List of past award winners

August 23, 2017 § 16 Comments

It’s kind of incredible that the South Bay Cycling Awards, which began at Naja’s dive bar in Redondo Beach, has staggered into its fifth year. Much has changed. Well, actually, hardly anything has. We’re still a bunch of misfits on children’s toys pretending that time doesn’t apply to us.

Each year this failure of a ceremony has been sabotaged by the incompetence of the Wanky Steering Committee, a ship whose rudder was badly broken long before she ever left port. Derek Brauch, Dan Martin, and Marc Spivey have served as a font of bad ideas, poor execution, and questionable judgment from the moment that Spivey came up with this misbegotten event and spray painted “Wanky Awards” on an old bed sheet, an item we’re not even sure he washed before hanging up in Naja’s.

I dredged up the list of past award winners and am posting here. For some it will bring back fond memories. For others, shame. For yet others, there will only be a blank spot and perhaps a receipt from a local bail bondsman. Enjoy.

Inaugural Year, Naja’s Place dive bar, 2013

2013 Advocate of the Year: Jim Hannon
2013 Comeback of the Year: Greg Leibert
2013 Club of the Year: Big Orange
2013 Sponsor of the Year: SPY Optic
2013 Champion of the NPR: Eric Anderson
2013 Champion of the Donut: Not awarded due to non-appearance of nominee wankers.
2013 Telo Champion: Aaron Wimberley
2013 Freddy Freeloader: Mark Hunkirchen
2013 Wanker of the Year: Brad House
2013 South Bay Hardman: Dan Cobley
2013 South Bay Hardwoman: Suzanne Sonye
2013 KOM: Not awarded, again, due to more nonappearance of pretty much the same wankers.
2013 QOM: Kristabel Doebel-Hickock
2013 Strava Champion: Lane Reid
2013 Crashtacular Fred: John Walsh
2013 Junior of the Year: Diego Binatena
2013 Ride Animator: Josh Alverson
2013 Spouse or S/O of the Year: Yasuko Davidson
2013 South Bay Rider of the Year: Julie Cutts
2013 Good Samaritan: Michael Norris

2nd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, On the Rocks, now out of business thanks to us, 2014

2014 Best Advocate: Eric Bruins
2014 Best Bike Shop: Peyton Cooke
2014 Best Young Rider: Diego Binatena
2014 Person Most Transformed by Cycling: Jonathan Paris
2014 Most Improved: Peta Takai
2014 Best Cycling Club: Wonton Heavy Industries, LLC
2014 Best Rider in Multiple Disciplines: Marilyne Deckman
2014 Wanker of the Year: Stathis Sakellariadis
2014 Best Promoter: SPY Optic
2014 NPR Champ: Eric Anderson
2014 Donut Champ: Derek Brauch
2014 Best Male Racer: Charon Smith
2014 Best Female Racer: Kristabel Doebel‐Hickock
2014 Best All‐Around Rider: Robert Efthimos
2014 Crashtacular Fred Award: Not awarded because some chick with a broken arm ran up and
snatched it. “I’m the crashtactular Fred!” she said, so we gave it to her.
2014 Most of Life Wasted on Strava: Lane Reid
2014 HTFU Award: Phil Tinstman
2014 Larger than Life Award: David Perez
2014 Best Spouse/SO: Sherri Foxworthy
2014 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Kevin Phillips

3rd Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, Strand Brewing Co., 2015
October 17, 2015
Guest of Honor: Steve Tilford
2015 South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame Inductees: Nelson Vails, Ted Ernst, Marilyn Sonye, Tony Cruz

2015 Greatest Advocate: Jim Hannon
2015 Best Bike Shop: Helen’s
2015 Best Young Rider: Jules Gilliam, Summer Phillips, Makayla MacPherson
2015 Best Old Rider: Tim Gillibrand
2015 Most Improved: Dan Kroboth
2015 Best Club: Big Orange
2015 Best Event: Manhattan Beach Grand Prix
2015 Wanker of the Year: Seth Davidson
2015 Belgian Award: Gavin Hoover
2015 Group Ride Champion: Cameron Khoury
2015 Best Sponsor: GQ6
2015 Best Male Racer: Cory Williams
2015 Best Female Racer: Emily Georgeson
2015 GC Award: Robert Efthimos
2015 Crashtacular Fred: Kristabel Doebel-Hickock
2015 Strava KOM: Brian Perkins
2015 Most Happy to Help Others: Craig Leeuwenburgh, Bob Spalding
2015 Most Fun: Peta Takai
2015 Best Spouse/SO: Jim & Nancy Jaeger
2015 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Rahsaan Bahati

