A walk in the park

January 25, 2018 § 1 Comment

Like the cruel ex you keep crawling back to, the Belgian Waffle Ride rears its ugly head again this April, beckoning you with a crooked finger to come enjoy (enjoy?) a pleasant ride akin to a walk in the park, a park filled with burrs, thorns, stones, chasms, and venomous creatures of every kind. Two years have passed since I last mounted up and completed this beast of a ride, but here I am again, signed up and ready to submit.

Since misery really does love company, you should, too.

In case you’re wondering why, I reached out to people who have completed the BWR in years past, or to their next of kin, and compiled a pretty interesting list of fake quotes to encourage you to pay your money, take your chances, and sop up that feeling of being completely done in as you hang your head over a tall glass of cold Belgian ale, or cold water, or over the rim of the toilet.

They might have said it, but didn’t

John,  2012 finisher: “They say the BWR is the most unique ride in America. I don’t know what that means. Aren’t all rides unique? Bottom line is that this one will kick your ass if you finish and kick it if you don’t.”

Scott, 2012 quitter: “I honestly had no idea what I was in for. Michael invited me, so I did it. I’m sure the scenery was gorgeous but I didn’t really see any of it. It’s hard to see with crossed eyes and blood coming out from your sockets.”

Bill, 2013-2016 finisher: “I’ve done this ride four times and it gets better each time. The course is never the same but it keeps some of the sections from year to year. The more you do it, the better you get at it, but the course always wins out. It’s the high point of my year.”

Joe, 2015 finisher: “It was a walk in the park, but with mines. I broke an axle and had four flats. But I finished. And they didn’t even drink all the beer by the time I got back to the start-finish. Good times!”

Tom, 2014 quitter: “Dumbest ride ever. I hated it.”

Ron, 2014 finisher: “The biggest mistake you can make is to try and race the BWR. Unless you’re an elite roadie and have a realistic shot at a top-ten finish, the best medicine for this bad boy is to keep a steady pace, don’t hop in with any crazy fast groups, and do not stop except for water/hydration. You’ll finish in a reasonable time and won’t feel like you just crossed the Gobi on your knees.”

Anne, 2016 finisher: “The BWR likes to advertise itself as a combination dirt-and-road ride, but it’s really not. The BWR is endless short sections of dirt stitched together by pavement. The pavement lets you just catch your breath enough for the next dirt or sand or rocks or scorpions or whatever, which are relentless. Definitely not a sprint.”

Arthur, 2012, 2014, 2016 finisher: “Doing it every year is a bit much. I don’t know if anyone has ever done all six editions. But I love it!”

Marco, 2017 finisher: “Crazy stupid hard. See you in April!”

Suzanne, 2017 finisher: “I’d like to see more women out there, for sure. It’s not a super technical ride, some people do it on their road bikes. The Wafer is probably better for sane people.”

Charley, 2015-2017 finisher: “The last two years I’ve done the Wafer. It’s harder than any road race you’ll ever do, and you get back before midnight.”

Phillip, 2014, 2017 finisher: “Love the BWR. it’s not just the scenery or the challenging route or the elevation or the hybrid road/off-road terrain, it’s the organization and execution and all the batshit crazy people who are actually happy to be out there.

Wade, 2016, 2017 quitter: “I’ve never finished a BWR. I will this year. And if not, the next.”

Duncan, first timer 2018: “Can’t wait. I’ve heard so much about this ride, it’s legendary. Whether I finish it or not I’m fired up about it.”

Matt, 2017 finisher: “There are lots of bike rides in SoCal, but there’s only one BWR!”

walk in the park

Michael Marckx, founder of the Belgian Waffle Ride

END

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The middle ground a/k/a FDR

January 15, 2018 Comments Off on The middle ground a/k/a FDR

There is a sweet spot in cycling for most people, located right in that middle ground between “pound” on the one hand, where everyone feels like they had eye surgery sans anesthetic, and “flail,” where you finish the ride and wonder, “Did I ride?” The South Bay’s Fun Donut Ride, or FDR, hits the sweet spot almost every time.

