liked to keep the candles and fill up my room with them. Also, I had to stop that job when I caught the curtains on fire. “What are you doing with fifty-eight lit candles in your room?” my mother yelled as she beat out the flames with the New York Times.

Dad came up, looked at the charred remnants, and said, “Give me the business section when you’re done with it.”

I did telephone surveys for Houston Interviewing, a hole-in-the-wall place where I first heard a woman say the words “suck cock.” She was the assistant manager. I expected the god I didn’t believe in to strike her with lightning, but when he didn’t I borrowed fifty dollars from her to buy an O’Neill wetsuit.

I sacked groceries at the Kroger around the corner. I was too weird to be a checker and too prone to thievery, so I bagged groceries and pushed the mop bucket over to Aisle 9 where people always broke the ketchup bottles. Clifford Zataratus and I smoked dope out on the loading docks and tossed stuff into the dumpster that we’d retrieve after closing hours.

One night he took me to Sloopy’s Pool Hall and got in a fight. They beat him up good. I hid underneath his car. When the beating stopped the other guys walked off. They were men, actually. Clifford opened the trunk of his Monte Carlo, took out a baseball bat, and beat up all three. I heard my first leg snap and heard my first grown man beg not to be killed while blood gushed out of his mouth and he lay on the ground spitting teeth and writhing on his shattered knee.

My junior year of high school I sold subscriptions to the Houston Post over the phone. There was a punk who started after me who sold a lot of stuff. His name was Michael Dell. Even then he was a douchebag, and we hated him because he outsold the entire sales team.

I worked for the Gap and I worked for Naughty Niceties, a clothing shop at Sharpstown Mall that sold nasty underwear. That job only lasted for two weeks. These greasy looking men would come in leering at their drunken girlfriends and ask them to “model the crotchless.” I left when one of the women asked me to go into the changing room to “model the crotchless” and her skinny, pimply boyfriend asked if he could watch.

In college I typed papers because I had a Selectric. Some freak in Dobie Mall had his own fuggin’ personal computer. “Everyone will use these in five years,” he said.

“Sure,” I sneered. “And I bet they won’t use IBM Selectrics, either.”

I cooked burgers at Chili’s, worked as an oyster shucker at the Capitol Oyster Company, moved pianos, and organized books at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Later on I worked as a translator, an interpreter, an English teacher, a consultant, a birding trail mapmaker, a butterfly counter, a web site designer, a photographer, a community development advocate, a marketing director for the Cherokee Heritage Center, and a johnny-on-the-spot maker of windmill trails, rural museum tourism guides, and copywriter for a guy who transferred embryos from quarterhorses to surrogate mares by sticking his entire arm up the horse’s you-know-what.

I worked as a web site marketer, the campaign manager for a U.S. Senate campaign, an art importer, a water advocate who called T. Boone Pickens an asshole, and a lawyer. I’ve written a column in a country newspaper and I’ve been paid for writing blogs and writing books, one about cycling and the other about finding birds on the Texas Gulf Coast.

But it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I hit rock bottom.

You see, every couple of days I send out a little email that has local cycling news in it. Mostly it consists of “I’m doing the x-Ride tomorrow, come if you want to.” It kind of lets people in the South Bay know what’s going on and it goes out to about 110 people.

Then two weeks ago all of the messages bounced. I trolled around on the Internet and learned that the Galactic Monitor Against Spammers, something called Spamhaus, had labeled me a global spammer. Henceforth I wouldn’t be able to send emails to people who had asked to receive them.

So I subscribed to Constant Contact, which lets you spam up to 500 people for $15/month. Now, everyone who asks to be on the list will receive a very spammy looking piece of cycling spam mail. Better than that, I can add this to my resume: GLOBAL SPAMMER.

Not just “winning.” That’s “won.”

