Private theft of public property

July 26, 2016 § 27 Comments

I just got back from a three-hour meeting of the Rancho Palos Verdes traffic safety committee, where a group of resident numbnuts had thrown together a petition demanding that the city illegally ban cyclists from “their” .7-mile of roadway, and require “permitting” for group rides.

There was so much stupid to wade through that it’s impossible to sum it all up, so I’m just posting my meeting notes.

  • Massive thank you to chair Jessica Vlaco, vice-chair Dave Kramer, and committee members Yi Hwa Kim, Henry Ott, and James Guerin. These people truly define community service and government by the people.
  • Vice-chair Kramer (to city staff): Is it legal to ban bikes from a public roadway? City staff: No. [You’d think that would be the end of it, but noooooo … ]
  • Local Moron #1: It’s dangerous to share the road so we should ban bikes!
  • Local Moron #2: There are many collisions on Crest Rd. East!! [Sheriff Department has records for ZERO collisions there in the last five years.]
  • Local Moron #3: Bikers have to ride so close to the edge of the road which is too narrow and dangerous!!
  • Local Moron #4: All 76 homes in our gated sub-sub-subdivision of Rancho Palos Verdes Estates suffer from hazardous conditions caused by bicycles! There are no other roads up here! They train on weekends! They are hazardous for all! There’s no space! Cars can’t pass but motorists must pass! I almost hit one! There are numerous accidents here! Residents are held responsible for accidents! My friend’s nanny who is on vacation with the family now in Africa and can’t come was in a collision with a biker! The bike struck her car and it was the biker’s fault but he SUED HER!!! [Cf. sheriff’s records of no reported collisions.]
  • Local Moron #5: This is a huge safety issue. I almost hit a cyclist!
  • Local Moron #6: Each resident in our sub-sub-subdivision has at least two vehicles, not to mention our housekeepers, gardeners, nannies, and service worker people. Cyclists endanger all of us!
  • Local Moron #7: There are cyclists who are not polite! They should hurry up!
  • Local Moron #8: I spent an additional half hour getting home because I was stuck behind a peloton! Bikers are like people whose dogs crap on your lawn!
  • Local Moron #9: I’m concerned about safety! Cars are big! It’s a blind corner!
  • Local Moron #10: I’ve lived here 34 years. There have been 5 accidents! It’s out of control!
  • Local Moron #11: I asked the guards to count bikers one weekend! There were 158!
  • Local Moron #12: Some cyclists almost hit me! These are blind turns! There are no bikes on freeways! Public safety requires banning bikes! Many bikes ride four abreast every day it’s why we’re frustrated! City liability! This is an unsafe situation!
  • Local Moron #13: My son almost failed his driver license test because he drove too slowly! And all those Orange outfit riders from Orange County on the Donut Run!

After being subjected to a perfect vacuum of fact and rational thought, the cyclists had their say. Mostly we were amazed at all the hatred, especially since we are the ones getting creamed and killed, not the angry NIMBYs in the sub-sub-subdivision with Palos Verdes Estates envy.

And of course the bikers made out with a few actual facts, such as:

  • Banning bikes is illegal.
  • There are no records of collisions along this deadly stretch of turrble deadly roadway.
  • The law lets bikes take the full lane when it’s too narrow to share with a cager.
  • You can fix this non-problem with sharrows, Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane signage, 3-Feet It’s the Law signage, and citations for scofflaw motorists and cyclists.
  • Anecdotal “deadly cyclist” stuff is crap; if you want to understand the roadway’s safety issues, commission an engineering study.
  • If you’re so concerned about our safety, how come you never reached out to us?
  • We’re not responsible for other riders, just like you’re not responsible for irresponsible cagers.
  • And the best, by far, was Michael B.’s takedown: You people are so dumb and lazy that you didn’t even bother to check the law before you signed a petition demanding that the city violate it. Also, there’s a solution to pesky cyclists and it’s codified: Slow the fugg down.
  • The real issue is out of control cars: 33 drivers have been cited for unsafe driving and not a single cyclist.
  • Lumping all cyclists together is offensive and no different from lumping together people of an ethnic group.
  • Best of all was Dave Kramer’s impassioned speech regarding law and the obligation of drivers to slow down and pass safely. The committee then voted to examine sharrows, BMUFL signage, lower speed limits, and an engineering study as ways to make the scaredy sub-sub-subdivision residents and their nannies feel safer.

Finally, one of the last local morons admitted that what they really wanted to do was to make the public road private and they intended to petition the state to give them the road. Such an amaze-balls power grab was great to see, because it proved what the angry invective suggested all along: The sub-sub-subdivision residents really just wanted to steal public land, perhaps in the hope that the extra square footage would make them feel better about not living in Palos Verdes Estates.

Best of all, putting the total lie to their claim that they were in it for “bicycle safety,” all of the resident maroons left after they’d vented and didn’t stick around for the real item on the agenda, which was approval of a work plan that included development of a bike safety master plan for the entire city. The minute it came to hard work, or cooperation, or understanding the other person’s point of view, or, you know, actual bike safety, they were long gone and venting on Facebag and NextDoor.

Frankly, their departure was awesome because a big contingent of bikers stuck around and requested that a subcommittee be developed for the bike safety master plan that included the voice of local cyclists.

