Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Everyday I Start To Lose.

Sorry. Monday's post turned to Wednesday's turned to Friday's turned to Monday's turned to....whatever....
As verbose as I tend to be... no one could ever accuse me of being prolific. Much like my son and his spontaneous and, more often than not, extremely urgent need to poop at inopportune times... the words come out of me when they're ready. Trying to force it just results in numb legs and a hemorrhoid.

Admittedly... a large part of my tardiness also comes from having read Stevil and BikeSnob. It put me in a "why do I even try?" kind of place.

(conversation used without Stevil's permission and all money generated by its use spent on drugs and women and guns
... and I don't even like guns. Or drugs. Or women. I only like Jesus.)

But there's a little bit of scratching at the back door. I suppose I might as well see if it wants out. And there are at least five people who barely want to hear about Vegas...

Obeying the very much non-linear trajectory of my thoughts, and doing everything I can to ignore that place my brain wants to be, we're going to start somewhere in the middle and work our way nowhere. Indulge me.

Hey... so remember how I said I was totally going to win Cross Vegas... even if I didn't win?
Well, the reality appears to be that I totally lost... even while I was totally losing.
I never rode hard enough to make anything of the race... And I never had an excuse not to ride hard.
It was pretty much the worst of all worlds.

Let's go ahead and get the excuses out of the way.
1) I never had any intention of making Cross Vegas a race of any kind. If I left zone one, I was going to be a little pissed at myself. (Spoiler alert: I was beyond pissed.)

2) I was not riding a race bike of any kind. I was riding a Swobo Accomplice with a pair of  42mm Happy Mediums instead of the stock slick. Caliper brake. Riser bar. It's a totally kick ass bike, and I ride the everloving shit out of it on any road, singletrack, railroad bed, grassy field, or bum trail around... and enjoy it tremendously. But a lightweight race bike of  any kind, it is not. If they'd let me use the Scofflaw I'm sure it would have been another story. Yep. Totally sure.

3) By Wednesday, I'd already spent the past two days riding bikes as many hours as possible in the desert, and hydrating almost exclusively with beer. I peed once the day leading up to the race, and it was the color (and consistency) of desert rocks. (I'm only kind of kidding.)

And finally,
4) I just kind of suck. Period. Which is less of an excuse and more of a universally held truth.          

Seriously. Ask anyone.
Photo cred: Brian Mark
Getting to the race was a bit of a shitshow. I said that I don't really sweat race-prep too much (at all), but as the moment neared, I was starting to feel a little anxious. Mostly just about even getting to the venue. When I finally had the bike in my possession, Murph and I scrambled around, trying to find the Lezyne booth and borrow a pedal tool. (As you can tell, we were totally prepared.) Finally locating our quarry and utilizing one of the shiny display tools, I walked by the Acre booth and bumped into Ty Hathaway.
Asking if he was racing, he said, "No. But John's about to drive out there. Maybe you could ride with him?"
Awesome. Who's John?

So... John Prolly gave me a ride out to Cross Vegas...
....and he was actually super fucking nice.
He waited patiently while I grabbed my bike and gear from the total other side of the convention hall. Then he totally bailed my ass out when the attendant refused to let me leave the showfloor with the bike, pulling out his exhibitor badge and a silver tongue. And then he hauled my sorry ass out there when he totally didn't have to.... blasting Bongripper and Electric Wizard as loud as the shitty speakers in his truck would allow.

You know... I give John shit for a lot of reasons.

For one, I've met him multiple times before and he always acts like he has no fucking clue who I am (Incidentally, the answer to which is: fucking nobody....)

For another, he deserves it. I mean... he does. You know it and I know it. Just as I deserve all the shit I get for being the monumental fuck-up that I am and you deserve all the shit I hope you get. ("Grendel's had an accident. So may you all.") Getting shit just makes you better at what you do. It's a scientific fact.

And for another... come on....the dude is killing it. I mean... If my job... my paying job... was to travel around, ride bikes with my friends, take photographs, and write about it all on my own blog... in my own format... then I'd say I'd pretty much upgraded to Pro.
Whether I deserved to or not.
And when you're a pro... being heckled is part of the game.

(And for another... he didn't respond to my friend request, like... four years ago. Dick.)

Thing is, there's a ton of different kind of people in the pro category. Some of them are super talented. Some of them work really hard. Some of them have cheated or faked their way in. Some are the true definition of "professional," handling themselves with poise and dignity even when shit crumbles around them... and some are whiny shits who always think they didn't get a fair shake.
I don't know....I guess the question is: What kind of pro do you want to be?
Me? I'm pretty stoked about not being a pro.

But my point is... I ate a little crow that night. I really did appreciate it.