It’s a hard spot to find because any grouping of riders invariably attracts an outlier or two. The pounder whines because it was “too easy,” and the flailer moans because it was “too hard.” Of course no ride is right for every rider, all the time. But coming up with that Sweet Spot Ride, getting it started, and hardest of all, keeping it alive, is fiendishly hard to do, yet it’s precisely this kind of ride that builds community and participation in cycling. How to do it?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Joann Zwagerman’s FDR.

Genesis: How the FDR came to be

I could give you the background of the FDR, but why? Joann has already done it for me. With a few edits and emendations, here it is:

Greg Seyranian had a South Bay ride called the Anti-Donut. I would show up week after week and pedal my ass off. It was mellow for them but it was totally challenging for me. I did my best to try and keep up. They never abandoned me and they always waited for me and I found that remarkable.

Once race season began and the Anti-Donut ended, I found myself looking for a similar ride. If you were a racer, you were on the Donut Ride. If not, you were looking for friendly people to ride with. Thus, the Fun Donut Ride, or FDR, was born. It is an inclusive, non pretentious, friendly, fun and challenging ride.

Maybe today is your biggest ride? Your first group ride? Your first FDR? Whatever it is, I hope you feel like you’ve accomplished something at the end of it even if it’s just eating your first donut with chocolate sprinkles in ten years and making a few new friends!

Thank you everyone for all your support! Ride on and be safe!

Exodus: How riders joined the FDR

As we all know, it’s fairly easy to start a ride. You tell a few friends the time and place, give them a general rundown of the route, and three of them show up. If you invite a hundred people, you can expect maybe four. Everyone does the ride, has a more or less good time, and then you do the ride for a couple more weeks, and participation increases a bit or stays the same.

Then comes the crunch moment. It’s the day for “your” ride. You’ve told everyone you’ll be there. But yesterday you got a bo-bo on your boo-boo, or maybe a boo-boo on your bo-bo and it’s feeling really ouchie as you lay there in bed with only thirty minutes to crap, air your tires, drink some coffee, pull a pair of shorts out of the dirty hamper, and scurry to the start.

What do you do? You roll over, of course! This isn’t your job! It’s your hobby! Those wankers know the route! You’ll be there next week anyway! Snxxxxxxxzzzzzzzz!

Of course your pals see it differently. They get to the start and you’re not there. They check their phones. They call you. Someone finally rouses you and you groggily text back, “Boo-boo on bo-bo, out.”

And guess what? You just drove a wooden stake through the heart of your nascent ride. Because for a ride to continue, the person who started it has got to keep showing up. It’s like being married, only far worse because at least when you’re married, rolling over and snoring is an accepted part of lovemaking. Requisite, actually.

What Joann figured out with the FDR was that if you’re cycling in the South Bay and you want people to commit to you, you have to commit to them. And that means a date, a time, a place, and a commitment to be there “til death do us part.” Week in and week out, the FDR went off with Joann present to shepherd her lambs, and it went off in some pretty extreme situations.

Broken hand? No worries, Joann sagged in her Rage Rover. Broken wrist a few months later? No worries, Joann sagged in her Rage Rover. Ride founder overtrained and barely able to move? No worries, Joann either did the ride, sagged in her Rage Rover, or rustled up a deputy. And this last part, “rustling up a deputy,” has been a great innovation because the FDR’s success has led to its having two routes: A fixed loop around the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and a variable route that can venture pretty far afield. Having a deputy means that the fixed FDR route always takes place, and people aren’t left showing up to a ride where they are the ride.

Revelation: You can make an FDR, too

Joann’s FDR has brought a lot of people into cycling and now serves as a focal point for people who are looking for a regular ride–not too hard, not too soft–and for event organizers who want to get the word out about their event. From Phil Gaimon’s Cookie Fondo, to the Belgian Waffle Ride, to Rivet Cycling’s Santa Barbara ribs extravaganza, people in the cycling community recognize that FDR is there for the community as a whole.

This, of course, is how you grow the cycling donut, and then get to eat it, too. One rider at a time.

END

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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

Taste of Belgium

December 29, 2017 Comments Off on Taste of Belgium

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …

BWR WARS.