END

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The things they carried

February 20, 2015 § 40 Comments

I often see friends post photos of their new bike/car/house/facelift and it usually makes me kind of sad, and a little jealous. There’s something about the act of saying “Look what I own!” that makes me cringe. And it’s funny because hardly anyone seems to put up photos on Fakebook of the books they read. It’s as if you can possess a nice, shiny Bulgemobile and that’s COOL, but you can’t brag about having read a book.

However, my friends who are full-on consumers, who have Porsches and Ferraris in the garage, who have palatial homes here, there, and over yonder, who have bike collections that include separate full carbon extra wheelsets made of carbon to go with each rig, these guys and gals are really just amateur materialists.

When it comes to things, no one is a more hard core materialistic bastard than I am. Just because I don’t put it on Facegag doesn’t mean I’m not the King of Consumerism.

Skeptics will argue that I’m no materialist and will point to my small apartment, my single Prius (a Smugster 4-door, 125k miles), the fact that my casual clothing lineup consists of two pairs of jeans, two hoodies, one gimme cap, and fifteen t-shirts, and they will put the nail in the coffin of their argument when they point out that I only own one bicycle.

But they’re wrong. I’m as materialistic as it gets, but unlike the amateurs with garages and homes full of the latest gewgaw they bought at the LBS or the Bentley dealer, I’ve only got about four prized possessions. What they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Let me share one of them with you.

When my Grandfather Jim Turner died, he didn’t have very much. A .38 Smith & Wesson, an old 12-gauge with a unique pump-action barrel (trust me, you’ve never seen one), and a big plastic wafer that said “Birth Control Kit for Ladies — Hold between knees and squeeze.”

The top drawer in his chest had an envelope in it. Inside was his only family heirloom, and he left it to me.

envelope

His grandfather, John Turner, fought for the rebellion in the Civil War. One of the things that every soldier carried was a powder measure because they had to measure just the right amount of gunpowder to pour into their rifle. Too little powder and the ball would plop out of the barrel. Too much powder and the breech would blow up in your face.

Great-great-grandfather Turner took the breastbone of a wild turkey, which was hollow, and cut it off so that it held just the right amount of powder. Then he drilled a hole in the bone and ran a buckskin thong through it and hung it around his neck. In battle he could crouch down on his knee, dip his powder measure into his powder bag without looking, level it off with his finger, and always get the right amount.

powder_measure1

powder_measure2

You can see the black gunpowder on the inside. That’s Civil War gunpowder, and the last time my great-great-grandfather used it was shortly before Appomattox, where he surrendered with Lee. When you hold it in your hand it’s light but incredibly strong. Sometimes late at night when I can’t sleep and the demons are raging and I’m soaked in sweat and being dead seems preferable to getting up in the morning I hold the powder measure and roll it between my fingers. When I do, I think about my grandfather. He had a flat-bottomed boat that he would use to take me and my brother fishing on the Lake O’ the Pines. The name of the boat was the Ian-Seth.

I think about my grandfather and how gentle he was and how much he loved us, and how that love has strengthened me more than anything in my life. Then I usually fall right to sleep.

I wonder if other people feel the same way about their carbon bikes and Italian cars?

I hope they do.

END

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Chasing the $

February 18, 2015 § 31 Comments

Scattered observations on a Tuesday afternoon, scattered because earlier today Outlook slammed shut and the .pst data file got corrupted. That’s okay! It’s only 15-gigs and it only has 99,000 files!

Fortunately, MicroStupid has the Outlook Inbox Repair Tool and his name is Bill Gates. You turn on the repair tool and it scans the .pst file, except the word “scan” doesn’t quite fit. When I was kid I learned that “scan” meant to quickly look over something, but in MicroStupidese “scan” means “pull out the Sunday Times or Thomas Mann’s ‘Magic Mountain’ in German because it’s gonna take a while.”

After scanning, or shall we say trundling, the Tool indicated that my file was corrupted. Was I surprised to learn that something associated with me is corrupt? No. So I hit the “repair now” button and it did what MicroStupid is famous for: Hanging.

