The date is May 9

April 6, 2015 § 63 Comments

One of my buddies has a place up near Paso Robles, and he rides his bike there a fair amount. There isn’t ever any traffic, the roads are scenic, and the weather is nice there year-round. But don’t let the scarcity of cars and the bucolic byways fool you. The three-tooth mouth breathers may not graduate from high school, but they can still use a spray can.

dont_share_the_road

Yesterday as my buddy was pedaling along, minding his own business, a pickup coming in the other direction took the time to slow down, honk, roll down the window, flip him off, and holler in a healthy “Fuck you!” for good measure. There is nothing that reminds you how much you are hated more than people taking the time on a beautiful, uncrowded morning to honk, scream, and flip.

On Saturday morning as we returned from a ride out to Trancas on PCH a motorcyclist did the same thing. We were in Manhattan Beach, the traffic was light, and we approached a signal. The biker happily raised his middle finger and cursed us. There is also a guy who regularly rides his motorized bicycle illegally down the bike path with a surfboard on the side, spitting exhaust fumes as he rattles along. He can invariably be counted on to scream The Greeting and display The Gesture.

And of course a few weeks ago another Deppity Doofus on PCH pulled over a group of Big Orange riders on PCH and punitively ticketed one for not riding in the bike lane. Detail: There is no bike lane on PCH. Still, time and effort and expense will be wasted defending against the targeted police harassment, just as with the forty or so riders in the Conejo Valley who were all ticketed by a cop for running a stop sign that they didn’t all run.

You know, group guilt. It’s the new individual guilt.

On Saturday, May 9, at 9:00 AM I’m going to be at the Malibu City Hall, 23825 Stuart Ranch Road, to protest the continued illegal harassment of cyclists by the LA Sheriff’s Department. The city advised that I should “attend a council meeting instead,” but when I checked the U.S. Constitution there was nothing in it about the Malibu Municipal Code. Feel free to show up and voice your opinion about this.

The City of Malibu has no police force of its own and instead contracts with LASD for police services. The sheriff’s department is responsive to the demands of its employers. Both law enforcement and the entitled bike-haters on PCH need to know that their harassment is as unacceptable as it is offensive.

Anyone who wants to pedal to the city hall can meet me in the parking lot at Temescal Canyon and PCH, at Will Rogers State Park at 8:00 AM. I’ll be riding slowly, safely, and legally, where I belong.

In the lane.

END

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Then and NOW

April 5, 2015 § 12 Comments

I am lying in bed. It is noon. My eyes are wide open. I am extremely tired and would go to sleep, except I cannot. My legs are pulsing with pain. I am missing a toenail. My shorts have a shart in them and my dick has dried out. I get up out of bed and try to pee again. There is a terrible burning pain. It is not gonorrhea. I hope. A few drops of dark yellow come out. My dick is dry. Very, very dry.

I lie back down in the bed. Blood breaks through the fresh scab on my big toe and flows onto the white sheets. My wife isn’t angry. She doesn’t know about it yet. I close my eyes but only see my conversation from last night. Everyone sits around the table. They are happy. They are talking about school, about work, about the delicious dinner.

I nod and smile but I only think about my bike. Are the right cogs on? Of course they are. I only have one cog set. Is my helmet aero enough? Hollywood says that the right helmet saves 25 watts.

Someone asks me about the fried rice I am eating. I am not listening so I guess that they are not asking me if it is good because half of it is gone. They must be asking if they can have some. I say yes. This answer will fit both questions. They take away my plate and eat it but I do not care. Half of that plate is about 400 calories, I estimate, and I do not need them. I am a SoCal masters diet pro bicycle rider weekend hacker racer wanker so I count calories, one by one.

I worry about my handlebars. Sausage says the NOW ride planned for tomorrow is very fast. I think about Hollywood, Svein the Unhandsome, Erik the Red, Manzilla and perhaps others who are very fast. I am afraid my handlebars are not aero enough. Hollywood says that for a mere $465 I can buy 65 watts of flat handlebar. I try to remember how much money is in my PayPal account that my wife does not know about. I think it is $389.76. That is almost enough. Where can I get the extra $75.24. Where do my boys keep their wallets? They are sneaky and excellent at hiding their money but perhaps I can empty their wallets after they go to bed.

