Blood on the saddle

The alarm goes off.

Jekyll: “Man, I feel awful. We didn’t go this hard last year. But it won’t be that bad. We did this long route two years ago. It’s not that bad.”

He’s an inveterate liar, but hope springs eternal. “Really?” I ask.

“Yeah. We just roll. Not too many big climbs. It’s not that bad.”

“You’re a fucking liar with no credibility. It’s 140 fucking miles. We’re gonna hurt like dogs.”

“No,” he insists. “It won’t be that bad.”

I ponder the depths of his lying motherfuckerdom. It’s day four. Day one was a crusher of spirit and hope, with a 25-mile time trial effort and more than 6,000 feet of climbing.

Day two was a windblown, hilly shitfest of misery all the way from Carmel to Big Sur. We were so fucked up after the run-in to Big Sur that we had to be peeled off our bikes and Fireman had to wait three whole minutes before he could drain his first liter of beer.

Day three we were crammed into a lockbox of pain with no keyhole, slamming our pedals like frenzied idiots as we chased Teutonic cheatfuk Jens who sneaked off early and won the first cheeseburger prize at Ragged Point. It was a vicious, bitchslapping pedal from hell behind Cadillac while Toronto kicked my ass all the way to the pinnacle ascent of death into Ragged Point as we swept up the shot-to-shit fragments of Timidator, who battled the whole fifty miles with batshit crazy Bluebeard and Postal, as we overtook Unlearned Hand Methuselah on the final descent, as we watched the destroyed and fucked over and broken and miserable remnants of the full-on chasing Blue Train of Dawg, Fireman, Coupe, Triple, Pretty Boy, and the other Heroes of the Road, all looking like the left-behinds who had been left behind by the other left-behinds.

“It’s going to be hideous beyond belief today, Jekyll. We went harder than snot last year and couldn’t have pushed our bikes ten feet past the hotel in Santa Barbara if we’d been promised winning Powerball tickets and a year’s supply of free hookers. This year it’s almost twenty fucking miles longer.”

“You’re right.”

“I can’t get of bed. My legs won’t bend.”

Jekyll doesn’t care. He’s already thinking food. My stomach then roars to life at the thought of oatmeal, bacon, coffee, and eggs. I hit the head and discharge what’s left of last night’s fish tacos, cheeseburger, two plates of fries, coffee, and ice cream.

I stand and marvel at the length and curvature of my large intestine. Then I notice with fright that the toilet is also filled with enough blood to transfuse a horse. I’m not medically inclined, but shitting a couple liters of blood can’t be good.

Fortunately, my Internet connection works, so I ring up Dr. Google and search for “shitting blood.” A quick glance at the results doesn’t look promising: anal fissure, colon cancer, polyps, Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, peptic ulcer, stomach cancer, yellow fever, and esophageal varices.

I pick the only one I’ve ever heard of that doesn’t sound terminal and go with ‘roids. It’s actually kind of cool, because as a cyclist I’ve always wanted to give ‘roids a try. Maybe they’ll make me faster like everyone says. It’s a bit bothersome to see those two quarts of blood go to waste in the crapper, but hopefully the blood will grow back sooner or later.

I get to breakfast and sit down with Cadillac, who’s discoursing on the concept of drafting. He’s 6’5″, weighs 225. “Yeah,” he says. “I think I got a draft once. It was pretty cool. I was behind a motorcycle on the track, Roger was driving, so there was a lot of lateral draft, but I was still getting buffeted around a bit. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten one.”

We roll out, and it’s a beautiful, warm morning. An hour into the ride we pass through a small community where a man in expensive golfing attire is standing on the sidewalk practicing his putting. Except there’s no ball, putting green, or golf course anywhere in sight.

A few hundred yards later we pass a gentleman on the opposite side of the street, comfortably seated on a large sofa, which he has conveniently placed in his front yard. “Hey you fucking assholes!” the amiable resident screams. “Get out of the fucking road you dipshit cocksuckers!”

We wave him a pleasant “Good morning!” and continue through this quaint village of idiots and psychopaths.

After forty miles we reach the village of Guadalupe, a pleasant agricultural town. Our first order of business is to find a fence and mass urinate in public. After this universally accepted “Gee we love your town” demonstration, we sit on the curb and rest. As I peacefully munch my nuts (peanuts, you pervert), I hear a rustle at my feet. I look down and spy the most horrid, disgusting insect. It’s gigantic with a monstrously swollen head that looks like Stay-Puft after cresting a particularly steep hill.

“Jeremiah cricket,” Jekyll advises me. By now several hungry mantourists have gathered around.

“Bet it has a lot of protein,” says one of the men.

The bug knows he’s being evaluated as a potential add-on to a Clif Shot, and tries to hide under a leaf. “High protein, but it’s a potato plant pest so it’s probably loaded with pesticides.” The mantourists lose interest, and the pest lives to devour crops another day.

Our lunch stop is in Lompoc, thirty miles hence. Since it’s a long day in the saddle, and we’re trying to ride smart, with about fifteen miles to go all hell breaks loose. Coupe Deville charges up the first big hill, followed by a searing attack of Jekyll, who has announced his intent to open his account at the city limit sign in Lompoc.

Triple, Hairball, Peachfuzz, Pretty Boy, Dawg, Toronto, and Tom Collins follow. I stay with the surge, biding my time. Triple hits the gas, explodes, and I easily ride away from the group. That lasts for about fifteen seconds. Hairball, towing Peachfuzz and Tom Collins, roars by. Triple comes by. Pretty Boy passes me, overtakes the leaders, and slugs it out with the others at the top.

