May 11, 2016 § 5 Comments
The other night we had paella with prawns. It sure was good. Then a couple of days went by and we realized that something was rotten in the state of Denmark because we had dumped the prawn heads in the trash and left them to mature with the other garbage in a 7-foot mountain piled up against the kitchen wall.
If you have ever wondered how much trash people generate I can assure you that it is an inconceivable amount. In six days we were awash in everything except feminine hygiene products and since it was all in the kitchen the stench got us to thinking it might be a good idea to throw it away.
Unlike America, where you dig a giant hole next to some poor people and bury all your trash, in Spain the garbage is separated and collected in a complex ritual that none of us cared to learn.
“Dude,” said Shit in the Lane, “this is the nastiest smell ever. It’s those fucking prawn heads.”
“Let’s go put all this shit in the dumpster,” said Brian.
“Be sure all that rotten prawn head juice leaks into our OK Rental,” said Ol’ Grizzles, who was still pissed about the $30 “handling fee” for gasoline.
We loaded up the cargo area but the stench was so bad we had to leave the hatch open with all the windows down and it was still so terrible we all got nosebleeds. The rotten prawn head juice overpowered all else.
“At least we don’t have to touch it,” said SITL.
“Hurry up and get to the dumpster,” said Brian, who was in the back seat. “I’m about to pass out.”
Shit in the Lane promptly got lost and since we had the hatch open everyone was honking and pointing and yelling, “Your hatch is open!” Then they would get a whiff of the trailing fumes and quit shouting, kind of like if you were driving a door-to-door shit sandwich truck. By this time the bag with the rotten heads had split and on the downhills it created a rivulet of rotted prawn that drained into the driver’s floorboard.
“What the fuck is that?” SITL said as the heel of his sock soaked up a few tablespoons of disgusting juice.
We kept not finding the dumpsters until, what was worse, we did and learned that all the garbage had to be separated. “Separated?” Said SITL. “I’m not opening up that shit.”
“Have to,” I said. “The prawn heads are mixed up with all the bottles and plastic. Says right there you have to separate it all out.”
“Fuck that. I ain’t touching that shit.”
Brian and I got out the bags and started pulling out the bottles which were dripping and stinking and it drizzled all over our hands and down our elbows until we actually smelled worse than the stuff we were throwing away.
SITL was adamant. “Don’t touch me!”
Of course that was exactly the wrong thing to say so we put our arms around him and tousled his hair. Back at the villa we bathed in turpentine and got ready to do the Monastery Ride. This was an easy short recovery ride designed by Munch, whose easy short recovery rides were not noticeably different from his hard long competitive rides.
The ride went up to a 16th Century monastery called Santuari de Cura which was pretty and all that but after we lunched on rabbit and got back on our bikes the road descended into a gently curving downhill tailwind slalom course on wheels that kicked our speed up to 42 where it stayed for five solid miles, the most amazing, whipping, brakeless free fall on a bike I’ve ever even imagined possible.
This ride was also different because the day before Team Norway had stolen a march on Team America, with Chef Leiv winning the lighthouse climb to Cap Tormentor, and Munch throttling everyone on the way back. These two powerful performances were enough to get Team Losingourpensionsnothankstoimmigrants out of negative digits and back to 0, meaning that with a bit of luck they might get to within a few thousand points by century’s end.
Consequently the ride was declared an official rest day of 95 miles and only 8,000 feet of climbing. Although we hadn’t been rained on once, this was the first truly spectacularly sunny day, Mallorca in her most fetching colors. The combination of cobalt sky, green mountains, luscious olive groves, and bleating goats humping in every field was unforgettable, and made us all think lovingly and longingly of our waiting wives back home.
May 7, 2016 § 6 Comments
Our first full day in the Disneycycleland of Mallorca was magical. The cold drizzle of the day before had given way to a pounding, freezing deluge. Wracked by a headache, jet lag, and the nausea resulting from going to bed the night before with a stomach filled with sperm (whale), I staggered from the love cabana through the mud and driving rain at 4:00 AM to get a cup of coffee and escape from Ol’ Grizzles’s snore-farts.
