Archive for the ‘Wheels of misfortune’ Category

We are all Armstrong’s domestiques

November 2, 2012

Editor’s note: Today’s edition of “Friday Funnies” was written Oct. 12 for the November 2012 issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

EPO all in my veins
Lately things just don’t seem the same
Acton’ funny, but I don’t know why
‘Scuse me while I pass this guy.

— from the affidavit of Dave Zabriskie, recounting how he serenaded Johan Bruyneel on the U.S. Postal Service bus in 2002

The parting glass

A fine wine turned to vinegar.

I’VE OFTEN JOKED that in helping to cover professional bicycle racing I was aiding and abetting a felony.

Well, whaddaya know? Turns out I wasn’t joking after all.

The revelations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of Lance Armstrong will be ancient history by the time you read this. Indeed, they were mostly off the front pages in less than two days, swept aside by Smokin’ Joe Biden flooring Paul “Lyin’” Ryan in their vice-presidential punch-up, the European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize and rumors of a sexy new iPad mini on the horizon.

Ho-hum. Just another rich white guy getting away with something. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along; move along.

In the cycling media, however, it was all Lance, all the time. Nothing new there, either. Whether he was winning a Tour de France, berating an Austin doorman or boinking an Olsen twin, Armstrong was always good for the bottom line. Chamois-sniffers and haters alike dove headlong into every story and then went to war in the comments. Making money off Lance Armstrong was easier than stealing from the collection plate at a church for the blind. (more…)

Public service announcement

October 24, 2012

I don’t often make pitches like this, but a friend and colleague finds himself in something of a financial hole and I’d like to help some other friends throw him a long green rope.

Patrick Brady, the guiding light behind the website Red Kite Prayer, provided space and funds to Charles Pelkey and John Wilcockson last year when they found themselves abruptly double-flatted with no spares in three-legged-pit-bull country. Now Padraig himself is in something of a pickle, having kissed the planet at speed and, as a consequence, incurred some medical bills to which the insurance company is giving the old ho ho ho.

Long story short, another friend is soliciting small donations on Padraig’s behalf — basically, the equivalent of a tasty microbrew that one might buy for a riding buddy — and if you feel moved to kick in a fin or two I will see to it that he personally kisses you on the lips once his lips are more or less back where they belong. That is all.


October 10, 2012

The parting glass

A VeloBarrel of fun

July 8, 2010

Today’s was a long and unproductive stint in the old VeloBarrel. remains a little twitchy — envision a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs — and this afternoon in addition to the usual hitches in its digital gitalong I started having trouble simply staying connected to the site.

This is problematical if you’re one of the people being paid to stuff bits and bytes up the digi-tubes linking France, Colorado, Wyoming and California. Thus I accomplished very little beyond rearranging the order in which I repeatedly delivered a short selection of choice obscenities.

Bring me one of these every 15 minutes until I pass out and every half hour thereafter.

Bring me one of these every 15 minutes until I pass out and every half hour thereafter.

Beats me what the problem was (and still is). My other usual haunts — The New York Times, Political Animal, DrunkCyclist and this miserable site — are chugging right along. And this site and DC are both WordPress-based models, too. So go figure.

“Is it too early to start fuckin’ drinking?” I IM’d web editor Steve Frothingham around 1:30. “It’s 9:30 p.m. in France,” he replied.

Speaking of booze, Frank Bruni has an item on the Bloody Mary over at today’s Writes Mr. Bruni: “The bloody mary bridges the speakeasy and the herb garden; it’s a liquid salad into which you can not only pour pretty much any kind of base alcohol you like but also sprinkle parsley, basil or cilantro, and, while you’re at it, cram in hunks of vegetables, usually pickled, of many types.”

He then goes on to describe an appalling series of effete East Coast beverages served up by sissified Noo Yawk bistros that must make a Sonoma County wine bar look like a Hell’s Angels clubhouse by comparison.

