The Double Dutch Bus, Alto 2009
The Double Dutch Bus
Slim Tim Henry did the double dutch bus and scored a crushing win, his second of the season, with a jaw shattering, ear splitting kick to the chin on the 31 January 2009 Porterfield Tire-Cyclesport Concepts Alto World Cup Event. In a repeat performance showcasing his potent pedaling prowess that he put on display only two weeks prior, the Slimmer once again bolted out into the void all by his lonesome self, seeking fame, fortune, a pocketful of jingle-jangle, and good luck guaranteed for the next 12 months; but this time when he jumped ship, he still had 7 miles to traverse across the cumbersome byways of the dastardly Alto Attack Zone. The Alto Attack Zone, like the entire ride itself, is nothing but a cruel joke, and an example of how savage at heart humans actually are. Lest we forget, this pedal-bully had already deposited 100 downright despicable, surly, contumacious, vexing, and hateful miles into his mileage bank. And these 100 miles had not been spent lollygagging across green meadows, smelling the honeysuckle, hoping the cows were happy, and listening to pretty birds chirp. Instead, the Slimmer's time in the saddle, like the whole gaggle of unrepentant undesirables' day in the sun, had been spent pushing the tempo on the flats, hauling ass up the hills, and driving down the other side like an eighteen wheeler loaded with bricks. Alto is always an epic because it's pedal-banging in the big ring in a super serious way.
As stated in the aforementioned veridical paragraph, possibly the only one herein, Slim Tim cut the tether to the lead group with 7 miles to go. At this point, the bunch was 2.5 miles into the final killbox. They had only recently ascended Steep Dog Hill and their thighs were still crying the Blues. A wretched surge over the top of Steep Dog had quickly diminished the front group to the 14 most obdurate blackguards in the pack. When the front group first faltered, Slim blasted out into the great wide open. There were 7 long, arduous miles to pedal-a literal desert to cross. Slim's bold move looked like a suicide mission at first, but no one told the Slimmer-he had no plans to fall on a sword. Instead, the Slimmer wanted 200 bucks in his pocket, a Cuban cigar in his mouth, and plenty of brain-numbing libations in the fridge. In other words, he planned to get loose and low down; he planned to steal the group's thunder. His plan was to win.
Behind Slim, the group stretched taut at times in violent bursts of speed as others-Reistad, Housley, Oscar Smith, Big Jon Atkins-tried to break free; but no one could latch hold of Slim Tim's buxom side as he continued powering off the front with all the fury he could muster. With 2 miles to go, Jelly Belly's Matthias Crane finally broke free from the rapacious clutches of the chase group and set sail in pursuit of Slim like an arrow launched from a trebuchet. Crane ripped up the road, standing in the saddle, dropping his handlebars low to the ground on the right side before jerking his bike up and dropping the bars down low to the ground on the left. Crane closed to within 10 seconds of the Slimmer with 1 mile to go, but that was as close as he would come as the Slimmer shifted to hyper drive, pressed the accelerator to the floor, zipped up his jersey, and guided his double dutch bus safely across the finis with plenty of room to spare. The WBL Historical Society rated Slim's daring escape as 6 stars out of a possible 5, a rare achievement among a group of rare achievers. At the exact moment that Slim crossed the line I was giving Carney a rubdown and dreaming of ways to kill him. That's why it makes what happened so coincidental. I'd like to have a mathematician work out the odds.
As Alto approached, Carney came down with a terrible case of stiff joints-his arms and legs were like wood, he said. He broke out in ruby red rashes all over his body. He also claimed he was blind. "Can't see a damn thing," he told me, smiling. "Guess I can't ride Alto." The same thing happened last year. He recovered right after Toccoa.
This past week, he borrowed a motorized push chair from a friend, but still made me push him around. He wanted everyone to see that he was physically ill and also blind, "or else I'd be riding Alto," he told everyone he met. We visited lots of public venues. I had to do everything for him-he was really running with this role. One time in the liquor store he said, "Go grab me a pint of gin." When I placed the gin in the cart, he said, "That ain't Old Mr. Boston, you dimwit."