4th Annual South Bay Cycling Awards, Strand Brewing Co., 2016
October 22, 2016
2016 South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame Inductees: John Walsh, Thurlow Rogers

2016 Greatest Advocate: Sarah Barraclough
2016 Best Bike Shop: Performance Bicycle
2016 Best Young Rider: Ivy Koester
2016 Best Old Rider: George Pommel
2016 Most Improved: David Holland
2016 Best Club: Long Beach Freddies
2016 Best Event: Dana Point Grand Prix
2016 Wanker of the Year: Denis Faye
2016 Belgian Award: James Cowan
2016 Group Ride Champion: Elijah Shabazz
2016 Best Sponsor: Beachbody
2016 Best Male Racer: Justin Williams
2016 Best Female Racer: Katie Donovan
2016 GC Award: Joe Yule
2016 Crashtacular Fred: Marvin Campbell
2016 Strava KOM: Chris Tregillis
2016 Most Happy to Help others: Chris Gregory
2016 Most Fun: Sochin Lee
2016 Best Spouse/SO: Jeanette Seyranian
2016 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Tony Manzella

For 2017 we’re renting a dance floor and a DJ, and the last two hours will be dedicated to dancing, which for most cyclists means standing stiffly, awkwardly clapping their hands, and swaying a bit like a telephone pole in a gale. As in past years, drinks and food are free until they’re not, i.e. get there early. Below are some photos to remind you of what you’re missing as you come up with great excuses not to attend.




August 21, 2017 § 26 Comments

Everyone knows that the secret to happiness is upgrades. You will be happier on Strava with their Premium service. Your phone experience will improve with a newer IOS. And nothing makes a bike ride better than going from steel to carbon, just ask Gary Cziko.

In fact, if you google “upgrade” you will land on, where else,, which will walk you through a better, stronger, prettier, more satisfying personal loan. You can upgrade to business class which will take you away from cheap, smelly, cracker-hoarding economy peasants and plop you in the middle of hungry, narrow-faced, scheming ex-peasants who have collected enough points, cajoled, or lucked their way into plusher surroundings.

Spousal upgrades, swapping your prole home for a petit-bourgeois home, and a waaaaay faster chip with waaaaaaay more memory are what make America great, and what will, any day now, make America great again. Which I’m all for.

At the same time, a faster, cheaper, and much more gloat-worthy path to satisfaction also lies in downgrading. Climbing is hard and makes you feel great, but descending, there’s no denying, is better.

Here are your QOL downgrades. They’ve worked for me.