Someone is talking to me again. It must be about the bill. I know this because all of the plates look like they have been run through an industrial dishwasher. My family clearly belongs to the Acrididae and they are in their swarming phase. They are looking at me because they think I am going to pay for dinner and they have that look of the Acrididae in their swarming phase that says they will also want to swarm somewhere for dessert. I pay the bill.

On the way home people continue talking to me but it is dark inside the car and all I have to do is nod. I will wear the speed suit with the long sleeves. That saves me 15 watts, maybe 20. But the long sleeves may also kill me because the weather report says 90 degrees. Death or 15 watts? That is easy. I decide on the long sleeves.

I have an excellent plan. Cower, then hide. I only have a few matches in my matchbox. They are short matches and appear to be damp.

I wake up and pedal quickly to the corner of Catalina and Torrance. Hollywood is there. Erik the Red is there. Toronto is there. Kansas City Steak is there. Beeswax is there. Representative Murtha is there. Prez comes flying by. “Hey, Prez!” I shout. There are no cars on the street. It is a big, wide, empty street with four lanes. Prez does a 180. Prez does not check behind him. The street is empty except for a lone cyclist behind Prez. Prez and the lone cyclist now approach each other head-on.

Prez swerves again. He goes over a curb. His water bottle goes flying. The cyclist swerves and clips a car mirror. No one dies. Everyone laughs. “That Prez,” we say laughing in silent terror.

We meet the NOW Ride on PCH. I see Sausage. Sausage has 200% more aero than I do. I check his chain links, which are aero. His manicure, aero. I ask him how the ride goes because it is my first time. Sausage says we go easy until Cross Creek and the ride goes hard at Pepperdine Hill.

As soon as Sausage says that we go easy at the beginning, Miller attacks. I follow. We have a breakaway but it is only to Topanga. We stop at the light. We are gassed and our 100-yard advantage is erased. 100 riders are behind us. They foam and stamp.

Hollywood takes off. None can follow. The pack of 100 immediately becomes a pack of 50. We catch Hollywood . He is not pedaling. A strange beast on a TT bike takes off at Las Flores. Foolishly I follow him. He rides very fast and I hang on very fast. He tires like the giant lummox he is. His giant elbow swings like a barn door. I refuse to come around. He eyes me angrily. I come around, slowly and with great weakness.

The field catches us because he is large and I am slow. Hollywood splits off 15 more riders from the back with a searing acceleration. My toe begins to hurt. We have a clump of about 30 approaching Cross Creek. Everyone is tired beyond words and my shart is peeking out of the exit pipe. We are fifteen minutes into the ride.

Manzilla launches away from the pack. Foolishly I follow him. He eyes me with contempt and jumps again, but he has the draft of a fully-laden oxcart. I tuck in. He is fresh, I am spent. We zoom past the bridge for the first champion-ish sprunt which I am too weak and slow and tired and fearful to contest. In front of us looms Mt. Pepperdine. Manzilla dashes for the light. If we make the light everyone behind us will stop. If they stop we do not have to go full gas up Mt. Pepperdine. That is good because I have no more gas, full or otherwise.

We do not make the light. The locusts catch us. The light is long. More locusts catch us. Our ranks swell to 40 or 50. Some look like cadavers, only more dead. Others such as Keven look fresh and rested. They have done nothing. Perky has done nothing. They lick their chops as I lick the long string of drool and snot that dangles from my mustache. “The ride starts now,” Perky says with an evil grin.

Indeed it does. The light turns green. We launch up Mt. Pepperdine. The fresh people go very hard. The cadavers die a second death and are gone. I am the last rider over. My shart matures and the toenail comes off. I feel the squirt of blood. From my toe. I think.