"But, I thought you were blind."
Carney looked like he'd swallowed a watermelon. "It comes and goes," he said. "Damn, it's gone again." Then he started yelling, "This man is mistreating me. I'm blind. Please, someone help." When security approached I was cuffed. "I'm just a poor blind man," Carney told the security guard, "and he treats me very badly." Then Carney looked at me and whispered, "Don't question me about my illness or you'll end up under the jail." He turned to the security guard and said, "But let him go. I have no one else. I'm just a poor blind man."
The security guard looked at me with malice and hatred. As he was unlocking the cuffs, he stepped on my bad toe with his big black boot. I screamed "M----- F-----" as loud as I could. The security guard smiled. I noticed he had a missing tooth hole.
"I'm so sorry," he said.
"No problem, "Carney answered for me. Carney's influence spreads far and wide.
As Alto approached I grew accustomed to pushing him around in his push chair. As a coping device, I grew to blot out his demented ravings: "Put my socks on," he demanded; "Tie my shoes," he screamed; "Put my hat on my head," he cackled; and the worst: "carry me to the john." But the rubdowns caused me considerable consternation too. I'm just not into Carney that way.
During rubdowns Carney would lie face down on a towel completely naked. "But your butt cheeks don't look chafed to me," I protested.
"Well, they are," he replied. "You just can't see it. You're blind."
"No, you're blind."
"Just rub my cheeks with the mint scented emolument, then run my bath water, or you're fired," he screamed.
I had to keep my job. What choice did I have? I closed my eyes and sacrificed for my country. I hate that he has this hold over me.
A malicious medley of rakish riffraff, scabrous scallywags, lusty libertines, casual casuists, and full time pedal bangers were on hand to attempt to prevail over the curmudgeonly slopes of Alto: Two time winner of Alto Big Jon Atkins; last year's dominant force Don Giannini; Trinidadian traffic cop Emilio Abrahamus; super star of the dance floor Steven Nakajima; South Carolina's finest (from the bottom up) Rich Nelson; male escort (gender neutral) Tom Palmer; self proclaimed large animal sexpert Kyle Shipp; the slayer of pompous pettifoggers and largemouth lawyer bass Matt Karzen; and the reformed alcoholic who is currently stuck under the wheels of the bus, Trevor Stewart, were just of the few of the 70 or so on hand who dared contest these brutal byways brimming with bitter tears. No matter what others may say, Alto is truly the ball busting bitch in the entire bunch of rides.
The unkind roads of Alto have convinced many a strong rider that in truth, he is nothing more than a small stain on the face of the world, a pesky whisker that needs to be plucked, and the dejected soul loosens his grasp and he's swept away, never to be seen or heard from again. Alto, for some, is like putting a gun to the head and pulling the trigger. But those who bite down on the bullet and survive are well on their way to becoming like a nasty vine that twines itself around a tree-after a spate of time, it's impossible to pull the tenacious tentacles free. The vine, which is forever corkscrewing into the trunk of the tree, eventually becomes a nettlesome nuisance that the tree must learn to live. These vines are like crusty old pedal-cyclists, who are sometimes referred to by a demeaning and mean spirited moniker: Tar Babies. Tar Baby is a negative term coined by Nick G. Knucklehead. Sadly, however, I wear the label like a crown. Such are the doleful but true facts of my life, the lowering of the hurdle with every lap around the sun.
Speaking of the Old King Sol, at the sign-in for Alto, he was glowing up above like he owned the whole damn place-I believe he did. Sol does exercise a lot of authority. Hale, Candians and Kalifernians still worship him. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and though the winter air was chill, all systems were "Go." The obvious outcome of these early morning signs was the future unfolding of a glorious day. And as predicted, Old Sol sat up there all day long, gliding across the light blue veil above like a stabbed egg yolk, and spread his loving arms around us. Were it not for the tempestuous turn of speed, and the polyglot of cantankerous climbs, and the multitude of derelicts and degenerates, it would have been a perfect day for tanning and daydreaming.
