Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gentlemen's Race: The Sequel

A very long peloton on PCH.
Note: The good photos were taken by Joe Pugliese, a photographer who competes with my other photog friend Bryce to take pictures of famous people. They're both excellent, expensive photographers, but Joe is a much faster cyclist and shot some photos of the event, which I've borrowed without permission since, as the Marquis de Sade once said, "Poor is the person whose pleasure depends upon the permission of another," and I'm pretty sure that creep meant it in this context.

This blathering blog entry profiles my recollections of the second of what I can only hope will be a centuries-long series of unsanctioned races disorganized by C. Casper Casparian. (What can the first C be short for? Cas Casper Casparian? That'd be great, because then saying his name would sound like you have a stuttering problem.) C-c-Casper calls them Old School Club Races, and I love these races for their brutal, no-holds-barred friendly competition to determine who is the alpha dog.

State Champ Hime Herbert reppin' I. Martin. Arf. Tuttle lurks in the "unattached" kit, a 180 from his world champ stripes.
Joe of Joe's on Abbot Kinney fame, The Funk and style king Jack show Westside Velo. Sorry I didn't do the squad as proud as I should've.
Being a remarkably simple person, I had a simple strategy based on my previous experience upon this particular parcours: don't wear black (I wore my styley new Westside Velo kit), drink more water beforehand, and save some energy for the latter part of the race when guys start hitting the wall, so as to stick it to them.

As we turned onto Mulholland and began to climb the coastal mountains after 26 miles on the Pacific Coast Highway, I did not rocket off the front only to implode. I didn't even try to stay with the fastest guys. I rode my own pace, saving energy for the final ascents of the race, which I notice tend to hand people's asses to their faces after 60-something miles. My plan was to catch a group that'd overextended themselves before the final climbs, and stick it to them right at the end because I had fresher legs. It's the little things for me -- especially little vendettas. I was well hydrated, eating right -- everything was on track. But as the miles went by, I found myself just getting slower. And sadder as a result.

Marc Thomas, wiped. He laid like this for 90 minutes at the finish.
Despite the scenery, the friends, the self-flagellating and the spandex, I was disappointed at the finish. Not so much with my effort, which I meted out precisely as I'd planned, but with my result. I finished roughly +/- 20th out of +/- 90 starters -- not terrible, but well short of my expectations. I didn't even get to stick it to anyone... I guess I impaled myself. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Marco looks like he had a tough day, too.
After the race I rode over Topanga and back into Santa Monica with Jack and le Funk, feeling more drained than I should've. I enjoyed a coffee (well, a Peet's Frappuccino bullshit they call a Freddo) with Jack, then I rolled home. Entering my gate and coasting up the familiar path to my front door, I noticed I was rolling much slower than usual.

The rest of the time I'd been pedaling, and just assumed that my lackluster legs were to blame for my lack of speed. But when I got home I noticed my back tire was unusually soft. I took out my trusty pressure gauge, and it read 30 psi. I'd started the day at a carefully calibrated 116 psi.

Had my tire been slowly leaking the whole time, sabotaging my race? Or was the leak a recent development? The devil is a slow leak; it will sap you as badly as roofies in your water bottle. (Maybe, haven't tried that.)

I don't know that I can blame tire pressure for my finishing place. But I'll try. If a slow leak was a culprit, what wickedness... Now instead of blaming myself, I can take solace that maybe it wasn't all my fault.

It's kind of like backing over someone, getting out of your car, and finding them dead. "I've killed them!" you'd wail. But then a lady standing there says, "No, he died of a heart attack ten minutes ago; you just backed over his dead body." It's still not a great situation. But you won't feel so bad, will you?

Maybe it's not quite like that.

Well, another 73 miles of speed racing, another 4200 calories burned before 11 am according to the heart rate monitor.

And of course the coda: my rockstorephotos.com permission-free borrowed image, or theft.

Does my back tire look low?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cee-Lo, Simulacra: How'd I Do That?

It's a classic sound, with a timeless message delivered in an entirely original and contemporary way.

