A Hard Rain
A Hard Rain (# 5 and 6)
The WBL hosted an armed insurrection over the Christmas vacation period as the Zealots hammered out two big ring rides in three days to start 2009 off with a double-barreled shotgun blast, a regular three ring circus under the big top, a carnival cruise on two skinny tires. But the star spangled celebration on bikes went down without the benefit of any luxury items or other expensive accoutrements that are usually fancied by dapper dandies, country clubbers, gussied-up gluttons, and other fraudulent Fat Cats that crowd my space in time. The Zealots, like Okefenokee catfish, are bottom feeders, and they rebel against the very foundations of the leisurely way of life. They refuse to spend their holiday swinging in a hammock, sipping spiked eggnog, singing gleeful Christmas carols, and pondering what gizmos, gadgets, and other worthless grot the jolly Fat Man might bring. Carney cracked the whip and refused to allow the Zealots to rest on their laurels or kick back on their haunches—all that mattered was driving forward in the big ring, hunched over the handlebars, with two runnels of snot trailing to the ground in a curvilinear arc. “We are intrepid travelers, not tepid tourists,” Carney said. ”We tend to travel in coach.”
This hardcore, gritty, driven group of peripatetic pedal bangers rolled out mile after country mile over bumpy terrain at a perilous pace in pernicious conditions. Blowing snow, spitting rain, or bellicose busters could not dissuade these pedal-revelers from probing deep into the savage unknown at the far edges of the WBL Emporium. Carney is a cruel task master, and these Yuletide peddlers of pain proved that they have the grim resolve and the dogged determination of a grizzled bunch of Antarctic adventurers. I’m not sure why these pedal-phools enjoy being treated like galley slaves, but this is their bitter story of holiday tidings and cheer. So batten down the hatch, hold on tight to your hats, and plug up your periwinkle, it’s time to sprint.
New Year’s Day 2009
Thirty or so Zealots signed in for the mandatory New Year’s Day ride and collected their lucky four-leaf clover and a sterling silver pot containing ten pounds of solid gold bars. All attendees, in addition to being as rich as an indicted congressman, were now guaranteed good luck for the remainder of the year, as long as they made it home with their clover in a reasonably recognizable condition. Otherwise, the gold goes back to Carney. Since many Zealots cycle-ride to the start of the event, the creative types in the WBL have crafted all sorts of ingenious ways to carry their clover.
For example, Vernon Smith places the clover in the center of his Bible, and then he carries the Good Book the entire ride with one hand. One time when a car pulled in front of him, he heaved the bulky book at the startled offender and yelled, “You stupid f------ moron!” He picked up the Good Book from the road and flung it at the car again. Then, he flipped the bastard the bird with both hands. The precious green clover remained in mint condition throughout the entire irreligious ordeal. Most thought it a minor miracle.
David Nixon sticks his clover down the back of his shorts and presses it tight between his cycle shorts and the solid, smooth mound of his left butt cheek. Nixon said, “It keeps the friable little clover flat and supple, and it makes me feel like a leprechaun.” Carney told Nixon not to ever again tell him anything “about a leprechaun or you’ll be singing soprano by sundown!” Actually, excluding the comment about the little green man, this last instance is a clever method of clover portage.
Plenty of rotten rabble and all sorts of risible rejects showed up on the scene in downtown Athens ready to rock and rumble on the carnival cruise: Maggie Shirley, M.D. (Medical Diva) with her black bag of tricks dropped in from the Big Apple, Anna Kelso and Jeff Schalk came down from Pennsylvania way, Rich Nelson stepped over the line from Aiken, Paul Ozier cruised in from the badlands of Barrow County, Russ Foster strolled up from the prurient end of Boulevard, Russell Williams sauntered over from the drop dead center of Hull, Boy Brian Bibens hopped directly out of a cesspool of sin, and Erin Winter tore away from the omphalos of the universe—motherhood. Other riffraff and trailer trash on hand for the weekly WBL misadventure were Sammy Rafal (the worst of the worst), John Boy Best (a real snake charmer), Virginia Ball (the vivacious vixen), Nickle-Back Arroyo (the climbing Columbian), and Allen McDonald (a felon’s felon). All of the above are certified rotten apples.
