August 20, 2016 § 29 Comments
I miss Stathis the Wily Greek, and I’m not the only one.
Stathis was like a roman candle. He rose quickly, surpassed everyone, blew up, and then moved on to something else. As strong as he was as a rider, he was a terrible racer, at least to the extent that his results never really aligned with his prodigious physical strength.
I still remember a photo from the Nosco Ride a couple of years ago. Stathis was cresting Deer Creek ahead of some of America’s top pros. He made everything look easy, especially the uphill stuff. By the time he was breathing hard or struggling, you had long been shelled and kicked to the curb.
The best thing about Stathis was the way he took the fun out of it for everyone else. Cycling, unlike running, has a massive delusional component. You can endlessly manipulate the goal posts to feel good about the fact that you suck. This is in fact the business model of Strava.
Not with Stathis. With him, you always sucked. My second-fondest memory of riding a bicycle happened with Stathis. He had dropped the entire Donut Ride and had attacked me at the bottom of Crest. I’d hung on.
We got about a hundred yards past the wall and he drove over to the double yellow line, cutting off any hope of staying out of the crosswind. He looked back and saw I was still there and attacked. I struggled onto his rear wheel. He looked back and attacked again.
It was a look of amusement mixed with contempt. No quarter, no mercy, no adjustment for our age disparity, no respect for effort, just an icy calculation of “Now.”
It was the most deliberate, cool, piercing jettison job I’d ever experienced. He easily rode away. At the top of the radar domes he nodded, barely acknowledging that I was on a bike, and proceeded to crush the rest of the ride.
I savored that flaying for over a year. It’s rare that someone who is both a friend and a cyclist will destroy you so casually and so intentionally. If he’d been a Greek warrior he would have been Achilles.
And Stathis did that to everyone. One friend confided that he had given up the Flog Ride because there was, mathematically, no chance of ever beating Stathis. When the Wily Greek showed up, dreams took flight, the way investments in penny stocks take flight. Away. Forever.
This angered a lot of people because we cyclists cherish our delusions, kind of like Costco shoppers who think they’re superior to Wal-Mart because their conglomerate pays a higher hourly wage to its slaves or because their luxury eyeglass brands are 15% cheaper than at Lenscrafters, as if Wal-Mart, Costco, and Luxottica aren’t different versions of the same terrible thing.
Stathis didn’t allow you those delusions, and for me, reality, always obscured, enhances life the clearer it gets. Embrace death. Embrace the absence of an afterlife. Embrace crazy. Embrace the fact that you will never be good enough to even see Stathis finish. Embrace suckage.
My best day on a bike also involved Stathis, because I beat him on the same stretch of climb about a year later. Maybe he was sick, or tired, or more likely, he wasn’t even awake. Didn’t matter. By destroying and tattering my illusions hundreds of times, my one tiny “first” meant everything. It was stripped of everything except fact. I savor it still.
Now that Stathis has taken up something else, I’ve been riding up to the top of his cul-de-sac street, which I now know is the steepest and longest climb on the peninsula. I keep hoping that one day I’ll get to the end of the road and see him putting on his running shoes or oiling his pogo stick or adjusting the harness on his hang glider, but I never do.
But that’s the benefit of having good memories. They stick around long after the person who gifted them.
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December 22, 2012 § 5 Comments
Too many days there are too many things that happen for me to organize them into a theme or even a coherent thought, so the day goes by and so much that needs saying goes unsaid, or in my case, unblogged!
Today, in no particular order except the first item:
- Prez showed up for the Donut Ride in full Santa kit. No, you don’t understand. I mean full Santa kit. His tall black Santa boots were fitted over his cycling shoes so that his cleats could lock into the pedals. His Santa hat was fixed to his helmet so that it flopped but the helmet was rock solid (protecting what, we’re not sure). He had red cycling shorts. Yes, red. As in the color red. He had a red jersey. He had red gloves. Aside from being the most amazing get-up I’ve ever seen on a bike, he did the genuine Santa impersonation by Going to the Front as we rolled out of Redondo Beach, then pulling the other reindeer (all 100 of them, including Dopey, Stinky, Lazy, Bashful, Twitchy, Flinch, Crazy, Stupid, Slothful, Sexy, Naughty, and Embroey) up out of Malaga Cove and all the way to Lunada Bay. Santa, I’ve been naughty this year. I hope that means I get a whip or some handcuffs.
- Stathis the Wily Greek unleashed a tour de force on the Switchbacks. The wankoton sucked eggs all the way to the bottom of the climb. Then he let loose. I followed for ten seconds before blowing. It shattered the entire field. None could follow. John Hall, Craig L., and several others duked it out for the scraps. Mark Alvarado got shelled, but then blasted by me at the end in an amazing show of speed. Eric Anderson climbed with the climbers. Keith, Marco, Rico, others all represented.