I catch up and Jekyll goes full gas on the descent. Dawg and Toronto, who are several AT&T service areas back, chase like the crazy bastards they are and hook up at the bottom of the hill. Why did they risk their lives on a 50mph descent at 700 watts? Because they had to catch back on! Coupe Deville has rejoined as well, and Jekyll continues to rail to the next climb up to Firefighter Road.

I hang on until Peachfuzz pulls the trigger, dropping everyone. Jekyll claws him back but I break in the process. Grabbing Pretty Boy’s wheel I hold on for dear life until I pop. The group rides away, I recover and big ring it until I catch just as they crest.

We zoom down to Vandenberg AFB, and catch a long red light. Our group swells to ten. Pretty Boy tries to extract city limit sign info from Jekyll for purposes of the sprint, but he’s cryptic about the exact location, telling us only that there are “three hills,” and it’s “after the hills but before the bridge.”

The light turns and off we go. Before long Tom Collins is skipping turns in the rotation. I politely tell him that he’s one of the fastest, that he’s younger than most of us by twenty years, that he’s been AWOL from the front the last four days, and that he’d better get his sorry fucking ass back in the rotation and start taking pulls.

He’s shamed, and takes two or three hard pulls, after which we drop him for good. Peachfuzz keeps attacking on the climbs, but can’t shake the old farts. After the third one I spy a bit of bright green signpost, and before Jekyll can react I gas it and take the sprint.

My reward is first in line at the Lompoc Subway. A large roast beef sandwich and two cokes later, we’re off again. This time we keep the group intact all the way to the 101, at the 90-mile mark.

Then the craziness starts. I mean, the real craziness. It’s 20 miles to the Hollister turnoff. We’re on the freeway with a massive tailwind, and no one wants to get shelled. The freeway shoulder is filled with divots, cracks, glass, construction cones, strips of blown out tires, nails, pieces of metal, shards of broken ceramic reflectors, gravel, and large rocks. Other than that it’s smooth as glass.

Plus, we’re being passed by cars and trucks going 80+. What. Could. Possibly. Go. Wrong?

The speed kicks up into the mid-thirties, and guys who’ve not seen the front for the last 350+ miles charge to the head of the line for their moment of glory. M8 takes two pulls and then goes spinning out the back like one of those Japanese space rockets that go up for a hundred yards and then careen off into someone’s yard.

Woodenhead, who has no business at the front, ever, in any cycling formation of any kind in any galaxy, launches the Charge of the Heavy Brigade, where he is mowed down by gravity, wind, and rolling resistance. As he veers off the front, barely in control of his chattering wheelset, a well-meaning friend tells him to “quit riding like a stupid fuck and get the hell out of the way.”

This encourages him to repeat the move three or four more times, clotting up the rotation, risking widowhood for a half dozen mantourist wives, and forcing those stuck behind him to ride around the equivalent of the Great Wall of China until he once again detonates in a spray of toasted lard.

With everyone on the rivet, and huge Cadillac taking a downhill pull at 45, throwing up a hail of gravel as he charges through the trashed shoulder, he blows out a tire. Pandemonium ensues, with various idiot throwing on their brakes for no good reason as the idiots behind them come barreling up their anuses at 45mph.

“Pedal, you stupid motherfuckers!” someone helpfully screams, narrowly averting a bloody catastrophe.

Some take this opportunity to help Cadillac change his tire while simultaneously helping themselves to a great excuse for ending the terror and suffering, while others pound on. As the next big roller appears on the horizon, Fireman looks back at me. He’s already tried to split the field twice, and head-banging attacks by Illtrainlater and Gonzo have failed to make a selection.

Iron Mike has been taking mighty turns on the point along with Tom Collins and Randommeur, all to no avail as a hardy cadre of wheelsuckers remain latched on the tail end, aided by the ferocious tailwind. At the base of the long roller, Fireman attacks and earns another of his many stars in the Hall of Fame. I hit 1200 watts just getting his wheel, and by the time he swings over at the top of the hill, the crowded crazy fuckfest of overlapping wheels, exploding lardbombs, and disintegrating tires are a distant memory.

We flog and flail like the idiots we are, Fireman proving once again that true cycling performance is based on being a mean bastard and swilling a case of beer the night before the big effort.

Three miles before the Hollister exit we look back and see another idiot trying to bridge. It’s Davy Dawg! Incredibly, he has shaken loose and makes it across, earning his first star in the Hall of Fame for MT4. At Hollister we wait for the chasers, led by Jekyll, Triple, Pretty Boy, Pilot, Coupe Deville, and Walshie, who materialized in Lompoc to lend his legs to the MT4 effort.

The remaining 20 miles to the Luxury Motel 6 in Carpenteria are sheer hell. We’re all wasted. Lots of traffic lights. More cars than we’ve seen all week. And a clever motel clerk who can’t find Pilot’s reservation for almost two hours.

Fuckdude’s awesome wife meets us at the motel and gives us cheers and soda pop. I stagger into my room, hose off, order an extra large Domino’s and call it a day. One more effort looms in MT4: the legendary sprint for the sign at the LA County line.

1 thought on “Blood on the saddle”

  1. Jerusalem crickets, also called “potato bugs”, are a group of large, flightless insects of the genus Stenopelmatus. They are native to the western United States and parts of Mexico.

    Despite their names, Jerusalem crickets are a distinct lineage within the Orthoptera, separate from crickets (eg Gryillidae), are not native to Jerusalem, and they do not prefer potatoes for food. Active usually at night, the insects use their strong mandibles to feed primarily on dead organic material but can also eat other insects.[2] Their highly adapted feet are used for burrowing beneath moist soil to feed on decaying root plants and tubers.

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