The temp was a frosty 35 degrees, but the sun was humming in a big blue sky, and the mood of the attendees was soaring high. The adamantine pack of powerful pedal-pushers put its head down and trekked north, ripping at an angle into a fierce and truculent wind. The roads though the northern sections of the WBL Emporium are like rolling waves—the wrinkled landscape ripples the map. The further north one travels, the higher the undulations. During a daylong trek into the northern quadrant of the pale, it’s never the first wave that fills a rider’s thighs with cement. Nor is it the second. Neither is it the seventh, the tenth, or the twelfth huge hummock that causes one’s thighs to jelly-shake, wobble-knock, and rattle-roll. It’s more like the thirtieth. Traveling north in a fifty mile loop, a rider will traverse about thirty hills and hummocks of varying sizes, angles, lengths, and degrees of difficulty. The variation, the mixing and the mingling of the myriad cruel climbs, only intensifies the level of discomfort. Add a dozen more irascible inclines after the 50-mile point and the legs begin to founder and fill with sand. Throw the hardest hills in at the end, and most will roll over and die, the white flag of surrender flapping merrily in the breeze above.
But when the pressure mounts, a Zealot grits his pearly whites, tightens his shoe straps, and runs the Jolly Roger up the pole. He dreams of seizing the day.
On this mandatory New Year’s Day event, the Pros weren’t eligible to sprint. Instead, it was a chance for the old mules to shine. Leaving Commerce, after ascending thirty or so large lumps thus far, the group turned and thundered down Highway 334 towards Athens at an alarming speed. Five miles further on, after turning off Highway 334 onto Seagraves Mill Road, with 7 long miles to go to the line, the whistle screamed. I nearly jumped out of my shorts. “Holy sheet-tattle,” I said. Both my legs were leaking lactic acid. My gas tank was nothing but fumes.
At this juncture in the 3.5 hour affair, the pack had been pounded by a wicked wind, and bombarded with unrelenting hills. Tearing off the front for anyone in this weary-legged group would be an onerous undertaking indeed. But that didn’t stop them from trying, as missile after missile launched off the front, and thudded nose first to the ground.
The first major break that managed to move clear contained Rob Yo Simpson, Brooklyn Boy Andy Collins, and Columbia’s resident Medical Diva, Maggie Shirley. The three moved 5 seconds clear of an already fast-moving, strung-out, tongue-wagging, eye popping pack. The Medical Diva was driving the trio and dreaming of a pandemic plague.
Carney, watching on a monitor in the Sag wagon, screamed in holy terror into my ear piece: “THREE DAMNED YANKEES IS UP THE ROAD. GO GIT EM, FAT BOY, OR YOU’LL BE SINGIN SOPRANO BY SUNDOWN!” Carney calls me Fat Boy. It’s actually a term of endearment.
The unruly pack was unwilling to allow any move to escape at this point, and they gobbled up the three attackers and kept going. They three threw out a hook and latched on as the pack went missile-cruising by. The group flew by the Seagraves Mill Lake on the left and roller-coasted by the old Seagraves Mill cotton gin on the right and kept motoring to the base of the menacing Seagraves Mill Dump-n-Hump, with an impressive Philly Boy Southerland at the front leading the charge. With Philly Boy stretching the group thin, this looked like an armed rebellion in full glide, the charge of the Light Brigade on metal-pedal machines.
The cruel reputation of the Seagraves Mill Dump-n’-Hump lived up to its billing as six in quest for the win moved clear by dumping their compatriots, and humping up the incline as hard as they could. The six hopefuls stretched the band ever so thin, and then with one final surge, snapped it in twain at the precipice of the hump. Parker Smith, Jeffery Shirey, Michael Stone, Russell Williams, John Best, and D. Crowe pushed out to a five second gap on a hard-panting group as they turned right onto the Nowhere Road—3 miles to go to the line. 5 seconds is enough to stick it on this fast and flat run-in to the terminus, but only if the group recognizes the opportunity, falls into formation, and pulls as if there is a fire in the hole, all in the wink of an eye. It requires a group of wise wizards. These six were seers indeed, and immediately fell into formation. Speeding by the softball field at the Sanford Community, the six pedal-gnostics appeared to be sailing away.
Although the group behind had given an inch, it would not give two. Buechel, and Yo, and A. Mcdonald, and D. Mealor kept the fires burning in the furnace and chased like a devil hound. The chasers refused to yield, and they kept the escapees at spitting distance. Both groups were throttling it full tilt down the runway in a mad dash for the line, their veins in their necks bulging like rubber hoses. The six at the front of the affair could not afford a misstep. One brief blunder would upset the apple cart.