  1. Coffee beans. Just get the cheap ones. If you really can tell the difference, you spend too much time thinking about coffee and not enough time reading books.
  2. Coffee roasting. All you need is a frying pan. Really.
  3. Breakfast. Toast with butter, washed down with coffee. Then move on.
  4. Yogurt. Ditch the fancy flavors. Get plain, toss in a couple of raw almonds and maybe a slice or two of banana. Done.
  5. Bike outfits. Get a couple pair of black shorts. They go with everything, especially your wallet.
  6. Tars. Low performance, high puncture resistance. And change them out regularly, just like you would a ratty old threadbare pair of panties, assuming you wear any. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
  7. Razors. Ditch the quatro-ultra-pre-lubed disposable and get an old-fashioned razor that holds a two-sided blade. Better yet, a straight razor. You’ll only slit your throat once.
  8. Downgrade your computer/phone with books. The paper kind, not the face kind.
  9. Notepad with pen. Never crashes, never runs out of memory, never freezes, never gets hacked and held hostage for 1,000 bitcoins.
  10. Hot cocoa. Bitter, unsweetened. Dump it in a cup and add milk. Microwave. Don’t add sugar. Tastes bitter from the cocoa and sweet from the milk all at the same time, like life.
  11. De-digitize your bike. Ditch the Garmin, power meter, heartjockrate strap, and the etc. Especially the etc. Use Strava for iPhone if you must … and lately, I must.
  12. Refuse disc brakes for your road bike. If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?
  13. Don’t Venmo. Pay for your drugs the old -fashioned way. With cash.
  14. Turn a blind eye to anything claiming to track your fitness that doesn’t look like a bathroom scales.
  15. Downgrade your GPS-guided life. Instead of getting commanded where to turn by a computer, read the map beforehand, find your destination, memorize the way there and the address, and go.
  16. De-hydrate. Do at least one ride a week with nothing in your bottle but water. You’ll be surprised to learn that it actually replenishes AND quenches thirst.
  17. Downgrade your car by using your bike to run an errand. Another anachronism that is completely fuggin’ awesome.
  18. Downgrade your bike by walking to the store. People actually used to do this, with their legs.
  19. Laugh at anyone who recommends tubeless for road riding.
  20. Get aero by hunching down lower on the drops.

Master these tricks plus a few of your own and you’ll be ready for the 20th Century.



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Rules of my road

August 19, 2017 § 14 Comments

Today was a learning day, all 140 miles of it. You see, in a few weeks we are planning a Big Day ride which will be stupidly long and require some severe uphill punishment, so in the spirit of preparation I invited a few “friends” to join me on a jaunt from PV up to Mt. Wilson, then over to Venice, and back home.

I told them that the ride started at 5:00 AM, pointy-sharp, which it did. Unfortunately, the friends arrived at 5:01 and found themselves alone.

“There’s no way he left exactly at 5:00,” the baby seals said.

“Surely he’d wait an extra minute,” the baby seals said.

“He wasn’t serious about that ‘pointy-sharp’ crap, was he?” the baby seals said.

Answer Key: He did, he wouldn’t, and he was.

Another rule of my road is “Don’t check your phone,” but I was so perplexed by the absence of ‘Stash, who seemed like a pretty stand-up baby seal, that I broke down and checked it. Sure enough, ‘Stash and the gang were vainly waiting for the ride to start at their leisure rather than as planned. So I and my two companions stopped and waited for them. Shattering yet another rule, the one of “If yer late yer gonna fuggin’ chase.”

This turned out to be fortunate, because ‘Stash had brought MM, Frexit II, and Doobie with him,  viciously strong riders who I could finagle into doing all the work while I sat in back and rested.

We zoomed through early morning Los Angeles, reaching downtown before 6:30, and then charged through Pasadena to the base of the climb at La Canada-Flintridge, where the Angeles Crest highway begins. From there it’s a 19-mile climb to the top of Mt. Wilson, and ‘Stash lit it up. Actually, he didn’t light up “it,” he lit up me, and I burned ever so brightly, all the while marveling at his strength, his youthful enthusiasm, and his obvious unfamiliarity with what was bound to happen when you threw down 500 watts at the bottom of a 19-mile hill.

Six miles in, ‘Stash began eating everything in his back jersey pocket, which was stocked better than most convenience stores, after which he slurped all of the energy drink in both bottles, until he looked back at me, greenly, and said, “I’m kind of starting to feel it.”

I presumed that “it” meant the endless grade he’d been throttling, along with me, but my Sympathy-o-Meter was stuck at zero, right at the mini-violin icon. “Maybe you should slow the fuck down,” I offered at about the time that his cadence began squaring the circle and his speed dropped from murderous to barely.

Filled with kindly sadism, I punched by and ratcheted up the pace, happy to finally be able to give as I had received, the only difference being that ‘Stash, instead of breathing heavily and showing signs of droppage, seemed to be recovering quite nicely behind what I had thought was a punishing acceleration. On the final 5-mile segment to the summit, ‘Stash recovered enough to rip his way to the top, with me hanging on for dear life.

‘Stash wasn’t riding bad for a guy who’s only been riding for two years, so on the way down I gave him as much bad training advice as I could, hoping it would retard his development for a while, at least.