Naturally Carney took credit for the fortuitous clime. He was in his push chair at the start of the ride. "Turn me around this way so I can address my Zealots and take credit for the sunshine," he scowled at me under his breath. I was already dreaming of killing him by this point, but I probably would have gone through with it. Scout's honor, and I was never even a scout.
I swiveled him around but accidentally bumped him on the curb. It was a good jolt that jounced the whole chair and bounced him into the air like a jack-in-the-box.
"Watch out, you dumbass," he screamed as loud as he could when he landed. Everybody fell silent and turned and looked at him. The leader of one of the most powerful organizations on this planet should always keep his cool in public, at least, that's what he'd always preached.
Carney looked around. He quickly shifted gears: "I mean, my good man, try not to be so utterly incompetent." Everyone was standing in front of Sunshine Cycles at the start of the ride. They were all staring at Carney. This was a critical juncture in his WBL career. How would he handle this pending moment of crisis?
He shrugged his shoulders and threw out his arms: "What? I'm blind and crippled. You can't blame me. I can't see a thing. Have a heart." He played the sympathy card. He knew it'd take someone with a low I.Q. to take the bait and lead the charge if he was to have any chance at all. But miracles sometimes happen.
Tim Stone said, "You're blind?"
Carney cleared his throat: "Yes. And crippled too."
"Does it hurt?" Dan Larson asked.
"Hurts like hale," Carney replied, daubing his eyes with the back of his sleeve. "Plus, Humble mistreats me."
Kirk Smith rushed forward: "Everyone stand back. This man is deaf, dumb, and blind."
"Thank you, my good man," Carney whispered.
Kirk squinted his eyes in a menacing manner and said to me, "If any harm comes to him, you'll pay with your life."
I blurted out, "How much?" It was an error in judgment. Had I known what would happen, I never would have said it.
Carney cleared the hurdle with ease. The Zealots cheered him, and each kissed his ring and hugged him around the neck as they headed off to Alto. Each one also shot me a nasty, sideways glance. I feared for my life and decided I better guard Carney with the utmost care. No more letting him roll down a steep hill in his push chair at 30 miles an hour while we're both drunker than George Jones on a basketful of Quaaludes.
I wheeled Carney around and headed for home. At least I don't have to ride Alto, I thought. I'd have to rely on others for the facts for the ride report. That's never a problem with me. I've been known to make an uneducated guess if I don't know the facts. Facts, to me, are obstacles to be avoided.
"Let's go get donuts," Carney said, "but first let's stop off at home for a quick rub down. My rash is acting up."
I hate that he has this hold on me.
If there was one dog, there were a thousand on this year's Alto adventure. Dogs assaulted the group from the side in never-ending waves; they sprang from under bushes like hidden stalkers; they tore across fields like stark raving mad lunatics; and some charged headlong at the pack, only to be snapped backwards by the long chain attached to their collars. Dogs seemed to fall from the sky. It was truly a dog day afternoon. But in a masterful display of bike handling skills, all the Zealots successfully maneuvered their steel steeds through the moving minefield of yipper-yappers, some big, some small; some ferocious, some not; but all potentially deadly if they land in the right spot. "No worries," said John Boy Best, "part of the fun is avoiding all the hazards hurled at us." Amen, Brother Best.
The day's final average speed of 21 miles per hour for the 114 mile jaunt was established early as the grupetto wasted no time charging up and out the Nowhere Road. Though the wind was pounding the group in the face, onward they pedaled at full-tilt-clippage. The group motored through Commerce behind fast-moving police cruisers with lights flashing, blowing through the stop signs and red lights with glee, and dropped out the north side of town. In the distance, the turreted peaks of the North Georgia Mountains bit into the horizon. As the group passed under Interstate 85, the riders moved beyond the safe confines of the pale, beyond the borders controlled by Carney and his cronies, and into the land of dangerous climbs, intemperate hills, and scintillating slopes-this was the lair of toothless warlocks, one-eyed witches, and rusticating rubes who picked banjos, played fiddles, drank moonshine, and slept with goats. There was no turning back now. Safety was in numbers. Lose contact with the herd in these hills, and a shaved-leg rider might become tangy barbeque sauce.