The giant oaken door was bolted but after a bit of pounding, crying, and begging, Brian came down to let me in. I was soaked to the skin but relentless in my pursuit of coffee. Rafael had given me detailed instructions regarding parking, garbage recycling, trash collection days, proper use of the breakers, and an explicit prohibition on tampons in the toilet (advice intended for Ol’ Grizzles) but the only thing I had paid attention to were the three industrial coffee machines in the kitchen.
None of them worked.
One by one the hungover riders awoke coffee, and the look of desperation on their faces when I announced “No coffee, fuckers!” was so awesome that I resolved to make that the standard morning greeting.
As the day wore on and the rain intensified, people became increasingly depressed at the thought that we would be cooped up in a historic villa with a world-class chef, delicious provisions, hard liquor and farts. Rafael had stocked the fridge with a four-foot long pastry filled with custard, whipped cream, honey, berries, and chocolate topping. Worst of all, the kitchen knives were too dull to slit our wrists after being overcome with guilt at the 5,000-calorie breakfast, so instead we glumly watched while Steve and Leiv began preparing a slow-cook tomato sauce for tomorrow’s dinner.
By 4:30 the split-pea soup and fresh salmon sashimi were ready, so we ate some more until Shit in the Lane threw down his fourth helping of whipped cream log and said, “Fuck it, I’m riding.”
We all made fun of him because even though the rain had lessened it was overcast and cold. “You will get soaked and frozen to shit.”
“I didn’t come to Mallorca to sit on the couch with you idiots,” he said.
He kind of had a point so Bruce, Munch, Brian, Ol’ Grizzles and I kitted up and rolled out. It was still spitting rain and none of us had rain jackets and O.G. was complaining about his rental bike like a teenage girl trying on jeans. “This stem is too short and the top tube is too short which is preventing my thighs from engaging properly and the bars are 38’s which are constricting my lungs and the gear ratios are all wrong plus my cranks are 165mm on the left side and 175mm on the right and the saddle is putting too much pressure on my … ”
“Shut the fuck up, we’re not even out of the driveway,” we said and the ride began.
We immediately hit a small climb and Shit in the Lane got dropped and then Bruce’s lungs fell off and Brian realized he needed his 3-foot torque wrench and O.G. gave up and Munch went backwards and we rode some more and the rain stopped and the sun came out and we were whipping down the lanes next to ancient stone walls as birds flitted overhead and Mallorca lifted her skirt a few inches and really began showing her charms.
After a couple of hours we got back, hungry and psyched and happy to deride our so-called friends who had opted to stay at the villa and plow a few more feet through the whipped cream log. Since we only had two cars we decided to ride en masse into the town of Lloseta for dinner.
“There is a very nice restaurant there listed in the Guide Michelin,” our chef, Spermy Leiv advised.
“Fuck that,” said Shit in the Lane. “I don’t want to eat at no place recommended by a tire catalog.” We tried to explain that it wasn’t a tire catalog but rather a restaurant guide but he thought it was a trick so we gave up, like when you try to convince a 3-year-old to eat beets.
We got there and requested a table for eleven and they laughed. “Our next vacancy is in October.”
Now it was late and we were really hungry so we went to a restaurant that had a big sign saying “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” and they took one look at us and immediately exercised the right. So then we went to a pizza place and Shit in the Lane drank another gallon of vodka and we all had performance ice cream and brownies except for Stigosaurus who swung by after finishing his 300km ride.
“You want dinner?” we asked him.
Stig’s craggy face, expressive as a gorilla’s butt, shook his head. “I eated da dinner already.”
“What did you eat? You been riding all day in the fucking rain,” said Ol’ Grizzles.
“I had da cup uff oatmeal and salt,” he said. “Stig have full stomach. Stig have balls of iron.”
We all agreed and left Munch with the bill. Now it was pitch black and we pedaled through the dark streets almost crashing each other out until we got back home. The sky had cleared and the stars were brilliant. Tomorrow was going to be an epic day.
May 6, 2016 § 10 Comments
Fortunately I am a very experienced international traveler who well understands the importance of properly scheduling connecting flights. You must always have at least two hours when making an international connection because something always goes wrong. In my case, things started going wrong two days before the trip when Mrs. WM asked how come I wasn’t packing.