Cee-Lo has been a favorite of mine since Goodie Mob coined the term "Dirty South." Speaking of "Dirty South," funny how few people know the roots of that cliche or the etymology of anything: that rock'n'roll was a slang term for sex; Mountain Dew was slang for moonshine (and was concocted as a mixer for moonshine during Prohibition); Coca Cola is just shorthand for the coca leaf and kola nut that got people high as kites on this medical tonic before the formula gradually changed to high-glycemic corn syrup (pretty potent stuff itself) and artificial flavors developed in chemistry labs.

This lack of reference, context or perspective brings my thoughts back to Baudrillard's 'precession of simulacra', where we have so many, er, fakes that we begin to forget what's real -- like a kid who draws the Disney castle when asked to draw a castle. The child has no idea that Disney's is a functionless fake, a facade that represents what a castle is in a totally superfluous way, with no regard to a real castle's function -- eating peeled grapes behind thick walls that keep out barbarians, right? -- without knowledge of fiefdoms, lords, barons, vassals, serfs, and medieval European slavery. Disney's castle is actually a phony copy (not redundant, I swear) of a pretty modern German castle called Neuschwanstein. But how many people understand that, or have that referential context?

Anyway, enjoy.

(Video resized to keep my only blog reader content. He doesn't care for my bleedy style.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Herrick, Less Virgins

What can I say? I read old poetry. Unlike most people, I find the carpe diem theme a little tired and depressing, but necessary nonetheless. Maybe it's the old conjuring by abjuring thing: you can't say "don't waste time" without pondering the ways you waste time. Maybe that's also why I have Milton's "When I Consider How My Light Is Spent" committed to memory. 

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time
by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flattened Fauna of Mandeville Canyon

Coyote not sleeping.
Mandeville Canyon is a tony area of Brentwood; guys like The Governator live there. Less importantly, it's about a mile up my street and has a climb of about seven miles. The convenient location and lack of traffic lights make it popular with road cyclists, and the top of Westridge Canyon, which shoots off from Mandeville, provides access to LA's most popular fire road and mountain bike trails. In short, lots of bikers use Mandeville.

The only thing that kind of stinks about the canyon is the impatient traffic. There aren't too many houses in the canyon, and residents want to enjoy their quiet, private cove where they can walk their dogs and ride their horses -- you know, enjoy the tranquility and slower pace.

Residents also make time to complain about the danger of cyclists riding side-by-side, or mountain bikers parking in front of their homes, and equally important issues. While the speed limit signs say 30, cars will blaze past while you descend at 30. Bicycles are not the hazard on this public road, and you'd think residents would appreciate the quiet of bicycles over the roar of another turbocharged Rover, but apparently not: last year one doctor living in this little Eden pulled his luxury car in front of a couple of dudes descending and slammed his brakes, sending one guy through his rear windshield, tearing off part of his face.

Ultimately, I think some residents of Mandeville are a little delusional and oblivious to the most obvious danger in their nook, because the amount of roadkill speeding cars generate there on a daily basis is always shocking. I pedaled up the road yesterday morning, and these animals were littering just one mile near the bottom. Surprisingly, no deer; but it's possible a coyote dragged one off the road.

Raccoon not napping.
The squirrel inside the squirrel.
Unidentifiable bird/feather mash-up remix.

Poetic Justice

I know this is somewhere south of a kick in the nuts on the great chain of comic genius, but there's something gratifying about seeing idiots get their just desserts. It's called poetic justice. With a dash of schadenfreude if you're feeling fancy.

Now, because I'm not a boorish Plebe, a sonnet I like from Robert Herrick pertaining to perving on chicks who're dressed like they just got out of bed with someone. (You have to read between the lines, the English were especially coy about their mistresses in the 1600s.)

Delight in Disorder

A SWEET disorder in the dress
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:
A lawn about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring lace, which here and there         5
Enthrals the crimson stomacher:
A cuff neglectful, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave, deserving note,
In the tempestuous petticoat:  10
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie
I see a wild civility:
Do more bewitch me than when art
Is too precise in every part.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gibraltar Mountain. Or, It's All a Little Foggy

Gibraltar Mountain, looming above scenic Santa Barbara, is often called the Mont Ventoux of America for its steep, dramatic switchback ascent and gorgeous views of the landscape below. (FYunculturedI: Ventoux is a mountain in the south of France.) Of course, me being me, this is where the bumps in the road begin.

