The rental RV sounded like it was coming apart at the seams. Every imperfection in the road surface caused the entire chassis to violently shake. The windows and screens howled like they were about to come off, and drizzles of piss laced with vomit and feces oozed out from the bathroom, where the stopped-up toilet was brimming with the spoils of cycling victory. Shards of broken glass littered the floor amidst a thin floating layer of beer. Everyone either had a headache, wanted a headache, or was causing someone else’s headache.
I hadn’t bathed since Thursday.
Derek the Destroyer lay on the bed in the back, moaning and intermittently dry-heaving or wiping strings of puke from his chin. It was eleven PM and we were still caught in traffic, a few miles away from home but at least another hour of aggravated waiting as our RV guzzled vast quantities of gas and we calculated the surcharge we’d be assessed for the clean-up charge. I tried to find the language in the contract where it itemized the cost of cleaning up shit and vomit. There it was, under “Acts of God.”
The trip had seemed like such a great idea at the time. We would rent an RV because all the hotels were full. $279 for three days, split between the three couples. We’d race our bikes at the 805 Crit Series in Buellton/Lompoc. We’d finish each day with a beer or two, socialize, have a healthy dinner, and return to L.A. with a wonderful weekend under our belts and perhaps some good race results as well.
We had, of course, forgotten the inflexible truth: Bike racing is nothing but a bad time gone worse.
Optimism is the foundation for all disappointment
We alit from the Cruise America 30-foot RV, which was really nothing more elaborate than an old U-Haul with a broken toilet. It was the first day of the race series and the wind was blowing at 30 mph. We complained to the volunteers about having invited so much wind to a bike race. “It’s always windy here,” they cheerfully smiled. “Thank goodness today it’s not that bad.”
The race course was at the Greater Lompoc Disaster Training Center, a place where cops and firemen prepare to shoot people then rescue them. There was a fake town, numerous crashed cars, and Lompoc police everywhere. The proximity of so many ambulances would prove to be a bonus in the pro race, because on the last lap (where else?) a rider slid out in the last turn (where else?) and went face first (what other body part?) into the steel barricades. The destruction and carnage were horrific, but it was great practice for the medics, who enjoyed it thoroughly.
Before our race began, I almost drizzled in my shorts because there was a deafening volley of gunfire, as loud as if I were standing at the end of a firing range. This is because I was standing at the end of a firing range and the cadets were blazing away. A few seconds later they came marching by in formation, guns smoking. Anyone wearing an Al-Qaeda for President t-shirt would have been gunned down on the spot.
The course was on a police car training oval. We raced around in circles, but I had the misfortune of racing with the 35+ group. Note to self: 50-year-old legs that can barely keep up in the 50+ races do not fare well against 35+ legs. Our team did great. Harmony John won and the Destroyer got fourth. I distinguished myself by bridging up to Fukdude, who was chasing the chase group that was chasing the chase group that was chasing the leaders.
We got swarmed a few hundred yards before the line, but not before I refused to do any work and got roundly cursed by everyone in our flailaway. This proved the Number One Rule of Racing: If they’re calling you a “motherfucker” you’re doing something right.
After the race we ran down to the Albertson’s in King Harold’s slick BMW and bought twelve cases of beer, six enormous bags of chips, and five tubs of salsa. Dinner and hydration were taken care of.
Back at the Buellton RV park, we snuggled in for a long night’s sleep. It’s really weird sleeping with strangers and listening to them snore, fart, get up in the night to piss, and mutter in their sleep. Of course, they probably thought it was weird seeing someone bring one small bag for a three-day trip, and to have hygiene products for the entire stay consist of a toothbrush and a stick of deodorant. “Wait ’til they see me take a spit bath,” I thought.
The next day the wind had picked up and we were facing 30-40 mph winds with occasional 50 mph gusts. Our race was an hour long, or rather the race was an hour long for those who finished. Half of the field was dead and buried by the 30-minute mark. I came unhitched about then and quit, unable to assist my team in its effort to keep the leader’s jersey except by hollering “Go, everyone!” from the sidelines and making sure the beer was cold.
Harmony John stayed in the race leader’s jersey for another day, but the monsters from Monster Media let it be known they were intent on stripping it from his back. I joined a post-race strategy session that included several vicious rounds of beer, polishing off the chips and salsa from the night before, and then going to a steak house and ruining the meal by eating four baskets of crackers and eighteen butter pats.
We were joined at dinner by Daniel Holloway, who regaled us with stories of winning the Athens Twilight Criterium, winning the Dana Point GP, winning the race the night before, and numerous other winning tales. I was going to regale him with my story of getting third at a CBR crit a couple of years ago, but decided not to. Back at the RV things were looking grim, especially at three in the morning when my stomach roared to life.
The battle between the crackers, steak, butter, beer, wine, and all of the leftovers that people had shoved off onto my plate along with the cheesecake, apple fritter pie, and ice cream had reached a fever pitch. I now had to puke, but couldn’t bring myself to do it in the RV because the crapper was already filled with shit and it seemed preferable to vomit all over myself rather than sticking my head down into that mess.
I couldn’t go outside because the RV had a safety lock on the door I’d never bothered to learn to unhitch, and in my current condition there was no chance I’d get the door open before machine-gunning my dinner. Also, even if I did get the door open I wouldn’t get far, and the thought of a giant mound of partially digested dinner in front of our U-Haul/RV was simply too embarrassing.
Finally I decided to mentally overcome the physical desire to throw up. My body was soon soaked in sweat, including the jeans I was sleeping in (my bag hadn’t had room for pajamas). Next to get saturated was the bed/couch. After an hour of struggle, the beer and food mush gave in and I went back to sleep.
The next morning everyone wanted to know, “Why were you groaning so loudly?”
The last day of racing I swore to have zero beers prior to the race and I kept my vow. My legs felt great since I’d only raced thirty minutes the day before. I was ready to do my duty and help Harmony John keep the leader’s jersey. On lap two I was shelled, and on lap ten I was pulled.
I later calculated my cost for the weekend as $491 for 95 minutes of racing, or $5.16 per minute, or about $310 per hour.
Our team lost the race and the jersey. Derek fell off his bike at the end and threw up. “I’m sick,” he said, which we pretty much figured out because he was lying on his face in a gravel driveway surrounded by a swarm of bees.
Hair took over the drive home and I kept him awake by listening to his stories about learning to drift back in Okinawa. Every few miles he’d demonstrate and the RV would slide over a lane or so on the freeway, clearing space and bowels like nothing you ever saw. Derek could only moan as each pothole bounced him several feet in the air on the mattress in back.
We finally got back to the Metro parking lot in Inglewood, where Mrs. WM was waiting for me. “How was the racing?” she asked.
“Perfect in every way,” I said. “As usual.”
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