We descended, met up with the rest of our crew, and then had lunch and covfefe at Starbucks. The traffic had picked up since 5:00 AM, but Doobie didn’t seem to notice as he dragged us back to downtown LA in a jiffy. And this is where the day’s second instructional lesson occurred.

I had been screaming at everyone to “Point shit out, for fuck’s sake!” because the seals all had the unnerving habit of refusing to take their flippers off the bars to indicate cracks, crevices, shattered manhole covers, glass, and other minor items that litter the LA streets and pose a hazard to my all-carbon FastForward rims which are 100% carbon and made exclusively of carbon, not to mention the rubber tars and tubes that surround them.

As we rushed up Beverly, Frexit II, who was on the front, rode us over a 6-foot crevasse that still had the bodies of several Mt. Everest climbers in it, and he neglected to signal it. I made a perfect 1-point landing in the crevasse with my rear tar, which exploded on impact, sounding a blast that was almost as loud as my curses, but not quite.

As we pulled over I said to Frexit II, “How do you say ‘Point shit out, for fuck’s sake!’ in French?”

He pondered. “Putain?”

“Then putain, for fuck’s sake,” I said. He shrugged, clearly not impressed with my French or my inability to hop or avoid the crevasse.

Great luck was mine, however, because Doobie was the mastermind behind Velofix, the mobile bike repair vans, and there’s no better time to get a flat than when you are attended by a genuine industry professional. “It’s just a pinch flat,” he said, checking the outside of the tar as a genuine industry professional would to make sure nothing was embedded in it. He got the tar changed in a jiffy, aired it up, and the moment I tightened the rear quick release we all twitched as the tar exploded again.

“Fuggin’ genuine industry professionals,” I snarled, showing Doobie & Co. how to speedily change a flat without the use of a tire lever, per the Gussy Tire Change Manual. Thirty minutes later we were good to go, minus my palms. I hopped on the bike and we raced down Alvarado through the throngs of Saturday shoppers.

“Watch out for the hole,” Doobie said, politely pointing out another crevasse that was far from me.

My tar, not appearing to hear the warning, exploded again, this time in front of a barbershop. MM removed the tar from the rim and did a careful inspection. Unlike the rest of us, all bifocal bound, she quickly located an incredibly tiny splinter that had pierced the tar casing. At that moment the barber, who had been standing behind us watching, said, “You need help?”

“Yes,” MM said. “Do you have some tweezers?”

“Sure, and I’m also watching the Vuelta.” We watched in astonishment as he showed us his phone screen which was playing the day’s live feed of the TTT. “Froome’s not looking good,” he said knowledgeably.

Remounted and reinflated, we raced down Venice Blvd. to home, stopping at a hundred lights, and re-starting each time with a massive surge by Frexit II, Doobie, ‘Stash, or MM, who were apparently practicing track starts. These relentless stops, starts, and jumps battered me into a lump of soggy bitch pudding. I barely made it up the nasty climb at the end of the ride, and when I did, I added another rule of my road: Don’t ride with people stronger than you, even if that’s everybody.



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A mammoth of a day

August 18, 2017 § 8 Comments

Why leave Los Angeles? It either has or is adjacent to everything. Ocean? Right over there. Twenty-mile climbs to searing mountain tops? Over there. Winter skiing? Just up the road.

But people peregrinate. They’re never satisfied with what’s in their own front yard, or back yard, or even their neighbor’s yard. They want more.

Fortunately, if you want more, California delivers, and if you’re a cyclist seeking new spectacular vistas surrounded by 11,000-foot peaks, throw the bike in the car and drive up to Mammoth for their annual fall grand fondue. Don’t worry about having to scale interminable climbs. You’ll get all the climbing workout you need walking up the three stairs to your cottage, because Mammoth Village sits at 8,000 feet, where oxygen doesn’t hang out much.

The Mammoth GF has history, bike racing history. It first existed as a real stage race, the Mammoth Cycling Classic, and attracted world class talent during the heyday of the 80’s. In 1994 the race transmogrified into a one-day grand fondue, and is now in its twenty-third year, regularly earning kudos for its stunning scenery, car-less roads, and beautifully maintained pavement.

