This is how my voyage to Philadelphia unraveled yesterday, going from the best to worst kind of transportation: bike–>bus–>airplane–>car…more car–>some more car–>holy shit storm more car.
I woke early on the morn of May 31st, excited for the day of travel and hungry for the race. Actually I wasn’t hungry yet. I was still pretty full from the pad thai the night before. I’ve been fighting fantom sore throats and colds for the past couple days, almost scaring myself into sickness on more than one occasion. So Adelaide’s suggestion of pad thai was exactly what I needed to mentally fight off whatever it was that was getting at me. The combination of cock sauce, chicken, shrimp and lots of noodles did the trick and now I’m firing on all levels, whatever that means. Probably vomit + diarrhea + sneezing + orgasm all at once. So basically a normal orgasm.
Speaking of firing, I’m racing with the Firefighter’s team, which is based out of Washington. Or Sweden. Or maybe it’s an East Coast team from Mexico/CA. I’m not sure. We have riders from everywhere. Here’s our roster:
Mike Olheiser of Cash Call (California)
Adam Carr of 1K2Go (California)
Andrew Seitz of Panther (East Coaster)
Victor Ayala of Firefighters (Mexico)
Leo Don’t know his last name from Mexico? Leo where you from?
Barry Miller of Firefighters (just came back from Sweden but he’s from the East Coast)
Kenneth Peterman of Rio Grande (Colorado)
Team Manager: Allan Wahlstrom of Tri Cities, Washington
Director Sportif: Joe Holmes of Bremerton, Washington. I mean BAINBRIDGE. #upgrade #isolated #ridingwithwinger
But without farther adieu (with an A not a U and as in distance not extent–because it was a LONG trip), I’ll bring us back to the traveling.
Adelaide and I set off to the bus station at 6:40AM on Friday. I strapped my Pika pack to my back and Adelaide carried my backpack. Luckily it was a strong headwind for the first 20 minutes and a nice crosswind for the second 20 minutes. Gotta get those legs opened back up. I packed my bike at the bus stop, said goodbye to Adelaide, and hopped on the bus. I fell asleep in the back and was woken up by a nice woman when we got to the airport. This is usually what happens. One time I fell asleep heading the other way and the bus driver had to walk all the way back to wake me up when we reached the end of the line.
The flight was good. I slept for almost all of it.
I got my bike at bagage claim and waited for Allen to pick me up. An hour later I was still waiting, watching a fat little traffic cop waddle around with his chest/stomach puffed out, yelling at cars to move along now, bah ya here? The car rental place had our passenger van for us, it was just 100 miles away. So Allan ended up in a small SUV. This could prove difficult transporting eight guys and eight bikes.
But we didn’t have to worry about that just yet. I was the only one Allen needed to pick up at the moment. He finally got to me and we drove downtown to the fire station. One of the firemen was retiring that day and the celebration was just about to get underway. I’m not entirely sure why we stopped there. I think it was mainly to pick up someone’s bike. An hour later and we took off to New Jersey, where Allen would drop me off at our host house. Hmm. New Jersey? I guessed that the state of Pennsylvania must have been all full.
Two hours later and my mouth was getting pretty dry. I hadn’t drank much all day and had now been without food for like three hours. Yeah, I know. It was rough. We drove around the countryside looking for the host house and calling everyone on the team in attempts to find it out if it was #25 or #26. Either way we were screwed because the population of the town we were in was most likely equal to the number of smashed armadillos on the side of the road. I mean this as in there weren’t many houses out there. I realize this simili is confusing because you might assume that the number of smashed armadillos was high. This is actually what I mean. Seeing 50 smashed armadillos would be a high number, though that would be a very small town population. This is what I was going for. In actuality I didn’t see any smashed armadillos so in the end this comparison doesn’t really work. On a similar but different note, I did see a small muskrat/hedgehog-like animal on the side of the road today. He was eating some grass and gave me the stink eye as I rode by.
Back to driving through the lush forests and past the hillbilly shacks and gigantic Wall Street mansions of New Jersey:
Allen, who is an extremely kind and mellow fellow, decided to say fuck it and gave up the search, though he didn’t use that sort of language (yet), and we set off in search of food instead. I slowly realized that, yes, we were going to get food but it was going to be on the way to the JFK airport to pick up Diego, who was coming in from Spain. Okay not too bad. Little did I know, JFK airport was in a different state. Actually I did know that but it sounds funnier if I don’t. What I didn’t know was that it would take us another two and a half hours to get there.
We got turned around somewhere, hit Brooklyn, hit Coney Island, continued not seeing any signs of life other than cars and semis, and finally got to the airport. With some highly skilled packing, we managed to get three bikes, three humans, and a good amount of luggage into the SUV. Back there amongst the baggage, Diego sat intertwined with handlebars and wheels prodding him from every direction. It was now 10:30PM. Probably 4:30AM his time.
At last we stopped to get food just before midnight at a big Turnpike convenient stop. The food prices were outrageous, as was the cholesterol and saturated fat. I got the healthiest, least caloric thing I could find, which was two slices of pizza. It just made me hungrier.