“Perhaps there’s a repair tool for the repair tool?” I wondered. So I googled “repair tool repair tool” and it took me to http://www.bighairytools.com. I won’t hyperlink; you’ll have to find that fifty-first shade of grey on your own.

Like an idiot I then reinstalled MS Office and since we apparently have the Cox Discount Internet Package, where electrons are hand-carried over to my apartment one by one in a wheelbarrow, it’s going to take a while. And we won’t mention the unhappy fact that after it’s reinstalled, the .pst file will still be corrupt.

Anyway, scattered.

Chasing the money

On Sunday I was scattered, too. Scattered from chasing Greg Leibert a/k/a G$ as he attacked nonstop for fifty minutes at the CBR Crit #2 over in Carson. Greg didn’t win but he rode a real bike race while almost all of the eighty other riders in the field hunkered down, did nothing, and waited for the sprunt.

The mere act of following G$’s attacks makes you feel like you did something worthwhile, even though all it got me was worn out. And in their defense, the reason that most of the other wankers didn’t attack is because they couldn’t.

This is gonna be gnarly

Lots of social media howler monkeys have shrieked with glee upon hearing the news that Drugstrong got popped for a cool $10m when he lost his “I perjured myself like a fugger but a crooked deal’s a deal” defense at the SCA arbitration. He’s also being sued for the balance in state court, and the Feds + Floyd are about to give him the Sodom + Gomorrah treatment in the whistleblower suit as they seek $300m in damages. With an estimated net worth of $125m, Drugstrong is going to look back on 2015 as the year he moved back in with his mom.

I know that gives a lot of people pleasure. It’s fun to watch rude and mean people get hammered, I suppose. I have to confess that when he first got dethroned I thought he was going to make a clean breast of things and that he would take the noble route and be a noble guy. Color me garishly stupid. But none of it makes me particularly happy, any more than it makes me happy when a convicted killer gets life without parole. Mostly I just feel sad. Sad for the victims, sad for the perp, and sad for Betsy.

Bikes still make kids happy

On a super happy note, Matt Smith’s appeal on this wankerish blog netted a bunch of free bikes for his high school’s new MTB team, as well as clothing, equipment, and donations. What a wonderful bunch of people you are. You’ve made a difference in the lives of these kids. They’ll remember what you did long after you’ve forgotten. Too bad you have such lousy taste in reading material.

Tri-dorks heart Bike scum

Speaking of lousy reading material, I was blown away that my tongue-in-cheek rant about triathletes and bike weight got posted in the biggest tri-dork chat forum, Slowtwitch. Not surprised that they picked it up, but surprised that a bunch of them made friendly comments. Most of the time when something I write winds up on a forum it gets burned to the ground because apparently a lot of people think that I write news, or that I report facts, or that I really think I know anything about the subjects I write about.

Anyway, thanks to all you tri-dorks you got the joke, even if it was a pretty lame one. And thanks as well to the one tri-dork on the forum who took it all very seriously and was outraged that I’d be so outrageous and that I was also wrong and a hypocrite. That dude spends way too much time on my sister publication, Red Kite Bore.

Golf is “Flog” spelled backwards

Mega-props to Emily Georgeson, the “sprinter” who got 2nd at Punchbowl behind Katie Donovan, the quintessential twiggy climber type who sprints like a battleship, corners like a city bus, but climbs like blood pressure at the Heart Attack Cafe. Emily’s success is down to hard work, smart riding, and a great coach-riding partner in Aaron Wimberley, but the meat and potatoes of her climbing prowess is our Thursday Flog Ride around the Golf Course.

That ride turns everyone into shrapnel. It’s tactical, there’s nowhere to hide, there are no stoplights, and it’s flat fuggin hard.

