Deb’s throw a leg over ride

January 14, 2017 § 23 Comments

Debra Banks was hit by a drunk two years ago. Her ordeal was detailed in an earlier post here. I don’t know very many people who could have gone through what she endured and come out on the other end still wanting to ride a bike. But she is tough, randonneur tough, Paris-Brest-Paris tough, and for her there was never any question of whether she would ride again, only the question of when.

Everyone who gets hit by a car suffers from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. Getting back on your bike is only partly physical. It’s hugely mental. So when Deb told me that her doc had cleared her to ride again, we swapped emails, figured out a day, and I drove up to Sacramento so that we could commemorate this monumental event.

We left LA bright and early. I had never been to Sacramento before and was looking forward to all the mountains. We got there around noon and headed straight for an awesome coffee shop that Yasuko had found on the Internet. “You sure this place is good?” I asked, making a mental note of what seemed to be no mountains anywhere.

“It’s got a very good rating,” she said. “It’s called Estellle’s bakery. Itsa most famous chocolate croissant and we eat light and a coffee and still be hungry for dinner.” I wondered when I had never not been hungry for dinner.

We parked in downtown Sacramento across from the capitol. Sacramento is an amazing blend of gritty and funky, and it reminded me of Austin in the 1980’s, when the tallest building was the capitol. Sacramento has that feeling of pre-gentrification, where the funky and the gritty are creating the magic that, in a few years, will attract the burned out yuppies from the Bay Area who will kill it.

We got to the famous cafe and it was out of business. “I guess it was too good for its own good,” I said.

Down the street was the Capitol Cafe, a run down diner was part of a business empire that included the Capitol Bar on one side and the Capitol All You Can Eat Salad bar on the other side. It was a true cafe, where you could eat a full meal for a few bucks, and everybody knew everybody including the crazy vet nursing a cup of coffee and telling each customer that “Jesus is lord.”

Freed from the necessity of an appetite-saving croissant we decided to save space for dinner with a cheeseburger and fries, and Yasuko chose the diner’s equivalent of a croissant, which was a BLT. We would still have plenty of room for dinner if dinner were served at midnight.

We left the cafe and headed for the dumpster-filled alley that abutted the parking garage just in time to witness two homeless dudes get into a fight. It was kind of unique, because one of the guys coudn’t walk well and had a big wooden cane. “Someone’s going to get hurt,” I told Yasuko.

The cane-holder began the scuffle with the obligatory “you motherfucker” and hit the other guy on the shoulder so hard that his backback fell off.

“You’re the motherfucker,” the other dude said, and moved over into our line of sight so that we could see him fully, which is when we realized that this was going to be the fight of the the century because he had a cane, too. It was the Charles Sumner caning where both parties were armed.

The first dude (MF 1) steadied himsef after hitting the backpack dude (MF 2) and while he was regaining his balance MF 2 counterwhacked the shit out of him, dislodging  his styrofoam box of leftovers from his hand and spilling them onto the street.

“You motherfucker I’m going to kill you,” screamed MF 1, but by now both MFs realized that the dislodged backpack and the spilled salad kind of canceled each other out and there was an opportunity to avoid further foodshed by simply cursing some more and declaring victory, kind of like an imaginary sprunt victory at the  beginning of the third traffic island on the NPR.

We went back to the car and drove over to Deb’s place, taking the scenic route through east Sacramento, which was jam packed with the three horsemen of the gentrification apocalypse: Craft breweries, hip coffee shops, and Trader Joe’s.

We got to Deb’s and were joined by Mark, Darrel, and Kim. A sumptuous feast was served and we had the most amazing evening doing that weird thing that people used to do a lot but never do anymore. We sat and talked. For hours.

“Is it weird meeting people you only know through the Internet?” Darrel asked.

“Not any weirder than meeting people at a party for the first time. The only difference is that with Facebag friends you already know the fake stuff about their lives from their newsfeed and can go straight to what’s real.”

