Doddering into the void
February 6, 2018 § 1 Comment
This year for the FTR I got to experience what it was like to be a journalist: Write about something I hadn’t actually done myself.
And I will tell you, it was no fun. No fun because two full days before the onset of Dave Jaeger’s world-famous French Toast Ride I was flat on my back with the flu, where I mostly remained until a few hours ago. No fun because everyone who showed up for the ride apparently had huge amounts of fun (except for those whose fun ration was somewhat minimal). And mostly no fun because I didn’t get to enjoy the hospitality of the Jaeger clan.
Some people wonder why you would wander across Ventura County for 118 miles, climbing Balcom Canyon at Mile 100, with people who mostly just want to drop you, but Dave has an explanation for it: “The ride is just the stupid excuse for a bunch of friends to sit around, have french toast for breakfast, and celebrate afterwards with some sandwiches and a couple of beers.”
Where else do you get to show up at someone’s private home at 7:00 AM, wreck their bathroom, be treated to homemade delicious french toast, eggs, bacon, and hot coffee, go out for an all-day bike ride, stop at another relative’s house en route to refuel and get rid of toxic wastes, and at the end shower up in those same folks’ home while eating a delicious lunch they’ve prepared for you?
Whatever else was clear after this edition of the FTR, none could doubt that age and the ravages of droopy prostates had laid low what was once if not the cream of Southern Californian manhood, at least some of its mostly unspoiled skim milk. In fact, the biggest showdown of FTR 2018 was simply being able to stagger to the starting line.
Three riders including me were stricken by plague and couldn’t start, one had heart problems and was put on the disabled list, one realized he’d rather do grandpa duties and telegraphed in his regrets, and two others simply rolled over in bed a few weeks ago and passed their coveted spot onto someone else. When the ride itself started there were immediate indications that this and all future FTR’s would need to have a geriatric route option for those whose creaky bones and flapping heart valves weren’t up to the task of Balcom, and by the time Balcom Canyon rolled around Stern-O and Tumbleweed showed their platinum AARP cards and were allowed to take shortcuts back to the ranch.
Age and infirmity reared their ugly heads on the steeps of Balcom, as is always the case, but unlike years past when exhausted desperadoes have hung onto slow-moving vehicles, this year’s Brokeback Balcom Award went to Randy T., who simply got off and walked. At the award ceremony when he was presented with the DFL trophy, Michael remarked to general hilarity that Randy “didn’t deserve the trophy because the figure on it was actually riding the bike.”
Bull suffered mightily over the course of the day, which was easy to understand given his twelve miles of prep since last October, but it wasn’t until his bike un-maintenance prowess came to the fore in the form of two dead e-Tap batteries that things looked grave. WHO KNEW YOU HAD TO CHARGE THEM? As Bull’s face fell, contemplating another twenty miles including the Golf Course Climb, all done in his 52 x 13, he plaintively asked whether “anyone happened to have a spare battery”?
Randy T. did, saving the crew from having to take turns carrying Bull up and over what, at ride’s end, would have been every bit as brutal as the Matterhorn.
The two Illinois first timers acquitted themselves with incredible distinction. Old Plodder felt strong gravitational effects on every climb but never came close to quitting. Young Plodder rode strong as befit his youth but distinguished himself with the most egregious lie of FTR 2018 when he reported to me over the phone that “After we finished I kind of wanted to go out and ride some more.” Check that quote with the photo of the guy in the red and white jersey with his head in his hands and the 1,000-yard stare and tell me how much more he “wants to go out and ride.”
Sadly, there wasn’t much more to report. People were too old to rock and roll but definitely not too young to die.
As far as the roll call went, it looked like this:
- David Jaeger
- Major Bob
- Stern-O* (Geriatric Route)
- Randy T.
- Jeff K.
- Tumbleweed* (Geriatric Route)
- Andy S.
- Craig L.
- Surfer Dan
- Scott B.
- Mark P.
- Baby Seal
When the dust had settled and the bottles had been drained, and the exhausted riders were happily settled into the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 101 back to points south, one rider took a minute to gather his thoughts and sum up the ride better than anyone ever has, or will:
We were just discussing how great the ride was today! Baby Seal just told me that his favorite part of the day was the awards ceremony. The intimacy and love between that group and your family is heartwarming. You truly put on an event that is one of a kind!
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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.
I think I’ve seen a 17th Century Dutch painting of a man in the same pose as Young Plodder. Maybe it was done by Plodder the much-much Elder…