Recycled 4: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017

• Editor’s note: Since my Bicycle Retailer and Industry News column won’t survive into the New Year, I’ve decided to resurrect a six-pack’s worth of this year’s “Mad Dog Unleashed” screeds between now and then. This is round four, a little attaboy to my old Live Update Guy comrade Charles Pelkey, who is alive and well in Laramie and contemplating a comeback in 2018.

Johnny and Ed (Hey-o!) decided the show must not go on for 2017.

LUGging out: Live Update Guys were DNS for Tour

“He shook his head, and as he shook his head, I heard someone ask him, ‘Please, Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles … dance.”—Jerry Jeff Walker, “Mr. Bojangles”

By Patrick O’Grady

This July marked the first time in years that I haven’t been required to follow the Tour de France.

So I didn’t. And it was swell.

Well, mostly.

I’ve spent nearly three decades paddling my little canoe along the bright yellow revenue stream of the Tour without ever having to visit its source in France, which I hear is quite a drive from Albuquerque, even in a Subaru.

The Tour got me into bicycle racing in the Eighties, and bicycle racing got me out of the newspaper business in the Nineties, before The Suits declared open season on copy editors.

Fight or flight? Flight, I thought as I hit the door running, and when does the beverage cart come around? Make mine a double. Anybody who thinks a pan-flat, 200km sprinters’ stage in the Tour is dull never edited a school-board story at 10:30 p.m., when sensible people are already half in the bag.

But even the Tour loses its kick after a while. And so, after Charles Pelkey and I agreed to leave his Live Update Guy project parked for 2017, I celebrated by stuffing part of a bike and all of my left hand into a trailside cholla.

Funny money. Of all the things I’ve done for money, Live Update Guy scores way up there on the fun meter.

This odd little enterprise came about in “Let’s put on a show!” fashion, a la Busby Berkeley’s “Babes in Arms.” Or maybe Monty Python’s “The Crimson Permanent Assurance” would be closer to the mark.

Charles had been handling live updates and other chores for a Boulder-based cycling enterprise until he got a pink slip and a black diagnosis more or less simultaneously in 2011, two days after the Tour wrapped.

The one-two punch of unemployment and breast cancer couldn’t keep him down, though. He put his University of Wyoming law degree to work full time, eventually becoming a co-founder of the Laramie firm Neubauer, Pelkey and Goldfinger, LLP.

But Charles still enjoyed following pro cycling, and while undergoing chemotherapy he hung out another shingle, LiveUpdateGuy.com, and called the 2011 Vuelta a España—supported not by advertising, or vulture capitalists, but by his readership.

Like Mr. Bojangles, Charles was dancing for tips.

Hey-o! I joined the show in 2012, but Charles was the star, and rightly so.

For starters, he had actually been to all three grand tours, performing feats of journalism. In this new role, he arose at stupid-thirty for the start of nearly every stage of nearly every GT, and generally carried on till the bitter end, then popped back in later to add results for the data-obsessed.

I generally clocked in late to make fart noises, get things wrong, and make people crazy. In other words, same as I do here.

This has its limits, as you know. If Charles had lawyering to do and left the keys to the joint with me, eyeballs and donations dropped off accordingly. Nobody turned on the “The Tonight Show” to watch Ed McMahon. They wanted Johnny.

Spare change? We said LUG operated on the NPR model—light on commercials, heavy on beggary—but it was more like busking next to an upturned hat on a downtown sidewalk.

When the act was good, we got paid. Not so good, not so paid. It was an astoundingly libertarian business model for two old commies, though there was a Marxist overlay; we didn’t bounce anyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

We got a big assist from the audience, which included an actual monsignor at the actual Vatican who proved a prodigious daily essayist; a generous East Coast equestrian with a crush on Peter Sagan; and a poet laureate who affected the guise of a herring-mad penguin.

“I’d say that some of my favorite memories involve the family that we created out of that site,” said Charles. “They are a wonderful group of people. It’s been a privilege to get to know a lot of them.”

It’s … Monty Liggett. When action was slow on the road, LUG served up running gags (Monty Python and various Liggettisms were in heavy rotation).

So, too, were clubby and impenetrable acronyms like HWSNBN (“He Who Shall Not Be Named,” for a certain Texan), and NRRBBB (“Non-Race-Related Blah-Blah-Blah”), in which some critics argued we indulged too freely.

But when you have the effrontery to provide live commentary on a grand tour from start to finish, and from the wrong side of the pond, with few resources beyond unreliable video feeds and your equally dubious wits, it’s hard not to tumble into the ditch of digression now and then.

Some days trying to keep it between the ditches felt an awful lot like work. So, with Charles now a legislator as well as a lawyer—he won election to the state legislature in 2015—and me wanting to ride a bike in the early morning before the Duke City desert starts to smoke, it seemed wise to take a break this time around.

Maybe not, though. Because if we had been calling the Tour, safe in the ever-lovin’ arms of the LUG Nuts, I might not have stuck my hand into that damn’ cactus.

• Editor’s note v2.0: This column appeared in the Aug. 1, 2017, issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

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13 Responses to “Recycled 4: The best of ‘Mad Dog Unleashed’ 2017”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Crashing into a cholla is one of those things that make you say, “sheeeeeet!” Give me a prickly pear any old time. At least you can see the spines to pull them out.

  2. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    I fondly remember the LUG’d editions of the Giro d’Italia. We had the good padre over for lunch when we lived in Rome.
    Best wishes to all for a great 2018, when (I hope anyway) to be living in Italy full-time and seeing a few of the slats kicked out from under the Greasy Orange Turd via the US midterm elections. This assumes he hasn’t quit or been tossed out by then?
    Meanwhile, we had a very nice bike ride the other day.

    http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/2017/12/slo-food-slow-riding.html

  3. JD Dallager Says:

    Two good-looking, talented, and savvy hombres there! And the B&W shots are a nice touch too!

  4. larry brown Says:

    why do I feel like I’m going to a wake

  5. Dale Says:

    That “Let’s Put On a Show” comment had me thinking of Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy, and of course Judy Garland was his girl. I didn’t watch many of those until a couple of sloth years in my wasted youth (there was herb involved, I’m sure).

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Man, I watched all those old flicks. Especially the gangster movies. There was a period in “high” school when all of us hit the thrift stores and kitted out like Edward G., Bogart and Cagney. Thank the suffering Christ that no pictures survive from that misspent era.

  6. Art Strauss Says:

    Times I’d be LUGing and would crack up laughing so hard folks nearby would ask ‘what’s so funny?’ When I would try to explain they, especially my kids, would say they’ve reserved a place for me in the old folks home.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Hey, Art, glad to hear you enjoyed our little two-ring circus. Charles may pitch the tent again for this year’s Tour. I’m not certain whether I’ll sign on, having largely lost interest in pro racing, but you never know.

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