Friday, November 6, 2015

You down with TKOPP?

Where You Go? Part 7.2B

The moment I realized that I was lying on the ground... I tried to get up.

I couldn't.

My body wouldn't listen. I rolled back and forth for a moment, talking to myself and hearing gibberish come out of my mouth. That would have unnerved me...if I wasn't so preoccupied with why I couldn't get off the ground. When I finally managed to roll onto my hands and knees, but still couldn't figure out how to stand.... my brain started cycling a message... like a klaxon in my head...
"This is bad... This is bad... This is bad... This is bad..."

At first... I thought I'd broken my neck. Because nothing else could seemingly explain the entire lack of control that I had over my body. But... I could feel everything. I could feel the sharp pain in my hip... in my neck. Just...nothing was working. As I tried to stand, I was like a newborn giraffe. Falling over multiple times as I pulled myself repeatedly up onto unsteady legs. But damned if I wasn't going to just make it happen. Because... if I could stand up, even when my body said I couldn't... then that meant I was A-okay. Right?
When I was finally on my feet... walking in unsteady circles and trying to stay upright...the first question that popped in my head was... "Where the fuck am I?" 
Then... "No... seriously... where the fuck am I?" 
And then... "Oh fuck... where the fuck am I?"

Because... I had no... fucking... clue.

Apparently, I was here.
Happier times .. four hours ago... before "the fall"
(Thanks be to the professional photoguy I wrangled into snapping this with my phone.)

I did a quick mental inventory. 
Name - Dots Wixon (check)
Address - a shitty rental in that place (check)
Son's name - Milobobilo (check)
Place of work - Revalucation Cycles (check)
Birthday - ohfuckI'mturningFORTYthisyear!!! (check)
Birthplace - Shatlanta (check)
President - thanks for making me wreck my bike Oh-bama! (check)

I knew all of it. 
But I still didn't know where the hell I was. Save that I was in...a place. On a trail. On my bike. (well... until recently)

I sat down... and tried to get my shit together. As much as I could account for.... I could not account for where I was... and why.
Phone calls ensued, and I sufficiently freaked out La Dorita with some confused jabber. Exchanged confused words with another rider, who seemed pretty ambivalent to my plight. ("Oh... here's your bar-end, by the way. I'm-a keep riding."
Slowly, things started to fall into place.

"Alright...I should figure out where exactly on this trail I am, so I can shortcut it back to the van and....
VAN! I have my van here! And I know where it is! It's in...that parking lot! By the field! Okay...I should look at that map to see if there's a faster way ba...
MAP! I have a map in my pocket!"
I pulled it out.

This place really does rule. It's the Warrior Creek of the Midwest.
I'll be back.

I found my trail instantly. Knew which direction I was headed and found the loop where my van was parked.
Then I read the words at the top of the map.
"Nashville, IN"

My legs went weak again and I felt tears in my eyes.... because... I was in... Indiana? Wh...why...
Why the fuck was I in Indiana?!

I had to sit down again.

Then I rallied. Fuck it. Let's just get back to the van and figure it out then.
By the time I got there, I had it pretty well in hand. A flowing cascade of thought opening door after door of memory. The van. I was in the van because I was traveling. I'd left Kentucky yesterday and was making my way to Madison, WI to see Tobie. As for why I was in Indiana?  I mean... it's almost no wonder I didn't know why. Because... there was no real rhyme or reason to my being there. It was just... where I ended up. Colonel Segal had mentioned good riding in the vicinity. So... That's where I headed.
And the very nature of the trip was... getting lost.

Boom. I got this shit.

This one is for Chris. Because he just informed me that too much werds without pikture isn't kool.
Dam. Bekuz werds is all I hav.

My kit was torn and bloody. Which sucked, because that was one of my favorites. Hey Chrome! Send me new! And my helmet, while still togetherish, was cracked all the way through in multiple places. When the handlebar caught on the tree, I had been slammed instantly to the ground... landing on my right side and TKOing myself in a pretty big way.

Concerned phone calls began to roll in.
My mom: "Are you ok, angel? I'm worried." (Sheeesh. Yeah, Mom.... I'm fine. (I hope))
My doctor cousin: "You definitely have a concussion. Don't be an idiot and hit your head again anytime soon. In my professional opinion... that would be really dumb." (Like... how dumb?)
Dorrit: "I'll be there in 9 hours." (That's fucking crazy. Don't do that. Wait... did you hit your head?)
My sister: "Not to freak you out...but judging by everything I've read online... blood is currently pooling in your brain and you are dying as we speak. Seriously." (...thanks, Jeannie...)

I changed, showered at the campground... and drove into Nashville, IN to eat some food at the brewery I'd stumbled upon last night... when I'd rolled into town expecting to find a Cracker Barrel Town. Instead I found this bizarre wonderland of young people and dogs. And tourists. I asked the pretty barmaid "Hey... quick question: Um... what the fuck is this place?" She laughed and explained that it's an artist community. And the closest thing to  "mountain town" that IN has. So people stick around. Huh. Well... I liked it. At least. I was pretty content sitting there with a beer and watching people.
When I rolled in this time, the place was insanebonkerstown. My temporal awareness was blown by travel and I'd forgotten that it was now the weekend. It was like trying to drive down the strip at Myrtle Beach during Labor Day weekend.
So... I turned around and drove toward Columbus, IN instead, deciding that it would probably be wise to get myself checked out. Especially since I was absolutely going to have a beer with dinner. And as far as I know... you're not supposed to drink when you have a concussion.
The Urgent Care place said they couldn't do anything for me and I should probably try the ER. "Fuck that. I'm not going to the ER, damnit." So I pulled up to another brewery and wolfed down a jagerschnitzel. Tentatively ordered a beer... and waited to see if I died.