Huge thanks to every cyclist who showed up. Barraclough, Leibert, Duong, Landes, Zwagermann, Cooper, Cooney, Loui, Kempton, Park, Richardson, White, Meyer, Phillips, Robertson, and about half a dozen other names that escape me made the marathon session and spoke up when it counted.

END

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Anatomy of a donut

July 24, 2016 § 23 Comments

I’m a regular on the Donut Ride but hardly very good at it. Eventually the pace picks up and I get shelled. However it occurred to me that there are dozens and dozens of riders who have never even seen the front on the climb, much less struggled for a top-five placing.

So armed with a hand-me-down GoPro from Robert Efthimos, I shot yesterday’s ride so that everyone who’s only imagined what it’s like can see what they haven’t been missing.

Yesterday’s Donut Ride was small, probably 40 or 50 riders. Eighty or more aren’t uncommon. Small groups make it harder because there are fewer places to hide. A number of big progatonists were absent, but the presence of Diego Binatena (pro), Rudy Napolitano (ex-pro), and Dan Cobley (coulda been pro) meant that it would be plenty hard.

People actually get dropped on the first climb out of Malaga Cove, then a few more when we make the run through Lunada Bay. Below is a shot of Lane Reid, pushing the pace. Lane has more KOMs on Strava than pretty much anyone in the South Bay, but he always gets shelled early, which goes to show that being a champion on Strava and beating actual people are two wholly different endeavors. He’s plenty strong, though, but is displaying a key mistake of Donut Ride shellees: Spending energy early. It took me years to learn that every pedal stroke early in the ride will come back to haunt you when the ride tilts up.

He’s got forty riders strung out on his wheel. This is definitely a glory pull, because he’s going to get obliterated.

Now we’ve pedaled for a ways and are approaching the turn up the Switchbacks, the first climb of the day after several miles of undulating rollers that have taken the pop out your popper. In front are all the key players: Rudy, Diego, Dave Jaeger, Dan, and Garrett Bailey. Here’s another place that people make the big mistake of being too far back. The pace will increase on the Switchbacks and people will blow up, forcing you to close gaps.

Only a couple of such efforts and even though you’re with the leaders you will be in the red and unable to respond to their accelerations. I always tell people to pick a good wheel and follow it all the way to the bottom of the Switchbacks. Positioning isn’t that hard as there are lots of flailers, but if you’re inattentive you’ll be too far back at exactly the wrong time.

Here, I roll ahead of the group and actually lead out the climb. This is always unwise, but I’m just keeping momentum, not pushing the pedals. No matter how good you feel at the bottom, you will feel worse towards the top, so no matter how slow you have to go to get other riders to pass you, do so. Some people like to take a quick glance back here but I never do because it’s guaranteed that the hitters are still there and they are NOT pedaling hard. I roll for a little along the fog line giving the next rider plenty of room to come through.

In this case it’s Garrett Bailey, a super strong rider who doesn’t do the Donut often. He typically rides with the Dave Jaeger Morning Crew, but for some reason has decided to come do the Donut today. He’s a fantastic wheel for me. He’s about my height, about my size, and is a former Olympic rower from Georgetown, so he has a mighty engine. Part of surviving on the Donut when you are old and feeble as I am is to pick the right wheel.

Garrett is also a good wheel because he holds a perfectly straight line and when he blows he easily swings over; no crazy death wobbles or scary head-droops. He’s like a mule, steady and strong and I love his draft because I know he’ll never attack from the front, a move that always breaks my confidence.

Garrett has tired, or perhaps he’s realized that everyone is keyed on his wheel and it would be wiser to save energy. In any case, there’s a mini-swarm as all of the hitters push by. I haven’t looked back but there can’t be many riders left. Garret has kept the tempo pretty high so you know that anyone who was too far back is now done for the day. The mini-swarm provokes anxiety because the hitters are accelerating but they haven’t attacked yet. Here’s where you will regret having glory-pulled before the climb.

This is also a good point to take stock of who’s there because it’s essentially how your epitaph is going to be written. With Diego you know he will attack and drop you. With Rudy you know he will attack and probably drop you. If not he will sit up, attack again and certainly drop you. Cobley is a question mark. Sometimes he gives up and is nowhere to be seen, so even though he doesn’t have a super fast attack, which means you can sometimes latch on when he chases, you can’t always count on him to drag you back up to the leaders.

Jaeger has little acceleration on a climb, so he won’t go with the big attacks. But he has a massive motor and a high top end so if you plan on sitting on his wheel you need to be super tiny and be able to endure endless misery. He is relentless. You can also see that in a matter of minutes the entire group has been whittled down to six riders and no one has even attacked yet. Dave is now at the front and it’s punishing. Diego is queued up behind him and I’m on Diego’s wheel. This is problematic because Diego can easily attack from the front and Rudy, who’s behind me, can easily follow. The only thing I can easily do at this point is quit.

This next section is funny because even though he’s not the strongest rider, DJ hits the front hard and really pushes the pace. He is probably trying to get rid of me and Garrett, and maybe he’s testing Cobley to see if Dan is “on” or “off.” In any event, after an effort like that so early in the climb I would have been completely done for the day. Another difference between me and Dave … one of many …

Unexpectedly, Dan now attacks. No one responds in the first few seconds and he races away. For me it’s a no-brainer. Chasing will mean droppage, and it’s unlikely I can go with Diego or Rudy, the only two guys strong enough to chase him down. So I have to wait and see what my fate will be, like a lobster in a tank trying to figure out whether the customer has chosen me or my buddy.

