The ol’ gal died, she rolled over and heaved her last breath after having given seventeen years of service to The Cause of #Fakeracer Delusion, and a big group of us was lucky enough to be there when she expired. It was bitter but peaceful too, and we took turns turning her over with the toes of our boots, looking at different angles, remarking on how good she still looked and reminiscing about the good times she’d given us, selflessly, devotedly, never uttering nary a nag nor a complaint, and with two exceptions she’d done her job with nothing but sunny skies and perfect temperatures.
We talked about where to bury her but couldn’t really agree on anything. A couple of people suggested we skin her, stuff her, prop up the corpse, and trot her out every January and do a memorial re-ride, but it was either too soon to be talking about the resurrection and the life, or it was too pointless.
The ol’ gal was dead and she wasn’t coming back. Death is final that way. It admits of longing, regret, and wishful thinking, but it doesn’t admit of coming back to life.
The good news is that I chronicled the life and times of Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride every year since 2011 and posted the stories of her antics right here. I even gave her her own category and named it, originally, Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride. Spilled a lot of electrons over this annual momentous bicycle ride.
They say that all the benefit you’re ever going to get out of taking a trip is in the preparation, because once you go it never lives up to the anticipation. In fact, the best way to travel is to plan a year in advance, talk the hell out of it, think it to death, then cancel in time to get your hotel/airfare refunded. It’s cheaper that way and you accrue all the benefits without the lost luggage, the shocking credit card bills, and the herpes.
FTR was highly anticipated every year thanks to the email string that went along with it. Some years the exchanges were so harsh and the buttrash so painful that friendships were strained to the breaking point, and then permanently broken on the FTR itself. Because for all its camaraderie, FTR was about ruining the other rider’s day on the obstacles of the course.
There was a kind of beauty in killing her off, as David did, before one of us stroked out. A quick look at the riders attending the memorial service and it was clear that none of us had gotten any younger at all in the past seventeen years, and most of us had gotten seventeen years older, except Stern-O, who was now 87, the exact age he was at birth.
And there were absences. Most absent was most talked about, our compadre Junkyard who announced last week that he was going to take his dog and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
This kind of absurdity fit so perfectly with the memorial service: A cupcake of a guy who one year had to get towed up Balcom Canyon by a gardener’s pickup, a guy with the backcountry experience of a freeway overpass, had gathered together five days’ worth of cyclist Barbie food, two pair of city walking boots and a light rain jacket, then went up to Seattle to hike “the last two hundred miles of the trail, flip a u-ey, and do the 2,600- mile trail in reverse,” in winter, with no permit, no snow gear, no experience, no planned food drops, just a devil-may-care, happy-go-lucky attitude and the indispensable new Instagram account to chronicle what was going to be the shortest stay on the PCT in history.
In preparation for the ordeal he hadn’t bothered hiking, but he was hitting all the donut shops in Seattle prior to hitting the trailhead.
This is the kind of shit that made FTR so amazing: whacky people plunging in over their heads and getting reality shit-slapped back into their thick noggins. I needed that, and it’s too bad that FTR only came yearly because my green card for Delusionland only needs to be re-issued after facing the ugly facts of a seven-hour mauling at the hands of some very good riders in the mountains north of LA.
And that was partly why the ol’ gal was dead: there weren’t any more good riders. There were just old, creaky, drunken, brokedick worthless ones, those who had degenerated into tandems, those who had burned their age-graded #fakerace racing licenses, those who refused to even do the Donut Ride, milk sop that it has become, and those who no longer even rode their bikes.
Tragedy was ever in the wings, too. Our friend and stalwart hammerhead Taco Cart had narrowly escaped death in a horrible collision and was now on a multi-year road to recovery. Maybe the demise of the FTR was simply a mercy killing–putting her out of her misery before one of us went first.
In its own magical way, the dishonor roll of those who failed to show up for the memorial service reflected the FTR itself, an event that gave rise to the most extraordinary excusifying, no-showing and tail-tucking, all preceded by chest beating of the most impressive sort. Absent was Surfer Dan, he who never bypassed a free meal and who had led the ride on at least two occasions with full-gas efforts almost from the very start.
Not there was Gussy, Rodly, Manslaughter, and the immortal Hair, who held every green jersey and descent KOM on every FTR he ever rode. Not there was the Napoleon of Long Beach, Martin The Time I Beat Greg Lemond, and the shattered remnants of the Freddies, Gil, Turtle, Golden Boy, Brad … people who had made the ride epic and beautiful until, ravaged by decrepitude, senility, and petty infighting, they had thrown in the sweat-stained towel.
Punk Kid and the Illini trailer park contingent, Dear Leader and his endless training plans that never seemed to pan out on the big day, Jeremiah Johnson, Hottie, Tumbleweed, Mormon Trophy Thief, North County Tatty-Poo, Cogsless, Tiny Tex, Foxy & Seal (a Panamanian disco band from the 70’s), Marine Cupcake, Big Bowles and his early sneakaways, and a veritable rogues’ gallery of forgettable flailers somehow managed to miss the interment. What could have been more fitting for a ride that struck fear into the heart of the bravest than a deathbed vigil deserted by those who claimed to love the ol’ gal the most?