- Marshall P. rode like a champion up Zumaya. At the tail end as I was about to overhaul him he gave a big kick and was gone. Kudos!
- Tink is riding “at power.” This means she goes faster than 99% of all the other riders but doesn’t ever accelerate or attack. 2013 is going to see some scalps hanging from her coup stick. Glad I don’t race against her.
- The Serfas handlebar-mount headlight (500 lumens) is awesome. More about that in a separate post.
- Nite Ryder lighting systems just went from fave to frown. More about that in a separate post.
- Todd Buckley and Rahsaan Bahati put together an all-day ride to Camarillo. All-star cast included Charon, Suze, and many others. Wish I could have made it.
- Pischon Jones is down at least 15 pounds. I saw more lean meat on that boy than you could find at a Weight Watchers convention. Dude has the discipline hat on. Props!
- SoCal cyclists are so weather-wussified it’s hilarious! MS, before the Donut started: “Gosh, I’d forgotten how cold it is here in SoCal!” It was about 50 degrees. He’s coming from two years of school in Jamaica, and after the holidays is moving to Chicago. Does it ever get below 50 in Chicago in the winter? Har!
- Joe Yule got the hardware out of his elbow this week, and he and Manny Guzman got into a “Whose 13-inch elbow scar is gnarlier?” photo contest on FB. Not for the queasy of stomach…
- Great bike sales and seasonal deals in the South Bay at Bike Palace, Sprocket Cycles, PV Cycle Center, and Manhattan Beach Cycles.
- Super nice waves this morning at the Cove. Indicators was breaking, and so was Lunada Bay. SoCal cyclists may be weather wussies, but it’s pretty cool to be pedaling your bike in late December in sunny, warm weather while gorgeous sets roll in on the point.
- Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride approaches. It’s going to be grim.
- SPY Optic and Ride Cyclery have two big holiday rides, one on 12/24 and one on 1/2. The 12/24 ride will be a swords-drawn survival of the cruelest. You have been warned!
‘Nuff for now. Gotta shop. My, uh, favorite family activity…
August 18, 2012 § 2 Comments
Once upon a time there was a city mouse named Wanky. He was snooty, and he thought that Big City was the best place in the whole world. He was even conceited enough to think that one of his local coffee shops was the center of the known universe. He owned a fancy bicycle and only wore designer bicycle clothing.
Wanky had a poor country cousin mouse from Bakersfield named Lem, who had a cousin named Cletus. Although Lem and Cletus were cousins, like most Bakersfield mice one never inquired too closely as to the consanguinity because it often turned out that “cousin” was a euphemism for “illegal relationship in the lower 48 except Texas.”
One day Wanky called up Lem on the Twitter. “Lem, why don’t you come down and do our Donut Ride. You country mice will learn a thing or two about how to ride your bicycles.”
“Why thanky, Wanky,” said Lem the country mouse. “That’s mighty nice of you. Do you mind if I bring Cousin Cletus?”
“Cletus? Is he the one with the saggy tummy and stumpy tail?”
“That’s him,” said Lem. “But he would like to come and see what all that Big City riding is like. He don’t get out much, except for when him and me get over to Fresno ever now and agin for chain lube and clean underwear.”
“How often is that, Cousin Lem?”
“Oncet or twice a year, for sure.”
“That would be fine,” said Wanky. “Be sure to tell him that our Donut Ride is the most glorious and fame-inducing ride in Big City. All the Big City mice will be there, as well as one or two Big City rats. They will more than likely gnaw out his entrails.”
Glory or fitness? Glory.
“Will us’n get a good piece of training on your Big City donut?” asked Lem.
“No,” said Wanky. “My third cousin twice removed on Uncle Theodosius’s sister’s side, Jack from Illinois (not his real name), says that the Donut Ride is the dumbest and worst preenfest of wankers he’s ever seen. And he’s from Illinois, so he knows a thing or two about wankers.”
“Me and Cletus was hopin for some training.”
“We have lots of training in Big City,” Wanky said snootily. “You can train with Roadchamp at 3:00 AM and break every Strava record known to mice and men.”
“I kinda think we’d like to do that ride,” squeaked Lem.
“Only problem is that no one will ever see you. You’ll be invisible, eating your pre-ride cheese at Peet’s Cheeseshop in the dark. You’ll have done a hundred and ten with 8k of climbing by the time we even get started on the Donut Ride.”
“What do mean by ‘glory’?”