One of the real things was an awesome Wankmeister sculpture welded by Darrel for me as a gift, and other real things reminded me of the violent collision that had brought us all together: The shoes that had been cut off Deb’s feet in the first of countless gruesome procedures that had begun the process of cobbling back together her shattered ankle, shoes she had glued back together and planted with flowers, or the medieval external brace that had been bolted into her shin and was now a vase.

We talked and laughed late into the night, which for cyclists meant 10:30.

The next morning we drove over to Davis, where Deb and Mark broke the sad news: “There are no mountains here. It is a pancake flat valley. However, it’s super cold in the morning.”

We met up with Drew and Tuesday and rode out to Winters, where we stopped for good coffee. The day was spectacular and clear. This was Deb’s third ride and we talked about the mental and physical barriers to getting back on the bike because a lot of people simply never do.

A lot of it has to do with risk tolerance but more than that it has to do with the nature of what you require in order to live your life. For some people it’s the very existence of the risk that gives life its bite, that makes life something more than a tasteless oatmeal that you chew unenthusiastically until you reach your expiration date.

I’m inspired by people who get through to the other side, friends like Deb, like Marvin Campbell, like Chris Gregory, and so many others who get badly hurt and are able to get back on the horse. It’s partly a question of toughness but much more a matter of courage, a willingness to face fear and to power on through to the other side.

We finished the ride and were joined by Paul Thober, Darrel, and Kim for lunch, after which we selfied and got in the car for the seven-hour drive home.

Maybe that seems like a long way to drive for a two-hour ride. But to share a few moments with people like Deb, well, I would have driven twice as far.



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Rain cape

January 13, 2017 § 29 Comments


forecast rain, heavy. check closet. two rain capes. specialized rain cape like sieve. white plastic rain cape like greenhouse. recheck forecast. still heavy rain. post facebag. flog ride still on. derision responses. stageone notes new rain cape for sale. purchase. now $85 short in rent money. but have three rain capes. text bad judgment friend. want rain cape? wants. morning 3:00. steady rain. dread. morning 4:00 heavier rain. heavier dread. morning 5:00 alarm. no rain. joy. coffee. news. congress took my insurance. yay. better not take risks. dress. 6:00 poke nose outside. heaviest deluge since noah. push bike from under awning. instantly soaked to skin. temp 52. subtract 10 for wind chill. 42 degree cold shower. awake now. coffee wasn’t needed. descend no visibility. consider absence of insurance. continue anyway. soakage. rain cape working. chest dry. rest of body not so much. rain pelting. can’t see. arrive at flog launch. two other idiots huddled under arch. bad judgment friend has no rain gear. give plastic greenhouse cape. 6:35 pointy sharp. ride. rain pelts incomprehensibly hard, only more so. fun a concept not a reality. more rain. sadness. bodies slowly warm. slow as in not at all. six terrible flog laps. idiots senselessly cold and miserable. more sadness. la cuesta unendurable. all ascend. rain cape merely a fashion statement. only effective rain cape a roof over your head. flogging ends. rain ends. pain ends. sensations return to extreme places. can’t wait until next time.



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Coming soon to a Palos Verdes Estates near you!

January 12, 2017 § 48 Comments

Since the city of Palos Verdes Estates has decided not to install the Bikes May Use Full Lane signage recommended by their traffic safety commission and traffic engineer and supported by hundreds of cyclists, law and common sense, we’ve taken matters into our own hands.


Who knew that you could purchase ten honking, big-ass CalTrans-approved BMUFL signs, the real steel deal, for a mere $362.81? And that you could order them online?

We did, and we did.

Join us this coming weekend, and weekends throughout 2017 as we take to the four ingress/egress points of Palos Verdes Estates and hold up signs to educate motorists about the right of bikes to use the full lane, and to stress that all motorists (including Garrett and Cynthia Unno, Robert Chapman, Michael Kirst, and that Zaragoza lady) need to “CHANGE LANES TO PASS.”

The city council can — and they have — locked the chamber doors to public dissent.

But the streets are still free and we’ll be out there helping to spread the word.

Join us!