I was staying at the posh Montecito Inn (Charlie Chaplin-themed hotel, pretty cool) with my special something for a weekend wedding. The rehearsal dinner was at the Four Seasons the night before--very fancy--but I moderated my alcohol intake for the sake of the morning ride, because my priorities are fucked. That night, I dreamed of clear views of St Barbie and the Channel Islands, maybe a few blue whales flopping around in the channel for my amusement.

I woke up early, but not bright. The weather was dark and raining, about 55 degrees, very atypical Southern California weather in July. Nevertheless, I rode my way up into the mist above Santa Barbara, to the base of fabled Gibraltar Road.
No views from the base of Gibraltar today.
Once inside the clouds, I was reminded of a visit to Crater Lake that Brian Dolen and I made on a road trip to Bend and Mt Hood. I think the photos below demonstrate what we did not see.
Nothing to see at Crater Lake.
Same place, clearer day.
Crashed trucks littering the road to Bend.
That blizzard in Oregon wasn't a total loss, though; we learned that most trucks suck at bumper cars.

Having never taken Gibraltar Road, I didn't know how long or steep the road really was, and couldn't see more than 30 feet ahead for the first 30 minutes; I was just pedaling through the fog hoping I didn't meet a car head-on. After a long period spent inside of clouds, I came up into Rattlesnake Canyon, and my whereabouts became a little more clear.

Coming up into the sun.
Soon, I'd reached the tops of the clouds.

Above the clouds...
And figured out I was only about halfway up.

Looking back toward the Pacific, nothing but clouds below.
After a while, I made the top of Gibraltar, and continued west onto Camino Cielo toward La Cumbre Peak, the tallest of the Santa Ynez Mountains at 4000 feet. (Cumbre is brown-speak for 'peak', so properly translated it's The Peak Peak.) It was getting hot above the clouds, but I had this song from my childhood playing in my head:

Rather than descend back into the fog and stormy St Barb from The Peak Peak, I retraced and went east on Camino Cielo, which straddles the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains and offers views off of both sides.

Camino Cielo.
According to the Google Map I'd studied, I could take Camino Cielo east all the way to Romero Canyon, and descend back to the coast, then ride back west toward Montecito, making a big loop. Naturally I get going about 40 miles an hour along Sky Road when suddenly, after rounding a corner, I unexpectedly barrel onto a single-lane dirt road... I'm still writing this, so I didn't die or anything worse, but it was quite a test of balance and skill braking from 40 to zero, on dirt, with a cliff off to one side, on 1/2-inch wide, slick road bike tires. Google Maps doesn't show it, so allow me to inform you: Sky Road ends very abruptly and Romero Canyon is unpaved.

Abrupt change in road surface noted.
Oddly enough, I looked up to catch some breath and thank The God(s?) for not going over a cliff when I noticed vultures circling above me. I'm guessing they knew these roads (and where they end suddenly) better than me, and had previously profited from it.

Vultures: pretty from far.
I couldn't really make too many more wrong turns and still make the wedding on time, so I retraced my way back up to where Camino Cielo crosses Gibraltar Road, and bombed back down into the clouds from whence I rose.

During my ride up in the sun that day, I could often hear rattling when I would coast along--not unusual, since a ticking freewheel sounds a lot like a rattle. But something else was rattling at times, too. I think they were responding to my back wheel's mating call. And since I'd climbed Rattlesnake Canyon, I knew some serpientes were probably about.

Naturally I ran over a rattlesnake on the way down. There was no way to see it while dodging potholes on the descent, but I felt it, and by the time I'd come to a stop about 100 feet down the road, I could see it back up there, coiled to strike. The snake was fine, because within seconds it darted into tall grass. Snake in the grass... I wasn't chasing it.

Rattler not to scale.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. I never got any ocean or Santa Barbara views, just cloud-tops, then cloud interiors, then cloud-bottoms, which explains why these photos are so mundane and only a bit scenic.

The wedding was eventful, at The Ranch north of Santa Barbara, near where Michael Jackson used to live. I think Poppy got some ideas. Oh no.

Oh no.

Haze, clouds, fog, rain, precipitous cliffs, Biblical symbols and flashbacks... This ride could have been one grand metaphor for my own mental state. But it's not.