In the meantime... I was blown away by this town too. There were a number of funky and unique little restaurants and businesses. A boutique hotel. And LGBT Pride banners hung along lampposts in the downtown.... alongside Domestic Violence Awareness Banners. How is it... that Columbus, IN... was more progressive than fucking Greensboro? Because it was.

Part of this entire trip... was trying to get some perspective on why Greensboro drains me the way it does. And why I look wistfully and yearningly at... everywhere. And why I refuse to grow roots.
And I'd like to say that I found that. But I can't. Instead... I returned more lost than ever. Riding in on the wake of that giant wave of melancholy... the one that always looms.

But we're not there yet.

That night I stayed at a Red Roof somewhere north of Columbus. Partly because there was no camping to be had anywhere... and if I was dying (thanks, Jeannie)... I didn't want to pass quietly into the night in some random abandoned parking lot and be that guy. And partly because La Dorita made me. I showered again... basking in the hot water... watched shitty hotel TV. And passed out...

I woke up with the most intense head-ache I've ever had. Moving quickly hurt. Everywhere.
I was ok.
But I was sufficiently sobered. I've never hit my head that hard before. Not enough to shake my memory loose and make my entire brain reboot.
But, I the same time, I feel like my memory is always fucked.
(Walk out of the house and realize I forgot my jacket. Walk back in... grab a bike. Realize I already have a bike outside. Bring bike back in. Forget why I'm standing in the house. Grab a backpack and try to put it on. Realize I'm wearing a bag already. But bag down and grab bike. Walk outside and realize....)
So... there's that.

Even when thinking hurts.

I made coffee in the parking lot and started my progress up toward Madison, WI, where I'd sup with Tobie DePauw and we'd sprawl our thoughts across life, love and the bicycle industry...
....and how we could maybe save it. The bicycle industry, I mean.

We could try, anyway.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Where you go?

I don't really know.

Some of you may have heard... but I set out last Tuesday afternoon in my van... with no real destination in mind save for "west."
The pins in my mental map were less physical points and more just nexuses of potential energy. 
I could ignore them... or unlock them. And there were so many. So many crossroads and divergent and convergent paths I could take.
It was overwhelming... in the best ways. Like an orgasm.

The reasons for the trip are many and varied. The most prominent being the burning need to travel. To step away from routines and patterns that were becoming confines. Not because of what they intrinsically and inherently are... but because that's what I've let them become. Stifling confines to creative thought and to forward momentum. A moebius strip of progress. A snake eating its tail. Going nowhere fast.

When the weather begins to turn, I always feel an oppressive melancholy. I do love autumn. But... it signifies the end of summer and for me, always reminds me that yet another year has gone by and my shit is everything and everywhere but together. Mayhaps this year's autumn oppresses a little more because in January I turn 40. On one level, that means nothing. On another... it means everything. (Profound)
And these... were the last days before the weather really turned. Before the trees lost all of their leaves and 5 months of brown begins. And I didn't want to spend that time digging the same ruts I've dug for years.

But outside of that... there was just opportunity. My son was out of town with his mom for the next two weeks. The shop was in the more than capable hands of Ben.
And well... have van, will travel.

And... of Tuesday, I had less than $200.00 in my bank account. And a credit card.
And...isn't this what you do when you're broke? Head west?
I could be broke at home... or broke on the road.

But before you think this is just me irresponsibly running away from the mountains and trenches of stress that I need to traverse and climb out of... let me tell you a little more about the WHY.
About the tipping point that made me get in the van and drive....

About a week before this walkabout... I heard that a shop was selling...or closing it's doors. Big Poppi's in Manhattan, KS. On one level, it's trivial news... because I don't live in the region and honestly know very little about the shop. And the why's of their sale and closing could be... anything.
But what I do see is yet another independent shop closing it's doors. A shop that was a strong player and advocate for all things that the IBD is and should be. And lately... I've seen too much of that... whatever form it takes.

So it galvanized this long standing thought in my head...that I wanted to travel... and see and talk with shops and with people. We could have candid conversations with no agenda...that could sprawl over everything we do and unearth some truths. No contrived questions about strengths and weaknesses and direction. Just... talk.

And then... time to myself. Where routine didn't cloud my mind. Where I could wrap my head a little more solidly around the things I was trying to put in place and figure out. Whether it's from behind the wheel... on a road I've never driven.... from behind the handlebars on a trail I've never ridden... or sitting at a bar in a town I've never visited.

Sadly... my time is limited. And as always, I will not get to go half of the places I want or need. Or see half the people I should.
But I'll take it.
I have this absurdly stupid thing I say sometimes... often when I'm riding...and I roll into a vista or view or moment that represents everything about WHY I'm out there on my bike.
"I accept this."

This trip... as imperfect as it is....

I accept it.

I'll tell you more soon. And there's a lot to tell.
But for now? Just come drink with me. Wherever I am.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thong Fever: Interbike Part One.

