The dogs must be crazy
August 22, 2016 § 39 Comments
There is a guy named Heath Evans. He is a football journalist. I know, that reads like a joke.
Then there is a guy name Peter King. He is a serious sports journalist who writes for Sports Illustrated. Get it? “Serious sports journalist.” Not as funny as football journalist, actually a pretty bad joke.
Then there is a woman named Jenny Vrentas. She doesn’t know how to drive a car or care to learn how. She’s not funny at all.
So what do you get when you put a joke, a bad joke, and a reckless driver on Twitter? You get this:
Both of these tweets are self-explanatory. The football journalist thinks it’s okay to publicly muse about his desire to kill or injure bicyclists.
The serious sports journalist thinks it’s okay to encourage reckless driving, record it, and then “no comment” on it while the flunkette he’s abetted drives in a bike lane.
You could tweet to @nflnetwork, Heath Evan’s employer, which would be awesome. You could also tweet to @SInow, the employer for fun-loving Jenny and Peter. You could do this, not because the NFL or SI would care, but because it might make your anger at these people dissipate a little bit. Maybe.
Of course, verbalizing violence towards people for riding bicycles pairs up nicely with the reality that people in cars kill and maim bicycle riders with impunity. Lives lost, lives wrecked, families ripped apart, children without parents, just because some dick on his way to a football game is in such a hurry that he can’t wait with all the other people patiently sitting in traffic. Gotta get there first to hit the buffet and the booze in the skybox, dude.
A friend of mine was mowed down last Sunday morning by a fellow who fled the scene. The buddy is still in the ICU and faces a long road to recovery. The felon is probably watching the Big Game on TV. “Guy shouldn’t have been in the bike lane,” he’s probably thinking, if he thinks about it at all.
We saw this casual violence here in RPV last Tuesday when a resident lamented the damage that a cyclist’s body and head had done to someone’s windshield, and we see it in various forms, either on the road or in conversation. “Why do you guys ride in the road?” This is politespeak for “Get out of my way because I want to kill you.”
I even had a cyclist after a bike race today come up and say he thought cyclists should be treated as pedestrians. You know, so we can be legally barred from riding on any part of the roadway at all, forever. “Like skateboarders,” he added, for emphasis.
I looked at him for a minute as if he was insane. But he wasn’t. Just like Heath and Peter and Jenny aren’t insane. They simply think your life isn’t worth shit.
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August 20, 2016 § 29 Comments
I miss Stathis the Wily Greek, and I’m not the only one.
Stathis was like a roman candle. He rose quickly, surpassed everyone, blew up, and then moved on to something else. As strong as he was as a rider, he was a terrible racer, at least to the extent that his results never really aligned with his prodigious physical strength.
I still remember a photo from the Nosco Ride a couple of years ago. Stathis was cresting Deer Creek ahead of some of America’s top pros. He made everything look easy, especially the uphill stuff. By the time he was breathing hard or struggling, you had long been shelled and kicked to the curb.
The best thing about Stathis was the way he took the fun out of it for everyone else. Cycling, unlike running, has a massive delusional component. You can endlessly manipulate the goal posts to feel good about the fact that you suck. This is in fact the business model of Strava.
Not with Stathis. With him, you always sucked. My second-fondest memory of riding a bicycle happened with Stathis. He had dropped the entire Donut Ride and had attacked me at the bottom of Crest. I’d hung on.
We got about a hundred yards past the wall and he drove over to the double yellow line, cutting off any hope of staying out of the crosswind. He looked back and saw I was still there and attacked. I struggled onto his rear wheel. He looked back and attacked again.
It was a look of amusement mixed with contempt. No quarter, no mercy, no adjustment for our age disparity, no respect for effort, just an icy calculation of “Now.”
It was the most deliberate, cool, piercing jettison job I’d ever experienced. He easily rode away. At the top of the radar domes he nodded, barely acknowledging that I was on a bike, and proceeded to crush the rest of the ride.
I savored that flaying for over a year. It’s rare that someone who is both a friend and a cyclist will destroy you so casually and so intentionally. If he’d been a Greek warrior he would have been Achilles.
And Stathis did that to everyone. One friend confided that he had given up the Flog Ride because there was, mathematically, no chance of ever beating Stathis. When the Wily Greek showed up, dreams took flight, the way investments in penny stocks take flight. Away. Forever.
