October 14, 2015 § 26 Comments
People basically don’t give a shit.
Our apartment was built back in 1873 and there are no individual water meters for the units. So the total water bill gets divvied up and is reflected in the rent. And since no one person’s water usage can make much of an impact on the overall amount, and since you don’t get a monthly water bill there’s no incentive to conserve water unless you’re instinctively a cheap ass, which I am.
Because California is in a mild drought about six months ago I bought a $5 waterproof five-minute hourglass with a little suction thingy that sticks to the shower wall. It’s amazing how quickly five minutes in the shower go by, hardly enough time to scrape the crusty places and rinse the sand out of my ears.
Then one morning I was riding with Geriatric Jedi-in-Training, and we got to talking about saving water. “Well,” said G-JiT, “you oughta try a Navy shower.”
At first I thought he was inviting me to something obscene. “Thanks, man, but I don’t swing that way.”
“No, no,” he said. “It’s where you switch the water on for a few seconds to get wet, switch it off, lather up, rinse, repeat. That way you’re not dumping gallons of hot water on your head just for the fun of it.”
So I tried the Navy shower and now that’s all I do, and lately I’ve not even been using the hot water. So it drives me insane when I get up in the morning at 4:30 and do walking laps around the complex, because that’s when they run the sprinklers and about half of them point out on the sidewalk. The conservation effect of my tiny little 30-second showers are all completely negated for the month in the first minute of a single morning’s sprinkling.
I was telling this story to the guy who always points. It was after this morning’s NPR, where I scored a glorious victory, attacking with two laps to go, shelling the breakawanker who refused to pull and dropping the other one before going on to a solo win. Later, allegations of cheating, course cutting, and general skulduggery were leveled against me, and of course I denied them all.
The guy who always points is the only person in the peloton who always points. You can be whizzing along at 30, teeth grazing the stem, and he will always point out the crack, the pothole, the broken glass, the magnolia seed cone, or the dead body in the road.
“People are selfish and stupid beyond any comprehension,” I said, complaining about my selfish apartment complex management and its wasteful ways.
“Yes,” he agreed. “They are.”
“And they don’t give a shit.”
“No,” he agreed. “They don’t.”
On cue a woman darted out in front of us in her car without bothering to stop at the stop sign I was preparing to blow. Then another woman almost clocked us as she gabbed on her cell phone and sipped coffee.
“What the hell is going on?” I asked. “People are crazy. They don’t care if they kill you, and if they’re like the mob at the Dallas Cowboys game, they do care if they kill you, and then they kill you.”
“Yep,” said the guy who always points. “They sure do.”
“And you can’t change them. For every person who does the right thing, there’s a thousand who text and drive and like the Dallas Cowboys.”
The guy who always points pointed out some glass. I moved over. “But you,” I said, “you’re different. You’re always pointing shit out no matter what.”
“Yep,” he said. “I am.”
“And it’s because of you that about twelve billion idiots have avoided crashing or flats or both.”
“Yep,” he said. “They have.”
“So why do you do it? Other people don’t point shit out, even the ones whose asses you save by pointing shit out.”
“Seth,” he said, as he pointed out a nasty crack that I narrowly avoided. “We’re all in this together.”
