My Boys (with citations)
My Boys♥ (with citations) (WBL 07: #2)
Each morning in the days leading up to the (Rongway to) Monroe Indoctrination a full moon hung in the bright morning sky like an intrusive eye leering through a keyhole. Though Old King Sol bled the skies blue each morning, the white disc of the moon refused to dim as it silently slashed its way across the western horizon. I’ve come to learn that during the train ride that is my life, the supernal bilocation of earth’s 2 grand discs in the morning sky usually augur impending disaster, an omen delivered just before the dam breaks, a train about to wreck. Allow me to explain.
The first time I ever noticed the celestial feat known as “double disking” was in 1980. I had left the homestead headed for my weekly court-ordered A.A. meeting* only to discover upon reaching into my glove box about 5 miles down the road that my beloved flask, Mr. Self Respect, had been emptied of everything except its sweet aroma of instant relief. I curled my tongue into the small opening at the top, straining to reach any minute droplets clinging to the inner walls—nothing. I turned around and headed for home. This would not do. The entire trip home I held Mr. Self Respect in my left hand and continuously took in long, brain numbing sniffs with the open top of the flask jammed up my left nostril. The air flow into my right nostril remained unobstructed so I wouldn’t black out. My head felt like a bag of popcorn cooking in the microwave—my brain’s synapses were firing like it was the 4th of July.**
Upon pulling into my trailer park 20 minutes later, I saw my doublewide a quarter of a mile down the road. I also saw the local bug man slink out of the side door with his shoes in his hand, jump into his bug truck, and beat a hasty retreat, flashing me a sheepish grin as he passed. I’ll never forget his hair—it was a wiry shock of orange coils spiraling upwards to the heavens. The top was pressed flat by the roof of the truck giving him the look of someone who’d had the top 2 inches of his head shaved off. When I looked in my rearview mirror after he passed, above the letters ehT namguB, I noticed the circle of the moon, like a pearl, hanging just above the tree line even though the sun was in full bloom. It was the first time I’d ever taken notice of this quiet, celestial feat. A twang of regret rippled through my body.
There was no smell of bug spray in the house. The invoice, which was on the counter in the kitchen, was marked “paid in full.” I followed the muddy footprints on the shag carpet leading to the master suite. My favorite imitation zebra-stripped bedspread lay in a heap on the floor, the outline of a man’s shoeprint clearly visible on the edge. My wife was in the shower. I returned to the kitchen, filled my flask, drained it whole, filled it again, and left, never saying a word to anyone, until now. Nine months later, my wife delivered birth to twins—Jered Gutcheck Gruber and Boy Brian Bibens. These two boys are my sons, sort of.***
The Reader should now understand that witnessing both the sun and the moon compete for attention in the sky at the same time the entirety of this week did not fill me with a sense of awe and wonderment. Instead, I began stockpiling supplies in the bomb shelter. I had a feeling that a ton of bricks was about to fall on my head, the sense that once again, someone was about track muddy footprints across my space in time.
The dawning of 9 December 2006 ushered in the coldest air in 2 years in Athens, Georgia. It was an intolerable 19 degrees at 6 in the morning. Carney, in a curious show of compassion, delayed the start of the ride for 1 hour. I believe his action is somehow related to his current bid for the Nobel Peace Prize, and his eventual quest to control the world. Even though the start time was delayed to 11, the matutinal air, packed with millions of frozen molecules, caused many apprentice Zealots to pull the covers over their heads when their alarms buzzed, curl up in a fetal position, and ponder which excuse they would pluck from The Big Book of Excuses (with a Forward written by Jan Ulrich). Others dreamed of the day they’d have a cushy job like busting rocks all day in a Louisiana prison farm instead of the torture sessions they were forced to endure week after God forsaken week in the hellhole otherwise known as the WBL.
Only a rogues’ gallery of the hardcore, black hearted, fungus feet, ogre breath, rotten teeth, unshaven, unpleasant, ill tempered, odious, no sense of humor, curmudgeonly, disreputable, intransigent and steely Zealots showed up and signed in for this event, whose destination was the frozen tundra and rolling pastureland brimming with cows (and 1 happy buffalo) of Walton and Oconee Counties. About 50 multilayered Zealot’s signed in for the day’s adventure, the (Rongway To) Monroe Indoctrination, a syncretic assortment of back roads and byways cobbled together from a variety of other rides, like a patchwork quilt. Several old and new friends alike proved their mettle by picking up the pen and placing an x by their names including Dougee the Pomegranate Pomeranz, Jess Brown a.k.a the Monrovian, Cleve Blackheart Blackwell, Old Timer Todd Atkins, Eric Hollywood Hollifield, Jack Howland, Eric Murphy, Hoyt Halverson a.k.a. Double H, Thomas Brown, and David You Can Ring My Bell.