As the six at the fore hit the final riser 1 mile from the line, they briefly hesitated then mushroomed—a blunder. The apple cart tipped over and they were quickly run down by the hard charging group. Cresting the hill and rocketing down the chute the final 800 meters, the pack ebbed right, then flowed left, as solo artists attacked. But the speed was high and nothing could claw clear. Suddenly, 18 year old Michael Stone jumped off the front with 300 meters to go and opened up an immediate black patch of asphalt. Superstar sprinting maestro Jeffery Shirey was momentarily penned in on the far edge—he’d chosen to follow the wrong wheel. Stone stood and stomped and then smoothly sat back down. This whiz kid motored clear and was headed to the line.
Unfortunately for the rising young acolyte of the big ring, an old, shyster pedal-lawyer was glued to his wheel. Crowe, a greedy, no count lawyer, was ducking down in the little man’s draft, trying to twist himself sideways because the young apprentice is so thin. But the little man was creating one helluva draft. With 200 meters to go, the good-fer-nothin lawyer moved out and tamped down twice. The vacuum in front of him was so strong that it pushed Crowe across the line with money to spare. Shirey, another no-count shylock, screamed across for 2nd, and Parker Smith and Brian Bibens tied for 3rd, even with a photo finish. John Best, a despicable and insensitive human being, a true rotten apple, rounded out the top five.
Finish: (All who signed in and rode: 2 pts.)
- Crowe + 5 points
- Shirey + 4 pts.
- Bibens + 3 pts
- Parker Smith + 3 pts (tie)
- John Best + 1 pt.
After the event controversy swirled when it was announced that Crowe was “positive.” However, the B sample confirmed it was for Viagra, and WBL approved performance enhancer. Crowe was subsequently cleared.
Two short days later it was time for the Zealots to shake their moneymakers yet again. And if they thought they were owed any special recompense as a result of the yuletide privations that they’d suffered at the hands of Carney’s missing tooth cronies, they might as well have wished that the cow jumped over the moon. Ladies’ Day ended up being a cantankerous, ill-mannered ogre with bad breath, dirty fingernails, and a rotten attitude. Ladies Day was one rude beast of a ride, the hardest of the season to date.
At the end of the day on the 3 January 2009 Jittery Joes Hard Labor of Love Ladies Day Classic, it was Rebecca Larson storming to victory as she added her first WBL win to her already glowing palmares. Larson was the last lady left standing on a brutal 85 mile, four-hour sortie, spent stomping around on the south side of town. The Zealots’ mettle was tested on this cruel and torturous day, and although all the ladies fought until the bitter end with grim determination, Larson used her superior turn of speed to tap out a rowdy tune and she took top honors with one pedal turn to spare. Ripping across the line one heartbeat in arrears were Dana Pink Lady Martin, the Medical Diva Maggie Shirley, and the up and coming newbie Morgan Patton. All combatants wore ginormous grins. It may have been because the beast was now off their backs.
The whether-wizards once again dipped their wands into the mix and stirred on Ladies’ Day, as it has for all the rides so far this year. The ambient air was once again a simmering stew of fog and mist. The fog was so thick in spots that the head of the herd could not see its anus. But the forecasted high was 65 degrees, and the whether-wizards promised the fog would burn off, and the sun would shine bright, and world peace would take hold around the world. They were wrong on all three fronts, especially the one about the sun shining bright. On this particular day, there would have been a fatter chance for world peace.
The pack headed south on Ladies’ Day towards the bucolic fields and the pristine pastures surrounding Hard Labor Creek State Park. These verdant farmlands are filled with bloated cows that will soon be grizzle in this fat boy’s gut. Today the group battled a sidewinder wind as it slung its way down south. As the 50 or so battle tested, determined gladiator-Zealots sped across the rolling countryside of Oconee County, the sky filled with fine mizzle and the clouds remained thick and bleak—they were not burning away as promised. But the mist was so fine it was almost dry, and still the air was warm. If the rainclouds did not burst, even with gray skies, it would be another fine day spent galloping around the globe. But the boiling sky bothered my bones.