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September 30, 2015 § 30 Comments
This isn’t going to end well, Head Down James I’ve got, no problem, he’ll flog himself and explode like a can of tomato paste in the microwave and he’ll be happy with the flogging and last place because he initiated, rode, and drove the break, that guy’s head is made of concrete which is why he’s so loved you can pour words over his head like a bucket of water but not a one will ever sink in and there’s no hope with Davy he goes on the list of “never beaten” and “never even held his wheel when he kicks” and no fuggin’ wonder he’s the masters national kilo champ and he hasn’t taken a single pull since bridging and he’s licking his chops the real problem is Sausage he also goes on the “never beaten never even close” list he’s got a ferocious kick and worse than that he’s smart but at least I’m on his wheel and not vice versa nine hundred to go and boom there goes Head Down James launching off Davy’s wheel now it’s Sausage, me, and Davy and Head Down James is opening a nice little gap but he won’t be able to sustain it on this riser but whoa now Sausage is on the front and he’s slowed way down he’s not chasing his teammate except it’s LaGrange so he eventually will and plus Sausage is no dummy he’ll never in a million years sprunt from the front I get it these wankers are waiting for me to close the gap yeah, perfect, I close, Head Down blows, and Davy beats Sausage or maybe Sausage gets real lucky and beats Davy but anyway I’ll be left dangling fuck it I’ve never won out of a break ever ever ever not in thirty years and now I’m stuck with two sprinters eight hundred to go Head Down’s gap isn’t growing his speed will crater any minute but Sausage is going so slow it won’t matter and Head Down will take the win this is maddening I’ve ridden the break the last two laps exactly like Daniel said don’t be the strongest guy in the break make sure we don’t get caught but don’t be the stud still the math isn’t here one slow old hairy legged guy never beats a kilo champ and a sprinter seven hundred to go well I’m not chasing that fucker isn’t that what Derek said sometimes you just have to be content with someone else winning because if you go it’s not gonna be you and he also said patience and holding back at the end is the hardest but you have to wait for the other guy to flinch six hundred to go I can see Davy’s shadow and Sausage just went up a gear so he’s ready for the jump better upshift too and he thinks it’s gonna be me but he knows it might also be Davy boom there’s the sound of Davy’s whole bike groaning under 1800 watts five hundred to go shit here comes Davy off my wheel shit Sausage was totally ready shit this hurts shit they’re pulling away shit go go go shit I’ve got Sausage’s back wheel oh man this hurts but is Sausage gonna get Davy’s wheel three hundred to go shit he got Davy boom Head Down’s blown we’re passing him like a bullet train passing a tree now Davy’s fading no way oh yes way he’s been conventioning at Eurobike and Interbike and hasn’t been training of course two hundred to go boom there goes Sausage but closing to Davy has hurt him he doesn’t have his usual kick go now attack his rear wheel and shear off into the wind at the last minute oh man one hundred to go there’s the finishing tree Sausage is staring over in disbelief with the you need to pee-in-a-cup look now I’m flying past him damn this is sweet should I raise my arms hell yes but it’s just the stupid NPR yeah but everyone’s looking so rub their noses in it arms up and don’t fred out and crash oh that feels good just keep them up, fingers spread, palms out, forever.
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May 15, 2015 § 42 Comments
Nothing is less inspiring the tales of already-skinny people about how they got skinnier. What inspires us are the people who came to cycling as way to deal with major health problems, and through cycling overcame them. One of those people is a South Bay regular, Dan K.
Below is his story, mostly in his own words, with a dab here and there of mine:
I was 250 lbs and in trouble. Every December, my doctor said the same thing. Cholesterol, high. Blood pressure, high. Fatty liver disease, just around the bend. And if you think it’s terrible having your kids say, “Dad died from a heart attack,” imagine them saying “Dad died of fatty liver disease.”
My doc would tell me I could carry on and get ready for a lifetime regimen of drugs, or make a change. I’d dutifully hop on the elliptical trainer, lose a few pounds, and then with Christmas and the New Year come roaring back to “normal.”
By 2011 I’d injured my back and had constant sciatic pain. I could hardly sleep. I also had periodic blinding pain in my side. I made a special trip to the doctor, got some codeine and PT, and went back to functioning with a legal Rx drug dependency. But I realized after three months that this was no way to live the rest of my life. So I finally decided, truly decided, to change.
I’m an engineer so I started with the numbers, and that’s ultimately where I finished. I knew that the most important thing was not what I weighed today (can’t change that) or what I will weigh tomorrow (can’t really change that), but the trend line, i.e. what I will weigh next week or next month. Next month is something I can change. Incremental changes today could push the trend line of my weight and of my health in a positive direction. I knew I wouldn’t be healthy next month, but I knew I could be healthier.
I also realized that willpower is a finite resource, but it’s also like a muscle. In order to improve it, you have to stress your willpower towards the point of failure. The muscle and the will become stronger, but only if you exercise them.
Next, I challenged myself. I set a goal to start swimming for at least 30 minutes a day, every day, and to avoid eating junk and highly refined foods. The first day in the pool was a challenge. I don’t think I did more than seven laps. It was awful. But I came back the next morning and did eight. Within a few weeks, I was swimming farther and longer.