The year was 2012. The place was Carlsbad, California. The time was 8:00 AM and the idiots were over a hundred strong, each one lined up to attempt the first ever Belgian Waffle Ride. However hard we thought it was going to be, it was harder. I still remember flying off my bike and landing on my head as we tried to ride/clamber up a massive wall back onto the bike path.

Mostly what I remember about that BWR, though, is that it was the first of four such events that I dutifully lined up for, each beatdown being more awful than the one before it as the route lengthened, the quality of the field increased, the difficulty of the off-road sections intensified, and most importantly, as I got older, slower, more cautious, weaker, and more prone to quitting.

My 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride I swore would be my last, and not simply because I completed it on a loaner bike that weighed 30+ pounds which paradoxically resulted in my best finish ever. “Best finish ever” on the BWR is relative, of course. For me it didn’t mean “best time,” rather it meant “finishing without feeling like my head had been beneath one of those pavement tamping-down stamper machines for nine hours.”

I only fell once, didn’t get hurt, had no flats, and stayed hydrated and well nourished for the length of the ride.

Four full-length BWRs in a row, and I was done. I had nothing left to prove, or rather, the things I did have to prove were unproveable, at least out on that course, which wasn’t so much a ride with dirt roads but rather an endless number of dirt sections stitched together with brief segments of pavement.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but if that’s the case then why do former prisoners of war never long for a return to captivity? In my case, though, after a two-year hiatus and the implementation of a Baby BWR a/k/a the Belgian Wafer Ride, it started to sound like a good idea again.

What if I were to do the Baby BWR instead of the Full Grown Adult Hairy BWR? What if I were to do it on a full cyclocross bike with major knobbly tires and disc brakes? What if I were to do it without haste? Carefully? Not pushing myself to some absurd limit, but rather enjoying the day and its attendant festivities?

Because over the years the BWR has gone from being an invitation-only affair to one of the country’s signature rides, replete with great food, booths, entertainment, and a great vibe. Sticking my toe in the water, I went out a few months ago and did the Wafer course with some friends. It was perfect and rekindled my enthusiasm for my old flame. Better yet, it stimulated a kneejerk bicycle purchase, resulting in a new cyclocross bike.

This will be the 7th annual BWR, on the seventh route, covering approximately 137 miles with 44 miles of dirt, the most ever. The Wafer will be approximately 77 miles.

This year’s BWR promises to be bigger and more painful than ever, and thank dog the organizers have roped in Canyon Bicycles as lead sponsor and VeloFix as neutral support partner for both on-road and on-trail. A new Expo Festival format will be held Friday and Saturday (April 13-14) at the Canyon facility in Carlsbad, CA.

Whether you’re hell-bent on biting off the whole Waffle and trying to choke it down your throat, or looking to get a proportional beating on the Wafer, you’ll be among the lunatics who have over-committed themselves to the most unique cycling event in the country.

To top it all off, BWR progenitor Michael Marckx is coming to the South Bay on January 6 to ride with Joann Zwagerman’s legendary FDR group and to give South Bay riders a chance to talk with him about the ride, learn about its history, and (most importantly) get a rad sign-up discount. I’ll be there trying to get some course tips and intel. Michael will be there. Joann will be there. Hope you will be, too.

Ride leaves at 8:15 AM from Miramar Park in Redondo Beach.

Ride finishes around 10:00 AM at the Yellow Vase Ranch Market in Malaga Cove Plaza, post-ride refreshments provided! All riders who sign up after the ride will get a whopping $80 off the entry fee.

Visit the BWR website for more information and register today, before reality kicks in and you wonder what in the world you were thinking.

