December 7, 2018 Comments Off on End of an Error
Continuing my tradition of a blogging holiday, it did occur to me that a serious wrinkle in the Force has bubbled up. It’s the formal notification I received last week announcing the end of the FTR.
Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride has been going on so long that no one remembers when it started. That’s partially because it was a long time ago but mostly because those involved are suffering severe memory deficits. DJ pegs it at about twenty years ago; I have only been doing it for ten years or so. It’s an invitation ride that was originated as a tune-up for the road racing season. Historically, as if anything related to FTR deserves the word, it came the weekend before Boulevard Road Race.
That epic battle was scrapped from the race calendar a couple of years ago. SoCal now has no legitimate road races, and only a couple that even pretend. Likewise, the formerly fit and hungry riders who queued up in Ventura County for the FTR’s 117-mile romp up hill and down dale are now a bunch of soggy, saggy, worn-out old shoes.
And that’s the fit ones.
The roll call of riders now is so decrepit that it resembles a funeral procession more than a bike ride. Flatback Harry hasn’t drilled it on the 101 in so many years that no one can even remember what it felt like, and it doesn’t help that his spine is about as flat now as bristlecone pine. DJ himself putters around the neighborhood streets in Manhattan Beach on his bike, putters in his garden, putters in his garage, and, rumor has it, even put-ters on the golf course.
Whatever he does, the days of yore when he could be counted on to slay all but Konsmo and G$ on the slopes of Balcom Canyon are long gone. He now hires a daycare assistant to bundle him into the handi-care van and lug him to the top. Sad days, indeed. The only truly reliable FTR old shoes are Shon Holdthetree, who still regularly runs into the taco cart in Santa Maria, and Bull, who prepares for the FTR with by cleaning out the Mexican food buffet with the vigor that he always has.
This last edition of the FTR, already tinged with the saccharine nostalgia of old people reminiscing fondly about how good they never were, promises to be so far from epic that even the long-extinct dinosaurs such as Tumbleweed have thrown their hats in the ring. We can expect regularly spaced defibrillators, crash carts, and matronly nurses to gently tie down the gurney straps as each worn out old shoe muddles his way back to the post-ride feast.
The FTR is dead, long live the FTR.
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.