What’s key is that I didn’t turn myself around overnight. This was no 30-day success story.
Did I go swimming every day? No.
Did I eat healthy food every day? No.
Did I move in a positive direction more days than not? ABSOLUTELY. This was crucial because my goal was to move the trend, not to reach some magical end-point. In a sense, I made my objective goal—exercise every day–harder than my real goal, which was to simply move the trend line.
When I saw the doctor six weeks after staring my “new” life in mid-December of 2011, things were better. I was down to, um, 235 lbs. BP was down a bit. Liver was still chubby, but perhaps not as fatty. Yet I was still on the wrong side of the healthy line and I was still in pain. So the doctor renewed my prescriptions and encouraged me. More importantly, I was able to encourage myself because I had entered the magical positive feedback loop. I could see that the trend line was heading in the right direction, and I wanted to keep it up.
My first bike ride on August 14, 2012, on a crappy old mountain bike, was 4.5 miles in 30 minutes over some “hills” near home. I think my heart rate must have been 190, and I thought I was going die. But I went out again on the 16th and cracked out nine whole miles. That Sunday I rode to the Strand and up to the end of Manhattan for a whopping 16 miles. I was slow but I was having fun. By the middle of the September I had made it to Ballona Creek, then Venice, then Santa Monica by October.
A year later my body was in a better place. My weight was 220. My liver enzymes were “good.” My cholesterol was normal, my back pain was gone, and I was off the prescription drugs.
I celebrated, bought a road bike, and started going farther and faster. Eventually I found Seth’s blog and started riding in PV. In February 2013 I pedaled out to where one of my aunts lives, and made it halfway up Hawthorne Blvd. I thought I was going to die, and got a ride home. A week later I sucked it up, made it around the peninsula, up and over the Switchbacks (13:48) all the while thinking the climb would never end. I’d occasionally see a mini-peloton go by and I’d try to latch on, though I always seemed to blow up in 15 seconds. But I was getting stronger.
In July of 2013 I was down fifty pounds to a “svelte” 200. I gutted up and took the plunge, telling myself “It’s time for NPR!” I still remember getting blown off the back on Vista del Mar during the neutral rollout. The next time I blew up on Pershing Hill, the first earnest surge of the ride. A week later I got axed on Pershing proper. Then, I played roman candle on the overpass, followed by exploding a week later on Lap 1.
The whole time people helped and encouraged me. Manslaughter would yell at me to pedal hard and get back on. The Wily Greek pushed me physically as I was coming unhitched, numerous times. Eventually I stuck on the whole NPR from tip to tail. You can talk about climbing the highest mountain all you want. For me, toughing out that ride from start to finish was huge … and I did it!
For the next 18 months I stabilized around 195, gaining muscle mass and losing fat. I ran a marathon, rode some centuries, and did some epic climbs. I’ve gone from that to a current weight of about 175, and in addition to the NPR I also do the Flog Ride, and even completed the 2015 Belgian Waffle Ride.
How would I sum it up?
- Lie to yourself. Set a goal harder than what you need to achieve so you have some room to screw up.
- Set an exercise schedule and a calorie budget and follow it, accepting imperfection in all things!
- Follow the weekly-monthly-annual trend, not the daily fluctuation.
- Mix endurance rides with beatdowns like the NPR, Flog Ride, or Donut.
- Ride with wankers who are faster and stronger than you!
- Accept that everything hurts the first time, but that each time you do the same thing it gets a little easier. Or perhaps you just go a little faster, which is even better.
- Use free resources out there! Check out the “Hacker Diet,” a free e-book and an engineer’s guide to weight loss, and MyFitnessPal, which can help you know how many calories you’re downing at a sitting.
- Do what you enjoy! If you hate the activity you will quit.
- Start slowly!
- Find a peer group. Most cyclist types are nut jobs and love new people to hang out with, partly because more people means a higher probability someone will show up for the ride, and partly because they’ll enjoy breaking your legs.
- Real results will take a while.
- Changes occur inside before the things that everyone sees on the outside!