My 2 boys, Gutcheck and Boy Brian, were also present and accounted for. When they arrived, they both ran up to me wagging their tails and blurted out, “Hi dad, we love you!” I nearly beshat myself. “Do not ever call me by that sinister cognomen again! Have you no sense of decorum, you fools?” I barked back at them. I turned as red as a radish. These boys have not inherited my sense of good judgment, nor my skills of precise timing in certain social situations. Someone could have deduced that the boys and I were somehow related by using a process called “logical reasoning.”ª Though most Zealots aren’t bright, a clue like calling me “dad” could be an insurmountable piece of incriminating evidence^ at trial. But my 2 boys have caused me innumerable headaches, and countless heartache, throughout their brief stint on earth. But through this narrative, I am here today to set the record straight. I will no longer be embarrassed of my boys. I’ll embrace them, even in public. Maybe.
The pack laced up its shoes, buckled its chinstraps, heaved a great frosty sigh, spat on its hands, rubbed them briskly, put its collective shoulder to the wheel, and sped off down the runway of life, headed for the top of the mountain, a place where most will never reach; especially if they can’t toughen up a little, bite the bullet, clamp down tighter, batten down the hatches, grin and bear it, suck it up and go, keep pushing forward, hold on for dear life and never ever forget what it feels like to hurt like a torture victim. Not never!
The group danced out Prince Avenue and cut over to Tallassee Road via the Lavender Road Liftoff, an incline only 5 miles after the start that is sho-nuff guaranteed to shoot long wooden splinters down into the thighs and straight into the kneecaps. The Liftoff is 90 seconds of standing up in the pedals and gritting one’s teeth and whispering I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. The hill causes one to heave. But the pack was up and over the treacherous little riser no problema. The hill provided only a minor skirmish with the one’s lungs. The group sailed out Tallassee Road, turned westward at its end, and crossed the Oconee River Wall, a historical landmark in the annals of WBL lore. It is this Wall, when traversed from the opposite direction, that has launched many of the more dramatic finishes in WBL History: Remember 2002 when the Mighty Mineral Man went over the top of the hill in arrears, but turned on the master blasters and chased the 2 breakaway riders and took the win 800 meters later by .0026 centimeters? Remember 2001, the epic day when the pack hammered home in the frozen rain for the last hour of a 5 hour day? Remember 2003, when Saul Raisin put Junior on his wheel and the 2 punks stormed away, flattening a boisterous bunch of heavyweights behind?
After crossing the wide concrete bridge and the fast flowing brown waters of the Middle Oconee River, the group turned left on Savage Road and rode a meandering path into the wind and over the white capped waters of Bear Creek Reservoir, straight into Statham, pedaling down historic Main Street in the process. The road to Statham is narrow and windy in spots, without cars, and flat. I ordered my sons, Jered and Brian, to go to the front and pull. I hid at the back. At the time, I still needed to maintain some distance. Gutcheck pulled the first 45 minutes of the day, setting an excellent tempo along the way. I was especially proud of my boy when he finally pulled off.
The group zigged a left jig in Statham and cut a beeline to Bethlehem. From Bethlehem, the group took a secret^^ set of quick lefts and quick rights until everyone, including the drover, was lost and at the utter mercy of Don Newman, the official Cartographer of the WBL. And though the map’s names didn’t always match up with the names on the signs (when there were signs), using a method called “Common Sense,”^^^ the pilots were able to find their way. They hooked into Gratis Road which runs in an undulating artery into the heart of the day’s ride. When the group pulled into the store stop in Monroe, former Monrovian mayoral candidate David el Prez Nixon said, “That was the rongway to come to Monroe, but a damned good one at that.” 40 miles into the 80 mile assignment, the group was averaging a comfortable but steady 18.4 miles per hour. All was well in the WBL.
After the store stop outside Monroe, the pack bent back eastwards on the Snow’s Mill Road and put the wind at its back. On the long, fast stretches on Snow’s Mill, the herdsmen and drovers flipped the switch to cruise control. The group was sailing—26, 27, 28 miles per hour—effortlessly turning over the pedals in rapid revolutions. The group turned south on Jones Mill and headed over by High Shoals’ way with the wind continually pushing from the backside. Life was good. Many, many players were lending a helping hand at the front and though not all names are known (yet), some of those assisting in the day’s daily dose of intensified pleasure were none other than Todd Henriksen, Double H, Gutcheck, el Prez, Andrus, Eric Noshke and the Pomegranate too. By this time, the skies had warmed to a balmy 50 degrees. The group had achieved nirvana.°
My boys dropped back beside me at this point and Boy Brian said, “Dad, there’s another group trying to take over the world called ‘PBL’.¹ What does that P stand for?” I know, said Gutcheck, “it means ‘psuedo’ or maybe ‘pro’ or maybe even ‘polygamist’ cause you know, Bill Riecke’s one of them.” I could only say, “You boys are idiots. Now get back to the front.” They did, and the group kept sailing down the roadway.
