I made the correct transportation choice, which was to accept Iron Mike’s offer of a limo ride to the airport. At the baggage check-in, he plops a hundred-dollar bill in front of the clerk.
“You dropped this, buddy,” he says with a smile.
The man’s eyes get big. “Why thank you, sir! I believe this bag will get personally walked onto the plane.” He picks it up and vanishes.
“I get more properly delivered bags that way. Damnedest thing.”
As we stand in the next line Iron Mike turns to an Asian couple and speaks his one word of Japanese. They stare blankly, clearly wondering why a stranger in Lycra bike tights is talking to them.
“Sorry, we’re from Malaysia,” the man finally says.
Next he chats up the TSA staffer. “How’s your morning going?”
“Aw, it was going great until the alarm went off.”
This guffaw gets him a free pass despite having a heart rate monitor strapped to his chest, a weird cycling outfit, and vegan food items in his carry-on that look like coca paste.
Farther back in line, Triple appears with Coupe Deville, and the bright minds at TSA zero in on Triple as he gets culled from the herd by the largest TSA goon.
“What in the world is this?” says the goon as he pulls a small tub labeled “Butt Butter” out of Triple’s bag.
“It’s, ah, for cycling, uh, you see…”
“Uh-huh. Step over here, please.”
Knotting his basketball-sized fists, the screener starts pulling on rubber gloves that go up to his elbow as the other two assistants tell Triple to grab his ankles. We all look the other way and pretend we don’t know him.
Trust me. I do this for a living.
Safely arriving at the gate, we sit, and a few moments later up comes Methuselah. He shows off his hand that got caught in the electric gate, and after the obligatory round of sympathetic “poor boy” and “tough bastard” we pile on without mercy.
“Fuck man, you’re a goddamn electrician. What’s up with that?”
“How many electricians does it take to get their hand caught in an electric gate?”
Now everyone is scared shitless because he’s going to be descending on the bike with one hand and, what’s worse, will need someone to hold his dick when he pisses.
The lobby has filled up and the fully caffeinated mantourists begin asking Methuselah, “If your hand swells up so large after being stuck in the gate for a few minutes, why don’t you stick your pecker in it?”
Airport. Working. Uh, yeah.
At that moment the gate attendant walks over and asks everyone to please pipe down because people are “Trying to work!” The people include a gentleman slumped over with last night’s beer drool mixed with puke draining onto his sleeve and several chicks reading about orgasm enhancement techniques in the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. Being told to “shush” has the predictable effect of making all the kindergartner mantourists run around the lobby shushing each other to a fare-the-well. Pilot turns and says, “You know, I’ve been in the business for thirty years, and I’ve yet to see people at the gate get shushed because of all the people ‘working’ here.”
Just because I look crazy means I am.
One of the working passengers is dressed in a dark blue suit, gets out of his chair and approaches us, saying thus: “How can I join your ride next year?” He’s been eavesdropping on our curses and insults and enviously reading our t-shirts and wants to join the fun.
A glance at his earnest demeanor and funny combover indicate he’s batshit crazy.
“Well, first you’ll have to join Ironfly,” says Canyon Bob.
“And then you’ll have to stop being a dork,” someone adds.
Batshit then launches into a detailed lecture to Canyon Bob and Cadillac about how we can improve the route and turn a tidy profit.
“Let me get this straight,” I say. “You haven’t even stopped being a dork yet and you’re already telling us how to improve the ride? Shut the fuck up, please.”
Batshit takes the abuse with the practiced wimpy, beaten down smile of a married guy and continues his lecture. Everyone walks away as the boarding siren goes off.
A short time later we land, and it’s public toilet pandemonium as we dash into the head, strip buck naked, and pull on our kits.
The bikes are lined up outside the airport. It is rad. Fuckdude, Fireman, and M8 pulled it off despite farting each other half to death in the cab of the U-Haul for eight hours. The mantourists who drove up the day before are only slightly hungover. We take the gang photo, throw a leg over, and we’re off!
Let MT4 begin!!
Or not!! Hairball, known for his great preparation, woke up at the crack of seven for his 7:55 flight, fixed his oatmeal, made his coffee, read the paper, and then began packing for the five-day trip. Oops! The darned airplane took off without him, ensuring his star in the Hall of Shame and earning the bonus Doofus of the Day Award. After chilling at the airport we finally leave without him, but in the nick of time he arrives so we abort the ride and wait another hour while he shaves, takes a faucet shower, and changes into his kit.
The other no-show is Dr. Jekyll, who shows us the superiority of NorCal mass transit by hopping the train in Oakland and riding it until it runs into a car, chops it in half, and falls off the rails. Jekyll, who carries all his shit in a giant cardboard box, has to ride twenty miles to the airport, looking like a pack mule.
Finally we’re off. It’s a glorious sunny day and we’re happier than pigs in shit. Dr. Jekyll has assured us that the climb this year is easy, so we’re not bothered by the gradual rollers on Moody Road. After a couple of miles Davy Dawg starts killing it and we’re stretched out single file.
The road makes a sharp hairpin right up Page Mill Road and the group explodes on the steep ramp. Dr. Jekyll attacks and rides away. Davy Dawg cracks. I struggle as Triple, Pretty Boy, JC, and the Fireman go by. I latch onto the Fireman, who drags me for a few miles until I blow. The road is vicious, steep, punishing, and endless. Jekyll cracks and gets dropped by Triple and Pretty Boy, Fireman reels in JC for fourth, and I struggle in for sixth.
At the top of the climb we regroup and everyone stands around looking like shit and completely blown 24 miles into the ride. On the descent it’s the domain of the gravitationally challenged, with Bluebeard bombing the tight, deadly turns at terrifying speed. Cadillac is on his wheel, followed by Woodenhead and Jekyll, with Hockey Stick close behind. Sticks, rocks, sketchy turns, overheated brakes, and chattering front wheels get us to the bottom, where we again regroup. The drop has been amidst stunning redwoods, and the clean air invigorates us all.
Over a small bump we form a group of about 12 and start drilling it into Pescadero. Woodenhead hits the front multiple times, with Davy Dawg, Fireman, and Artiste smashing the pedals. There’s an amorphous sprint in Pescadero taken by the Fireman, and then we stop for a late lunch.
Well, some of us do. Hockey Stick doesn’t get the memo, misses the turn to Pescadero, and pedals ten miles on to the coast. Not seeing anyone for an hour, and not thinking to use his phone, he’s lost and hungry and fucked. Luckily, the Anchor has taken a wrong turn, too, and finds Hockey Stick flailing, bonked, and hopelessly lost. He bundles him into the paddy wagon and drives him to Santa Cruz.
Meanwhile, we finish lunch, hit PCH, and all hell breaks loose. The Fireman splits the flailing wankers who are still belching and farting from their double-meat sub sandwich in Pescadero. The tensing 25 miles to Santa Cruz is a death feet of attrition, with only Davy Dawg, Triple, Coupe Deville, Coolhand, Fireman, and me surviving. Coolhand takes the sprint, tying for points with Firehand.
We load up on beef, coffee, and pie at Hula’s in Santa Cruz. That’s it. Done til tomorrow.