By now you might have heard about the shitshow that happened at CrossVegas this year.
I don't know. At this point it's no longer even pertinent.
Apparently some folks threw beer on Van der Haar and some of the other pros? And apparently John was involved. And apparently there were tweets on blogs on facebook that got retweeted and reposted in posts on blogs on facebook? Apparently.
All of which I struggle to quantify in the currency of real life...
Suffice to say... it's all prolly really important.

Regarding what went down.... I'm going to "plagiarize" Steve, as he puts it best.

Let me be perfectly clear- I learned from some of the finest hecklers in this region’s history, and have been doing it for far longer than some of the aforementioned dicks have been riding bikes. Rule number one is to never, under any circumstances interfere with the race. You wanna throw beer on somebody? Throw beer on your friends at your local event. Or save it for a guy in an orange jumpsuit. Beyond that, if you don’t know the difference between a creative and funny heckle and a bald faced insult, keep your stupid mouth shut. It’s so painfully simple, yet clearly piles of people don’t get it.
And I should note… Screw anybody’s “well, I wouldn’t mind if someone threw a beer in my face” response. Say for example that someone who is racing is a recovering alcoholic. Say for example that they hate the smell. Say for example, that they just simply don’t want anything thrown on them. That’s all there is to it. In this regard, the whole ‘Keep Cross Weird‘ defense is total bullshit and a concept that was come up with people who just learned of its existence a couple of years ago.
As I said elsewhere- Heckling used to be sweet. Now it’s just amateur hour. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve revelers have taken over an aspect of spectating that used to be solely populated by drunks who actually cared about racing. And that is the god’s honest fact.
Well said, buddy.
Remember when the jocks who called you a "faggot" suddenly showed up to punk shows, totally missed the point in the pit, and pretty much ruined everything for everyone?
It's kind of like that.

That said, however... I really wouldn't have minded if someone threw beer on me.... because it was just so fucking hot out there.
Also, I was already riding like a total moron and I welcomed any chance to at least enjoy looking stupid.
You know... in my mind...It seems like if there was to be any jeering or heckling or beer throwing of any kind, it should happen during the "wheelers and dealers" race... when all the dipshits like me in the various facets of the industry line up next to each other.... Not during the Pro race. Seems like a no-brainer, really.
But no. Nothing. Just a bunch of people legitimately racing bikes....something I was ill prepared for.
"Wait... guys! Wha.. why... why are we riding so hard?! I thought... aren't we...  but isn't this.... Fuck!!!"

Milling around the start before the race, a guy had rolled up on his singlespeed cx bike and asked me and a fellow named Wilson if we had brought any extra cogs. He was sweating his current gearing for this particular course.
"You're shitting me, right?" I asked. "Do I really look like I give a flying fuck about my gearing?" pointing to my bike and myself.
When Brian of Knog had asked me to race, he'd inquired what size jersey I'd want.
Small or medium, I replied.... And I'll cop to enough vanity that when he handed me a baggy large, I died a little inside.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Brian just gave me his old jersey.

Now not only was I the middle of the pack guy riding poorly on the wrong kind of bike... I was also the guy wearing the baggy jersey.

And no, man... I didn't bring any extra cogs.

I never got heckled (yelling "Hey flat baaaarrrrrr!!!!" doesn't count. I mean... come on.)
And I never saw any beer.
Ok... That's not true. Someone did hold one out on lap 3, only to pull it back when I reached for it. (Thanks, dick) And Matt Case yelled and held one out from the other side of the course as I was passing by.
Matt, circa 2012. Except for being a big-time homo-ner these days, he hasn't changed a scooch.
I thought about stopping and awkwardly backing up. Or about turning around and riding against the grain for a few feet. And even about just stopping and hopping the course tape to drink with him instead.
But I didn't. 
I guess I just wanted to finish at that point. 

After I was done and had "showered" in the Knog tent, I made my way down to the Raleigh VIP area for free beer and tacos care of Sally Fornes, because my shop is like... totally super VIP with Raleigh. Seriously. Just ask the other shop they offered the line to on the dl.

Sally and Souphorse... who's been rocking a George Lucas-beard since way before it... was... cool?

Hanging in VIPland, I saw many people I hadn't seen a in long while, some I never wanted to see again, and then...some I never thought I would see again.... which made me smile.

"Watts made it onto the Radavist. What a ducking (sic) hypocrite" ...Anonymous.
photo cred: John Watson
(ganked with zero regard for the sanctity of any journalistic integrity)
In what has become a ritual, I caught a ride back to Vegas with Spencer of Ritte. And once back to the hotel, passed out, totally exhausted from not just the race, but the culmination of the past three days.

Now... to the other things.