“I got two days. I’ll pack tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow you’re onna flyin’.”
“No,” I huffed. “My flight’s Friday.”
“That ain’t onna your flyin’ email schedule you sent.”
“Honey, would you lay off? I know my flight schedule, for dog’s sake.” She shrugged. That night before I went to bed I checked my flight schedule. “Holy shit,” I yelled. “I depart tomorrow at 6:00 AM!”
She ignored me as I tore up the apartment packing my mini-bag. I got up at four, exhausted, and she drove me to LAX. It was a packed flight to Boston and the plane was late but thanks to my clever scheduling I still had an hour and a half.
There was an endless line at Starbucks but I had time to kill. The departure board showed my flight was on time but no gate had been assigned. “That’s weird,” I thought as I slowly sipped my coffee, charged my phone, and watched the ground crew pump up the plane’s tires and oil its chain in the midst of a freezing rain. Flakes of snow drizzled down. “No wonder the East Coast is angry,” I concluded. “It’s still winter in fucking May.”
After a while I checked the board again but still no gate assignment and it was less than an hour to departure and the lobby was about as lively as a small town viewing at the funeral parlor after all the marshmallow casserole was gone. I wandered over to Team Surly at the American counter where three agents were ignoring me quite professionally. Just as I was about to set myself on fire to get their attention they deigned to ask if I needed anything.
I refrained from the obvious, i.e. a club with which I could bludgeon them to death. “Which gate is the Madrid flight leaving from?”
They laughed in revenge at my living in sunny California while they were still wearing wool underwear in May. “That’s Terminal E,” said the agent lady with the winter beard.
I didn’t have to ask where Terminal E was because their gleeful smiles told me it was at least a pair of back-to-back 4-minute miles away. Off I ran but not before checking my phone to see that Ol’ Grizzles had landed and was in the same predicament as he’d gone with the $15 cheaper flight that only gave him twenty minutes to make his connection. “Will you wait for me at the shuttle bus?” he texted.
“No,” I texted back. “Every man for himself, like that time you and Munch and SITL abandoned me on the side of I-10, thirty miles from home with no water in 100-degree heat.”
I made it to the security screening but the plane was leaving in fifteen minutes and they were paging “Passenger Davidson” and the line was slower than a Starbucks with two customers and four baristas.
At that moment Ol’ Grizzles loped up waving his homemade plastic security clearance badge. They were paging him too, but he has an Italian surname with the vowels in all the wrong places so it sounded like they were calling for “Passenger Degeneratis.”
“Sir!” Ol’ Grizzles shouted to the TSA man with the tooth. “We’re going to miss our flight. Please let us go to the front of the line. We’re professional bike racers on our way to the Tour de France.”
The TSA gentleman licked his tooth and stared at our tummies and rather mature appearance. Then he looked at the boarding passes. “This don’t say nuttin’ about France.”
“We have to pick up the team car in Madrid.”
The gentleman shrugged. “If these folks don’t mind you cuttin’ it’s okay with me.” The line was long and people were frantically undressing for the x-ray scanner. Wool underwear was everywhere.
Ol’ Grizzles made a brief speech beginning with his great-grandfather’s trip through Ellis Island and threw himself upon the mercy of the liberal Massachusetts court but only after swearing he hated Ted Cruz and supported gun control. They applauded and put dollar bills in his thong and we were whisked through and made our flight.
Which is when the trouble began.
We flopped into our seats and began catching up on old times, lying about our fitness, and discussing which of the Norwegians would first succumb to acute alcohol poisoning. After three hours or so of hilarity, crudity, and fiddling with the video on the seatback in front of us, the irate occupant of the seat turned around.
“Would you PLEASE pipe down? SOME of us are trying to SLEEP!”
Now in addition to being cantankerous, ornery, ill-tempered, and out of sorts, Ol’ Grizzles is pretty much always spoiling for a fight. “Shove a sock in it, you floppy-peckered douchebag,” he said. “Or I’ll put you to sleep permanently.” I elbowed Ol’ Grizzles who gave the seatback a stiff punch for emphasis.