Additional Reasons to Waffle or Wafer

  • Fundraising opportunities for the Challenged Athletes Foundation with as an individual through our registration platform or through the CAF team. Join the CAF team and earn free reg!
  • Access to the BWR merchandise store to wear the best apparel on the road, designed and manufactured by JL Velo
  • Prizes and giveaways from sponsors and vendors
  • Complimentary race day breakfast, lunch (or maybe you’ll call it dinner, depending on when you finish), and Lost Abbey libations
  • Invitation to free BWR sponsored recon rides to explore the course
  • Finisher t-shirt and commemorative bottle of Lost Abbey “Bad-Ass Ale”

Course Specs

  • 137 Miles/222 Kilometers (Waffle), 77 Miles/124 Kilometers (Wafer)
  • 10 Categorized Climbs (including three category 2 climbs)
  • 12,000 Feet of Climbing (Waffle), 6,000 Feet of Climbing (Wafer)
  • 16 Dirt Sections totaling over 44 miles (long, sandy, wet, rocky, hilly, ugly)
  • 10 Water Crossings or Foot Bridge Crossings
  • 3 King/Queen of the Mountain Segments
  • 3 King/Queen of the Dirt Segments
  • 3 King/Queen of the Sprint Segments
  • 1 King/Queen of the Canyon Segment
  • 10 Feed Zones

Here is the link a movie that was created during last year’s event, if you want a flavor of what you’re in for! You can contact mmx@creativedisruption.info for additional info about the ride.

END

logo_bwr

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Rejected by the Uber lady

June 26, 2017 § 60 Comments

“What the fuck do you mean, this is your first ever dirt ride?”

“Yeah,” SOS said, shifting uncomfortably. “Me and Imprint just got new bikes and wanted to practice some.”

I wasn’t smiling. “This is a terrible place to do your first dirt ride. There’s no dishonor in going home now. You have to go to work on Monday. You guys have families. This ride is no joke. People have finished this thing up in the ICU. Do you really want a catheter up your wee-wee because your spine has been broken in four places?”

SOS and Imprint smiled nervously, unsure whether or not I was serious. “It’s only seventy miles. How hard can it be?”

Jay-Z, whose arm was in a cast, shook her head. “How hard? Look, SOS. It’s going to be the hardest fucking anything you’ve ever done in your life. That’s how hard.”

“Guys,” I said, “you gotta understand. This is no place to do your first ever dirt ride. You can pull the plug now.”

“Why should we?” asked SOS.

“I’ll tell you why,” I said. “Because when you get halfway out and have a bad crash or run out of steam or get a bad case of diaper rash or die, no one fucking cares. Everyone’s just trying to survive. No one fucking cares. Get it? No one. Fucking. Cares. And you will be on your own.”

SOS shrugged. “I’m not scared,” he said.

About that time the motel room door popped open and in came Duct Tape, wheeling her bike into the room. “Hi, everyone!” she said. “Tomorrow’s going to be fun!”

“What the fuck is that?” I asked.

“It’s my bike, silly,” she said. “I haven’t ridden it in nine months, though.”

“And was that last time through a rust pit? What’s that shit on the spoke?”

“Duct tape.”

“Duct tape? On a spoke?”

“Oh, it’s on good, though. I daubed some Gorilla Glue around the spoke holder thingy.”

I looked at her bike, a rusted out $350 Specialized commuter bike with a velcro water bottle cage. “Did any of you people talk to anyone before you decided to come out here?” They shook their heads. “Do you know what the Belgian Waffle Ride is?” I asked.

They shook their heads.

“Do you have prepaid funeral plots?” I asked.

They shook their heads.

I got a splitting migraine. “Okay,” I said. “You’re all going to die.”

“But you’re not hammering tomorrow, right?” asked Duct Tape. “If you’re not hammering I’ll ride with you the whole way.”

“No,” I said, wearily. “I’m not hammering.”

I climbed into the bed, which I was sharing with SOS. “I brought some earplugs,” SOS volunteered. “Do any of you guys snore?”

We all lied and said no and went to sleep. “Me, either,” said SOS. “I lost my septum back in the 90’s.”

Within minutes SOS was snoring like he had a small family of bullfrogs lodged in his chest. Then his alarm went off at 3:30 so I was able to stay up until mine went off at five. Before we left for the ride Jay-Z came into our room. “What time did you guys get up?” she asked.

“3:30,” I said. “SOS’s alarm went off at 3:30.”

“I always get up to go the gym at 4:00,” he said.

Jay-Z looked at him. “You work out?” she asked.