In much the same way that talking about how poor you are is super cool... bitching about Interbike is ubiquitous in cool-kid conversation. (And just so you know... everyone is a cool-kid)
I guess I'm an idiot, because I don't feel it.
Personally....I love going to Vegas for Interbike. I mean.... do I really need to say that there are other places I'd rather go? I would never go to Vegas for any reason outside of the show, as it has none of the things I want in life. But... I genuinely enjoy meeting up with a bunch of distant friends in the total bizarreness of that town.
For one, it's pretty cheap. You can very easily jam econo there with minimal effort. Unless you have no brain.
For another... It's such a wild backdrop, and gives the whole thing a flavor that it wouldn't have otherwise. (And yeah....maybe that flavor is pee mixed with poo mixed with Bulleit bourbon. But... when in Rome... or Ancient Egypt... it were.
As for the show... I like that  it gets me out of the sometimes (often) depressing vacuum of my market.
And it lets me see friends I don't get to see.
And... bitching about it or not... it puts me smack in the middle of tens of thousands of people who fuck around with bikes for a living... or live to fuck around with bikes.
Jaded or not... I can't help but like that.

The show has changed a lot over the years. Once upon a time it was where all the orders were placed, and I've heard a few pretty crazy stories about the various incentives that some companies used to offer. (... order placed... handshake...  envelope slid across the table containing the key to the room where some... companionship... awaited you. Whatever your last name is... your first name just became "John.")
It's become more "professional"... but is having a bit of an identity crisis in that no one quite knows what the point is anymore.
As it struggles to find relevance and more and more vendors question the value of spending a lot of money to set up a booth that probably doesn't generate any revenue, the marketing for the show has changed.
This year they focused on the social connection.

Which I totally understand, and is absolutely why I go. But I found the campaign so cloying that I desperately wanted to make some appropriate changes. And as my skillz with a computer and with the free PAINT program on my computer are weak at best...

Source: unknown.
(Modified by yours truly with zero regard for the sanctity of journalistic integrity.)

 ...I put the ball in Stevil's court. He nailed it, first try. (Dude totally gets me)

Art imitates life. Steve knows this.

My ultimate point is...
I like coming to Interbike... even if it destroys me.

I'd arrived in Vegas late Sunday night. And after doing the always absurdly more complicated than it should be shuttle-shuffle, I made it to my hotel, procured two Tecate tallboys and retired to my room.
I woke up at 6am east coast time (3am Vegas time) and unable to fall back asleep, finished one book and started another... once again trying to penetrate Schopenhauer's World as Will with dubious success... (must be the shitty translation I was reading. Yeah. That's it...)... as it failed to put me back to sleep and I cannot claim to be any wiser.
I waited until a reasonable time, and made my way to Citizens (which would become my go-to for the week) for a proper breakfast, and then caught a ride out to Dirt Demo with Tyler, Scott, Saris and Zach of the Biketumor. I changed into my riding gear... and got to it.
Once again, I totally monopolized a Niner WFO for the better part of the morning. (So good.) Then on to the Salsa Horsethief and then the new Raleigh Skarn...which sounds less like a bike and more like a villain from a fantasy novel.

I should have tried more bikes, in the true spirit of "demo"... but honestly... I just wanted to ride. As long and as far as I could. And I liked every bike I rode, which is why I would make a horrible reviewer. I was just having so much damn fun playing the bike-game in the desert that I couldn't find faults. Just differences.

Around 3:30... when I was pleasantly destroyed... I made my way to the free beer and got pleasantly destroyed.
The Camelback guys know my heart.

There I jabbered with tons of good folks. And had the pleasure of being given one of the most awkward introductions ever to Molly Hurford by Mike Cushionberry.
Something along the lines of "Molly, this is Watts. He's super into you but is a little shy."

"uhhh... Damn....That's... I mean... Mike just... I... well... that is to say... you... he... true, but... hi...."
(ganked from Molly's site with zero regard for the sanctity of journalistic integrity)

Things only kind of unraveled soon after that, as once Molly politely excused herself, casting a wary parting look my way... I very much needed a lot of beer... very quickly. (Thanks, Mike.)
The further unraveling of the night may or may not have to do with Chris Reichel of Drunk Cyclist giving me a cookie that I may or may not have ingested that may or may not have contained mushrooms. How and why that happened, I don't know. So let's just... move on, shall we?
I remember turning to Saris and slurring that she was now my accountabilibuddy for the night, a job I'm not sure she took very seriously.
And that's... pretty much it.
Sorry. That's not to say there are no stories... but I have no memory of what they might be. I woke up in my bed, no swath of visible destruction evident, my last memory being a fragment of some dinner and margaritas with Tyler and co. in a mexican restaurant that came highly recommended by Maurice Tierney.

Those dudes always take care of me. Why? I don't know.

