riding with the old timer

as I was saying to Mertz this weekend, the LA area has a plethora of group rides almost every day of the week all year long – even when temperatures drop into the low 50s. the only thing that slows these rides is rain. but I haven’t done any of the weekday rides as I usually have employment and am not boxing the clown all day long. for the last nine weeks I’ve been waiting for the writers and studios to finish their rich man’s chess match.

there is one such ride on tuesdays and thursdays in hollywood, the Barry Wolfe Ride. this ride is close to my house but I cringe at the thought of riding in hollywood because I usually think of smog, holes and accidental death. I was sure the route would be a tangled mess of traffic lights, exhaust and shit-hitting-the-fan all adding up to a bad ride. I drove over anyway amidst the morning crush and was late to the start. so I drove another mile ahead of the pack and parked in Griffith Park but was still tying my shoe laces when about 30 riders zipped by. shit.

badLAtrafficso I started my ride by chasing back on and when I made some crazy maneuver in that morning rush hour traffic I was dreading I suddenly realized I had left my helmet in the car. I was wearing a stocking cap instead and the sensation of fleece on my head had mislead me when I made that quick start. the next thing I thought was, “I hope I locked the car.”

worry turned to laughing because I realized I was pumping 500w on a sidewalk of the overpass of the I-5, and the pavement had seen better days. after two miles of chase I caught up to the ride but not before I had notions that I might have to call it a day and make up my own ride. it really is sickening to be chasing a pack that you can see, but one where your progress is constantly hampered by red lights that you dare not run. I’m making too much of it – the bottom line was I caught up.

I was happy that most of the ride was pretty slow today allowing for some decent LSD. if the ride had been anything more I would have dropped out anyway. this ride was a crazy mix of riders, most of them regulars so there was plenty of chatty-kathy blah, blah, blah. one old timer asked a young hip-racer dude, “have you been riding much?” to which the hip-racer dude replied, “I’m doing 4-a-days.” as if to say shut-the-*&%@-up. the old timer believed him, but I thought his joke was funny.

also the ride’s route turned out to more interesting than I expected and even had a section or two that I would deem manageable but for the most part we were riding in smog and my snobby ass still has a headache. also, I discovered that the pack had some “writers” in it. as in “striking writers.” so I told them I needed a job and asked them if they needed any help around the house leaf blowing, painting, walking the dog, etc. no takers. networking in hollywood is better done on a golf course. well if you’re not going to be walking the line then why don’t you at least ride with a sign!

but none of that is what I want to write about. instead, the only thing worth mentioning was after everyone disbanded back in burbank I tooled back to my lonely parking spot with my helmet still in my car. on the way I passed the Disney animation building. for the millionth time I was stopped by a red light. this gave me time to stare at the six writers picketing in front of the gates. I began to wonder what sorry bastards those six were because they were not cool enough to skip out like the rest of their teams. I know all my writer-friends keep telling me “I took the day off” when I ask them how toeing the line is treating them.

about this moment at this very long light another old timer rolled to a stop behind me. he asked the nearest labor protestor, “anything happening?” in a heavy German accent. the writer just shook his head. wow, I thought. they really were at a loss for words! the light changed and we both rode on. but we weren’t even a hundred feet past the statue of mickey’s magician hat when I was asked for the hundredth time how big my bike was. I wanted to roll my eyes but then I thought of Lance and the trials he faces every day being asked what his favorite color is. so I gleefully replied to the old timer. about ten strokes later he asked me what kind “of motor I had back there” referring to my PowerTap hub. “does it tell you when to eat?” he joked and rode up alongside of me pleased with his deftness as a conversationalist.
laurelcanyon, instead he had a winter cap on – the kind with two bills. but I was stuck with him, I was trying to keep my watts down and so I played along. there wasn’t much I had to do because the old timer was doing most of the talking. “yeah cycling’s a good sport. do you race? you look like a racer. No? well, it beats driving. especially with the gas prices! hah! soon we’ll be riding on the freeway! vvvrooommmm!!!!” he made a buzzing sound with his lips to mimic a speeding car. it wasn’t long before he was talking about doping and I wasn’t listening until he said, “but if it wasn’t for those drugs I wouldn’t be alive today.”

now I knew I had better show some compassion. in my new role as bartender i had better speak up and listen to him because he probably meant he had just gotten out of the hospital. “really?” I said. “oh yeah, I mean I’ve been racing 60 years and we had that stuff back in the day too. we all used it, all my friends and me. but right before the race not all the time. we used to drink beer after the races too, sometimes before. back then it was friendly but today it’s all about the money. when Merckx and Pingeon came in they said ‘this is our territory!’” suddenly I was listening – and watching him throw his bars around to pretend like he was sprinting. “I was old by then anyway,” he sighed.

but then in another half mile he was off. “okay, I’ll see you in april!” he yelled taking a hot-route at the next corner. I yelled back at him, “what’s your name?” and he smiled “Hoyst! have a good ride!” and that was that. he had just been telling me that he was heading down to his vacation home in Puerto Vallarta for four months. “my friends and me meet down there and ride. they come from all over… Canada, Germany, Mexico, Belgium. we get in shape… right now I’m 15 pounds too heavy,” he gave his belly a pat. he had also been telling me about his last trip to the Pan-Am games in the old timers class where he had won nine golds. “I don’t do that stuff anymore, I don’t really know why I spent all that time racing anyway.” whether he was a fake or not, Hoyst had charmed me and I was hanging on every word. arriving back home, I can’t find any solid lead on the internet about the guy, the Pan-Am games don’t even have an official page that I can find. but I’ll be keeping my ears open to see if I ever hear him on the road again.

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2 Responses to “riding with the old timer”

  1. Mike Mertz says:

    Dnag! Good post. I wish I had something like that to read every morning. All I can get out are one liners and pretty pictures. More cartoon strip than anything else.

    Go to the Serotta Forum, register and then ask the who of the person you saw. You’ll be amazed at the responses or maybe you were fed a line. Either way it’s free.

  2. I like your comment about the bike helmet. Me I never wear one and only due when required per the event. And no I don’t need you or anyone else to say dangerous – but that’s just me.

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