Celebrate, shattered

December 26, 2017 Comments Off on Celebrate, shattered

The 2017 Grinchmas Ride was a small affair. It was so small that at 5:30 AM at the Center of the Known Universe I wasn’t entirely sure but that it wouldn’t be me, possibly accompanied by myself, and perhaps I for company.

By liftoff three other riders showed up, Kristie, Steve Utter, and Evens Stievenart. Evens, he of the 24-hour cycling world record and two-time victor at the 24 Hours of LeMans, had texted the night before.

“Are you really riding at 5:30 on Christmas?”

“Yes. Best ride of the year.”

“I might join you.”

“A lot of people ‘might,'” I taunted

There was a brief text-pause. “I will be there,” he said.

Evens is in terrible shape. He’s been off the bike for two months and has been doing nothing but eating. So it seemed like it would be especially good for a leisurely pedal up the coast, especially with Pablo as pace protection and Manslaughter with his torn calf, so disabled he can barely walk.

Manslaughter texted in his regrets, and Pablo must have simply rolled over in bed.

That meant four of us. Thank goodness Evens was just getting back into shape, because normally he is fearsome company on a bike.

As we left CotKU in the pitch black, Kristie stripped off her armwarmers. “I’m too toasty already,” she said. It was barely fifty degrees, but I didn’t say anything, figuring that later on she would freeze to death but keep freezing rather than stop the ride to put the armwarmers back on.

By Pedal Stroke #4 it became clear that Evens’s rebuild program started at 250 watts, which probably doesn’t seem like much until you figure that I’m real old, real slow, and we were going to be doing it for four hours. The temperature continued to drop and the pace stayed steady, as in steadily miserable. We got to Trancas, had a quick coffee, talked to some foreign exchange students from Oman, and got back on our bikes.

The Oman students were so friendly and so obviously enjoying California. They were students at CSU Northridge. I hoped they were having a good experience here, and that people were treating them well, that America was being welcoming despite all the hatred towards foreigners that has been issuing out of the White House and Congress of late.

We had had a headwind on the way out, so were lucky to also get a headwind on the way back. To keep things interesting, as if being slowly ground into gristle for several hours isn’t interesting enough, Evens made a point of keeping his power steady on the punchy rollers going back; Zuma, Latigo, and Pepperdine’s double bump before dropping down to Cross Creek.

We reached the Santa Monica Pier in tatters, but I had to pretend that I was fine, and Evens kept the same miserable tempo all the way back to Manhattan Beach. The moment he turned off to go home our speed dropped to 10 mph, my shoulders slumped, and I wanted to get off my bike and cry.

My only relief the entire four hours had been a brief stop for a flat tire, the coffee at Trancas, and a miracle banana donated by Kristie without which I would still be on the bike path at Playa del Rey.

Back home there was an astounding feast awaiting. My wife had whipped up biscuits made from scratch, scrambled eggs with mushrooms, sausage, pan-fried potatoes, and cup after cup of freshly brewed hot coffee. Oh, and two kinds of homemade jam and one of marmalade. We opened presents and then she rolled out the most amazing chocolate birthday cake I have ever eaten in my life. I took a break from my no-sugar diet to enjoy a slice of chocolate heaven.

My legs finally seized up and I went to bed. Dinner was only two hours away and a massive homemade pan of mole tacos cooked up by my daughter awaited. Tomorrow, diet. Maybe.



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Grinchmas Ride, 2017

December 22, 2017 Comments Off on Grinchmas Ride, 2017

I’m not sure how long we’ve been doing this ride, maybe five years? It started one Christmas when I left the house very early and met up with Manslaughter, who is now doing penance for his sins with a torn calf muscle. The second year we hooked up with Pablo, and after that the group gradually grew to about six or seven people.

Rolling up Pacific Coast Highway with no traffic on a chilly Christmas morning is exceptional. The empty road, the sun coming up over the Malibu hills, the endlessly blue Pacific Ocean … and no Rage Rovers or Land Bruisers to break the quiet cadence of oiled chains, whirring wheels, and comfortable conversation.

This year, like every year, we’re rolling out from the Center of the Known Universe at 5:30 AM, pointy-sharp, pedaling up to Trancas and back. If the forecast holds, it will be pretty cold, at least for SoCal. Even though I’ve been so far off the #socmed grid that I don’t even bother taking my phone on rides anymore, I may take it along to click a few photos and post here.

Join us if the kids are grown, if the kids sleep in, if there are no kids, if you want to experience silence and beauty smack in the middle of one of the busiest places on the continent, if you’re not convinced that dog made the world in his image, or if you’re just a plain old Grinch. I know I am!




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