These attacks don’t look like much, but in real life they happen more quickly than lightning. You’re already totally on the rivet, and a speed differential of even a couple of pedal strokes feels like the difference between strolling and running a 100m dash against Usain Bolt. Everyone struggles here, and the only thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that no matter how fit Dan is, he’s going to ease off soon. “Soon” being a relative term, unfortunately.

As expected, Diego counters and this isn’t one I can even think about following. It’s also disheartening. I know I’m pegged. I know that he’s light years better than I am. And he waltzes away with what seems like effortlessness. My momentum keeps me going, though, and suddenly I’m out ahead of the others; Diego’s acceleration has splintered the group.

This is utter hell because now I’m off a wheel. I’m not strong enough to ride by myself and mentally I’m too weak to push on and try to cover Diego. So I have to wait and play lobster again. Unfortunately the others are way back now, so I calculate that in a few seconds Rudy will come rocketing by (uncatchable) and then Dan/DJ/Garrett. My only hope is to soft pedal until they catch me and suck wheel some more. We’re not even halfway up the climb.

In a few seconds Rudy punches through and bridges to Diego. This is unthinkable and demoralizing. I watch them turn into pinpoints. My breath is pretty heavy about now.

About now is when you have to have a mental trick box. These are the tricks you use to fake your body into doing what it wouldn’t otherwise do. All your adrenaline has subsided and there’s nothing left but lactic acid and searing pain. “Why am I doing this?” “This is stupid.” “I’m too old,” etc.

Sure enough Garrett comes by and I latch on. My mental trick is simple. I call it “One equals ten.” This means I tell myself that for every pedal stroke I can hang on, the fuckers chasing have to do ten. It may not be true, but it works for me.

Garrett is steady and strong and although I don’t exactly get any recovery, my heart rate drops a couple of beats so that I can at least hear myself crying and convince myself that the worst is past even though I know that it’s really only just getting started.

Cobley is intent on catching Rudy and comes through hard, then attacks from the front. Diego has pulled over somewhere and is no longer in the picture, and Dan knows how demoralizing it is to attack someone from the front. He’s also under a little pressure here because he’s riding with the Depends contingent. Cobley is 35, DJ is 55, and Garrett is in his 40’s. I’m 52, so there’s no honor for Dan in smacking around a gang of geezers. He can’t just beat us, he has to leave us in tatters.

This is his second monster effort and I can’t imagine how he can do another one, which is okay because after towing us around like a ski boat hauling an inner tube we’re going to hit the wall on Crest and I won’t have to imagine how he’s going to conjure up another attack because he’s going show me.

A lot of the time I will see people pull this move on the wall and I’ve done it a zillion times myself. It almost always fails because it takes so much effort to go fast enough to drop your companions that when it flattens out you have to slow down and catch your breath. The droppees, however, not having gone completely into the red, peg you back and then with a slight counter they can dust you off. So 99% of the time it’s a bad move to attack hard here, unless of course you’re Dan, in which case you can punch it and then keep the gas on while the droppees wonder who switched out the lights.

I’ve run out of ways to describe pain by now, but we all stood up and nothing happened. In a little bit Dan had bridged to Rudy and we were fighting for old man scraps. I don’t have a lot of options here. I’m not strong enough to attack Garret and I’m sure as hell not strong enough to attack Dave, so I cast about for another wheel to suck. Happily, Garrett obliges for a bit and I get over the worst part of the wall and the subsequent gradient.

Somewhere along the way DJ gets it into his head that Garrett and I really suck and that what he wants to do is catch Dan and Rudy. This is a problem for me because if I follow Dave’s wheel I’m not going to get much of a draft, but if I follow Garrett’s wheel he’s going to blow and I’m going to have to close a nasty gap.

Choosing expediency over strategy, I hunker down behind Garrett and await the inevitable. Garrett works like a Trojan to stay on Dave’s wheel, but like Hector getting slain by Achilles, he’s no match for the Argonaut.

Garrett explodes gracefully, head bowed, hand waving me through, and I have to go bathyscaphe-deep to claw my way onto Jaeger’s wheel. Dave could drop me anytime now, but he settles in and begins banging away at every nerve in my body with a steady, relentless drilling. The thing that’s so awful about this is that even though I’m on his wheel and getting the benefit from his draft, mentally it is horrible to think that I’m completely pegged out and haven’t done a lick of work all day. DJ has attacked, covered, accelerated, and pulled, and he’s not done yet, while I’m younger, slower, weaker, and hanging on like one of those baby teeth about to come out but for a tiny string of fleshy pulp still holding it into the gum.

DJ also sees Dan and Rudy up ahead and they’re riding side by side, chatting. We’re all in simply to keep them in the viewfinder as they chattily discuss gear ratios and the silliness of old farts trying to keep up with young men. Then Cobley accelerates and they vanish.

Now my goal is simple: Don’t quit and let DJ drag me to the end. What could be easier? The hardest part is over! All I have to do is dig deeper and hold on! He’s older than I am! I’ve done nothing all day! I CAN DO THIS!

Except no, I can’t.

See? The Donut is the same for everyone, after all.

END

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Book peace

July 23, 2016 § 25 Comments

I don’t worry much. Okay, I don’t worry at all. I leave that to other people because there seem to be so many who specialize in it.