This angered a lot of people because we cyclists cherish our delusions, kind of like Costco shoppers who think they’re superior to Wal-Mart because their conglomerate pays a higher hourly wage to its slaves or because their luxury eyeglass brands are 15% cheaper than at Lenscrafters, as if Wal-Mart, Costco, and Luxottica aren’t different versions of the same terrible thing.
Stathis didn’t allow you those delusions, and for me, reality, always obscured, enhances life the clearer it gets. Embrace death. Embrace the absence of an afterlife. Embrace crazy. Embrace the fact that you will never be good enough to even see Stathis finish. Embrace suckage.
My best day on a bike also involved Stathis, because I beat him on the same stretch of climb about a year later. Maybe he was sick, or tired, or more likely, he wasn’t even awake. Didn’t matter. By destroying and tattering my illusions hundreds of times, my one tiny “first” meant everything. It was stripped of everything except fact. I savor it still.
Now that Stathis has taken up something else, I’ve been riding up to the top of his cul-de-sac street, which I now know is the steepest and longest climb on the peninsula. I keep hoping that one day I’ll get to the end of the road and see him putting on his running shoes or oiling his pogo stick or adjusting the harness on his hang glider, but I never do.
But that’s the benefit of having good memories. They stick around long after the person who gifted them.
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I blame Obama! (and Head Down James)
August 19, 2016 § 13 Comments
In addition to being born in the foreign nation of Kenya and/or Hawai’i and being therefore an ineligible and illegitimate president, in addition to perpetuating the hoax that global warming is caused by humans, in addition to causing 9/11 when he was a state legislator in the Illinois Senate, in addition to being a founding member of ISIS, and in addition to repealing the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Consution, I blame Obama for beating me at the Telo training crit, him and Head Down James.
“Surely, Wanky, you don’t mean that.”
“No, no, no. What you mean is that Obama put in place the policies, procedures, funding, and geopolitical landscape that caused you to lose at Telo last Tuesday. That’s what you mean, isn’t it?”
“No. I mean what I said. I blame Obama for beating me at Telo. Him and Head Down James. And Pegleg Barrett for hosting the conspiracy on his private server and sending out classified emails to all of Velo Club La Grange to incite them to pile into the team van, drive down to Telo, and smash us into bits.”
“How is that Obama’s fault?”
“Glad you asked!”
It happened like this: There I was, giving a polite and courteous and harmonious speech to the raving NIMBY lunatics in RPV who want to promote bike safety by banning cyclists from public roads, and I was covered in dried spit and snot and sweat and smelled like an old hunks and was shaking from exhaustion and on the verge of collapse because I’d driven straight from Telo to the city council meeting.
Everyone was looking at my slobber in awe and a bit fearful of Zika and etc., but I couldn’t collect my thoughts because of Obama and Head Down James.
Right before the race began, Destroyer had sidled up to me. “You want to win?”
“Of course,” I said, reflecting on my Chevy Volt and therefore a bit suspicious of his as-yet unuttered advice.
“Follow Head Down James.”
“Okay,” I said, having no intention of doing it and fulfilling the first law of bike racing strategy, which is Lie At All Times. I mean, there was no way Head Down James and Obama could stay away from the beginning, and if there’s one thing more certain than that we need to make America great again, it’s that Head Down James was going to attack from the gun, which he did, so why should I follow him in a hopeless attempt?
“Go!” said Destroyer as Head Down James attacked at the beginning.
“Okay!” I said and drifted back.
Head Down James pounded away and won but not before Obama completely messed up the chase. All I really remember is that there was some poor schmo in a Texas Aggies pair of pants and another dude with a green jersey and Texas flag and they got completely shelled and lapped along with all but about seven people, welcome to California and Obama and socialism.
I followed wheels and did zero anything until I found myself in a break with Destroyer and Frenchy Jr. They almost dislocated their elbows trying to get me to take a pull, but with Obama working against me, and Frenchy Jr. being 22, and Destroyer being the champion sprunter, I didn’t see what sense it made for me to do a lick of work plus I’m lazy that way.
