Over Thanksgiving Dinner I had sternly lectured Sherri about forgiveness. “Sure, ol’ Puddinhead is a fourteen-carat asshole. But you can’t get too angry at him.”
“Why not? Nobody can stand the bastard.”
“Because cycling isn’t like the real world. In the real world when you meet an asshole, you avoid him forever. But in the cycling world, when you meet an asshole, chances are great that he’s going to be on every group ride you do for the next ten years. And when it’s your turn to fall off your bike on your head, chances are excellent that it’s asshole who will be there to call EMS or drag your corpse to the roadside so that the embalmer doesn’t have to get truck treads out of your face.”
“Easy to say, Mr. Turntheotherbuttcheek.”
“I’ve got a lot of practice. There’s nothing that happens in cycling that’s worth getting angry about, at least not for more than a few minutes. We’re too dependent on each other — on rides, in races — just being on someone’s wheel is a leap of faith of the biggest sort.”
Sherri shook her head. “Some assholes just need a good killin’.”
I had been excited all week about Friday’s SPY Holiday Ride. One of my buddies who had never done it before kindly offered to give me and the Wily Greek a lift down to San Diego. He, like many others, wanted to see how he would “stack up” against the monsters of North County on their home turf — a 60-mile, hilly, crushing, full-on dick stomping contest of the very first order.
Normally I don’t accept such ride offers because they are invariably accompanied by a phone call the morning of the ride saying, “Hey dude I got really sick last night and barfed and can’t make it sorry have a great ride.” There’s something about anticipating the ride that makes people sick at about 3:00 AM the morning of. I call it the poopy diaper effect.
At 5:00 AM I got out of bed, loaded my junk, and roused Mrs. WM. She loves getting up at 5:00 in the morning to drive me places. It is fun for her, especially if it is bicycle related.
A few minutes before we got to my teammate’s house, my phone rang. It was Wily. “Yo,” he said. “You still going?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Didn’t you get Poopy’s text?”
“Yeah, dude. Poopy got really sick last night and barfed and can’t make it.”
I flipped through my phone. Sure enough, Poopy had sent a text at 4:58 AM. “That motherfugger,” I said. “I guess it was too much trouble to actually call.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I dunno,” I said. “Mrs. WM needs the car today. I guess I’ll go home.”
“At least now you have something to blog about,” he said.
“Nah. I wouldn’t want to call out Poopy in public. Some things you gotta keep to yourself.”
I sat around and fumed for a couple of hours, then went out for a ride. It occurred to me not to be angry or hold grudges since, you know, we cyclists all depend on each other, but I was furiously mad. It’s one thing to lecture people, it’s another to have to practice what you preach, which I make a practice of never doing.
It was going to be hot so I took two water bottles. One of them was a very nice Specialized bottle with the premium nipple that had caused a big marital spat. I had found it on a ride and brought it home.
“What’s this?” asked Mrs. WM.
“It’s a water bottle I found.”
“You gonna drink onna nasty found bottle?”
“Sure. Just wash it up and it’ll be good to go.”
“I ain’t washin’ on no nasty found bottle. Maybe he had onna AIDS.”
“You don’t get AIDS by drinking old water bottles. It’s in perfectly fine condition.”
So Mrs. WM disassembled the actual nipple, including the two rubber washers on the inner nipple assembly, then took a toothpick and ran it inside the washer grooves. As I was peacefully sitting on the couch she came over with the toothpick, whose end was covered in a black, nasty slime. “Here’s onna your supposed okay water nipple,” she said.
I looked at the slime. “What the hell is that?”
“That’s onna your water bottle that you was gonna stick in your mouth.”
“Is it clean now?”
“Sure it’s clean. I been cleanin’ it!”
It’s been a great water bottle ever since.
The day’s anger management route was out PCH to Latigo Canyon. Latigo is a 40-minute climb if you are really, really good, and a multiple of 40 minutes if you are me. I decided to ride steadily and not push it. As the first section of the climb kicked up, some dude came whizzing by.
He was riding a wankish red bike with three chain rings, MTB pedals, and a helmet visor. I was tempted to let him go, fully expecting to see him again, when I noticed his legs and kit. The kit was very pro, and he looked super fit. “Hello,” he said in an is-it-English-South-African-Kiwi-or-an-Aussie accent as he flew by. I pedaled up behind him and noticed a yellow ANZ tag on his seatpost. “Air New Zealand?” I wondered.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
He smiled. “Woody.”
“No kidding? What’s it short for?”
“I’ve only met one other Woodrow my entire life.”
“Oh, really? Who’s that?”
“My youngest son.”
It was his turn to be surprised, and we chatted about names, he chatting while I gasped out little chopped syllables. He was flying. Woody, who’s only been biking for two years, is a pilot for Air New Zealand, and had brought his beater bike to get in a ride during his layover. “I don’t want to get m’heart rate over 160,” he said, as mine pushed 180, then 280, then 1,000.
Before long the residual anger I’d had about being stood up by Poopy was wholly replaced by the burning pain of the climb and the gnawing fear that Woody was going to ride me off his wheel with a helmet visor and a triple. I hung on, barely, and after we crested the top I gave him lots of advice about how to climb properly. He seemed to listen.
We descended Kanaan Dume and got back on PCH. Woody put his head down and started going somewhat fast. For the next twenty miles he averaged a solid 30 mph. It was all I could do to tuck and suck. When we reached Will Rogers Park I sprinted around him for the win, then gave him lots more advice about how to get strong on the flats. He seemed to listen to that, too.
We parted company in Manhattan Beach and I pedaled, decrepit, back home. It had been a great day, the water from the water bottle had tasted fine, and I wasn’t angry anymore.
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