Before we get into stuff about cycling, there is something of utmost importance that needs addressing.
The whiskey situation in my cabinet is dire.
No self-respecting whiskey lover can call this a whiskey collection. I’ve had many of these bottles for a very long time. Apparently I haven’t kept up with restocking. And apparently I also have some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder where I need my bottles to clear out all at the same time. That’s weird, I wouldn’t have guessed that. It took a few years for this compulsion to manifest itself, but there it is.
Anyway, on to other news. Yesterday I got to go on a bike ride with Steve, someone I first met when I was three. Or so I’ve been told. When I was three my sister Cindy was in high school and Steve was her boyfriend. And they remain great friends to this day.
I remember a few things about Steve from the early 80’s. Maybe not directly, but at least the stories have been firmly implanted in my mind. One is of him wiping out on his bike near our house, so he naturally came over to get patched back together by my mother. That story mostly pops up once a year or so when my sister Lori asks, “Remember that time when Mom had to mop up Steve’s blood?”
My father recalls Steve as, “that goofy kid always falling off his bicycle.”
Steve emailed me recently and asked if I’d like to go on a ride with him. How could I say no?
After closing our CrossFit gym yesterday around noon, I headed up to San Francisco to meet up with Steve. Our plan was to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head up into the Marin Headlands. As we got ready to go, it occurred to me that I should try to balance out my panniers, because they seemed a little heavy. Trying to give Steve the impression that I’m responsible so he won’t have a bad report for my sister, I tried to not appear surprised as I uncovered items I’d long considered lost. Turns out, whenever I take off for a ride, I think to myself, “Better bring a layer!” But then I rarely need it. So the layer stays in my pannier. Next time I go for a ride, I think, “Better bring a layer!” And I chuck it on top of the layer I forgot was already in there. Eventually I wonder where all my layers went and buy another when I see one on sale. As I carefully rearranged all these layers in preparation for this ride, he commented that he felt very unprepared. I realized how paranoid I must have looked with my bags stuffed with two sweatshirts, two jackets, two long sleeved shirts, and extra pants – among other things – so I shrugged it off as weight I was purposefully carrying around for training.
It was a sparkling beautiful day at the end of February and we took some scenic routes in horribly congested touristy areas. We got to bike right past the Exploratorium, where my previous bike had been stolen. I gave Lutz a little pat as we went by to reassure him – okay fine, myself – that he’ll be okay.
We went across the Golden Gate, which of course is always fun, and always makes me think of the kayak I sunk. That was in either 2002 or 2003… I think 2003.
During that paddling trip, we were coming back into the bay with the tide, which meant that the waves along the cliffs to the south were getting big. So of course we had to play a game of chicken! Good thing I put on my helmet, cuz I got caught by one of those waves and surfed into a little pocket beach. The helmet got gouged as I got scraped upside down along the side of the cliff. Once I was on the beach I tried to punch back out, but the waves were so big I just kept getting surfed backwards. As the tide continued to come in, the waves got bigger and bigger and I was losing my beach. The waves would grab the boat and throw it against the cliffs and I would have to dodge this 17-foot long battering ram being thrown at my head. One time I did manage to punch out of there, but the boat was so full of water and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t hold it upright. “She’s out!” I heard one of my friends holler, just as I rolled back under the water and got swept back in. After about 30 minutes of this, the bow snapped off from being repeatedly pummeled against the cliffs, and I climbed up the cliff to find a rock to sit on while I watched the sea take the rest of the kayak. The stern snapped off, and then the whole thing got smashed in half. My friends out there radioed the Coast Guard, and when the tide was all the way in so that the waves smoothed out, they came and got me. I still have nightmares of the sea throwing big heavy stuff at me.
That night we went out for dinner. I ordered whiskey. I ordered the Glenmorangie port wood finish. The waiter brought me something that clearly was not the Glenmorangie port wood finish. I took one look at it and knew. The color was all wrong. I don’t usually fuss to waiters, but it was a special day. I let out a pathetic whimper and told him that wasn’t what I wanted. He took a look at my 23 – maybe 22? – year old self and asked if I could at least taste it. It was lovely, but not what I wanted. He went back to talk to the bartender and came back with a dazed look as he said yes, I was right. Apparently they were out of the Glenmorangie port wood finish, so the bartender thought I’d like this other one instead. Which was fine. But c’mon, I know my Glenmorangie port wood finish.
Back to more recent events. Yesterday I told Steve all about my sunken kayak as we went up into the Marin Headlands in an effort to distract myself from my complaining legs. I was so afraid that Steve was going to assess my riding abilities and conclude that I was nuts for trying to do this cross country thing. Actually, the hill wasn’t that bad. We got passed by other cyclists, but I consoled myself that if it got cold, I would be the one passing out my extra sweatshirts to shivering speedsters.
We got to the top of Hawk Hill and had to take selfies, of course. And we learned that I had forgotten my phone, so my efforts to appear organized totally flopped.
Then it was downhill time. Here’s a lovely description of the Marin Headlands Loop I found at the Huffington Post:
At the top? Good for you! You’re done with hills (uphills). Stop and take a picture; sun or fog, it’s a moment worth remembering.
Time to be rewarded for your hard work. A freshly paved, 18 percent descending grade of sweeping S curves awaits you. Let out a guttural caveman howl and scream your way down the edge of the world. Biking with a friend? Bet them a beer that they can’t do this part of the ride without cracking a smile. You will never lose. Fellow biking enthusiast, Zach Bemis described the moment as “one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.” He bought me 12 beers that night.
I don’t like downhill. When we got to the top I could see the entrance to what was clearly the road straight down to Hades, marked with a sign that said, “18%, use caution, check your speed, cyclists don’t be stupid, this is a death trap, see you in Hell,” and I totally assumed we would not be going that way. So when Steve pointed in its direction and said that’s the way we were going, I said No.
And then he was supposed to say, “Just kidding!”
I assumed he was kidding.
He wasn’t kidding. And there were other cyclists there who weren’t kidding. “It’s not that bad,” they said. That made no sense to me. The sign very clearly said, “Cyclists stop coming down this hill, your government is running out of spatulas to scrape you off the asphalt.” How could this be not that bad?
“You don’t want to miss it, the scenery’s beautiful,” they said. That kind of reminded me of that scene from Soylent Green when Sol opts for assisted suicide and they play all those clips of nature for him.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Mister Complete Stranger said to me. Uh huh. And what credentials do you have to make such a claim?
Well, somehow I got talked into giving it a try. We crept down at a snail’s pace, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Oh it was bad, but I didn’t end up being bashed around in the surf again, so I’ve been through worse. Steve asked me didn’t I think it was beautiful? I’m not sure…. all my attention was on my brakes. Then he asked me if this was going on my blog.
After that everything was pretty smooth sailing. It wasn’t until we were all done that we decided to compare bike weights. I’m pretty glad we didn’t do that before we started, or I might have been a little dispirited. We went out to dinner with Steve’s girlfriend and luckily enough, they offered me Scotch! An incredibly tasty Auchentoshan, which may be the next bottle I get for my supply that needs restocking.
And so we end this post right off where we started.