As I sat sipping incredibly delicious coffee on the outside patio of Mon Ami Gabi... beneath a facade of Eifel Tower... enjoying the sky and eavesdropping...and watching a parade of people as good as anything I'd seen in the real Paris.. (but of a very different breed)... I saw it happen.
And while it wasn't surprising, given where I was... I was still caught off guard.
I saw her first. A striking young woman in her early thirties at most. With long electric blue hair. Skinny and svelte... of indeterminate, but exotic and beautiful ethnicity. As she boldly sauntered her way down the teeming sidewalk, my eyes and the eyes of many were very much drawn to her.
I saw him next. A tall, paunchy schlub of a man. Mid 50's. Unlike the meatheads and methheads and eurpoeans and elderly and families... he was notable only for his blandness. Head down... walking with a defeated and deflated shuffle. Unlike her, who confidently sized up everyone she passed....his eyes engaged no one. One foot in front of the other seemed as much engagement as he could take.
As they passed, ten feet from where I sat, I heard the girl say something, but couldn't make it out. Two words at most.
The man continued on, but his gait slowed. He proceeded ten feet, head still down, losing momentum until he stopped... and continued to stare at the sidewalk in front of him. He stayed this way for a good ten seconds, the wheels in his head obviously turning. And then... slowly... he turned his head and looked back.
There she was. Standing twenty feet away. Arms crossed. A coy but assured side-smile on her face.
He slowly about-faced... and walked toward her. And without missing a beat, she slipped her arm through his... and they headed down the sidewalk together. Together... toward... somewhere.

And...while I knew her game. And I knew his plight. I still had a momentary pang, wishing there was someone across the table from me. Someone to touch their foot against mine. Someone to smile at me. Someone I could saunter down the sidewalk with...arm in arm. Together... toward... somewhere.

It was 8:30am in the morning.

At least I had this rugged lad to snuggle with for the week.


Dear ____________
I have this nagging and troubling feeling that I not only saw you at Cross Vegas, but that I also talked to you. And the fact is... that I had imbibed enough beer and whiskey at this point, that my very soul was drunk. So I feel it necessary to apologize, humbly and profusely, for anything and everything that I must have said. ( was witty and charming: a happenstance that bends the very physics that govern this universe.) Because none of it could have been worth any of the time you very politely gave me. Hence the wary half-smile you flashed me as you walked (very) briskly past me the next day. It's possible, of course, that I am mistaken...and that the glimmers of conversation I remember with you are merely splinters of Interbike whiskey-dreams... fueled by passing greetings, internet friendships, industry schmingling, and... did I mention... whiskey? If indeed, I am mistaken, and I did not, in fact, accost you with insane drunkety-jabber...then once again, please let me humbly apologize for even broaching it, and possibly discomfiting you even more. But if I did...sigh... then do please forgive me for being even a small part of the drunken-man-plague that is Interbike.
I...hope things are well with you... and look forward to apologizing next year.


So....Did it happen?
Maybe? I honestly don't know. But I do know that I felt a slight hitch of inquietude when I saw ________ walk by the next day, as a sudden flash of small and disjointed memories flickering through my head. And she very much did give me a wary half-smile as she passed by. I could have been mistaken, of course. Maybe it was a warm and friendly smile. A "Hey...good to see you last night" smile. But...well...  I've never been one to assume that I'm being given anything but "stranger danger" looks by anyone.
Rightly so...
Because no girl wants a man sobbing into their shoulder about "the ghosts."
Fuck. Me.

And to clarify... I wasn't untoward or licentious... that much I DO know. That's not a place I go. But I suspect that I wasn't engaging in the ways I would prefer to be remembered. With anyone.
Disappoint, all the way around.

Thus it begineth...

There was no beer on the Swagman bus. But there was tequila... and whiskey... and beer. (Yes. I know what I just said.) The beer was ensconced in our backpacks. And in my body. And when the red cup in my hand was filled with brown juice... sigh...
I blame Joanna.
Joanna's awesomeness is inversely proportionate to my photographic ineptness.
So you know she rules.
How the hell I managed to get the bottle and the cup and myself into CrossVegas is still a mystery, as they were very much sizing people up and checking bags. And my Mission Workshop bag had multiple cans and bottles in its many pockets. But...I just confidently sauntered up, like my blue haired lady...opened ONE compartment...(the one that did not contain said beers and brown)... and walked in. Twice.

I remember stumbling down a hill toward the Raleigh VIP area... and the rest is blurry. If not... black.

Endless Shanna and I discussed this as we lunched with Chris and Dar at a neighborhood restaurant before heading to the airport on Sunday. Getting blackout drunk and how we may or may not behave during this time. And who is it that inhabits our body and mind during such times?

It's this guy... ennit?
Yith... yith it ith.

We came up with nothing... save for the sincere hope that we aren't just drooling and jibbering fools during such times. That, maybe... we're even everything we always wanted to be? Maybe?
Sigh... who am I kidding.
I'm a mess.
But unlike other times, where I've shut down... face resting against a brick wall between parked cars... this time I was a drunkernaut of goodwill and social ineptitude.

Nick and Spencer of Le Ritte still love me, though.

And Brian still thinks I'm worthy.

And Dax was at least as destroyed as me.

And...I took this?

Joyful Reunion.


I absolutely remember talking to John. Thanking him profusely for the ride he gave me to CrossVegas last year. A thing I hadn't done yet. Which chagrined me, because I really did appreciate it. We laughed about being unable to find his truck in the garage... and the shitshow that ensued post-race... and about all being shatavists in our own right. (I actually have no idea what we laughed about, but at least he's smiling in that picture, so I must not have said anything too acerbic.)
And I remember talking to Britton. Twice. At least. Each time being the first for me. There is no fucking telling what I said... but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm quietly and unceremoniously removed from his blogroll.