And although the ride has been around for decades, it’s now at the forefront of the new wave in cycling, where chips and timed Strava segments let riders compete for overall glory as well as for imaginary spoils on certain sections in the middle of the ride. In other words, like a Chinese buffet, you really can have it all: A 102-mile race; a completely chill, noncompetitive ride; an easy ride punctuated by at least one timed, all-out effort. You pick. And of course there are routes of varying length.

Here’s what you get for your entry fee:

  1. Pro style mass start. This pro style start makes you feel pro. You can bring extra carbon for your all carbon, 100% carbon bike and get 25% more pro. Neil Shirley might be there and might even autograph your chamois (before, not after). In other words, pro.
  2. Timing and posted results. It’s not a race, really. Okay, I call bullshit. It’s totally a race. Pin on your number, nail your timing chip to your ankle, and lock down your heartjockrate strap. Don’t look up from your Garmin until it’s done.
  3. Six rest stops. Basically, these are THE REASON WE RIDE. Burn 400 kcal, eat 1,500. Repeat until sufficiently bloated. Return to the start/finish in the sag wagon. The stops have everything you are going to need, in other words, sugar. And this year they will also offer the magic of Jeff Mahin, master chef. You can always add another 120-mile loop if you go overboard on his creations.
  4. Clothing drops. Since the ride takes place at 72,000 feet, there isn’t much air. Scientifically speaking, the cold molecules adhere to your skin better way up there and create something called FIC Syndrome (Fugg, it’s cold!). So the way this works is that you wear warm stuff to start, work yourself up into a hot bother, and then drop off your nasty duds at the sag stops. The volunteers pour gasoline on them and light a match, which provides extra heat for frozen fingers.
  5. On-course lunch. If you do the Grand Fondue or the Medium Fondue, you get fed a light lunch. This has nothing in common with the packet of crackers and cup of water you get on Southwest when flying six hours from coast-to-coast.
  6. On-course SAG support. As every cyclist knows, SAG is the safety diaper we all crave when stranded out in the wilderness with two flats (right and left). The grand fondue has roving SAG vehicles that can air up your legs, swap out a punctured lung, and true your badly bent moral compass as you lie in a ditch wondering where all the air went.
  7. Signature pint glass. In 1937, Alfonse d’Tuileries hosted the world’s first grand fondue outside of Paris and he forgot to provide beer to the finishers. Alfonse is recognized as the first Frenchman to be lynched by a mob since the Paris Commune, and a garden is named after him near the Louvre. The Mammoth GF ensures no lynching by providing a trophy pint glass into which to pour your Sierra Nevada beer.
  8. Finisher’s t-shirt. If you can’t brag about it, it didn’t happen. Cool t-shirt lets you remind your slovenly co-workers that while they were arguing with an inert TV screen over a bad call by the ref, you were slaying dragons and mashing pedals in the Sierras.
  9. Event photos. Let’s face it. Your co-workers don’t really believe you were in the Sierras, much less riding 102 miles through them airlessly on a bicycle. Free event photos can be silkscreened onto a custom t-shirt or used as templates for your very own Grand Fondue face tattoo. Let ’em deny your awesomeness with that.
  10. Timed KOM/QOM section. 102-mile grand fonduers get to compete in the KOM/QOM Strava segment. Brang it.
  11. Party. After you’re done dry heaving and have come somewhat out of your delirium, there is a massive bash in the Village at Mammoth featuring more genius food creations of Jeff Mahin, Sierra Nevada fermented beverages, dessert, expo, and entertainment, not limited to the whopping lies you’ll overhear as you quietly sip your kale-peanut butter–escargot smoothie.

This is one you’d be crazy to miss.



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The hard way

August 17, 2017 § 24 Comments

As the racing year winds down, I reflect as I always do on what I’ve accomplished since January. The answer is generally the same, “Nothing.”

So then I wonder, “What did I do it for?” The answer is always the same. “Because I didn’t know what else to do.”

Finally, I put my all-carbon bike, which is 100% pure carbon and made exclusively of carbon up on the stand, clean it, move the tires around, wax the chain, and admire the “Wanky” sticker on the side. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I ask me.