Skinned sausage

Speaking of hard, Robert Efthimos took a nasty tumble leading out the Cat 3 sprunt at CBR on Sunday and separated his shoulder. What’s worse, he also separated his carbon seat stays which are full carbon. Heal up, Sausage! And the next time you get the bright idea to do anything in a Cat 3 race other than NOT SIGN UP, don’t do it!

For those who don’t know it, Robert is the president-elect of La Grange, one of the oldest and most venerated racing clubs in the U.S. He is doing everything right to refocus the club back on racing, and his efforts have resulted in a strong La Grange presence at races. Guys like Robert and Greg Seyranian, who have an open door policy and who emphasize racing for people who JOIN A FUGGIN BIKE RACING CLUB are the key to the grass roots development that saw such amazing turnout at the races on Sunday. Hats off, Sausage. Hope you’re herding the frogs there for years to come.

The eyes have it

On a related note, Ronnie Toth called me the other day to talk about his MB Grand Prix crash that I’d written up several months ago. I expected a tongue lashing but got nothing of the sort. He was funny, polite, intelligent, and slightly butthurt (his words), and in the end we saw eye to eye regarding his terrible accident and the danger of the ubiquitous steel barriers.

Had Ronnie not been wearing his SPY shades he would have lost an eye, perhaps both. He’s had titanium reconstruction on part of his skull, and his nose was rebuilt with bone and cartilage from a rib. It’s amazing that he’s recovered so quickly, and when he told SPY about the sight-saving effect of the glasses, they gave him glasses … for life. Lots of reasons I support SPY, but nothing exemplifies it like this kind of stuff.

Huge props to Ronnie for getting back on the bike.

First blood

My good friend Michelle L. did her first bike race on Sunday. She’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, on the bike or off, and before she got into cycling she ran a lot and she ran fast. Michelle took the plunge and had a blast. She had a lot of encouragement which outweighed all the wankers who said “WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT????”

Answer: Because it’s thrilling and kind of dangerous and hard as hell and fun. Michelle rode towards the front and then rode AT the front for the last five laps and still snagged seventh. Welcome to the sorority, Michelle! [Note: Michelle is also one of the riders who does the Flog Ride, and there’s no way any crit is as miserable as that.]

Happy Camp

SPY Optic is having its grand opening on Friday, Feb. 20, from 10:00 AM to whenever at their full service retail outlet in Leucadia, located on the 101. There will be a happy hour and live music and male strippers and female porn stars and President Clinton and celebrity cyclists such as Greg LeMond, Sean Kelly, Jacques Anquetil, and Pee Wee Herman. So don’t miss it.

Upcoming races

Rosena Ranch Circuit Race is this Saturday. It’s the best, most awesome, challenging, technical, impressive, wonderful, and truly incredible race course in the history of the sport even though it’s in San Bernardino. Cycling fans will recall Rosena Ranch as the place where I broke my 30-year jinx and rode to solo victory against a field of midgets and a corpse. However, a win is a win, and if I can win there, so can you. Plus, there is lots to do in the surrounding areas, like meth and stuff.

Okay, looks like Orifice has been reinstalled, and as expected the .pst file is still corrupt. Time to plunk down $199.95 for DataNumen Outlook Repair. I’m sure everything will be fine.

END

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Stooge-o-rama

February 13, 2015 § 42 Comments

It was 8:00 AM on a Wednesday. The world was going to work or was already there. None but the most inveterate slackers would have answered the call for a bicycle ride down the bike path in order to spend several hours getting a cup of coffee.

Manslaughter, Chief, and I pedaled away at 8:00 AM, pointy sharp, because my rides always leave when they say they will leave. That way when you get there two minutes late and no one’s there you don’t have to wonder where everyone is.

In the marina there was an obese runner staggering along with a limp who I thought I knew. “Hey, do we know each other?” I asked. In the split second it took to ask the question I realized we were strangers. I had mistaken him for a guy who’d had a stroke.