Around the 43 mile mark, the group of pedaling hammer heads reached the base of the Alto Triple Stair Step and the most prestigious sprint of the season was at hand, the Alto City limit sign. The Alto Triple Stair Step is 4 miles of uphill torture, followed by 4 more miles rolling across gentle terrain to the Alto City limit line. But just because the hills are gentle doesn't mean that the pace is. 2009 was no exception to the rule.
Heading up the first slope of the triple-decker, Travis Hagner rocked the group's world when he tore off the front with massive blows to his pedals. Moans, invective, opprobrium, and blasphemous billingsgate were instantly thrown out of the pack and at the backside of the lean lad, but he was too far gone to hear. (Been that way for years, rumor has it.)
Behind Hagner, the accelerations began in earnest. With each surge up the terrible slopes of the Triple Stair Step, not only did a new, smaller group of compatriots wrench away at the front, but a bigger group of heavyweights went tumbling out the rear. Bodies were scattered up and down the slopes like cigarette butts in the parking lot of a methadone clinic. Cresting the top of the final climb and biting down on the bullet on the last false flat, 4 he-devil climbers moved clear of the fodder: G. Nkuckle Head Reistad, Matthias Crane, Slim Tim, and the young climbing phenom David Talbett. 10 seconds behind, the first chase formed: Big Jon Atkins, young Michael Stone, Thomas Bite Mark Brown, and Little Joe Collins. Taking the right hand turn with 4 miles to the line, it was an all out blitzkrieg to the line between the two groups-100 bucks was up for grabs.
The group of four at the front, two of which were primed for the Tour of California a short 2 weeks away, would not be denied. They rocketed down the runway like a 747. And even though the four behind did not falter, the four at the fore kept the speed needle in the red zone and held off the four chasers by 200 meters. At the line, G. Knucklehead exploded away as Jelly Belly teammate M. Crane kept a watchful eye on the Slimmer. G-Man won the sprint going away with the Slimmer, Crane, and an impressive D. Talbett rounding out the top four. Big Jon won the group sprint in the first chase, not only rounding out the top 5, but winning the sprint for the Vets and cat 3s also. Rebecca Larson was in an epic duel with Winter and finally gave her the flick on the run to the line.
In the parking lot in Alto, G. Knuckle received a congratulatory phone call from Obama. It made everyone angry because he pumped out his chest like a prima donna after the call. He kept holding his phone up in the air and pointing to it and saying, "Hey jackasses, Obama is on the phone, and he's calling for me, not you!" "What a braggart," said Greenville's resident grumpus Jason Leslie. "What a bastard," echoed Muhammed Niang.
- Reistad: 5 pts.
- Slim Tim: 4 pts.
- Crane: 3 pts.
- D. Talbett: 2 pts.
- Big Jon: 1 pt.
- Big Jon: 3 pts.
- M. Stone: 2 pts.
- J. Collins: 1 pt
- R. Larson: 3 pts.
- E. Winter: 2 pts.
- N. Jones: 1 pt.
Carney and I were listening to the live race feed over the internet, so were able to follow the sprints. After the sprint to Alto, Carney talked on the phone a bit with his hand cupped over the receiver. He hung up the phone after a bit and said, "That G. Knuckle Head is a real work of art. What a dumbass. He thinks I'm Obama."
"But he's from Wisconsin," I pleaded.
"No buts. He's a dumbass."