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Game on

January 10, 2017 § 18 Comments

The most excellent and iconic Vlees Huis road race was cancelled for 2017, but now it’s back, calendared for February 26! This is great news for everyone who likes variety in road racing, and by “variety” I mean “non-industrial park crit.”

The resuscitation didn’t happen by accident. The promoter, Sam Ames, has been one of the most consistent and dedicated supports of bike racing in the state. He has run Vlees Huis on break-even or razor thin margins, and has provided an amazingly high quality race even as numbers have declined.

Incredibly bummed that we were about to lose one of the best road races on the calendar, one of the best racers in the state, Greg Leibert, founder of Big Orange, reached out to Sam to find out what it would cost to supplement Sam’s outlay so that he’d make enough money for the event to be worth continuing.

The cost? $3,500.00.

Big Orange is a bike club, but its focus is on racing even though only a minority of riders race. Greg proposed to the board that it pony up the money, and the board unanimously agreed to do so.

Vlees Huis is back on the calendar. I hope that every club in SoCal that supports bike racing will send a few riders.

This might be a model for sustaining unprofitable but incredibly good road races. Many SoCal racing clubs have money, and the things they spend their funds on don’t always directly improve the general welfare of bike racing. Although team vans and race reimbursements are great, neither counts for much when there aren’t any races to attend.

It’s also a great model because it allows clubs to sponsor races without all of the hassle and full expense of actually promoting one. Most promoters have the deal wired, but they are typically a few thousand short when it comes to making a profit. This would be an ideal fix for clubs that want to keep the calendar robust but don’t want to make the huge commitment to putting on a race. The recent loss of the Carlsbad GP and Brentwood GP comes to mind as clubs drowned in red ink putting on a fantastic event. Rather than withdrawing from race promotion completely, clubs could help struggling promoters close the deal, which in most cases doesn’t put anywhere near the strain on a club’s resources that putting on a race does.

For now, thank you to the Big Orange board of Greg Leibert, Greg Seyranian, Joann Zwagerman, Kristie Fox, Scott Torrence, Don Wolfe, and Denis Faye for putting our race club’s money where the racing is. Thanks as well to Sam Ames for his willingness to give us one of the best and toughest races on the calendar.



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January 9, 2017 § 16 Comments

My grandson has toys like other kids, but he doesn’t like them. Instead, he likes the toys that aren’t his and that aren’t toys, either.

For example, the extension tubes and the sweeper/sucker for the vacuum cleaner. He likes to take those out of the closet as soon as he gets here, come into my bedroom where I’m sleeping, and beat me in the head with the tubes. They are plastic and they hurt and I never fail to wake up.

Then he climbs up on the bed with the filthy sweeper attachment and plops it in my lap and smiles.

I know my job, which is to play with the filthy attachment and whack the comforter with the tubes. We do that for a while. It is pretty funny judging by his laughter, but it is not funny at all judging from my wife’s shrieks. I guess she doesn’t like the attachment thing on her pillow.

Which is weird because we were in Santa Barbara this morning and she ordered a bagel with “the works” and she was about halfway through it. “Is it good?” I asked.

“It’s delicious,” she said.

“Even the hair?” I asked.

“What hair?” she said.

“That one hanging out the end of the bagel.”

She looked and was grossed out. It wasn’t just a short little thing, it was good six-incher, blonde, and formerly belonged to the blonde girl who had made the bagel and was now making our coffee which I could only hope wasn’t going to be a cafe au lait au cheveux. We couldn’t decide whether to make a big deal out of it or not because the hair that was still on the girl’s head was obviously clean and freshly washed, but on the other hand when you order “the works” on your bagel they should tell you if it’s going to include hair.

Anyway, after we stow the vacuum cleaner attachments, I turn on the iPhone and play some music, which he likes because now he’s taken out granny’s Zumba 1.5-pound dumbbells with maraca-sand in the ends so they are mini-rhythm exercise devices. I don’t ever listen to music but one time I downloaded Cat Stevens’s Greatest Hits so I turn that on and he shakes the maracas to “Ooooh, baby, baby, it’s a wild world … ” and I sing and clap and he sways to the beat until his arms get tired and then he drops the weights, usually on my kneecaps, which hurts a lot, and suddenly I’m still saying “Ooooooh, baby, baby … ” but followed by “for fuck’s sake!” or some other grandfatherly phrase.