The next day, I rode the shuttle bus out to Dirt Demo and proceeded to ride more bikes. Again. The day before had been gray and overcast. This time it was hot and dry... as it should be... and I had an awesome day looping my way around the hills, getting wonderfully lost for a few hours on a series of trails that took me miles away from the venue. More Salsa bikes, some Lapierre. Anything that was available. What did I like? Everything.

Trey of the Hawley Cult likes everything too. If he doesn't... they shock him.

The Surly tent.... aka: the changing room
The long sought answer to the burning question:
"Is Trevor a boxers or briefs guy?"

When the day was over and lots of post ride beer had been consumed, I made my way back to the hotel, cleaned up, and joined Spencer and Nick of Ritte for some dinner. Dinner turned to drinks at the bar where we ran into Souphorse and Jason of Affinity. And after margaritas and crazy talk, we met up with Kevin and Murph of Swobo, along with Geno and Hurl and others... and things started, if not spiraling, then slowly circling.
I think it began to fall apart in earnest when Jeff Frane walked up, ("Hey, buddy!") slurping some alco-smoothie in a giant big-gulp mug.
"What is that and where do I get it?" I asked, my eyes getting big.
And soon enough... we were all in danger of getting not only fall-down-piss-yourself drunk... but also the diabetes.

My liver (and pancreas (and entire being)) blames Jeff for everything that may have happened during my time in Vegas.

How you feelin' Murph?



Hey guys... I'm totally gonna ride this thing straight to the top of Luxor where Om and Sleep are playing that super secret show you was talkin' about. 'Member?

Let's all ride to the show.

At some point... I bolted. It was 3am Vegas time, which exhaustive calculations determined to be 6am my time. Which is when I wake up.. not when I go to sleep.

Breakfast at Citizens and on to the show, which was just meetings and scrambling.
The Swobo booth was my home base for the next three days.





I went to my meetings... drank morning cocktails in the Shower's Pass suite... ate tacos with Jesse and Ben of Handsome.... drank free beer care of Steve and whoever....and went to Cross Vegas.
Which we already covered.
Thursday was more meetings. More running around... all the boring bits of the story
(Let me show you the lineup...This is a shoe. This is a bike. This is a saddle. This is a lock. This is a helmet. This is a bag. This is a dead horse.)

And then prepping for the other reason I go to Vegas:


Underbike is the bloody, undying heart of the bike industry's shiny robot head. While privates-shaving, cologne-drenched reps and managers pat themselves on the back for their livable salaries and acquisitions and mergers and minimally changed product lines... (uhhh.... do you know what he talking about?)... it's all propped up on the backs of the dirtbags and dirtbaguettes who love bikes so much that they're willing to make minimum wage for the rest of their lives, just so they can keep messing with them.
And this party is for them.
The collared shirts can have their Euro-Canada dance party... or George Thorogood...

We want the Gaytheist.

Pre-party, a motley assortment of us met for some dinner...  conversation ranging from why we don't throw beer in pro's faces to the impending dark ages when the vast wealth of everything we store digitally.. all of the knowledge, know how and porn.... just vanishes.
Then we walked around the corner, procured drinks and got to it.

So good. (The party. Not my montage of bad pictures.)
And the whispered rumors I hear of next year, even if there's only a modicum of truth therein, are enough to make a grown man weep with joy.

Eventually, walls were hit and it was time to go. A cab ride home only to discover that the room key was gone, which necessitated a conversation with the front desk, laden with the kind of intense eye contact that only an extremely drunk person trying to maintain what they feel is close facsimile of "togetherness" can think is appropriate.
...To passing out very quickly.
Friday brought the weirdness of wanting the week to be over, but also of having to say hard goodbyes.
I joined Steve and Monika at the pool for a while... where we watched a lot of sunburned men wrestle in the water and fall on their faces....were asked why tattoos are so ubiquitous with bikes... saw remarkable specimens of humanity (more like Zumanity! Amiright?! Get it?! Because...Vegas?!... ugh...) and waxed philosophical on many many things.

Srsly good people. Srsly.
They had to make a plane... and I had to make dinner. So we left and I went to join the Stan's crew for the traditional Friday night meal at El Segundo.

Mike Bush... awesomely stoked to be taking me out for dinner... again.

Jimbo telling everyone about the time he rode a comfort bike 100 miles.

Rich and I and our annual margarita-blitzed photo op.
 And we ended the night with a roller coaster ride at New York, New York. Where one of my favoritest photos in the world was taken.

Strauber and the Sweethammer.
"I dinna like roller coasters, ken?"

Nay. She didnae.

It was a good way to end the week.
Which brings me to the end of this epic.

Serious thanks for your time. Not to repeat myself...or the obvious... but you'll never get it back.

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