Hollywood punches repeatedly along the road. Riders who are too clever to pull through cleverly get dropped. Riders who manfully pull through get manfully dropped. A tiny contingent of perhaps fifteen riders survives to Trancas. My shorts are now squishy. My toe hurts. I do not drink any water because I forget to.

We stop at the filling station and I forget to drink more water. We jump back on our bicycles. Beeswax is in the bathroom and returns to an empty parking lot. This is a cruel fate. The brief wait has allowed the group to re-merge. We are now perhaps 40 riders strong.

“This part of the ride is slower,” says Manzilla.

“Good,” says Hollywood . “That way we can roll into it gently.”

I attack as hard as I can and ride away. I come to Cher’s Alley. I have to decide whether to drop down and take the fast way or stay on PCH and tackle the two climbs. If I take the easy way and they take the hard way they will say I am weak. Then I recall that they are all weak. If I take the easy way and they take the hard way they will say I am a cheater. Then I recall that they are all cheaters.

I take the hard way.

At Cross Creek we intersect. They have cheated and taken the easy way. Of course. I am spent like the allowance of a small child.

Now Hollywood and Eric and Sam take successive pulls that break the group into a smaller group. Then Sam melts and is gone. Hollywood pulls some more and more people go away. Eric pulls some more and more people decide not to ride their bicycles fast anymore today. Sausage pulls through, and then pulls through again with prodding. Fireman pulls through. Kansas City Steak pulls through. Remaining wankers do not pull through, mostly.

There is a very fast sprunt that I observe from far away. As Billy Stone says, one person was faster than the others, who were slower. We ride down the bike path. We stop at the Center of the Known Universe for coffee and CPR. Nancy of Red Kite Bore pulls up, but she doesn’t say anything to me. She is still angry but she will calm down in a few years.

We ride our bicycles home. Hollywood needs extra miles to add to the day’s total of 90, so he pedals around the hill and climbs a lot more. I climb onto the couch.

Mrs. WM peels a banana for me which I dip in peanut butter. Then I hop around the room with very painful cramps and howling. Mrs. WM fries some eggs for me which I top with avocado and salsa. Then I hop around some more. Then I drink a lot of milk and coffee and ice cream and cookies and olives and hopping.

“What is that smell?” she asks.

“I don’t know,” I say and go lie down.

END

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You’re still the same old girl you used to be

April 3, 2015 § 43 Comments

I hate doing the dishes, and in 27 years of marriage I’ve hardly ever done them. She cooks at least two meals a day, sometimes three, from scratch, and cleans up the mess. That’s the deal.

One of the most exciting things about putting down the daily drunk was the highly anticipated discovery of the new me. And it was an exciting discovery. So much more productive, so much less moody, so coherent and responsible, and so much less having-to-be-carried-out-of-the-family-restaurant-drooling-and-howling. And dare I say it, happier and better adjusted? Yes! I dare!

The new me was ready to conquer some high mountains, and he did. Then, in January, the excitement started to wear off. No more daily self-pats on the back for having put down the beer can, rather, a kind of grim gaze off into the future, a gaze that pierced all the way to death and realized, “This is pretty much it.” Instead of being the heavily self-congratulated person successfully dealing with a horrible problem I became another ordinary non-drunk, and the stripping away of my heroic, self-congratulatory status felt like what, I imagine, one-shot TV wonders feel like when they go back to the McDonald’s day job.

This I could handle until another realization started creeping in. All the little hints and signs were there, and they all said the same thing: No, you are no longer drunk, but guess what? You’re still the same old asshole you always were.

I still remember the moment it hit me. She had hauled in ten sacks of groceries and set them on the floor, then gone off into the bedroom to take a rest. “What the hell,” I thought, “I’ll unload the damn things.”

One by one I emptied each sack. Milk. Bacon. Eggs. Flour. Kale. Quinoa. Vegetable oil. Strawberries. Spaghetti. Olives. Somewhere between the cans of tomato sauce and the bags of celery it hit me. Out of all these groceries, none of the things inside were for her. Left to her own devices there would be two bags, not ten, and they’d contain natto, tofu, oshinko, gobo, miso, green tea, and chocolate … not bacon and peanut butter.