We touched down in Madrid and immediately ran into Sherri from Dallas who was also en route to Mallorca to enjoy cycling, Spanish culture and profound inebriation, which she had begun six mini-bottles earlier on the flight to Madrid. “Fuck I’m ready for this vacation,” she said.
“Oh?” I asked.
“Yeah. My mom had clots in her femoral arteries last night and my good friend Susie got diagnosed with colorectal cancer and checked herself into a Motel 6 and took fifty Ambien but she lived and one of my neighbors blew a hole in his chest with a shotgun so it’s been a rough week.”
“You must be from Texas,” I said.
“How’d you guess?”
“Just a hunch.”
As luck would have it, the three of us were on the same row on the flight to Palma so we told her how we had met on Grindr. Ol’ Grizzles pulled the squashed salami and cheese sandwich out of his pocket that was left over from the snack cart and began eating it. Sherri and I eyed it hungrily but Ol’ Grizzles refused to take the hint. The rain was pouring on the tarmac, reminiscent of Boston without the sleet. We glumly contemplated nine days of cold riding.
“Didn’t you say the weather here was always gorgeous this time of year?”
“Yeah,” he said as we flew up into the deluge. “But I guess I lied.”
May 3, 2016 § 26 Comments
Sometimes you see things that you don’t think you saw until somebody comes up to you afterwards and says, “Did you see that?”
This happened on the Donut Ride a couple of weeks ago. We had come out of Lunada Bay pretty hard and it was strung out in a line, with clumps of wankage already getting pinched off and flushed out of the bump past the elementary school. I was gritting my teeth and sitting about sixth wheel up against the right-hand curb.
I heard the whoosh-whoosh of full carbon that I’m pretty sure was 100% carbon and it was whooshing good except it was whooshing on the wrong side, my right, where there wasn’t but a handlebar-width between me and the curb. I moved over a fraction and sure enough, through came a pair of handlebars as smooth as a Brazilian wax job and the dude’s body language was “There’s plenty of room, plenty of room” which there was but only in retrospect and only because he had skilZ with a capital “Suicide.”
He passed me easy as butter and then moved over to the left and I opened up some space for him to slot in but the guy in front of him had started drifting back and the guy on his left, whose rear wheel he was now overlapping, hadn’t budged so that his front wheel was boxed in on either side.
Dude could have pedaled less hard and drifted back so that his wheel was clear but there was a super narrow gap he’d wedged into already and he decided that where he wanted to be was more ahead rather than more behind so he reached out to the guy on his left and gave him a pretty violent hip-shove in the universal bikespeak of “Move the fuck over now.”
Problems with this move:
- I was behind him starting to dribble poop because when this went south I was going to go south along with it.
- He was pushing on the wrong hip.
Wrong Hip happened to be Frenchy the Axe, an MTB phenom who absolutely shreds on the climbs. Wrong Hip, who would be my second oldest kid age-wise, has always been nice to me and let me sit on his wheel when he’s blowing people’s knees out on the Donut Ride. He sets it at tempo and you’re going along encouraging yourself, “I can DO it, I can DO it, I can DO it,” and then suddenly it’s, “No, fuck this I’m done,” and then you’re spiraling backwards hoping your eyes will come into focus before you veer into oncoming traffic.
The whole thing unfolded in an amazing dance of daring. Wrong Hip felt the hard push but he didn’t do what I would have done, which is roll over like a servile cur and give up the space. Nah, this was the world famous Donut Ride where every foot is fought for like it was real estate between enemy trenches at Verdun. You want to be where I am? Then you better not push and you better not shove.
Wrong Hip never glanced back. Ever so casually he reached back and grabbed Pushy McPusher’s left brake hood with his fist. Now, when the dude in front of you has his fingers wrapped around your hood, you are officially fucked. It’s like having your nuts in a pair of eunuch pincers and a 300-lb. bruiser getting ready to stand on the handles.
There was a massive clenching of sphincters because everyone saw the move and what had led up to it and now the only question was how many dozen people were going to chew a few plugs of asphalt tabacco. Then the magic unfolded. Wrong Hip slung the brake hood backwards, but Pushy didn’t do what everyone else would have done, which is a sideways flip-launch.