“Glory?” Wanky said with a condescending squeak. “When you roll out on the Donut Ride in Big City, you’ll be surrounded by rodentia royalty. The Italian Stallion might even be there.”
“You might as well ask me ‘Who was Ratty?’ in the Wind in the Willows,” Wanky said. “Or ‘Who was Stuart Little?’ Or ‘Who was Mickey?’ Crikey, Lem, the Italian Stallion is the most famous rat in Big City. When he shows up on the Donut Ride, it’s Katie bar the door.”
All aboard for the Pussy Riot
“Katie bar the door?”
“Yep. Katie Donovan, a/k/a Razor, will slice you into thin little ribbons of mouse meat and feed you to the cats. She did the Leadville 100 walking all the descents and still finished in under four hours. She even carries around an ego bag.”
“A what?” Lem’s voice quivered on the other end of the Twitter.
“And ego bag. It’s a giant bag hooked up underneath her saddle. Bigger than Dallas, even.”
“What’s it for?”
“She fills it up with all the broken male mouse egos that get shattered on the Donut Ride. Starts the ride empty, goes home full to busting.”
“But she’s a girl mouse?”
“Not a girl mouse like you have out in the country, Lem. She’s a Big City mouse. She’s pretty, and smart, and well educated, and knows how to use a napkin, and only blows snot out of her nose when there’s no one on her wheel.”
“Holy Gouda!” squeaked Lem admiringly.
“But when the hammer comes down, she’s the one with her fingers wrapped around the handle. And it’s all the little boy mice’s testicles who get smushed.”
Lem squeaked in terror. “Are you sure she’ll be there?”
“Pretty sure. And even if she’s not, Tink will be.”
“Who’s Tink?” Lem’s squeak was so soft that Wanky could hardly hear it.
“She’s the climbingest mouse in the South Bay after Razor. Lots of big tough boy mice have tried to pin her in a trap, but the only way to get Tink’s attention is to finish with her on the top of a climb. And none of the boy mice have been able to do that yet.”
Beware of fools bearing gifts
On the day of the big ride, Lem and Cletus showed up at the Cheese Bean and Cheese Leaf in Big City. Wanky met them and introduced them to much of the Big City royalty. New Mouse was there. Sparkly Mouse was there. Polly Mouse, Douggie Mouse, Jensie Mouse, Gussy Mouse, Junkyard Mouse, Friedrich Mouse, Pilot Mouse, and a host of other rodents assembled to greet the out of towners. The only big rat missing was G$ Rat and Mighty Mouse herself.
Lem reached into his homespun carryall and pulled out a pair of pink unicorn socks. “Here y’go, Cousin Wanky. These here magic unicorn socks will give you extra special riding powers. Plus they are so loud and ugly and bright that I will be able to find you no matter how far back I am.”
Wanky pulled on the magic unicorn socks and felt a special strength surge up into his incisors. “Thank you, Cousin Lem and Cousin Cletus!” His long and greasy and hairless tail quivered in anticipation.
All rats great and small rolled out, an armada of rodents more than one hundred strong. Even the evil and nasty Big City police cats and Deputy Knox cat were afraid to approach the rolling entourage of cheese eaters.
Country mice squeak strongly
On the dreaded Switchbacks, the selection occurred with the Italian Stallion, Razor, Tink, Dentist, Stathis the Wily Greek, John Mouse Hall, and Petey Mouse. Lem lasted for a while and was then fed to the cats. Cletus had his entrails gnawed out. Wanky wanked in no-mouse-land after getting his head caught in the mousetrap after the third turn.
Lem rode well through Homes and Gardens, finished mousefully on the Domes, sprunted well at Hawthorne, and dusted Wanky on the final climb up Zumaya. Cletus was honored at a roadside burial later that afternoon.
Back at the cheese shop in Big City, Lem and Wanky talked over the day’s events. “You Big City mice sure ride hard.”
“You country mice are no slouches.”
“My tail and haunches are pretty sore.”
“Wait ’til tomorrow.”
“What was that big lake thing on the left the first part of our ride? Was it the Big City sewage pond? Only body of water that big in Bakersfield is the sewage pond.”
“It’s called the Pacific Ocean, but China calls it their sewage pond.”
“Well, someday soon we hope you’ll make it up to the country so’s we can return the favor. Big City mice was shore nice to us. That John Mouse Hall feller told me where the turns was. And that Polly Mouse feller did the same thing for Cletus afore he up and died on us.”
“I’d like nothing better, Lem. When’s a good time?”
“In December it gets down to the low hundreds. Which is good because the sewage pond don’t smell so rich.”
“I’ll put it on my calendar.”
“And bring some Big City mice with you. We’d like to see if they ride as quick on our roads as they do on yours.”