“No,” he smiled. “But we do now!”

We pedaled on while Chief talked about what is now the 25th of his 30-year plan to “get back in shape.” Shortly thereafter we heard a wheezing sound. It was Stonehenge the human enigma, one of Manslaughter’s teammates.

“I almost got killed back there!” he said. We politely pretended to listen and care as we thought about our wattage.

“Glad you’re okay,” Manslaughter pretended.

“And you know what I was thinking last night?”

We tensed up. “What?”

“That Manslaughter should really be pronounced ‘man’s laughter.’ Get it?”

Manslaughter laughed.

Chief peeled off in Santa Monica so that he could do waif intervals, loops up and down San Vicente where he gazes fondly at the pretty young girls who he imagined he used to consort with. Stonehenge, Manslaughter, and I went to Philz Coffee on 5th and Santa Monica.

Philz is a pour-over coffee place. They don’t have any machines and they don’t make any froo-froo drinks. Instead they make frippy-frippy drinks. Weird and friendly pour-over chefs who are oddly excited about dumping boiling water on coffee grounds take your order. It costs $4 for a cup of coffee that you can make at home with a French press for forty cents.

The folks at Philz are smart.

What you’re paying for at Philz, however, is the waif quotient. Unlike the Sckubrats in Manhattan beach, where all the women are white, reasonably attractive, in their 40’s, and wearing yoga pants and tight tops to model what is almost never original equipment, Philz is filled with women who are too poor to afford new parts and too young to need them.

We paid $12 for our $1.20 worth of coffee and went outside to sit and stare at the talent. The sun was beating down directly on the aluminum bench and reflecting off the plate glass, so the little slice of sidewalk was about a hundred degrees, a perfect place to sit all bundled up with arm warmers, leg warmers, long-fingered gloves, shoe covers, and a boiling cup of coffee.

Stonehenge looked up. “Is that a glider?” he asked.

Manslaughter tried to be nice. “Uh, no. The wings aren’t long enough.”

“I think you’re wrong. That’s a glider,” Stonehenge insisted.

We all looked at the large airplane with four engines and pondered various things.

“So, guys,” said Manslaughter. “I’m gonna be in Vegas this weekend to take a little break from the job I don’t have. Any suggestions on what to do?”

“Whack off?” I offered.

“I do that here. In fact, I’m gonna do it today. I was thinking more along the lines of something new and different.”

“When you check in at your hotel ask the clerk what country most of the foreign guests are from,” I said. She’ll tell you something weird, like ‘Lithuanian.’ After you check in, go grab a Lithuanian phrasebook and start chatting up the Lithuanians. ‘Hi, I’m Manslaughter, trying to learn Lithuanian.'”

“That’s stupid,” said Manslaughter. “Where in the world are you gonna find a Lithuanian phrasebook in Vegas?”

Stonehenge took my side. “They’ll have them throughout the casino if that’s the predominant nationality of the guests. It might be fun. ‘What is it like in your country?’ ‘Do the people in your country eat cabbage?’ ‘How much for the little girl?'”

At that moment a waif walked by. She was wearing tight jeans that had a lot of holes, holes that came from hard use rather than from a designer’s shears. Her head was wrapped in a scarf and she had draped a loose red shirt over her shoulders. She was dragging a small two-wheeled cart filled with dog food and fresh cabbage.

“Hi!” said Manslaughter.

“I don’t have any sheep,” she snarled as she walked past.

“Did that woman just say she didn’t have any sheep?” asked Manslaughter.

Stonehenge rolled his eyes. “Of course not, dummy. She said she didn’t have any shape.”

At that moment the crazy woman standing on the bench across the street began screaming at us. “It’s a hit job!” she howled. “Titties and Moominvalley!” Then she squeezed her breasts, lay back down on the bench and began arguing with the four hundred insane people inside her head.