Carney was laughing and he leaned over in his push chair and let one rip. "Go get the air freshener," he screamed. "Great Josephus to the high heavens, that one stinks. I believe something has crawled up in me and died." He guffawed like a horse, simultaneously fanning the fumes to his nose with his fingers. "Smell this," he demanded. What kind of mad man is this, I thought.
I did as told. Afterwards, I clipped his toenails, washed his linens, walked his dog, gave him a haircut, and made another run to the liquor store. When I returned I set the bottle of Old Mr. Boston on the counter. He screamed: "I don't want Old Mr. Boston today, you dumbass. I want some peach schnapps." He threw an empty can of beer at me. "Plus, I see you didn't pick up any smokes."
"Hey, I thought you were blind."
"Don't worry about it. You're not paid to think. You're paid to give me rubdowns and to run my bath water. Speaking of which, grab the oil, the hot wax, the plunger, and the Tabasco sauce, and wheel me into the sauna. I'm ready for my rubdown."
"But, you just had one."
I hate that he has this hold over me.
After Alto, the pack was granted a brief reprieve-the screaming descent off the Apple Pie Ridge. After tearing through space at speeds topping 50 miles per hour, the cruelest part of the day faced the pack: the bloated hummocks and giant hillocks between here and there, there being the vicious slope of Crackback Hill. Between here and there, the road tilted up, abruptly at times, at angry angles. For 15 miles the pack scurried over roads coming at them like hundred-foot waves. The rippled pavement broke over the field one after another, never leaving time for a rider to fully recover. Only the stout of heart and lung could master these bothersome hills.
After 15 interminable miles of excoriation and flagellation, the grupetto hit the bottom of Crackback Hill and the cruelest single climb of the season rose up like a black thread dropped from the moon. The 600 meter uphill run smashed the field to smithereens. As the group pedal-rocked up the sheer slope, Matthias Crane and Slim Tim once again showed they were the odds-on favorites and managed to pull clear by a country mile. Approaching the stripe in the road at the top of the gap, Slim jumped and managed to take the win by a split nanosecond. Had he shown his hand too early? Time would surely tell, for Time, unlike me, tells no tall tales.
- Slim Tim: 3 pts.
- Crane: 2 pts.
- G. Knuckle Head: 1 pt.
Back at the hovel, Carney was so happy that a Yankee didn't win the sprint that he jumped out of his chair and gave a rebel yell. He noticed that I was watching and said, "I guess the rub downs are helping." He plopped back into the chair. "Another week and I'll be good as new." Then he looked at me and in a serious way and said, "As long as the rub downs keep coming. Hey, light me a cigarette and let's go out to Lover's Point. I feel like looking at some scenery. But first, how about a rub down."
If it weren't for the spell he has cast over me I'd have strangled him on the spot.
After Crackback Hill, the pack positioned the wind at its back and set sail for home. The lusty group of adventurers pedal-stomped over gentle terrain for the next 20 miles and zipped into Commerce, crossing under I-85 and back into the pale along the way. In Commerce, the group was given a hero's welcome as once again bright lights and screaming sirens lead the group through. Once safely escorted out the other side, and after briefly waiting on a train to pass, the group galloped down 334 and turned left on the A. C. Smith Road-the Alto Attack Zone was at hand: Time to party.
Tim Stone, Nick Howsley, and Oscar Clark kick started the party by attacking straight away, down the slope leading to Steep Dog Hill. But the pack behind was restless, and Slim Tim himself led the downward chase. As the group hit the base of the vertiginous slope of Steep Dog Hill, the pace quickly crescendoed to an all out sprint, and over the top a group of 14 ultimately ripped free: Howsley, Reistad, Crane, J. Leslie. Slim, Big John, Oscar Clark, T. Hagner, David Talbett, Emilo Abraham, Don Giannini, and Crowe were just some of those who made the cut. For the first 2 miles the group beat on the front door like an angry mob, but no one could break free. Then, turning left onto Seagraves Mill Road and facing a deceptively difficult uphill, the pack hesitated for the first time: Slim Tim struck like a rattlesnake and pedaled away.