Next he ignores anything that says Fisher-Price on it and goes into the bathroom, then demands that I lift him up and set him on the counter.

If you are a woman you would simply not lift him up, but if you are a man, especially a grandfather, you do some quick calculus that looks like this:

  1. If I don’t pick him up he’s going to cry. Cry = Drive me nuts.
  2. If I do pick him up he’s going to make a huge mess but he will be quiet. Huge mess < Quiet for a while.
  3. My wife is going to get really angry about the huge mess. Angry wife > Drive me nuts.
  4. I can blame it on the baby. Angry wife – Baby blame = 0.

So I put him up on the counter.You don’t realize how dirty your bathroom counter is until you put a toddler on it. Toddlers see all kinds of tiny stuff, mostly because their eyes are super sharp and they’re inches away from what they’re looking at, whereas I’m way up high and am mostly blind anyway.

He likes the Nivea skin cream, and opens up the bright blue bottle and tries to drink it. “Don’t drink that,” I say.

He likes the pump-action skin cream for dry and chapped legs and he whacks on the pump and out splurts a gob of cream, which he tries to eat. I let him lick it so he can see how nasty it is and because that’s the best way to teach a little kid what not to eat.

He loves it and tries to eat all of it, but I stop him.

Then he opens the toothpaste tube. I put some of it on the electric toothbrush and he loves that. We turn the toothbrush on and off a hundred times and each time I put it up against his front tooth. It literally is a tooth brush.

Next he dumps out the razor cup that’s got a bunch of other stuff in there, kind of like a utility cup for your face. I look in the bottom of the cup. Yuck! Nasty!

He sticks his hand in it and rubs the wet brown stuff in the bottom of the cup. Quick as lightning, finger into mouth. I’m hoping the skin cream will kill the bacteria somehow. I keep waiting for him to make a “yuck” face but he acts like he’s been given the keys to the candy store.

Finally we get bored, about the time he grabs for the razor, and we go back into the living room.

“What were you doing in there?” his mom asks.

“Nothing,” I say.

She hands him a little Fisher-Price colored ball. He kicks it away in disgust and toddles over to the closet where we keep the vacuum cleaner.



Two weeks in

January 8, 2017 § 17 Comments

This year, completely giving up in the face of age, declining mental faculties, physical weakness, and the recovery capacity of a worn out shoe, I resolved to whack my mileage and riding time even further. The idea is that by riding less I will not be riding as much.

The trajectory sort of looks like this:

  • 2014: 12,000 miles
  • 2015: 10,000 miles
  • 2016: 8,000 miles
  • 2017: 6,000 miles

Hopefully, if I am able to  ride less, this will translate into less time on the bike. So far it has been a success. Last week I rode about thirteen hours, down from about fifteen. This week I rode twelve hours, cutting another hour out. If I keep this up I will be able to achieve my goal of ten hours per week, which is less than twelve, and which means that by doing less riding I won’t have ridden as much.

The other part to riding less is riding fewer days. Instead of riding five or six days a week, now I’m riding four. This is the other part of my stragetic goal: By riding fewer days, I will not be cycling as many days. Stragety has never been my strenthg, but I am working on it.

This week and last week I rode Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and one day on the weekend, which was less than riding Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and both days on the weekend. Stragetic goals of riding fewer miles through less cycling, and riding fewer days by eliminating certain days of riding have accrued stragetic results.

I’m already noticing some significant effects of riding fewer hours and fewer days.

  1. Less hours are being spent riding.
  2. Fewer days are being used for riding.
  3. Legs have a peppy feeling, like chocolate sprinkles.
  4. Less laundry.
  5. And etc. 