"How do you know this guy again, Brit?"
"I honestly have no clue. But if we don't survive this.... I love you."

And then... as ritual dictates... I caught a ride with Spencer and a motley assortment of friends, including Anna Schwinn, Dan Green, Nick and... I don't know.
And then I was home.
Yeah. That's what I call Rumor Boutique. Home.

(late edit: The title is taken from a song that I previously couldn't find to include. I've since found it. Maybe when you're done reading, make you're way up here and give it a listen. Maybe. )

I'd fucked up this year. Waited too long to book my room. By the time I was on top of it, all of the on strip hotels were ludicrously expensive. So I waited and watched. The ones within my price range were Hojos and Comfort Inn's. I even considered a hostel. You know... because I'm a teenager. But this one place kept popping up... and the price kept dropping. And finally... I booked a room at Rumor.
I had misgivings... but it was fine. The room was clean. The shower was nice. The decor was... a thing.

Their picture.
My picture.
Can you spot the differences?
That's right... mine is blurry. Good eye.

It was just under three miles from Mandalay Bay.. a distance that can destroy when you're walking to and from the show each day... in addition to however far you walk IN the show. But.. it was cheap enough that I could fly my Nature Boy out and still come out way ahead. And since I was very much solo... having a bike to ramble about town seemed perfect. 

I'll tell you more about that next time. But for the moment... let's talk about socks. 
I started seeing pictures of this year's socks before I even knew what I was looking at. Outrage was exploding before I could even unpack my bike and ride it to breakfast.  I watched it unfold... considered weighing in. And just sat on it. Because fuck... I was in Vegas for Interbike. Engaging people on the internet was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to go ride bikes in the desert and see my friends. Not count likes and parry commentary.
But here we are. 
This... was the sock that Save Our Soles opted for this year.

I guess it did't register. My first thought when I saw this was "They can do this on a sock? Well how come my simple fucking logo always manages to look wonky?"
I shrugged that it wasn't a sock I'd ever wear... never considering the implications to the industry, save that it was just one more example of how boring and tasteless it still is. And that I can surround myself with all of the cool people I want... and listen to Lady Sinatra absolutely destroy it with them.. I can seek out all the cool brands I want. The ones that I think are doing good things. But that in the end... it's all still a fucking Limp Bizkit song. A Kardashian sister. A Trump combover. A 13.1 sticker. A wicking Izod shirt on a paunchy married middle aged man who doesn't get the hint when the pretty tattooed girl in the booth tells him to stop staring at her chest and fuck off.
I took it for granted. Maybe in part because I walked by this billboard twice a day for seven days.

Temptation at Luxor.
Ask Stevil why he doesn't get in the water at Luxor anymore.

And because I've never minded sex or skin. If anything... I'm drawn to it like a moth. And I was seeing skin everywhere. Skin on socks wasn't on my mind.
And maybe it still isn't. Because maybe there are bigger battles. And better examples.
But...maybe not. Maybe something as mundane as a sock really is a great barometer for how low we've sunk as an industry.

Or's just a fucking sock.
But here's the thing. Whatever it is....taking it for granted isn't ok.

And when a woman raises her voice and tries to tell you something.. even if you don't agree....
You fucking listen.

Whether she's telling you that the systems of rampant sexism that you have in place are not ok and will not be tolerated.... and that No means No.

Or whether she's telling you to "stop being a fucking pussy."

You listen.
And if you don't.... you're a cock.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hard Road to Follow

Agony and the Ecstacy
"FUCK!!!!" I screamed.
It burst out of me less as the hoarse, angry bark I intended. And more as a shrill, high-pitched yap.

But I still meant it.

Then... I hoisted the bike over my head... and threw it bodily into the woods, punctuating the act with another "FUCK!!!" This time at a respectable octave.
Still frothing at the mouth, and with spittle running down my chin, I yelled at the bike, now lying prone in the woods, to "FUCK OFF!!!" and threw two middle fingers at it.

You know. I can't say that I've ever thrown a bike-tantrum. Ever. Sure... I've been frustrated. Flats. Wheel dings. No brakes. Shitty nutrition. Shitty fitness. But I usually just sigh, shake my head and say "Seriously...what did I expect? This is me we're talking about. I mean... really?"
This time...something just snapped. Which is particularly ironic (is it? I forget) because I went into the race with a nonchalance that bordered on nihilism. There is no race. And even if there was, it's all meaningless.

I kind of know what it was....that thing that pushed me over the edge. But I'm still processing it. Trying to figure out why it meant anything at all.. because I'd gone into the race caring so very little. And honestly, it's a toss-up between two things:
It was either when the guy with the knee-high compression sleeves passed me...
...or when the guy with no shirt passed me.

Two very different sides of a coin that I'd rather flick at someone's head than use as currency.

But we're not there yet.

The Number of the Beast
Here is Wisdom.
Let Him that hath understanding count the number of the beast.
For it is the number of a man.
And his number is Nine after Six.
                                            -Cunnilingus 13:18

This would be year... something for me and Shenandoah. I don't actually know what number. But complicated calculations determined that it was the sixth year that La Dorita has stowed away and joined me. Which just seems insane. If only because it was one more reminder of how long we've been in Greensboro. And of how old we are. And of... all the things. Life's complicated, you know?