An enormous man exited the coffee shop and slumped down on the end of our bench. He stared angrily at our bicycles. “Those fancy bike frames don’t mean shit,” he said.

We looked at him.

“It’s all in the wheels. And the yaw angle.”

“Yeah?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “What kind of energy drink is that?” He pointed to my water bottle.

“It’s called GQ-6.”

“Where do you get it?”

“Any GNC.”

“Oh yeah? What’s in it?”

“They have various formulations, but this is their race electrolyte replacement.”

“Really?”

“Yep. Special formulation; contains oxygen and hydrogen.”

“Two hydrogens for every oxygen,” Stonehenge chimed in.

The bum looked interested. “Really? Sounds pretty high-tech. Can I try it?”

“Sure,” I said, and handed him the bottle. “It’s a formulation that’s been around for a long time.”

He took a swig and washed it around in his mouth. “Hmmm,” he said. “Kind of tasteless.”

“Yeah,” I said. “That’s the electrolytes. They don’t have any flavor.”

As we pondered this insight and continued to sweat profusely, an extremely short young security guard from Citibank, which was next door, walked by. He pointed to a stop light. “That’s what happens to you Jews,” he said.

“But we’re not Jews,” I protested.

He shrugged. “That’s what happens to you anyway.” The light turned green.

“What happens? The light turns and we drive off?”

“Yep,” said the security guard as he entered Philz.

A hipster rode up at that moment on a bright red Schwinn fixie with orange rims. It was covered with rust and dents. On the top tube was a sticker that said, “I fuck for money.”

“Hey, man,” he said, looking at us. “Mind if I put my bike here? Watch my ride while a grab a cup so no one don’t steal it. This baby is my pride and joy.”

Seeing that he was aiming to lean his bike on Stonehenge’s rather than his, Manslaughter said, “No, go right ahead.”

“Ummmmmm,” said Stonehenge as the steel Schwinn scraped against his full carbon $6,000 carbon Cannondale with full carbon.

The heatstroke was about to crescendo. “Guys,” I said, “I’m moving over to the shade.” A few feet away there was a shaded bench in front of the Citibank. Manslaughter joined me, but Stonehenge stayed put.

“I can’t come,” he said, looking sadly at his bike, which was pinned by the Schwinn. “I’m in bike jail.”

We finally relocated and the security guard came back out, angrier than he had been when he went in. He glanced at our bikes in a rage, which were now leaned against his bank. “I’m taking me one of these fancy bikes,” he announced, hands full of coffee.

“Sure,” I said. “Take any one that your feet can reach the pedals.”

He glared at us with a furious look. “Dude is going to go home tonight and beat the shit out his cat.”

“Yep,” agreed Stonehenge. “If by ‘cat’ you mean ‘penis.'”

Soon we were pedaling back home. Stonehenge flatted. He turned his bike upside down and set it on its seat. His open water bottle drained sticky goop all over the handlebars. I shut off the spigot and got ready to assist; of course my mechanical skills are nonexistent at best.

As I reached for his toolbag Manslaughter cut in. “Hey Wanky,” he said. “Stonehenge just designed and built one of the largest and most complex craft breweries in L.A. He probably knows how to change a flat.”

Chastened, I sat down as another plane flew overhead. Without looking up we all three said, “Glider.”

“Or a U-2,” said Stonehenge. “Gary Powers.”

“Francis Gary Powers,” I added.

At that moment the most beautiful woman in the history of the galaxy rode by on a cute blue bicycle with a basket. We stopped and gaped. She crossed Main Street and locked her bike to a post. I could tell that Manslaughter was committing that post to memory. As we sat there with long, filmy, sticky strings of drool hanging off our lips a pedestrian with a tattoo on his leg that said “Lick here” stopped and followed our gaze.