Then it double-hit me. For 27 years she’s been cooking for me, not for her. For me. I wasn’t the same old asshole I’d always been, I was worse. More than six thousand nights of her life on earth had finished with a mountain of dirty dishes, and six thousand magical mornings later they were all clean, no matter that the labor of scrubbing scalded curry off the bottom and edges of a giant pot was the cherry on top of four hours’ labor over a stove. And the next day’s round of servitude in the kitchen never started until all the things that were cleaned got put away the following day so that they could all be used again.

So, it’s not completely true that I hardly ever did the dishes. To come clean, I hardly ever even bothered to set my own plates in the sink because, man.

Alcohol, not sobriety, was what allowed me to see a better me. The un-drunken picture in the mirror, un-hungover and un-looking like a dead cat, was the real picture, and however clean and clean-shaven that face now was, it was dreadful compared to the drunken, haggard one.

So that night, I think it was in mid-February, I did three things, all of which attracted extraordinary notice and eyebrow raising. I placed my dishes in the sink after eating, then washed them, then put them away. I didn’t touch anyone else’s, but after I finished she looked up at me with a gentle smile and said, “Thanks.”

To which I answered, “You’re welcome.”

For one week I did this, and the second week I took all the plates off the table, rinsed them, and loaded the dishwasher. Each time dinner started she was waiting, curiously, to see what would happen at the end, and when it did, each time she said, “Thanks,” and that word made me shiver inside.

To which I answered, “You’re welcome.”

The third week, because I awake before everyone else and make my coffee, I set the kettle on the stove and opened the dishwasher, pulling out the clean plates and cups and glasses and silver and stowing them in drawers and cupboards, and I wondered this: Is there anything more humiliating than realizing that at age fifty-one that your narcissistic, assholic self is just beginning to acquire the slight veneer of decency that most people have acquired by age ten?

There is, of course, and easy answer to that — yes. The more humiliating thing is to realize you’re still the same old girl you used to be, and not to care. I could do that, actually, but only with the help of a good stiff drink.

END

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Travel around the corner

April 2, 2015 § 14 Comments

I get the newspaper once a week, on Sunday. It is filled almost exclusively with things I don’t like and am not interested in. There is an arts and leisure section, for example. My life is already leisurely enough, and I already have some paintings of my daughter’s on the wall.

Once monthly there is a big, fat, glossy, fashion section but I don’t need that either. I already have two pairs of jeans, a dozen t-shirts that Michael gave me, some underwear, some socks, and two pairs of shoes that Michael gave me for Christmas five years ago. And a gimme cap and a green hoodie.

Okay, maybe I do need the fashion section. But I toss it anyway, unread.

There is a sports section. I hate sports, all of them. And no, cycling is not a sport, it is social weirdness masquerading as a healthy lifestyle. There is a book review section that I always read so that I don’t have to buy any of the books. There is a Sunday Review essay section filled with people’s ruminations, none of which interest me. Cows are ruminants; I am not a cow.

And of course there is a Sunday Business section, which I don’t need because I’m broke. What good does it do me to know that somewhere in Manhattan I can get a good deal on a $2 million loft? What I need is a working disposal.

There’s the main section, which I read cover to cover because it reminds me that no matter how fucked up everything is, without investigative journalism we would be even more fucked up, and it’s my civic duty to pay $35 a month so that smart people can get kidnapped and tortured by IS as they try to shine the dim light of truth into the worst hell-holes of the world, like Indiana.

Finally there is a travel section. I hate this section more than all the others combined because it is based on the false assumption that travel should offer exotic experiences — riding elephants and outrigger canoes, sipping delicious coffee while overlooking an ice-blue sea, scaling a craggy peak on the roof of the world, etc., etc.