The short answer is “I don’t know.” But the longer answer (by two words) is “I like the hard way.”

It’s always at that moment that the decisive answer rings true inside my skull. I like the hard way. When I was young I rode hard. When I was middle-aged I rode hard. Now that I’m a grandpa I ride hard.

Not well, perhaps. Not fast, certainly. But hard? Oh, yes-indeedy. I tasted peanut butter puke at Telo on Tuesday. I felt my heart against my ribs on the Flog. I crawled up the hill at the end of last week’s 130-miler, barely able to turn the pedals. No trinkets won, no fucks given, but man, it was hard. For me. Not for you. You could have done it with one leg, blindfolded. But for me.

For me, the hard way is always the easy way, backwards. The easy way starts easy and finishes hard. The hard way starts hard and ends easy. Neither way is better than the other. Do you like chocolate or vanilla? They’re just different.

The hard way, when you think about it, isn’t even that hard. It even makes a handy-dandy List of Hardness.

  1. You have to get up early … way early. That’s the hardest thing you’ll do all day, in fact.
  2. Chuck the data and the power meter and the computer and the heartjockstrap monitor, find your discomfort zone, and stay there. If you don’t feel bad, it’s not good.
  3. You have to get dropped.
  4. Finally, you have to go to bed no later than ten no matter what else is happening in TV-land, fooball-land, or Internetland. This is crazy hard.

Interspersed with all that hardness, you have to rest, which is even harder than hard riding. Resting is different from sleeping. And it’s certainly different from drinking. Drinking is never resting. It’s fun but it’s not rest.

That’s all there is to it. It won’t win you many races but it will make you appreciate other people. You’d think it would be the opposite: The harder you go, the more contemptuous you are of those who ride pillow soft. But no. The harder you go, the more you respect people because you realize that they’re doing what they can, just like you’re doing what you can.

The harder you go, the better you’ll sleep.

The harder you go, the more you’ll appreciate the days that you don’t.

But most of all, the harder you go, the more quality you’ll wring out of your inherited meatbag. And as you’re able to wring the last mini-watts out of the meatbag, you’ll develop an affinity for other hard avenues in life that are equally and more rewarding.

You’ll go into business for yourself. You’ll dump a shitty relationship. You’ll study a crazy hard language. You’ll quit shooting heroin. You’ll slow down for people who need help (that’s uber hard). You’ll watch the hummingbirds swarm the feeder during spring and fall migration.

You’ll do crazy hard stuff, like no more sugar in your hot cocoa. Do you know how bitter that is? Actually, once you’re used to it, it’s not bitter at all. It’s just hard. Hard and good.

You’ll stop eating jam on your toast. Syrup on your pancakes. Cream in your coffee. (Kidding. No one is hard enough to quit putting cream in their coffee.)

The hard way makes hard choices easy. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. The load lifts. You mash down on the pedals and they give like a fist through butter. Why? Because the hard way is eventually, ultimately, finally the easiest.


Ants in your pants

August 15, 2017 § 14 Comments

I was in bed. It was Sunday. I had made my personal statement, and it was this: “I am not getting out of bed without pancakes.”

There was some spirited discussion before a settlement was reached, some promises were made, and my wife headed off to the kitchen. She popped her head in a minute later. “No butter. I’m going to the store.”

I turned over on my side. I could wait for butter. The butter would go, meltedly, atop the golden brown pancakes. Yummmm.

A minute later the phone rang. My wife was exercised, mightily. “Come down to the car! Now!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Ants!” she shouted. “Ants everywhere in the car!”

I lay there, caught between the iron pincers of a paradox. If I got up to go investigate the ants I would have broken my vow not to get out of bed without pancakes. If I didn’t get up to investigate the ants I wouldn’t get the pancakes.

I lay there and wondered what to do. Finally her voice became too insistent to ignore. “Okay,” I said. “I’m coming down.”

I went down to the parking garage where she was standing. Little lines of ants were marching down the charging cord and disappearing into the car. “What do you think?” she asked/demanded.