About 120 idiots had shown up to do Joann’s Wafer Re-Do Ride, hosted by Michael Marckx in honor of Jay-Z’s selfless assistance to her teammate who got t-boned by another teammate and wound up in the ICU. However, two weeks before the re-do ride came to pass, Jay-Z shattered her wrist. But of course the show had to go on, and if she couldn’t go as a rider she and Michelle planned to go as sag specialists.

Michael assembled the riders and, posing in front of everyone, surreptitiously ordered that someone “take a picture of my butt.” Then he gave a grand speech. “We’re going to try to keep things together today,” he lied. “Those of you who are more confident and know the course can go on ahead, but the purpose of today’s ride is to stay together as much as possible and get to hang out with our friends.”

This monstrosity of a bold-faced fraudulent utterance went unheeded by the assembled victims, all of whom knew they were dealing with a pathological liar who could no more “stay together” with weaker riders than the sun can orbit around the earth. A few miles into the ride Michael unleashed a vicious attack, splintering the group, which was filled with the weak and infirm, and dashed on to a glorious victory, finishing so far ahead that he was able to shower, shave, and coif before the next finisher even arrived.

It’s thankless work crushing your own re-do training practice friendship ride in honor of a good Samaritan, but someone has to do it.

In addition to winning his training thank-you ride, MMX also arranged for the casual ride to be fully supported in the finest BWR style. Bad Sea Coffee had amazing coffee, hot and cold, throughout the ride, with mobile repairs provided by Velofix, drinks by GQ6, a start-finish venue by the Lost Abbey Brewery, and several sag stations to provide sustenance to the riders.

But back to our story. As Imprint, SOS, and Duct Tape started the first descent, which plunged down a twisting series of soft, awful, suicidal dirt hairpins that had sheer drops on one side and a cliff wall on the other, Jay-Z and Michelle drove up behind them and screamed, “Slow down! You’re going too fast! You’ll kill yourself, you idiots!”

Imprint shrugged and shouted back. “I got disc brakes! I’m good!”

At that moment he lost control and slammed into the cliff wall, which was made of brush and soft dirt, leaving a Wile E. Coyote imprint in the cliff. “Oh my dog!” the sag drivers screamed, as SOS and Duct Tape stopped to see how badly he’d been killed and whether or not they could wrest the gold band off his ring finger before he regained consciousness.

Imprint staggered to his feet and waved his friends on, who were in fact, like all cyclist friends, no friends at all. “I’m fine, he mumbled,” as large brain clots formed inside his skull.

“Maybe,” said Jay-Z, “but your tire’s flat. Get in the car. You’re done for the day.”

“No!” he resisted. “I gotta keep going!”

“Okay, well change the flat then.”

Imprint sighed. “I don’t know how to take the wheel off.”

“How can you not know how to take the wheel off your own fucking bike?”

“It’s new,” Implant said, “and I don’t know how to take off the disc brake axle and thing.”

Jay-Z, who was wearing her best 5-inch platform heels, floppy summer hat, and stripper’s negligee, got out in the knee-high sand and pulled the through-axle, changed the flat, aired it up with the floor pump, then cleaned the rubble out of the disc before pushing him back on his way, all with a shattered wrist in a cast. Having left the starting gate promptly at 7:30 AM, Imprint would not be seen again until almost eleven hours later.

In the meantime, Duct Tape began what would be a series of bicycle-falling-off incidents, some related to the wheel that wouldn’t go around in circles, others to the massive rocks and obstacles in her path, and her final, game-ending crash the result of plain old gravity. She finally gave up and lay on the road side with her hands above her head, in a sort of horizontal victory pose if you will, where the podium is the ground. Jay-Z and Michelle scooped her up and deposited her back at the brewery as they got yet another call, this time from SOS.

“Who is it now?” asked Jay-Z as Michelle’s phone lit up.

“It’s SOS,” she said.

“What does he want?”

“All he texted is a map and the words ‘SOS.’ For reals.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

They raced to the pindropped location, where SOS was seated at the roadside, bonked, sunstroked, and mumbling incoherently. “Uber lady,” he said. “That fucking Uber lady.”

“What Uber lady?” asked Jay-Z.