I’m the worst traveler alive. I won’t go anywhere I can’t understand the language, which means I can go to Canada, but not England. I don’t care about your art museum, your world class shopping, your zipline over a plunging waterfall, your thousand-year-old monastery tucked behind medieval walls, your 5-star restaurant, or your yaks and yurt on a windswept pre-Anthropocene plain.

I just want to talk to people. So today I took one of my many weekday travel excursions to Santa Monica, by bike. After a few moments sitting on the bench outside Philz Coffee, a homeless man sidled up to me. They always do. They can tell I’m broke and won’t give them any money, but at least I’ll listen to their story.

“What do you do, young man?” he asked.

“I’m a lawyer.”

“Well then it’s my lucky day. Maybe you can tell me what to do?” And he poured out his story, which was so sad.

He had worked as a janitor at Santa Monica city hall all his life and bought a small home in Compton that he paid for in monthly installments over 35 years. He retired at age 65, and his wife died a few years later. Then he got in a fight with his son, who swindled him out of his home. The old man and his brother hired a lawyer and sued the son for fraud, won, and got possession of the house back. Then the brother kicked him out and now he’s living on the streets.

“How do I get my name back on that house?” he asked me.

I told him I didn’t know and commiserated with him. He thanked me for listening to his story. Simply telling it made him feel better, it seemed, although I felt pretty worthless. I finished my coffee and rode back home, a few miles down the bike path, just around the corner in global terms, back to the safety of home from a long journey to a place where there was drama, and hardship, and a glimpse into strange, alien, unfathomable worlds.

END

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Good old-fashioned tunnel vision

April 1, 2015 § 18 Comments

I don’t do the New Pier Ride much anymore. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning a massive group of idiots meets up at Westchester Parkway and races for four laps. The “idiots” part I totally relate to, and the “races” part I relate to even more. But after the ride was suspended last October due to construction, a different routine began for me, and the only thing harder to change than a routine is a well-glued-on tubular. In the freezing rain. Bare-handed.

Simply put, the NPR has its pluses and its minuses.

Pluses:

  • Happens punctually twice weekly.
  • Lets you suck wheel if you’re too weak to GTTF.
  • Lets you get in a solid workout before work.
  • Lets you suck wheel if you’re too lazy to GTTF.
  • Intense sprunt finish the last 400 yards after sucking wheel for four laps while you refused to GTTF.
  • Plentiful opportunities to suck wheel and let others GTTF.
  • See your friends.
  • See your enemies.
  • Hide and cower in the back, sucking wheel as you chat with friends or curse enemies.
  • Epic post-coital coffee at the Center of the Known Universe, where you deny ever having sucked wheel and brag about how you incessantly hammered at the front.
  • Lets you think you’re getting stronger as you suck & cower at the back.
  • Occasional appearance of really good riders who drill it from the gun and shatter the field.

Minuses:

  • Occasional appearance of really good riders who drill it from the gun and shatter the field.
  • Almost impossible to shake the wheelsuckers due to stoplights.
  • Fresh-legged wheelsuckers who try to kill you in the sprunt finish.
  • Rare but crashtacular Fred-and-bike-pile-ups.

On Monday I got a special request from Sausage to come do the NPR. Svein the Unhandsome, a Norwegian national masters champ and all-round dickstomper was in town for a vacation. When he lived in LA, Svein the Unhandsome had a policy of “kill the men and sell the women and children into slavery,” and Sausage was hoping that I would come out and relive good old times with the gang, which had never been good.

The morning of the ride there was a bit of nervousness on the Pier as we stood around in the gloom and evaluated each others’ body fat percentages. “Did ya see Hollywood’s Facegag post?” Sausage muttered to me.

“No.”

“He suggested that the South Bay wankoton should have an extra cup coffee before the NPR.”

On cue, up rolled Hollywood with his mile-high henchman, Mack Cassin. Hollywood had flatted out of the San Dimas Stage Race and had some, uh, excess energy, as we soon found out. The punch up Pershing immediately split the field; only Svein the Unhandsome could hang. Thankfully, a stoplight gave us all a second chance.