I was never big on Bloodies, myself. Back in my morning-drinker days the crowd I ran with favored the lowly red beer as a palliative for the daily brain sprain. This was simply whatever cheap lager was on tap at the nearest dive bar mixed with Snap-E-Tom tomato-and-chile juice, repeated as necessary. A wedge of lime upped the vitamin-C content while adding much-needed roughage.

Maybe I’ll have one tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just get straight into the smack.

Freezer burn

December 7, 2009

We’re in the deep freeze here in Bibleburg. It reminds me of the bad old days up in Weirdcliffe, where Herself and I passed many a winter day huddled in our bearskins by a blazing woodstove, sipping whisky from CamelBaks with our fingers buried in the ample guts of a freshly killed Republican to prevent frostbite.

Saw a hand surgeon today and the good news is he will not need to rewire my port-side communications network. The bad news is I get to enjoy three weeks of intense physical therapy and am probably looking at three to six months before the left birdie regains full flippage.

Adding insult to injury, as I was leaving my first PT session I set my keys and cell phone on the driver’s seat of the Subaru and commenced to knock ice and snow from its windows. As I let the driver’s-side wiper fall to the windshield the security system hooted once and there I stood, locked out of my ride in 8-degree temps with a light snow and a brisk wind from the east.

As I told a colleague earlier, next time I lay it down I’m gonna see to it that the head hits the deck first. Brain damage is not a handicap in our line of work — it’s a prerequisite.

I’d rather push my Toyota than . . .

November 28, 2009
Twenty-six years old and it still starts — if one knows which demons to invoke.

Twenty-six years old and it still starts — if one knows which demons to invoke.

It must be International Try to Start Your Piece of Shit Truck Day.

I needed to haul the Voodoo down to Old Town for transformation into a flat-bar bike with thumbshifter (courtesy of Paul’s Thumbies) so I can get back to riding the road sometime soon (I hope). Toward that end, I was trying to fire up the White Tornado, my neglected and carbureted 1983 Toyota 4WD longbed pickup, ’cause it’s easier to slide a bike into its 6-foot bed one-handed than it is to park one on the Subaru Forester’s roof rack.

The 2005 Subie, on the other hand, is easier to start. Twist the key and off you go. The Toyota … not so much, especially if it’s been nestled up to the curb for a few weeks of wintry weather.

As I was cranking away, stomping rhythmically on the accelerator while mumbling various incantations and imprecations, I heard some other vehicle trying to harmonize with mine. Down the block, with its hood up, sat a Ford 100 Custom Cab of indeterminate age, its owner, like me, betting against the ravages of time, neglect and weather.

I eventually got my beater going, so I guess I win. But his has a better paint job, and collector’s plates, too, so it looks much niftier sitting immobile against the curb.

Ain’t nobody’s business

May 9, 2009

From our No Shit, Y’Think? Department comes the following, from Tom Boonen, who once again has tested positive for the dumb dust:

“The night before the drug test I went out. I stayed for a while and I drank. At some stage I must have taken something. Then I had a blackout. I think I have a problem.”

I can sympathize with the guy. When I was 28, my preferred form of recreation consisted of going out, staying for a while and drinking, at some stage taking something, and having a blackout. The only major difference between us is that Tornado Tom is a former world road cycling champ and three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix subject to regular drug testing, while I was an unheralded copy editor who could piss flame across the newsroom without anyone paying the slightest bit of notice, barring a chain-smoking colleague in need of a light.

Had newspapers been routinely dope-testing hacks in 1982, I would have earned a lifetime ban from journalism between New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day, and there would forever have been an asterisk next to my name in the smattering of headline-writing and cartooning awards I had won.

Happily, they weren’t, and thus I remain at large to annoy my betters, free of nosebleeds and unmolested by white-coats proffering plastic cups. Frankly, if anyone needs drug testing in my game these days, it’s those who employ me against the advice of advertisers, the entreaties of subscribers and their own better judgment.