However, I do get depressed. It’s not often but it happens. Last night I got real depressed. It was hot. No AC. REM didn’t come, and monsters flitted across my brain.

I got depressed thinking about Trump and about what a bad person he is.

I got depressed thinking about the millions of Americans who really think he is a good person.

I got depressed thinking about what a bad person Hillary is.

I got depressed thinking about the millions of Americans who know she is a bad person but are going to vote for her because Trump is so much worse.

I got depressed about my legs. They are old and keep getting slower.

I got depressed about friends of mine who are having problems.

I got depressed about my family.

I got really depressed thinking about the Saturday blog I hadn’t yet written.

I got depressed thinking about the Donut Ride and about how I was going to get dropped.

I even got depressed about my oatmeal, which is generally the high point of my day, along with my coffee.

Eventually I drifted off to sleep and woke up punctually at 5:30. Then I got depressed again and slept in until 6:43, and sat on the edge of the bed being depressed about wasting the best part of the day being depressed.

I was so depressed I didn’t do any of my morning routines. Didn’t turn on the computer. Didn’t check the ‘Bag. Didn’t check email. Didn’t read the news. Didn’t listen to the ARD broadcast which was going to be saturation coverage of the Munich amoklaeufer.

Instead, I ate my oatmeal which was thankfully tasty and not depressing at all, and drank my coffee which was super happy and cheerful, and I sat down on the couch and watched an Anna’s hummingbird perch on the feeder and drink some nectar.

Then I picked up a book that’s been on my re-read list for a long time now but I’ve been too busy with SHIT to get around to reading it, Gravity’s Rainbow.

I sank into the couch and the book. I learned a bunch of new words in the first twenty pages. It was so calming and relaxing and pleasant even though it’s about German V2 rockets slamming into London terrorizing and killing people.

The day was quiet outside and I could hear the symphony snoring of my loved ones reverberate throughout the apartment.

The book was so engrossing, especially the part about fried bananas, which made me hungry all over again, and happy.

I realized that I had been overloaded with electronic input. Emails, Facebags, Internet news, and Things To Do That Have To Be Done. The book was my tonic and suddenly I was at peace.

I read a few more pages, then dressed and went for a bike ride.

I got shelled on the Donut Ride of course.

But I didn’t care.

END

Getting the word out

July 21, 2016 § 4 Comments

Every now and again someone comes up with a great idea to help promote cycling in SoCal. These ideas usually founder because they are a) unprofitable b) unprofitable c) extremely difficult to maintain.

Although it’s too early to proclaim it a financial success, Brian Co has started an ambitious podcast project at socalcyclist.org. This fills a huge void for news and quality information about what’s going on in the SoCal bicycling world. With fourteen episodes since its debut on April 20, the project is going strong.

Better than print, the podcast format lets you download each episode and listen to it when it’s convenient. I spoke with Brian about his idea and he said, “There are no local cycling news podcasts. If you want to listen to a one-hour symposium on disc brakes, sure, that’s being done. But local bike news? Nothing. So I decided that’s what I’d do.”

The results are of astonishingly high quality. Brian uses state of the art recording equipment and he goes all-out to put together programs that will interest anyone who cycles in Southern California.

Best of all, he’s creating a model for every other locality in the world that wants to showcase the very best regarding its cycling community. Give it a listen. You will not regret it!

END

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Volt dolt

July 18, 2016 § 17 Comments

I hate cars, but they are a necessity (for me), like brushing my teeth (which I also hate). In 2002 I bought a Camry and turned it over to my daughter when she and her husband were looking for a low mileage car that had been lightly driven and was still in excellent cosmetic shape.

It only had 220,000 miles on it and the cracked bumpers and scrapes along both sides gave it a lot of character. They were grateful to be driving in such style and added another 60k commuting from Hollywood to the South Bay for a couple of years in light morning and light evening traffic on the 110 and the 101.

In 2007 I bought a Prius. It has been a great car and we have not driven it hardly at all. I think we only just turned over 180,000 miles which is not all that much. Cosmetically it has a lot of character from bike racing. There are these avant-garde chain paintings throughout the interior that remind me a lot of Kandinsky or Rothko.

Then last week the Camry had a “life event” that involved the thing that does the whatchamacallit and the doodad broke down, too. I am a firm believer in car maintenance and had religiously changed the oil every 30,000 miles whether it needed it or not, so I was surprised to hear from my daughter that the recommended fix was “Get this smoking hunk of shit out of my shop and cart it off to the junkyard.”

I guess they don’t make Toyotas like they used to.

So we figured we would pass on the Prius to the kids since it was practically new and still has a good 10-15 years of life left in it, more if they are regular with the oil like I was with the Camry, but then that put us in the situation of having to get a new car for ourselves.

“Actually we don’t need a car,” I said to Mrs. WM.

“We better be gettin onna new car,” she said.

“You can get a bike and we can commute and walk. It will be great.”

“You can get onna new Prius and not have divorcin’ papers,” she said.

So I called up Derek who is a great bike racer and perfect for helping me buy a new car.

“Yo,” I said. “I need a new car. Can you help me buy one?”

“Sure,” he said. “What kind of car do you want?”

“What kind of car do you have?”

“A Chevy Volt.”

“Then I want a Chevy Volt.”

He paused. “You do? Why?”

“It’s good enough for you, it ought to be good enough for me.”