“Yeah,” he said. “She’s fuggin’ hot.” The woman went into a building and soon reappeared upstairs. She sat down behind a desk which was in front of a plate glass window looking out on the street. The guy began humming “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”

At the refrain we all went “Arf, arf!” and stared at the window. A group of Chinese tourists walked by as we barked, drooled, and stared across the street, huddled around the upside down bicycle. They hurried by, holding tightly onto their cameras.

“You know,” said Manslaughter. We didn’t. “This reminds me of the time that we were in Leadville and Tri-Dork was running the pool table. This pickup-load of shitkickers came in and challenged him to a game. He started to run the table on them, too, so I said to the one really big, ugly, hair guy, ‘Hey, guess what.'”

“‘What?’ he answered. ‘You’re about to get your ass kicked in pool game by a guy who drives a Prius.'”

“Then what happened?” asked Stonehenge.

“Another group of cowboys came in and they were pushing this woman in a wheelchair. They helped her onto a bar stool and pushed the wheelchair over to the back of the bar by the pool table. Everybody got drunk and then one of the cowboys getting beat by Tri-Dork got in the wheelchair and started zooming around the room.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“I told him to get the fuck out of the wheelchair or I was gonna crack his skull open.”

“Then what?” Stonehenge asked.

“He got all pissed off and ready to fight. So I turned to Tri-Dork and said, ‘This is gonna get ugly. You got my back?'”

“Then what?” the guy asked who had been humming “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”

“Tri-Dork looked at me like I was crazy. ‘Dude,’ he said, ‘I got a wife, kids, a job, and I just came to Leadville to ride my bike. If you want to pick a fight with a bar full of drunk cowboys you’re on your own.'”

“Then what?” we asked in unison.

“We sneaked out and drove back to our hotel.”

Stonehenge got his flat changed and we rode back to the South Bay.

END

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What to do with that old mountain bike you practically NEVER EVER ride anymore

February 12, 2015 § 48 Comments

I got this letter from a reader. It speaks for itself.

Seth,

Thanks for supporting the team. I really appreciate it.

I’ve been a Special Education and Social Studies teacher at a small charter high school in South LA for the past four years. During that time, some of my students found out about my cycling habit and began asking me about my cycling adventures. Competitive cycling is something that isn’t really seen as a possibility by many of the students. However, in the past year a small group of juniors and seniors came to me asking about the SoCal High School Mountain Bike League.

The kids were frustrated because basketball and volleyball games were often canceled. School busses would show up late or not at all. Referees would show up late to games. The football team existed, and then it disappeared.

These kids wanted to do something different. They wanted to go to the mountains, they wanted to ride trails, to camp, and to compete in a new sport. I told them that if they got the ball rolling, showed up for workouts, and took personal ownership of the club, then I would volunteer my time as their head coach. So they made the club happen.

We now have six boys and two girls who have been showing up for weekly practices after school. The catch? They don’t have bikes. They’ve been training by running, doing circuit workouts, and occasionally riding a trainer. But so far the mountain bike team has yet to actually ride a mountain bike on a trail.

Can you imagine what it’s like to have as your dream the hope that one day you will be able to ride a bike? I can’t. I’ve taken the easy acquisition of bikes and paraphernalia as a given all of my life. For these kids, what we do without even thinking is a dream so powerful that they show up after school and train their hearts out, propelled only by the slim hope that one day the dream will become a tangible, functioning, rolling bicycle.

The have have set-up their own fundraising campaign but fundraising is hard to develop within the community. So, having done their part, it is my turn to turn to the bigger and broader world, a world that their youth and their circumstances have until now made off limits.

If you can lend support in any way, either through hard cash, an old bike, clothing, shoes, helmet, or other equipment, you can make a difference in the lives of kids whose dream is the thing we do almost without thinking.

If you can put us in touch with people within the industry, that too would be profoundly appreciated. We aim to attend our first race in Temecula during the month of April. They may not have bikes, but they’re not lacking for big dreams.