So I could care less if Boonen is horning lines off strippers in some tawdry Belgium alehouse on Saturday as long as he can ride a straight line on Sunday. As Big Tex noted, “This is more of a social issue than a sporting issue.”

• Special Pre-Mother’s Day Blasphemy: This is my new favorite band: Jesus H. Christ and the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse. I mean, with a name like that and songs like “Connecticut’s for Fucking,” “Nipples” and “Alcoholics in My Town,” what’s not to like? Five Hail Marys and two Hello Dollys to former New Mexican colleague Steve Terrell for the tip.

Symphony of pain, scored for clavicle

March 24, 2009
The Mighty Dog, circa 1990, riding for the Sangre de Cristo Cycling Club in Santa Fe, NM.

The Mighty Dog, circa 1990, riding for the Sangre de Cristos Cycling Club in Santa Fe, NM.

Lance Armstrong and I have something in common, in addition to brains, good looks and wealth — we both waited until our 30s to break a collarbone.

I was 35 and getting set to start my first real season as a bicycle racer when I laid it down on March 7, 1989, on the road to the Puye Cliff Dwellings on Santa Clara Pueblo near Española, N.M. I don’t remember the crash because in addition to snapping my left clavicle I coldcocked myself, totaling my beer-cooler helmet. I decided afterward that I’d probably let my Look cleats wear down a bit too far and unclipped while sprinting up a short rise, going over the bars and then landing on same. I took note of the calamity in my training diary:

“Tore off a hunk of scalp, raspberried both knees and elbows and picked up a Technicolor bruise from left thigh to waist. Doc says I can’t ride the road for a month but can do the trainer if I can stand the pain.”

I could and did, getting on the trainer for a 20-minute spin two days later. Oh, Lord, did that hurt. My heart rate was in six figures, and simply getting out of bed was an exercise in pain management; I had a water bed, and the one quick situp required to get out of the sonofabitch was no fun at all.

But I was religious about a daily trainer workout, and finally got outdoors for a road ride — on a mountain bike — three weeks later. Two months from the crash I rode the Santa Fe Century in under five hours, and on Memorial Day weekend I raced the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic, albeit without distinction.

So I wouldn’t bet against Armstrong being able to bounce back in time for the Tour. It isn’t exactly the Iron Horse, true, but a guy needs a goal, no matter how modest.

Late update: The Armstrong kerfuffle sent me to rooting through the cerebral attic, trying to find a tantalizing bit of data I’d misplaced, when all of a sudden it came to me: In 1995, at age 32, Rebecca Twigg won a sixth world title and set a world record for the individual pursuit despite breaking a collarbone less than two weeks earlier. Oh, yeah — she had a cold, too.

Happy motoring

February 8, 2009

Here’s a happy story: An apparently drug-addled woman suffering from dementia who is suspected of striking and killing a pedestrian with her automobile triggers a discussion of the “right” to drive. There is no such thing. Driving is a privilege one earns by passing written and driving tests, and retains through periodic re-examination as deemed necessary by the State or clued-in kinfolk concerned that Grampa Leroy may be getting a tad too daffy to slide behind the wheel of his beloved F-350.

I have some small, bitter experience in this field. My family and I were not especially close. After Dad died in 1980, Mom was pretty much on her own here in Bibleburg while I rambled around the West, burning down newspapers, and my sister worked for social services in Fort Collins.

A snap of our wedding. From left, me, Herself, her mom, my mom, and my sis. On the back of the snap is scribbled, "If this is fun, we're havin' it."

Mom had a business partner, friends and activities — she helped manage a few jointly owned rental properties, played bridge, went golfing and bowling, you name it — and the three of us would generally get together on at least one officially sanctioned national holiday per annum for a short, stiff reunion. We weren’t exactly ringing each other up once a week to dish the dirt the way Herself does with her mom and sisters, is what I’m saying.