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May 13, 2015 § 25 Comments
Wire reports have confirmed that Wanky Meister pulled off an upset 4-lap solo breakaway victory on the Tuesday NPR, crushing the dreams and splattering the tender egos of some of SoCal’s fastest and finest. Cycling in the South Bay caught up with the ride’s participants to get their perspective on this once-in-a-lifetime athletic achievement.
CitSB: What’s your take on Wanky’s epic win?
Vapor: Epic? That dude ain’t shit.
CitSB: Eyewitness accounts have him winning the NPR in a solo 4-lap breakaway by more than 75 seconds, with a certain unnamed former national crit champ unable to close the gap.
Vapor: Listen here. That rusty old butter knife is old, slow, weak, and dumb. What else do you want to know?
CitSB: Who else was in the chase group?
Nation’s No. 1 Beast: I was.
CitSB: Whoa! Didn’t you win the pro field sprint at Dana Point two weeks ago?
No.O.B.: Yeah. So what?
CitSB: And you couldn’t reel him in?
No.O.B.: Come on. We weren’t even trying. That guy rides about as fast as a broken washing machine.
CitSB: Who else was chasing?
JusWills: We weren’t really chasing. Just riding tempo. We all have a big race coming up next week. You think we can’t chase down some old grandpa with hairy legs? Really?
CitSB: Witnesses say he did pretty much leave you guys gagging on fumes.
Manslaughter: Hey, I didn’t even know he was off the front. Like, I saw him on the Parkway and figured he was off the back, chasing, and I was like, “Man, he’s never gonna catch back on.”
CitSB: And then?
Manslaughter: Then I realized it was us who wasn’t gonna catch back on.
CitSB: Was there any discussion in the peloton about bringing him back?
Dawg: Wanky? Naw. No one cares about him. We let him go. We weren’t even trying. Plus he ran all the stoplights.
Major B.: Yeah, he ran them ALL. We only ran most of them. Why that idiot even shows up, all he’s gonna do is ride by himself?
CitSB: Maybe he wanted to try and put everyone to the sword?
Cat 4 Dave: It didn’t count anyway. He attacked on Vista del Mar.
Cat 4 Dave: We didn’t even see him go.
Cat 4 Dave: Plus, even though we didn’t see him, we let him go.
CitSB: Video footage shows the field shattered on lap two, and on lap three there were four separate chase groups and a big clump of riders who looked very sad.
NJ Pedalbeater: I have to admit, we went pretty slow today.
Manslaughter: It was the slowest NPR ever. I’ve never gone that slow on the NPR. Never.
NJ Pedalbeater: Although looking at me Garmin now we do appear to have been averaging 31 on the first lap.
Manslaughter: Really? Well, it felt slow.
Boozy: That’s because you were on Josh’s wheel all morning, and he hasn’t ridden since January.
CitSB: Isn’t this the first time in NPR history that anyone has ever held a solo 4-lap breakaway?
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April 30, 2015 § 41 Comments
I received this letter yesterday:
Notice of Revocation of License
Dear Mr. Wankmeister:
We, the Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior of the New Pier Ride, regret to inform you that after an emergency plenary session which was convened via Facebag on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 2:00 PM until 11:35 PM, you are henceforth prohibited from participating in, observing, commenting on, or otherwise involving yourself with any and all activities associated with the bicycle ride occurring twice weekly, on Tuesday and Thursday from the hours of 6:40 AM until 8:00 AM, and commonly referred to as the NPR or New Pier Ride.
This ban, effective immediately, shall continue until further notice and shall be enforced without right of appeal. You may, if you so desire, do independent laps around the Parkway with Nancy but only between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 AM in such small and easy gears as may be, and always are, selected by him.
It was brought to the attention of the Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior that your actions Tuesday last were among the most abominable, dangerous, hazardous, anti-safety, and despicable in the annals of our illustrious event, such that even the cavalier attitude and disrespectful riding habits of former attendee Josh A. and the previously excommunicated Wily Greek are deemed to be pale in comparison.
The general charges laid against you we hereby set forth as follows:
I. That on the morning of April 28, 2015, at approximately 6:37 AM, you appeared at the starting site for the NPR with what eyewitnesses have independently corroborated as a “mean, unfriendly, hostile attitude clearly intended to make other participants feel uncomfortable and perhaps sad.”