Once again, a stop at Blue Mountain Brewing, where we sampled beer and sized everyone up...playing a game of "Hey... See that guy/girl... Would you?"
(ohmygod, you would?! Gross!)
Then on to Stokesville, where we drove a few circles around the campground before deciding on a spot far from the madding crowd. The van was set up, then down to the swimming hole before getting to it.

Dorrit went to volunteer. And me? I just went and found people to get drunk't with. Which happened in pretty short order, as the kegs were hooked up. Naturally I found Rich up there, along with a motley assortment of usual and unusual suspects.
A very casual perusal of who was there and who was running singlespeed had me once again performing in an off-podium production of whatever race it was that I'd shown up for. As per usual. But whatever.. As I mentioned to Rich while we poured our many beers... what did it matter? 5th, 6th, 7th or 11th. We were still character-actors in this Hollywood motion picture.
Yeah... maybe we could snag some semblance of a lead in an indy flick. Wes Anderson if we were lucky... Lars Von Trier if we weren't.
But the fact was... we were either just comic relief or dramatic foils here to flesh out the story.

Shoogs getting some Buck love.

Mike Comer: I'm stwong! Wike the Hulk!

I wish I was stwong! Wike the Hulk!

At this point, even Dar couldn't follow what Shoogs was saying. Born and bred in Queens, NY or not.

Wait.. who is this guy? Was he mentioned in the pre-race brief? He wasn't, was he?
So seriously... who is he?

Don't you have science to be doing, you drunk fool?

Luckily, Shaggy wasn't racing tomorrow. So I had 12th place in the bag.

Once upon a time, long the idle evening hours before a edict was pronounced of 6 after 9. I believe Shoogs was the orator responsible. 6 beers after 9pm.
By this time, math was getting fuzzy, and the only beer still on tap was a Saison... which, sadly, I found to be a great deal less palatable than the delicious pale ale. But while me may not have managed six after nine.... we absolutely managed nine after six. #nineaftersix. Or twelve after twelve. #twelveaftertwelve. Which, considering the gravity of what we were imbibing, is respectable. Or not... because... Why? We stayed up later than we should have and upon retiring, I'm told that I took many unintentional detours en route to the van. Most of them simply a meandering stumble in various directions.

The morning brought... well...exactly what you'd expect. It wasn't a Watts Fappening hangover... but it wasn't a walk in the park. Coffee. A bagel. A rice cake.
And then....after one extremely unsatisfying bowel movement, we were off.

Damn. I shouldn't have chamois-buttered yet.

Hard Road to Follow
The beginning went decently well. It wasn't until about mile 5 that I really started to feel the hangover. I was sweating. So much. And not a "it's hot out here and I'm working hard" sweat.. even though I was. More like... "ugh...meat sweats." I felt my legs give tell-tale cramp twitches (Well shit. Already?) and my stomach gave me a "Hey man....we might have to poop soon. And by 'might' I mean 'absofuckinglutely.'Just letting you know" nudge.


This was one of the first years I was really showing up with some semblance of fitness. Not race fitness, mind any stretch. But just general fitness. For the first time in what seemed like years, I'd gotten the chance to get out and ride. Mostly on my Ritte Snob. And on those days, I'd just go and try to get as lost as possible. Usually for a hundred or so miles.  Trying to reconnect with the bike and with the terrain. It was working. But inevitably... as lovely and lonely as the places I found were... all the things I'd worked through would accumulate like clouds as I rolled back into Greensboro. This... is not a pretty city. And don't misunderstand what I mean by "pretty." I'll ride by abandoned and decrepit buildings all day. But the moment I roll though generic suburbs and homogenous houses... I just feel... deflated. But that's a rant for another time.

That fitness... was frustrating. Because it meant fuck all.

The amount of pressure I put in my tires was also frustrating.

"Oh shit," I said, pulling my bike off the rack for the first time since I'd arrived yesterday... just minutes away from the start. "I totally forgot to air up my tires." It was dark at the car, and I didn't have a headlamp... but I could see the little arrow on the pump gauge. The one that is usually set at 20psi.
I'm going to guess that constantly pulling it down and putting it away was what was responsible for moving the arrow to somewhere around 30. And trying to be smart (smrt), I erred on the high side. You know... to make sure what happened at Wilderness 101 didn't happen again.

Yeah. Remind me to tell you about that.
Wilderness... you're a dick.
So I started the race with somewhere around 35 psi in the tires...of my rigid hard tail.
It was great until we hit the first descent and I couldn't control the bike for shit. Then I refused to let any pressure out, because my math said that the time it took to do so would actually be greater than the time I lost careening off rocks. Until finally...I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't keep my hands on the grips anymore, couldn't see the trail, and my brain was in danger of coming out of my mouth.
And don't even talk to me about my bowels. Or how I knew that if I crashed, even a little... I would shit myself so dramatically that legends would be told for centuries.
Needless to say, my time on most of the descents was beyond miserable.

I often tell myself, "I wouldn't be any faster if I ran a suspension fork."
This... is a lie.
I'd forgotten how unforgiving some of the descents at Shenandoah can be. Especially on a rigid. Especially at 35psi. But I've always liked the aesthetic of a rigid singlespeed. And the fact is... I just don't own a suspension fork... and have no real interest in buying one. So... onward and downward. Painfully, as it were.

Punk's Not Dead... It Just Deserves to Die...
My war with the compression sleeved SSer began at the bottom of the second descent. Where it transitions from gnarly to fun and back to a little gnarly...then fun. Where he came up behind me and said something along the lines of "I'm totally railing this descent!" That alone was irksome, my non-"railing" of said descent aside. Just because..."Railing." Ugh.
Then I let him around, saw that he was SS. Rigid. And wearing compression sleeves on his calves.
And I cried.
It harkened back to the discussion Thom and I were having the night before. About everything becoming a "TRI" or "13.1" sticker. I'd say that "SS" is coming. But we all know that already happened. SS is dead, remember?