One day I got a call from Mom’s business partner, who said she had lost her car and asked for his help buying a new one. Mom had been called to jury duty, which meant a trip downtown — a place she rarely visited — and apparently was so confused by the journey and the judiciary that she forgot where she had parked and walked the seven-odd miles home.

I drove up from Santa Fe and went car-hunting, finally locating Mom’s Mazda 626 in a parking lot not far from the courthouse. My sis came down from Fort Collins and we had a chat with Mom, who was by turns distracted, confused and indignant. Finally, exasperated, I rattled her keychain, a gag item bearing the legend, “I’ve found the keys, now where the hell’s the car?”, and said, “Mom, this isn’t funny. You lost your goddamn car!

It was Alzheimer’s, of course, and a very long story that is. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: My sister and I had to assume a parental role over our sole surviving parent — taking her to a series of doctors to eliminate all other medical probabilities, then hauling her into court to prove that she was no longer capable of handling her own affairs. We seized control of her finances, her house — and, yes, her vehicle — and eventually committed her to an excellent nursing home. Herself and I quit our jobs in Santa Fe and moved in with her for a while, trying but failing to play the caregivers’ role, postponing the inevitable. I was able to be there with Mom as she died, peacefully, in the Namaste Alzheimer Center.

Mom didn’t take anyone else with her. But she very well could have, and it wouldn’t have been her fault — it would have been ours.

I don’t know a thing about Mary Jo Anne Thomas’ family, and I’m not inclined to throw stones at them from my nifty glass bungalow. But I’ll say this to the rest of you: Ring Mom and Dad up now and again. Pop by for a visit, take ’em out to lunch. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. While bringing a little sunshine into your parents’ twilight years, you might just save some stranger’s life.

Addendum: Someone should run a brain scan on state Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who told the Boulder Daily Camera: “If you say nobody with dementia can drive, that won’t go over well. I think you’d be laughed out of the Statehouse.” I ain’t laughin’, motherfucker. And neither is John Breaux, Mary Jo Anne Thomas, or anyone who knew either of them when they were still with us.

Four wheels warm, two wheels cold

December 22, 2008
I'm melting, melting ... what a world, what a world.

I'm melting, melting ... what a world, what a world.

My Subaru has a thing for thermostat gaskets (it doesn’t like them), and this morning I had to drop it off at Heuberger for the annual replacement of same. Herself was rocketing about the house, getting ready for work, so I chucked the Voodoo in the car, cranked up the heater and the seat warmer, and rolled off to Motor City. Fifteen degrees, said the dashboard thermometer. O, goody.

The mechanics all looked at me like I was from another world; Pluto, or maybe Goofy. And it’s true, I did not look as though I had just stepped from the pages of Bicycling magazine. In point of fact, I may be the worst advertisement ever for fashionable cycling.

My winter kit is a motley collection of premillennial gear, most of it so old I can’t remember where or when I got it (though most of it was made in the USA, which is something of a tip-off). From top to bottom, today’s ensemble went like this: Columbia tuque; Patagonia ski mask; Smith glasses; Cannondale jacket; Patagonia turtleneck; Pearl Izumi gloves, bibs and heavy-duty tights; SmartWool socks; Hi-Tec GT Euro shoes. Only the gloves, glasses and shoes came from overseas. And I know for a fact that the socks are the only item purchased in this millennium, from Colorado Running Company.

The Sammy Safetys among you will notice that this list does not include a helmet. So sue me. I wear a 7 5/8 hat. Try stuffing that fat bastard into a helmet without a pry bar and some Vaseline.

Late update: The Subaru remains unfixed (shorthanded at the shop), and the ’83 Toyota 4WD won’t start (a battery that even my charger won’t reboot). O, bugger. And me with an incomplete holiday grocery list, too. Off to the auto-parts store for a heavy-duty battery.