II. That after exiting the alleyway onto Vista del Mar, you intentionally assumed a hostile and unfriendly position on the drop portion of your handlebars and were seen to shift your chain onto the larger of your two chainrings while simultaneously lowering your chain onto the smallest rear sprocket. Eyewitnesses have confirmed that it was an eleven.
III. That immediately after passing the traffic signal at Grand Ave., you “hunkered down” and “began hammering like a maniac.” More than fifty of the assembled august personages who you later were heard to disparage as “wankers” generously offered to hop onto your wheel but you refused their assistance and pedaled away.
IV. That, being deprived of a rear wheel, the august personages of the peloton were rudely forced to give chase at a time during the ride when each of them was normally accustomed to friendly chatting about wattage, training plans, and other important items, and that this chase made each of them tired, induced burning sensations in their legs and lungs to which they were were not accustomed except on such days as Daniel H. and the aforementioned Josh A. are present.
V. That, with the exception of your despicable henchmen Surfer D., Man S., Tumble W., and a handful of other reprobates, the remainder of the decent and dog-fearing peloton were forced to continue painful pedaling without a wheel to sit upon all the way to the light at Pershing, which made each of them unhappy and uncomfortable and sad.
VI. That, rather than politely stop behind the long line of cars queued up at the light and give the noble and extremely pleasant wheel-followers in the peloton a chance to rest and attach themselves to your rear wheel, you blindly, recklessly, dangerously, and meanly sped through the narrow chute between the cars and the large brick wall, thereby endangering all who attempted to follow, and forcing the safety-minded and decent personages of the peloton who would otherwise have gladly assisted you by attaching themselves to your rear wheel, to come to a complete halt which further enhanced the unfair, illegal, dangerous, and unsportsmanlike gap you had created by willfully pedaling your bicycle hard in the manner of Josh A., who thankfully does not come here any more.
VII. That, once on Pershing, you continued to exploit your cruel, dangerous, and unfair advantage by repeatedly pushing down hard on the pedals such that when the decent and hard-working members of the peloton who had expended so much energy to reach you finally approached, each and every one of them was tired and felt meanly used and sad.
VIII. That, once the hop-in wankers atop Pershing who always wait there so they will not have to rush up the small bump on Pershing merged with you, additional bad-mannered henchmen such as Hair W., NJ P. Beater, Jon D., Man S., and repeat offender Surfer D. pushed the pace even harder until the fair and honest members of the peloton, unable to pull through and unable to sit on a wheel, opened up large-ish gaps and wreaked havoc amongst themselves, causing extreme unhappiness, sadness, and considerable discomfort.
IX. That, once on the Parkway, you and your henchmen continued your bad habits and reckless disregard for safety by running red lights and continually pedaling so hard such that the decent and honest peloton could not get close enough to sit on your wheel, assist you from the rear, and helpfully come around you at the finish.
X. That, in addition to your dangerous red light running and mischievous pedal pounding, you formed a final group consisting of yourself, Hair W., NJ P. Beater, Old F., and First O., refused to slow down or stop for traffic signals such that the honorable members of the august peloton could attach to your rear wheel and assist you from the back or otherwise float to the front and lower your unfriendly pace such that they could diminish the pain, discomfort, sadness, and general feelings of antipathy aroused by you in them.
XI. That, in addition to refusing to slow down and thereby forcing the august personages of the peloton to choose between chasing in earnest and suffering additional discomfort and sadness, or to give up and cede the victory to your unethical and dangerous riding and thereby diminish each of their feelings of self-worth, and thereby making them sad as if they were on a ride with Josh A., you insisted on continuing to ride like a maniac from Pershing all the way back to CotKU, thereby depriving the august personages of the peloton the opportunity to voice their displeasure, critique your awful behavior, provide you with useful training and racing tips, and castigate you for causing them so much needless danger, discomfort, and generalized feelings of sadness.
Therefore, be it know by these presents, that you are hereby excommunicated from the community of the New Pier Ride, that your seal clubbing license is peremptorily revoked, and that we, the members of the Standing Committee, will ensure that your behavior is monitored through Facebag postings and private email exchanges.
The Standing Committee on Safety and Proper Cycling Behavior of the New Pier Ride
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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.
- 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.
- 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.
“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.”
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