Although Big Orange started out with five guys we were Little Orange by the end with everyone but me and Skinny Dave having been shelled and lapped, and Velo Club La Grange only had Surfer Dan left but since Head Down James was up the road all he had to do was wheelsurf, which he did, plus pull me up the group the one time I got dropped which was around the time that Bahati literally tore off a crank arm he was pedaling so hard to bring back Head Down James.
But Obama carried the day with ISIS, and Head Down James closed the deal and got his first Brexit Winner’s Tunic. I can’t wait until Trump is president and implements Making Wanky Great Again and I finally have a chance.
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August 18, 2016 § 40 Comments
Some people think that professional athletes are heroes. I don’t. My heroes are people who possess courage. Courage means giving up your personal time to fight for what’s right. The more that’s at stake, the fiercer your opposition, and the more time you give up — time that you’ll never reclaim — the greater the courage.
My heroes are diverse and funny and flawed. They’re battling inner demons that are often a far bigger struggle than the external things they’re fighting for. My heroes don’t wear capes, but lots of them wear Spandex. And my heroes are often tired, rough around the edges, and a few hours shy of a good night’s sleep.
They show up on bicycles, on scooters, in crappy cars. Sometimes their makeup is crooked or their pants sag. But you know what?
My heroes show up.
They showed up on Tuesday night, just like they’ve been showing up for months. Their faces sometimes change, sometimes they’re out of town and another hero stands in, but they keep showing up. When you need them, heroes always show up.
Last night’s heroes were–
They showed up and sat through almost three hours of testimony on behalf of something so non-controversial that it could only be opposed by really tiny people: The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council was voting on a traffic safety committee recommendation to “Explore the creation of a bike safety master plan.”
I guess the idea of exploration frightened a few people. Of the 36 people who spoke on the issue, about ten were anti-cycling RPV residents brimming with anger at bicyclists in general and Big Orange in particular. Some of them screeched that it was a conflict of interest that transportation safety committee member Dave Kramer was an avowed cyclist and Big Orange member. Apparently anyone who cycles has a conflict of interest when it comes to … cycling. Whereas most people would consider that something called “expertise,” it escaped the tiny craniums of the well-groomed trogolodyte who muttered vague threats of lawsuits.
By that reasoning, we kept waiting for for them to declare that transportation committee members who drove cars should also recuse themselves for any matter that dealt with automobiles …
What was strangest of all was that they had come together to ostensibly beseech the council to address “bike safety,” yet not a single NIMBY had ever inquired what an actual bicyclist wanted or recommended, and not a single NIMBY voiced support for a plan that would explore bike safety issues.
They were for “bike safety” in the same way that Western ranchers favor “wolf safety,” i.e. “get rid of the dogdamned things.” The most empathetic speaker of all talked about how an RPV motorist had had to replace her windshield after it was damaged by a cyclist’s body and head. Tragic stuff.
The NIMBY display of anger and entitlement and ignorance of the law was an amazing contrast to the demeanor of the heroes. Here’s the video of the council meeting. Check out the What Do You Mean My Time’s Up Lady at 1:27:30, and the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats at 1:35:37. Then compare it with the tenor of the cyclists. The dude in the Wend Wax Works cap and Big O kit and droopy shorts is obviously sketch.
It was impressive to see how angry and demanding the NIMBYs were to the council members, volunteer officials who got nary a thank-you from the livid residents.
Fortunately, after everyone spoke, the city council voted on the revolutionary step of “exploring the creation of a plan” and unanimously approved it. You could tell that there were people on the council who didn’t think much of bikes, and there was one member who’s a confessed cyclist. But regardless of their individual opinions, the city council put its best foot forward and voted to explore bike safety. Not as gutsy as exploring the Amazon, but given the Crazy Uncle Yelling At Passing Cats it did take some resolve simply because one of these days he could show up and start yelling at YOUR cat.
This makes two victories for cycling in two communities that have long resisted acknowledging the rights of bicyclists. It takes courage to change, but even more than that, it takes courage to demand it.
I hope these citizen advocates inspire you like they inspire me. As long as we keep showing up, we’ll be heard. Rancho Palos Verdes isn’t anti-cycling, it’s like any community: Anti-change. Most residents don’t mind bicycles and many residents ride them. A lot of the conflict stems from the sad fact that the NIMBYs simply don’t know the law.
The next series of meetings are just around the corner. Hope to see you heroes there.