Instead, anticipating the push, he leaned slightly left so that his entire bike slid back about two feet, clearing the two overlapped wheels. We adjusted as he moved back.
Wrong Hip never even bothered to see who the poor slob was that he’d just owned in fee simple. And as awesome as the hood-check was, Pushy’s cool acceptance of the rear-shove and his casual readjustment was (maybe) even more amazing. Unfortunately, the testosterone was about to spill over and I saw Pushy get out of the saddle as he prepared to have words with Wrong Hip, words, I was pretty sure, that would be hard to take back.
I grabbed his jersey. He jerked his head around. “Easy, pal,” I said, “it’s only the Donut Ride.”
He looked at me for a second before deciding not to punch me out. “Yeah,” he said. “Right.”
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April 27, 2016 § 47 Comments
I got a message from Scott S. the other day. He had heard about the collision from two weeks back in which South Bay cyclist Steve Shriver was run over on PCH, suffering catastrophic injuries. Coming hard on the heels of Jon Tansavadti’s death in March, as well as a rash of near misses in Long Beach, Scott was concerned.
“Anything we can learn from these tragedies?” he asked.
My answer was simple. “I don’t have the answer, Scott, but I can tell you this: What we’re doing now isn’t working.”
Then we talked about the gaping hole in our cycling experience, otherwise known as the utter lack of formal cycling education. Steve had been run over riding single file, up against the edge of a construction zone. Jon had been killed by a right-turning moving van.
We can argue all day about where they were and where they should have been, but we can’t argue about this: Neither rider had ever taken a formal bike education course–one, with more than 30 years of experience, the other, with less than twelve months.
Perhaps education isn’t the answer, but it sure seems like a great place to start. Moreover, whether education can save any one person is less important than the grim recognition that collectively the cycling community spends way more time on gear and clothing and equipment than it does on education. We encourage people to ride, help them select a fancy bike and a cool kit, and throw them to the wolves.
“Would you come ride with us next Wednesday and talk about this?” Scott asked.
“Sure,” I said. “What time?”
“We roll at 6:00 AM sharp.”
I gulped because that meant a 4:50 roll-out from PV, and there was only one other person in all of Los Angeles crazy enough to get up at 4:30 so he could meet me at 5:15 and pedal through the bowels of the nation’s biggest port at daybreak to ride with the Long Beach Freddies.
In short, this was a job for Major Bob, the grumpiest guy with the biggest heart in all of cycling. “Can you squire me to the Freddie ride on Wednesday?”
“Sure,” Bob said when I explained the misssion. He didn’t mention that on Sunday he’d be doing the 145-mile Belgian Waffle Ride, and that on Tuesday he’d knock out a cool 90 doing the NPR beatdown and a legstretcher up the 6-mile Mandeville climb.
At 5:15 sharp he was there at the corner of Vermont and Anaheim and Gaffey and PV Drive, and a happening place it was.
I was apprehensive about proposing education to the Freddies because despite their name they ride with some of the best people in cycling. Tony Cruz is one of the Freddies, as well as Olympic gold medalist Steve Hegg and Rio aspirant Nate Koch, and their fast Fridays are, well, fast. Very fast. One of the walls in cycling has always been between the fast people in lycra and the slow people with mirrors. Needless to say the one don’t always take kindly to advice from the other.
Problem is that the mirror dorks are the ones who have actually studied riding in traffic from a perspective more sophisticated than “bunnyhop the curb, flip off the asshole driver, and keep going.” Going to the Freddies and pitching a dork session was, I feared, going to be a hard sell.
It was anything but. Unlike most clubs, which operate with multiple levels of decision making atop glacial epochs of implementation, the Freddies have a “Fuck it, let’s go,” attitude. They politely listened to my speech.
“So where should we start?” Scott asked after I finished.
“Maybe four or five of you should take the Cycling Savvy Dorkcycle and Autopsy Avoidance Course like we did at Big Orange, see if it works for you, and then think about encouraging some of the other members to do it.”
“Nah,” said Scott. “We’re in, all of us.”
