Ol’ Grizzles and Texacookie picked me up at the airport. My $40 bike box was intact except for a giant hole in the side and some rattles.
We got to the villa, unloaded the bike, and began racing immediately. Hardest race of my life. The Norwegians were already there and kitted out, and between them and the Americans I was left scrapping hard, bumping bars, and throwing elbows for 13th.
I swept wide into the last turn putting the final guys behind me into the banister, but they came around me at the end and scored the last two available beds. I was now looking at ten days on a steel cot in the broom closet, out on the patio. DFL is tough.
“Let’s go for a leg loosener,” said Ol’ Grizzles, “to get the airline kinks out of your legs.” The others had already left to do tequila sprints in the nearby town of Lloseta, and I rolled out with Ol’ Grizzles, Texacookie, Cookie, The Bank, and Atl-Atl, a last minute Norwegian addition named after an aboriginal throwing weapon.
“Okay, fucker,” I said, “but easy. My legs are fucking concrete.”
This was a lie. I could barely walk. I had gone to the wrong gate in Amsterdam, and only made my flight by running the two miles from B-75 to gate F-90. Although my sub-10-minute miles weren’t record setting, it was the first time I’d jogged since October 1982, and upon reaching the gate I collapsed.
By the time I got to Lloseta everything had seized. Running uses horribly painful muscles and internal organs not found in cyclists, and the jouncing carry-ons had stretched my knee flexors, hip polluctors, and cervical cervix. My thoracic and lumbar cervices were prolapsing.
Fortunately, our ride began easily, with a gentle climb over to the neighboring town of Alaro. That’s where shit went sideways. Texacookie and Atl-Atl, seeking pancake flat roads that would finish in tequila, got turned around. Then Ol’ Grizzles made a wrong turn and we started going up.
“As long as we see those two landmark peaks we’re never lost!” Texacookie said brightly as we got horribly lost on the toughest climb I have ever done. By the tenth switchback with 18% ramps my concrete legs had turned to Jell-O. The pavement was so cracked and shattered that it would have been deemed unfit for the BWR.
I stopped at a fork and waited. Ol’ Grizzles rode up and snapped his chain. Many of the expletives were new to the English language. Then in the crazy, rocky, treacherously narrow descent we burned our brakes down to the calipers and The Bank hit a car and tumbled fifty feet off the cliff. We hoped he lived.
Back at the villa the recovery gin had begun in earnest; we were destroyed from our 15-mile, 2-hour “leg loosener” but soon were put to work by Cookie shelling 15 pounds of boiled shrimp. By dinner time my fingers were skinless and bleeding and the crew had already gone through four vats of beer and three wheelbarrows of gin. I hadn’t eaten since the previous day but it didn’t matter because the Amsterdam airport jog had seized my jaw muscles and the descent had caused my hands to cramp from braking so that the only recovery item I could eat was a bag of chips.
The shrimp dinner was a complete success until the eighth bottle of wine, when one of the chairs slipped backwards off a 3-inch lip, throwing Ol’ Grizzles onto his head, wrist, elbow, and spine, but more importantly, breaking the bowl with the shrimp in it.
Until you have seen fourteen starving drunks crawling under a table fighting over shrimp heads and mayonnaise you haven’t witnessed the workings of an insane asylum. And I hope you never do.
After having a hearty meal of four shrimp and iced water I went to bed, knowing how key a good night’s sleep would be to winning the coffee and peanut butter battle the next morning. Old, tired, weak, my cervices all stretched sideways, there was one advantage I nonetheless held over the Norwegians: My ability to get up early.
In Norway, due to the long winter, the denizens never get out of bed before April, and then only at noon, in time to collect their generous unemployment benefits or show up for an hour or two at their ghost jobs. The Texans were all too drunk and/or nursing wounds to arise early, so as I curled up in the broom closet I plotted my revenge, which revolved mostly around getting up early enough to snatch the bread crusts left over from dinner and the jar of peanut butter.