“You know, our families are kind of different and you might think about …”

I cut him off. “Look, I’m terrible at car buying. You’re great at car buying. I bet you got a smoking deal on your Volt.”

“I did.”

“So I’d rather get your smoking deal on a car that no one can drive than pay double the MSRP on something that everyone loves.”

“Why not figure out what car you actually want and then do a deal?”

“Cars are the enemy,” I said. “The only good car is a dead car.”

“Like the Camry?”

“Like the Camry.”

Derek’s plan was ruthless and simple. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “The worst car salesperson negotiates more deals in a week than you have negotiated your entire life. You will lose. You’re a Cat 6 and they’re stage winners in the Tour. Plus, you’ll be going through their Internet sales department which is a shark tank. They will inhale you. Remember the Rule of Poker.”

“I don’t play poker.”

“If you sit down at the table and can’t immediately identify the sucker, you’re the sucker.”

“This role I know.”

“So you have to turn your ignorance to your advantage. First, log into the Chevy Volt online forum. Read the last several days from the forum dedicated to recent purchases and you will get a good feel for the best prices out there that people are getting. But be careful.”

“Of what?”

“Lots of the posters are lying through their teeth. Read enough of the posts to get a feel for rock bottom v. bloviating bullshit.”

“I’m great at identifying bullshit.”

“You of all people should be.”

“Then what?”

“Then get your Costco discount.”

“My what?”

“Your Costco discount.”

“I’m not a Costco member. That’s a total scam. $55 to save thousands on groceries? Total ripoff.”

“Well, once you join you can request a quote through their car buying program. It will be a couple thousand off whatever the ‘deal’ is that you would get walking in off the street.”

“Really?”

“Really. You pay $55 and save thousands off your car price.”

I did the math, slowly, and it seemed to work. “Then what?”

“Then you take that offer into the dealer who Costco hooks you up with, and you shoot for a couple thousand below that.”

“Shoot for? I always shoot for cheap prices. But I always miss.”

“Exactly. That’s where you play your ‘sucker’ card. You go to the dealer, take a photo of the window sticker and text it to me. I’ll look at all the options–and you want leather seats, no question–and I’ll text you your offering price.”

“And then by the time they sell me the rustproofing and the million mile extended warranty and the fluffy thing that hangs from the rearview mirror it’ll be several thousand dollars higher.”

“No it won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re going in to make a deal and you’re not moving off your price. You’re going to go in and say ‘I don’t want to waste your time and if you can’t do this I totally understand but this is all I can do and if you can make money off that then let’s do a deal but if not I totally understand and you leave.”

“No way.”

“Way.”

“Have you ever done this?”

“Every car I’ve ever bought.”

“And it works?”

“100% of the time, it works 100% of the time.”

I took a breath. “Okay.”

Sure enough, the Volt forum was filled with lies of the worst kind, but also with some numbers that looked good. Then I swallowed hard, joined Costco, filled out the car request, and within minutes had an offer for two 2017 Volts, one cloth and one leather:

chevy_volt.jpg

Then the nice lady called me immediately. “When would you like to come in and test drive your Volt?”

“Monday,” I said, figuring that Monday morning would be slow and they’d be readier to deal than on a Saturday or Sunday.

Before heading in I spoke with Derek. “Remember two things, Wanky,” he said.

“What?”

“1. Leather. 2. Don’t budge.”

Steeled and confident, I strode into the dealer at 11:00 AM. It was cemetery dead. The nice lady came down and whisked me off into the Leather Volt, which she had conveniently parked by the front door in anticipation of my visit. I clandestinely shot the window sticker and sent it to Derek. He immediately pinged me back. “$29,500. Not one penny more. LEATHER ONLY.”

Then things went off the rails because now we were driving. I had thought we’d begin talking pricing and I could give my little speech but nope. Now I was behind the wheel of this very new car and was overwhelmed with its leatherness. As the nice lady went on about how I could use my iPhone and check text messages and do all manner of distracted driving that was impossible in the Prius, I panicked.

“So how do you like it?” she asked.

“I love it,” I blurted out. “It’s freaking awesome.” There, you went and ruined it, I said to myself. Might as well give her your checkbook. Just tell her not one penny over MSRP.

“Oh, yes, it’s a wonderful car. What car are you driving now?”

I had parked the Prius three block away because I was afraid if they saw it they would conclude I was an indigent who couldn’t possibly afford a new car. “A Prius,” I said.

A shadow of concern crossed her face, and in an instant I realized that for a Leather Volt seller, Prius was kryptonite. “How do you like the Prius?”

“Our Prius?” I said. “I hate it.” Dogdammit! I cursed myself again as she regained her calm. The only two cards I had and I’d not only shown them, I’d given them to her.

“Well you will love this Volt,” she said. “When are you going to buy?”

“Today,” I said, totally giving up. Even I knew that you never tell the Leatherperson you’re hot to buy today.

“Well, we can certainly do that.”

But just as the whole thing slipped from my grasp, I had an idea. “Yeah,” I said, “I’m dying to buy a Volt today. In fact that’s kind of the deal I made with my wife.”

“Oh?” Now she was on full alert because the only thing that brings more kryptonite to a deal than the name of the biggest competitor are the words “my wife.”

“Yeah,” I said. “My wife is Japanese and she loves our Prius. That’s kind of our marital problem,” I confided. “She loves that stupid car and I’m sick of it.”