With torrid stomping of the dicks and clubbing of the baby seals, by the time we hit the Parkway more than half the field had implemented NPR Strategy #1: race across the street and hop in with the leaders when they came tearing back by. Josh calls these folks “hop-in wankers.”

Hollywood and Mack took turns braining the baby seals, with some hard efforts by the Unhandsome, the Wily Greek, and a single cameo appearance by Sausage, who looked like he’d had the skin removed. Huge gobs of droopy, gooey snot hung up in my mustache and beard, mixed in with flecks of bloody spit and pieces of twice-eaten oatmeal.

The collection of hop-in wankers grew and grew, but the merciless clubbing never abated. Gaps opened. Heads hung. Teeth gnawed stems. Brown stains sprouted in the chamois of many.

On the third lap Hollywood, the Wily Greek, James C., and I sprunted away. After a few moments it was just Hollywood, with me plastered to his rear wheel as he inexorably went faster and faster, his club raining nail-studded blows on my head and balls, the gobs of bloody spit dangling into my chain, and my field of vision shrinking and shrinking until it became a pair of tunnels focused exclusively on the rear wheel and triangle of his bike.

Locked in the lethal hanging-head position I knew that I should look up. What if there was something in the road? What if he was headed straight for a brick wall? What if I died?

None of it mattered. I was so completely filled with pain that I had reached a perfect state of detached consciousness: no anger, no fear, no sadness, no happiness, no future, no past, only pain, the vessel filled up and slopping over with pure pain, a giant body-wide root canal being performed with a hand drill and a rusty pocket knife.

Then we hit a light and reality returned, along with the chasing wankoton.

As Billy Stone would say, some went faster, others slower. Someone won, the rest did not. Svein the Unhandsome was seen crawling back to finish his vacation on his hands and knees. Cat 4 Dave had curled up in a small bush and was chewing on leaves and pieces of bird nest. Chunks of the hop-in wankers were strewn about the Parkway like bits of corn in an explosive bowel evacuation.

Back at the Center of the Known Universe, we all bragged about how great we were. “You coming out again on Thursday?” Sausage asked.

“No,” I said. “This ride is too easy for me.”

END

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True grit

March 31, 2015 § 17 Comments

The first time I saw Charon Smith in a race he was sitting down in the middle of the asphalt with a hundred bikes flying by, his shorts torn and his wheel ground down from where he’d rolled his tire.

“What a wanker,” I thought.

That was back in 2007, I think, at the El Dorado Tuesday night crit, and since then he’s won countless races, state titles, stood on the podium at nationals, and I’ve pretty much won nothing. So, we know who the wanker is.

This past weekend at San Dimas, however, Charon really and truly took it to a whole ‘nother level. The rap has always been “Yeah, but he’s just a sprinter,” as if beating out a hundred crazy people in a death rush to the line is, you know, a piece of cake. Funny thing about that rap, it’s been wrong from the beginning.

While it’s true that over the years Charon established himself as the fastest masters finisher in SoCal, he’s worked hard each and every year to add new weaponry to his arsenal. Last year saw him tackle the San Dimas stage race where he snagged the green jersey in a hilly, tough road race and then said “Adios” to all comers in the final day’s crit.

With another off season of focus and preparation on the non-sprinting aspects of his race game, Charon showed up to play consummate teammate at the hilly Boulevard RR, where his team efforts resulted in victory for their designated road guy, and he showed up again at San Dimas. This time, however, he raced with the kind of toughness and smarts that you only find in the most hardened of road racers.

When the winning break in the road race rolled up the road, Charon bridged solo to a field that included the Who’s Who of masters racing: Phil Tinstman, Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, Derek Brauch, and Mark Noble, to name a few. When the break came back, Charon continually found himself OTB on the climb, only to repeatedly claw his way back on.

With everyone melted from the speed and the day’s withering heat, the remains of the peloton hit the finishing stretch wrung out and beaten to a pulp. Charon reached down deep and kicked hard, so hard that with “only” 900 watts he cleared the line first. So much for the “He’s only a sprinter” thing.