For two hours the pack dodged a bullet, as well as the rain, as the sky continued to hiss and steam. The pack was cruising along in fine fashion, but the clouds were boring down. There appeared to be only two feet of space between the top of the riders’ helmeted heads and the bottom of the dark, ominous clouds. Leaving Social Circle at the halfway point, the apogee of the day’s orbit, the tempest showed her hand. The pack rode into thick sheets of blowing rain without warning. Hitting the first sheet was like walking into a glass door—it pummeled the pack like hatchet-chops on the head. The rain was pouring with such fury that two inches of water immediately piled up in the road. It was like riding through a river. Wheels looked as if they were dividing the Red Sea as they cut a ravine through the falling slop. Tires hissed through the wetness and water spattered everywhere. The rain was falling with such force that visibility was nil. With 45 miles still to ride, and the shortcut for home long gone, this cold, hard rain troubled our souls.
The pace at the front ratcheted upwards as the relentless cataract continued to plunge down from the heavens. There was no let-up and the Zealots were soaked to the core. It was like standing underneath Niagara Falls. If this deluge continued with this much fury, the Zealots would need a boat to make it home. But in reality there was but one option: The only way to stay warm in these despicable conditions was to keep one’s mouth shut and pedal like a petrified jackass. This was grit-yo-teeth time in the WBL. These miserable conditions were a true test of each person’s character. This was a moment of pain and doubt that etched itself into the hardrive of memory. This is when we learn who we are.
And we be Zealots. Our big, broad smiles in the group photo at the end of the day prove as much. We look as if we are in the middle of two week vacation. But in the photo, we are far from it. Truth be told, Zealots are more akin to people serving out a sentence in Siberia. It’s the small pleasures that matter most, like pounding the pavement for four hours in deplorable conditions.
A long and hard ten miles later the pack finally punched through the rain. The skies dried but they did not clear. Instead, the air above remained blanketed with a thick, gray haze. The roads were still wet and the air moist. The Zealots were body soaked and starting to freeze. It took another ten miles of all-out pedal-banging before an inkling of warmth crept back into our bodies. The pack was cooking now, averaging around 22 miles per hour since the pluvial disaster. The pack motor-rocketed back home.
Entering Bishop City limits, the whistle blew, signaling the entrance to the Ladies killbox. The Ladies’ Attack Zone was a 2.5 mile supersonic runway from Bishop to Watkinsville. This zone is a sprinter’s delight. Two fellows, John McMurphy and Philly Boy Southerland, went to the front and set a rapid pace. The ladies lined up behind. Philly Boy continued to accelerate during his mile-long pull as he boot-scooted down the road. Philly was pulling so hard that gaps and tears opened all over the male end of the sinuous line. After one mile of cruising at torpedo speed, Philly Boy moved to the side and tumbled out the back. The boy had spent all his dimes.
Red rover, red rover, with 1 mile to go, McMurphy took over. McMurphy continued to increase the speed up until 500 meters to go when he hit full tilt and was blazing down the road like the roadrunner in a Corvette. The ladies were bobbing and weaving and elbowing and jousting. After a last second sprint-sign change, the ladies were off and running, galloping to the line like wild horses at about a billion miles an hour. They were all out of the saddle, asses held hig, elbows flailing wildly, knees pumping in anger, with their pearly whites flashing like a TV preacher begging for cash. It was getty-up and go time for the ladies in the WBL. Larson scorched across the line by a nose hair, flashing the double peace sign all the way. Hats off to the ladies for mighty fine day.
- R. Larson: 10 pts.
- Dana Martin: 8 pts.
- Maggie Shirley: 6 pts.
- Morgan Patton: 4 pts.
- Nancy Jones: 2 pts
In yet another show of kindness Carney awarded the Zealots an extra 2 points for a total of 4 on this cruel and unusual day. Can you say amen, Brothers and Sisters of the blacktop. Kudos and shout outs for outstanding ride to Leonard Slote, Rich Nelson, Nancy Jones, Miang Muhamed, and all other deserving and waterlogged souls.
H. C. (1-5-09)
The Leader Board
- 22 Points: R. Larson
- 21 points: D. Crowe
- 19 pts.: P. Smith
- 18 pts.: Nancy Jones
- 16 pts: B. Bray, D. Mealor, M. Muhamed, M. Patton, L. Slote, J. Shirey, M. Stone, T. Stone, R. Williams
- 14 pts.: M. Buechel, A. McDonald, V. Smith, S. Rafal, A. Smola, M. Rice
- 13 pts.: J. Best
- 12 pts.: N. Arroyo, Dana Martin, H. Garrison, K. Langenbach, R. Nelson, I. Rodriguez, S. Sevener, M. Shirley, E. Winter