Your support for these kids might include jerseys with our school’s name on the front; according to the SoCal League rules, that’s one of the requirements. Your support might also include helping us get registered for their first (and only) race of the season.

To put this in context, many of my students have to set aside scarce money simply to pay for taking the PSAT. They also have to set aside money for SAT prep classes, and a special trip to Washington D.C. offered only to achieving students. They’re a motivated, dedicated bunch, and however much I support their dream of riding bikes, I want them to keep their money for educational purposes.

The link to the student-created fundraising page can be found here: http://www.youcaring.com/synergyquantumcycling

If you have any questions about our school, our team, and our mission, please feel free to reach out to my personal email, and we can talk. Any way that you can support these amazing kids and gift them the Gift of Bike will be a wonderful contribution to the great wheel that endlessly spins, handing out good and bringing that same wheel eventually back to you.

Thank you for reading, and ride safe.

Matt Smith
Resource Specialist/Social Studies Teacher
Synergy Quantum Academy High School
mattsmth@cox.net

The chase

February 9, 2015 § 23 Comments

I showed up for the Sunday Wheatgrass Ride. There were a lot of people, and I was tired. When we hit the bottom of the reservoir climb Dutchie attacked and then shelled himself. Chatty Cathy took a hard pull. Uglyfoot took a hard pull. Aston Martin took a hard pull. I sucked wheel and suffered.

We crested the climb and not many people were left. We descended and then started the Better Homes climb. Aston Martin hit it again, followed by Uglyfoot, who was raging. I sucked some more wheel, along with Strava Jr., who’d also been sucking wheel the whole time, but unlike me he was waiting to pounce.

He did and shed everyone except for me and Uglyfoot. They took turns beating me up, then flicking me to come through, but I refused. Before the final bend up to the Domes I cracked. My legs really hurt.

Instead of waiting for the wankoton I descended and headed home. I was too tired for coffee and it was a cold, overcast morning, very humid and gray.

Up the bump past Terranea a tri-dork sprunted by me, then melted. I passed him out of pride, pedaling harder than I wanted to pedal. I turned right at Hawthorne, hoping he wouldn’t follow me. The last thing I wanted was a 2-mile uphill battle. I wanted to go easy and finish the ride.

Hawthorne is long but not too steep except for a brief bump at the beginning, after which it becomes a false flat, and then a steep wall section. After the short wall it turns into an easier grade, but you’ve been climbing for a long way so it doesn’t seem that much easier.

As I hit the false flat I saw a guy some way up ahead. “I won’t even have to speed up to catch him,” I told myself as I slightly sped up. I admit I was going slow and I was tired.

He got closer, but after a while I realized that he was going at a pretty fast pace, so I upped it a bit. And sure, it was not very fast. But still … About a hundred yards or so before we hit the wall he had ten seconds on me. Not like I was timing him or anything.

Ahead of him was a rider in a blue jersey, flappy pants, and tri-bars. The guy I was chasing — Andrew was his name as I found out later — pulled away from me as the road kicked up. I couldn’t believe it.

Then, he overtook Flappy Pants and blew by him. My jaw was scraping the pavement.

I got out of the saddle and started pushing it. He had eighteen seconds on me now, and at the next checkpoint he had twenty-five. He’d opened the gap easier than a can of beer. Sure, I was tired, and sure, I wasn’t going very fast, but still … are you kidding me?

I flew by Flappy Pants and rounded the curve, stomped the pedals over the last part of the little wall and hit the rolling section. Now that I had a head of steam going and the wall was past there was no way that Andrew would hold me off. I slammed it into the big ring and chased him down, chewing up the gap in no time at all.

I pulled up next to him, breathing hard. “Dude,” I said, “that’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve been chasing you for over a mile.”

He smiled. “Practice, he said.” He was breathing hard, his arms swinging easily and efficiently by his side, but he never slowed his powerful stride as his running shoes kept up their relentless tattoo on the asphalt.

END

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