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Pure as West Virginia snow
August 17, 2016 § 32 Comments
Do you watch the Olamepics? You should be ashamed.
Or ignorant. You should be willfully ignorant.
Or in pharma sales. You should be in pharma sales.
A relative asked me if I thought anyone in the Olympics was clean. “Sure,” I said. “The lifeguard probably is.”
I can’t even get out of bed without a cup of coffee that’s strong enough to jump-start a Boeing. And you’re telling me that some dude won 28 Olympic medals clean?
Fairy tales are nice, but when there’s a huge disclaimer on the front of the book that says, “THIS FAIRY TALE HAS NO BASIS IN REALITY” and you keep citing it as the linchpin for your scientific evidence that climate change is a hoax or that Noah really did build an ark with two of everything, including all of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that hadn’t even evolved yet, I’m going to politely refer you to a psychiatrist.
In this case, the disclaimer was the admission that everyone in Russia doped, including the cleaning lady. If you were a Russian Olympian, you doped. And then, instead of booting out the whole rotten bunch, the IOC punted and let the federations decide because it would take too much courage to publicly admit what had already been publicly admitted. And we wonder why governments can’t ‘fess up to the use of chlorine gas in Syria against children? That icky old yucky truth.
The decision to let the cheaters in actually makes sense because why should we pick on the Russians when Team USA’s star track cycling Olympian tested positive less than a year ago? As punishment for his positive test he’s going to have to ride in the Olympics and maybe get a gold medal.
Or just gazing at the teenage U.S. gymnasts who have the muscular development of a 25-year-old man … that was all done pan y agua, for sure. Con esteroides.
Sports have transcended politics and become a race for human performance with no ethical or health obstacles in between. Whatever gets you to jump higher, or just gets you higher, is legit because all of the people who complain about doping are glued to their TVs transfixed by performances that are as real as pro wrestling.
Each one of those viewers is a tiny tick in a giant algorithm that says the beer and Visa ads are working. So watch away, but I’ll pass. I prefer to watch my drug cheats at the local masters crit. At least that way I can be sure that the dopers aren’t getting rich.
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The point-one percent
August 16, 2016 § 27 Comments
Here’s a quick rundown of things that have happened in the last couple of months:
- Three cyclists killed in PV
- Crazy road rager assaulted a man and his kid for riding their bikes
- Friend #1 got run over on PCH in Malibu
- Friend #2 got terribly injured by hit-and-run in San Diego
- Friend #3 got run over in PV
- Entire club ride narrowly avoided being taken out by road-raging Tesla
- Group of angry NIMBYs tried to ban cyclists from public roads
- Surfer gang member advocated death for cyclists who break traffic laws
- Wealthy citizen compared cyclists to “dog shit”
It’s easy to think that the world has gone crazy. When bicycles are the enemy and cars are the hero, we’ve literally turned the Imperial Stormtroopers into underdogs.
Except, we haven’t.
These same last few months I’ve been riding almost exclusively in PV, ground zero for the bike wars, and I’ve been sticking to some of the most controversial residential areas where opposition to cyclists is supposedly fiercest. What I’ve found is surprising, and it’s this: Most people are friendly.
I make a point of waving and saying hello to everyone I run across. Except for a couple of incredibly sour people for whom death will be a huge relief (for them and for us), people invariably wave back and smile. I’ve stopped and chatted with Mark the Dude with the Two Giant Poodles, and Bob the 80-Year-Old Dude Who Has Run Across America Twice.
What’s more interesting is that I’ve had zero car-bike incidents. This doesn’t mean they aren’t happening; video from other cyclists proves otherwise. But by and large, people in PV are fine with bikes, especially when the cyclist is highly visible.
Since I began riding with super powerful daytime front-and-rear lights, I’ve become visible at all times. A 1200-lumen flashing headlamp gets your attention no matter how distracted you are, and a 100-lumen red taillight does the same.
What’s more interesting is that some very low-grade detective work has revealed that the “horde” of bike haters in PV is actually one guy using multiple fake aliases on social media to create the impression that many in the community share his views. The police know his identity, and although he’s noxious, crude, and wants to incite trouble, he’s nothing more than a harmless crank afraid to show his face in public, not to mention a terribly inept surfer.