I studied them for a minute. “They are working a pretty good paceline,” I concluded. “But there appear to be quite a few wheelsuckers.”

This earned me a storm of anger, but before I could suggest that the ants would be better off with a double rotating line than a single one, I noticed a giant smear along the pavement, spreading out from under our Chevy Volt in a massive pool that branched off into tributaries throughout the neighboring lady’s parking space. Neighboring Lady was a clean freak.

It was a Valdez-sized spill. “Honey,” I said, as she gesticulated towards the ants. “Did you happen to notice this oil spill underneath the car?”

“No,” she said, glancing with mighty disinterest at the coursing rivulets. “Is that why the ants are coming?”

“I doubt it,” I said.

A few days earlier we had taken our car to the fine folks at Martin Chevrolet for an oil change and a tire rotation. I thought the tires were rotating fine, but they recommended it so we took it in. It might have been a coincidence, but it sure seemed strange that the oil that had heretofore all stayed inside the crankcase a few short hours after being worked on had now sprung a leak.

It was a Sunday so they were closed, and rather than drain all the oil onto our parking lot I drove down the hill, parked it in their service driveway, and let the crankcase empty on their concrete, not mine. I dropped off the key and rode my bike home. As I rode, I considered how many trips I’d made to the dealer and reflected that each time I’d put my bike in the back and ridden home. This Chevy Volt really had been eco-friendly.

The next morning they called and apologized. An evil genius at the factory somewhere had given them a defective gasket and the gasket had caused the leak and they were terrible sorry. Terrible, terrible sorry. Presumably the defective gasket had gone so far as to install itself, but I said nothing.

I picked up the car and they were sorry some more, but not as sorry as I was because when I got home I had to douse the entire parking garage with Simple Green and scrub like a madman for about an hour. Afterwards we went to Hollywood to entertain a guest. Hollywood is like hell minus the amenities. The worst part was the Chinese Theater, where an insane homeless vet lay on the sidewalk with a sign asking for money, and a few feet away two gentlemen were selling “One dollar water!” at the top of their lungs.

Each time they said, “One dollar water!” the vet would shriek, clasp his ears, and scream at them to please shut up, he couldn’t stand it, even though you could barely hear the vendors over the crowd. One of the vendors, realizing how disturbed the homeless man was, intentionally cried “One dollar water!” over and over, cupping his hand so that the call targeted the crazy dude, who with each cry would roll into a fetal ball and thrash himself on the pavement.

All around, Chinese tourists took selfies in front of the Chinese Theater, which was a fake, white entrepreneur’s imitation of a Chinese building.

We got back into the car and raced down the 101 at five or six miles per hour. Suddenly my wife shouted, “The ants! The ants are back!”

“Technically,” I said, “they weren’t ‘back’ as they’ve never gone anywhere.”

This struck the wrong note, a D# in the key of C as it were, and we began to argue about the ants, with me blaming her and with her blaming me.

My eldest son said nothing, but from the safety of the backseat he took out his phone and googled “ants in my Chevy Volt.” It turns out that this is a common manufacturing defect. Ants like electricity, and Volts have lots of electricity. It is a match made in heaven except for the passengers, for whom it was more like a divorce made in hell.

The ants didn’t bite (much) and we got home without any more excitement. I insisted that the ant pogrom be kept to a minimum, as ants are people, too. The spill had dried out nicely and my neighbor thanked me for scouring up the oil.

In less than 48 hours I had reduced my carbon footprint, been gentle to smaller, vulnerable animals, and cleaned up a major environmental disaster. I knew when I bought it that the Chevy Volt was going to make me greener. I just didn’t know how much.



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Take a deep breath

August 14, 2017 § 47 Comments

Sometimes, it’s really not about the bike. It can’t be.

As a friend of mine recently said (who happens to ride bikes), “Americans who history has labeled The Greatest Generation once died to fight Nazis. Today their descendants are marching to spread Nazism.”

Our president has strongly supported white supremacy by failing to strongly repudiate it. Everyone who can’t plainly state opposition to the people, ideals, and behavior that led to the Charlottesville rally for Nazism and the death of Heather Heyer supports it, too.


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