"Punk's not dead... it just deserves to die, when it becomes another stale cartoon."
                                                                                                         -Jello Biafra
Fuck. Have we become a stale cartoon? And is it stagnation? Or dilution?

Though honestly... come on...punk is totally dead. It died when Tooth & Nail Records killed it. Here's to a day when it pushes a rock aside and rises. And to a day when the word "truth" doesn't mean "bullshit."
Sorry...what were we talking about?

I forget where the shirtless rider passed me. But when he did my entire race changed. I didn't care about my time (I was pretty sure I'd break 9 hours, regardless). I didn't care about my place (6th, 7th, 11th, whatever....) All I cared about was coming in ahead of both of those riders.


I don't know. I don't that I can even begin to explain it. Not in the coherent, manner I'd like. If there even is such a thing, because the more I think about it, the more flustered and confounded I get. Why do I care if some guy wearing no shirt... work gloves... basketball shorts... and dress socks pulled to different heights beats me in the singlespeed category? I mean... If I was dressed like that, I'd think it was hilarious. But... he wasn't dressed that way because it was hilarious. He just...was.

So... when I started riding bikes, I consistently wore a tshirt and cut-off shorts. I never ascribed to an "aesthetic." If anything, I shunned it. When I finally discovered shorts with a chamois, I wore them UNDER my cutoffs. I had this tshirt I bought at a thrift store. It was for Semac Truck Brakes and said "them's the brakes" on the back. I did the Athens Twilight Crit in that tshirt in 1990something...striking my toe-clip pedals in every turn and making many a Cat 5 rider shit their pants. Then I bought a....
Fuck. You know what? This is too big a topic to cram into this post. And it's another post entirely that I've been meaning to write. Aesthetics and cliches. Charisma vs Substance. Punks vs skins. Mods vs Rockers. Things vs Stuff.

And for the moment, anyway...I think I just put my finger on it. At least a good part of it. This guy. This kid...(because he was young)...He reminds me of me, long ago. And the thing about me is... rarely is there a moment that I don't want to beat the everliving shit out of myself.
And being beat by myself in a race? Well... now that is completely unacceptable.

I also just discovered that he is Russian. Which makes absolute sense! In all the ways.

Life's A Dirty Rat
It was when the guy at aid-station 4 told me that I was in 5th place... and that there was a cell of SS riders just ahead. That was when things went awry. I should have stuck with my "so what?" plan. But instead... I let myself be coaxed into that moment of expectation. "I have some fitness... maybe I should try to catch them. Holy shit! Maybe I can snag third?!"
The answer is, of course, NO. But...
So... I turned myself inside out for a little while. Put a lot of distance on the people I wanted to. Passed a rider or two. And could see riders tell-tale SS-grinding up hills just ahead of me. Was that Scott? Oh man.
And then... coming down one of the last hills... something speared my tire and I was spattered with Stan's sealant. I thought it might seal on it's own... and it came close... but I lost too much pressure. And... the ONE thing I'd forgotten to bring to the race was a CO2 inflater. I had plenty of cartridges... but no head. So I threw a tube in... watching at least two SS riders fly by as I worked my ass off to put 20 psi in a tire.
Then I rolled fifty feat down the trail... and flatted again. Apparently whatever speared my tires was still in there. This time... I was fucked. Because I had no more tubes. I watched them all ride by. All of them.
At which point... I lost it.
It was a culmination of all the things, really. All of them. Manifesting itself as rage at that moment. And set off by the disappointment of having worked so hard, of having suffered so brutally for some late-made goal....only to have it all mean fuck all. I threw the bike. Cussed. Spit. Flicked it off. Told it to fuck off.
Then... like a pouty child, I stomped into the woods, and dragged it out, hauling it petulantly by the front wheel. Resorting to screaming hulk yanks when it would snag on a branch. Then I rolled it down the hill, and watched it endo its way into the woods... riderless.
I grabbed it again, and alternated between running and walking down the hill until Mike finally rode by and threw me a tube, witnessing one final, querelous huffy-toss on my part.

To be sure. I could have used a hard slap at that moment. Because something had and was unfolding that day that should have put it all into very shameful perspective.

By the time I limped over the line, I had fallen back to 10th place.
I rolled across the line just under 9 hours. Which would have been fine... but now I felt dumb. About everything.

We all went swimming...drank beer... got drunk... celebrated our victories (Dahn) and mediocrites (me). Got interviewed. Rubbed our legs. Pulled up our socks. Laughed. Fought.

H-Ball and Shoogs.

Watts deep Podium. Again.
Congrats to Dahn Pahrs who worked his ass off for a well deserved victory.

Whiskey and champagne.

Dicky creeping on my interview. 
Update: Interview is up.
Or you can watch me squirm during Dicky's.

As we sprawled out on the grass celebrating and struggling... there were whispers that someone had died out on the course that day. No one knew anything, so we couldn't confirm it. And no one knew what to do or say. What DO you do or say? For many reasons... my mirth had gone anyway... and wasn't coming back. I retired early. Ghosting without ever saying goodbye to my friends.