At their worst, people may be slightly bothered by having to slow down for bikes. But the 99.9% hardly get enraged, and they certainly don’t wish for death and catastrophic injury as the penalty for pedaling a bike. Of course the .1% that do can do incredible damage, and they have.
But most people are on our side, and recently, so are the police. And 99%? The odds could be a lot worse.
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Bikes and breakfasts
August 15, 2016 § 27 Comments
One of my teammates is named Anthony Freeman. He was national champion in BMX several times. Coming from the inner city and competing in a mainly white sport, he had a lot of experiences that might make some people bitter.
Anthony’s not bitter. He’s positive, optimistic, and always looking on the bright side of things.
A few days ago he posted about getting a new aero bike and what a difference it made, how cheating the wind, even a little bit, can affect your placing in a race. It’s true, too. Bike equipment really does make a difference in everything from commuting to competition.
Having a bike with an electric motor can make the difference between being able to commute to a job 35 miles away or not having a job. Having the right aero rig can make the difference between winning and losing a time trial. Even small things like tires or electronic shifting can make the tiny difference between reaching your goal and failure.
Slippery clothing, helmets, tires … virtually every facet of the human-bicycle combination can affect outcomes, and of course they all cost money. It’s not called an arms race for nothing.
Anthony made this point and then he took it somewhere I’ve never been before. He related technical advantages in a bike race to social, economic, and healthcare advantages in society.
Think about it. If a few hidden cables and a better profile helmet make the difference between victory and success, what kind of difference does it make to a kid trying to make it in school whether he starts the day with food in his belly or not?
Whether he has eyeglasses so that he can see the board?
Whether he has a computer at home so that he can do his homework?
What cyclist can be focused on squeezing the last little dialed-in detail out of their bike but also oppose the most vulnerable people in our society from getting the huge leg up they need at the earliest, most formative times of their lives, especially when that leg up is as basic as food, healthcare, and education?
It’s an arms race, all right. But the weapons aren’t bikes. They’re bread, medicine, and books.
What is the toughest Saturday ride in America?
August 14, 2016 § 12 Comments
That’s an easy question for me to answer around 11:00 after I get back from the Donut Ride. Every muscle aches and I hobble from couch to bed to table and back again. The exhaustion is complete, and anecdotally the other riders who go through the full Donut ringer are likewise shattered.
I don’t know of many other regular Saturday rides that feature 5,000 feet of climbing in 50 miles, but I’m sure they’re out there. And the difficulty of a ride also has to be measured by who shows up. Although Mike Friedman, Tyler Hamilton, and any number of Olympians and Tour riders have cameoed on the Donut Ride, and although there are always a handful of really good riders leading the charge, I’d think that a place like Boulder or Colorado Springs would have a much bigger regular roster of elite riders on its Saturday ride.
One Saturday ride that is harder than the Donut is the Swami’s Ride in San Diego, but only the first part, which ends when you go up that miserable climb to Elfin Forest. After that, it’s mostly rolling and the ride seems to break up as people go different directions, and it doesn’t have any sustained climbing. Maybe another criterion is how badly the group shatters? The Donut Ride always finishes the three major climbs with a tiny handful of people, and one isn’t uncommon.
The Simi Ride is supposed to be the hardest Saturday ride in the galaxy. I’ve done it only once, but a buddy flatted so I ended up cutting the course. It certainly attracts a consistently higher caliber of rider and it’s longer, but it only runs for a few months a year and I don’t recall any sustained climbing. I remember there also being a huge group so at least the parts I did seemed to have plenty of places to cower and hide and shirk and suck wheel, which are kind of my specialties.
Yesterday’s Donut Ride went very fast from the start. David Holland posted a great video of U.S. pro Kathryn Donovan as she manhandled all but the three guys who split off early and stayed away on the first climb. Here’s his video of Katie hitting the bottom of the Switchbacks and basically riding the entire field of guys–and one surviving super tough woman, Kristie Fox–off her wheel.
Katie is currently ranked 8th among pro women in the U.S., and it shows. She’s best in road races, although last weekend she pulled off a podium spot at the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, a fast and furious crit, by sticking a 3-rider breakaway on a super high speed sprinter’s course that rarely features successful breakaways. Katie has an attacking style of climbing; you can see her take stock, attack, rest, and attack, until there’s not much left but stomped dicks and broken egos.
