I have never made any money riding bicycles but I have sure lost a lot.
The worst ride I ever did was a coffee ride seven years ago with Chief and Caron. Mrs. WM had given me a brand new $20 bill for my allowance and it was burning a hole in my pocket. We were headed over to San Pedro and I was bragging about all the coffee and muffins I was going to buy them, because in Pedro a Jackson will get you a lot of muffins and when you’re with the Chief a lot is how many you’re going to need.
We were screaming down the descent at the end of Western before it had fallen off into the ocean and I reached into my back pocket for my cap. We got to the coffee shop and I made a big flourish. “This is all together,” I said.
Chief and Caron had been giving me shit the whole way there. “I’ll believe you have a fresh Jackson when I see it,” said Chief.
“Better make sure we take pictures so we can prove you actually paid for something,” added Caron.
I dug into my jersey pocket but the Jackson was gone. They laughed as hard as I turned red. “I really had one,” I said.
“Sure you did, pal. We believe you.” Then Chief sorted through his hundreds and pulled out a Jackson and paid. “Let’s go sit outside and you can tell us what that Jackson looked like.”
“I’m not sitting outside. I’m gonna go find that fucking Jackson.” Their laughter trailed as I raced away. I got back to Western, got off my bike, and walked the entire length of road and back again, twice. No Jackson. After half an hour I gave up and rode back. Chief and Caron laughed even harder.
“You find that Jackson?” Caron asked.
“Even if he had had one, which is a highly doubtful proposition, in the fine city of San Pedro it would have lay unclaimed for somewhere between 1 and 1.5 seconds.”
They have given me shit about that Jackson for seven years. Every time I see him, Chief asks if I’ve found that Jackson, and it makes me mad all over again. That coffee ride plain old sucked, and today’s did, too. It never rains in California except when it does, and today it did.
I put on the cape and leg warmers and booties and beanie and gloves and went out for three miserable hours. There wasn’t another bike or walker on the entire bike path from Redondo to Playa del Rey. My bike was covered in sludge and sand, and my hands and feet went numb. In El Segundo it dumped and my shoes filled up with water, cold water.
Before I moved to California and became weak I was a tough guy. Fields used to say that everyone can finish in the rain, but only the hard ones start in it. I always make a point of going out when it’s nasty because it happens so seldom. It takes me back to my roots of heat, cold, sun, wind, and rain.
When I got to Malaga Cove I had to decide whether to take the easy way home up Via del Monte or to do the Cove wall, Paseo del Mar, and Lunada Bay. “Fuggit,” I said and took the right-hander down to the bottom of the wall. When I got to Lunada Bay I had another choice, the easier Donut route or the steep and nasty alley. I hooked right for the alley.
My rear wheel was skipping and I was really cold and miserable and wondering why I hadn’t made the beeline climb home. What the hell was wrong with me?
I popped out of the alley and something caught my eye. It was green and wet and half-folded over in the gutter.
I jumped off my bike and picked it up, then I did a little dance before tucking it safely into my jersey. I grinned all the way home and even threw in the gnarly Monaco climb instead of taking the easier ascent up Hawthorne. I got my payment for doing the hard ride the hard way. The comeback Jackson.
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