I finally got on my bike today to go for a “ride.” Except for the riding that I’ve done, I’ve been off the bike for two weeks now. It felt good to pedal without a backpack and without a bunch of crap attached to my bike. My new life as a bicycle tourist is so peaceful now, no more stresses about fitness and group rides.
I ride for fun.
I figured it would be a good day to ride up Paseo del Mar by Bluff Cove. The surf looked like it might we working, and as everyone knows, the road and bluff in front of 612 Paseo del Mar is invariably jam-packed with surfers this time of year when there is a swell. I wasn’t disappointed. The sad “for sale” sign was still there, as it will be until the owner realizes that no one is going to pay $9.5M for a hideously ugly, 20-year-old fixer-upper that serves as the front porch for one of LA’s busiest surf party scenes.
As with the failed attempts of the owner to unload this white elephant in 2011 and again in 2015, the only activism that will be going on at Villa Activista is trying to figure out how to trick potential buyers into thinking that solitude means “massive traffic jam in front of your house.”
Once I got back on PV Drive my legs reminded me that I am slow and out of shape, so much so that even a short climb left me achey and winded. Doesn’t matter though, because tourist. As I dropped down past Pregnant Point onto the “other” Paseo del Mar, some dude came racing by in full kit. It is easy and fun to pass people on the downhill, especially when the person you’re passing looks like me. This guy was in full Billy Badass mode. “Enjoy it!” I thought.
In my dotage, I have accepted my new place in the peloton. Old, slow, weak, washed up. Face the music, old fella.
However, as I approached Lunada Bay, I noticed that Billy Badass had winded himself by all that downhill pedaling, and now, as the road rose, he was feeling the after-effects of gravity. I pedaled a little harder.
With another keen glance I noted the old Rome-Paris pedal stroke, where one leg points off to Rome and the other to Paris, characteristic of folks who aren’t feeling too perky. I pedaled a little harder.
As he went through the stop sign and the grade increased, he really slowed. I dropped it a couple of cogs and started to mash, passing him hard. It is easy and fun to pass people who passed you and are now blown. Okay, so I wasn’t touring anymore. But I wasn’t really racing, either. I was just testing my fitness.
But Billy wasn’t going to let this one go. No scraggly-bearded, pencil-legged, tennis-shoed grandpa on a big-tire bike was gonna pass him, no sir. But he had a gap to close, and I wasn’t letting up, and the grade was still increasing and about to make the left-hand curve and really kick up. I heard him struggling, so as we bent left, I stood. It got very noisy behind, then deathly quiet.
Now I was the one who was winded. Not so much winded as wrecked. And I still had the right-hander followed by the right kicker that went back to PV Drive, following the Donut Ride course. Billy may have been blown, but he was also in his 20s and had that magical thing called recovery, and he was charging.
This was going to end badly. No lungs, no legs, no heart. Mr. Scott had no more power to give. And what did I care? I’m a tourist now. I ride for fun.
And then a funny thing happened.
I made the final right-hand kicker with Billy hot on my heels. But instead of blowing, my muscle memory took over. “This,” they said, “is the Donut. This is your piece of pavement. Sit back, boy. We know what to do.” I came out of the saddle and without even thinking, did what I always do there, drop it a cog even when I don’t need the gear–the simple “chunk” of the chain going down a cog is often enough to make people on the limit give up.
Which is what Billy did. That “chunk” went straight from his ears to his heart and I could almost hear him saying, “Fuck it, today was supposed to be my easy anyway.”
But the muscles, overloaded and drenched in lactic acid, they only recognized the course, the route, and how many pedal strokes I’d need to get over the hump. They remembered. And then after the turn onto PV Drive, even though I was empty from this pitiful effort, they remembered some more: Always kick it hard after the turn to widen the gap, then put your head down and pedal like a motherfucker.
And I did.
I caught my breath, a little, and sped on to Hawthorne, grateful to have the excuse to turn left and get out of Billy’s sights. I needn’t have worried. He was a tiny little speck.