This second clip shows the early move by A., who attacks long before the Switchbacks clip above. He’s immediately followed by Matt Cuttler, and then Diego Binatena. Diego comes back to us on the Switchbacks, then ditches us again towards the end, but Matt and A. stay away. Jean-Louis Bourdevaire launches in Portuguese bend and stays in between Matt & A., and my group, to the end, which is some tough riding because nowhere is worse than no-person’s-land, especially on a climb.
This final clip shows the second climb, Homes to Domes. It starts chill until Matt gooses it hard. Everyone not paying attention gets instantaneously dropped. Those paying attention follow for a while, then get dropped. There’s an oh-so-brief respite at the top of Via Colinita as we check for traffic, then Matt and A. take turns riding everyone off their wheel. I get popped just after the wall on Crest, but by that time there’s no one even close.
I’m sure there are harder Saturday group rides, but I hope I don’t ever have to do them.
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Old guys drool
August 12, 2016 § 38 Comments
If you’re one of the 300,000 people who saw this video clip, you can go back to bed now reassured that the Internet did its job.
A few hours after we posted here about the greedy, violent, hostility of Lunada Bay surfers towards outsiders and cyclists, this saggy fellow from Corona del Mar showed that bullies and road ragers in Newport Beach got game, too.
And then Mr. Sagbottom discovered that videos on smart phones can quickly be uploaded to the Internet, which then results in this pathetic, babbling, self-debasing blibber-blabber which seems less an apology than a psychotic CYA self-flagellation tailored to a potential jury pool.
Yes, the Internet did its job, which, lest we ever, ever forget, is to entertain. We got the innocent victim, a cyclist out riding with his son. We got the caricature of a caricature of a caricature of a buffoon — angry, stupid, obese, dentally challenged, thinning hair, waddling, homophobic, and parroting a line from a cowboy movie, so ironic because he’s the opposite of the tough guys in the movie he obviously idolizes. Oh, and he was the perfect cardboard cutout for all that is bad about surfing and surfers, a fellow who is obviously too large and unfit to surf well, if at all, nonetheless pretending to speak for the surfing community.
If nothing else, it gave me pause to think how one asshole claiming to be a surfer can tarnish a whole bunch of people, not unlike the rude cyclist giving the finger to a housewife with a car full of little kids.
Robert Lewis gave every aggrieved cyclist the chance to happily and viciously punch the “like” button on Facebag, and to add a searing comment, piling onto a stinking heap of shit that smokes and smells just fine on its own. And then to watch the Newport Beach Police Department go from “We don’t care about this,” to “We’re taking this seriously and investigating” added a finale that was as unexpected as it was appreciated.
Justice may or may not be done, but Sir Sagbottom will spend a few more sleepless nights wishing he hadn’t made such an ass out of himself.
Entertainment is fun and the Internet delivers it. For that, I’m appreciative.
But for anyone who lives or cycles or cages in the South Bay, there’s a big load of work ahead, because the city of Rancho Palos Verdes has begun work on its bike safety master plan, and it is seeking clubs and cyclists who might be interested in collaborating.
I was gratified beyond words when Chris Rovin, Marvin Campbell, Tom Duong, John Wike, Greg Leibert, Chris Tregillis, Jose Godinez, Craig Eggers, Tara Unverzagt, Delia Park, Geoff Loui, Bob Frank, Mark Maxson, and Jaycee Cary responded within minutes when we reached out for potential volunteers.
They did so without knowing the commitment or even what was involved. What they knew was that it won’t be Internet entertainment. A group of RPV residents has already belittled cyclists as the residents attempt to illegally ban bikes from a public road; one fine fellow compared cyclists to dog shit. What these cyclists know is that it will be hard, it will take time, their asses may go numb from hours of sitting (free chamois cream and Junk Jam for all) and it will stretch their abilities to compromise and find common ground. It will also likely require them to spend actual face time with a bully or two like Mr. Sagbottom.
Thanks for stepping up. It’s not YouTube entertainment with a happy ending in less than 24 hours but it’s going to make cycling a lot more fun for others.
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That was then, this is then–Why Lunada Bay never left the ’70s
August 11, 2016 § 25 Comments
Lunada Bay is located in the heart of the Palos Verdes peninsula, which is itself ground zero for the war on cyclists. But you’ll be surprised to know that we have all been here before. This amazing tale of Lunada Bay from a man who grew up here sheds light on the forces at play in gripping, powerful words that you won’t soon forget.