“You know how Wanky told me to pull the plug last night if things got gnarly?”

“Yes?”

“Well, I had an emergency.”

“Oh, no. What happened?”

“I got a cramp.”

Jay-Z and Michelle looked at each other. “So?”

“It was a cramp,” he said. “And it really hurt. And that motherfucker Wanky and Patrick and that German girl, when I shouted out ‘Cramp!’ you know what they did?”

“What?”

“They just kept riding away. They rode away, those fuckers!”

“Wait a minute,” said Jay-Z. “Wanky told you about this last night. I was there. What part of ‘No one gives a fuck about you’ did you not understand?”

“But I thought he was kidding. And then that Uber lady.”

“What Uber lady?”

“So I pulled the plug after I cramped like Wanky said to do and I called Uber XL and the lady came, this black lady in a really nice brand new sedan with leather seats, it was perfect for me and my bike.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, and she took one look at me and she was like, ‘Hell no, I ain’t putting your nasty ass in my car, hell no,’ and then she fucking drove off. That bitch!”

Jay-Z looked at SOS. “Well, you’re covered in white salt that looks like jizz stains and you’re as filthy as if you’d been riding for fifty miles in a sewer, and your bike is covered from stem to stern with grease and dirt, who the fuck would want to put you in their nice car? Except me, of course.”

SOS saw the logic, loaded his bike on the rack, and crawled into the car. “I can’t believe that sonofabitch Wanky left me for dead. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he mumbled.

“Yeah,” Jay-Z said. “Until next year.”

END

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Gitcher Belgian on

January 20, 2016 § 11 Comments

BWR_Social_FBLINK

It’s that time of year. Oh, wait, no it isn’t.

That time of year is Spring, April  24, 2016 at 8:00 AM sharp.

What now is, is the time of year when you sign up for the Belgian Waffle Ride far enough in advance so that you think you’ll be ready for it. The good news is that you will be! The bad news is that you won’t.

This year’s edition, the fifth, features another leisurely spin through the gentle rolling hills and well-maintained road surfaces of North San Diego County. As in past years, the BWR will be pain-free, fun, easy to complete, and filled with happy conversation as you pedal long miles side-by-side with friends, catching up on family news and philosophizing about life, dark matter, and what’s really going on with Chinese stocks.

Of course there may be one or two riders with a different agenda, and who, rather than seeing the BWR as a casual LSD pedal, see instead a painful mix of dirt, tarmac, water, gravel, and rocky sections buffered on all sides by difficulty, epic challenges, and extremely tough riding conditions.

But what do they know?

Well, they may know this …

Although each BWR has been more monumental than the one before, the 2016 edition is the toughest yet. At 144 miles, it is the longest, has the most dirt sectors, and rarely traverses an intersections. The complexity of the course means that there’s something there for everyone, except those who really want to stop. For them, there will be six major and six minor aid stations, some of which will offer tequila or Belgian ale while still offering water, Coke, and event-sponsored beverages.

Some of the sections are so hard you’ll have to walk unless your name is Phil Tinstman or Neil Shirley. Some of the heroic dirt sections from past years such as Black Canyon, Canyon de Oro, and Lemontwistenberg will rear their ugly heads, but the new challenges of Lusardi and San Elijo also await. The rock garden of Lake Hodges has to be traversed in both directions this year, same as the Mule Trail. Perhaps the best feature is the Highland Valley beatdown, five miles of unvarnished climbing hell out to Ramona where you can contemplate forging ahead or calling it a day.

The only way you’ll find out, of course, is to do the dance and sign up for yet another year of full-gas pedalmashing. Better yet, if it’s your first time you can toe the line and discover what’s so fun about slamming a great waffle-egg-bacon-coffee breakfast, riding hard, competing against the best, capping off the ride with more good food and even better beer, then collapsing in a heap and hoping like hell you thought far enough in advance to arrange for a ride back home.

Registration is here: https://bitly.com/bwrreg2016.

Over the next few weeks I’ll put together a series of training plans tailored to the different needs of the various BWR participants. For now the simplest plan is also the hardest: Ride yer fuggin’ bike.