The group ventured back through Bishop, but again bent back away from home via the UGA Sprint Ride Roads. These set of connecting roads—Astondale, Flatrock, Mcree’s Mill—are flat and fast, with the minor exception of an uphill thigh scorcher once every 10 nautical miles. The pack continued to tamp down on the pedals at a pace that sent them whistling down the highway with the greatest of ease. The wind continued to remain behind the bunch, and finally heading down the final leg of Barnett Shoals Road, the group had brought the average speed back up to 20 miles per hour. Salud!
The pack came home in 4 hours on the barrelhead with another 80 miles deposited into the bank. The total tally for WBL 2007 after 2 events is:
- Total miles: 152
- Total ride time: 7 hours and 45 minutes
- Total legs hurt: 170 riders x 2 rides x avg. of 6 scalders per ride = 2040
- Number of points handed out = 510 points
At the post ride press conference, sponsor’s banners were flapping in the breeze like prayer flags. Carney was ecstatic about the day’s ride. He used boring words like “excellent” and “glorious” and “thrilling” to describe the day’s festivities. It burned me up because he didn’t even ride. He was waiting at the shop when we arrived home in full sartorial splendor. He’s a camera hog if you ask me. I was about to call his bluff when to the side of the stage I heard a scuffle. I looked over and saw my 2 boys, Brian and Jered, struggling with security and yelling, “But he’s my dad! I tell you he’s my dad!” They pointed up at me.
I was filled with dread and horror. Claim them, I told myself, claim them as your own. But I couldn’t. I turned around and bolted off the other end of the stage. I ran behind the podium and sprinted out a small opening in the rear, passing directly under a banner that read “Rongway.” As I hurdled the last fence and ran to my freedom, I looked up at the heavens only to see two double discs floating in the skies above A pang of regret shivered through me. The last thing I saw was a ton of bricks falling from the heavns just before they fell on my head.
*Though I am proud of the time I spent in A.A., and in N.A. for that matter too, I was never an “alcoholic” as that term is defined by the American Medical Association. There are still lots of days and even years in which I don’t drink at all. For example, in all odd numbered leap years I have resolved to remain clean and sober. I’ve never touched a drop on September 31 of any year, nor will I ever.
**Do not try this at home. Neither the WBL, nor its legal assigns, heirs, representatives, cohorts, co-conspirators, attorneys-in-fact or Board Members endorse this risky procedure, unless under the tutelage of a trained professional, like me, Humble C, sniffing expert extraordinaire.
***On both boys’ birth certificate, in the space for “putative father,” is writ the name “Humble Chronicler.” An astute observer may notice that Bibens and Gruber look nothing alike. I would point out that the milkman had paid a visit to my little hovel the day before the exterminator. The resemblance to Brian is striking.
ªLogical Reasoning, Carney, p.167 ( WBL Press™, 1961)
^incriminating evidence in this sentence meaning: that evidence which causes a lawyer to whisper to his client during trial, “You stupid bastard, why didn’t you tell me about that?”, the response to which is usually a defiant, “Because you didn’t ask, Slick.”
^^[reference deleted by Carney’s security service]
^^^Common Sense, Carney, pp.3893-4017 (WBL Press™, 1964).
°That point where a rider can tamp down on the pedals in violent revolutions without the slightest pangs, zangs or twangs of pain. Example used in a sentence: In last year’s Tour, Floyd reached nirvana on the stage he won—the one when he soloed away from the entire field, all day, and crushed them all, gaining 5 minutes on his nearest rival, and winning the Tour…after being blown into fragments the day before—nirvana.
¹A secret sect that has split from the WBL. They have bizarre beliefs, live on a farm on Madison County, have communal sex, and grow their own tobacco. They occasionally ride their bikes. They are reported to sometimes have catlike spats among its leaders. They are unseemly and rarely bathe. Some rules do apply in one’s dealings with a PBLer: Do not feed; Do not offer one a drink; Do not fraternize with one; Do not tease; Do not offer one pornography; Do not wish that ill fortune befall its members; Do not leave one’s wife alone with its members!