“That was Then, This is Then — Why Lunada Bay Never Left the ’70s”
With all the media coverage of late regarding the Lunada Bay lawsuit and the ongoing saga of the Bay Boys’ gang-like territorialism over “their” surf spot and broader community, I thought I would offer up an insider’s purview on the dynamic at play—shared through an archetypal anecdote of Bay Boy bad behavior.
It happened on a casual winter day in 1983 while my friend and I were on the southern section of the open cliffs in Palos Verdes that line Lunada Bay, checking the waves from a “safe spot” on the Avalanche side of the bay that wasn’t usually patrolled by the Bay Boys. There was a younger kid, about thirteen years old, sitting along the edge of the cliff near us with his unwaxed, brand new board straddling his knees.
We didn’t think much about him except we noted that his board wasn’t from one of the local shapers, but rather from a South Bay shaper, which the kid obviously didn’t know was like wearing a blue bandanna to a Bloods BBQ. It was just the three of us checking out the surf at the Bay, when out of nowhere came a Bay Boy we only knew as “Jeff,” a feeble surfer usually looking to compensate, who walked past us in that classic Bay Boy style—low hanging pants, flannel shirt, Ray-Bans and the duck-like shuffle affectedly conveying some sort of street cred that he thought might belie his (family’s) wealth.
With a façade of genuine caring, Jeff walked right up to the kid and said in the nicest way, “New board, huh?” The kid replied with a smile, proud of his new stick. Jeff said, “Lemme check it out,” and the kid easily handed it over to this seemingly innocuous character, then began answering the soft serve of questions Jeff delivered as the board was genuinely inspected in its every detail.
My friend and I were caught off guard by this surreal interaction. It seemed so incongruous with everything we had ever witnessed growing up around this surf spot, especially with this Jeff character, who was notoriously pernicious to all but fellow Bay Boys. We pretended to talk to one another while listening to the kid answer the questions. “Who shaped the board?” “How thick is it?” “It’s small, huh?” “Why the double wings?” “What’s with the swallowtail?” “Where are you from?”
And then it happened.
Jeff began to hand the board back to the kid, but with one smooth lunge of devotion to everything his little mind and body aspired to be, the new board went hurling off the steep and tall cliff, swirling and twirling, whooping and whirling, briefly, almost miraculously defying gravity on its way to a fate usually reserved for the most battered and yellowed of old boards.
All four of us watched for what seemed like a full minute as the board unraveled its spectacular dance of death, but the instant it was out of sight, Jeff turned to the kid and said, “Get the fuck out of here and don’t ever come back.”
The kid mustered a “You dick!” before he began visibly weeping, as Jeff turned to us, the only audience he had, chuckling oddly to himself as if he had just killed a rattlesnake.
Looking back, what was most noteworthy about the incident was the style in which it was perpetrated—like some well-rehearsed routine executed with flair, pomposity, and disdain, the Machiavellian nature of the act overshadowing its cowardly criminality and symbolizing the essence of the Bay Boy existence. It was a unique affront, in that moment, in that person, in that subculture, which was lost in time but still intact in some odd radioactive way, with a half-life that radiated intensity in a self-possessed fashion with self-preservation at its nucleus.
Jeff wasn’t afraid the kid was going to surf the Bay, not that day. Jeff’s act had a much deeper, more sentimental meaning behind it, besides making him feel taller and more potent. It was about preservation of the place, the people, the feelings, and the fraternal magic. It was about keeping things the same, about holding onto the past and the purity of surfing Palos Verdes when things had been much more simple. That kid, with his youthful exuberance and new board, was symbolic to Jeff of everything he and every other Bay Boy feared, that the newness of the modern, outside world could take it all away.
The reality that encased the PV surfer during the ’70s—the spectacle of Lunada Bay and its Bay Boys, their codes, nicknames, personalities, and demeanors—seemed to carry with it an incredible, collective, unspoken desire to hold onto something nostalgic. It was as if the Bay Boys’ customs, rites and rituals, clothes and attitudes, could half-retrieve the magic of the early days. Maybe by wearing black wetsuits, riding outdated white boards, going leashless, shunning the new, listening to the Stones or The Who or The Dead, they could conjure it all back to life. The Bay Boys were nothing more than sentimental creatures looking to hold onto something precious, a wave, a feeling, a moment, a subculture, themselves, their parents’ money.