It turns out that a rider did, indeed die. The result of a crash. His name was Ross Hansen and he was from Long Island, NY. From what I'm told, he was, on every level, a solid individual with infectious enthusiasm. I will never dare to say that dying in the pursuit of something you love is worthwhile... because dying, however we do it... is always a tragedy. And the pain that accompanies it... for everyone... is impossible to assuage with some trite summation about the pursuit of those moments before...the moment.
But dying... while living... while not idly sitting still and watching while the things you want pass by... however we do it...
There is no other way.
What I'm struggling to say is...don't let those moments and things you want pass by while you hide from death.
Because all the restraint and control in the world won't keep you from dying. But it might keep you from living.

Here's to Ross.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Where You Been?

I was 80 miles into a 70 mile ride...and still 50 miles from home. I didn't know those specific numbers at the time, because I stubbornly refuse to use any kind of cycling computer...(No Gramin No Ruels)....but I knew I'd gone a long way...and that I still had a long way to go.
By this time I'd intentionally deviated from my very roughly plotted course (North East... or like...whatever...) numerous times, simply to see where roads took me...roads that turned to dirt and smelled like rivers. And I'd lost count of how many times I'd been forced to take the "long way"... encountering closed bridges and dead ends. One road allegedly connected to another, but after transitioning from pavement to gravel to dirt... it ended at a trailer in what seemed the final stages of falling down. Eyeing the two large dogs standing sentry at the overgrown trail that forged onward, passing within feet of the dilapidated and crumbling trailer...And looking dubiously at my rear wheel, with its cracked hub flange, missing and entwined spokes... its pronounced and troublesome wobble... the wheel that had broken 20 miles ago and I'd still doggedly refused to head home....I grimaced and turned around... backtracking five miles to try and find yet another way.

Because...what was another five miles in a day this long? Save for being just five more miles of pensive introspection.
Five more miles of trying to stave off that ever present dagger that lives in the brain... that presses itself against skin and vein... that tells you your very presence in the lives of the people you know and love is, and always will be, nothing less than toxic. And that everyone would fare much better... if you just kept riding... If you would just disappear down that overgrown jeep trail and never emerge. where I been.

Why?...Where you been?

For the most part, I ride alone. Some of it is circumstantial... my variable schedule rarely meshing with other people's. But much of it is intentional. Make no mistake, I loathe my own company. After 30 minutes of listening to the inanity and insanity that is my inner monologue, I'm ready to punch myself unconscious. (Yeah. It's happened before.) .
That's when I pedal harder. Until that inner voice is gasping for air. Until ghosts are just more headwind that I have to plunge through.
I'll never train for shit. But I'll ride myself into the kind of knots that leave me drooling and dragging for days.

Don't get me wrong. I love riding with friends. I love laughing and telling insane stories and swapping filthy jokes and making relentless fun of each other and everyone else. Of trying to beat the everloving shit out of each other on every hill or county line sign we come to. But I guess what I'm getting at is... the things that I want and need to get out of riding my bike... are things that often need to be done alone.
If I ignore those things during the day... they just come back at night. In force.

And I suspect that some of you get that.

And the ones who don't...
Well.... chances are they're the ones who don't return your friendly greeting out on the trail. They're the ones who come barreling toward you, barely in control of their expensive bikes. The ones who don't yield when they should... who don't smile and wave back when they should... who don't get a clue when they should. They're the ones who pat themselves on the back for being legends-in-their-own-minds... when they should be kicking themselves in the ass for being washed-up-has-beens.

As much fun as it is... if the bike isn't teaching you humility... you're doing it wrong.
And for me... if I'm not out there beating the shit out of a few ghosts... or myself... then I'm lost. And not the way I want or need to be.

I think...that getting lost is kind of the only way to really find those things that mean something.

So...go get lost. And end up some places you've never seen or been. On the road, in the woods and in your head.

Like... for serious.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Erect? Whynot Climax?

When I hit Climax, I was alone.
I'd been alone for a while... breathing hard....pouring sweat... occasionally making involuntary noises. I'd either abandoned or been abandoned by all of my partners and was now just going at it alone. You know... really punishing myself.

It hadn't started out that way. There had been a messy tangle of us, all working together. Then things got hard, really quick. I was, I admit, the first one to Erect. I was feeling frisky. It all went south from there.

Whew... that's a good start. I got all hot telling that story. But... I'm not feeling particularly frisky right now. Nor particularly clever. I guess I kind of blew my load earlier. Heh.

This entire ride was ridiculous, obviously....based on nothing more than stringing a few towns together. Towns with names that would force even the most reserved rider to crack a joke when you rode through. In much the same way you might moo at a cow as you ride past a field... and then immediately feel slightly stupid. "Shit. Was I just that guy?"

I'm told that this graphic alone, name notwithstanding, was the impetus for some noted cases of unfriending.
I call it "weeding out."

Initially my plan had been to ride from Horneytown to Climax. But damn if going from Horneytown to Climax isn't just a giant fucking mess. (Heh.) I tried to come up with an appropriate route a few times, but would always get frustrated with either the amount of traffic, or with how generally ugly the ride was. So one Saturday, Eric Morrison was having some post-ride beers in the shop and I told him my plan. Before I knew it, he had all the towns in NC with slightly off-kilter names pulled up on his phone. 
The rest, as they say... is me on a hilltop with fifteen girls.
(Or guys... such as it was. And it was closer to 50.)