END

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Those who forget the past are generally maroons

April 25, 2015 § 39 Comments

Today is supposed to be a happy day, as 800+ bicycle riders try to come up with reasonable-sounding excuses as to why they can’t actually participate in tomorrow’s Belgian Waffle Ride despite having paid the $136 entry fee, purchased $3,402.71 in new cycling equipment, and retained the services of a professional coach.

But for me, even though I’m going down to San Diego in an hour or so to help mark the course and pick up my number, it’s not really all that happy. I can’t stop thinking about the refugees from Syria and Somalia who are drowning as they try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in dinghies, rubber rafts, and leaky vessels, all in order to reach Western Europe.

Consider this:

The US State Department in Washington, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.

[The owners of the boats] knew even before the [boats] sailed that its passengers might have trouble disembarking in [Europe].

The voyage[s] of the [refugees] attracted a great deal of media attention. Right-wing [European] newspapers deplored its impending arrival and demanded that the government cease admitting [the] refugees. Indeed, the passengers became victims of bitter infighting within the government [s].

Many [Europeans] resented the relatively large number of refugees whom the government had already admitted into the country, because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs. Hostility toward immigrants fueled both [anti-Mulsim sentiment] and xenophobia.

This is not an edited clip from a newspaper describing the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s an edited clip taken directly from the online story on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Museum about the voyage of the St. Louis, a German ship filled with Jewish refugees who in 1939 were refused entry to Cuba and to the United States as they fled Hitler’s campaign to exterminate European Jewry, a campaign whose earnestness was shown to all who cared to look in the Kristallnacht attacks of 1938.

Most oblivious to the historical implications of denying entry to refugees are the Australians, who have advised the EU to deal with refugee boats the same way that they do, by simply telling would-be immigrants that they will never set foot on Australian shores, that they will be turned away by military vessels, that no aid will be given, and that if their boats are not seaworthy, they will drown under the watchful eye of the Australian coast guard.

Australia touts the effectiveness of the program. Before implementation, over 1,200 people drowned trying to reach the continent. Today no one dies at sea because the PR campaign has effectively discouraged people from trying. Instead, refugees flee to New Guinea, Cambodia, and other places where the Australian government pays those governments to take in refugees. The governmental payees pocket the money and let the refugees try to “find a better life” in the squalor and poverty of some of the world’s worst slums. “There is lots of work in Cambodia,” one Aussie official was quoted as saying.

But at least the refugees aren’t dirtying up the streets of Sydney, stealing the jobs of white Australians and contributing to crime and unemployment. As in America, white Australians are apparently falling all over themselves to do the brutal, back breaking jobs typically done by immigrants.

As I was doing a BWR prep ride with a small group a couple of months ago, I chatted with a fellow rider about the failure of Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would have given amnesty to undocumented immigrant children brought to this country by their parents and who, through no fault of their own, quite literally live in the shadows.

“Well,” he said, “those kids … that was me.”

“What?” I stared in disbelief.

“Yeah. I didn’t have a green card until I was eighteen. I lived my entire childhood as an illegal, and it wasn’t until the amnesty of 1986 that I stopped living in daily fear of arrest and deportation.”

There we were, riding bikes, getting ready for the ultimate expression of privileged, middle aged faux athleticism, chatting about wives, kids, and the “travails” of white-collar jobs. We were both productive members of society–sort of–,responsible husbands and fathers–sort–of, and the beneficiaries of limitless opportunity, but one of us could only have gotten where he was by the stroke of a legislative pen.

And here we’re about to go ride our bikes again as thousands of others are about to embark on a deadly venture across the open sea, ruled by cut-throats, smugglers, and gangs, risking starvation, disease, and death because every one of those outcomes is better than what awaits them if they remain at home.

The Belgian Waffle Ride is about to happen with its supposed hardness, toughness, and difficulty … indeed.

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The fattening

April 21, 2015 § 25 Comments

It is an unfortunate characteristic of cyclists, especially those who have signed up for the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride, that they only focus on the slaughter.

“It’s gonna be sooooo hard.”

“Hope my gonads don’t permanently retract.”

“There’s over 40 miles, metric and English, of dirt!!!”