Behind, the alarm bells didn't clatter at first, but soon they were hammering like a seven alarm fire. Slim had pulled this move before. Howsley and Oscar Smith made a valiant attempt to bridge, but in the end, they were brought back. Nothing could go clear until Crane motored free 2 miles from home. Though young Matthias never caught Slim, he did hold on and solo in for second. Behind Crane, Travis Hagner slipped the field and soloed in for third by the hair of his chin. Emile Abraham squeaked by the Don to claim fourth. Big Jon brought it home in sixth to win the day for the 35+ and Ct 3s. And Erin Winter captured the day for the ladies after she voodoo-cursed R. Larson's wheel. It was another epic Alto world cup. What a grand day for the legs: 114 miles, 7,800 feet of climbing, and 5.5 hours in the saddle. Salud!
- Slim Tim: 15 pts.
- M. Crane: 12 pts.
- T. Hagner: 9 pts.
- E. Abraham: 6 pts.
- D. Giannini: 3 pts.
- Big Jon: 7 pts.
- Crowe: 5 pts.
- J. Leslie: 3 pts.
- M. Stone: 1 pt.
- E. Winter: 7 pts.
- R. Larson: 5 pts.
- N. Jones: 3 pts.
When Slim Tim soloed home for the win, Carney was sitting in his push chair at Lover's Point overlooking the Oconee River. He was perched high on a precipice with his earpiece in listening to the live feed. It must have been a 1,000 foot drop off the sheer cliff. He was so happy that Slim won that he jumped out of the chair and went sailing over the ledge. It happened very fast. Oh shit, I thought, they'll think I killed him. I panicked. I pushed his chair over the lip of the cliff and turned and bolted. I was headed for Mexico.
As I sprinted for home, I was overcome by a luxurious feeling of freedom. Carney is dead, I said to myself. I started laughing. My life will change. I'm free! I couldn't stop smiling. I hoped the push chair landed on his head. No more rubdowns.
Once home, I quickly packed. But I needed cash. I know, I'll stop by Carney's pad and rob him. He won't need it. I doubled over I was laughing so hard.
I bolted through Carney's front door without knocking and much to my horror there he was lying on the sofa in the buff smoking a cigarette.
"There you are," he said. "You saved my life."
"No buts. The seat of my push chair is a flotation device, and if you hadn't thought to push the chair over the cliff behind me, I'd be sleeping on the bottom of the river."
"No buts." Carney then stood up and laid down face first on the kitchen table. "Time for a rubdown," he yelled.
I hate that he has this hold on me.
Overall (Top 65):
- 46 pts: Slim Tim Henry
- 45: Crowe
- 43: R. Larson
- 38: E. Winter
- 36: Reistad
- 29: R. Giannini
- 26: P. Smith
- 25: N. Jones, M Niang, M. Stone
- 24: J. Best, Buechel, M. Crane, L. Slote, R. Williams
- 23: H. Garrison
- 22: R. Nelson
- 21: J. Shirey, B. Bray, T. Hagner, T. Stone
- 20: D. Larson
- 19: J. Murphy, M. Patton, J. Collins,
- 18: D. Mealor, F. Crumley, Yo Simpson
- 17: N. Arroyo, S. Leotis, S. Nakajima, A. Smola.
- 16: A. McDonald, S. Rafal, M. Rice, I. Rodriguez, Big Jon Atkins,
- 15: S. Eisenhauer, M. Hunter, K. Smith
- 14: Sev, V. Smith
- 13: D. Gilfillen,
- 12: K. Langenbach, Dana Martin, M. Shirley, F. Trevesio, J. Bewley, A. Fancher,
- 11: Whit Clifford, Joél Dion-Poitias, B. Harper, J. May-Fly, B. Bibens
- 10: S. Dean, T. Cornett, R. Foster, R. Herrell, P. Ozier, K. Shipp, P. Vrana, V. Ball, J. Bewley, R. Bertram