True grit is more than what happens on the bike, though. A mentor to junior racers, Charon is vitally concerned with what happens to those coming up in the ranks. Showing young riders how to obtain good, credible results through hard work and dedication is something that he does as a matter of course.

And in cycling, as in life, it’s the little things that reveal the bigger ones. Charon’s inclusive — he brought Prez onto the team, for dog’s sake — he shares what he loves, and he’s got time for anyone who has time for him. Stands up when people introduce their wives or parents, and opens the door for you. Those little things, which really aren’t so little after all.

No wonder that he’s built a team of devoted and dedicated followers who are making competition miserable for everyone else.

END

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Team Quitter

March 30, 2015 § 35 Comments

How do you know it’s a shit day? When the Belgian Hardman winner from 2012 swings over to the side of the road and swipes Uber.

But there were so many little hints that Saturday’s 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride unofficial practice ride was going to be bad, little hints that, when added up, reached a disturbing conclusion: Failure is more than an option. It is a likely outcome.

Eric, Dan, and I had had done all the pre-ride preparation perfectly. We had woken up on time. We had eaten a hearty yet healthy breakfast. We had washed and oiled our bicycles. Most importantly, we had pretended not to have any cash so that Eric would have to pay for the gas to drive us down to North County San Diego.

We had opted to forego the local 50-mile Donut Ride and the 3-day San Dimas Stage Race because experience and common sense told us that knowledge of the BWR course would be vital to our survival on April 26. It would also give us some much-needed practice riding on dirt roads. The only part of our otherwise perfect preparation that we had left out was actual fitness.

This became apparent on the first dirt section. Unlike in years past, the 2015 BWR gives you a brief warm-up on paved roads and then plunges you down a 200-yard steep sand ravine that does a vicious 90-degree turn onto a lovely dirt track in a scenic valley. Several people chose walking the first section over certain death.

The pretty valley crosses a pretty stream and then rears itself up a long, endless, nasty climb that is a couple of miles long. Whichever rear cog you brought, by the last quarter-mile it won’t be enough. We regrouped and offered various excuses, each rider’s more innovative the the one before.

“Wrong wheels today.”

“These are totally the wrong tires.”

“My rear cog is the wrong one for this.”

“My cranks are too long.”

“I should have brought a compact.”

“Wrong chain rings.”

No one mentioned the obvious, i.e. having left the right set of lungs, heart, and legs at home and showing up with perfect conditioning for a 40-minute crit.

The ambitious 102-mile jaunt was scaled back after the first couple of dirt sections because we kept stopping for, um, me. Then my front tire fell into a paving crack and came within inches of sending me onto my face, and then MMX did the same thing just to show that he could almost kill himself more violently and recover better than I could, and then there were more flats, and then we had used all our CO2, and then Canyon Bob took out his mini floor pump and got us going again, and then Surfer Dan’s derailleur spring shot out into the bush and the rest of the assembly lodged into his rear wheel, and then Eric flatted, and then out came the mini floor pump again, and then I was THAT GUY at the end of Lake Hodges with everyone pissed off at having to wait, and then Baby Seal flatted, and by now Canyon Bob’s forearms had swollen to the size of huge pencils, which is big for a roadie, and then the group shrugged and said “Fuck you guys” and rode off, including that girl who we’d helped fix her brakes several times, and then Paul B. said he could take us up to Cougar Pass where the group was going, but we thought he was talking about a geriatric whorehose and declined, and then I told Eric he could do whatever he wanted but I was going back to the truck even though we’d given the keys to Surfer as he swiped for his Uber ride back, and then Eric TT-ed all the way back and we had a great hamburger but not before we scooped out the peanut butter sandwich mush from our jerseys and ate it like it was both tasty and food.

Next, we sat in three hours of traffic and got home at 6:30 PM, and Eric checked his Garmin and said we’d ridden 55 miles, five more than if we’d stayed and done the Donut Ride, and when it was all factored in we figured that we paid a total of $175.23 for those extra five miles.

Glad I didn’t have any cash.

END

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