The plan to drop me off at the hidden host house was scrapped, and instead I would stay with Allen, Joe, Diego, and Leo at the race hotel back in Philly. I liked this plan…I like this plan a lot. Mainly because I like continental breakfasts. I’ll share a bed with Joe Holmes anytime if it involves free breakfast sausage. No pun intended.
After some more turn arounds, we made it to the hotel just as the clock struck 1AM. Lights were finally out by 1:30 or so. It sounds worse than it really was, since for me it was really only 11:30. But still, a 40 minute bike ride, an hour bus ride, a four hour plane ride, then almost eight hours in the car adds up to a long day.
I woke at the crack of 9:48, 12 minutes before the continental breakfast closed down (I assumed). I ran downstairs and found the small room where the free buffet was. Sausage, bacon, eggs, pancakes, bagels, just your normal stuff. I made a plate and sat down at a table by myself. The table was set up with nice glasses and napkins, strange for a buffet table I thought. I made it most of the way through the pancakes before I noticed that the other patrons of the buffet were being given what resembled bills by who resembled waiters. Oh shit.
The free buffet was not free. It was $13. My heart began pounding as I realized I’d be dining and dashing, because there’s no way I was paying $13 for what should be a free, crap buffet. I got another plate as I planned. A waiter came over to me, asking if I’d like anything to drink. “No, nope, no thanks!” I said. A few moments later, pretending I was just getting up for coffee, I made my escape. I filled my coffee, took an approving sip, nodding that yes, this was fine coffee, looked out of the corner of my eye to see if anyone was watching, then went for it.
I got past the hostess at the front without incident, saying thank you and smiling on my way past. I continued on through the lobby, feeling lazer beams in my back as I went. At the elevator I mixed in amongst a large crowd of racers and other people, then slipped behind a pillar while I waited. I was on the sixth floor and there was no way I was walking, even in these circumstances. The elevator took forever but I got in, ran to my room, and slammed the door behind me, making the buffet food taste even better.
Since the night before was cut so short and because the other guys had to drive in from way up north, our ride was pushed back to 12PM or later. For me, riding was the only thing on the agenda. For Allen and Joe there was also a thick stack of meetings, finding 1,000 race bottles, race food, switching out the SUV for a passenger van, etc. The other guys had to move all their stuff too, since the host house wasn’t going to work out due to the vast distance between it and the course, plus I think it was only equipped with a single bed (California King) and a small hammock. I heard Olheiser claimed the bed and made the rest of the guys sleep on top of each other in the hammock.
With the cluster fuck the previous day and all the logistics to take care of today, it didn’t take long for the team to start trembling in fear of Joe Holmes. I reassured them that no, he wasn’t angry, no he doesn’t despise you, yes you should stop crying because this is actually him in a happy mood. It takes a while to get to know Joe Holmes. I think it took me the better part of three years. But once you do, things actually run pretty smooth. And just so all you HB guys know, Joe is alive, doing well, and hasn’t changed a bit. Example: directing Allen on how to fill bottles—“What you wanna do is fill it to here (pointing on the bottle and looking Allen directly in the eye, pausing for effect). This is important now. You wanna top it off with a little bit of water, got that? #holmeswisdome
Riding the course was hands down the most stressful ride I’ve ever done. Our mechanic, Jeff, navigated us through the busy streets of Kelly Drive, cursing loudly at cars and yelling LEFT or RIGHT every few seconds. We hopped up on sidewalks, bike paths, went down one-way streets. The traffic was heavy but gave us our space since there were dozens of other teams out there too. The riding was hot and sweaty. My sauna training has already paid off. I felt good and rested, opened up even. I’m insanely excited about tomorrow. I almost never get this excited about races. It’s hard not to with all the commotion here at the race hotel. It’s packed with hundreds of racers. The lobby is crowded and noisy with men’s and women’s teams coming and going. It’s a who’s-who of US cycling. And little old Kennett made it here somehow! I’m not the only rift raft though. They added 10 amateur teams in the last week to make the race have 194 riders. I predict it will be half that before half the race is over.
Also here is Morgan Schmidt, who I ran into at the Chipotle right next door to the hotel (I’ve been there twice now already). It’s a strange lifestyle to see a certain group of friends only in far off cities in random Chipotles and hotel lobbies. He was with Freddie Rodriguez, who just won the national championships last week and who I’d just been reading about in Velonews and Cyclingnews. Velonews had a pretty bold article, suggesting Freddie to be an unclean rider solely because he raced in an unclean erra. Freddie used Cyclingnews as an outlet to defend himself. It was interesting to see the two competing news sources (both with two opposite stances), who were basically creating news, not reporting it, and then even stranger to sit down with Morgan and Freddie for burritos after just reading about it.
I spent the rest of the day in bed writing this blog, eating more Chipotle, and trying to relax amongst a day of craziness. Tomorrow I unleash. Time to go downstairs and get a beer with Allen to wash down this last burrito and cradle me to sleep. In fact, I may get one more burrito. Still hungry.