Because if a ride isn’t underpinned by lying, delusions, and chicanery of the very lowest sort, it will never become the stuff of legend.
And what a legend the ol’ gal was! My dog, those who made their way to the rim of the grave were the giants of the road indeed.
The undisputed all time champion of the FTR, Road Champ, was there, lit like a bonfire, skinny as a rake handle, and still chasing the national title he will surely one day win, if only because all the age-graded competition has died.
G$, the fierce monster of Balcom, the only rider on FTR to give off more grins, pushes, and attagirls-per-mile than DJ himself was there, the man who defined everything good about cycling in the South Bay, and who did it most notably by moving elsewhere.
King Harold, lately reduced to the ignominy of tandem life, the man who invented the Flatback 101, was there. Trust me, bitches, if you’ve never experienced the Flatback, count yourself lucky. King Harold was FTR’s bridesmaid, always dropped on the climbs, always holding onto a motorcycling up Casitas, and always nursing in the poor, the wretched, yearning to be free.
Dogg made the trek down to the service, a guy with whom I often traded punches going up Casitas, and whose punches were always stronger and better aimed than mine.
Stern-O, the mythical insane person of all things South Bay, evicted from Manhattan Beach, sentenced to Santa Fe, and doing his probationary-rehab in a cheap apartment just outside Chula Vista was in attendance not merely as the heart and soul of Father Time, but as he who also holds the record for most FTRs completed, especially if you count those where he vanished for long stretches and somehow ended up at the finish coiffed and lipsticked as if he’d just stepped out of the shower. Which he had.
Li’l Douggie paid his respects, the smallest rider to ever complete FTR, and the runner-up after Wanky for title of “Having Enraged Most People With Least Effort.”
Triple, the road giant whose Grecian Formula and stress-free living in a tent by the beach has allowed him, after all these years, to still have the one thing that no other FTR male can claim, and that every FTR male secretly gnashes his teeth over in hourly envy: A full head of hair.
And speaking of bald, Damian, named after the Satan-possessed heroine in the exorcist, whose good infinite good cheer was inversely proportionate to his FTR participations, attended the ceremony as well even though he had to drive three blocks to get there.
Polly, drunk as a skunk, was there to spread goodwill, reminisce, and try not to snore too loudly. Slim had made the trek up from San Diego and we got to stand around and recall his cramping episodes, but that’s the thing about FTR. You get the invite and do it once … you are a member of the club.
Hardest FTR Fucker Ever was also there, a/k/a Pilot, the man who completed FTR in 2017 on 100 base miles. The only person who might have given him a run for his money, Becker Bob, the surf shop manager dude who did it one year on 50 miles worth of prep, was absent, presumably dead.
Major Bob was there, as gnarly a smiling axe-murderer as you’ll ever meet, as was Elron, recently graduated from his degree program and seeking his first real job at age 50, but still looking more handsome, more fit, and more happy than all the other labor drudges … coincidence? I think not.
Bull was there too, mired in the delusion that all he needs is another $75 million before he can take that long 4-day weekend or, dog forbid, cancel a lunch date. We commiserated over the sad way that his success has ruined his creative email writing career, and about how the ol’ gal really took her final turn for the worse when he chose money, success, happiness, a new home, happy children, loving wife, and self-respect over cleverly crafted emails aimed at marginally employed bicycle delusionists. Bull promised to one day start riding again but I called Bull bullshit, and that was that.
And of course clean up hitter Iron Mike was there, the only rider to ever start and complete the FTR with even a touch of class. No matter that he now rides a tricycle and has been reduced to the sad state of Person Who Cycles for His Health, he brought to the burial a badly needed dash of intellect and humanity. He also had the common sense to leave early.
It was truly a memorial service for the ages. Toronto was there and he had carefully selected his wardrobe to not include the giant white windbreaker that doubled as a spinnaker; the event doubled as his 70th birthday party, and he didn’t look a day over 60.
But no attendee was more welcome than MMX, and he and I fondly reminisced about how, when DJ and the other leaky prostates tried to make a fake “let’s all stop together and pee” rule, we had gloriously hit out, for the tenth time, and almost snagged the glorious win up Balcom. Had I not found a section of guardrail in bad need of repair a few moments before the climb began, I would surely have succeeded.
Carly, Lynn, and the Jaegers senior were there as well, the people who had quite literally been midwives to FTR and who were now there to see her off. And though Macy and the extended Jaeger clan that had come together for almost twenty years to pull off the feat of feeding two dozen hungry cyclists in the early hours couldn’t make it, they were well represented. It was a hell of an evening.
FTR is dead. May she never rest in peace, but live vigorously, filled with excitement and fire, stirring passion, beauty, and love in our memories forever.