This year.... I've become a cyclist again. The way I want. 
Not that I'd stopped being one before. But too much time at the shop and other obligations were making it difficult. And more than that... I'd just stopped loving the bike. Or... I loved it... but the way you love your spouse. The one who sleeps in another room and yells at you too much. The one who gives you grief for going riding instead of spending time together... and then spends that time together enumerating all of the things you're doing wrong. 
I absolutely still loved it. It just made me sad.

But this year... 
A large part of it was the shop. Finally getting to do at least some of the things I wanted. 

A large part of it was staff. Finally having a crew that really lets me step away when I want. (Thanks Ben.)

And a large part of it was this bike.

The last custom Ritte Snob built. 
It was years in the making. Lost for a while. Then found. Then hanging in my shop as I dealt with other things. 
Then finally built and ridden. And ridden again. And again. And again. And again.

It was early 90's when I got my first real road bike. It was a Bridgestone RB-1. And fuck...I fucking loved that bike. I got so monumentally lost on it too many times to count. Riding north and turning onto any road that looked halfway interesting. Toeclips. Bar end shifters. 25c tires. I would look at a gazateer for a few minutes... then start riding. When I hit the Virginia state line I would turn around. Often hitting the Va line a few more times as my internal compass failed me spectacularly. 
When it got hot, I would take my tshirt off (yes... tshirt) and tie it around my stem. 
I liked riding with people, but  mostly liked riding by myself. Because then I wouldn't have to stop and wait for them. Or I could take that wrong turn without them flipping the fuck out. 
That's what I missed... and that's what I've been getting back to. 
And's restarted my love affair with the bike. And I am ever a fan of love affairs.

I rode the Snob down to Erect... over to Whynot... and on to Climax... and said, "this is good." 
The rest, as they say... is me naked with textbook poems.

I was pretty surprised by the turnout. I'd anticipated 20ish people. Friends and friends of the shop. There weren't going to be shorter options. It was all the way or nothing. But... pretty soon word got out and people I didn't know were talking about showing up.
Fuck... DICKY was actually going to drive up from Charlotte to do a road ride. A road ride. Which equated to roughly two weeks of bitching about how much he hates road riding. Nevermind that he made it his job. But... there's an allure...even when we don't understand it. 
 Like a kid with a boner.... Unsure how to process it or what it means.
("Why does that girl in my class make me want to roll around on the floor with my pants off?")

There's no doubt that roadies are obnoxious and dumb. But riding a road bike... is good. Especially if you let it take you to those places you want. Even if it's not a paved road.

#grabble #tinylittlerocks #unpavelearnment #didyouknowthatvitamingisactuallyamineral #wattsisadick
50+ riders rolled out of the shop at roughly the correct starting time, the heat already building quickly. 
I made a few announcements... trying to intimate that despite the penile nature of the ride, there were to be no dicks, so ride accordingly. That and a vague announcement about a possible road closing...something we would deal with when we crossed that bridge. Or not, as it happened... the bridge being out.

The start had me more nervous than anything. Big groups inevitably mean creating an impassable rolling vexation for motorists. And as much as I don't give a fuck... I do. Even as a very consientious cyclist, it's never fun to get stuck behind a slow moving mass of riders. We pissed a few people off and got out of town.

And made our way to Erect. 
A few racers from East NC had showed up and kept the pace high and fun. I stroked it a little going up a hill and tried to get it hard rolling into Erect. I was the first one there, crossing the arbitrary line I had made up in my head. 
So... I pretty much won.

I had this lingering fear that the store in Erect would be closed, having never ridden through on a Sunday. 
Sure enough, it was, but there was a spigot, so we were ok. We were supposed to back off heading into Whynot, but the group got split. I was just putzing along, jabbering to Rich and others and didn't notice. 
My intention was to finish with the lead group, but felt a little compelled to make sure everyone was doing ok. The folks near me said they needed a store stop, so we detoured over to one. I started getting antsy. The other group wasn't here. Which meant they were rolling up the road, probably briskly. I needed to be with them. But I also needed to make sure everyone wasn't dead. 
Eventually, when the group rolled out, I announced that I was going to try and catch the lead group. 
I put my head down and took off... working decently hard. 
I hit Climax alone... sigh...
Then I ran into Gardner, who had taken a wrong turn. A few people had. Turns out that whoever had written up the cue sheet had put a wrong turn on there. A RIGHT on Coleridge was marked as a LEFT. 
A litany of "FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!" on my part, and putting my head down to ride even harder. 
Apparently some people had gone over 25 miles off course. This had actually shortened the ride, but still. I was admittedly a little curious as to how they went that far down the wrong road... the turn that followed Coleridge being not even a mile down the road.... I probably would have turned around when I didn't hit it. But...I'm also a guy who ignores cue sheets, so I can understand. 
Everyone made it back safely. 

To this

...all of which had been graciously set up by this lady.
Eventually everyone else left and Rich, Bill Nye and I stayed.

Ryan had worked a 12 hour shift at the Nukular place before jumping in the car with Rich and riding 113 miles. 

"This is your Tinder profile, isn't it Watts?"
When it was dark, we made our way to my house, let Mango growl at Ryan until they were best friends... and went to a bar down the street for more beer. 

Then we came home and passed out. 

Sleep well, little prince. 

Methinks that Erect? Whynot Climax? will become an annual shitshow. 
Yeah.. there are some things that need to be done differently... but I'll work on my technique. 
Faster, slower, harder, gentler... more lube... being a little more attentive to the needs of others.

The thing is... I can get to Climax by myself any time. But getting someone else there? That's the fun part. 

(yeah... I've used that one before. Suck it.)