“Dood. Yer gonna need wider tars. Thicker rims. Leaden-er frame.”

“Mxyzptlk.”

I understand that, with the exception of carbon, nothing is as much fun as “hard.” So let’s all agree that the 2015 BWR will be hard. Hard for winners. Hard for hardmen, hard for hardwomen, hard for finishers, and insanely hard for non-cycling spouses who must endure the months of dinnertime drivel with a fake pastiche of an interested smile flitting across their visages.

And now that we’ve all agreed that the slaughter is gonna be hard, and therefore fun in a root canal kind of way, let’s talk about something that will actually be fun in the objective, non-sado/masochistic sense: The Saturday BWR Expo Drunkfest Foodfest Fattening of the Lambs held on Saturday, April 25.

You see, prior to eating four grains of rice, shitting thrice from pre-ride anxiety, and rolling out in order to immediately get dropped on race day (I mean ride day), there will be a ritual lamb fattening exercise at The Lost Abbey brewery in San Marcos, which also happens to be the start/finish on race day. (Kidding, it’s not really a race, it’s more like a bumpy coffee cruise.)

The expo center will, like all expo centers, be filled with some things that interest you and with other things that do not. I can tell you in advance that no matter what you do there, you must drink copious amounts of Lost Abbey beer. Do this for me and for the handful of other struggling drunks for whom a fattening event and finishing area surrounded by free-flowing taps of some of the world’s finest ales is like offering someone dying of thirst all the water he wants as long as he first eats a block of salt studded with razor blades.

Yes indeed, take the opportunity to swizzle and guzzle and hoozle and fozzle because the beer will be fresh, foamy, delectable, and best of all you can search me out at the expo while holding the mug up under my nose and then stare cruelly at me saying this: “You know you want it. You know you can’t have it. It’s soooooo good.”

Then you can take a long draught and say, “Want a sip? Just one. A tiny one. It won’t hurt and I won’t tell. Here. On me.”

Then after they’ve cuffed and stuffed me and taken you off to the morgue I won’t have to ride the BWR the next day.

So, what are my other picks for the expo? Here are the top three, in this exact order of importance:

  1. Food by Sam Ames. Sam is a native of Bakelahoma, a city in the Central Valley that combines the very worst qualities of redneck California and the best qualities of Oklahoma (there aren’t any). If you are rude to women, mean to little kids, or just an all-purpose asshole, in addition to making the best food you’ll ever eat indoors or out, Sam will also provide you with a butt-kicking to take home and show all your friends along with, hopefully, a brand new set of manners to go with your teeth-replacement-therapy. Sam’s cooking is delightful, filling, and just exactly what you hope that Neil Shirley, Phil Tinstman, Ryan Trebon, and the other handful of BWR assassins will overdose on prior to the race. I mean the ride. Sam’s food creations will also go a long way to pacifying your S.O. for having to hang out with your biker friends. Also, make extra good friends with Greg, the guy with the giant carving knife and the extra-large serving spoon.
  2. Carbon wheels by FastForward. After drinking a gallon of Lost Abbey beer and swallowing a few pounds of Bakelahoma barbecue, you will need some really fast, light, beautiful, affordable carbon racing wheels. Why? Because carbon. I can personally vouch for the difference that a pair of great carbon racing wheels made of 100% carbon will make on race day, just not on the BWR race day, I mean ride day. For the BWR you should try to get a next-day shipment from http://www.concretewheelsets.com.
  3. Pooky Festersore’s Offended Tent. Pooky sets up his world-famous offended tent at major exhibitions around the world to allow people who are offended to come by and vent their anger at unflattering portrayals in the media, insulting jokes, having had sand kicked in their face during childhood, or edgy event press releases. In addition to a giant feather pillow with the center hollowed out so as not to exacerbate existing butt hurtedness, tent visitors will, for $17.99, receive a framed apology for whatever it was that offended them along with a free pack of tissues and a pat on the back.

So whether you’re looking for great beer, great food, carbon, or a sympathetic shoulder to whine on, the BWR expo will have it all. You’ll leave full, happy, expectant, and ready to be disemboweled on Sunday. Enjoy!

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