By day five, if we were tomatoes in the produce department, we would be bruised, spoiled, and after the briefest inspection by the produce boy, tossed in the dumpster. Sunrise, heralded by Hallmark cards as “The first day of the rest of your life,” rings in a dull, aching misery for what you can only hope will be the last day you ever, ever, ever see a bicycle.
The clever roomie with whom you so gaily chatted on Day 1 is a boring, grating twit whose every utterance unleashes a barely restrained, primal urge to strangle. The lovely scenery of California, so awe-inspiring in Carmel and Big Sur, has become a blurred, hostile moonscape of asphalt, road striping, and flat tires changed at inopportune times. The bravado and heroic imagery of the Man Tour has had its chintzy veneer stripped away, revealing what everyone else saw from the beginning: a creaky bunch of saggy, wrinkly, balding, ill-tempered, pot-bellied drunks who are too cheap to vacation in Italy.
And a hundred nasty miles still await.
Making matters worse, the biggest prize of the entire tour, the one that carries bragging rights, eternal glory, and spiteful resentment from everyone else until next year, sits at the sixty-mile mark: the L.A. County Line on PCH. There will be a fierce attack somewhere in SLO, perhaps earlier, where the group shatters and a breakaway emerges. From the entrance onto PCH, past the Rock at Pt. Mugu, and all the way to the county line there will be a surging, pounding, frenetic race between a handful of wrung out, surly survivors.
However, a nasty surprise awaits those who aren’t following this blog: the county line sign has been stolen, and all that remains is the wooden post itself. The only way to recognize the finish line is by the abrupt change in pavement color, where it shifts from the thrifty Ventura County road department’s hot mix of dirt, holes, straw, glass, nails, and warm tar into the firm, dark, hardened paving of Manly Los Angeles County. The canny victor in 2011 will be the one who lunges for the line while the other peckerheads are sitting back, craning their necks to the side in vain to spy the nonexistent green sign. Will the Wankmeister claim his second consecutive victory, or will the Fireman douse his parade with the Lethal Hose of Sprint Fury?
Come on pretty boy, gonna make you a man
The group of weary warriors regroups for lunch at Trancas and then pushes on towards home. The familiar landmarks become sharper–the funny bump in Malibu just past Cross Creek; the big cracks in the road near Moonshadows; the nasty bump in the road just over the hill past the Getty; the grate on the shoulder at the last light before Temescal…and with each landmark the exhaustion fades and the singularity of the accomplishment begins to sink in and rejuvenate tired legs, except for Woodenhead, whose wife has been calling every thirty minutes for the last two days telling him that he’d better quit fucking off and get home and help change the poopy diapers.
Suddenly it’s a victory parade all the way to the Ironfly World Headquarters. Friendships re-blossom. Well-wishers like G$ meet us on PCH or at Will Rogers and escort us back through the Center of the Known Universe and on to WHQ. Knoll tips a cup of Peets in our direction. Lies that, a few hours ago were mere middle of the road whoppers become full-blown fields of bullshit. The longing for beer wells up in the back of one’s throat again, and it’s just in the nick of time, as Mel has tapped a fresh one at the World HQ. The arthritis, achey prostates, and Ben Gay joint rubs are an ancient memory, at least until we get home. MT4…in the books!