Like the gangs that developed in East Los Angeles during mid-century, the Bay Boys were born from of a confluence of geography, sociology, and economic factors. Though they weren’t born out of repression, they were born out of possession. For all intents and purposes their parents owned the cliffs and, more importantly, the surf spots below them, which were aplenty and amazingly good during the winter months. They banded together to preserve their status quo because they could do it if they could keep the outside world off of their little island. Oddly enough, PV used to be an island; the channel between it and the mainland eventually silted up to form the Los Angeles Basin.
The Bay Boys were merely a reflection of the larger Lunada Bay culture, which has been informed by a long-held self-entitlement of the denizens of this bucolic yet small-minded community, and this includes surfers and non-surfers alike. They don’t want to share their waves, parks, roads, or even their sunset views with outsiders. Their tenets have been cultivated by an “it’s mine” mentality and by the companion idea of preserving it for themselves, and they have taken their preservation to stylistically interesting extremes.
Like real gangs, the Bay Boys have thrived on intimidation and notoriety. Many of their younger and more insecure members find cowardly vandalism or violence glamorous or necessary in order to maintain their individual status within the lineup. Like most groups, they have depended upon both individual and group participation in criminal activity that includes actual theft of the state’s coastline by constructing an illegal structure there and preventing anyone but themselves and their friends from using it.
Unlike legitimate groups or organizations, there hasn’t ever been a single identified leader. In fact, those at the top are the least likely to be involved in anything negative, leaving the dirty work for those on the lower rungs of the pecking order, spurred on by the unscrupulous members’ directives. Like other gangs, the Bay Boys have had their own hallmarks of identity: The clothes, the vehicles, the sunglasses, the stares, the music, the walk, the protocols, the P’s and Q’s. In the water, the style has been even more apparent. Besides the white boards and black wetsuits, there is a litany of behavior that comprises their style, all with an intended purpose, a saving grace, that with critical mass and less-than-critical thinking could preserve the Bay for all time for a select few who would somehow never never grow old, or grow up.
Surfing in PV was and still is largely controlled by the Bay Boys, whose ethos was formed in the sixties but found purchase in the seventies. Ever since, PV has been caught in a time warp of out-of-date sensibilities that keep it purposefully behind the times. While dramatic board advances were being made off the hill, the few PV shapers kept to their insular world, content to stick to their own ways. Even though the leash was being widely produced by the mid-seventies, they were largely unused the entire decade among PV surfers because, you know, leashes were for kooks.
While the rest of the surfing world was growing in new ways, the Bay Boys maintained their integral mores: Surfing longer, more gunny boards than necessary, swimming into the rocks to gather their leashless, battered boards, riding waves with a style that hearkened back to earlier decades, but failing to push the performance extremes of the envelope they had intentionally sealed themselves into.
Some would argue the Bay Boys pushed each other and grew their skills over the years, particularly through summer sojourns to Puerto Escondido, but somehow they managed to keep the outside world away from the Bay. It seems their own myopic efforts of not sharing managed to keep their dream alive. That is until now, as a number of incidents have drawn the attention of international media and ultimately the Coastal Commission, most compellingly represented in a pair of federal class action lawsuits targeting their gang activities.
Even today, just as it was in the ’70s, on the surface Lunada Bay is a serene, beautiful, enchanting place that’s home to one of the best big wave spots on the California coast, with slight crowds who share waves, take turns, patrol the cliffs, and socialize together.
But upon closer inspection, it’s easy to discern the sad tension, even angst, which permeates the fabric of the Bay Boys’ culture. Most would agree that the Bay Boys ride boards that are too big in a style that’s antiquated, that their rituals are archaic and their conduct is criminal. It’s all true.
But through it all, they’ve managed to stop time, to hold onto to something precious and preserve both the feeling and the place, and they’ve done it with a style all their own, and with a criminality that not only these adult Boys endorse, but that has been abetted by local law enforcement and the broader community for decades.
It’s a slice of paradise in the Wild West, a Technicolor vision of the California Dream, hidden right in the heart of teeming Los Angeles. And no, you can’t have any. Don’t you even dare look.
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