The nice lady sensed something bad was about to happen. “Oh?”

“Yeah. I mean it’s been real solid, 250,000 miles and still on the original battery, real dependable and super cheap to run. We hardly ever put gas in it. But I’m so sick of it so I told my wife ‘Honey, I’m going to go buy a Chevy Volt today,’ and we had a long discussion about the price and stuff and we struck a deal.”

“What deal?”

“I told her that if I could get that Leather Volt at the price we agreed on then I was gonna buy today. But if we couldn’t then we’d go to the Toyota dealership and check out the Priuses. Of course I told her that even if we can’t do a deal today I was still leaning towards the Leather Volt because I want a Leather Volt, but I’d at least do my due diligence and see what they had in the Leather Prius and such.”

There was a moment of silence. It was all so unplanned and natural that it sounded true, and the nice lady, who had great confidence in her ability to close a deal, also had great confidence in Toyota of Torrance’s ability to close a deal because that’s where I’d bought the Prius. She also knew that no deal happens without the wife. “So your wife really likes the Prius?” she tried to sound cheerful.

“Oh, she’s nuts about it. She’s Japanese,” I added for the fourth time, “and it’s kind of a national thing. Pretty weird. She loves anything made by Toyota or Sony. But me, I’m a red-blooded American and I’m ready for a Chevy even though all I’ve ever owned are Toyotas.”

The conversation was pretty desultory all the way back to the dealer. We parked and went in and sat down at the guillotine, a place where in past car purchases by this time I had already stretched and offered my neck to the blade. “Let me get you some numbers,” she said, having regained all her enthusiasm. “We’re going to get you into a Volt today.”

She got up. “Hang on,” I said. “I really appreciate the test drive and I love that car but I don’t want to waste any more of your time. My wife has set a price and it’s my price to do a deal today. I totally understand if you can’t do it and I sure don’t expect you to lose money on the deal. So if you can’t do it just tell me and I’ll save you the aggravation of going back and forth. I’ll probably be back even if we can’t do a deal today anyway. I can’t imagine a Leather Prius feels as nice as that Leather Volt.”

The kryptonite was strong. “What’s the price?”

“$29,500.”

She looked at me. “I might be able to do that in cloth, maybe a little more but it’s not out of the question.”

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “$29,500, leather.”

“I can’t do that.”

“I totally understand.”

“But let me check with my sales manager.”

“Okay.”

She walked off and left me there to discharge big  puddles of sweat into my shoes.

She came back smiling. “We can do it,” she said.

“We can?”

“Yes. $29,999 leather.”

“That’s great!” I said.

“I knew you’d be happy.”

“Can you put that in writing?”

“Of course.” She wrote it down on the sheet.

I stood up. “I’ll see you later this week, hopefully.”

“What do you mean? I thought we were going to do a deal today?”

“Me, too. But I told you my number was $29,500. I mean, $29,999 is so close. I doubt Torrance of Toyota can beat that, especially with the $1,500 state rebate and the $7,500 federal tax credit I’ll get with the Volt. Unless they also offer it with the plug-in Prius.”

“I can’t do $29,500 leather.” She was crestfallen.

“Thanks for working so hard.”

“You’re welcome.”

I turned and headed for the door. Just before my feet crossed the plane of the goal line the sales manager came flying out of his office, tackled me at the knees, slammed my head to the ground, and flipped me over. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“Torrance of Toyota,” I said.

“We can do $29,500,” he said.

“Leather?” I asked.

“Leather,” he said.

And we did.

I was pretty happy when I got back home. I parked the Volt in our space, happily thinking about how much money I wasn’t ever going to spend on gasoline again. I hopped out of the car and pulled the charging thingy out of the back, plugged it into the car and uncoiled the cord. The awesome thing about the Leather Volt is that it plugs in a normal electrical socket, same as you’d use for a hair dryer or toaster oven.

That’s when I noticed that we didn’t have an electrical outlet.

After the first few seconds of shock subsided, I immediately began making plans for leaving the state under cover of night, as there was no way I’d ever be able to face Derek, much less Mrs. WM, having bought a plug-in car without first making sure I had a plug.

When it became obvious that even a late night escape wouldn’t work, I called up Alfredo. Alfredo can fix anything. “Yo, Alfredo,” I said. “I bought a car.”

“That’s terrible,” he consoled me. “What kind?”

“A leather plug-in.”

“Volt? Or Prius?”

“Volt.”

“That’s awesome. You’ll never buy gas again.”

“Yeah, but I have a problem.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t have a socket.”

“You bought the car without first checking to see if you have a place to plug in your plug-in vehicle?”

“Yeah.”

He whistled. “Man, you are a complete moron.”

“Agreed.”

“So I’ll buy the car from you for fifty bucks.”

“Is that my only option?”

“It’s probably your best one. Other option is that I come over tonight around 2:00 AM and do some electrical work in your complex’s parking garage.”

I thought about it. Couple of beers for Alfredo to get the car working or relocation to Alaska. “Deal,” I said.

Next morning the car was charged. And thank you. It runs just fine.

END

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Tough race

July 13, 2016 § 31 Comments

This sport is all about endurance. You have to spend a ton of time on your rear end, seated in an uncomfortable position, patiently waiting while all the idiots around you shoot their bullets until the perfect moment comes to stand up, lunge to the front, and make your move.