I blinked. “All of you?”
Bill H., not known for his lengthy speeches, stood up. “This is important and we need to do it. We’re in.”
So as far as I know, the guys down in Long Beach are the nation’s first speed club to take formal cycling education as seriously as they take their clothing. Which is, frankly, incredible, and which, if it prevents even one collision or saves even one life is worth it a million times over.
I’m humbled and awed.
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April 25, 2016 § 8 Comments
I carry around my over-stuffed suitcase of non-courage, zippers broken and shit spilling out, handles frayed, two of the casters broken and the other two wobbling frenetically in opposite directions, only to find that it’s too big to be checked, or that there’s an extra cargo charge of $250, or that the best memories inside have fractured in transit into microtiny carbon splinters, or that the TSA has stolen my prized participant ribbons, or that upon reaching my destination the bag has been shipped to Malaysia on a Dutch flight that can no longer be found but is certainly somewhere over, or more likely in, the Indian Ocean.
The suitcase of non-courage is heavy, too heavy for a mortal to lug, and is so mixed with history and life and regret and misremembrance of things past that I wonder why I continue to drag it around from ride to ride, from race to race, from overwrought faux Grand Fondue to overwrought Faux Fondue.
This is precisely where I found myself on Saturday, another wasted weekend spent in search of that which by definition you will never find, and it was exactly at the nadir of the whole experience that the chaff fell away and the kernel lay, revealed.
I’d been relegated to the sidelines, which was fine, because after completing the first four BWR’s I was done abusing myself for the sake of someone else. The exhaustion and wreckage visited upon man and equipment alike by the Belgian Waffle Ride was nowhere more evidenced than in its effect on the ride’s founder, Michael Marckx, who had finally cobbled together the Dual Divinity: A ride so hard that he was afraid to do it, and a companion easier, shorter, flatter ride that he could actually win. It made me happy to see my friend, after so many years of teeth-gnashing defeats and failures, finally declare himself victor of his own event.
But more than the happiness of seeing Michael hoist himself on the shoulders of the myriad volunteers, friends, and admirers who had come together to make the BWR happen, I saw something else, something that penetrated, at least for a few moments, the hardened shell of skepticism that coats what remains of my battered and tattered old suitcase.
It was the incredible happiness of my friends and comrades at Big Orange cycling who launched into the event with full abandon and reaped the confidence and success that comes from lining up and finishing such a monstrously difficult ride. For the first time in my five years of struggle with this terrible day in North County San Diego, I stood at the finish line cleaned and scrubbed and utterly un-tired and un-hungry, watching in awe as my friends pedaled squares past the big banner, their faces as drained and beaten as any historic shower-stall photo from Paris-Roubaix.
Covered in dirt, many of them sported torn-apart clothing, shattered equipment, bloody limbs, and a kind of disbelief that they had managed to ever get back. One friend collapsed on a table, unable to even remove his helmet. I’ve never seen anyone collapse on a tiny round bar table, standing.
But as each rider revived, some after spending twelve hours battling a course that was simply designed to punish, and as they ate, then drank, then plunged their faces madly into the mounds of ice cream-covered-waffles, smiles began to play and the stories began to roll out.
Stories of fellow riders who simply dismounted and quit. Riders who were carted off in an ambulance. Equipment failures of every variety. Mental failures, physical collapse, “the wall” of endurance, pushing beyond, far beyond, anything they’d done before, and conquering this beast of a ride with sheer desire to complete a ride that the ride’s founder himself didn’t dare to attempt.
Although my suitcase of skepticism no longer has room for flowery praise of the “resilience of the human spirit,” the grandpa in me appears to have room for nothing else. These friends have accomplished something–what they’ve accomplished is unique for each of them, and its significance will really only reveal itself over a rather long period of time. Thanks for letting me sit on the sidelines and cheer you on.
Big O Riders (If I’ve left off your name or last name please add it in a comment!)
Stella de la Vega
Big O Cheerleaders
Big O Saints: These two guys spent the day in Dan’s Jeep covering the route and fixing bikes, providing medical aid, getting injured riders back to their hotels, and serving as roving rangers to protect and serve.
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