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Mentor case

January 6, 2017 § 16 Comments

One of the guys I ride with is Surfer Dan. When we first started riding together a long time ago I could beat him pretty handily. He was a tri-dork runner dude. But then he did the bike thing for a few weeks and I couldn’t beat him handily anymore. He did the bike thing for a few more weeks and I never beat him again.

We used to do suicidal attack-from-the-gun moves on the Donut Ride. Really stupid stuff, except for the one time we stuck it, which made all the failures worthwhile. Dan and I have had a lot of memorable rides together, like the time he fell on the bike path when he, Pablo, Holloway, Manslaughter, and I were on our way to do a super tough guy off-road ride on our road bikes.

He was pretty embarrassed because he’s an amazing bike handler, and the ultimate tough guy, so of course I named that part of the bike path Cobley Corner. He took it in stride, I think.

Dan is one of those guys who talks so much that sometimes you think he talks too much, especially about training. He’s super analytical, and well read, and is a superb athlete, and I’m none of those things except marginally well read, so on occasion I tell him to shut up, because he’s talking the training thing to death.

Of course it’s not me he’s trying to train; you can’t train a worn out old shoe. But if you are a new rider and you’re interested in getting better, and what new rider isn’t, Dan will share everything he knows with you, help you set up a training plan, answer your questions late at night, pat down your anxieties before a big race, lend you gear, and if you need it he’ll show up and do your workout with you.

Dan’s a mentor. Not a coach or a hired expert, just an old school mentor. He reminds me of the people I first rode with, guys like Fields and the Dicksons and Kevin Callaway the Good, riders who got pleasure in passing on what they knew. They all had different ways of mentoring; Scott’s was to take you seventy miles from home, get you lost, then check his watch and say he “had to get back” which meant you were either going to never get home or you were going to do a 70-mile TT.

Fields was much more analytical, and Callaway was exuberant. If he learned something, he had to tell you about it. Both of them loved it when they told you something, you used it, and it worked.

In any case, they were all mentors. They never got anything from it except the pleasure of passing on hard-won information so you could use it for your benefit. It’s as old as the human race, teaching people and getting pleasure when they succeed, or if they fail, getting pleasure out of knowing you tried to help.

I was talking to Dan about this one day and he laughed like he always does. There’s something about sharing what he knows that makes him happy. It’s his gift of giving that lets him receive.

Last night there was a big family blowup in my complex. Their family is collapsing. The mom had split for Japan, and the dad, who is a big, bullying drunk, was berating his teenage son outside. The son was so sad and broken and the dad hammered away at him.

“Get the hell out of here. You aren’t sleeping here, goddammit.”

The kid is probably 14, and I could hear him speaking softly, afraid. “Yes, sir.”

“Where’s your fucking mother? She go back to Japan? She catch the fucking plane?”

“Yes, sir.”

Then there was a bunch of unintelligible yelling by the drunk and stupid father. “Go to a fucking shelter. I don’t care.”

I could hear the boy standing there completely alone and defeated, nowhere to go, kicked out of his home, his mom on a plane, and nothing but the big, ugly, terrifying city of Los Angeles spread out like a claw.

“Ah, fuck it. Get the fuck back in here,” said the dad.

“Yes, sir,” said the boy.

It was the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time, a kid being molded by the anger and failure and abuse of his father. That kid was in the middle of a maelstrom and he needed refuge. How was he going to get through school with his family falling apart? What was going to happen the next time, probably tomorrow, that his father blew up again? What was he going to do without his mom?

That poor kid. I thought about my grandson and felt guilty, a toddler who’s known nothing but love every single day of his short life, a child who’s got refuge and backup ten miles deep, and I thought about all the other kids in the world who are hungry, lonely, sick, abandoned, nowhere to go, no one to turn to, chained beneath the wheel with no way out.

Then I thought about my friend Dan and about how he selflessly reaches out to anyone who needs help, sharing his time, his passion, and if you ask for it, a place to crash in a pinch, a guy who cares about other people, and who, despite his imperfections, will lift you up and cheer you on if you need it, and who is always trying to help mold a better version of you

I went to bed that night and somehow slept soundly.



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