Sometimes the riders around you will cuss, fart, spit, blow snot rockets, complain, jostle for position, and do everything in their power to grind you down. You have to be patient, even as you too are gradually getting worn down from the exhaustion, the pain, the misery, and the idiocy of the contest.

Over and over you say to yourself, “Why the hell am I here?” and “What’s the friggin’ point?” and “I’m done, I’m going home,” but somehow you grit your teeth and endure the pain, the torture, and each needle of agony as the event slowly grinds on.

But then that moment comes in the city council meeting when it’s your turn and you get up to the lectern and all the clever things you were going to say begin with “Uh,” and “Um,” and your scintillating speech that was going to bring the crowd to its feet dribbles out in a rehash of what the other fifty speakers said and you fall into the Public Speaking Time Warp Dimension, where your three-minute speaker time allotment goes by in what seems like three seconds, whereas for your audience it goes by slower than three years of Chinese water torture.

Last night’s call to arms at the Palos Verdes Estates city council meeting was a complete success. About ninety cyclists absolutely packed the church pews in the council chambers so that it was standing room only. All of the yammerers and complainers and bitchers and email spammers and NextDoor-pitchfork-vigilantes who we feared would show up en mass and shout us down stayed exactly where you’d think Internet trolls would stay: At home, venting more spleen in yet another livid email.

We were also concerned that the Lunada Bay Boys On Mom’s Couch might make a cameo appearance and bombard us with grunts, but then we realized that since the meeting started at 7:30 PM, they’d already be fighting with their younger 40-year-old-ish siblings over who was getting the couch and who was getting the carpet.

What we found instead were the large, mostly washed masses of cyclists who’d tromped in from as far away as the San Fernando Valley and Huntington Beach to give voice to their support for BMUFL (Bikes May Use the Fukkin’ Lane) signage. Of the forty-two people who spoke, only one person didn’t speak in favor of BMUFL.

The outcome of the meeting was straightforward. The council will vote on BMUFL signage on July 26. Our voices have been heard and will be taken into account. The council will likely approve the traffic safety committee’s recommendation to:

  1. Take down the Darth Vader signs ominously saying “Bicycle Laws Strictly Enforced.”
  2. Put up the Luke Skywalker signs saying “3-Feet It’s the Law.”
  3. Send the BMUFL signage recommendation back to committee to decide the actual number and placement of signs.

Although it’s entirely possible that the Lunada Bay Boys On Mom’s Couch and the Internet Troll Commission will show up in force at that meeting because it’s the one at which the actual vote will occur, the council was incredibly receptive to and appreciative of our input, all 4,835.2 minutes of it. Talk about an endurance sportt! The bike blab-a-thon portion ended at 9:30 and the council still hadn’t even reached the main items on its agenda.

None of this would have happened without the incredible leadership of Michael Barraclough and Delia Park. And it certainly wouldn’t have happened without the support of the many cyclists who attended the protest ride and all of the other meetings, proving a key point: The cycling community is so vast that no one has to attend every meeting. We can fill entire council chamber rooms with a mostly new group of people every single time.

The meeting begin with a web site tutorial oriented towards the average PVE resident who apparently is just now learning about the Internet. It’s hard to describe, but think of the Internet as a bunch of computers connected together that can share information. It’s like Bingo without the excitement.

The city has a new web site with lots of links and a content management system which will give employees one more awful task they have to slog through. And although the web site’s only two images were an ocean cliff, presumably to leap from, and an antique Porsche that trust me, you can’t afford, it immediately occurred to me that what that web site is really going to need is a section called “Cycling in the Peninsula,” where the 3-foot law, the BMUFL law, and the mutual obligations of bikers and cagers to follow the traffic laws are set forth.

After learning about web sites and the Internet, the council sank into their chairs for what promised to be a long night of biker blabber. They begged us not to be repetitive and to keep it short, but we just couldn’t resist using that allotment of three minutes and as their looks of resignation turned to despair we soldiered on. If I weren’t an atheist I’d nominate each of those council members and the mayor for sainthood.

The speakers were:

Bruce Steele, lawyer and biker dude.
Diego Binatena, pro cyclist and Eagle Scout in uniform.
Julie Lansing, Scout leader and lifelong cyclist.
Craig Eggers, Big O bulwark and dude who’s been cycling more years than he’s been driving.
Annie Spalding, mom, wife, and non-cyclist who is vitally affected by what happens to cyclists because her husband and son ride.
Bob Spalding, rock of the South Bay, iron-legged Canyon Bob who has never met a flat he couldn’t fix or a rider in distress he wouldn’t stop to help.
Sam Spalding, college student commuter cyclist who compared cycling in Minneapolis and Portland to PVE.
Michael Lewis, lifelong cyclist.
Mike Barraclough, heart and soul of the movement whose speaking time was interrupted by the Shot Clock Controversy when the clerk forgot to start his 3-minute timer and then shaved too many seconds off his speaking time, after which the coach protested, a time-out was called, and on a fast-break to the inside Barraclough stuffed an 0ver-the-rim behind-the-back triple axel forward 4-and-a-half somersault in the Pike postion to score a perfect 10 and win the game in double overtime on penalty kicks.
Trish Botsko, PV Bike Chicks cyclist who spoke eloquently about bike signs and safety.
Mario Obejas, BCCC engineer dude and member of one of the best and biggest clubs in the South Bay.
Jose Godinez, South Bay stalwart and biker dude who has been to almost every meeting.
Eric Bruins, hard core advocate and professional bike dude who talks change and sense and collaboration all at the same time and doesn’t sound insane.
Tom Duong, Flog Ride regular, another you-aint-getting-rid-of-me advocate who has been integral to every meeting and protest.
Cassady Davidson, my awesome daughter who came with her husband Torazo and my grandbaby Rin-chan, who took one look at all the people and did a double-diaper-blast, after which he was unceremoniously removed from the proceedings.
Brian Gee, cyclist and talker dude.
Patrick Noll, German cyclist dude who is more articulate in his second language than I am in my first.
Steve Thorpe, cyclist dude who supports BMUFL, as he should.
Chris Tregillis, winner of the City Council KOM and super articulate talker dude.
Nigel Stewart, biker and talker dude.
Delia Park, how awesome is Delia? That would be “very.” Inspiring, committed, always shows up, keeps the troops in line, and please don’t even think about pissing her off with your dumb comments.
Yasuko Davidson, my cute wife who was too short for the mic and who got in a stiff uppercut to the jaw for BMUFL.
Joey Cooney, another stalwart who has made every meeting, dude rides, is local, and sticks around like badly burnt eggs on the bottom of an iron skillet.
Alan Stoddard, biker talker dude.
Geoffrey and Austin Loui, dad-and-son combo, Geoffrey also makes all the meetings and brings his kids. Start democracy young.
Joann Zwagerman, best speaker with a broken arm and funniest comment about her mom: “Okay, Joann, you’ve proven you can ride a bicycle. Now stop!”
Joel Elliott, conducted an awesome plebescite: “How many of you wankers ride?” [99% of people raised their hands]. “Now, how many of you wankers have been hit?” [98%].
Don Wolfe, drove from Westchester, awesome rider and talker and BWR dude.
Kevin Nix, succinct talker and bike race winner dude.
Jonathan Fredrick, best sense of humor dude whose last name has one “e” and whose last name can get you into trouble if you leave out the “r.”
Wendy Watson, another stalwart, rides better in her 70’s than I did in my 20’s.
Mark Maxson, awesome resident cyclist and talker father PVE dude.
S. Davidson, blah blah blah but at least it was brief.
Vic Cooper, cyclist and talker dude.
Ray Colquhoun, Big O hammer.
Hung Nguyen, dude drove from Huntington Beach and got the sprint jersey as a result.
Carl Frushon, military cancer survivor biker and fundraiser for charitable events dude.
Carlos Jura, cell tower dude and coastal commission complainer dude and bike admonisher dude.
Kristie Fox, only person who brought up science, comparing the British and American models for roadway usage and why the Brits were good and the US sucks, which leads us to ask, “Why do you hate America?”
Denis Faye, only dude to mention a crazy pack of ferrets and cycling in the same sentence.
David Brindon, cameraman and Olympian and world champion cycling dude.

After the lovin‘, the mayor and city council, all of whom stayed awake, thanked us for our input and encouraged us to return on July 26, although inwardly they prayed that if we did show up again we wouldn’t speak endlessly about the same damned thing because, you know, they get it. Police Chief Kepley thanked us for our civility and professionalism, and we adjourned, leaving the council to another several hours of brutal business that had nothing to do with bikes.

Thank you to everyone who made the effort to attend. Thank you to Mayor Jennifer King, you have the patience of Job and the endurance of an Ironman winner. Thank you to council members James Vandever, Betty Lin Peterson, Jon Rea, and James F. Goodhart. It’s local elected officials like you, unpaid except for the gratification you get from bettering your community, who are the bedrock of our democracy.

And democracy really happens when people show up.

END

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I can haz Stravver

July 12, 2016 § 20 Comments

WADA/USADA/UCI/Piggly-Wiggly band Nikky Brantsoreassson fer lifetime. Fer dopin an salez of dopin dop.

But he can haz Stravver? Thats whut us LA Stravverers wanna no. Cuz we don race and we don kar about no dopin dops. But us surez heck karz about Stravver. Cheetinz cheetin, everybody cheetz. But us Stravverers don ever gon let KOM cheetz get away.

Howz he Stravver gonna be? Kin Stravver yank he KOMz fer dopin. Kin them?

Brantsoreassson iz a gud dud. I like he. Hez makin dop cloz fer bikin dops. He cloz is dop. He cloz is costin lotz two. More’n Raffle cloz. Herez how I seez he. He makin dop cloz he local boy dun gud. Dun bad but dun gud.

Pluss I like he Stravver. He haz big ol nassty fasst Stravver KOM. After I ridez I check he Stravver and man he goz pro. Pro fasst Stravver fasst. Big ringz an hammer he like big dogz.

But I dont like he dops Stravver. We needz town hall pro test and meetingz with Obama. Obama kin shut he down fer Stravver dopin. If Obama kin not yank he Stravver KOM we gon meat Mr. Stravver and we can haz protest at Mr. Stravver offis or we can haz pro test at Mr. and Mrs. Stravver house.

Mr. Stravver kin nock he off leaderboard. Mr. Stravver, I hopez youz listenin. Becuz if you don nock Soreassson off all Stravver leaderboard ess speshul lee Mandy Vill wez all quitin our free Stravver a count. You aint kant make no more muni off we.

Sind,

Stravver Kat

END

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